11/07/2018: “Blue Monday” by New Order

bluemonday.jpg

For some people, this sort of thing is cringey 80s overload. Believe me, I understand that the 80s produced some eye wateringly embarrassing stuff.

This,  I don’t think, is not one of them. It’s a banger today, albeit not one that might be played in modern club!

House music was in its infancy in the early 80s, and this sort of electronica filled the gap. The singing is famous, of course, but it isn’t why I like the song. The reason I like the song is the groove.

Starting with that kick drum beat, the timeless synth fades in before the bassline kicks into action. Personally, I would be satisfied if that first section was the whole thing!

But the song does add more to the mix. The strings and synth pads create a very ethereal soundscape, yet the song remains rooted at all times in that fantastic bassline.

The song was released in 1983, and had a popular remix in ’88. It remains the best selling 12″ single ever.

It’s a masterfully produced song, and well deserving of the label of “classic”.

10/07/2018: “Buckshot Dub” by Rupie Edwards & King Tubby

buckshot dub.jpgSometimes less really is more. In a sparsely populated dub track, this can be especially hard hitting. A bit more space, a bit of room for the individual elements to breathe, and the whole track expands.

King Tubby works here with Rupie Edwards to produce one such airy dub tune.

The bassline is very recognisable, but not overbearing. It stops and starts, giving room for other elements of the track such as the guitars and organs to echo and reverberate about, and for the drums to rattle and clatter.

The song teases the main melody, cutting the guitar off before it reaches it’s climax.

The riddim is from “Everyday Wandering” by Johnny Clarke, and is called “Irie Feelings”.

The song was released in 1974, although there is another version with the word “skanga” repeated throughout. Which I don’t think works to be honest.

This version is great though!

 

09/06/2018: “Cat People” by David Bowie

bowie.jpg

I didn’t know whether to choose the original 1982 soundtrack version produced by disco legend Giorgio Moroder, or the 1983 album version off Let’s Dance, which features guitar playing by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

In the end I plumped for the album version, because it’s the version I heard first, and because it is much more a of a lively song. That’s important for a song that has the lyrics “putting out fire with gasoline” in the chorus, I think!

The original song was for a movie soundtrack. The movie was called “Cat People”. Not hard to join the dots…

Another thing going for the 1983 album version is that killer riff at the start. It’s just one of those riffs where the rhythm and melody are both spot on.

Despite being specifically made for one film, the original song is probably more famous for having been used on Tarantino’s film “Inglourious Basterds” in 2009. As I’ve said before, Tarantino movies have good soundtracks!

Awesome stuff.

 

08/06/2018: “I Wish” by Skee-Lo

iwish.jpg

I’m sure everybody knows this. I sure feel for the people who don’t. In any case, the problem can be easily fixed in just over 4 minutes.

Now, some people are doubtless perfectly content with every aspect of their lives, and a great many more pretend that they are…

But this song speaks to that inner feeling almost everybody has, that “if only” feeling. For example, although a guy who’s 5′ 5″ could easily be fine with his height, even that contented guy might concede that a bit more elevation wouldn’t go amiss.

The song isn’t a typical rap song bragging about all the things the rapper has. Instead, it’s a light hearted reflection of reality, a collection of excuses for the way things are.

It’s funny, and what’s more, it’s catchy as anything. The lyrics flow effortlessly over an R’n’B instrumental that’s almost a disco song. The drums smack repeatedly as the bassline dances around. Not forgetting the little touches like the piano riff, the trumpet, and the whistle!

The track was released in 1995, and is shamelessly a 90s song. It’s a very summery sort of tune as well.

Such a funky beat!

iwish.jpg

07/07/2018: “Superman” by Goldfinger

goldfinger-hang-ups-800px.jpg

The post on Madness mentions the 3 major waves, or generations, of Ska. This is from the 3rd wave.

“Superman” is in many ways the standard for a 90s Ska song.

It has the fast tempo, the walking (or rather running!) bass, the jubilant trumpets, the reggae guitar upbeats, the rapid drums with that classic snare, and of course, the pop punk-esque singing.

The song was released in 1997 on Hang-Ups, and was used on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, increasing its popularity.

It’s feel good music, but at the same time, it does deal with the perennial dilemma of how to keep it all together when everything is hectic.

Even the most blessed people can feel swamped by responsibilities sometimes, I’m sure.

A very bouncy track…

 

06/07/2018: “Freestyler” by Bomfunk MCs

bomfunk.jpg

I can’t really name many Finnish songs, or artists. But in fairness, I didn’t realise that this gem was of Finnish extraction!

The bassline and drums on this one help it to sound ahead of its time even now, almost 20 years after it was released in 1999.

Many contemporary songs with similar samples and production techniques will sound quite dated now. The 90s, as with all decades, has a distinctive sonic template that can often mark a song and render it anachronistic as the years go by.

Yet using some now cliched orchestral hits, a simple appegiated melody and some MCing, Bomfunk MCs create a hit that still sounds fresh today.

I think this is down to that bassline. If the groove is right, you can dance all night!

The video is also quite iconic, with the dreadlocked hip-hop kid using his remote control on a selection of larger than life characters…

Such a tune!

 

05/07/2018: “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper

alice-cooper-im-eighteen-warner-bros.jpg

For many years I laboured under the misapprehension that Alice Cooper was a single person, and not, as it turned out to be, a band. In fairness, the stage name of the highly visible frontman is “Alice Cooper”, so it’s not a hard mistake to make.

Not only that; the band split up in 1975, and the singer carried on by himself. Still, that’s all in the past…

They weren’t a particularly successful band until they were championed by Frank Zappa. Off the back of this, they released the successful single “I’m Eighteen” in 1970.

It’s not a complicated song, but it’s oh so relatable, and sung with plenty of heart. The guitar riff is a classic, simple to play but devastatingly effective. It’s brash, angry, and uncompromising. And not only that, but it had a huge impact on future rock as harder styles emerged.

A quintessential teenage angst song!

04/07/2018: “Waco” by Trim

dinosaur_trim.jpg

The leftfield electronic artist James Blake put together a group called 1-800 Dinosaur, who specialise in producing quirky, futuristic beats.

This collective put out an album of various members’ productions in 2016, called 1-800 Dinosaur Presents Trim. It’s a mixed bag. Quite odd. But some of the most effective tracks are those produced by Blake’s guitarist, Airhead.

“Waco” is one of those tracks. It suits Trim’s poetic, laconic flow very well, and gives him some room to spit bars. Not only that, but his clever wordplay is easy to hear, instead of being swamped by the instrumental.

The instrumentals’ verses are minimal, before the hard stepping chorus hits with a patois hook and some triplet hi hats rat-a-tat-tatting like bullets.

It isn’t even really Trim at his best; he’s been wittier, he’s been more intelligent, he’s had better flows. But it’s a wicked tune nonetheless.

Trim has been around the grime scene since the start, but would rather not be part of it. He hasn’t put much out recently, but what he has done has been decent.

I hope to hear a bit more from Trim in the future!

03/07/2018: “Lonesome Town” by Ricky Nelson

lonesome town.jpg

By the standards of the 50s, this sort of thing was pretty commonplace. The rockabilly crooner singing a plaintive love song with some heavy reverb on the vocal track and a simple guitar riff in the background.

But that doesn’t diminish the sheer pleasantness of the best ones. I honestly can’t see how somebody who likes music could really dislike such a soothing melody.

Ricky Nelson was one of the biggest stars of the 50s, something of a teen idol like One Direction were, or similar heart-throb singers. I have to admit that isn’t one of my specialist areas…

“Lonesome Town” was recorded in 1958, and reached number 7 on the U.S Billboard Top 100 chart.

The song was written by Baker Knight and later covered by Paul McCartney. But Ricky Nelson’s deep and smooth tones are very well suited to this sort of thing, making his version an enduring classic.

The song appears in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction movie, showing why his soundtracks are always so good.

Very agreeable music!

 

02/07/2018: “Bring Da Ruckus” by The Wu-Tang Clan

wutang.jpg

RZA, GZA, Ol Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Inspector Deck, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah…

These names represent the core of the Wu-Tang Clan, one of the most unique, interesting, and talented rap collectives to emerge in the golden age of rap.

The Wu-Tang style is instantly recognisable. The production style of the inimitable RZA uses old martial art movie samples, funk and soul samples, and a certain mad genius to create some serious productions.

This is nowhere more evident than the Wu-Tang Clan’s seminal 1993 album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The style is aggressive, yet not mindless. It exudes a gritty, lo tech feeling that is very much a New York vibe.

“Bring Da Ruckus” is a typically minimal Wu-Tang beat with acerbic lyrics from each of the rappers who deliver a verse. The group are all different in many ways, and so complement each other. The personalities in the group are very much in evidence as the verses switch; the characters come out.

It’s not ultra sophisticated, but it doesn’t need to be, or even want to be.

The Wu-Tang Clan remain one of histories most influential musical groups of any genre.