venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

Weezer - Weezer (The Blue Album)

I bought this tape a couple of years ago, and the first time I played it was during a rather hideous drive to Whitby across the moors, at night, in extremely thick fog. In between peering into the murk, trying to keep an eye on the white line and remain mindful of the potential for suicidal sheep, I sang along to their goofy songs of g'rages and surfing. When we got to Buddy Holly I'll swear that even the fog lightened up.

I don't often use the word goofy, but somehow it always seems to sum up Weezer. Entertaining, likeable, catchy... but goofy.

Incidentally, a few months ago everybody was all about the video for Pork and Beans. Which was all very well, if you like your humour self-referential, but it was never a patch on the lovable video for Keep Fishin'. Which was also, I reckon, a better song.

Weezer - Surf Wax America [mp3]

[Poll #1293144]
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On Fridays this year we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

KLF - The White Room

When our new digital overlords come to power, and audio cassettes are banned, the last tape they pry from my cold, dead fingers will be The White Room. Couldn't I just buy a CD copy, you ask ? Well, yes. In fact, I have. But, in a very literal sense, it's just not the same.

Those of you with long memories may remember Boogying to Last Train to Transcentral some years ago. As was discussed in the comments at the time, the version of the song on the cassette (and LP) is completely different to the one on the CD.

I've never performed extensive listening comparisons, but I think several of the other tracks are also different versions. te tape seems, overall, much more chilled out. Like I said: the CD just isn't the same.

You can purchase tape copies of The White Room from Amazon for a bare 49p; I encourage anyone who still listens to tapes to invest in one post haste.

KLF - Church of the KLF / Last Train to Transcentral (LP Mix) [link expired]

(Beware, large download! Sorry, this is quite a long track - the two songs segue together, and I couldn't manage to separate them.)

[Poll #1288847]
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

Sleeper - The It Girl

I remember liking Sleeper a lot when their singles were in the charts. Then I went to see them at Brookes in Oxford, and pretty much lost interest in them as a result. Live, they were... not awful, but dull. The frontwoman, Louise Wener, was amazingly lacklustre, and the rest of the band were such a byword for nonentity that they'd already caused a new phrase to come into being.

While I'll still cite that as a dreadful gig, it doesn't alter the fact that their recordings weren't actually bad.

Mind you, the other day I was so surprised by Chris Moyles that I nearly drove off the road. That Chris Moyles was on my radio is something of a surprise - usually when a tape runs out and dumps me into Radio 1 during breakfast-show time I abandon all pretence of looking at the road until I've shoved in a new tape, changed the radio station or, if necessary, ripped the stereo out bodily with my bare fingers.

Anyway, he announced that he was going to play a track from a band who are largely forgotten but who deserve to be better known; a band whose entire back catalogue you should dash out and buy right now; a band of utter genius. Then he put on Sale of the Century, also from this album. My apologies to the person waiting next to me at the Hanger Lane lights, who looked at bit frightened when I yelled at the opening notes.

So, it's not that great. And it's not that bad. What is it ? It's a rather dated slice of 90s indie. But it's very catchy and danceable; I had a little boogie round the front room to Statuesque and Dress Like Your Mother while recording this. And I'm currently sorting out a shift-change in The Box, and The It Girl has gone on the in-pile.

Sleeper - Statuesque [link expired]

This is another of those tapes which sounds fine in the car, but when listened to in the rarified atmosphere of our front room reveals itself to be very worn and crackly.

[Poll #1276086]
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

Dire Straits - Money For Nothing

Years ago, a friend of mine made his first trip to the States; he went to California. I remember receiving an email enthusing about what a wonderful place it was, how different it was to the UK, and how everything seemed larger and freer and shinier. "I've got the radio on," he wrote, "and even Dire Straits sound good here."

I still find it difficult to believe that Dire Straits came out of a depressed north east in the 70's. They were completely out of step with the punk ethos and all the other things that spring to mind from that era of music: I bet no one has ever called Dire Straits "gritty".

OK, this album is a best-of; it's got the biggies on it. But regardless of which side you start with (Sultans of Swing or Walk of Life) the music just seems to belong to a world when you could drive a convertible with the froof down, sun blazing down, cruising through wide streets. It just doesn't belong in 70s Newcastle.

Listening to this always makes me think the sun is shining[*].

Walk of Life is a brilliant slice of feelgood pop-rock. It also has a surprisingly distinctive intro: someone rang me while I was mp3ing it off the tape and I accidentally started playing it. They recognised the song in under half a second[**].

Dire Straits - Walk of Life [link expired]

[Poll #1271727]

This week's post is specially for [livejournal.com profile] ulfilias. Don't make me get the Genesis out as well.

[*] For comparison The Stone Roses, despite being one of my favourite albums of all times, always makes me think it's raining.

[**] You know who you are!
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

Right Said Fred - Up

In the last few weeks, The Box has been veering into credibility. Having lulled you all into a false sense of security, I thought I'd better remind everyone that it's not all country legends and outdated indie cool.

Oh no.

However, I'm going to stand by Right Said Fred. Their songs are a bit silly, and were never going to be Mercury-nominated or fêted in serious music publications. But by its lights this is a good album. It's trivial pop, a bit of light fun and full of catchy choruses.

Yes, I do still feel slightly ashamed for saying that :)

I'm not sure that Right Said Fred would be good unto the second and third albunms, though Wikipedia tells me they've had another five. And are big in Germany.

Right Said Fred - Love For All Seasons [link expired]

[Poll #1262808]

It amuses me that Amazon bundles Up with Ace of Bass :)

Wikipedia also tells me that there's a Heavenly Records covers album which features St. Etienne singing I'm Too Sexy. Anyone got a copy !?
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

The Cure - Seventeen Seconds

As I understand it, there are two legitimate ways of acquiring tapes. One is to pay money in emporia, the other is to forget to return borrowed cassettes to exes. I got Seventeen Seconds the latter way, and found it years later in my own tape collection.

Seventeen Seconds is probably in my top ten favourite albums, ever. It's short (just over 35 minutes), but has a beautiful, slightly melancholy sound throughout. The slow, measured piano-and-guitar introduction of Reflection is one of the most relaxing tracks I've ever heard; for some reason it always makes me think of rain.

For reference, the big singles from it were A Forest and Play For Today. Listening to it, however, the tracks don't stand out from one another. I tend to think of it as one 35-minute piece of music (or two shorter ones where you have to turn a tape over in between).

Against the bounce-a-bility of other and later works, it's easy to see why this gets forgotten but it deserves a wider audience.

The Cure - Secrets [link expired]

[Poll #1258473]

Out of interest... )
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, though sometimes rather late on the Friday owing to inadvertently spending a large chunk of the day in pubs, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

Johnny Cash - The Johnny Cash Collection Vol. 1

(I can't include a link - there seem to be about a million albums and/or boxed sets with similar names, and none of them bear any relation to the tape in The Box. Anyway, the albums with similar names all do broadly similar things. If you want a Cash compilation, I'd recommend this one: The Man In Black.)

Anyway, yes. Johnny Cash. Country.

Oy... come back! Where are you going ? I know I said the C-word, but...

Oh, all right then. Suit yourself. I stick to the theory that if it's in XKCD then it must be cool.

For proper driving music, you can't beat a bit of Johnny Cash. And I don't mean the later, cooler, gone-a-bit-NIN, Rick-Rubin stuff. I mean proper old-skool skiffle-country which seems designed to play while wheels are turning[*]. It's catchy, it's singalong, and sometimes people in nearby cars at traffic lights join in.

Everyone should own something by Johnny Cash. Though you're allowed to stick to the likes of American IV if country really does make your ears bleed.

Johnny Cash - Country Boy [link expired]

[Poll #1254433]

[*] OK, that might be the influence of dodgy US trucking films.
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

The Lost Boys (Soundtrack)

This is a rare example of a tape which I actually paid actual proper money for, at actual proper prices, back when tapes where actually sold in actual shops. If I recall correctly, I bought it in Woolworths, though I think even then it may have been in a bargain bin.

There are some film soundtracks - like, say, Grease - where you hear them so many times you actually become completely sick of them and stop listening. I'm fairly sure that The Lost Boys was played to death in its day, but when I unearthed it a few months back I discovered that it's actually surprisingly enjoyable.

Beauty Has Her Way is one of the few tracks which doesn't sound like it was recorded by INXS - there are only two INXS tracks on the tape, but most of the rest of the songs sound as if they really want to be.

Mummy Calls - Beauty Has Her Way

[Poll #1246426]
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

Shakespears Sister - Hormonally Yours

Well, according to the sticker, I paid 50p for this album. I think it's one of my best charity-shop finds, and I keep intending to buy "a proper copy", by which I mean one on a less-defunct format.

I seem to remember violently disliking Stay - the album's big hit single - when it was in the charts. I have to say, I'm still not that enamoured with it and am not clear why it was a bigger hit than the vastly superior Hello (Turn Your Radio On). Maybe it was the scary gothed-out video.

Anyway, this is actually a genuinely high-quality album in The Box. I think this week's track was a single but I'm too lazy to check. It's a proper jaunty sing-along.

Shakespears Sister - I Don't Care

[Poll #1242352]
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

Thunder - Backstreet Symphony

You must remember that the primary purpose of my tape collection is to keep me entertained on long car journeys. And, pretty much regardless of your opinions of hair metal, there's nothing like a bit of late 80s rock for a singalong as you charge up the motorway.

Backstreet Symphony has all "the" Thunder songs on it - in fact, I did just go to Wikipedia to check that it was a proper album and not a best-of. So I know now that it's their first album, and that it was released in 1990. I don't care. It's still late 80s music if you ask me.

I bought this album a while back, and, on its first playing, warbled along happily to She's So Fine, Dirty Love and the title track. Then a more ballady intro started, and I figured it was a song I didn't know. It trundled on for a while, and suddenly reached the chorus...

"That's when LOVE walked IN through my DOOR..."

Fortunately, I had no passengers. Love Walked In is an orgiastic excess of wanky guitar solo, big chorus and fat chords. Oh, and daft words:

That's when love walked in through my door,
That familiar feeling I'd had once before.


OK, so far. A bit contrived, but we'll let that pass.

Love walked in through my door,
And it felt so strange.


Eh? Is it strange, or is it familiar ?

Like a long-lost friend

Oh, make your bloody mind up. OK, so it's not up there with the great excesses of lyrical inconsistency, but it's always vaguely got on my nerves.

Thunder - Love Walked In [link expired]

[Poll #1229451]

The choice of band is to ensure I get at least one comment. You know who you are :)
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box we have:

Avalanches - Since I Left You

Take thousands of samples, bake at Gas 5 for a few hours, and you'll have made an Avalanches album. They did, around a decade ago, and it's still happily spinning round in my car stereo.

Actually, the main problem with this album is that many of tracks feature the characteristic "eeeeeuuuuuw" noise of someone fiddling with playback speed. Every time I hear it I think my tape deck's finally given up, before I remember that it's meant to sound like that.

If you've never heard the Avalanches before, think layer upon layer of samples, lots of violins, and almost always a neighing horse.

I think the best known Avalanches tracks are Since I Left You and Frontier Psychiatrist[*] - the former is also one of my favourites.

Avalanches - Since I Left You

(Owing to a combination of segue, inattention and lack of editing software you actually get about 10 seconds of the next track in that as well. Sorry.)

[Poll #1217660]

[*] The only other track to feature the word "psychosomatic".
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box... by Jove, it is Kingmaker!

Kingmaker - Eat Yourself Whole

This is an extremely recent addition to The Box. ChrisC has not yet learned the rules about what sort of presents boyfriends are supposed to give their girlfriends, and thus gave me Eat Yourself Whole on tape a week or so ago. Fortunately, he knows me well and is quite aware that I have not yet learned the rules either. Any idiot can buy flowers, but how many people are willing to rummage in grubby charity shop 39p boxes for Kingmaker albums ?

When listening to it, I couldn't quite work out who the band reminded me of. Reading the sleevenotes, it suddenly became apparent: they thank The Wonderstuff. And that's exactly what Kingmaker sound like: a younger, less experienced, less raddled Wonderstuff.

I have been cheerfully bouncing along to Kingmaker in the car, despite previously knowing nothing off the album. Today's interesting Wikipedia fact is that Kingmaker were (in 1992) supported by Radiohead.

Kingmaker - Really Scrape The Sky [link expired]

[Poll #1207975]
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box, we have:

Prefab Sprout - Protest Songs

Prefab Sprout: English surburban pop, at its best. No, I can't define exactly what I mean by the phrase "suburban pop", though I have a very clear idea. Perhaps something slightly quiet, self-effacing, and singing of terrible heartbreak in such a way that you might not even notice.

I first encountered Prefab Sprout via the delightful From Langley Park to Memphis when I was a teenager. Then I pretty much forgot about them for a decade. But I recently bought The Gunman and Other Stories in a CD sale, and then this album on tape for 50p.

In some ways they're all quite similar-sounding; if you hate this, you'll probably hate the lot. You could clame that they're bland, or dated, or twee, or probably lots of other bad things if you wanted.

But really, give them a chance. They've got some fantastic songs.

Prefab Sprout - Life of Surprises [link expired]

[Poll #1204291]

Useless fact for the day: Wikipedia tells me that the Prefab Sprout are from Witton Gilbert, which isn't very far from where I grew up. I didn't know that. Southerners should take note that Gilbert sounds far more like Giblets than it does like something which would hang out with Sullivan.
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Today in The Box, we have:

London Boys - Twelve Commandments of Dance

Right, let's get the embarassing confession over with: this was the first 'pop' album I ever bought. On tape of course, and you could see the rest of my folk, classical and G&S tapes wincing as they tried to inch away along the shelf.

I remember hearing the single Requiem on the radio and being amazed by it. I have to say that these days is sounds rather more like fairly standard Europop with a bit of Gregorian chant tacked on the front. But at the time, it and London Nights bowled me over and led to this dramatic move into purchasing of popular music[*].

They went on to release practically every track on the album as a single[**], culminating in the lyrically-suspect My Love. ("I'm gonna give my love to you, no matter what you say or do"... because, like, that's romantic.)

According to Wikipedia, the group split up, but then reformed in 1995 and "made a crossover album called Hallelujah Hits which incorporated Eurodance arrangements into traditional religious compositions". Very shortly afterwards both members were killed in an Alpine car accident. I leave it to you to decide whether that was coincidence or Divine retribution.

This album was recently retrieved from my parents house, after languishing there for the best part of a decade. I remember driving home from work, and laughing out loud at it while queueing through Sonning. It's not epic, it's not a very credible thing to have to cite as a first album, but it's a good laugh and it's been allowed to stay in the car.

London Boys - Chinese Radio [link expired]

[Poll #1196262]

[*] Which means the London Boys are also directly responsible for my current CD storage issues.
[**] According to Wikipedia, that isn't even slightly true, but it felt like that at the time.
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

Whew. Today has been busy. I've finished my list of 'urgent things to do before going to York' (mostly by deciding that some of them weren't that urgent after all). If anyone's in the York area this weekend, they have an International Sword Spectacular on their doorstep.

So, we just have time to look in The Box and find...

Elvis Costello - The Man: The Best of Elvis Costello

I'm always confused about how well-known Elvis Costello is. I'm sure you've heard of him... but how many songs can you name offhand ? I'd have said about two (Oliver's Army and I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea), but then listening to a best-of invokes lots of those "Oh, is that Elvis Costello?" moments.

There's quite a lot of variety on this compilation. There's nice big fat guitar riffs, there's quiet introspection, there's clever and slightly cringeworthy rhymes.

Obviously, I'm mostly in it for the surprising rhymes. I really like the words to New Amsterdam, just because someone has spent time carefully crafting the lyrics so that they sound natural but all scan neatly and rhyme.

I have this vague suspicion that Elvis Costello is a bit too worthy for me ever to be a huge fan. I'm happy to be on best-of nodding terms, though.

Elvis Costello - New Amsterdam [link expired]

[Poll #1192627]
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

I apologise for the extremely intermittent nature of The Box of late. My life is rather confused and tumultuous of late and, although it pains me to say it, I've either forgotten or just not had time to go Box-rummaging.

And when you see what's in The Box this week, I bet you wish it had stayed that way.

Jimmy Somerville - The Singles Collection 1984/1990

Yes, it's everyone's favourite squeaky-voiced popstrel, Jimmy Somerville. I make no apology[*] for liking this ridiculous 80s nonsense.

Interestingly (or not) Don't Leave Me This Way is one of the very few songs of that era which I actually remember hearing at the time. I'm too lazy to look up when it was released, but I have very clear memories of dancing to it at my cousin's wedding aged approximately 11 (this was also the occasion of me learning that pale people like myself should not be made to wear mauve).

This singles collection is a proper in-car sing-a-long, although disappointingly I can't sing high enough to hit most of the notes. However, when I am singing in the car there is usually no one to hear. I keep hoping my singing will cause traffic jams to flee in terror; it doesn't, but at least it passes the time.

The Communards - Tomorrow [link expired]

[Poll #1188693]

[*] Though I am a bit embarassed about it.
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

However, I am easily confused. I took Friday off from work, and was thus confused and thought all day yesterday it was Saturday. So I forgot to look in The Box. Belatedly, we have:

Cyndi Lauper - Twelve Deadly Cyns

One thing to note: I was incredibly disappointed to note that this album does not have 12 tracks. If you examine the album cover closely and read the small print, it's actually called Twelve Deadly Cyns... and Then Some which I feel is a weak get-out. If you're going to choose a title like that you should stick with it.

I'm fairly sure this is an album not a compilation, but it does seem to have all the Cyndi Lauper biggies on it (I Drove All Night, Time After Time, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...). And, I have to admit, it turns out I know rather more Cyndi Lauper songs than I thought I did.

She does have a weird voice, though. It's sort of part soul-singer, part cartoon. I don't remember ever noticing that before.

However, I think the outstanding track is She Bop. With its driving rhythm and silly lyrics, I don't know why it isn't still an 80s dance-floor filler.

Cyndi Lauper - She Bop [link expired]

[Poll #1177878]
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

In The Box this week we have:

Now That's What I Call Music 3 - Various Artists

When rummaging through dusty boxes of tapes in charity shops I'm always delighted to uncover a Now That's What I Call Music X. There's something utterly delightful about time-based compilations (the other good example that I've encountered being the 1990s Shine indie compilations); they perfectly preserve a musical snapshot of a particular month.

Looking down the tracklist for NTWICM3 there are some usual-suspect 80s choons. I Want To Break Free, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, It's Raining Men, yeah, yeah, we know.

To me, the interesting part is the songs that were big enough to make it onto the compilation, but then were soon after consigned to the dustbin of history. Names I don't know at all come up on the list. Anyone heard of The Art Company ? They're on here doing Susannah, which the crowd present at the recording seem to know but I've never heard before. Then there's the bizarre Thompson Twins' song about knowing what it means to work hard on machines. And the obligatory euro-pop entry comes from Propaganda (who?) with Doctor Mabuse.

I was tempted to post one of these, but have instead gone for a track I barely know by a very well-known band. It's one of those which makes you think "eh ? can see why it isn't one of the better known efforts" then suddenly whips out a refrain and outro that are instantly familiar. I must have heard it years and years ago, and not thought of it since, but there it was hidden away in the dustier corners of my hindbrain.

Madness - One Better Day

It used to be fashionable to lay down port for your children. I'd recommend laying down some current music compilations - they'll probably be happy, even if you think today's music is rubbish.

[Poll #1173207]
venta: (Default)
So, having been rubbish last Friday and forgotten to post telling you what was in The Box, this week I am all ready with my post and raring to go.

Except for some reason, today, my web host has decided not to let me ftp in. I open the connection, it gets closed by some pernicious remote host. Perhaps it is the heavenly host - which would be pretty remote - attempting to save me from myself by preventing me posting mp3s illegally.

Anyway, it's annoying. I'll be letting you know what's in The Box just as soon as I find a way round this problem.
venta: (Default)
On Fridays this year, we ask...

What's in the Box? )

In The Box this week we have:

Simon & Garfunkel - Wednesday Morning 3am

The Box would like to apologise for is recent silence. I wasn't well enough to rummage last week, and the previous week was up a hill in Cumbria.

Walking along Bleecker Street in New York a few years ago, I was cheerfully warbling to myself: "I met a boy on Bleecker Street, who stole my heart". I was quite surprised recently to discover that Helen Love wasn't the only person to write a song about Bleecker Street. Simon & Garfunkel did it earlier, and very probably more famously.

Simon & Garfunkel are one of those bands like the Beatles where you think you only know one song, then listen to an album and discover that nearly every track is an old friend. I bought Wednesday Morning 3am, and was surprised to find any number of tracks I knew on it, including two that were regulars at junior school assembly. It also has a cover of Times They Are A-Changin', a song which is incredibly famous but which I'd managed never actually to hear.

In terms of the Simon & Garfunkel 'big hits', I think only Sound of Silence would really count, and I find it an oddly lumpy album, lurching about between different styles of content in a fog of inconsistency. It does, however, have a couple of songs I'm really pleased to know, and this is one of them:

Simon & Garfunkel - Bleecker Street

[Poll #1165690]

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