Call me Russ L

Fourteen track shuffle

Posted in Music by Russ L on 16 December, 2008

It’s that time of year – Swiss Toni’s Shuffleathon is underway! You sign up, he pulls your name from his special name-pulling hat, and you end up giving and receiving a mix CD to and from a pair randomly determined funsters out there beyond the gates. My outward-bound effort is already in the possession of professional Oxon badman Ben Swizzle, and I can’t wait to read what he has to say about it. I received my receivable from Paul W. of
1000 Shades Of Grey, and on a whim decided to give it a relatively ‘live’ reading – I’d take notes as I actually listened to/examined it, and use those as my blog post. Anything in italics is added after; the plain type is what I wrote at the time (translated from “Russellnotes” into “English”, obviously).

Approx 5pm, 9/12/8: On looking at the tracklisting

~ Ooh, quite a few songs I like.
~ Most of it pretty familiar, though, and that’s a bit of a shame. Mix CDs are at their best when they bring new acts to you, I find. This is not my correspondent’s fault, of course, given that he didn’t know me from Adam before this.
~ This looks VERY indie/rock. Certainly not much stylistic variation, at first glance. Jokes about it thus not being a surprise that his blog is called “1000 Shades Of Grey” are probably a touch presumptuous at this point.

Approx 5:45pm, 9/12/8: On putting it into my computer

~ The tracks on this are M4A files. Apparently I can’t play them on my ‘puter. Bugger. I’ll have to come back to it later.

Approx 7:30pm, 10/12/8: On putting it into my stereo

~ Oh hey, it still doesn’t work. It just comes up as one track, which will play but doesn’t actually put out any sound. Paul did mention in his covering letter that he’d had a bit of a bother when burning it, though. He also very kindly offered to do a new CD for me if it didn’t work, but rather than putting him to the trouble I’ll instead get a hold of all of the tracks (I own a fair few of them already), make a playlist, and listen to that. We can then just pretend it’s the CD, can’t we?

And so I set about it. I didn’t manage to get them all in a form I could make a playlist out of, but I did get them all in some form or other and was thus eventually able to at least listen to the lot in the order intended.

From approx 7:30pm, 15/12/8: the official listen-through

1) Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name

(Things kick off with everyone’s favourite trying-to-bring-down-the-system-whilst-signed-to-a-Sony-affiliate-bless-their-little-hearts rap-metal revolutionaries Rage Against The Machine. I approve of this).

~ Hooo yuss. One of my favourite bands for a few of my mid-teenage years, and even though I don’t listen to them all that often these days (maybe I should, Millhouse. Maybe I should…) I still think they’re ace. The “Sod Yow Ar Woe Goo And Do Wot Yowm Tellin We” (translated into local dialect for easy comprehension of them who spake as proppa) has obviously been the soundtrack of a squintillion teenage strops worldwide and may actually be the most clichéd thing ever, but it still has a certain something about it. Morello comes up with some typically good Purple/Zep styled riff malarkey, meanwhile, and lord did Rattum (you should always pronounce ‘RATM’ like that, it’s fun) know how to build up then bang. Hooray for them!

2) Maximo Park – Our Velocity

(A band I’d heard of but hadn’t actually heard anything from, before all of this. I should probably confess to the fact that I did listen to this track once before I did the proper run-through of the CD, though).

~ I’d got the impression from somewhere that MP were one of these anthemic Northern Stadium Indie type of bands (possibly reinforced by the presence of Oasis and Embrace on this CD), but that’s really wrong. This sounds like a Sparks/Therapy? collaboration voiced by a cross between Ian Curtis and Spuggy from “Byker Grove”. And it is bloody ace. Love it. “Never ever try to gauge temperature when you tend to travel at such speeds as our velocity” is a great hookline, although I feel it is necessary to point out that speed and velocity are not synonymous. Love it though.

3) Llama Farmers – Get The Keys And Go

(A name I remembered from my mid-teenage years – it’s not one you’d forget, is it? – but a band I don’t think I’d ever heard anything by. Turns out I was wrong).

~ Jangle jangle jangle HUUUUUUGE GUITAR. Hang on, I do know this, just didn’t think I did. Indie-grunge business with sing-song-ish vocals (and not just in the sense that they are singing a song. I suspect this may a description that makes sense only to me). There were a few bands like this knocking around back in those days, Seafood were another. He’s pretending to be American rather than British (which I thought they were) (research confirms this) or Peruvian (where else would one farm llamas?). Singing ‘Merican was fashionable at the time though and for all I know amongst this sort of student it still is. This feels insubstantial but sort of likeable – all they’ve got is one hook and a big guitar amp but they’re going to run with it. That’s an attitude I can get with (although the yankee doodly dandy business isn’t).

4) Manic Street Preachers – Theme From M.A.S.H (Suicide Is Painless)

(Well-known Welshers. That’s lovely, isn’t it).

~ Of course I know this one. I don’t mind it. Keep meaning to watch some “M.A.S.H”, actually, it sounds like something I think I might like.

5) Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Scooby Snacks

(Ace song from an ace band).

~ Yeah, long-since loved this. Surely the best song about violent robbery outside of M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” and probably several Johnny Cash songs. I’ve seen FLC a couple of times, the first being one of the very few highlights of that one Leeds festival I went to – seeing an entire field of people go absolutely Radio Rental to this tune was quite the thing.

6) Embrace – How Come

(I will always remember once reading a fanzine in which an Embrace apologist wrote “I know a lot of people say they’re shit and he can’t sing, but those are sort of the reasons why I like them”. Fair enough, I suppose).

~ Well this is just boring.

7) Snow Patrol feat. Martha Wainwright – Set The Fire To The Third Bar

(Snow Patrol always remind me of that Tom Ewing quote – we in Britain have managerial rock– solid bands who like the right music and tick the right boxes, safe pairs of plectrum-carrying hands)

~ I are sirius cat, this are sirius music. Oh wait we’ve got to the chorus and I realise I’ve heard this! One of those songs that float in the ether without you ever knowing what it was called or who recorded it. Until now, obviously. I don’t mind this too much, considering – it seems to find itself faaaaar more significant and deep’n’meaningful than it actually is (in that familiar Snow Patrol fashion), but Martha’s cutesy voice undercuts that slightly (only slightly, let’s not go mad) and it is kinda catchy. Several billion times better than that “If I Lay Here” one, which puts it somewhere in the region of “OK-ish”.

8) The Zutons – Zuton Fever

(Another band I know the name of but have never consciously heard. They do get extra Russ points for said name sounding like it should belong to a race of “Doctor Who” monsters).

~ Self-mythologizing from Scousers, whodathunkit. Nah, only joking, I like it when bands put their names into song titles (although it is best when there’s an accompanying dance). Vocal-led indie with some of the trappings of ska and the faintest touch of quasi-surf guitar. That makes it sound more interesting and fun than it actually is, though.

9) Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto

(Obviously familiar but similarly obviously fantastic. Obviously).

~ This is great because Elvis makes it sound like he cares even though you’re fairly sure he doesn’t care in the slightest and just wants some more painkillers. Relevant to modern times, I think. Beautiful soulful song, and if someone could tell me how I can block Eric Cartman singing it from my mind then that’d be just hoopy.

10) REM – The One I Love

(Yup, another familiar but ace one).

~ I was lucky enough to hear this one live three-and-a-bit months ago. The mix of nice-sounding/nasty-meaning appeals to me: “This one goes out to the one I love… a simple prop to occupy my time” sung sweetly enough for it to pass you by the first few times you hear it. It’s akin to when you put on a baby-voice to say “Come on little darling, we’re going to the vets to have you castrated” to a pet. Although nastier, for the latter thing is of course necessary. Poor metaphor, really.

11) Trent – I Will Hold On

(The only band I’d never heard of at all, but also the one that caused the most trouble in terms of getting a hold of it. I wasn’t sure I had the band name right to begin with, but Paul marked me right in the end).

~ Oh super, a really earnest piano ballad. The sort of thing to make you glad John Lennon was shot or make you wish he never had been, depending on the influence you think that would have had on ten million bands since then. Woah hold on (didjaseewhatIdidthere) here come the drums! Guitars! Big chords! For the chorus! And a guitar solo! Oh they’re spoiling us, they really are. My first experience with Trent and so perhaps this is premature, but they definitely seem like a waste of electricity thus far.

12) Oasis – Half The World Away

(Happily this is one of the very few Oasis songs I actually like, although the correct answer to “Who’s Bestest: Oasis or Blur?” is still, as it has always been, “Pulp”)

~ I dislike Oasis for the most part but I do like this one. Being voiced by the good Gallagher (by which I mean “the better Gallagher, relatively speaking”. By which I mean “the Gallagher that sounds marginally less like he’s singing with a clothes-peg on his nose”) doesn’t hurt, but it also manages to conjure up a yearning, wistful atmosphere. The plodding T-Rex knock-offs that make up the majority of their cannon don’t manage to conjure up any kind of atmosphere at all.

13) Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman

(He’s a lineman for the county, whereas I’m a civil servant. Everyone knows civil servant beats council worker).

~ I’m really not sure how anyone could dislike this. A genuine melancholy exhibits itself, and the instrumentation is perfect. Ooh, those lovely deft strings. My Grandad was a linesman, y’know.

(My Louise absolutely adores this song so I just textedededed her to ask if she could describe this in five words. She came up with “lonesome, mournful, winsome, stringy and sweaty”. So, erm, yes).

14) The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony

(String-led Stones-jacking from those formerly-psych-rocking bump-you-out-the-way-in-the-street Wigan balladeers, [The] Verve).

~ Doo do duh do duh daaa, do duh daaa, do duh daaa and so on. I do quite like this, but I do find it to be the least of The Verve’s singles from around that sort of time. The thought occurs that quite a lot of these songs are from my early-to-mid teenage years, or at the very least are familiar to me ‘from’ my early-to-mid teenage years. I wonder if Paul is a similar age to me…?

* * *

And there we have it. Mixed, of course, but certainly a success in terms of me having liked more than I’ve disliked. I have since listened to the ones I didn’t previously know a few more times, but what I thought on the spot seems to more or less stand. The main thing I’ll be taking away from this will be awareness of Maximo Park – I really am all about that track and will definitely be investigating them further.

Thanks to Paul, then, and thanks as ever to ‘Tone for organising the whole jamboree. I eagerly anticipate Ben’s words about my CD…

13 Responses

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  1. Ben said, on 17 December, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Great review, Russ.

    Not strictly true that Paul didn’t know you from Adam – he’s a very good friend of mine (I was actually his best man) and he asked if I knew (of) you. Don’t think my answers affected his choices, though.

    Some comments, then:

    * Maximo Park – yes, yes, yes! I maintain their first album is definitely better, but I suspect Swiss and Paul may beg to differ. Nice spot on the speed/velocity issue!

    * Llama Farmers – funny you should mention Seafood in the same breath, as I interviewed both for the university magazine around the same time. Seafood = lovely. Llama Farmers = very, very young.

    * Embrace – good call.

    * Oasis – the fact that I don’t mind that song is purely down to ‘The Royle Family’, take that out of the equation and it’d mean nowt to me.

  2. Cat said, on 17 December, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Hello, I’ve popped over here from ST’s – interesting review. I had Paul in last year’s Shuffleathon, and put Maximo Park on my CD for him. He liked that track, and I’m pleased to hear you’ve been turned. If you ever have the chance to see them live, snap it up – I have never seen a front-man with so much energy as Paul Smith!

    (PS. I thought the same thing in terms of teenage years when reading your review, so I’m guessing we’re all probably around the same vintage.)

  3. Paul said, on 17 December, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Hi Russ,

    Fair enough review I think.

    Ben’s right to point out that I asked if he knew you. Had been hoping for some pointers when he reviewed your CD, but seeing as it’s taken him ages to do that had to just take the plunge and post it (not least due to the complication of working away for most of the last four weeks!)

    Glad that you appear to have at least appreciated most of the tracks, even if there weren’t too many that were actually new to you, and pleased that you’ll be taking at least one act away that was new to you (Maximo Park) – think my hit ratio last year was somewhat similar!

    Glad you appreciated the Oasis track, for my part I generally prefer the stuff Noel sings and I’m pleased you like it.

    As for the Trent track, it was the one which I probably had the biggest internal debate about including for a whole load of reasons, so I’m not going to hold it against you if you don’t want to find out more. For me, their music is more about the lyrical content than the sound (if that makes sense).

    Oh, and in my defence I think I should say that I like the Embrace track as much for the way it struck me as being suc a marked cover. It’s the only one I’ve got – I’ve certainly never felt remotely inclined to buy an album of theirs!

    I suspect you’d also have appreciated at least a fair chunk of last year’s shuffleathon CD (which I deliberately avoided repeating any tracks from), which I suspect comes down to the fact that we probably are of similar ages (I’m 29) and my musical tastes were at least partly fixed in the mid-late nineties, although my appreciation for older stuff seems to increase as I age (e.g. Nna Simone, Glen Campbell, Jonny Cash, etc.)

    Anyway, really sorry for the hastle you had trying to get the thing to work – don’t know what happened in the burning process – suppose that’s itunes for you (or my own complete and utter technical failings)

    Thanks for taking the time to listen, and Happy Christmas!



  4. Russ L said, on 18 December, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Ben – I am intrigued by you saying that The Llama Farmers were ‘very, very young’. Is that literal, or a euphemism? Or both?

    Meanwhile, I know you’ve been a busy bunny but I am now scowling and tapping my foot like Sonic The Hedgehog.

    Cat – It seems necessary for me to put Maximo Park on the CD I send out for next year’s Shuffleathon. Honk Honk Pass It On, as The Fraggles once so wisely sang.

    Paul – No, thank you for putting the CD together in the first place. It wasn’t really much trouble to get the tracks together, certainly less than it would have been for you to make another CD and post it out again.

    Noel is better, isn’t he? Still, it’s nice of him to let his little brother play.

  5. Ben said, on 18 December, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    No, I meant it quite literally – I think Bernie was 18 at the time, and his sister was 16.

    And yes, I’m working on it…

  6. DocDelete said, on 18 December, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Wichita Linesman is rarely off my regular play list. It’s great to immerse in its evocation of Wide Open Space, before trying to enjoy some new-fangledangled tripe you youngsters call ‘music’ ;)

    At this time of year I bounce it off Greg Lake’s I Believe in Father Christmas. Works well.

  7. Russ L said, on 18 December, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Well, makes more sense than ‘stringy’.

  8. Ben said, on 19 December, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Hi Russ, the review’s up:

    Thanks for your patience. ;)

  9. Danny McNamara for PM said, on 23 January, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    You cunt.

    You dislike Embrace’s sublime melodic songriting at the expense of REMs easy singalongs?

    You cunt.

  10. Russ L said, on 23 January, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Yes yes yes, we all get really very angry when people don’t like the same things as us. We know.

    ‘Easy singalongs’ as a criticism of anything in the world outside of Embrace, though? Seriously?

  11. […] Fourteen track shuffle […]

  12. […] Fourteen track shuffle […]

  13. Leeds Festival said, on 7 April, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Interesting blog, has some pretty useful information.


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