Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Records/CDs revisted - The Pleasure Principle by Gary Numan

What's weird about listening to The Pleasure Principle now is how many other songs by other artists that it reminds me of  - the reason being that it has been sampled so much for records that have gone on to become famous in their own right - "Where's your Head At?" by Basement Jaxx for example. The sad thing for me is that the samples have now become so synonymous with the songs that they have been used in that you almost expect that song to start playing rather than the Numan track. I say a shame because The Pleasure Principle is for me one of Numan's finest moments and it is still a great listen 25 years after it's release.

For me this album also brings a great sense of nostalgia. I bought this on vinyl as a teenager (I was 13 or 14) and I listened to it a lot. You could say that it was the precursor to my love of Bowie. Not much of a leap of imagination there - it is obvious when you view those early Gary Numan videos that Bowie had a massive influence on him - especially on his look and stage style. But the sound that Numan creates whether or not it is Bowie/Kraaftwerk influenced is clearly all his own. It is almost too easy to forget that those sounds that we have all become so familiar with had never really been heard before when Numan emerged in 1978. They were new and exciting, and unlike anything else in the charts at the time - a natural progression perhaps from Roxy Music, Brian Eno etc.   And as is the way with most innovative artists the music press gave hime short shrift - he was labelled as boring and robotic. It is only now that Numan is beginning to get any acknowledgement for his contribution to changing the face of music.

My personal favourites on the album are Complex, Metal and Cars and I love the cover art too. If I have one beef - it is that they always add extra tracks to the CD versions of albums that have previously been released on vinyl. I suppose it is added value - but i like to hear the album exactly as it was - unadulterated - nothing added, nothing taken away.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Recors/CDs revisited - Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros - Global A Go-Go

This is the first album reviewed (so far) that I didn't own on vinyl first. I came to Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros late - only really discovering them after Joe Strummer died - I had had a bit of a hiatus from discovering much new music for a few years for some reason. I was gutted to have discovered them posthumously as it meant that I would never have the opportunity of seeing them live, and I had already missed out on seeing The Clash.

Global A Go-Go is by far and away my favourite Mescaleros album. It kicks off with the brilliant and very catchy Johnny Appleseed, and then morphs into the funky Cool 'n' Out where jaunty dance rhythms jostle along with rock guitar - and somehow the whole thing works. Cool 'n' Out is followed by the title track which has a world feel to the music as well as the lyrics and has a deceptively simple melody running through it which I love and always find myself humming hours later. The next track Bhindi Bhagee is probably my favourite on the album - it is has the kind of African influenced guitar riff that reminds me of bands like King Sunny Ade and his African Beats and Taxi Pata Pata that I listened to a lot in the 1980s. As well as being incredibly catchy and making you want to get up and dance, this song has great lyrics - someone in the street asks Joe where buy that great British delicacy mushy peas, but Joe is stumped - he can tell him where to get all kinds of food from all over the world - but not mushy peas. Then he tells the stranger that he is in a band - and the stranger asks him what kind of band it is:

"It's um, um, well, it's kinda like

You know, it's got a bit of, um, you know."
Ragga, Bhangra, two-step Tanga
Mini-cab radio, music on the go
Um, surfbeat, backbeat, frontbeat, backseat
There's a bunch of players and they're really letting go
We got, Brit pop, hip hop, rockabilly, Lindy hop
Gaelic heavy metal fans fighting in the road
Ah, Sunday boozers for chewing gum users
They got a crazy D.J. and she's really letting go..."

There are some more mellow tracks on the album as well - like Gamma Ray, Mondo Bongo, and Bummed Out City. The album ends on a long and rather haunting version of the Irish patriotic folk song Minstrel Boy. This is an album that really shows Strummer's eclectic and wide ranging world music influences and (especially lyrically) his love affair with America and American culture. Joe Strummer is a talent sorely missed - and if you don't know the Mescaleros please look them up - it's well worth the effort. You can read a 2001 review of the album from Rolling Stone here.