Finest Hour – Medal of Honour Airborne

Image

Since the Call of Duty franchise popped its head above the foxhole and opened fire on the gaming industry, first person shooters have become the genre that defines the current generation.

But CoD wasn’t always the top dog. Before players got the call up and were shipped off to non-descript Middle Eastern locales, they were told to fix bayonets and get stuck into some Nazis with the Medal of Honour series.

With Medal of Honour Airborne EA LA has shaken things up by avoiding the linearity that plagues modern FPSes by literally dropping you right into the action. Players parachute into open world levels and are tasked with a number of objectives before the level progresses. Which order the objectives are completed is entirely up to you. This makes for a refreshing and entertaining change of pace then simple advancing down one corridor to the next. Skill drops are dotted around each level for players to find and earn their jump wings.

Enemies will constantly respawn in certain areas so the challenge always remains high. Enemy A.I though is a little scatterbrain but increase in power and skill as the game progresses, keeping you on your toes throughout.

Another way Airborne differs from your regular shooter is how your guns can be upgraded as you fight you way through the game. More ammo, pistol grip and adjustable sights are some of the upgrades players can earn, and all make a difference. The contrast between your basic Thompson and the fully kitted out model is as different as black and white.

If you’re used to CoD’s streamlined controls, however, Airborne’s may feel a little clunky. Melee combat is riddled with poor hit detection, but the cover system works well. Players can lean round walls and pop up behind cover to snap off a few shots with a flick of the left thumb stick – handy for taking out that pesky sniper or machine gun nest.

The campaign is far too short. Taking you from the south of Italy, to Holland and then into Germany itself, there is a very real sense that the game is only just starting to take off before it comes to the end. While replay value comes from finding the skill drops and upgrading your arsenal, it would’ve been nice to revert back to the old Medal of Honour system; around 5 separate campaigns featuring a number of missions apiece.

While the controls won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and the game feels all over before Christmas, Medal of Honour Airborne is an engaging and action packed first person shooter that is a fun alternative to the army of Call of Duty clones on the market.

Veronica Guerin

The Fightin’ Irish – Veronica Guerin

veronica_guerin

 

Veronica Guerin’s story is certainly worthy of silver-screen adaptation. A courageous Irish investigative journalist, Guerin wrote in-depth articles on Ireland’s criminal drug trade and paid the ultimate price for her refusal to budge from the truth. She was murdered on 26 June 1996 by the drug gang she was reporting. This event galvanised Ireland into cracking down on the country’s drug dealers and Guerin is remembered today for her determination and bravery in pursuit of a story.

While presented superficially with gritty realism, Veronica Guerin suffers by repeated slips into Hollywood sentimentality – not surprising when considering the director. Joel Schumacher, the man responsible for the ultra-neon campfest of Batman & Robin, is an odd choice for the film’s subject matter.  Schumacher bungles Veronica Guerin with a raft of wrong choices and clichés. Cheesy slo-mo, an intrusively saccharine score and unadventurous camerawork all hamper what should’ve been a great film. Aesthetically, Veronica Guerin also relies on conventional fare. Dublin’s darker side is presented in standard Hollywood fashion. Drug dens are all used needles and grimy sinks and brothels are populated by dead-eyed girls and shot in subdued lighting. There is an unfortunate sense that this is an Irish story being handled by an American, which holds Veronica Guerin back.

It’s Veronica Guerin’s central performance that keeps the film from veering into mediocrity. Cate Blanchett’s rock-solid turn as Guerin is centred on a strong sense of conviction and emotional truth. Though she imbues Guerin with feistiness, it’s when Blanchett goes deeper and reveals the fear sitting behind Guerin’s unshakable exterior that we really see the resolve that propels the character. Ciarán Hinds is also excellent in support as gangster John Traynor – as slippery and seedy as his moustache would suggest.

Whilst not an entirely bad film Veronica Guerin smacks of mismanagement and missed opportunity. What could’ve been a hard-hitting biopic of a truly inspirational figure is actually an unfortunate victim of Hollywood polish and is kept from greatness by Schumacher’s cloying need for sentiment.

Sleeping Giants Bong Dreams of Mana-Yood-Sushai

Image

 

Bong – Dreams of Mana– Yood– Sushai

 

Newcastle’s Bong are a new discovery for me, having only heard of them this morning while reading an interview with the band’s front man Dave Terry over on The Quietus and my interested was piqued by the description of heavy, psychedelic, stoner/doom. And obviously their name is as flat-out stoner as you can get. Maybe lacking the charm of Bongzilla or Stoned Jesus, but Bong should indicate what kind of sonic delights you’re in for.

 

This track, taken from their album Mana-Yood-Sushai which was released in May of this year, takes the aforementioned tags and swirls them together with a pinch of eastern mysticism and two parts weed and bong water to create an omnipresent, ragged black cloak of sound.

 

The works of Irish fantasy writer and dramatist Lord Dunsany form the backbone of the progtacular themes of Mana-Yood-Sushai. Dunsany’s work The Gods of Pegāna presents Mana-Yood-Sushai as the creator of the God of God’s, kept sleeping as when he wakes he will destroy the world and begin rebuilding it. Standard, fantastical fare then, but the rewards of this track are such that the crazy back-story ably sets the tone for the music.

 

Clocking in at just over 27 minutes long, Dreams is a song that oozes considerable ominous menace, conjuring images of long forgotten temples somewhere in the Himalayas where once ancient priests toiled daily to ensure their ancient god’s slumber was undisturbed. More droner than stoner, Bong’s eastern influences are present in the concept of the drone itself, augmented by eerie touches on Ben Freeth’s Shahi Baaja which floats upon the blackened void of feedback and guitar that create the sensation of an evil wind billowing out of a darkened monastery, or indeed, the languished dreaming of a forgotten deity. The drumming and chanting which appear out of the swirling, aural fogs only further enhance the tracks mountainous presence, and makes the track’s transition from straight doom drone to hazey groove all the more palpable.

 

It’s a track that demands your full attention. Breakaway even for a second then Dream’s sleeping, ferrous trance will be lost and the feeling hard to re-acquire. But listen closely for the duration and you’ll see how Bong have managed to take Lord Dunsany’s strange concepts and present them through a smoke enhanced miasma to ensure that this really is the sound of an undisturbed, powerful creature.

 

Arnhem Nights – A Bridge Too Far

Image

A Bridge Too Far Review

 

A Bridge Too Far is Richard Attenborough’s suitably epic re-telling of the failed Operation Market garden, an paratrooper led assault on Holland during September 1944. Along with other genre classics like Where Eagles Dare and The Great Escape, A Bridge Too Far has become a staple of bank holidays and as a result the scale and scope of the film have usually been forgotten in a sherry-fuelled, afternoon haze.

 

Some delicious historical context then: after the success of the Normandy landings in June, the German army was on the retreat and the Allies were left with the decision of how to advance. British Field Marshal Montgomery proposed a daring attack on Holland with the objective of securing vital bridges at Arnhem and Nijmegen in order to knock the Germans out of the Netherlands and across the Rhine with hopes of ending the war, in typical fashion, before Christmas. Things didn’t exactly go to plan and about 10,000 British troops ended up stuck behind enemy lines with little or no hope of reinforcement. Attempts to relive the paratroopers were met with failure and the operation stalled after eight days of fighting.

 

From the outset the film’s fastidious period correctness, present in uniforms and vehicles, is certainly impressive. The producer’s $22 million (of their own cash no less) has been put to excellent use in acquiring as many weapons and tanks as needed to accurately portray the battle. Attenborough’s main accomplishment with A Bridge Too Far is wrangling all the heavy equipment, both Allied and Wehrmacht, and co-ordinating it all into some terrific set pieces. The heroic Robert Redford led American river crossing, combined with the advance of British tanks, being a particular standout scene, as well as the initial German attack on Nijmegen Bridge. The combat is choreographed so as to be as thick and intense as an actual war and while it may not match the modern realism of, say, Band of Brothers, it is enough to give justice to the struggles of the fighting men on both sides, and demonstrates enough truth as not appear disrespectful or flippant regarding the conflict. Boy’s own, Dirty Dozen stuff this is not.

 

What the film accomplishes best of all is the portrayal of the Germans. It is often forgotten by the masses that not all German soldiers and officers were fanatic anti-Semites and war criminals. A balanced view is often forgotten by history and it’s refreshing to see the Wehrmacht portrayed as the compotent fhgiting force they were, rather than just sneering villains and target dummies for the latest Hollywood heartthrob.

 

The ensemble cast is probably one of the best ever committed to celluloid. Rather than Hollywood machismo that we’ve seen in the 80’s and more recently with The Expendables, A Bridge Too Far’s cast sheet is full of more stars than you could fit in a musette bag. Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Antony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, the aforementioned Redford, Elliot Gould, James Caan, Gene Hackman and Edward Fox all gear up and dust off their jump wings for the picture. Hopkin’s John Frost in particular is emblematic of steely British resolve, as is Connery’s Major General Urhart. However, with all this star power (plus more not mentioned) the film lacks definitive focus with each man trying their hardest to centre the piece upon themselves with not enough screen time to go round.

 

But if there is one thing A Bridge Too Far isn’t lacking its running time. Clocking in just over two and half hours, it certainly is a tough old slog,

 

Perversely then A Bridge Too Far is a cinematic reflection of Market Garden itself – too big and unwieldy to be entirely successful. While it may be full of intense action and authenticity, A Bridge Too Far tries to go just one bridge too far itself. A more concentrated, clear-cut film would be preferable but you have to admire the cast and crews attempts at steering clear of what could have become another bloated epic, and does reach it’s main goal of demonstrating what a tangled mess Market Garden turned out to be. However an overabundance of big name stars and too much history to cram in lets it down, but A Bridge Too Far is accomplished enough to be rescued from lazy bank holiday Sundays to a permanent fixture of your DVD collection.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKDPX8PEiVk A Bridge Too Far Trailer 

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Market_Garden For more info on the actual Operation Market Garden, check out this here wiki link.

 

A Place Where Everyone Can Be Happy – Bad Religion No Control

Image

Bad Religion – No Control

Admittedly my knowledge of Bad Religion is especially entry level. Like many people my age, a lot of my early music taste was shaped by the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series of skateboarding games, and eagle eared viewers will note that two tracks from No Control make onto two different installments of the series.

The tracks “You” and “Big Bang” are pretty much indicative of what this album sounds like pretty much all the way through: Fucking fast and fucking furious. Perfect then for a band that, to my ears, slot perfectly in-between 77 punk and more traditional West Coast American hardcore punk.

The influence of genre titans the Ramones is clear to see. Weighing in at 25 minutes long, No Control is pretty uncompromising in its delivery. Vocalist Greg Graffin’s voice is clear throughout, avoiding the cliché grunts and screams of most punk of the late 80’s era (though this is just speculation on my part, I’m sure somebody will point out my ignorance, and please do!), but still retains enough edge and bite so as to give the social and political lyrical themes enough conviction so as to be powerful. Graffin’s machine gun delivery maybe a little tricky to follow at times, but the words are carefully, wittily and intelligently written and their super sonic urgency only enhances the bands belief in their own left leaning message.

Graffin’s lyrics sit neatly upon a stormy deluge of guitars that begin with Johnny Ramone’s and certainly ascribe to that old punk three-chord tradition. The twin guitar spike of Greg Heston and Brett Gurewitz acts mainly as vehicle for Graffin’s hardcore truisms, but with some careful and tastefully placed solos, have enough character and the right smidgeon of memory as to avoid turning into one of this records that descends into a stale aural mush.

Acting as an even further propeller of super speed is drummer Pete Finestone’s AA-gun battery of percussion, ensuring the music never has any time to slowdown or really disseminate what’s being thrown at you. Production being standard, to hell with the bass and give me more guitars punk, the low end doesn’t particularly get a look in.

Ultimately then this is a remarkably pure punk rock outing, maintaining all the principles of the genre, staying true to it’s roots but leaving the band enough room to carve out their own brand of Cali-fried punk rock. Well worth a listen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1PgiBpTtao Bad Religion – You

The Second Coming

             Image

Last weekend I got to fulfill a live long ambition and travelled up to Manchester to see The Stone Roses live. In celebraiton of how amazing they were, here’s a review I did of their much, and unfairly, maligned second album I wrote for my previous blog.

After the exhilarating rush of pure pop perfection, and the legendary gigs at Spike Island and Glasgow Green, the Stone Roses disappeared into a world of paint spattered legal cases for nigh on 5 years. Retreating to Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, after snatching a more than generous record deal from Geffen, the Roses spent the intervening years having children, smoking copious amounts of grass, skinning up on Aerosmith CD’s and creating an album almost entirely removed from their scallydelic debut.

A burst of squealing feedback surprises as soon as you press play before a sonic collage of tribal drums, a babbling welsh brook, baby alligators (yes really) and squawling guitar entices in for the first 4 more minutes of “Breaking Into Heaven” before we’re treated to some imperious, funky wah wah and a pounding, driving groove. The Roses have returned, and it sounds monumental. Straight away, you can tell that this album is Squire’s album. Through “Breaking Into Heaven”, with it’s religion slating lyrics and imagery, the guitar is simply stunning, Squire’s growth as a player in the Jimmy Page white bluesman milieu is evident with squidgy, driving riffs and imperious soloing. Ian’s vocals are more rough, more dogged and more menacing than ever before.

“Driving South” however is somewhat of a stumbling block in accepting the new, rockier Roses. Squire’s resurrection of the crossroads myth, as well as a swipe at the music biz itself, is a swamp of guitar tracks, all cranked up into the red, meaning Mani and Reni’s luscious grooves struggle to gain recognition under the maze of hard rock rifferey. And although the track demonstrates Squire’s ability, it smacks of self indulgence. Much the same can be said of the dreadful “Good Times”,  the weakest track on the album. “Good Times” is far too emblematic of the clod hopping dinosaur rock the Roses set out the destroy five years previous.

However, with the eastern influenced, tumbling guitar lines, fluctuating grooves and Ian’s blissful, tender vocals, “Ten Storey Love Song” is a revelation. Demonstrating that the Roses never lost their melodious grasp on the pop world, “Ten Storey Love Song” is a soaring slice of melody, that recalls past glories, such as “She Bangs The Drums” and “Elephant Stone.”

Fading out of “TSLS” with some outrageously funky drumming from Reni comes “Daybreak.” On first listen this sounds like an unfinished, unpolished jam, but upon closer inspection reveals the strengths of the roses; Reni’s astonishing drumming, Mani’s ability to hold down the groove like no other, Squire’s consummate skill and Ian’s ability to create iconic powerful lyrics just from the vibe’s he was getting off the group. The highlight of the track is definitely the rhythm section, a section so loose, funky and driving their the tighter than being wedged between two obese blokes at a buffet line.

“Your Star Will Shine” is one of the Roses sweetest songs. Ian’s voice is at it’s most earnest, sliding perfectly over gorgeous 12 string arpeggios and reverb soaked drumming, painting the song’s lyrical imagery in bright, vivid colours, and even making a “na na na” sound beautiful. More Byrds-tinged acoustic balladry shows up in the luscious, campfire sing a long of “Tightrope”, with Reni’s backing vocals sounding more sweeter than a robin made of candy floss. Filled with the usual religious imagery, it’s the closest the Roses ever got to sounding like Primal Scream. Echoes of “Sympathy for the Devil and “Magic Bus” are present, allowing the 60’s white boy influences to seep through.

The lone, solely Ian Brown composition comes in the form of “Straight To The Man” a bouncy tune that allows the rhythm section to again shine out from behind a restrained John, in their classic mercurial, liquid fashion. This song most closely resembles the Roses circa 1990 when their funk, Parliament inspired explorations created some of the most iconic dance/rock hybrids.

Speaking of dance rock hybrids, imagine if you will Bootsy Collins and Jimmy Page tripping off acid, fucking and producing a blisteringly, darkly funky child that recalls amphetamine fuelled Northern Soul nights, with a harder, darker twist. Congratulations, you’ve just imagined the sound of “Begging You” an almighty mash of pulsating rhythm and scratchy guitar runs. Amazing.

“Tears” is where John’s Led Zep influence is worn more prominently on his sleeve. Melancholic, yearning one take lyrics from Ian drift over “Stiarway” esque finger style 12 string and lemon soaked drums before erupting into a monumental solo from Squire, and descending into a stop/start jam of lush Les Paulery and percussive power.

“How Do You Sleep?” is the ultimate fusion of the new harder, blusier, older Roses and their “angry young teddy bear” psychedelic past. Ian singing the malicious lyrics like a fucking choir boy, the lovely interplay between Reni and Mani, as well as John reigning in his talent to produce subdued runs and fills, it all comes together in a way which eradicates the memories of “Driving South” and “Good Times” before the album even finishes, and highlights just why the Roses were so important to begin with. John’s solo, instead of sounding like King Kong climbing the Empire State Building, is restrained, melodic and, frankly, beautiful.

Closing the album is the simply barnstorming “Love Spreads”. An impenetrable maze of swampy slide guitar, jagged, spikey, squealing Lead Work combines with darkly dangerous bass and breezy drums to create what Bobby Gillespie called “the best comeback of all time”. Ian’s vocals are those of a hushed prophet, growling with lazy cool and charisma. A brilliant track.

The harder, rockier Roses are not everyone’s cup of tea, especially when compared to their generation defining debut. However, this album shows that genius never left the Roses, at least not on record. A testament to the power of change and frankly 66 minutes of stonking riffing, grooves and funk.

Essential in 1994, essential now; The Stone Roses ARE the resurrection.

Prepare For Glory

Image

 

The word Spartan has a firm place in the English language as a synonym for “austerity”, “ruggedness” and “discipline”. However, if we’re to pierce the mists of time in order to actual see what the Spartan psyche was really like, a more appropriate term might be “belligerent, ultra-violent nutter”. At least that is what the message is from Zach Snyder’s 2007 Frank Miller adaptation 300. Miller’s comic book brings to life one of the most iconic battles of the ancient world, and the battle that has shaped Spartan identity ever since; the Battle of Thermopylae, in 480 bc.

 

Touted, at the time, by it’s creators as “Sin City meets Gladiator” 300 tells the tale of King Leonidas’  stand against the overwhelming might of the Persian army, lead by their enigmatic leader  Xerxes. However, like most tales of ancient battles that have been adapted into comic book or movie form, the film is as removed from reality than Jedward on an LSD trip. Though there is some truthful elements to the story, Miller decided to agree with the maxims of Tony Wilson and print the legend (queue Elephants the size of buildings, Ogre-eqsue evil henchmen and a bard with a goat’s head). The historical accuracy is more off target than your average Stormtrooper at the shooting rage, but as this IS a stupidly over the top slice of machismo, that can be forgiven.

 

Visually the film is stunning. Snyder has remained remarkably faithful to the source material. Shots are framed as if moving from one page of sumptuous illustration to the next, with Spartans framed against the backdrop in iconic silhouettes, such as when forcing Persians of a cliff into the raging sea below, replicating the frames of the book. The film sticks to a limited palette of Crimson and Bronze, colours which suitably represent a) the comic and b) Spartan personality. However, Snyder’s love of shooting the action as moooooooovingreaaaaaallyslooooooowly to breakneckfast becomes tiresome at times, but the visual treat of seeing Persians being despatched in such stylised ways quickly overcomes this. More importantly, the cinematography of the battle scenes creates the belief that the Spartans are hard actually arsed bastards, capable of dispatching the hordes of men arrayed before them

 

Subtly is not something to expect from 300. The narrative is painted in such broad strokes as to neglect any real character development, period detail or motivation. Characterisation is as exactly 2d as you’d expect from an action flick. Leonidas himself is stubborn and noble, but deadly when crossed; very much a metaphor for Sparta itself. Gerard Butler is impressive and believable as Leonidas; a perfect leader of men who is able to mix up the wisecracks and the inspiration convincingly, due to Butler’s own charisma. The Spartans themselves, with more six packs on display than an Australian off license, give off the air of stubborn, brick shit houses satisfyingly. Curious though, was the cast of Michael Fassbender in such a small role, wasting his talent and charisma that was put to such good use in Inglorious Basterds.

 

Ultimately, 300 is more of a visual treat than anything substantial, and in a way this makes 300 a sterling comic book adap. It also has a key ingredient missing from adaptations of late; It’s Fun. Yes it’s loud, bloody and obnoxious, intercut with sex and nudity, but 300 is campy and over the top enough to forgive it’s flaws, and be taken for what it is.

 

If you’re struggling for entertainment on a Saturday after, then 300 is the perfect film for you.

Baker’s Dozen: My 13 Favourite Albums

After reading Chris Packham’s favourite albums in the latest entry in the rather excellent Baker’s Dozen album on the spiffing website The Quietus (http://thequietus.com/), I have taken it upon myself to shamelessly knick their idea and present for your dissemination my own pick of my favourite 13 records. Now, music being music and tastes changing from week to week, this is only a provisionary list and will likely change sometime in the future. But what follows is the current crème de la crème of my personal record collection.

13. Fleetwood Mac – The Best of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

The only, and easily justifiable, compilation on the list, “The Best of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac” really does represent the very, very best of the British bluesman towering guitar talent. Though suffering misfortunate in later life after indulging on one too many acid trips which released deep seated psychological troubles, Peter Green’s tone and guitar work is nothing short of inspirational. Instantly recognisable, his playing displays an economy of style and taste, using exactly the right notes at exactly the right time in order to really express the raw emotion of his music.

Compared with contempories Clapton (who he replaced in John Mayall’s influential blues troupe the Bluesbreakers), Beck and Page, Green isn’t overtly flashy, taking a more considered approach and coaxing feelings of yearning, of sadness and sorrow that underpin some of his best work. “Albatross” perhaps the best well known song in this collection, paints a picture of a remote seaside location, sea lapping the shore, seabirds circling and crying overhead as the foam hits the beach. “Man of the World” tells the tail of how fame and fortune are never enough without the love of a good woman and “The Green Manalishi” is a simply menacing, psychedelic track warning of the dangers of greed, complete with anguished howls and simmering, spiky guitar.

Apart from the fantastic playing, augmented by fellow guitarists Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer, the thing to take away from this collection is that you genuinely feel Green’s inner turmoil and, rather than just being another white boy playing the blues (Mick and Keef I’m looking at you) Green actually has a claim for being a legitimate blues man. Recommended for fans of Cream and Led Zeppelin, but who are looking for a more refined, genuine take on Chicago and Delta blues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Viqr6KHwJjc – Albatross Fleetwood Mac

12. Ramones – Rocket To Russia

While some people are currently thinking the Vaccines are some revolutionary guitar group and believe them to be the first band to mix pop melodies and super fast guitar, they are wrong, (s’what you get for being a slave to the NME). Come 1977 when everyone had grown sick and tired of wanky keyboardists in wizard’s gowns, singing about lambs lying down on Broadway or having Rick Wakeman involved in any capacity, rock music had gone back to basics with a bang. Three chords and the truth. Punk fucking rock.

Perhaps the finest exponents of this stripped back, hyper fast movement were New York’s Ramones, a blitzkrieg buzz saw of furious guitars, New York city attitude and a genuine love of rock n’ roll, the music of the 60’s, Phil Spector and girl groups. All these elements coalesce into one of punk rock’s most enduring classics “Rocket to Russia”.

Twining Joey’s doo-wop tinged vocals with Dee Dee’s hard edged lyricism and Johnny’s onslaught of guitars, Rocket to Russia takes all the elements that make the Ramones great and fuses them together to create an album that has withstood the test of time. Stuffed to bursting point with classics such as “Rockaway Beach”, “Teenage Lobotomy”, “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” and “Cretin Hop”, the album is an unrelenting pop assault, at once bristling with Dee Dee’s knack for social commentary and Joey’s light, romantic touch. A landmark record in both pop and rock music, Rocket to Russia cements the Ramones reputation as one of the defining artists of the 20th century.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9KfHpm4s4w Ramones – Do You Wanna Dance?

11. Who’s Next – The Who

The Who maybe louder than a war and are perhaps best remembered for their equipment smashing on stage antics but with Pete Townshend as musical director, the band really has more of an artistic bent than they are perhaps given credit for.

After 60’s pop art experiment “The Who Sell Out” and the all conquering “Tommy” The Who, and especially Townshend, found themselves floundering to follow up their late 60’s mega successes. Townshend’s answer was the ambitious Lifehouse project, a multimedia event, comprising of an album, live shows and a movie. However the project’s complex story and scale proved too ambitious for the band and was abandoned. However, most of the songs from the project turned up on The Who’s next studio album Who’s Next.

Marking one of the first times synthesisers had been used on a mainstream rock record, Who’s Next combines new electronic elements with the band’s usual brand of pounding, sledgehammer rock.

“Baba O’Riley”’ is perhaps the standout track, combining these new ideas into a chugging hard rock song, with a synth intro that creates the atmosphere of a triumphant sunrise rising over a fresh new artistic venture. Obviously, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” remains a stone cold, radio classic but bassist John Entwistle’s sole contribution, “My Wife” is a darkly humorous of a man who’s had “a bit too much to drink” and is on the run from his spouse.

While Lifehouse may have proved too much for the band, Who’s Next was a triumphant return for the group and a stunning rock record.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2KRpRMSu4g Baba O’Riley

10. Rubber Soul – The Beatles

Choosing a favourite Beatles album is like choosing which one of your children is your favourite, or would you rather keep your arms or your legs? There is no easy answer as they’re all pretty indispensible for any decent record collection.

So what can I say that hasn’t already been said about Rubber Soul? Well it was a struggle to choose between this and Revolver. As George Harrison said they could easily be volume 1 and 2 of the same album.

Rubber Soul is an important record as it represents the beginning of the band’s experimentation. A more folksy, acoustic driven album than any of their previous pop outings, Rubber Soul is such a cohesive whole, replete with lush harmonies, fuzzed out guitars and the first instance of a sitar on any of the band’s records and lays the foundations for Revolver and the pop cultural event that was Sgt Pepper’s.

Standout tracks include the joyful “I’m Looking For You”, the harmony saturated “Nowhere Man” and the introspective, Dylan-esque “Norwegian Wood”, which marks, along with the forlornly beautiful “In My Life”, a maturing step in Lennon/McCartney song writing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfWEPu0w-7w The Beatles – Nowhere Man

9.  Screamadelica – Primal Scream

Until “Screamadelica”, Primal Scream had been perennial under achievers. From Byrds influenced jangle pop to MC5, leather clad revolutionary rock; mainstream success had always eluded the Glaswegian troupe. But come Ecstasy and Acid House, all that would change.

Taking in elements from the burgeoning Acid House seen, mixing in their Detroit rock roots and Nuggets-ear psychedelia, “Screamadelica” is a melting pot of music soaked in the optimism and E induced euphoria of the early 90’s.

From the rousing “Movin’ on Up” to the clarion call of “Come Together” and the trippy, serene “Shine Like Stars”, “Screamadelica” distils the Scream’s far ranging musical interests into the perfect blend of groovy dance rock, creating a mantra for the Post Thatcher Britpop era by sampling Peter Fonda’s all conquering statement: “we wanna get loaded and we wanna have a good time.” If ever there was a record that summed up the oncoming hedonism of the mid 90’s, this is it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O9sLkn3nz0 Primal Scream – Loaded

8. Idlewild – 100 Broken Windows

Asides from the period following “The Remote Part”, Idelwild have never really had the success the band deserves. Channelling disparate Americana and alternative influences into a uniquely Scottish sound, Idlewild’s albums have been full of interesting guitar playing courtesy of Rod Jones and insightful, literary lyrics. This does mean, however, I often haven’t got a fucking clue what singer Roddy Woomble is talking about.

But that doesn’t matter, as every so often a band will make an album where each track is as brilliant as the least, creating an iron clad sense of cohesion. 100 Broken Windows is one of those albums.

Fuzzy, heavy layered, it marks a perfect fusion of punk rock guitars with pop sensibilities, and in charts dominated by middle of the road bland rock in the post Britpop fallout, sets itself as the perfect antidote to shit rock like Travis.

At once anthemic and intimate, 100 Broken Windows features 12 tracks that each tell a story and act as a self contained unit, that, within the framework of the album, combine to create one of the great records of the 21st century. “Idea Track”, “Little Discourage” and “The Bronze Medal” are for me the standout tracks, which represent the shift between huge choruses, sweet harmonies and a low keyness that only a Scottish band can produce.

Idlewild have subsequently gone on to release a slew of fantastic albums, and it’s frankly criminal they have been reduced to playing tiny venues like Reading’s Sub 89, when they have so many great songs that deserve to be heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtdwhtRcw60 Idlewild – Idea Track

7. Pink Floyd – Ummagumma (Live Side)

This one is cheating a little bit, as it’s only half the actual album. However the studio album is chock full of sub standard muso-wank that would plague the Floyd until they got their shit together and made “Meddle”.

Before all their later mega successes and after Syd Barrett’s mental degradation and exit from the band, Floyd occupied a perilous place. Rather than try and emulate the light psychedelic pop sound of the Barrett era, Floyd set the controls for the heart of the sun, live at least, and turned into one of the most powerful space rock groups ever.

The live side of Ummagumma, then, displays the band at their live best, with live, extended jams of “Set the Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”, “Astronomy Domine”, “Careful With That Axe Eugene” and “A Saucerful of Secrets”.

Dark. Sprawling. Heavy. Trippy. Spacey. The collection of tracks may not even the best live recordings of these tracks (those would be Live at Pompeii) but they never the less transport the listener to the darkest depths of the universe, powered by Gilmour’s searing guitar and Mason’s colossal drumming. The freak out sections of “Careful With That Axe” and “A Saucerful of Secrets” create swirling, raging colleges of sound; the aural equvilant of the storm of Jupiter.

For those looking for more of Pink Floyd beyond dark side of moons and 30-foot high walls, I highly recommend checking out these barnstorming live cuts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPgAM31N5Co Pink Floyd – Careful With That Axe Eugene

6. Manic Street Preachers – Everything Must Go

The tragic, razor blade figure of Richey Edwards will always leave an eyeliner tinged stain on the Manic Street Preacher’s career. Their primary lyricist and cultural focal point before his disappearance in February 1995, “Everything Must Go” marks the bands first tentative, post Richey work.

And what a comeback. Remarkably different from the band’s harrowing “The Holy Bible”, “Everything Must Go” is a record marked by tragedy, and yet so full of melody and triumph that reaffirms the Manics as one of Britain’s best bands.

Though three of the tracks are built from lyrics left behind by Richey, it is Nicky Wire who rises to the occasion penning the majority of the album, working alongside James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore to create and intelligent, melody driven record.

The Manics managed to score of the great coups of the mid 90’s with “A Design For Life”. Disparaging the beer swilling, lager lout image of the working class in mid 90s, the song never the less became a terrace rousing anthem and a number 2 single, a triumphant return for a band on the precipice of breaking up.

But the anthems don’t stop there. Along with the title track “Australia” and “Kevin Carter” display the bands knack at combining heavy cultural and intelligent themes into slices of hard driving, melodic rock, which makes “Everything Must Go” an absolutely towering return to form.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBYUqYPy0tU Manic Street Preachers – Everything Must Go

5. Oasis – Definitely Maybe

While the Manic Street Preachers may have been subverting rock during the Britpop era, Oasis had no such grand ideals, which to me, is key to their appeal. There is no pretention, only an outrageously huge sound, psychedelic nonsense lyrics which mean nothing, and yet somehow mean everything and a swaggering attitude that was missing from the world after grunge’s dominion over guitar music.

The big dilemma is wether to choose their churning debut, or their soaring sophomore effort “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” but their debut represents Oasis at their purest.

Lazy and inaccurate Beatles comparisons aside (if you think this, get your fucking ears checked), Noel certainly is able to distil his influences, from the Sex Pistols, the Kinks and glam-rock onwards, into a storm of guitars and huge choruses, perfect for those drunken nights out. And of course Liam’s vocals are a massive part of this record. Still sneering, still confrontational but also retaining sweetness in his voice, which is now sadly gone after years of rock n’ roll excess.

This will probably be the most controversial entry on the list, as Oasis hasn’t been en vogue since 1998. But compared to what’s in at the moment, who gives a flying fuck? Music needs bands that are arrogant and as fuck and now how to have a good time. Not every band has to be some twee, Morrissey worshiping melancholy jerk offs in their grannies cardigans and NHS specs. Some times music can, shock horror, be simple, fun and loud as all hell. Oasis, and Definitely Maybe, perfectly encapsulates these feelings into their music and I, for one, am happy they existed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu31JuIZ5xc Oasis – Up In The Sky

4. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

During a discussion In one of my music journalism classes last year at uni, my tutor made the the point that, on the whole, The Smiths never really made the great leap from singles band to album act. On the whole, I agree. The Smiths are one of the best singles bands ever, and it was a toss up between “The Queen Is Dead” or their fantastic singles and b-side compilation “Louder Than Bombs” making it onto the list. But as I already had chosen the Peter Green compilation, and the fact it’s a stunning record, The Smiths’ third album makes it onto the list, and into the top 5!

The phrases I seemed to have used most during this post are about cohesion and the coming together of all the elements that make a band great, and “The Queen Is Dead” is no exception.

Apart from having a fantastic title, the record marks the perfect marriage of Morrissey’s hilarious and whip-smart lyrics and Johnny Marr’s innovative, melodic and technically incredible guitar prowess. Couple these two elements with Rourke and Joyce’s astonishing rhythm section and frankly brilliant songs, and you can see “The Queen Is Dead” proves that, apart from being fantastic at the 45 rpm single, The Smiths could make a brilliant album as well.

The eponymous opener is a master class in rhythm guitar, while “Cemetry Gates” and “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” demonstrate how peerless the Smiths are when it comes to breezy, melancholic pop. But they could be fast and heavy too, as shown by the bombastic “Bigmouth Strikes Again” while Morrissey’s dissatisfaction with Manchester, love and life can be heard in the yearning “I Know It’s Over” and “Never Had No One Ever”.

Arranged by Marr, the albums many layers of instruments, working together with the powerful, funny and poignant words, create and enduring indie classic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYp2LGKOF_M The Smiths – The Boy With The Thorn In His Side

3. The La’s – The La’s

Before rushing to dub Oasis as Beatles rip off merchants, perhaps the only band on the list worthy of that branding are Liverpool’s the La’s, but even then only due to the cities unearthly ability at churning out acts with a light melodic touch, peerless arrangers and generally excellent songwriters.

The real heir to Lennon/McCartney’s pop throne isn’t Noel Gallagher at all but the enigmatic genius Lee Mavers, whose baffling dismissal of his only studio release (so far) only increases the mystique surrounding this record.

Apocryphal stories about Mavers needing “genuine 60’s dust” on the recording desk to be truly happy with the sound of the record not withstanding, The La’s self titled debut is a work of pop genius.

Taking queues from Rubber Soul and the rest of the Merseybeat acts, luscious melodies, shimmering acoustic guitars and songs that range from uplifting to heat warming to downbeat coalesce to create another chunk of brilliance from the north. There must be something in the water up there.

Asides from the lovely “There She Goes”, the album contains gem after gem after gem. “Timeless Melody” is a highflying Mersey soarer, whereas “Feelin’” is a genuine rocker while “Looking Glass” is one of the finest pop laments ever written. An astonishing record.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eus8vzjBVaQ The La’s – Timeless Melody

2. The Verve – A Storm In Heaven

Before “Bittersweet Sympathy” and other terrace pleasing tunes, The Verve were one of the finest psychedelic bands that this country has produced for years.

Swathed in a blanket of reverb, Ashcroft’s ghostly voice flits in and out of your mind with lyrics telling seeing inner fires, and the touch of a lover’s hand like the mixture of water and sand, producing a cushion of gentle weirdness. But the real star of the show is guitarist Nick McCabe.

Taking inspiration from the Durutti Column’s Vini Reiley, McCabe creates an ethereal bedrock of echo laced guitars. Layer after layer of stunning guitar work transport the listener to the furthest reaches of the solar system, through space storms with the pound “Blue” and the chugging, African tinged “Butterfly”. From the first, ripping chord of album opener “Star Sail” it’s clear to see that McCabe is the driving force of the record, sitting astride Simon Jones and Peter Salisbury’s rhythm section, who keep the recorded grounded while McCabe takes us on a journey round the outer reaches of your mind.

“Slide Away” lays the groundwork for “Urban Hymns” massive anthems, but “A Storm In Heaven” is a lot more laid back and triptastic than their later work.

A highly recommended album for those who shy away from the bombast of The Verve’s later work; a stunning, atmospheric guitar record.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g_j32RL1KY The Verve – Slide Away

1. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses

After having just returned from Manchester and witnessing my favourite band ever play the best gig I’ve ever witnessed, I have been playing this album non-stop. But the again, I have been playing the album non-stop for the past 6 years.

An absolutely towering achievement, taking in mid 60’s psychedelic freak out, George Clinton P-funk, Acid House and Jimi Hendrix, The Stone Roses have created one of the most enduring and beloved British albums of all time.

Beginning in a purple haze of mysterious, reverb feedback and shimmering, sparkling effects we launch into the titanic “I Wanna Be Adored” then keeping roaming through pop masterworks “She Bangs The Drums” and the calypso tinged “Waterfall”. A better opening to an album there is none.

The whole record shaped by candyfloss guitars, funk laced bass and an unstoppable groove that permeates through every song. “Made of Stone” is simply brilliant, and the lazy Jazz tones of “Shoot You Down” are inspired.

“This Is The One” is the blueprint by which all Britpop anthems are to be created, while triumphant, towering album closer “I Am The Resurrection” plays to all of the bands strengths; sugar spun yet antagonistic lyrics from Ian, spiralling, tumbling guitar from John Squire, and come the psyctastic breakdown, Mani and Reni lock into such a tight groove as to be unshakeable. The album is only improved when played live, each member playing off each other in mesmerising runs, held together by a Mancunian swagger and a firm belief that this is one of the greatest records ever produced.

I can’t adequaltly put into words how much I love this record. Needless to say it is an essential part of any rock music fan and I couldn’t be more happy that the band are back and brilliant as ever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=—X12mY14Q The Stone Roses – She Bangs The Drums

Well that’s It. My thireen favourite records. Honourable mentions go to Lemon Jelly’s “Lost Horizons”, Glasvegas’ self titled debut and Weezer’s Blue Album. Let me know what you think, if you agree or disagree or what you would put in your top albums list!

Tattie bye

Alec Malloy’s Lets Blog Part Two: Blog Harder

Much like a Cosmonaut furiously hurtling towards Earth after his shoddy Soviet space craft packed to the brim with sub standard technology burns around him, I have decided to throw caution to the wind and plunge back into the blogosphere.

I have tried twice before to collect some motivation and blog regularly over on another blog site, but that usually goes flying out the window in the first few days. However that was while I was at university so had the excuse of having actual, assessed work to be getting on with (I’m not saying that I was actually doing my work, but it’s a hand excuse to have none the less right? Right?!).

So while I’m at home enjoying the calm before the storm of third year, I will be using this blog to practice my writing much like the Allies preparing for D-Day. Only hopefully I won’t lose more men writing this blog than in actual third year…though I’m not entirely sure what that means.

So apart from inappropriate and unwieldy World War Two metaphors that don’t really go anywhere – and believe me there will be plenty – what can you readers/reader  expect from Alec Malloy’s Lets Blog?

Well, I will be using this as a platform to practice and hone my writing skills in preparation for the third and, hopefully, final year of university as explained earlier. This means I will be, whenever I remember, turning me eyes, ears and other assorted body parts towards the revieiwing of any films, albums, gigs, tv shows, video games or other media I feel are worthy of review.

So come on in. Put your feet up. Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee? And get ready to enjoy some good ol’ fashioned opions and, hopefully, some half decent writing.

 

Tattie-bye