All 2 entries tagged Classic Album

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August 10, 2006

Wire

Wire's Essential Albums

Wire - Pink Flag

Pink Flag

Wire - Chairs Missing

Chairs Missing

Wire - 154

154

Click on album art to buy from amazon.co.uk

Punk wasn't about being stupid. The poor musicianship was a result of the egalitarian sentiments it espoused not the movement's principle tenets. People who sneer at any music which has the audacity to have more than three, poorly played, chords is an idiot and not punk. Anyone could play guitar. That was the point. And sometimes those anyones were quite good at it. It was allowed for people to be clever, although there was a line that could not be crossed (if you believe the hype that line was labelled "Beyond This Point Lies Pink Floyd"). 'Good' clever meant having songs shorter than the normal punk shortness (30 seconds was sometimes enough), or smart lyrics, or being daring. Doing any of these things would be enough to make your band quite ace. Rather sensibly Wire did them all.

From direct steals to the subtlest of acknowledgments, Wire have had a tremendous impact on modern indie, even for bands who probably don't realise they've been influenced. With every incident of Elastica running off into the night carrying entire riffs (or songs), to The Futureheads' disregard for traditional verse–chorus–verse, to anyone who ever decided to not even bother trying to fit in, Wire have shown it's allowed in music to be a bit cleverer than the rest. They were students, again something which some 'punks' saw as a kind of class treachery. Anyone who thinks this is an idiot and I'm not just saying this as a student.

In three albums Wire tried a massive experiment – was it possible to get in there, make your point, and leave without being pinned to the floor by your record company and then abused until you've stretched out your songs to 'traditional' sizes? As it happens the answer was "no". Ish.

Most of Wire's songs were as long as necessary. 'Field Day for the Sundays' was merely 28 seconds of joy. Sneeze and you could probably miss many of the songs on their debut, the wonderful Pink Flag. Cramming 21 songs into 35 minutes doesn't leave much room for... well, any flab at all really. Even when they decided to be a bit less frantic on their followup Chairs Missing they still sat on the suitcase to get those 15 tracks into their alloted 42 minutes.

But the beauty of all those tracks, short and not–at–all–long alike, is that they sound like they were released yesterday. Seriously. Being an evil bitch I like to play people their songs, exclaiming "they're the next big thing", and then tell them that those tunes are 25+ years old later. Riffs which are everywhere in indie don't sound out of time when you hear those who came up with them first. And lyrically it's great – Pink Flag opener 'Reuters' is a worryingly accurate sounding description of any of the world's conflicts, with it's sinister chanted vocals and the agonised yell of "rape" at the end. In contrast 'Ex–Lion Tamer' has the humour telling of the titular hero with his "three fingers all in a line". Obtuse but comprehensible. This is where The Futureheads are coming from.

And then there's their near hit, 'Outdoor Miner'. As mentioned, Wire weren't immune to record company meddling and 'Outdoor Miner' the single version was expanded to bump it up to the length of a short but normal pop song. It works, surprisingly, by shoehorning in a quite lovely piano solo to one of their more laid back numbers. Of course the record company then buggered it all up by making errors in the single's release so it wasn't eligible for the charts. There's probably a moral to this story somwhere.

In any case we heartily recommend their first three albums as essential indie albums

Top notch short arse songs to be sampled in a frenetic surge of adrenaline:

Wire – 'Outdoor Miner (single version)' from Chairs Missing - MP3 Expired
Wire – 'Ex Lion Tamer' from Pink Flag - MP3 Expired
Wire – 'Field Day For The Sundays' from Pink Flag - MP3 Expired

Buy Pink Flag from Amazon

Buy Chairs Missing from Amazon

Buy 154 from Amazon

+1 to Andrea for already being down with the Wire love.


July 12, 2006

Elastica

Indie is a risky place for women to venture. You can wring your hands all you want about equality and shit like that, but women in guitar based music have a harder time than those in other genres. In R'n'B and pop they are practically the rulers, the dominant R'n'B stars are Beyonce and Rhianna, the big and best pop groups are Girls Aloud and Sugababes. But in guitar music land there's a residule boorishness which means some gigs can be spoiled by shouts of “Get yer tits out” directed at female band members. It's annoying and stupid. Rant over.

So when girls do go indie they seem to take one of two routes – they either get a little bit whispy, or they get attitude. The whispy types include groups like The Cocteau Twins or the Cranberries when they were really big. The attitude ones will either be really in your face, unafraid to use the word feminist like Courteny Love, or they are more personal, more assertive about what they are thinking about at that exact moment. Less of the sweeping statements, more of the “I want to do this and I am damn well going to do this”. The masters of this latter art were the great lost Britpop band Elastica.

Elastica were beyond cool. By failing to care and be musical nerds they managed to turn their don't–give–a–stuff attitude into some magnificent music. Nothing fancy was required, so nothing fancy was attempted. Chords were simple for a reason, it meant songs could be played quicker so the next one could begin. 'Annie' is less than 75 seconds long and still manages to piss all over 95% of all Britpop. And in singer Justine Frischman they had a frontwoman who wasn't singing to indoctrinate the world, she was singing because she damn well wanted to.

Elastica – 'Annie' MP3 Expired
[Buy Elastica from Amazon]

Their 15 track debut album was a rush of giddy fast punk, interspersed with some more thoughtful reflective stuff which added depth to what they had to say. In 'Waking Up', which was released as a single, Justine managed to perfectly sum up so much of life with the line “I work very hard/But I'm lazy/I can't take the pressure and it's starting to show”. Also impressive is the album's sole track over four minutes, the wonderful 'Never Here' which builds on (of all things) a guitar riff, rather than some ultra fast chords.

Elastica – 'Never Here' MP3 Expired

[Buy Elastica from Amazon]

Unfortunately as a band Elastica were too perfect. They developed perfect rockstar drug problems (guitarist Donna was so badly addicted to heroin that she tore out her anti–heroin stomach implant) which lead to rockstar lethargy. Turns out they were lazy but not working very hard. Somewhere along the line it took them over five years to write their second album which, frankly, sounds like it took five minutes to write, and is one of the most disappointing albums of all time. The Menace is not recommended, though their debut, Elastica, most definitely is, as is their really rather good BBC Sessions compilation which contains some of the best Christmas songs ever, including 'All For Gloria' which is the best version of 'Ding Song Merrily On Hi' to be about a somewhat ditzy glam girl called Gloria. Be unfestive and take a listen.

Elastica – 'All For Gloria' MP3 Expired

[Buy _The Radio 1 Sessions_from Amazon]

The most remarkable thing about Elastica is that you will have heard their most famous song, 'Connection' which was also used as the theme tune to Trigger Happy TV, and may very well remember 'Waking Up' as well. Their fall from the forefront of Britpop was too spectacular for words. What makes it doubly sad is that these days Justine Frischman is most remembered for having dated both Brett from Suede and Damon from Blur. It seems the girl with the guitar can't be an icon in her own right, she has to be the bird of some blokes who sang some songs which weren't as good as her best.

It's not radical feminism to point out that that's a little unfair. So you could either fight the gender oppression (or whatever the radical feminists call it) by listening to Elastica again… or you can listen to them again, loud, and drown out those annoying rows about gender. Or you could not listen and deprive your ears.

The choice is yours, of course.

Tracks are for sampling purposes only and will be deleted two weeks after this entry.

You are not this cool.


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