sex as a foreign language

awkward aural adventures’s Underrated albums poll…my thruppence!

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December is a double edged sword for those who write about the music world. On the one hand you have a glittering array of high profile gigs, numerous self congratulatory parties involving free drinks and freer talk…yet on the other hand you are asked to concoct endless ‘Best of’ lists, rating and compartmentalising the outgoing year for ease of future reference if, and when, highly advanced alien conquerors wish to know if Coldplays album was indeed stolen from Mr Satriani and if so was it any good?

Whilst the impending financial implosion has put paid to some of the dirth of actual news during the festive period as the Jurassic ‘majors’ march out their big guns next attempt at a magnum opus at…well gunpoint it would see, in some CaptainoftheTitanic style doomed attempt at making those 4th quarter targets, it was still blessed relief to receive an email from those innovative and elixir smothered persona at The free and devilishly legal music site We7 represents a huge signpost as to the future of music consumption, and they are currently compiling a poll of the most underrated albums. To which end I have been asked to add my tuppence, which leads me to the following 2 works of godlike genius. We’ve all seen High Fidelity where Jack black earnestly assures his poor, heathen customer that ‘it’s going to be OK’ after the shocking revelation that he doesn’t own ‘Blonde On Blonde’, well my friends, read on, and it’s going to be OK!

100 Broken Windows – Idlewild, 2000

The first trip we must take is back to the death of the 20th Century. In the late 90s a band started to make riotus declarations from their Edinburgh homestead. At the time one Steve Lemacq was in his post ‘4Real’ notoriety pomp and presenting Radio 1s evening session. He latched onto these angular, sonic arsonists from the north and relentlessly spun their first singles and helped push their debut album, 1998s ‘Hope Is Important’ into the conscious of the British public at large. Backed up by a series of live shows that quite simply left the trails of joy and destruction across the UK that most bands merely imagine in NME interviews it was clear that this band was a little special.

However, much like those who saw Nirvana post ‘Bleach’ it was their follow up where everything was brought into razor sharp focus. The band began writing for ‘100 Broken Windows’ in 1999 in Edinburgh recording several songs with producer Bob Weston, before completing proceedings with Dave Eringa. The album that they returned with in 2000 is quite simply near perfect. From the opening salvo of ‘Little Discourage’, to the delirious trilogy of ‘I Have The Map’, ‘Roseability’ and ‘Wooden Idea’ through to the perfect couplet of ‘Idea Track’ and ‘Actually Its Darkness’, the album is a near seamless celebration of the scar tissue bleak noise of their earlier work and the melody infused sentiment of their latter. It captures the very moment that they inhabited far too briefly between being the UKs great punk terrorist hopes and the ‘British REM’. Rod Jones is the hero of the album with his guitar infusing a molten heart into every song. It’s the sound of a band that has learnt the art of control, and in ‘Roseability’ and ‘Wooden Idea’ crafted 2 of the finest examples of indiepunk pop anthems that have been committed to tape. Over the next 8 years Idlewild have become masters of nostalgia music, songs that make you play sepia tinged movies of your life on loop, and in the closing codas of ‘Quiet Crown’ and ‘Bronze Medal’ you find the seeds of this trend and two examples not often bettered. Now if I could just erase ‘Rusty’ from every copy this would be a perfect album!

Crimson – Alkaline Trio, 2005

Purists may argue that I am 2 albums too late with the majestic Alkaline Trio, however, whilst Matt Skibas glum militia did produce one of the most infectious and deliciously noir albums in the Generation Warped cannon with 2001’s ‘From Here To Infirmary’ it was in 2005 with the quite simply brilliant ‘Crimson’ that the band fulfilled their devilish potential. Put together under the auspicious guidance of producer Jerry Finn ‘Crimson’ draws on several dark topics and turns them into buzzsaw songs with hooks that skewer you right through the heart and leave their melodies scorched to the inside of your retina.

The album kicks off with the lilting piano refrain of ‘Time To Waste’ that is soon cut down with the bands trademark guitarsaw and relentless bass. Lyrically Skiba is at the peak of his powers, crafting a set of emotive, hilarious and slick songs that draw you into the bands dark world. There can be few other bands who can have audiences humming along to tales of infant mortality, suicide and damnation. Alongside the bombast and black heart though there are some of the most deliriously saccharine moments in musical history, ‘Sadie’, a jaunty tale relating to one of the Manson Family, has a chorus for which most sane musicians would gladly hang around the nearest crossroads at midnight. An added feature of the album, and indeed Alkaline Trio as a whole is the way that vocal duties sometimes pass to bassist Dan Andriano, himself a former frontman of long forgotten Tuesday (better than Thursday!!), on songs such as ‘Poison’ and album closer ‘Smoke’. Andriano’s rougher vocal is the perfect compliment to Skiba who could frankly charm the Pope to the depths of hell with his honey dipped drawl. ‘Crimson’ is an album you can dance, drive, walk, screw, think, weep, sing and airdrum too from start to finish making it one of the rare examples of a perfect album. Something which is re-enforced by the fact that the minute it finishes you want to skip right back to the start. So if this Christmas you discover that you’re Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Nonsense loving loved one has no sight of the Alk3 in their playlists take action now, save their soul and introduce them to the dark side!

Should you have the temerity to disagree with me I highly reccommend that you hightail it over to We7 where you may see all the albums nominated and vote on what you consider the most underrated, off you go. HERE!
(Actually it’s imperitive you go and vote immediately as I’ve heard vicious rumours someones trying to get Gene back into the public eye! They must be stopped!)


One Response

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  1. 100 Broken Windows is ace, but surely ‘Hope is important’ is the ‘underrated’ Idlewild album?

    marcus warner

    December 27, 2008 at 9:40 pm

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