Category Archives: 25 Albums

25 Albums – Talking Heads – Remain In Light

There were planes on the back of it

Talking Heads are/were one of my favourite bands. At one time they were my favourite, hands down. I could have gone with the first album of theirs I got into, Little Creatures, or the first one I bought, True Stories, but I’m going to go all muso-journo on you and talk about Remain In Light, their third Eno collaboration, released in 1980.

When Road To Nowhere came out in 1985, I was at school, and it was a big radio hit. Friend Paul and I got into Talking Heads that way. Actually, he got all the records, and I would tape them, until I stifled the inner Scrooge long enough to go to Andy’s Records on Harpur Street and buy Fear Of Music, along with Elvis Costello’s Armed Forces and The Tom Tom Club’s Close To The Bone, on vinyl.

Around this time, the BBC broadcast a very long documentary about music videos. I didn’t record it at the time, but when it was broadcast again on BBC2 while the 1987 General Election results came in, I taped it and watched it repeatedly. Every few minutes, a graphical banner appeared in red or blue (or even yellow) saying “Bloody Tories Retain North Beds – More Skeet For You, Suckers!”. The program was a history of music videos, from early jazz/animation experimentation, to Top Of The Pops fillers, to MTV. Various bands were highlighted for having innovative videos, and Talking Heads was included, along with Madness. I remember a good segment about Cucumber Studios, who did a lot of cool stuff in the 80’s – very 80’s, IIRC.

What caught my eye was the crazy video for Once In A Lifetime, featuring David Byrne jerking and twitching while he emulated the preachers and witchdoctors sampled in the video. This gave rise to many amusing reenactments in the quad at Pilgrim Upper between classes. It also led to listening to the whole album, and realizing what a marvelous piece of work it is.

(Sidebar fact! My original taped copy had the two sides taped in the wrong order, so for a long time I thought Once In A Lifetime was the opening track.)

Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)

…I’m a government man.

Straight into the weird. Jakka jakka guitars, off-time drum boinks, and an electronic burbling freakout halfway through. A plea for understanding from a civil servant? He’ll be telling us his building has every convenience next. Actually, it’s apparently based on testimony from someone embroiled in the Watergate scandal.

Crosseyed and Painless

Facts all come with points of view, facts don’t do what I want them to.

Even Toni Basil’s anachronistic street dancing video couldn’t spoil this one. 4/4 cowbell beat, back and forth answering synth and guitar gestures, and Byrne’s obsession with words and facts as objects, plus a nicely amusing nasal spoken middle bit. Not my favourite track, but you can dance to it. You can dance to it.

(I did like the car in the video.)

The Great Curve

A world of light, she’s gonna open our eyes up.

Awesome, in the truest sense of the word. Apparently recorded in the NASA Vehicle Assembly building, judging by the reverb. Synth/horn stabs, guitar salvos echoing off like tracer into the night, and the multi-layered vocal washes, first one, then the other, then both giving the impression of an ecstatic African choir (which it probably was). Wonderful. It would have worked excellently as the last track on the album, just saying…

Once in a Lifetime

There is water at the bottom of the ocean

What can I say? This must have been incredibly different to anything when it came out. Looped synth wailing, shuffling cyclic drums, someone going “mur mur” in time with the bass after every phrase.

The lyrics about water were reflected in the burbling background. Other than that, was it just an extension of the preacher stuff on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts? Dunno. Wonderful expression of looking around and trying to see where you’ve been and where you might go from here. It ties in with Born Under Punches in that respect.

The live Stop Making Sense version emphasised the final triumpant chords, but I prefer the studio version.

Houses in Motion

Wearing shoes with no socks in cold weather.

I love the two-note guitar running through this – it provides a simple backbone for the squelchy noises, reverbed quacks and throbs of bass. Lyrically, it’s another discussion of architecture, the human body, self-awareness and transformation – seems to be the theme of the album.

Is that Eno on some kind of flute in the middle?

Seen and Not Seen

Some people may have gotten halfway there, and then changed their minds.

More about the transformation again. You can really tell where Byrne is at, sometimes. Listening to this album along with My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts and Music For The Knee Plays, and reading the Stop Making Sense liner notes, there’s this thread of matter-of-fact statements about the world, people and the future.

More cyclic percussion, synth noodling, harmonic murmuring, echoing pulses of guitar, and and ecstatic sense of losing control of your own image.

Listening Wind

Mojique plants devices in the free trade zone.

Something about Red Indians?

OK, sorry. This is definitely a more political statement, about reservations and “my people’s land” and all that. I’m too ignorant to go into it too much. Again with the cyclic rhythms, washes of atmospherics, small guitar remarks and pulses.

The Overload

We travel on the quiet road

Stark yet warm. Empty yet stifling. Throbbing. Bits of it sound like Sonic Attack by Hawkwind, which is reasonable considering the power of the nonstop bass. Could be played at double the speed and still make sense.

This is my favourite Talking Heads album, despite dalliances with all the others. I can still listen to this end-to-end, starting on either side. Plus the cover is great – someone just got the new software paintbox and scribbled on the photos. Nice.

And you may say to yourself, “My God, what have I done?”

 

25 Albums – Pop Will Eat Itself – This is the day – This is the hour – This is this!

Another one of these.

This was the first PWEI album I owned, but it was their third (I think) (WRONG). They really got into their stride and set the template for the next few, but hadn’t yet got too slick – a good few rough edges to keep it tricksy. Box Frenzy was good, but sounded a bit like they’d just discuvered drum machines and rapping. And they sampled Mel’n’Kim, FFS. On the other hand, slickness rather got in the way of Cure For Sanity, but then that was a strange time, all told.

Anyway, when this came out I was working in Woolworths, watching the sleeves come and go, and this caught my eye. I love the sleeve design. SciFi, techno imagery, cartoons and comics. Blade Runner reference. Cold-war apocalypto atomic clock. Cool typography. Now for a feast!…

PWEI Is A Four Letter Word

“P! W-E-I! P-W-E! I!”

Just a little sample and beat to lead us into…

Preaching To The Perverted

“What’s my solution? Noise pollution.”

They just go right ahead and set up shop. Straight into the rock guitars, sampled loops, nasal shouted rap, and little shout-outs to their own back catalog (“U-U-U-Ugly, oh yeah”). Poor old Rick Astley.

Wise Up! Sucker

“You say it’s love that you need, it’s war that you’ve got.”

This was the first track I actually bought, as a 7″ picture disk – it definitely caught my eye at the record fair in the Corn Exchange. Dancefloor filler, for certain. Hip-hop beats, stunning one-chord guitar and lots of twiddling solo stuff.

Sixteen Different Flavours Of Hell

A continuation of the beats from the previous track, a repetition of a key line, and then the sirens heralding…

Inject Me

“You played it for her, you can play it for me. Play it!”

Big piano mainline, singalong chorus, and rap about bedsit-based intergalactic wanderings.

Can U Dig It?

“Terminator. Hit The North! Alan Moore knows the score.”

A quick classic sample from Warriors, then straight into “stun guitar” and drum machines before the best list of 80’s British transatlantic pop subculture touchstones from music, TV, comics and movies. A shopping list to rival that one by REM. And all to a very danceable beat!

The Fuses Have Been Lit

“Got a little blue tube to give me my views.”

Slowie to end side one. Five-to-midnight on the atomic clock, and we’re all listing nihilistic suburban maladies, and food additive codes. Then we’re suddenly getting triumphant guitar licks, before diving back down into the TV samples and shortwave voice distortion. And a Deerhunter sample.

Poison To The Mind

“Music is just organized noise, and noise is poison to the mind.”

Intro to side two, with a sample from the 1967 psychedelic movie Wonderwall. Segues nicely into…

Def. Con. One.

“Confidence is high, repeat, confidence is high”

The definitive PWEI track. Dance beat, grebo guitars, movie samples, fin de siecle military-industrial complex imagery, and a chorus made up of three samples: Crazy Horses, Funky Town, and some Stooges number. Not to mention the Twilight Zone theme.

Radio P.W.E.I.

“The volume in this room is much too groomed, we need a big bad boom.”

This is a corker. The guitars are remeniscent of (though not sampled from) Two Tribes by Frankie. Classic bravado hip-hop rock rap swagger, with some hyperbole mixed in for good measure. Great for walking down Kimbolton Road heading downtown.

Shortwave Transmission On ‘Up To The Minuteman Nine’

“Offer expires while you wait”

And the same beat goes on, a lick of lyrics from the previous track is repeated, and then a sample of Eric Idle voicing Wreck-Gar from the Transformers movie.

Satellite Ecstatica

“Do not panic…”

Seedy TV, sex, late night bedsit bliss. What a life, ladies and gentlemen! Psychosexual sado-masochism sampling Sonic Attack by Hawkwind.

Not Now James, We’re Busy…

“…pay respect to my building! It’s JB property and it could be the one you get killed in”

Stranglely enough, I had this album taped on one side of a TDK D90, and Megatop Phoenix by B.A.D. on the other. This meant the James Brown arrest was the subject of a song by two bands on one tape! Amazing.

Wake Up! Time To Die

“Surrender to the bender, and no saying ‘when'”

Sample from Blade Runner, of course. A touching little ballad to getting drunk and pissed-up on booze. Oh, the Poppies. Nice feedback drone fadeout that may have run into the runout groove, or not.


There are some filler tracks here, but because I listened to this mainly on a cassette in my “walkman” while cycling in Bedford, or riding the bus in Manchester, they all flow into one another. I got some grief from people for liking PWEI over the years, mainly from that most terrible of breeds – the Northern Authentic Music Fan. The sort of people that gave us Oasis, in fact. Basically, the albums a lot of fun for riding, dancing, driving, and tracking down lyrics and samples from. As I said, it was b/w the then current B.A.D. album. I had a couple of tapes that had complemtary stuff on each side – 808 State and Front 242 was another example. These tapes rarely left my satchel.

“OK, let’s get down to it, boppers”

25 Albums – Pulp – His ‘n’ Hers

Part of the 25 Albums project.

Picture the scene. Southern England, Autumn 1993. A second chance at higher education. High Wycombe, here we come. Well actually, Marlow here we are, and High Wycombe here we come by bus but you don’t drive and the last bus leaves at 10.30 so that’s a bit socially limiting.

Fast forward to January 1994. Semester in Flensburg, Germany. Bedford for the summer. Hung out a lot with schoolfriend Gavin. Britpop was coming. So when I returned to High Wycombe (actually living in the town this time), it was a nice surprise to find a cassette copy of His’n’Hers in the mail one day. Thanks Gav. It was new to me, but it entered heavy rotation, and became a favorite. End of. But not quite!

Joyriders

“We can’t help it, we’re so thick we can’t think”

Straight into the social commentary, eh Jarv? Good start. Starting with straight rock, then fading into a strangely whimsical look in the mind of a teenage car thief. Then atmospherics into…

Lipgloss

“…your hair is a mess and your eyes are just holes in your face…”

Obvious single material about a woman’s increasingly desperate attempts to keep an unworthy man’s attention. This is a great song, and the production is typical of the album, with big reverb-y synths which complement the sound so much. I think that’s the key thing about this album – great songs with big atmospheric production, reflecting the glamorous inner life of someone stuck in a not-so-glamorous town or situation.

Acrylic Afternoons

“Just another cup of tea please (one lump thanks)”

Sexy time! Hanging out with a girlfriend, just getting to spend time with her. Tantalizing stuff. More kitchen-sink imagery as well, with the Mothers finishing with lovers before calling the kids (as heard in the intro) in for tea. Again with the atmospherics as well, with the quiet processed piano, throbbing bass, and Jarvis giving a good mix of intoned poetry and ironically, Michael Jackson squeals.

Have You Seen Her Lately?

“He’s just a piece of luggage you should throw away.”

Similar sentiments to Lipgloss: He’s no good for you, love. The keyboard part soars and swoops, before the singalong chorus, leading out with the horn parts.

Babies

“I only went with her, ‘coz she looks like you.”

Classic Jarvis. Probably a true story about getting caught spying on someone’s sister after school. Big hit around my way. My ex used to live on Stanhope Road, but a different one. Very danceable and tuneful.

She’s a Lady

“Kissed her where she said it hurt, but I was always underneath”

When I was listening to this album a lot at college, I was playing the Lucasarts game Dark Forces on my Gateway DX266. There’s one level set in a remote canyon on an icy planet, and for some reason, the opening of this song always seemed to coincide with the start of this level.

The disco is strong with this one, and it sounds like I Will Survive.

Happy Endings

“But we know better, don’t we, we know all about the mess”

Croony torch song about the end of an affair.

Do You Remember the First Time?

“…at least there’s someone there that you can turn to, and you’ll never have to face up to the night on your own…”

My favorite Pulp song – it brings tears to my eyes. Combination of sad lyrics about yearning and jealousy of someone else’s “straight” life, and excellent riffs and upbeat chorus. Plus of course the synths providing extra touches of emotion, for example during the quote above. Gets me every time.

Pink Glove

“Yeah it’s hard to believe that you go for that stuff, all those baby-doll nighties, synthetic fluff…”

Another disco anthem to an ex who’s let herself go, trying to impress her new man. You get the feeling that most of these songs are about Jarvis telling his exes what he thinks of their new choices – if they’re autobiograhical. If they’re not, he’s got a real sense of seedy suburban day-and-nightlife.

Someone Like the Moon

“… it’s not right that someone so stupid can so easily screw up your life”

Not a big fan of this one. They really go overboard on the synths and balladeering. Plus, I will admit to often fast-forwarding to the next track.

David’s Last Summer

We went driving…”

My second favorite Pulp song. So evocative, and with various styles and atmospheres through it’s seven minutes (although it sounds longer). We start with a happy summer’s day, with evocative observations of days in the park, and “walking to parties whilst it’s still light outside”. Then we’re off driving through the twisting country streets, before returning home for some “afternoon delight” in the evening sun. Then it’s off to the park again, to realise that this isn’t going to last forever.

Finally, as summer’s end approaches, the music gets more intense, as the lyrics cry out for it not to end. But it does, as does the album.


I didn’t like Different Class as much. I don’t think I ever owned it. I liked the singles, of course, but in a kind of happy acceptance rather than true ownership. Although Pulp had been around for years before this album, I guess it really was a case of liking them before they got really big. The combination of life situation, music and … (that word again) atmosphere really grabbed me, and hasn’t let go since.

“the whole sound of Summer, packing its bags and preparing to leave town…”

25 Albums – Pet Shop Boys – Actually

Part of the 25 Albums project.

Spotting a trend yet? Not one for the rock music, me. Maybe later in the list.

The Pet Shop Boys’ second studio album was the one that really pushed them out, with several chart hits. They had the 1987 Xmas Number One, with a song that still makes me tear up, the cover of Presley’s Always On My Mind (which didn’t appear on this album, but never mind). It was just what everyone was into, and I had a taped copy from Paul, or Gavin. I listened and listened…

One More Chance

“The city is quiet, too cold to walk alone, strangers in overcoats hurry on home”

This album always had a very “London” feel. This was the late ’80s, with large amounts of development along the banks of the Thames, new sterile yuppie communities springing up and images of “strangers in overcoats” hurrying on home. This song always made me think of what it would be like to live in the capital, in a modern flat in the Barbican, for example, or in the new Docklands area. A clean slate of an environment, and a clean slate of a life. No history, or at least a history buried under smooth concrete and frosted glass.

Musically, this album has quite a few similar tracks. Despite the fully electronic instrumentation (I think it was one of the first to be performed on digital instruments, mastered digitally, and then distributed on a digital format, that is, the CD ([D][D][D])) it’s the organic sounds that strike you here. The tom-toms, the strange sampled “meep-meep” sound, and most evocative of all, the squeal of tyres in the underground car park.

In common with many tracks on this album, it combines some quite sparse sounds and drums, with atmospheric strings and piano, all given a big space with some reverb. Lovely stuff.

What Have I Done to Deserve This?

“Now I can do what I want to – forever…”

The video for this always makes me smile. Backstage rushing about, dancing girls getting ready, and the Boys just doing their standing around thing, while Dusty grooves as the curtain goes up. PSB had wanted to do a big theatrical performance tour around this time, but couldn’t afford it. Later they could, and Performance was the result.

This is a classic story spelled out in song. Broken relationships in an unfamiliar (to me) place and time. I wonder what it would have been like being of “dating” age when this album came out. Or at least 30.

When Dusty Springfield sings her second verse, and the strings take off, it makes me shiver.

Shopping

“I heard it in the House of Commons, everything’s for sale”

Little bit of politics. There were lots of de-nationalizations around this time, with electricity, gas and telecoms companies all being sold off. Add to that the fact that the new entrepreneurialism was sweeping away lots of traditional industry, and Thatcher (may the ground swallow her) was cementing her leadership. Yuppies, free market enterprise, those who can’t streamline go to the wall (“what wall?”), “no such thing as society”.

Musically, not a great one. More sampled voices used as instruments, electronic horns, and so on. Let’s move on.

Rent

“You buy me things, I love it.”

A classic, and another twisted love story. Quite the giveaway as well. There were those who thought PSB tried to hide the gay aspect of their music and background. Fools. Famously (?) covered by Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, this one. It hangs around in a melancholy key, but some phrases lift themselves up into a more optimistic space, before dropping back.

Hit Music

“… all night long to your desperate hit music”

Quite a barnstormer. Cunning use of string hits, and touches of sampled crowd noise to make a point. Pop music is an outlet. You work the working week, then dress up and head out for your dose of hedonism. A bit like Soft Cell’s Bedsitter, except you get the impression that the subject of this one has a job.

I like the way this one switches to a slower groove for the fade-out, leaving a nice space for the next song…

It Couldn’t Happen Here

“In six-inch heels, quoting magazines”

A slowie! The title theme for PSB’s movie starring them and a crazed Joss Ackland! I never saw the movie, funnily enough, but I loved Ackland’s manic grin on the cover of Always On My Mind.

The lyrics refer to Tennant’s early days in London, when they “were never being boring”. Optimism, friendship, followed by sadness and disappointment.

It’s a Sin

“I didn’t care and I still don’t, understand?”

A real breakthrough hit for PSB. Big stab at Catholic school education and an apocalyptic trashing of Catholic guilt. Weird sample about “20 seconds…” or something. Big blarey horns and synths, great beat.

I Want to Wake Up

“I stood at the kitchen sink, my radio played songs like Tainted Love and Love Is Strange

Talking of Soft Cell. A bizarre love triangle, a kitchen sink drama that mentions the kitchen. Musically, pretty similar to most of the rest of the album.

Heart

“If I didn’t love you, I would look around for someone else”

I didn’t like this one when it was released as a single. But repeated listening on the album melted my resistance a bit. It’s a bit like It’s A Sin, but not quite as triumphant. Strings and synths again, with a swirling guitar, is that?

I was unaware that Ian McKellen played the Nosferatu-like protagonist in the video.Would that have changed my initial opinion? Hard to say, considering I didn’t know who he was at the time. Still, a favorite now.

King’s Cross

“I’ve been hurt and we’ve been had. You leave home, and you don’t go back”

Prescient indeed. In my original taped copy of this album, this song overran the end of the tape, and as it was a slowie, I wasn’t that bothered. But it rounds off the London feel of the album. Stations, streets. It touches on homelessness, street life, drugs. It’s one of the reasons I liked PSB so much – they had one foot in the gutter and one in the… perhaps not penthouse, but a nice flat in Islington at least.

I was interested to read that The Sun tried to get PSB to release this one as a charity single after the fire, but they refused. I bet that didn’t endear them to the noble, upstanding integrity-ridden Sun or their highly intelligent and dispassionate readership.

Overall, the tracks seem to fall into two types, the string-laden reverb-y slowies which ended each side of the vinyl or cassette versions, and the rest, which were mostly simple synth-and-drum-machine workouts. Standouts were It’s A Sin and What Have I Done To Deserve This?. Another example of an album which grabbed a time and place for me.

“Stop the car! I’m getting out!”

25 Albums – The Beloved – Happiness

Part of the 25 Albums project.

Straight away we come to an album which can’t really be seen as a fantastic all time critics choice classic. However, it was very successful at the time, and I played it to death. Yes, I had slightly longer hair. Yes, it was floppy and fringed. Shut up. Shut up.

It was 1990, and I was just finishing my A-Levels, not doing very well, and using the 10 points awarded for an A in General Studies to scrape into Manchester Polytechnic. History tells us that I was utterly unprepared. Still, the soundtrack was good. I copied this album tape-to-tape from a housemate, and from there it went on heavy rotation. I bought the CD just a couple of years ago after dumping all my tapes.

Around this time, many bands were getting themselves all mixed up in the “indie dance” maelstrom. This was one of those albums which represented the “dance” end of the indie dance spectrum. They had started out as jangly popsters, but presumably dropped some E’s and bought a drum machine. Let’s look at the tracklisting, shall we?

Hello

Fantastic start to an album. Orchestra tuning up, then the tune and drums, and then the list of interesting stuff you can’t resist trying to memorise and research. Jeffrey Archer? Really? Just because he’s a clever rhyme, I suspect. Straight away I found I could sing along, a common thread with this list of albums. For other songs listing cool stuff, see also REM (not in this list) and Pop Will Eat Itself (later in this list).

Your Love Takes Me Higher

Great tune. I think I actually managed to “perform” this in a kitchen in Leamington Spa, with Paul and his machines. Was it that? Anyway, a bit of a dancefloor stormer with some wah-wah guitar and acid squelches, and was that an orchestra hit? And yes, rhyming “higher” with “desire”. Q magazine would not approve. But then, Q magazine can fuck off. Rockist dickheads.

Time After Time

I think this is the best written song on the album. Girl trouble is the subject, of course, and of course, she sounds like trouble. I was always struck by the lyric,

And if I change to be the way you say you want me
I’ll only be the way I’ve always wanted to

Am I right, guys?

Don’t You Worry

I think I used to fast-forward past this one. Not particularly inspiring.

Scarlet Beautiful

Another danceable tune, with a simple little story about a femme fatale. Great fadeout, looping phrases, synth stabs (again), all sliding to a halt in time for…

The Sun Rising

This was the standout track for many people, mainly serious clubbers looking for a nice soft landing. The famous sample from O Euchari by Emily Van Evera (as also used by Orbital on the bit-too-long Belfast) gave it an ethereal arch over the deep and satisfying dum-dum-dum bassline and the skittering drums. Perfect, I guess, for when you’re in a field in Hampshire at 5.30am. Alright.

I Love You More

Pretty basic little happy love song, dreadful synth horn line in the middle 8, and there you are.

Wake Up Soon

A call to arms? Actually more like conflicting advice about, “[not] telling me that everything must have a reason”, followed by exhortations to, “find something to believe in”. Still, good track.

Up, Up and Away

No beautiful balloons here. The Beloved went on to mine this seam of “rising” imagery for quite some time, with some success. I like this one. Fun, singable lyrics, good groove, nice synth stabs. It almost feels like the end of the album, with the long fade, tune and beats resolving slowly. Like I said, this is an important album, not in the Pitchfork sense, but for me because of where I was and the memories, good and bad, that it inspires. I guess that will be be the case for most of this list, as I slowly crawl my way through it. With any luck my memories will hold out that long.

Found

Ah now, this song. This was a very dreamy track that found it’s way onto a compilation tape I made around that time called “Nice”, which also featured various lovey-dovey songs and tunes. I was a late bloomer in terms of teh ladeez, but boy, did I ever want a girlfriend. I felt like Bernard Black:

“I’ve got to get a girlfriend, just for the summer, until this wears off. She’ll be a summery girl. She’ll have hair. She’ll have summery friends who know how to be outside. She’ll play tennis and wear dresses and have bare feet, and in the autumn, I’ll ditch her, because she’s my summer girl!”

But it was not to be. Not for a long time.

25 Albums – New Order – Substance 1987

For the first of my 25 Albums, I chose New Order’s 1987 12″ singles and B-sides compilation, Substance 1987. Strictly speaking, it’s not really an “album” per se, but seeing as New Order always messed around with stuff like that, singles not appearing on albums, titles not being mentioned and so on, I’m not too concerned.

New Order had always been in my consciousness, with Blue Monday on Top Of The Pops in 1983 in front of Lenny Henry in an Easter Bunny suit, but it was 1987-1989 that really switched me on. True Faith is my favourite song, of all time, by any band, no question. It charted, it had a great video. Then the remix of Blue Monday came out, with the extra chipmunk voices in the background extorting me to “Wake up!” and “Get down! Get Down!”. My close friend at the time, Paul, the only person to whom I have been able legitimately to say, “I thought you were dead”, was dabbling with electronic music, and was very pleased to be able to recreate the classic inhuman drum riff. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Paul in this series of articles.

In early 1989, I went on a school skiing trip with Paul and many others to Valmorel Piancavallo in Italy. Everyone brought their walkmen, and I brought a little pair of unpowered speakers, which furnished our dorm room with choons. Over the course of the week, the speakers became covered in stickers obtained from Kinder Eggs, but that’s another story. I don’t think they compromised the otherwise perfect tone the speakers gave.

Someone in the room brought the chunky, beautifully packaged double cassette version of Substance. I must have bought 5 sets of batteries over the week, so the guy in the shop must have wondered about this English twit buying Kinder Eggs and batteries. At first I always wanted to hear True Faith– that background synth line in the chorus, the teenage angsty lyrics about a lost childhood (it resonated with my experiences with bullying), the thunderous (even over 1″ cones) bass drum and bass line. But as the days passed, I found myself listening to the other tracks, the other sides.

I loved the way the final flourish at the end of Bizarre Love Triangle gave a couple of seconds of peace before the pounding of True Faith. Then I loved the frog noises in The Perfect Kiss. Then Subculture grabbed me. Then Shellshock. Mind you, by this time I was back in the UK with my own version. I had it taped for walkman play while cycling, so that the swirling lead-out on True Faith faded into the drone and toms of In A Lonely Place.

It was the B-sides that got me into melancholic staring-into-the-middle distance stuff. Grainy black-and-white. You know the deal. Add a funeral march drumbeat to a soaring synth line, and I’m hooked. Working back through the early post-Joy Division tracks, hearing the influence of the electronics (and the party drugs) creep in, coming back to the start with the simple niceness of Ceremony, then again through to the awesome chiming “brang” guitars in Temptation, and back round to the disco hits. I could (and did) listen to this album repeatedly.

After Substance 1987, I bought Technique, the Ibiza album. Shortly after that World In Motion, the 1990 England football song, was ubiquitous and slightly embarrassing. But then Bernard Albrecht Sumner did say in an interview later that they always wanted to be more for pubgoing football types rather than spotty students. I definitely fell into the latter camp.

For a period in the early 90’s, Friend Robin and I had a stupid little game where we would drop New Order song titles into normal conversation. I know, I know. We were young.

Later, based on the solemn B-sides, I got some Joy Division stuff. I should probably drop the phrase “glacial beauty” in here somewhere. In 1992 I bought Republic, and was underwhelmed. The single Regret is great, but it hangs heavy on me because of events of that time. Plus the video made huge use of that flashing over-exposure trick that later became a huge cliche. I saw New Order live in 1993 at the Reading Festival. The video New Order Story is very interesting, and has some cool imagery in it, and some funny banter. But the egos of the group, and to a much greater extent those around them, take the shine off it, and worst of all Bono (he of the offshore tax haven) is in it.

But then, they’re only human. Despite the synths, drum machines and stark fragments of lyric which attracted me in the first place, it’s the human face and the ecstatic melancholy of this album which keeps me coming back.

25 Albums – The Reasoning

As a result of a recent Facebook meme going around, I created a list of 25 albums that I have loved over the years. They’re not in any order, and it could be said they are not my favourite albums of all time. Things, people, tastes and hairstyles change (thank goodness). But I thought it would be interesting to revisit each album in turn over the next few weeks decades, and write a little about why each one found it’s way into this list. Brace yourself for nostalgia, more information than you need or desire, apologetic defensiveness, and statements along the lines of, “Well, I like it”.

More links will appear as I go.

25 Albums