I have always had a vague, white guy fondness for hip-hop but listening to Romesh Raganathan’s excellent podcast on the subject has reawakened a long dormant passion for all things rap. Eminem is an artist I don’t listen to loads any more but he is undoubtedly the reason I listened to hip-hop in the first place and also the rap artist that I have listened to the most. This post was supposed to coincide with Em’s latest album Revival but I am lazy so it hasn’t. Amazingly, I haven’t done one of these articles since October 2016 when I tackled the Bright Eyes back catalogue. I reckon this one is overdue…
It didn’t start as a Rocky marathon… I was only supposed to watch the first two but then I found myself so wrapped up in the story of the Italian Stallion that I had to carry on. Well I say that, in actuality, it was my wife watching them for the first time who was obviously baying for blood so much that she couldn’t turn them off. And so it came to pass that I watched Rocky I, II, III and IV back to back. Here is what I learnt:
Music can be all things to all people. A shoulder to cry on, an old friend, or simply something to dance to. But can it also be a devil on your shoulder? There are certain artists who are so intertwined with teen angst that they feel like a rite of passage, part and parcel of coming of age.
How many teenagers believe they have found a kindred spirit in Morrissey or Kurt Cobain? For the most part we grow out of these obsessions as we emerge on the other side of adolescence. With Conor Oberst however, and more specifically his main musical project Bright Eyes, I still find myself plummeting down the rabbit hole of his music even now. When the old familiar darkness does hover at my door, it sometimes feels that I have a devil on each shoulder, Oberst and Tom Waits, with the angel seemingly missing in action.
Music is universal. There are, however, nuances and details that attract different people to different aspects of the art of song. Some people are drawn to the music themselves whilst others are infatuated by lyrical proficiency. Some like minimal sonic soundscapes whereas others just want to dance. I’d like to think that all those elements have influenced my musical tastes over the years. All of this pales into insignificance when compared to the most fundamental reason for enjoying music however. Do they fucking mean it?
I have spoken before about my undying love for Oasis, Nirvana and Weezer. More than any other artists, those three shaped my life in untold ways and they continue to influence me even now. Even with that in mind though, there is a nagging feeling that they were never truly mine. I was 7 in 1994. The year that saw the release of Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, Weezer’s The Blue Album and the tragic suicide of Kurt Cobain. At 7, I was more interested in finding a free transformer in a box of Coco Pops than Kurt Cobain’s shotgun.
Interpol are a curious beast. Beloved of hipsters and muso’s alike without ever really crossing into the public conciousness. This does Interpol an injustice however. New York’s finest are a thoughtful, intelligent and frighteningly talented band. Their standoffishness is another string to their bow for adoring fans. On first listen there is little to distinguish between Interpol’s five albums. Upon repeated listens however the nuances begin to announce themselves. Interpol made a million imitators want to pick up a guitar…
Arcade Fire are one of that rare breed of bands who manage to maintain their cult status and independent spirit despite being a global success. Until their most recent album I would probably have said they are the best band in the world but Reflektor was huge misstep for an otherwise excellent band.
It was bound to happen, sooner or later. Every Oasis album ranked.
Radiohead are a band defined by their refusal to compromise for the sake of commercial gain. Staunchly left wing, and outspoken critics of the Iraq war and the Bush administration, Radiohead on paper are the perfect fit for a ‘band of the people’. Due to their perceived middle class background and gloomy music however, they have instead been characterized as having an audience made up of Guardian readers. A difficult and arty band that produce miserable, plodding music at odds with the anthemic, sing along choruses employed by the likes of Oasis and Kasabian.
When I tell people that Weezer are my favourite band, the reaction ranges from mild amusement to downright disbelief. Whilst it is true that being a Weezer fan has had its ups and downs over the years, nobody can deny the genius of the LA bands’ early work. There is however, a common misconception that Weezer stopped making good music around 2003 and have only harmed their legacy with each passing release. That is simply not true.