the c & b diaspora

Being really pretentious/Shan-de-la; the cobra’s gyrations.

Posted on: September 1, 2008

Since a previous entry contained various levels of sharing, I have been thinking a lot lately about music. Lots of shit to do with music. Like for instance, how my musical tastes evolved from essentially nothing, to me having a few thousand dollars worth of records sitting in a cupboard several years later. Or how I can love a band so much, that I would give them every single drop of my own blood to ensure they keep making the music, while someone else would rather stab both of their eyes out and be raped by rabid dogs than listen to them.

I’m waffling.

It was a little while ago now that I realised where in the world I was. Physically, its obvious. You dont need to correct me on that. But musically, I am somewhere fantastic. I was in a record store somewhere in Manchester. Looking up on the wall I saw some live photos taken at a Joy Division show. This show took place about five miles from where we live, about nineteen years ago. Its insane. Joy Division were formed and played their first shows only miles from where we live. I’ve been to where the Beatles played their first shows. In case you were wondering, Beatles records are horrendously overpriced here. They really are greedy fucks.

But enough waffling:

5 Albums that have made me the man I am today: (In no particular order.)

dredg, El Cielo (2002)

Yes, I am aware what you are thinking, and you’re right. The name is so nu-metal. The band’s earlier work is definitely in that vein of things, but sounds do change. Thank goodness. Its like a flowing tapestry of beauty, that appealed to my taste in heavier/more aggressive music and yet, at the same time captured my interest with its exotic instruments, tasteful soft segments, and haunting melodies.  Most of dredg’s albums are rife with pretentiousness, (like what I just wrote) and I can’t be bothered discussing that right now. I love this album nevertheless.

I think my most vivid and wonderful memory of this album was a few years ago, it was very early in the morning,  I was lying on my bedroom floor with a pair of headphones on, and my heart was pumping a healthy cocktail of BZP, alcohol, and God-knows what else all around my body and into my brain. I remember that in this state of mind, music takes on an almost physical quality. You know you need to sleep, but you can’t. Its possible to almost feel parts of a song in your brain as they travel through your ear canal. Its strangely fitting that I found my deepest connection with this album in that state, given its major theme.

I find it even stranger, that I recently took photos of a Dali statue while in London, without consciously making the connection.


The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America (2006)

Mr. Kirk, I advise you to skip this part.

The perfect integration of total high class rock n roll, with piano, tales of love, drugs, booze and friends. Another wonderful thing; tightly woven American literature references. A group of aging men playing music that appeals to people aged 15 to 50. You could call this ‘dad rock’; I’m comfortable with this term. It would be awesome to grab some beers, stick this on the turntable and just sit with your (step)Dad/father figure and take it in. If he/she has taste, they’ll get it. He/she probably grew up on the same bands these guys did, and I bet they will be able to name the bands too.

The biggest problem that people have about this band is that the vocals are perhaps, not quite, nearly, almost, kinda sung. Its not a scream, like you have known me to indulge in previously; the vocalist Craig Finn has somewhat of a storytelling-rant way of delivering his message to listeners. Its far more prevalent on their earlier work, but its a lot smoother on the ears on their later releases. Its like a fine wine, sometimes it takes time. I think there is some kind of unwritten law that any article mentioning The Hold Steady also has to mention Bruce Springsteen. There’s mine.

I think it was sometime in late 2006, I had just read some obscenely positive reviews for this album. Sometimes, you hear a song, and you just instantly click with a band? That happened for me when I listened to this for the first time. Not because I had high expectations, but because it seemed to be a point of culmination of where my musical tastes were taking me at that point in my life. Trying new things, listening to less hardcore, buying weird records. This band reminded me that music is about having fun.

I think when I saw them live a few months ago, I was more excited to see them than any other band, ever. Even more than Deftones at the big day out that many years ago. (If you knew me then, you’ll understand what that means.)


Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism (2003)

I know what you are thinking now too, this album is going to be about drinking blood from goat skulls and sacrificing virgins to an unholy god. Wrong. Wikipedia identifies them as an ‘indie rock’ band, whatever that means. I’m happy with this.

I think I first heard this album sometime in 2004, while I was first treading the waters of higher level education, and discovering how much I really hated computers, mathematics, and various combinations of the two. I took a shine to a couple of tracks, and somehow, I dont understand how it happened exactly but they ended up on what some may call a ‘mix tape’ that I gave to a girlfriend that I was affiliated with at that time that you all know about. I can laugh now, because I didnt truly appreciate this album until after we broke up and I was feeling like shit.

I get to make another live-setting reference now; although they are on a major label, and they are popular enough to have videos played on C4 (even though you may not have seen them), they were just as incredible as I had hoped. From the epic ‘I will Possess your Heart’ (from Narrow Stairs), to the hauntingly beautiful ‘I will follow you into the dark’ (from Plans) and to close their show with the title track from Transatlanticism … I think I almost died. I have never seen a drummer with a more determined look on his face; as he bashed the drums as if trying to break a dimensional barrier as they built to the climax of the song.


Isis, Panopticon (2004)

Probably more the kind of music most of you are aware I listen to. Its loud, full of guitars and drums, yelling, screaming, more yelling. It’s fantastic. I think this is what people would describe as ‘sludge metal’… I suppose it fits really, being slow, full of low notes. If you could imagine sludge in a musical form, this might be it.

I probably heard Isis a long time before I actually liked it. Before I got old, I was very stern on bands where the vocalist was doing anything more than screaming really. Who knows. I think as I quickly moved into bands like Opeth, and numerous European metal groups, Isis got missed along the way. There are almost two distinct sides to the broad ‘metal’ genre. One where they play fast as hell, the other slow. Coming from bands like Deftones, and various other shit, the fast side was more appealing because, you know, it was better to headbang to.

People love to describe this band using words like ‘atmospheric’ and ‘monolithic’, both which are very interesting terms to describe the sound. They are really focused on generating a solid wall of sound, often using repetition to slowly build to an intense climax before fully unleashing. The shortest track on this album is almost seven minutes, the longest just under ten. Its long enough to be something more than what you just throw on if you have a few minutes to spare. But its not too long that it is self-indulgent and pretentious (see The Mars Volta).

This is the album that I would often listen to after a long night at BurgerFuel. Friday night at about 2am, you would find me on the floor, headphones on, beer in hand. This band has provided the most intense experience of my record collecting career so far, the hours before the release of their 10th Anniversary 12LP Box Set I was sweating excessively. I had, in the event of its release while I was at work, given Briony all the necessary details for her to order it for me. Luckily, it didn’t come out in those few hours. I was sitting safely at home when the email finally came in, and within a few minutes I had splashed out a couple of hundred euros. I don’t regret it.

Sufjan Stevens, Illinois (2005)

Weird looking cover? Check. Strange artist name? Check. Absurdly long track titles and no clear indication of what sort of music is contained within? Check and check. To clear things up, this is a folk album. Plain and simple. A while back, Stevens said he was going to record an album about each of the fifty states of the USA. This is the second album. Its a tribute to the state of Illinois, the state with Chicago in it. It is filled with wonderful precise orchestration, fantastic stories, millions and billions of other stuff. Its something that really has to be heard, rather than described in text on the internet. It actually received considerable attention from all over the place, if you have seen Little Miss Sunshine, you’ve heard a track.

For me, this album was a total bolt from the blue. I had never even considered the thought of listening to, let alone enjoying a folk album, ever. Initially, it was refreshing. Guitars didnt sound like they were being murdered, most of the lyrics didnt involve blood and/or guts, drums were played slower than the firing speed of a mini-gun. Whats really strange, is that I could find enjoyment within all these songs, despite their deep foundations in American history and culture. Half of the songs I couldn’t truly understand like someone from Chicago would, but still I loved them. Admittedly, I only downloaded this album because I read some fantastic reviews, but I’m sure glad that I did. It was a wonderful eye opener.



So one of the many times we had a new years party at Rory’s mum’s place I think I brought this along. Pretty sure it was 2005, turning into 2006. It was actually the first time I heard it. Being considerate and not trying to kill the vibe of the celebrations, I left sharing it with everyone until their heads and stomachs were sore the next day/year. I think it was on a CD along with Wolfmother, R.A.M.B.O, and a bunch of other stuff I had just gotten into. I was hardly even expecting to enjoy it. It was a like a breeze blowing from the ocean across the sand dunes of Papamoa, through the subdivisions, over the table laden with hangover food, caressing my skin with peculiar smells and tastes and sounds. That doesn’t make sense.

That was especially hard. To narrow down all the albums that I would bear children to, to only five. I can’t only have five lovers.

You know, this list probably would have been a whole lot easier had I been born in say, the 1950s. Like perhaps my parents. Its not really surprising, given the volume of music being produced today. Compare the amount of albums released in 1973, with the amount released in 2007. Google it or something. Its phenomenal. Given the influence of older music on my own tastes, I think a future entry will have to deal with my favourite albums that were released before I was born. That’s even a good title for it. Kinda.

Still, there are a lot of albums that were terribly close. I bet if I had written this about 6 months ago, the list would be entirely different. It will probably be different next week too. I can think of another five that I could make a list from. But I won’t de-value my current list for a few months or so. But I will share with you the five best albums so far in 2008, I advise you to check them out.

The Hold Steady,   Stay Positive
Torche, Meanderthal Nachtmystium, Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1 Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound

I’m getting a little carried away here folks.

Brief rant about music piracy:

There are claims, mostly by overpaid record executives and greedy bands that music piracy is killing music. Get fucked. The same thing was said about people recording songs off the radio onto cassette tape. Yet here we are, two decades later, music industry still robbing people of their money. In my first year at university, one of my professors, Sean Cubitt always played crazy music before lectures that nobody had ever heard of. He said that the reason the music industry is now a writhing corpse is because they “haven’t released anything new in the last decade”. He was pretty much right. It’s not downloading that’s ruining music, its the music. People don’t want to pay $30 for the same recycled shit over and over again. Nor should they have to.

Rant end.

I shared some of my favourite records, now show me yours.





2 Responses to "Being really pretentious/Shan-de-la; the cobra’s gyrations."

Mr Mills, while I heeded the warning, I read on, and am still unmoved. Perhaps one day I’ll give them a chance. That day is not near.

Haha, loved the bit about the NT’s partys at Rorys mate, fuck those were the days.

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