Categories
Facebook Challenges Music

7 days/7 ’90’s songs Facebook Challenge

You’re probably familiar with these types of Facebook challenges that ask you to post something for seven days straight. They always start off with something like “to break up the monotony of Facebook….” I recently found a playlist of one which I did way, way back in 2016, which was a song from the ’90’s for seven days. I’d like to share that with you.

Day 1: A Tribe Called Quest – Scenario

I always seem to gravitate towards A Tribe Called Quest when I’m feeling down or angry about political issues, for some reason. Something about the laidback feel of the beats & the enthusiastic feel of the MCing always helps me to feel a little better. In 2016 I was reeling from the general election the previous year & the disastrous Brexit referendum earlier in the same year & therefore listening to Quest loads. A love of this video would have made choosing Scenario an easy task.

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Day 2: Meat Beat Manifesto – Asbestos Lead Asbestos

I had only recently purchased their seminal album, Subliminal Sandwich, after someone compared one of my songs the second disc of bizarre, experimental soundscapes. This track, & it’s great video, is an excellent Triphop-influenced cover version of a World Domination Enterprises song. Regular readers may remember it cropping up during the Song of the Day (Covers) series.

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Day 3: NOFX – The Decline

I wonder if I was thinking of value for money here, with this 18 minute Pop Punk epic. Sadly, there’s no video for this song. Pure & angry Pop Punk excellence. Bouncy & anthemic in equal parts. I remember thinking it was about the post-9/11 Bush administration when I first heard it (late) in the early ’00’s, but it’s pre-9/11 release (’99) rules that out. A savage diatribe against the ‘religious right’.

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Day 4: Pavement – Here

Another song without a video, Here was my favourite Pavement song at the time of the challenge. A title which is constantly changing in my head. My most recent “best of all time” list actually placed Grounded in my top-ten. Here is a gloriously (if deceptively) simple slacker ballad with some incredibly memorable lyrics. A+ song.

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Day 5: David Bowie – Little Wonder

David Bowie shocking & awing in equal measure with this Drum n Bass inspired tune. Great song, great video & a reminder that Bowie is one of the greatest, & most diverse, musical artists in history. I love how heavy & upbeat it is following the smooth slacker tones of Pavement’s Here.

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Day 6: Inspiral Carpets – Saturn 5

Another awesome video & a Hammond Organ flavoured slice of ’90’s Indie, flavoured by ’60’s Psych Pop. A charmingly upbeat tribute to the band’s super heavy-lift vehicle of choice, the Saturn V rocket.

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Day 7: Fugazi – Blueprint

A smooth & melodic tune from the Post-Hardcore pioneers. Blueprint drips with DIY, independent cool. Sadly no video again, but an absolutely superb tune form this most ethical of all Indie bands.

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Here they are in a Spotify playllist:

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Facebook Challenges Videogames

10 Days/10 Videogames Facebook Challenge

I might be only just getting around to writing it up now, but I completed the 10 days/10 videogames straight after the books challenge back in May. I’ve been meaning to get this post written since, but it’s taken a while to get around to for some reason. Anyway, here we are. I presented my games in chronological order of release cross referenced with when I played them. These are the most influential games in my life.

Day 1: Starwing/Starfox (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)

Given my age, this is a fairly recent title to pick. Starwing (as it’s known in the UK) or Starfox (the rest of the world), was released in 1993 (the year I turned 11) & I remember we got a SNES that Christmas, Starwing was one of the games that we got with it. The others were Super Mario World (which I just replayed last week) & Super Mario Allstars. Previously I’d mainly played games on cassette (I had an Amstrad 6128 plus, which was kinda shit. My friends generally had ZX Spectrums) & maybe the odd NES game. The 3D graphics of Starwing absolutely blew me away as a child, but more importantly, it played like a dream. A linear 3rd person spaceship shooter with a story about anthropomorphised animals fighting against a supernaturally powerful evil emperor & a soundtrack that still holds up to this day. I still play it regularly on the Nintendo Switch’s virtual SNES.

Day 2: Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)

I bought Final Fantasy VII, with my own money, from a car boot sale. It became a pretty much permanent fixture in my life. I struggled through it the first time, not 100% getting the complex systems like I would later come to, but transfixed by the amazing story, the hand painted environments & the stirring, melancholy score. Later I would replay it again & again, even buying the official Brady Games Strategy Guide years after it had gone out of print, for far too much money. I just had a look now & found one going for $69.99 on Amazon. I remember the excitement that all of the various spinoffs generated too. The Crisis Core & Dirge Of Cerberus games, the Advent Children movie etc. I was initially excited about the remake, but the wait was so long that I lost enthusiasm for it & have yet to actually play it.

Day3: Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC)

Have you ever played so much Command & Conquer that you close your eyes & you can still see masses of Apocalypse Tanks & Kirov Airships slowly pouring across the screen on the backs of your eyelids? I have. In my mid twenties I played this game a hell of a lot. My friend & I loved the Arctic Circle map & would play it over & over again, trying to find new ways of winning the skirmish with maximum number of enemy factions. Towards the end of the games shelf life (killed for me when my last PC died, I’ve had Macs ever since), I remember every time I played it I used to just take over every enemy base, with engineers, until I controlled the entire map.

Day 4: The Elder ScrollsIII: Morrowind (PC)

Morrowind was my first proper open world, sandbox RPG & I absolutely loved it. Playing it for the first time felt like coming home. It was so engaging, like something that had been missing from my life up until that point. Admittedly, it hasn’t aged as well as it might. The combat is clunky, travelling is slow & keeping track of quests is notoriously difficult, but none of that mattered, really. The freedom you felt just walking around Vvardenfell, a unique & alien landscape completely different to any other fantasy world, was just amazing. You could just walk off in any direction & do what you felt like. & honourable mention for the soundtrack. Check out the main theme, it still gives me goosebumps today.

Day 5: TimeSplitters 2 (PlayStation)

I could have chosen either Timesplitters 2 or it’s sequel TimeSplitters: Future Perfect for this list, I spent vast amounts of enjoyable time with both. I decided, however, to choose the one with the best cover art & , in my opinion, that is TimeSplitters2. It’s a slick, smooth & sophisticated (for the time) First Person Shooter with a short but fun single player campaign, a plethora of other modes & levels to play (both single & multiplayer), shitloads of unlockable playable characters & an advanced, deep map maker for making your own maps (incl. logic programming to make your own story levels, challenges etc.). It was a veritable toybox of great content & is long overdue a remastered version for the current (or next) generation of consoles.

Day 6: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PlayStation)

I’ve just finished replaying this absolute behemoth of a game on the Xbox 360 rerelease. It has aged very well. The older graphics have taken on an almost cartoonish element over the years, which is humorous when you think how realistic we used to find it. San Andreas improved on its GTA 3D universe predecessors (Grand Theft Auto 3 & Grand Theft Auto: Vice City) in almost every way imaginable. Light, but welcome, RPG elements were added to make your character adapt & grow over time. Small changes like the ability to swim & dive (previously, entering the water would kill your character) helped to make the world seem so much more open & explorable. Speaking of the open & explorable world, San Andreas, distinct from previous games, was a whole fictional state in Rockstar games fictionalised America. Rather than being a single city, like III‘s Liberty City (based on New York) or Vice City (based on Miami), San Andreas featured three complete cities Los Santos (based on Los Angeles), San Fierro (based on San Francisco) & Las Venturas (based on Las Vegas) as well as the stretches of countryside, desert, rivers, lakes, small towns, army bases & airstrips between them. It was huge. The story was absolutely top notch too, taking inspiration from a huge amount of popular culture & stocked to the gills with easter eggs & references to movies, TV, comics etc. The voice acting was also top notch & featured such high profile voice actors as Samuel L Jackson & James Woods. Still the top game in the Grand Theft Auto series, in my opinion.

Day 7: Fallout 3 (Xbox 360)

I’ll probably get people in the comments (or friends privately) telling me that I should have chosen Fallout: New Vegas here. Whenever I post about how much I love Fallout 3, that always happened. It happened on the original Facebook post which this blogpost is based upon. I’m not sure why people feel the need to police peoples opinions of the Fallout series, but it is endemic. I love Fallout 3. Partly because it was the first Fallout game I played & partly because it is of extremely high quality. I really enjoyed catching up on the earlier games in the series (Fallout, Fallout 2 & Fallout Tactics) & the following games (the aforementioned New Vegas, Fallout 4 & even the critically maligned Fallout 76) but none of them have succeeded in recapturing that spark which made me fall in love with the series in the first place. Fallout 3 is set in the post-nuclear ruins of Washington DC & surrounding countryside (The Capital Wasteland) 200 years after The Great War, which almost wiped out all life on earth. It is a grey & lifeless place, at first glance, but the more you explore the more it opens up to you. Towns & villages have sprung up from the rubble, some of them in ingenious & interesting places. Arefu, for example, is built on a half destroyed highway overpass. An excellent Open World RPG in a unique setting, Fallout 3 remains essential gaming even today, 12 years after it was released. I may do proper blogpost about it in the future.

Day 8: Metro 2033 (Xbox 360)

Following in the Post-Apocalyptic, post-nuclear theme, Metro 2033 takes a look at the survivors of a nuclear war who took shelter in the Moscow Metro system. Decades later, the Metro dwellers have developed a self contained society – or group of societies – in the darkness. Living off cultivated fungus & the few livestock animals they managed to get underground (pigs & chickens mainly), the various factions (or nations) of the Metro system are locked in an endless struggle for supremacy & survival. The game follows a young man named Artyom, form Exhibition Station, on his journey to the heart of the metro to warn the rangers of Polis station of a new mutant threat which is encroaching onto the Metro from the edges. Metro 2033 is a fairly linear, story driven First Person Shooter. There are elements of customisation (especially weapons) & survival (requiring gas mask filters to survive on the surface) but the game’s immaculate story (based on the excellent novel Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky) & atmosphere are the reasons I love it so much. I play it over & over.

Day 9: Dark Souls (Xbox 360)

Dark Souls is a Japanese Action-RPG with a difference. It’s challenging combat, interconnected world & demanding puzzles are as rewarding as they are difficult. The storyline in the game is never explicitly told to you by characters or narration (with the exception of the introductory sequence, which lays out the games creation myth/lore), but is almost hidden in plain sight for the player to put together themselves. Snippets of storyline & lore can be found in item descriptions, names of places, occasional NPC dialogue & can be pieced together by inquisitive players, almost like an extra puzzle in the game. The lore & story of the series is very interesting & piecing it together is very satisfying & rewarding. Alternatively, maybe you’re not that interested & just want to play the game. The option is there for that too. If you’re struggling, or uninterested, with the story, there’s a whole community of online commentators who catalogue & explain the lore. A favourite is YouTube “historian” VaatiVidya.

Day 10: The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt (Xbox One)

The final game on this list, The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt is probably the biggest, most open & most rewarding game I’ve ever played. An expansive Open World RPG following the adventurous of Witcher (a kind of mercenary monster hunter) Geralt of Rivia as he murders his way through monsters of Polish folklore, navigates political intrigue & battles the otherworldly forces of the titular Wild Hunt. As impressive, & vast, as it is, the open world of The Wild Hunt plays second fiddle to the sheer brilliance of the storytelling. There’s a fine balance struck between the dark & cold, & the warmth & light. Choices are as morally ambiguous as they’ve ever been. The Bloody Baron quest-line alone is enough to fill a lesser game. Heartbreaking & sad, touches of humour, & real humanity in a way you rarely see in video games. Possibly the most three-dimensional characters in video games history.

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Facebook Challenges Literature

10 days/10 books Facebook challenge

After enjoying the 10 days/10 albums Facebook challenge, I was pleased to be nominated for the 10 days/10 books challenge. I really tried hard here, to think of the books which have had significant effects on my reading habits. I started with the first book I remember been introduced to by my first secondary school English teacher. In hindsight (which is 20/20), I should have perhaps included both The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend & Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl. I remember been particularly fond of these two book during my time at primary school.

Note: The cover images presented here are from the editions I personally read (or read first in cases where I’ve read them multiple times).

Further Note: I have not included any poetry in this list as I interpreted the challenge to mean 10 novels. I am now considering a 10 days/10 poems challenge too.

Day 1: Truckers by Terry Pratchett

I remember being given this to read in year seven by my English teacher, whose name I cannot remember. It was an excellent introduction to the worlds of Terry Pratchett (despite being in a different universe to his hugely popular Discworld series). I don’t remember the details of the book particularly well, which is not surprising as it was around 26-27 years ago that I read it, but I do remember taking the sequel, Diggers, out of the library and then the disappointment that they didn’t have the third and final instalment Wings. I remember ordering Wings and it taking several weeks to arrive. It was in these several weeks that I gave The Colour of Magic a try and my intense love for Pratchett’s works was cemented.

Day 2: Glue by Irvine Welsh

Glue is a book set in the same universe as Welsh’s Trainspotting, which was adapted into an incredibly successful film in the mid ‘90’s. Several Trainspotting characters make small cameos or are mentioned in conversation between other characters. The book follows a group of four lads over four decades and chronicles their friendship through the good times and the bad. The book, like other Irvine Welsh books I’ve read, is written in a combination of standard British English & Scots. This was my first introduction to Scots, and I was surprised to learn that it is recognised as an independent language, distinct from English. It feels familiar enough to read to English speakers because it originates from the same precursor languages and uses the same grammatical structures & systems. I even find myself, after reading a Welsh novel, thinking in Scots for a few weeks.

Day 3: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

When I was a teenager my mum was convinced that I’d like Stephen King and wanted me to try one of his books. She was aware of my love for Science Fiction and thought that this bizarre Sci-Fi/Horror mashup might be the perfect gateway for me into the hyperdetailed worlds that Stephen King creates. She wasn’t wrong. I was instantly won over by the creeping terror of the progressive mutations caused by exposure to the spaceship and the delightfully ramshackle creations that, main character Bobbi, makes out of junk and batteries. From dimensional teleport machines to “ray guns” made from children’s water pistols, I was blown away by King’s imagination. I have particularly vivid memories (and nightmares) about the sentry robot she creates from a Coca-Cola vending machine, particularly the scene where it kills a man by repeatedly throwing itself at him until he is dead. Covered in gore from the murder, the vending machine continues with its patrol. Horrifying.

Day 4: Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac

I’d already read On the Road, and it could very well have made this list, but I think Desolation Angels both stuck with me and influenced my own art more. I loved the bleak but inviting loneliness of the start of the book as Kerouac is writing about his time as a fire lookout on the peak of Mount Desolation. The isolation seemed to be tempered nicely by the immense natural beauty. I almost envied him, if I’m honest. After the lookout section, Kerouac details his various adventures catching up with his friends in the beat scene (albeit thinly veiled by pseudonyms and the occasional slip up which both Kerouac & the editors missed) like William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady & Gregory Corso.

Day 5: Roadside Picnic by Boris & Arkady Strugatsky

Roadside Picnic is a dark and gritty sci-fi novel which introduced some amazing new tropes & archetypes to science fiction. Most importantly, the profession of the Stalker. The stalker is a person who, legally or illegally (illegally in the case of Roadside Picnic’s main character, Red Schuhart), spends their time scavenging for exotic technology in ‘the Zone’. ‘The Zone’ is an area which was visited by an alien species and has now become infected by the visitation. Physics in ‘the Zone’ do not match the physics of the outside world and the aliens have left many artefacts behind which Stalkers can sell for a lot of money. Their profession is both illegal & profitable. The idea of a Stalker has been used in various other media such as the videogames of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series (which transposes the alien visitation to a post-incident Chernobyl) & the novel’s in the Metro series by Dmitry Glukhovsky (which are perhaps better known for the spinoff series of videogames). The 1979 film Stalker, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, is loosely based on the novel, with a screenplay written by the Strugatsky brothers.

Day 6: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

This drug-fuelled rampage across the Nevada desert and Las Vegas was an eye-opening book for me. I had already seen the Terry Gilliam movie starring Johnny Depp & Benicio del Toro when I read the book. I read the book in one night with no sleep. I can neither confirm nor deny that I was high on LSD at the time. I may or may not have taken it before going to stay over at my then-girlfriend’s house. As we were quite young and she lived with her parents, we slept in separate rooms and I may or may not have been incredibly ‘up’ from the LSD. Left alone in her room I found Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas on her bookshelf and my love for Thompson began. It was an intense night; I don’t mind admitting.

Day 7: Time by Stephen Baxter

Time is the first book in the Manifold Space trilogy. This cosmic tale is pretty high concept stuff. Genetically engineered, super intelligent squid to pilot spacecraft; network of portals which carry people between universes; universes evolved stars to turn into black holes, which is how universes reproduce; universes without blackholes are evolutionary dead ends; “Feynman radio”, which can pick up signals sent backwards through time from the far future; last vestiges of life in the universe clinging on amid the heat death by farming energy from black holes.

This book was a huge influence on the music and poetry I was creating at the time I made it and this poem is just one of many which this book inspired.

Day 8: Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

This terrifying look into the mind of a heroin addict is dark and uncomfortable to read. It is, however, also a pleasure to read. The stream of consciousness effect is used to brutal effect here and it explores the main theme through a broken, twisted, almost sci-fi narrative. Legend stated that as Burroughs was typing Naked Lunch in his apartment in Tangier, he just threw each finished page on the floor. Later when Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg & Allan Ansen visited him, they helped him organise these typewritten pages in to the 200-page Interzone manuscript, which eventually became Naked Lunch.

This was part of the legendary Word Hoard which also went on to provide raw material for The Nova Trilogy.

Day 9: The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F Hamilton

The Reality Dysfunction is the 1200+ page first volume of an epic trilogy. This is where space opera and hard sci-fi collide, head on. This is a book about colonising new worlds, sentient & organic living star ships, salvage of extinct races, cyberization and a mish mash of all of the sci-fi tropes you know and love, particularly the “scruffy looking nerf herder” smuggler/salvage agent lead character. The central plot revolves around the mysterious origins of a long extinct (or at least vanished) alien civilisation and what it means for us, humanity. There is an event which all of alien races encountered in the novel have been through which humanity is only just beginning to experience. Any more information than that would constitute spoilers.

Day 10: Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

In a near future, where the world is run by a computer known as THE MECHANISM, violent crime is non-existent. Humanity, with Africa as the world’s leading superpower, has repaired the climate and begun to colonise much of the solar system. The central characters journey to Mars in this book was incredibly influential to me. I wrote & performed a conceptual piece of electronic music about it in 2013, at a community music event with the theme of “journeys”. I found the imagery of the several month trip in cryosleep and the Martian railroad particularly evocative, basing the two longest sections on those sequences in the book. It’s a rare example of a science fiction novel with no real violence and only mild scenes of personal conflict. A positive future, a near utopia (albeit with a dark undertone) which makes a refreshing change in a genre crowded with dystopias.

Images courtesy of Goodreads

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Facebook Challenges Music

10 days/10 albums Facebook challenge

Over on Facebook, a lot of people have been doing a thing where every day for 10 days you post the cover of an album which ‘greatly influenced’ your taste in music. On the Facebook posts, you’re only supposed to post the cover with no explanations or reviews etc. I decided to compile my ten into this blogpost with a little explanation/review of each one.

Day 1: Radiohead – Ok Computer

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Widely cited as one of the greatest albums of the 1990’s, if not all time, OK Computer catapulted Radiohead into The Big Leagues and topped most year-end lists in 1997. Since then it has also topped countless ‘greatest albums’ lists. Before OK Computer was released, I was happily listening to Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene. These were my favourite bands. When I first heard Paranoid Android, lead single from OK Computer, I was blown away. Music could be weird. Music could be creative. Music didn’t have to be boring four-chord, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus dadrock like Oasis. Guitars, while key to the sound, didn’t have to be the only instrument. Effects were used creatively and experimentally, like the Roland Space Echo on Subterranean Homesick Alien. Live drumming was cut up and rearranged in the studio – inspired by DJ Shadow’s seminal Endtroducing – like on opening space dub rocker Airbag. This opened up worlds of possibility for me. I began seeking out weird and experimental music as a habit. A habit which I retain to this day. And I’ve not really listened to Oasis since.

Day 2: Pavement – Brighten the Corners

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Pavement’s 1997 album Brighten the Corners is not generally considered to be one of their best records. But to me it was the first time I heard what would go on to be one of my favourite bands. I heard Shady Lane a lot on Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session on Radio 1 and John Peel. What attracted me to Pavement was the laid back, stoned vibes of the songs, the gentle effortlessness of the playing (which isn’t nearly as effortless as it first sounds) and the unusual, quirky lyrics – which 14-year-old me didn’t really understand but loved anyway. It’s definitely not my favourite Pavement album, but as the first I heard, it will always hold a special place in my musical tastes.

Day 3: Autechre – Tri Repetae

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The first electronic music album in my list and the first one that truly excited me about the possibilities of electronic music and made me want to produce it myself. The cold, sparse arrangements and the intricate glitches were what initially drew me in, but the warm bass and the solid drum programming and production are what made me stay. Closing track Rsdio is one of my favourite tracks of all time. A 9-minute slow build-up of various repetitive elements which form together into a glorious glitchy groove embedded in an echoey, desolate soundscape. My first copy of Tri Repetae was actually a CD-R which a friend burned for me. After the album ended, he’d added the generative glitchy mess that is Gantz Graf. This noisy electronic classic led me towards weirder, glitchier and more abrasive electronic music.

Day 4: Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump

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I could, and indeed will, write a lot more about this album than I have space for here. It’s a legitimate masterpiece, in my opinion. Jason Lytle is a ridiculously talented songwriter and the way he blends traditional rock instruments with bleeping atmospheric synths and drum machines is just so unique. And then to use this technique to tell a story about civilisation collapsing due to the Y2K millennium bug (a hot topic at the time) with a sad and beautiful subplot about an artificially intelligent humanoid robot named Jed who writes depressing poetry then drinks himself to death. I cannot recommend this album enough.

Day 5: Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap

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This is another one that caught me by surprise. I’d read reviews of their music in NME and Melody Maker but thought that they didn’t sound like something I’d enjoy. I saw this album on a listening post (remember them?) in my local Virgin Megastore (remember them?) and gave it a go. The opening of the first track It Could have been a Brilliant Career absolutely hooked me. The melancholic vocal with the lush melody and the cleverly funny lyrics was so good: “He had a stroke at the age of 24, it could have been a brilliant career”. And the songs just kept getting better. This was the birth of my love for what is often described as twee pop, or just twee.

Day 6: At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command

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A definite change of pace here. After the melodic pop sensibilities of Grandaddy and Belle and Sebastian, I had to pick something a bit noisier. Aggro. Relationship of Command is a Post-Hardcore touchstone. The only album more important in the genre is probably Fugazi’s politically and ethically charged Repeater and that is high praise indeed. Relationship of Command is a savage burst of metallic punk noise and swooning melancholic melodies. It even features a cheeky cameo from the godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop, on Rolodex Propaganda. Lead single One Armed Scissor blew everyone away and for me at least, killed off Nu Metal. Dead.

Day 7: Boards of Canada – Music has the Right to Children

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Music has the Right to Children is a particularly special album. It’s universally recognised as a classic album in pretty much every single music-based Facebook group I’m a member of. It’s loved by hipsters, indie kids, hip hop fans, shoegazers, IDM fans and many more. Your grandparents have probably heard Board of Canada. As well as it’s lush arrangements and top-drawer production, it also introduced me to another concept which I have developed a slight obsession with, Hauntology. I will write a primer to hauntology at some point in the near future, so if you’re not familiar with what it is, don’t worry. Boards of Canada introduced, alongside Mogwai, introduced me to the idea of soundscapes. A common feature in many of my favourite bands.

Day 8: Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty

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My introduction to the Beastie Boys was probably hearing Sabotage and/or Fight for your Right to Party on commercial radio or MTV. I liked them but I didn’t know any of their other music. This was also in the mid ‘90’s before you could investigate a band on Spotify or YouTube if you liked them and my primary source of income was a paper round. When you get paid £12 a week, you need to be damn sure you like the album you’re buying before you buy it. By the time the video for Hello Nasty’s lead single Intergalactic was released, I was already reading NME & Melody Maker regularly as well as watching MTV2 (MTV’s “alternative” offshoot channel) and listening to Radio One’s Evening Session (Steve Lamacq), John Peel’s show and Mary Anne Hobbes’ Breezeblock show. All of these outlets played Intergalactic constantly and I was even able to afford to buy the occasional single. I remember purchasing it on cassette and the B-Side was the wonderful Hail Sagan. As an album I believe it’s the Beastie Boys best kept secret. It’s probably my favourite of their albums (except for maybe Ill Communication) and contains some of their strongest singles. Intergalactic (obviously), Remote Control, Body Movin’, and the sublime Three MC’s And One DJ. A true late ‘90’s heavyweight.

Day 9: Beck – Odelay

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If you boiled the entire ‘90’s in a still then the end result, the distillate, would be Odelay. Beck’s magnum opus is a sprawling sound collage of pop, folk, country, hip-hop, alternative rock, grunge, breakbeat and almost any other genre which you care to think of. Produced by the Dust Brothers, its heavy use of sampling is revolutionary. Especially in the context of an “indie/alternative artist” like Beck. As well as its status as a solid album, Odelay spawned some of the most memorable singles of the ‘90’s; the laidback, line dancing hip-hop funk of Where It’s At; the crunchy post-grunge of Devils Haircut; the mutant lounge pop of The New Pollution and the melancholic psychedelia of Jackass. For a young person today, approaching indie and alternative music for the first time, Odelay is a fantastic primer and could theoretically send you out in any number of directions for further musical explorations.

Day 10: Sonic Youth – Screaming Fields of Sonic Love

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When I first discovered that the central library in my city had a CD and Tape section I felt like a child at Christmas. I took out so many CD’s and copied them to cassette that it would be very hard to argue I didn’t massively abuse the system. The album I remember lending from the library and copying to tape the most is this fantastic Sonic Youth “best of” compilation, Screaming Fields of Sonic Love. This is a collection of tracks from Sonic Youth’s ‘80’s output – up to their masterpiece, Daydream Nation – but it’s sequenced in reverse chronological order. This has the amusing effect of the songs becoming more lo-fi as the album progresses. The album begins with perhaps their most melodic song, Teen Age Riot, and towards the end you find their noisier, no-wave inspired material like Inhuman, Making The Nature Scene and Brother James. I don’t know why it works so well, but it does. And I’ve been hooked on Sonic Youth ever since. This is probably the biggest influence on me in this list except for OK Computer. Sonic Youth gently nudged my attention away from British artists like Radiohead and towards American artists like Nirvana, Pavement, Pixies and Silver Jews. Even the British bands I got into after this were heavily indebted to Sonic Youth for their sound, bands like Idlewild and Urusei Yatsura.

All record cover images in this blogpost courtesy of Discogs

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