Mark Anthony Finch continues to take a look back at some of the albums - good and bad - which seeped into his earholes in 2018...
You can read Part I of "2018 In Music" here.
As far back as I can remember I have been listening to music. From my days sitting on my parent’s floor spinning wax on the turntable whilst wearing headphones each the size of a small car to my very first Walkman, listening to home-recorded cassettes on the way to school, wearing relatively smaller orange-foamed headphones roughly the same size as my first girlfriend’s areolas, and beyond: getting up earlier than needed before work so I could listen to that newly purchased Raver’s Nature single, perusing any and every record shop and checking out new albums from previously unheard of artists at listening posts (‘member berry time: remember listening posts?) just because I fancied something new, and even now - as I type this - I’m wearing headphones, listening to music. I’m sure that when my mum was pregnant with me she would press a small portable tape player up against her swollen belly and play David Bowie and The Rolling Stones into my face through her layers of skin, fat and embryonic fluid, although I cannot be completely certain of this as she’s never told me anything of the sort and I’ve never asked. But for some reason I’ve always been attracted to music and although - in my heart - cinema is where it’s really at for me, music is inexplicably linked to my soul also.
And so here we are, at the end of the first third of 2019, the road opened up before us. What sonic delights lay ahead, waiting for us to discover them? Fucked if I know, I’m here to talk about the shit that came out last year.
ALAN HOWARTH - HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS
(original motion picture score)
John Carpenter's seminal score gets the Alan Howarth treatment in this reissue of the 4th Halloween film's soundtrack. Remastered with approval from Howarth himself, this could be the best representation of the score on the LP format.
Available in several different variants, mine came in the orange yet-strangely-looks-more-like-light-peach-in-reality retail variant. Peach-coloured vinyl aside, this is a nice pressing of an enjoyable score, with Alan Howarth adding that driving beat to the main theme which would be a staple to the Halloween scores for years to come. Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers marked a change in the franchise - for better or worse - and the score reflects that in the best possible way. Music Release Of The Year™? Yes, obviously!
Featuring original songs, songs from the soundtrack, original score cues and songs inspired by the animated show, not to mention the occasional splattering of dialogue, this soundtrack is everything you'd expect a Rick & Morty soundtrack to be. And yet... it is strangely disappointing, a mixed bag of quality basically. The album doesn't quite flow together, as though the tracklisting was just jumbled up in one of those bingo ball cages ("so nifty, Get Schwifty!"), and there are a few songs missing which I would have liked to have seen included (although this is probably due to an issue of rights, not to mention album length). That said, extra marks for the album's producer for not including any "I'm Pickle Rick!" samples. Most of what makes the album enjoyable is familiarity with the music and knowing the subtext of its inclusion, so I think only R&M fans will get any enjoyment out of this. Just don't go and buy that ridiculously overpriced "deluxe boxset," fuck me what a rip-off. Music Release Of The Year™.
Matt Berry, "that guy with the voice," was born in Britain in 1974, and this album is pretty much a testament to that timeplace. If you are British and of a similar age, or an anglophile sitting somewhere on the hipster spectrum, then you will recognise most - if not all - of the music here, for Matt Berry and his band The Maypoles have covered the soundtrack to his - and many others, and mine too if we're being honest here - youth. From sitcoms such as "The Good Life" and "Are You Being Served?" to BBC staples as "Doctor Who" and "Top Of The Pops" Berry and co. have managed to capture the feeling of the era perfectly. But while the themes, made for TV, only ran for a few dozen seconds, Matthew and his Maypoles have expanded almost every track to 3 minutes (or so), for you to really get your teeth stuck in and enjoy the ingenuity of the original composer's work.
The great thing here is that the music is so bloody good that you can enjoy it even if you are not British or a hipster. And don't most people know the theme to Doctor Who now anyway? Matt Berry's music has always trodden a fine line between folk, jazz and psychedelia and this winning combination is in abundance on this LP. If that sounds like your kind of bag, baby, then what are you waiting for? This is the kind of nostalgia to get behind and as such it is my choice for Album Of The Year™. Available on black and limited edition orange vinyl.
Running a short yet sweet 32 minutes, this dip into 70's deep soul music serves as the soundtrack to the divisive 2017 thriller. Previously only available on CD and as a download, those fine folks at Invada thought the OST was worthy enough of a vinyl release, and how right they were. The soundtrack basically consists of seven songs, all originally composed and recorded for the film, with two tracks from The O'Jays themselves who prove that they haven't lost any of their mojo over the decades.
The songs work brilliantly alongside the movie as a great contrast to the on-screen violence and mayhem, and thankfully they shine on their own merits too. I know people who disliked the film but couldn't stop raving about the score, one listen to this LP is enough to understand why (I happened to like the movie, as it goes) so anyone into their 70's soul music would do well to pick this up. Music Release Of The Year™? You betcha! Available on limited edition "prison suit" orange vinyl and comes with a neat poster too. Huh, orange vinyl was really in vogue last year wasn't it?
How much 60's music on vinyl is too much 60's music on vinyl? It's a trick question of course, the answer being: there's no such thing as too much 60's music on vinyl, you yoghurt-huffing twonk. Well, thankfully the vinyl boom has meant that nearly all music tastes are being catered for at the moment, and here we have Demon Records laying out a compilation titled Alternativethat sits quite happily alongside their other series Pop Annual (with each release pressed with tracks from a certain decade). The 70's and 80's Pop Annualalbums - along with the Eighties Alternative album - have proved to be quite popular so it's nice to see them going a little further back here. I would say that while I wouldn't consider all of these tracks to be "alternative" as such, it is a plus to have such great songs together on one album release. There are 30 tracks spread out over two black LPs, with groups such as Jefferson Airplane, The Zombies, The Byrds, Fleetwood Mac, Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Sly & Family Stone, The Kingsmen, The End, Billy Joe Royal, The Easybeats and 13th Floor Elevators all represented here. A treasure trove I tells ya! Sure, it would be nice to own all of the original 45s - if you can find them all - but I'm a sucker for a good compilation and being able to have all these classics on four sides of 33 1/3 vinyl is a tasty treat for my ears.
There is also now a 60's Pop Annual album from Demon Records too which, of course, makes me very happy. Sure it's "cool" and "hip" to like 70's & 80's music, and that's fine, but I don't think the 60's gets enough love nowadays. Buy this to remind yourself how good music was all those years ago and you will understand why I've given this release my highly coveted Music Release Of The Year™ award.
Just when you thought there wasn't anything left to release... But I shouldn't really complain. For the Depeche Mode fan - and there are a lot of them, including me - the vinyl singles have become a precious commodity over the years, with some releases fetching ridiculous amounts on Discogs and the like. Depeche Mode really embraced the idea of 12" singles back in the early 80s and ran with it pretty much for the rest of their career, with many a remix or live version being exclusive to its respective slice of wax. Even their celebrated CD boxsets of the singles - and yes, I own all six of those beautiful bastards - did not contain ALL of the tracks, with many of those afore-mentioned vinyl exclusives still being, well, exclusive to vinyl. But for me, it wasn't even about owning the exclusive stuff. I just really like their music! Aah, how much I wanted to own the 12" single New Life (with that excellent Rio Mix of Shout! on the B-side, one of my favourite DM tracks) but finding an affordable copy in a condition that was playable was pretty much impossible. I would stay up late at night, praying to the Dark Lord Satan and all of his unholy imps, that I would one day be able to own the Depeche Mode vinyl back-catalogue of 12" singles. Well, thankfully it seems that my prayers were answered (although the cost of this is as of yet unknown to me. I do seem to have started to age prematurely, and I keep throwing up a viscous black substance that squeals when it has a bright light shone upon its glistening surface. Praying to the Dark Lord can play merry havoc on your body and soul I can tell you). SPEAK & SPELL: THE 12" SINGLES is exactly what you expect it to be: a boxset of the 12" singles released in the Speak & Spell era (so basically their earliest singles), being: Dreaming Of Me, New Life and Just Can't Get Enough, all featuring faithful reproductions of the covers / artwork, newly remastered audio (and these do sound good!) pressed onto 180g black wax, and presented in a fancy numbered box, complete with download card. Dreaming Of Me is instantly a pull for fans as this was one of their only singles NOT released on 12" (it got a 7" release in 1981 and a CD single release in 1991), so this is the only way to own it on the 12" format. Another huge draw is the inclusion of a red split 7" flexi disc, another faithful reproduction, with Depeche Mode's Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead and Fad Gadget's King Of The Flies sitting on the only playable side. The original pressing was given away with a copy of Flexipop Magazine in 1981, so it's a nice little inclusion here (it's also worth noting that the download card allows you to download all of the tracks from the boxset apart from the Fad Gadget track). Oh and there's a - once again, faithful reproduction - of the original marketing poster for the Just Can't Get Enough single (a track which any 80's aficionado should recognise).
This is a first in an ongoing series, with boxsets already available for the A Broken Frame, Construction Time Again and Some Great Reward eras. Hopefully more will follow. They're pricey, unfortunately, but it's a great chance to own the singles on vinyl, in new condition, at a more affordable price than buying the original pressings. Still, it would have been nicer if these boxsets were a little cheaper. All of this being said, as a Depeche Mode fan who is also a vinyl fanatic, this boxset is easily my Music Release Of The Year™, but I can understand it's not for everyone. DM fans will already know if this is something they would want, people who are on the fence or perhaps not familiar with Depeche Mode would be better off listening to the songs online first before putting down quite a large chunk of cash to invest in this series of vinyl boxsets. Personally speaking, I'm a pig in shit and I JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH haha ha hahaha ha haha haha haha ha ha hahaha
Ugh. I thought this guy died back in 1966? This album certainly sounds like he did. Music Release Of The Year™.
- Mark Anthony Finch