A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how I was slightly obsessed with the long-running BBC radio series Desert Island Discs, even though I had never heard an episode. The resulting list featured eight songs, a luxury item and a book. I enjoyed writing it, and it felt good to share a bit about why I like the music I like, so I thought I’d do it again. The book and luxury item bits were a bit tacked on, it felt, so I’m ditching them for another disc. Likewise, I think it should be noted for clarity that I am not on a desert island; I am in my office, in the North East of England. And it is raining outside. Just a bit.
Disc 1: Part of the reason I wanted to write another post is that, as soon as I finished the last one, I remembered a load of bands and artists that I had forgotten to mention. The first of which / whom was Devin Townsend. Technically a solo artist, albeit under the guise of many a band name, Devin has been at the forefront of avant-garde prog and extreme metal for decades. His talent knows very few bars, but his imagination is unfettered. His song Deadhead is always a favourite of mine, one which takes me to a very happy place. Curiously, Devin was for a time a member of The Wildhearts.
Disc 2: A little more contentious is a Swedish satanic rock band, called Ghost. Contentious for several reasons: Firstly, they dress up as clergymen, and so are derided as a joke band by many of the metal community; secondly, they sing love songs to the dark lord, and that doesn’t go down well in every market; thirdly, rumours are that what started off as a band has descended in to an acrimonious one man band. Rumours aren’t always true, but good music goes a long way: Ghost have consistently put out music which lifts my devil-loving soul. Are you on the square? Are you on the level? Ghost are.
Disc 3: Before there was Ghost, its members were in several other bands: SubVision, TID and Magna Carta Cartel. One of the indicators that Ghost were in redux was the re-emergence of two of these, TID and MCC. The feeling amongst many fans was that as one band changes before our eyes, two of our other favourites – for many years feared long gone – were now able to resurface. And resurface they have, with spectacular returns to form from both. MCC’s soundtracks to films not yet seen have been firm favourites of mine for some time; it is wonderful to see them back in the light once more.
Disc 4: Mansun or Manson; Manson or Mansun. Either way. When growing up, two bands with very similar names were big influences on me, albeit with very different sounds. One was fronted by a towering myth of a man, with a woman’s name. The other were a group of misfits from Chester. OK. Now they are both back, albeit without the bands which once stood beside them. Marilyn Manson is putting out some of the best albums of his career, sending his classic material to the back of the line for the first time in decades. We Know Where You Fucking Live can blow the rooves off buildings.
Disc 5: A far more delicate proposition is Paul Draper. Erstwhile frontman and creative force behind the superb British Indie band Mansun, Paul has recently returned from the wilderness with some of the best pop music I have heard in years. While his comeback may not have been so critically lauded as that of the Reverend Manson, it is by far the more arresting of the two, detailing the paranoia and the persecution of a band falling apart. Wide Open Space may have soundtracked my teens (along with Coma White), but The Silence Is Deafening seems to fit my thirties pretty damn well too.
Disc 6: On the subject of bands who were massive influences on me when I was growing up, let us pay a visit to one of the best: The Wildhearts. Fronted by a lovely fellow Geordie called Ginger, The Wildhearts were of huge inspiration through many very dark times of my life. Shot through with jet black humour, a hefty thirst and some big fat riffs, The Wildhearts had a gift for a catchy tune, and a bitingly intelligent lyric. With the confident swagger of a nostril full of cocaine, and the self-doubt of a life spent listening to naysayers, they really were that good. Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes.
Disc 7: In a similar, but sillier, vein are the mighty Terrorvision. Ostensibly from the self-same musical stable as The Wildhearts, but cut from a much shinier cloth, Bradford’s finest are another band with quite the thirst. If I hadn’t fallen for Terrorvision I would never have found The Wildhearts, but they mean so much more to me than that, with a good bounce to Oblivion being the highlight to many a night in a rock club. Their darker moments were as melodic as their happier tunes, and their song titles were more influential on me than they ever should have been. Whales and dolphins, Yeah!
Disc 8: Continuing our walk down memory lane takes us to Elastica. I was OK with the whole Britpop thing; I was more Blur than Oasis, but there were far more interesting bands than either of those. My favourite was Elastica. Their self-titled debut album is something I have listened to every few months since it was released. I am so close to it that I can’t tell whether it has aged or not. It is punky and poppy and perfect. They have an itchy, New Age, Post Punk power to them, and a set of lyrics which never fail to pull me in to their world. For me the go to songs are 2:1, S.O.F.T. and Never Here.
Disc 9: Last but not least, let’s try something silly. There are a bunch of young men out there, drunk, who are singing expertly written, perfectly crafted songs about pirates. Not just pirates: pirates, ham and getting monumentally drunk in a variety of bars around the world. Over the years we have seen them go from one trick ponies to galaxy crossing legends, telling tales as big as the very span of time itself. They are Alestorm, and they are as mad as a box of very drunk frogs. Alestorm are one of the bands which put a pogo in my step and a silly smile on my face. Check out Shipwrecked, for a laugh.