A GUEST POSTING by ECHORICH
Fine Young Men – An ICA of Opening Tracks
Yup, I have set myself up. Loving the idea of this ICA series, I have to go and challenge myself to give my offerings some sort of thread or connection. This, of course, makes things just a bit more difficult. But on I will proceed…
This ICA of album openers is linked together by the fact that all the tracks included are by artists that have turned my head as solo artists at one time or another. In the case of one of the artists, I can honestly say I’m not really a fan, but the album in question quite impressed me in its audacity and genuine successful execution. Pop, a bit of Leftfield and Alt Rock are represented in here. I have to give myself some credit for not going the easy route, for me at least, and picking tracks by Post Punk artists from the early 80s. I think the oldest track included is from the mid 90s.
FINE YOUNG MEN
1. Losing Sleep – Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep
Five years on from a series of devastating strokes and brain hemorrhages that left him having to relearn how to basically function, a mixture of personal tenaciousness and the love of a good woman, Edwyn Collins returned with his first post-recovery album. Much of the album is autobiographical, but the essence of the album is centered in his innate ability to craft a great Pop song. The title track gets things off to a fast-paced, buzzy start. It’s like the albums manifesto or mission statement.
2. Life And Times – Bob Mould – Life And Times
Being the father of a sound that merged hardcore with Alt Rock, Bob Mould could be excused for not ever traveling far from what made his career in Husker Dü. But he’s never rested on any sort of laurels that were thrown his way. Sugar veered his attentions toward Power Pop and he has explored Electronica more than a bit over the years. Life And Times is my favorite solo Mould album and it gets off to an impressive start with the opening track that is full of personal angst and confusion over the love of another. It’s my favorite Mould solo song.
3. Forever J – Terry Hall – Home
It’s 1994. Rock + Roll has become a mystery to me. Bands I was really into in the late 80s and early 90s have either fallen by the wayside or changed their sound to survive, first Grunge and then Britpop. Shoegaze was my refuge from Grunge, but it was steady pushed aside or compromised by the new Britpop sound. I couldn’t manage any excitement for Blur and Oasis, Suede was maybe a bright spot in Britpop’s tainted, murky waters. Ian Broudie’s Lightning Seeds managed to hold my attention by not being “scenesters” and staying true to their Pop roots. 1992’s Sense included a number of collaborations with Terry Hall – including that album’s fantastic title track. So when in 1994, Hall released his first proper solo album Home, it was in my possession the day it arrived on this side of the Atlantic. It remains one of my favorite albums of the 90s and that is bolstered by this slightly sad, very reflective opening track.
4. Miami – Baxter Dury – Prince Of Tears
Baxter Dury’s musical persona is the equivalent of 007, 15 years on from his last assignment, still scraping by on a reputation as a lady’s man in an age when no one would ever dare use the term, having traded in the crisp black tux for an aging white linen suit. For me, he has released one smashing set of songs after another. 2017’s Prince of Tears might just be the best of the lot. Miami opens the album with a dirty groove that sets the scene while it closes in until right inside you.
5. Welcome To New York – Ryan Adams – 1989
Ryan Adams – hmmm I really can take him or leave him. When it was announced he was releasing a full album cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album, it seemed like an amusing idea and worth seeing just how unlistenable or twisted it might be. Well, shit if I was completely wrong! Adams teases the singer-songwriter quality right out of each and every track on the album. But the most astonishing interpretation is the opener, Welcome To New York. He has somehow turned the track into the song that’s been missing from every Bruce Springsteen album since The River.
1. Gradually – Ben Watt – Fever Dream
After a good 15 years creating an producing some brilliant House Music, Ben Watt decided to return to writing and recording Rock based music. His first effort Hendra, in my opinion, was a triumph of very personal, singer/songwriter focused songs that seemed deeply personal, yet very approachable. The follow-up, Fever Dream, expanded on that sound while including some jazzier and familiar Everything But The Girl stylized tracks. The album’s opener, Gradually, is about the intensity of love as a positive and a destructive force. Watt sings with a particular honesty in his voice that gives the track an uncomfortable piercing edge.
2. Make Me An Offer I Can’t Refuse – Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension
The opening track of Sufjan Stevens’ latest album The Ascension is a triumph of melding Electronica with the singer/songwriter structure. The album is Stevens once again reinventing himself. It is a 180º turn from the almost harrowing beauty of 2015’s Carrie and Lowell. This opening track ebbs and flows, soars high, glides, and then dives like a magic carpet ride. The final section of the track builds and builds to a spectacular end.
3. Pale Green Ghosts – John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
I have a thing for idiosyncratic singer/songwriters, as if that’s not already apparent. John Grant might just be on the top of that list. You can’t pin his sound down and he certainly makes music for his satisfaction and our appreciation. He’s no stranger to a great Pop hook, a sleazy dance beat or a cinematic coda. That’s all here in spades on the title track opener of his 2013 album Pale Green Ghosts.
4. Sandriam – Perry Blake – Still Life
Perry Blake is a personal favorite of mine. He has worked with Steve Jansen of Japan, which is what brought him to my attention. But while Blake is obviously influenced by later Japan/Sylvian, Leonard Cohen and maybe even Nick Drake, there is a sort of grand and dulcet vocal approach that sets him apart. Sandriam opens his second album Still Life and feels like it should be accompanied by images of weather-beaten castles and abbeys or long shots of the sea off of grassy cliffs.
5. Black/Colin Verncombe – The Love Show – Blind Faith
We lost Colin Verncombe just 16 days after David Bowie, in January of 2016, that “annus horribilis” for music. He was a master of his craft who never gave up on his vocation, regardless of whether he had hits or misses. For his last album, Blind Faith, he had returned to his stage name Black. It is a beautiful collection of songs that shows off his adept touch at Pop, Crooning, and acoustic songs. The album opener, The Love Show, is simply a beautiful, intense, symphonic love song. Every time I hear it, the chorus stays with me for hours.
And here, as before on Mondays, are both sides of the ICA as stand-alone listens. 70% of this ICA consisted of songs that were previously unkown to me…which meant I wasn’t aware most were opening tracks on albums. I really like the running order that Edchorich has come up with on both sides. (JC)