A group of friends buying and reviewing albums bought from Amazon Marketplace for 1p. A monthly experiment in reassessing the music that now gets criminally undersold.

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Bought by James for Jonty

Bought because…

At 15, Sister Hazel were perhaps my greatest obsession. A subtle folk-rock band blessed with the limited imagination required to throw extended instrumental interludes into otherwise singer-songwriter style pop-rock songs, they sat alongside ska punk act Less Than Jake as two reasons to believe Gainesville, Florida – a place I knew nothing about – was something of a musical Mecca. I stumbled across the five-piece through ’10 Things I hate About You’, a teenage romcom claiming some high-brow references in Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, where the track Your Winter plays over one of the key scenes. … Somewhere More Familiar arrived three years earlier than Fortress, the album featuring that particular ditty, and never quite matched it, but does offer a decent sample of what the act are all about.

In truth, I’m not sure how good the album actually is. Having formed a teenage attachment, it’s hard to separate its summery melodies from my earliest festivals, dipping my feet in the dating world and blasting things in bad cars during my final school years. The band still hold the dubious honor of being the only act on that movie soundtrack I’ve never experienced live. If I try to be a touch objective, listening now they remind me of Counting Crows and The Goo Goo Dolls. I can imagine the vocals becoming grating. The jazzy licks aren’t quite as sharp or interesting as they seemed at the time, and tracks like Superman are definitely rubbish. Then again, much of the pop-rock scene that dominated the musical horizons of the start of the century sounds dated now. I’m not even sure I like the vocals, but on balance I still love the album.

Sentimentality can go a long way, and my first dabbling in 1p Album Club fits in to just that category: this isn’t an album that many of my current social circles have likely ever heard. Is it actually an unheralded gem of the pop rock world, or has it dated worse than I did when I listened to it? Over to you, Jonty… (I’ll be better to you next time!)

The Verdict…

Sister Hazel are a band totally unknown to me. Weirdly, James sent me this album which is from 1997 and the first album I sent him is also from 1997 (and considerably different).

I should explain one detail – I’m deaf (hence my twitter tag of @deafjonty) but can hear music with some degree of accuracy. Oddly, I can only hear bass sounds in one ear and high in the other so there are gaps in my hearing. It meant that listening to this album on an iPod took me a heck of a long time to get to grips with the music.

I found it initially rather one-dimensional. Talented musicians playing quite intricate rhythms and melodies (on an iPod, this album is very messy-sounding). However, as time went by and after playing it through speakers, it’s sorta won me over. It’s an interesting album – it’s in the vein of classic US acoustic rock with a distinctly country feel. It never quite teeters into country music but skirts it. There’s a weird multiple time thing going on – I got the impression that one part of the band were playing a different song to the others, which if memory serves me right was a bit of a common thing in the latter parts of the last decade of the century.

It’s quite hard writing about an album that, as James says, is part of his own personal mythology. I think I’ve heard this at the wrong time in my life – I’m not as receptive to its themes as I might have when younger (and judging by James’ age at the time he discovered this album, I’m a lot older!). There’s something about US bands that turned up in the latter part of the 90s which I find bit disconcerting. They’re so desperately trying not to ape grunge that they veer off into other musical territories which don’t quite work.

Having said that, there are some songs which I’ll keep listening to: Cerilene’s a lovely wistful song about a passion for a girl and the desire to keep her in your life; All For You is a great little song about wondering why you like someone when you’re not sure how that is.

In summary, an interesting first choice from James. A little less musicality (if you get what I mean) and it would have been a very good (rather than merely good) first choice

Standout track…

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Bought by Stan for Dave

Bought because…

I noticed that the majority of the albums being reviewed for 1p Album Club were from a certain period in time and there was a massive lack of representation of the 80s - a decade of excess, hair spray and shoulder pads. I am a child of the 80s and anyone who knows me knows that I am the biggest champion the decade that some people claim taste forget. So my mission is to educate people that the 80s truly were a decade that produced brilliant artists and albums.

Some people snigger at the mention of Duran Duran but these guys for a period of time were the biggest thing on the planet. They were the big hitters of the British new wave revolution of the 80s and one of the pioneers of the MTV music video. The Birmingham band released Rio in 1982 and just take a look at the album cover; it’s iconic with that beautiful pop art lady that blazed over our friend Mike’s t-shirt for a number of years. I have picked to send this to Dave as he more than anyone will give a fair review and honest review to what I consider one of the great time capsule albums that boasts three hits singles and, in Hungry like The Wolf, one of my favourite singles of all time. It’s one of those albums you can almost hear the women screaming over it like a live concert.

I have no doubt that Dave will enjoy it. To everyone reading this - give this album a chance and embrace one of the best party albums you could buy for 1 English Pence. So sit back enjoy a little taste of the album that made hair spray sales for men go up 1,000% and without a doubt realise you know more lyrics from Rio than you previously though you ever did.

The verdict…

Despite having a penchant for 80s pop, I’ve never been a huge fan of Duran Duran. I’ve got a soft spot for A View To A Kill, and think Ordinary World is a bit special, but the likes of The Reflex, Girls On Film and Rio have always left me a little cold. As for their cover of 911 Is A Joke… Shudder! However, it’s important to enter these things with an open mind, so I decided to give Duran Duran another chance to impress me.

Getting past the title track, which is still a bit too smug and chintzy for my liking, I was pleased to discover that I really enjoyed a lot of this. I’d never realised how good a pure pop song Hungry Like The Wolf is before, and was pleased to be able to re-evaluate it, but I was even more surprised at how atmospheric this album is in places. The Chauffeur, which ends the album, is positively creepy, and the fact that Simon Le Bon’s vocals seem emotionally disconnected really add to this effect. This was a different side to the Duran Duran I thought I knew, and it’s a side I liked a lot more.

Lonely In Your Nightmare is another haunting song, with a coldness to the synths that is very effective, whilst Save A Prayer is pretty beguiling, with a really good chorus. The difference between some of these album tracks and their better known pop hits reminded me of hearing Simple Minds’ excellent, yet austere, Empires & Dance when I previously knew them solely for Don’t You Forget About Me.

I’m genuinely grateful to Stan for buying Rio for me, and it’s nice to have my original opinion on a band challenged. I’d probably still use The Reflex as a song to pop to the bar to if I was dancing at a wedding reception, but at least now I know they’re capable of much more. A pleasant surprise.

Standout track…

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Bought by Rhys for Michael

Bought because…

A few years back during a bout of insomnia I was flicking through the TV stations late at night when I stumbled across a documentary about Jake Thackray. The next day I went out and bought an album and he’s been part of my life ever since.

A singer songwriter made famous in the 60s writing weekly topical songs on the TV show Braden’s Week and then in the 70s for That’s Life, the guy has such a way with words, his songs are often like big long funny tongue twisters about anything from death (The Last Will and Testament of Jake Thackray) to men pretending to be nuns (Sister Josephine) to the infidelity of a police man’s wife (It Was Only A Gypsy). His Wikipedia entry refers to him as a “North Country Noel coward”, I’ll say no more than that.

The minute I saw that there was a 1p Jake CD available I had to buy it for someone straight away and seeing as I had just agreed to a 1p swap with Michael who had listed folk first on his list of musical preferences it didn’t take me long to decide who to buy it for.

I do prefer Jake’s live material to his studio work as his songs are so unconventional that when he works with a band it sometimes feels a bit too safe compared to when he’s live and can take extra liberties with his timing but any opportunity to share Jake’s work with other people gets me really excited and I hope this CD gives Michael the same buzz as I got when I first heard the incredible and unique Jake Thackray.

The verdict…

I’d never heard of Jake Thackray when this arrived from Rhys, and by the cover it looked like a crooner in the ilk of Sinatra. It couldn’t have been further from Old Blue Eyes. The very in-depth liner notes explained that Jake was a “Singer-Songwriter in the French Tradition”, which raised an eyebrow before the CD went in the player. In layman’s terms I’d label Thackray as a comedy singer, in the broadest sense. Unlike modern incarnations of the genre such as Lonely Island and Tenacious D, Jake doesn’t wade near aggressiveness or confrontation, and it’s heightened because of this and even though it was recorded in the late 60s and early 70s, it still felt fresh. He attended Durham University and his northern dialect and diction make him stand out from the crowd.

He is accompanied most of the time with just one guitar, playing exceptionally, and his lyrics are intricate and weave a story throughout each song. Lah-Di-Dah sees him put behind his differences and get on with his in-laws for the sake of his wife with lyrics like "And so I’ll smile and I’ll acquiesce, When she invites me to caress, Her scabby cat". Sister Josephine reveals a highly regarded Nun as a man and as we slowly realise this, his lyrics keep adding to the hilarity. The most ludicrous, The Hole, had me laughing out loud even after a couple of listens.

It is an album you have to listen to though. I first heard it in the car and I wasn’t paying too much attention and soon realised I’d missed a tonne of intricate layers that all added up to a big pay-off. On my second listen I did what the liner notes say: “Pull up a chair, sit down with a glass of something and imagine Jake right there in front of you”.

My favourite on the album is The Lodger and not only as it has the funniest concept, but also it’s a live recording and you can hear how he feeds off the audience.

One drawback though is as it’s a Best Of there are 21 tracks ranging over 10 years and after listening twice through, I was exhausted! Great, but maybe 10 tracks at a time.

Thanks to Rhys for introducing me to Jake. A 1p success.

Standout track…

The Lodger by Jake Thackray on Grooveshark

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Bought by John for Rhys

Bought because…

Some albums are very much of a time or place. For me, this is one of those records. My family moved to Essex from East London when I was still young, but I kept in touch with mates from my Newham days and almost every visit back in 1998/99 was soundtracked by Rafi’s Revenge.

Listening to the record again with modern ears suggests it’s not the world beater my teenage self considered it to be. The drum and bass rhythms that underpin many of the tracks sound very dated at times and the occasionally political lyrics are a little bit wannabe Rage Against The Machine to really make any impact.

That’s not to say this album still doesn’t pack many punches though. It remains an innovative record and it can still serve as a great soundtrack to getting ready for a Saturday on the sauce. Having got to know Rhys a bit since we started this swapping lark, I just have a sneaky suspicion he will see value in this record and that this will be a chance for him to rediscover an album he also perhaps liked in his younger years…

The verdict…

Asian Dub Foundation supported Rage Against The Machine when I saw them at Wembley back in 2000 but due to some bad last minute planning our trip from Pontypridd to Wembley and finding a hotel for the night took longer than expected and we ended up getting to the arena half way through ADF’s last song; at the time I wasn’t bothered but in hindsight I’ve often wished we’d arrived half hour earlier.

I’ve listened to Rafi’s Revenge more than any other 1p album I’ve received mainly because I couldn’t make my mind up about it and I still haven’t.

When they are MCing/rapping (whatever the correct terminology is) I really like them but the instrumental parts bore me. Tracks like Naxalite and Black White are great Asian tinged, politically and racially charged rap songs but on the other hand tracks like Charge are little more than a couple of loops and almost feel like unfinished songs.

I don’t own or listen to anything remotely similar to ADF so I turned to Wikipedia for help but they list Rafi’s Revenge as Bhangra, punk, dub, drum & bass and breakbeat. I know nothing of any of these genres except punk (I do own a Squarepusher album but have yet to pluck up the courage to listen to it) so won’t embarrass myself or insult anyone who reads this by trying to pass off comparisons I’ve just read elsewhere on the internet as my own; I’ll just leave you with that list of genres because if that doesn’t mean anything to you then a list of similar artists won’t either.

Overall I’ve played this album about a dozen times and I’m still undecided about it. I’ll definitely be listening to this again although I think I need a break from it for a while.

Finally, I wish we’d turned up at Wembley half hour earlier all those years ago even more now that I’ve heard this cd.

Standout track…

Naxalite which is bursting with punk energy and by far the poppiest track on the album

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Bought by Andrew for Jamie as part of our Big Christmas Swap

Bought because…

I chose this album because the vibe I got from reading his “likes”, was that he likes heavy music, but also digs a good melody. 

Cave In are a massively underrated band (who I admittedly had forgotten existed until today), and I figured they loosely fall under the category of “all things grunge” which Jamie likes. There are some huge tunes on this album and I hope Jamie likes it!

The verdict…

I actually burst out laughing when I opened this…but in a good way. I knew Cave In from when I was younger as I’m sure most of us do and I quite liked them but was never a committed or paying fan. They were hugely unpopular amongst my friends, partly because they weren’t Good Charlotte or One Minute Silence and partly because they covered some nonsense by Led Zeppelin and the other half of my friends were Led Zep loving arseholes. But despite me liking the Cave In stuff that’d appear on Kerrang! their most lasting legacy in my life was that their name became the punchline of a lewd joke from my youth. 

I was very interested in this album when it arrived, they were heavily publicised at the time and it was a period where I probably read about bands more than I had the opportunity to hear so I knew all about how Dave Grohl burst into flames the moment he heard them and despite barely knowing what the new stuff sounded like, I knew that their old-school fans were so disappointed by the new sound that they’d hang around outside venues hoping to hear old songs at sound-checks… but I obviously had no idea what that sound was. I did briefly want to own Jupiter but that never happened - so it was nice to finally spend some time with this seemingly storied and journeyed band that I knew literally no fans of.

The album is actually really good, strong sounding quasi-progressive quasi-emo quasi-hardcore - it rocked and it sulked and I couldn’t help but think that I’d really have benefited from this as a teenager. I could totally see why Andrew would think to get me this based on some of the artists I listed, it’s kind of a mix of all my old favourite Alt. Rock leanings. If the album had a downfall it’d probably be lyrically, some of it sounding a little like the rhyming of a local teen band, which probably wouldn’t have occurred to me at all in 2002 - but it isn’t necessarily for me to judge the emotional expression of a man from across the sea. I’ve listened to the album a zillion times since getting it and I’d definitely like to get acquainted with more of their catalogue, which is a pretty good sign. An adventure ahead!

An album like this really does highlight the strengths of the 1p Album Club and of music ownership in general, I could have streamed this album in full at any time in the past few years but I get the impression that if I had I’d have given it a few songs before my whim took me back to Blue Nile or some other favourite. The commitment of ownership has seen me stick with an album that is out my regular listening habits and from a group I never took all that seriously in the first place - and I’ve reaped the reward of enjoyment. I generally don’t bother to watch the DVD/Multimedia content on these things but seeing as Andrew was kind enough to buy it for me I thought I would and it really was nice to see these guys playing huge stages while remaining massive massive goofs, a highlight being an impromptu wrestling match which seemed to be won with The Walls of Jericho submission, another old favourite of mine. Seeing these guys giggling their way through their tour made me really glad to see that these guys are still going as the band really did seem to mean the world to them and it’s hard to not to warm to that. Thanks Andrew, I really enjoyed this.

Standout track…

Hard to pick a decisive favourite as the record is nothing if not consistent, but it’s Joy Opposites. though the Dark Driving video on the DVD might be my actual favourite recording.

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Bought by Rhys for John

Bought because…

After sending John some more testing albums lately I thought I’d reward him with an album he is sure to love this month. I first heard This Is Who You Are by The Beautiful Mistake when a friend lent it to me, I put it in my car on a trip to Birmingham and it stayed there all week.

At first I was captivated by the stunning My Reminder which I put on repeat for about an hour, then Cold Hearts got put on loop then Wide Eyes. Everytime I played this album I seemed to discover a new gem.

I promptly bought myself a copy and gave my friend back his assuming he’d be anxious to get it back but he said “Not sure I’ve even listened to it”… and I still don’t think he has which is a shame because I’m even more sure he’ll like it more than John will.

This is one of my favorite albums of the past decade and My Reminder is one of my favorite tracks ever.

The verdict…

In fairness to Rhys, he has sent me some excellent albums since I started participating in this whole swap malarkey a few months ago. He’s introduced me to the delights of Cay, amused me with Billy Bob Thornton, surprised me with the Bloodhound Gang, confused me with Alec Empire and brought a big smile to my chubby chops with Mariah Carey.  His hit rate has therefore been pretty good. It is therefore inevitable I suppose that the cup run was going to end one day. 

I hate writing anything negative about the selections made for me by Rhys. It feels like my inability to connect with a 1p emo inspired mid noughties album is letting us both down in some way.  I can only reassure Rhys that it’s not him, it’s me….

There is nothing inherently wrong with The Beautiful Mistake as a band and this record is reasonable enough. The melodies they peddle are fine, the musicianship is reasonable and the singer has a decent voice. The production of the album is good and the lyrics are OK. The record also has a little bit of depth, something emo bands often struggle to achieve without getting it badly wrong (Staind) or shouting (most overrated bands between 2000-2004). That alone deserves to be commended.

My problem with this album is that it is merely OK. It feels a little bit like The Beautiful Mistake are going through the motions. In reality, I suspect the band were aiming for the big league by incorporating a slice of Keane or a splash of The Fray into what I imagine was previously a more standard emo brew. Unfortunately, the end result is a tepid album with few memorable moments. When it goes for straight out emo, it’s far superior to more successful and well-known peddlers of the genre. However, the gold standard emo album for me is Diary by Sunny Day Real Estate and we are well below that. A fairer target for it would be The Devil and God Are Inside Of Me by Brand New, but it lacks the guts and grunt that made that album so special because too many of the tracks here are aiming for bigger venues. 

The Beautiful Mistake are a reasonable band and this is a reasonable record. The problem is just that – they are reasonable in a musical world containing so many good or excellent singers and bands. Reasonable is forgettable and I fear that is the fate that will befall this album as it nestles to collect dust in my collection.

Sorry Rhys.

Standout track…

My Reminder is a good track that stands up well. 

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Bought by Michael for Rhys

Bought because…

Whilst I was at uni, my housemates and I were typing in random names into Audiogalaxy, a pre-iTunes illegal download site. We typed in our nicknames to see if anyone with the same name had ever made music (rock n roll). As my results popped up it was a surprise to see so many songs by a ‘Kent’, my nickname. We downloaded the top song in record time (about 7 minutes, it was about 2003) and found this unexpected gem of pop rock. It was, however, sung in Swedish. Even so, Om du var har was a staple on the pre-pub playlist. Years later when I was surfing the far faster web, I googled Kent once more and found they are megastars in Sweden and had recorded English versions of a few of their albums. Hagnesta Hill is their best English album (also recorded in Swedish). It’s chock full of Scandinavian cheesy Eurorock and I bought it for Rhys as he said he enjoys a good chorus. There are choruses aplenty. 

The verdict…

My favourite part of contributing to the 1p Album Club is receiving a CD by an act I know absolutely nothing about. I often buy myself albums I’m unfamiliar with just because it has an interesting cover, has an interesting title or interesting song titles, or maybe the producer has produced another album I like but essentially these are completely blind purchases, however when someone chooses a cd for you they must see some sort of merit to it so when I an unknown quantity like Hagnesta Hill by Kent turns up in the post I get excited.

The first thing that struck me about Kent was that they have a male singer, I had assumed that the striking looking girl on the cover would be the singer but now I’m not even sure that she’s part of the band. 

What I found listening to the album was that so much of it seemed familiar, I hadn’t heard any of it before and I’m not saying it rips others off because some of the songs I was reminded of were released far later, the intro to The King Is Dead reminds me of Take That’s Patience for example.

I’m trying hard not to pigeon hole Kent too much as Hagnesta Hill is quite a varied album but it’s very true to the time it was released (1999/2000) with big doses of that loud/quiet sound used by Cay and My Vitriol and vocals that often soar at the end of lines like JJ72 and Muse. There are also some disco influences on tracks like Just Like Money and Music Non Stop and I think their pop rock sound is reminiscent of Redd Kross

Overall this is a good album but lacks a bit of heart which could have made it a really good album, whether that’s because English isn’t the band’s first language I couldn’t tell you but I have struggled to get invested in the emotion of the songs (although that never hindered their fellow Swedes Abba).

This album is a pleasant addition to my collection but I am unlikely to actively seek out any of their other material.

Standout track…

Heavenly Junkies with a chorus very reminiscent of Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes gets me singing along every time.

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Bought by Leah for Ben C as part of our Big Christmas Swap

Bought because…

In the early ’90s, Pavement were my band. Their bratty suburban college-kid vibe spoke to me in a way that that grunge nonsense never did; it was scratchy indie rock guarding a heart of pure pop, and I loved it. And even though Stephen Malkmus’ bored, vaguely tuneless delivery could only loosely be described as singing, it still made me swoon in my corduroys.

I’d always thought Slanted and Enchanted was my favorite Pavement album and, originally, I’d sought it out for the Christmas swap. Now, listening again years later, I’m appreciating how Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain cleans up Slanted’s low-fi ramblings and fine-tunes things for the wider audience that the band were seeking. Longtime favorites are the popular single ‘Cut Your Hair’ and the jangly perfection of both ‘Gold Soundz’ and ‘Range Life’; now, I’m finding ‘Cut Your Hair’s’ cheerier cousin ‘Elevate Me Later’ and the simmering ‘Newark Wilder’ are making a deeper impression on me. I’m glad I wasn’t able to find a cheap copy of Slanted and went for this one instead!

Quick anecdote to end on: When Pavement came to my town in ’97, I was too nervous to tag along with the reporter and the photographer (now my husband) from the college paper who went to interview the band. My husband, dear man, took it upon himself to ask Malkmus for his autograph and shortly after presented me with a paper plate that said ‘To lovely Leah, from Stephen Malkmus’. Listening to this album again is a bit like getting that unexpected message, a note from a long time ago, and it’s even sweeter than I remembered.

The verdict…

Swapping albums, even 1¢ albums, with strangers is fraught with danger. What if your swap partner tells you they have sent you one of their favourite albums of all time, and then it arrives and turns out to be by the Stereophonics? What to do then? It’s probably best to change your address and never mention the 1p Album club ever again, after all, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  So imagine my relief when I pulled my 1¢ album out of the padded envelope and it was Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement.

‘Cut your hair’ was one of the first songs I can remember hearing on the Evening Session, and it still sounds magnificent and fresh today. Sounding to me like a harbinger of the pop-punk popular later in the decade (it came out in 1994), in a parallel universe it is the final song of a 90s teen movie, when the mismatched couple have finally embraced plaid, grunge hair, and each other; It is also one of the few songs about the perils of the music industry that is, well, good.

I should confess here that I bought Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain many moons ago, on the strength of ‘Cut Your Hair’ and the reputation for being difficult and experimental, which seemed very cool and daring to a teenager in rural Scotland (Did you know they used to have two drummers, one of whom was much older than the rest of the band, and completely insane. So insane he isn’t on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain). Fortunately, Pavement were never avant-garde enough to let wilfully experimentation get in the way of a great tune; Like everyone, I like the idea of experimental music much more than the reality of actually listening to it.

But then Britpop happened, and Pavement weren’t cool anymore. More recently whilst I’ve occasionally put on Slanted and Enchanted or Wowie Zowie (the last Pavement album I paid attention to), I’m not sure where my old CD of Crooked Rain is these days. So it was a great pleasure to be ‘forced’ to listen to this CD twice for the purposes of 1p Album club. It was like being reunited with a slightly erratic, probably drunk, but thoroughly charming raconteur of an old friend. Stumbling from discordant noise to pop punk, with loads of quiet – loud bits, and songs that sound like they might fall apart at any moment, all shot through with a country twang, somehow they keep it all together.

The experimentation I imagined back in ’94 really seems to be a band trying on (and looking good in) a variety of different styles over the course of 43 minutes, coincidentally the perfect album length. Instrumental ‘5-4=Unity’ so funky it could have been sampled by the mid-90s Beastie Boys. ‘Hit the Plane Down’ sounds so much like a song by The Fall, I imagine I can hear Mark E. Smith on backing vocals. The aforementioned ‘Cut Your Hair’ is indie/pop perfection, whilst ‘Range Life’, the stand out track on the album, is a country song for people who hate country, sounding like the wide-open spaces of America. ‘Range Life’ is weary tale of being lost in the world, where Steven Malkmus (the singer) finds time to bemoan the behaviour of the Smashing Pumpkins on Tour (I’m guessing, and this is going out on a limb, that Billy Corgan was a bit of a dick to him) and diss forgotten grungsters Stone Temple Pilots.

Overall, it was joy to rediscover an album that I know well, but hadn’t listened to for years.

Standout track…

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Bought by Jamie for Andrew as part of our Big Christmas Swap

Bought because…

I actually found this a little nerve wracking - though a useless skill beyond recreation and Birthdays, buying records is always something I’ve liked to think I’m good at so finally having the chance to publicly fail at it was a little worrying. The anxiety was magnified when I learned that my fail-safe option of Phil Collins’ Face Value was ineligible due to the massive 39p asking price. While I could totally see why I was partnered with Andrew (who is lovely), us both sharing an interest in things with fuzzy guitars and certain ‘emotive’ sounds, the majority of his listed groups were a pretty big blind spot for me, at least to the point that I was fairly convinced any record I’d think to buy based on those choices was going to be one he’d already owned for ten years or so (which would have been the biggest failure of all). But I stuck with it, trying to learn a little more about Andrew, he’d charitably already told me off the record that he was also a fan of “all things Grunge” and a Nixon-esque scan of those he was following on Twitter revealed Villagers and that’s where the idea formed. 

I went with Berkeley’s Hope, Prayers & Bubblegum (2002/Supremo Recordings) recorded by Steve Albini (grunge!) and featuring Tommy McLaughlin  who now plays and produces in Villagers. It didn’t quite fit the “British Rock” tag he gave me considering that they’re Irish but the rock press of that era always seemed happy to lump the Irish and Welsh in with the English when it suited them so I did the same. Besides, Andrew didn’t strike me as nationalistic about his riffs.

The album has been a big favourite of mine for a long long time and though it seemed to get great press and they played good bills (admittedly, I think I saw and first heard them at an All-Ages Subverse show when I was 14-15, probably supporting The Kennedy Soundtrack) but they were pretty unknown in my circle of friends and they get harder and harder to Google by the day. The things I loved the most about it were how rough and raw it was (opening song New Heavy was so frantic that it still makes me think of New Noise by Refused), big and distorted, while Tommy’s voice could go for miles, stretched and strained to perfection - something else I enjoyed was that seemingly  the entire latter half of the album sounded like the LP’s closer, feeling like a test of emotional exhaustion - but executed beautifully with great accessibility. It was one of the early purchases of mine that opened my mind a little to the idea that there were different ways of doing things, whether it be raw mixes, unconventional melodies, degenerative song structures or just an independent release, I appreciated how unpolished these songs sounded and I’m sure it was a better influence on me longterm than a lot of the other things I was enjoying in that period. The idea that the album is now only 1p is pretty absurd but a small mercy too as for whatever reason it isn’t a record that made it onto the “digital revolution” so seemingly the only way to hear it is to pick up a cheap second hand copy. I’d obviously prefer it if these guys stood to profit a little from their hard work but as long as the record lives on in some capacity then I’m happy. It pains me to do this day that their “Fuck This Gig” t-shirt is unavailable.

The 1p album is a tricky thing, it naturally lends itself to something that was mass produced in the early/mid 2000s back when we were still handsome and stupid as sin. It’s a difficult thing to present an LP from that tender time to somebody afresh and hope that they can appreciate it to the same level that you yourself did and I’d never expect Andrew or anybody hearing it for the first time today to love this record as much as teen me did - but I do hope they enjoy it. It holds a special place in my heart and I still think the songs justify that space. FYI, the follow-up album was very good too.

The verdict…

Upon ripping open my 1p album (Berkeley - Hope, Prayers and Bubblegum), I was delighted to find that not only was it a cd I didn’t already own, but as a bonus it was a band I hadn’t heard of before.  

I will admit that my curiosity got the better of me and I didn’t listen to it “blind”.  A quick trip to Google and five minutes later and I was eager to get listening after learning that the album was produced by Steve Albini, and that Berkeley had played with some of my favourite bands (Rival Schools, Jetplane Landing, Jimmy Eat World).  On paper, I love this band already. 

It’s a good listen all the way through, with a strong garage rock, post-grunge feel.  Is that a thing? Anyways, heavy guitars and shouty vocals are always a good thing in my opinion. 

The album starts off upbeat, and during the opening song Tommy (that’s right, first name terms now) yelps out his half sing/half scream vocals over dissonant riffs much to my delight.  

For the most part though, it’s a mid-paced affair and they execute the age old formula of “quiet verse / loud chorus” to great success. They slow it down a bit it the middle of the album, but as the songs slow down the choruses just get bigger and bigger which doesn’t disappoint.  We’re even treated to some unexpected falsetto in Colour Me In.

I found myself often reminded of Blackened Sky, and also got the occasional Built To Spill vibe. There was also the surprise of some slap bass somewhere in the middle…

All in all this is a solid rock album which I will most definitely be listening to a lot of.  I’d recommend to a friend/stranger. 

Standout track…

New Star, Follow Through and Never-ending Song

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Bought by Rhys for Mark as part of our Big Christmas Swap

Bought because…

Radiator were one of those bands that I really thought would be huge, the first 2 singles I heard (Resistor and Black Shine) were an amazing mix of Led Zeppelin riffs and processed beats. Back in 1998 I was certain that all future music would sound like Radiator.

Anyway, when the album was released I was disappointed. Not that it was bad, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations for it. Without that weight of expectation I wonder how this album stands up; is it a disappointment or am I being overly critical of it? I’ll let Mark decide.

The verdict…

Context. I had not heard of Radiator. The Wikipedia page is sparse at best. The sleeve art is confrontational yet obscure - posterised photo, shades, leather and stencil typeface. The sleeve notes thank magazines I’ve never read and radio stations I’ve never heard and bands in which I have little or no interest plus “Mad” Frankie Fraser and Claire Sturgess who I am now reminded exists. Unlike most of the albums currently on the front page of 1p Album Club I have absolutely no context for this but thankfully I note a couple of negative write-ups so now don’t feel quite so bad about not liking this.

The band recorded the album themselves, in their basement. Dave Bascombe mixed a handful of the tracks. I know his name from his contemporaneous work remixing single versions of songs some of which I like but are too embarrassing to recount here. A bit of Googling brings up several NME reviews. They are mostly poor notices but they at least corroborate how I imagine my 18/19 year old self would have reacted had he/I heard this album at the time. Thankfully this is almost exactly the same as how the 33 year old me reacted. Phew, eh?

"Prodigy in reverse" seems to be the leitmotif of the scribes; simply "metal guitar music with synthy bits" rather than "evil house with occasional metal guitar". It is difficult to disagree no matter how lazy the comparison. The bass is impressive, reminding me somewhat of Mani’s playing with the XTMNTR-era Primal Scream.  Slightly trebly, yet deep and distorted, groovy and cool. The synths seem somewhat tacked on, almost as if the songs were written as standard metal fare and someone had a lightbulb moment. My thoughts go back to Morrissey’s I Like You which had been a drippy thing when it first emerged live until suddenly it was decided for the album version to underpin it some Funky Drummer chops to cloying effect.  Lyrics are sadly forgettable which unfortunately sums up the whole album for me.

Standout track…

Standout track is ‘Untitled Love Song’ which, apart from lead single Resistor, is the least metal-sounding track here and features that whistling synth sound that is one half Metroid Prime, one half Fastlove. Also it concludes with a sample of a freight train passing which SHAT ME UP PROPER as I stood with my iPod listening loudly on the platform of Redditch station awaiting a delayed 18:57 cross-city to Birmingham New Street.

[NOTE: Sadly ‘Untitled Love Song’ is currently not online, so here’s Resistor]