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 Chris J for Liam

Bought because…

I first heard Billy Bragg at a boozy party. When New England came on, one of my friends started singing along quietly and then strangely everyone else went quiet and watched him sing out the rest of the song. Quite blown away by this tender song and moment I sought out more Billy Bragg stuff and ended up with a greatest hits compilation and this gem - Don’t Try This At Home.

I absolutely love this album, probably more so than his earlier stripped down stuff. Although it’s more pop, the lyrics still have a social conscience and the songwriting remains as strong as his earlier stuff. I listened to this album for years before realising what great collaborators feature on it - Johnny Marr, Kirsty MacColl, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe. This album just makes you want to sing as loudly as you can in your best Essex accent.

The verdict…

I was really happy when this album came in the post. I love doing these 1p album swaps for the new music it’s introduced me to, but sometimes there’s nothing better than having the perfect excuse to revisit an album you’ve not heard in a long time. Years ago, Don’t Try This at Home was the album that got me into Billy Bragg; it’s one I’ve happily revisited since its arrival in the post from Chris and one I’ll happily rave about here.

Billy Bragg is a strong character. He has little room for subtlety in his foghorn voice and little room for subtlety in his very vocal politics - both of which can be alienating to new audiences. My wife (and I don’t think she’s alone in this) refers to listening to Billy Bragg as ‘worshipping at the Church of Bragg’, such is his tendency to preach. I feel this too at times, but it’s one of the things I love about him. Whether you come away thinking he’s wrong or thinking he’s blinkered in his views, well,  I’d argue that’s a good thing. The point is that you come away thinking – there are not many musicians who so successfully get people thinking and challenging ideas the way Bragg does. Billy, if you’re reading, next time you’re asked about mixing pop and politics, there’s your answer.

I’d argue that Don’t Try This at Home is the classic mix of Billy Bragg’s strengths – writing about the political, the personal, and the humorous. You get his trademark acoustic pop with a social conscience in the form of anti-war Everywhere, the less-than-subtle pop-preach of Sexuality, and Rumours of War, but this social and political is all brilliantly balanced with the intensely personal.  Moving The Goalposts is as intimate as songs can get (“Heavens above, can this sticky stuff really be love?”) and Tank Park Salute is a beautiful reflection on family, fathers, perspectives of age and death.  Add humour into the mix with God’s Footballer (“He scores goals on a Saturday, and saves souls on a Sunday” and Mother of The Bride (“It’s nice to know that someone was on my side. Best wishes to the mother of the bride”) and you’ve got yourself a great album.

What Bragg balances so well on Don’t Try This at Home is this mix between the serious and frivolous, and the personal and the political. It is all of these side by side that really makes this album. This is not a heartbreak album, or a party album, nor is it a musical manifesto – it’s all of these things. In arranging the album with such an even mix, he adds a subtlety to the album that is absent in his vocals.

If you’ve got a spare penny (well, it’s currently 19p at time of writing) this is an album well worth buying. It’s a great entry to the canon of Bragg falling at a great pop midpoint between his early one-man-and-a-guitar angst and his later more produced full band sound. Thanks for the excuse to revisit it, Chris!

Standout track…

I’m going to break from conventions and go for a couple here. Tank Park Salute for its delicate sadness, and Sexuality for the sheer gall of being a ridiculously cheesy, preachy and clichéd Bragg moment that actually manages to be pop gold. 

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Bought by Rhys for John

Bought because…

Combining hip-hop, rock and country Jason Downs is one of those acts that I love but my friends don’t get at all. However when I met my wife it was playing her this album that made her think I was cool (not sure what that says about me and/or my wife but we like it).

Not sure what John will make of this as it’s a complete Marmite album, but he’s been game for some odd choices in the past so fingers crossed this’ll float his boat.

The verdict…

"What the fucking hell is that?"

My wife is not prone to using such language, but in this instance her deployment of the industrial vernacular was entirely understandable as the first track on this remarkable album faded away.

Rhys has really excelled himself with this one. This album achieves the incredible feat of sounding entirely familiar and yet unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It combines all sorts of musical styles in each of its tracks and yet still sounds coherent, tuneful and listenable.  

At its heart, I think this is a pop album with one eye on lazy afternoons spent with mates and a crate of beer. At times, it veers dangerously close to the kind of ballads that have become cheesy boy band fodder. However, just as you can imagine Downs reaching for a chorus from a bar stool, he drops a sublime rap, some lewd lyrics, a few novel beats, a great pop melody or some gentle guitar playing. And on the one occasion he plays it really straight (Cherokee), he gives us a really potent and meaningful track that out ballads the best.

This is an excellent record.  I’m not sure I will return to it on a regular basis and I don’t feel the urge to get anything else by Jason Downs. However, I do strongly feel that this album will enrich most collections – if for no other reason I guarantee you will pop it on and even those with the most varied of musical tastes will inevitably ask a similar question to that raised by my wife.

Standout track…

I could pick almost anything, but I have to go for White Boy With A Feather just because it’s first thing I heard on this strange album

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Bought by Liam for Dave

Bought because…

If memory serves me right, it was Dave that gave me my first introduction to The Get Up Kids when he put Holiday on one of the regular mixtapes he’d make for me as a teenager. In the summer after leaving sixth form, just before I went to live abroad for a year, I got into a conversation about how much I loved Holiday with another friend who then made me a tape - on side A was their second album, Something to Write Home About, and on side B was Reggie and The Full Effect’s Greatest Hits 84-87,  the side project of Get Up Kids’ keyboard player. That tape then went on to provide the soundtrack to a year abroad, making new friends and missing home – not just for me, but for the circle of new friends I made and passed the tape around. Particularly side A.  

There can be no better album for wallowing in homesickness than Something to Write Home About. Lyrically, it was like someone had tapped my thoughts for material – even though the album’s about being a band on tour, and not an 18 year-old on a year out. Musically, I loved it – it was loud and aggressive to satisfy my teenage angst but melodic and melancholic enough to be more than just a great party album. I still love it and am still, the best part of 15 years later, yet to buy an album that so instantly and deeply chimes with my situation. The synchronicity of listening to Out of Reach and yearning for home is something I’m yet to experience again with another song so strongly and instantly.

Anyway, you can probably tell I was hoping to buy Dave Something to Write Home About; I’d love to read his thoughts on the album that I loved so much and one that he initially led to me getting. As it wasn’t available for 1p I couldn’t buy it as part of 1p Album Club. Instead I found Eudora for 1p, which is b-sides, covers and demos from the same recording period as Something to Write Home About. It’s not got the cohesive feel of a regular studio album, but it’s got some great songs on it, including one of my personal favourites, Impossible Outcomes. I hope Dave enjoys it.

The verdict…

Right from the start, I should highlight one thing: I really, really like The Get Up Kids. Their 1999 classic Something to Write Home About would sit pretty comfortably in my top 20 albums of all time, and I once took a day off work just to travel from Coventry to see them play in London. So, I was pretty excited when this album turned up. Even the realisation that this was a collection of rarities and covers didn’t hamper this, as there are some rarities albums I love: They Got Lost by They Might Be Giants is on a par with a lot of their studio albums, in my humble opinion.

Therefore, it pains me to say that I didn’t love Eudora. The problem lies with the covers that make up 7 of the 17 tracks on offer here. What The Get Up Kids do so well is write nice, simple guitar pop songs. Nothing fancy, just heartfelt tender vocals and earnest lyrics. This earnest nature means that they are too reverential to the originals, failing to stamp their own personality on the songs. Beer For Breakfast isn’t a Replacements song I’m familiar with, but within 20 seconds of it starting, I knew exactly which band this was a cover of: it sounded just like The Replacements, but not quite as good. Their versions of Regret by New Order and Alec Eiffel by the Pixies are equally pointless. Worse still, their version of Suffragette City is actively poor, stripping the song of any swagger or spark.

However, just because I didn’t love the album, doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. The Get Up Kids are still a great band, and it’s the originals here that make the album worth listening to. Opener Up On The Roof is fantastic, the best song here, because it actually sounds like the Get Up Kids. The Breathing Method is a slowburner, building up through a rolling bassline before exploding into life, whilst there are fun alternate versions of Ten Minutes and I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel, which stand out like an oasis in the desert of weak covers. With over half the album being good, it’s well worth investing in for 1p - it’s just not a great as I’d hoped.

Standout track…

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Bought by Chris J for Liam

Bought because…

I was lamenting the loss of my university laptop MP3 collection the other day and remembered two great bands that were in there; Stapleton (with a great EP called Chez Chef) and a collection of singles by Stellastarr. Well both bands have 1p albums out there so I thought I would give Stellastarr a go first. I’ve never even heard the album, just those epic songs that were on my laptop - Jenny, A Million Reasons, Somewhere Across Forever and My Coco.

I wondered if the album ever lived up to the quality of those early singles, and thought Liam would be a good judge of that. According to wikipedia Stellastarr are still around. And surely it’s worth buying this album for Somewhere Across Forever alone?

The verdict…

Stellarstarr are a band that completely passed me by. Seeing the name written down jogged a vague memory but only because of the * at the end of their name (I’m still not sure if it’s actually a part of it or a quirky addition for the artwork). I tweeted a picture of the album when it arrived and the replies told me I was in for a treat. Having since listened to little else I can confirm Twitter was right, it’s a great album.

It honestly is a great album, but it’s an odd album. Odd in the sense that so many riffs, melodies and hooks within it sound so similar and derivative of other better known artists, but yet as a whole sounding very original. Perhaps it’s because I’m a fan of so many of the bands I hear within the album that I don’t mind the sound-alikeness. Rather than being bad copyists, I like what they do with the familiar.

To give examples, the slowed pace post-chorus of Jenny recalls The Pixies’ Where is my Mind? while Pulp Song  and No Weather for me bring to mind the vocals of The B52s. Elsewhere I hear David Byrne in the driving vocal delivery of the verse of My Coco as well as Robert Smith at his most passionate.

While their influences are very much on their sleeve, it does become a fresh sounding mix of the familiar. The sum of its derivative parts is a great album that’s not been off my stereo for weeks. This has been a 1p album that’s been completely new to me yet I’ve listened to it more than many albums I’ve bought recently and paid full price for. I highly recommend it.

Standout track…

To be honest, about 40% of the album could qualify as standout – it feels like an album packed with singles – but I think I’ll have to go with My Coco.

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Bought by Joel for Simon

Bought because…

When Simon asked if I’d like to do a 1p album swap, one band sprang to mind immediately. Back in December, Simon compiled a list of 2013’s best sub-two minute songs, and I suggested that he include Score, a short ‘n’ squelchy number from the Young Knives’ rather scary fourth album, Sick Octave.

The Young Knives are a band who have been with me for a while now. My first exposure to their delightful blend of anger and Englishness came when they supported The Rakes in 2006, and since then, I’ve seen them live on more occasions than any other artist. I caught them at a short-lived festival called Cardiff Calling (a.k.a. Get Loaded in the Park, a name that was presumably changed when someone saw it and went, “heh, like with drugs”); I saw them at Reading ‘07, where they previewed some of the songs that would later appear on Superabundance; more recently, I witnessed a rather more confrontational Young Knives set in Clwb Ifor Bach. They played Sick Octave in its strange, experimental entirety while we enjoyed some black and white footage of nude people.

Now, Voices of Animals and Men was the first proper Young Knives album, and it’s a very different beast to Sick Octave. Just because Simon put Score on his list doesn’t mean that he’ll enjoy this record. Still, I’m curious to see what he makes of it; I still think it’s a very good album, and while my hip, Libertines-loving friends were all rather bemused by songs like She’s Attracted To  ("You were screaming at your mum and I was punching your dad!") and Weekends and Bleak Days ("Hot summer, what a bummer") back in ‘06, I’ve always enjoyed this album’s angular riffs and its various expressions of boredom and frustration. Some of these songs are very dark indeed, not least the small-town existentialism of Loughborough Suicideand the post-death musings of Mystic Energy.

The verdict…

I have to admit I was in two minds when the Young Knives CD dropped through my door. I’d only heard two of their songs previously, one of these was Score, a great song that Joel had previously recommended for a sub-two minute playlist I put together last year. The other was Hot Summer which I’d seen as a bit of an irritating novelty song since I’d heard it about eight years ago. Based on these past experiences part of me was excited and the other part of me was adamant I just wouldn’t like the album.

I’ve also always thought that the Young Knives were just a bit wet, about as rock n roll as Scouting for Girls (I have to admit even they have a couple of songs which are quite catchy though). David Mitchell, as much as I love him, wouldn’t look out of place in their line-up. They obviously just weren’t cool enough for me at the time (or more likely it was just me being a twat!).

And that’s the beauty of the 1p Album Club. It’s about driving reappraisal of albums you didn’t think you’d like at the time, it’s about discovering hidden gems and it’s about putting your prejudice of a band’s image to one side and just enjoying their music. By doing that it also proves that one song doesn’t make an album cause, do you know what? I fucking love this album! 
I also think I finally understand what all the fuss has been about over the years - the Mercury Prize nominations, the critically acclaimed albums etc. Really it’s me who has been a bit pants for not getting involved sooner…

Anyway, onto the album. It kicks off with the excellent Part Timer before the momentum continues into the brilliant past single The Decision.
Then comes the moment of truth - Hot Summer. To be honest it’s better than I remember it was, however, I still think it’s the weakest song of the album. The lead singer does his best PiL era John Lydon impression throughout most of it but it’s not bad enough to be skippable and fits very nicely where it is.  Still, I’m surprised they chose it as a single when there are so many other stronger songs on the album.

Moving on and the album just gets better and better, without another John Lydon impression in sight. In the Pink bounces along nicely whilst Tailors proves they are not just a one pace band and that they can write softer songs. The only downside is that there aren’t more of these scattered throughout the album. Then towards the end of the album ‘Loughborough Suicide’ provides the quirkiest and catchiest song about suicide that you’re ever likely to hear.

So, what initially was a slight feeling of disappointment has now turned into an album that I will revisit time and time again. Thanks again to Joel for buying this for me, I will definitely be discovering some more of their back catalogue after this.

Standout track…

Loughborough Suicide for its spoken word / catchy chorus crossover that (apart from my daughter’s ‘Frozen’ soundtrack) is my current earworm

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Bought by John for Rhys

Bought because…

Since joining this most esteemed of clubs, my swapping escapades with Rhys have tended to be restricted to selections that fall within the Indie/Alternative genre. I wanted to try something a little bit different this time round by sending a collection of songs from a bygone era.

Buddy Holly is a musical titan.  I grew up listening to his stuff in the car as both my folks were massive fans. This collection of some of his finest recordings illustrates just how influential, exceptional and visionary he was as a recording artist. Brown Eyed Handsome Man and Bo Diddley are rock and roll stompers that equal anything being recorded at the time. True Love Ways encompasses a bit of studio banter at the beginning before dropping a melody that swoons its way to heaven. Peggy Sue Got Married mocks the three minute pop song by delivering perfection in a smidgen over two.  Best of all for me though is Midnight Shift. Over a chirpy tune, Holly drops a marvellous lyric that still resonates now. Sublime stuff.

I’m not a huge fan of Heartbeat and the opening few tracks lack the strength of the back three quarters of the album. However, for 1p this is an absolute steal from a musician so visionary that even his glasses were decades ahead of the game.

Surely Rhys will like this one…

The verdict…

Buddy Holly is an artist I’ve always had an interest in through references in other things but never got around to investigating further; I love the Weezer track of the same name, I love The Lemonheads cover of Learning The Game, The Young Ones sketch about him is one of my favourites and for some reason I have vague memories of watching a film about him English class at school leading to me and my friends writing alternate lyrics to Everyday for the next few weeks.

I’ve always been put off buying a best of Buddy though by the quality of some compilations released of older artists. Not the song quality but the actual sound quality with fast buck merchants often releasing low quality recordings without any sort of re-mastering, these releases often leave me feeling short changed. Unfortunately its hard to know which releases are good and which are not especially if your knowledge of the artist is minimal.

There is an element of the poorer quality recordings on offer here but that is likely due to the singer’s untimely death which resulted in many demos being mastered and released posthumously, given the circumstances they sound pretty damn good.

This compilation was released in 1994 and was likely as a result of Nick Berry’s cover of Heartbeat from the TV show of the same name. With geek chic being all the rage at the moment and variations of his hiccup style of singing seemingly on every other synth led pop song I heard in all the trendy clothes shops my wife dragged me in today, I think another Buddy Holly revival (sorry but I couldn’t think of a more tasteful way of wording it) is long overdue.

An album crammed with perfect two minute rock’n’roll/pop classics including That’ll Be The Day, Heartbeat, It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, Words Of Love and Peggy Sue, a list that somehow seems even more incredible when you consider he died less than two years after his first chart success, it’s Buddy Holly and it’s a penny - buy it!

Standout track…

Despite fond memories of Everyday and a lot of love for Learning The Game I have plumped for the energetic Oh Boy as it stands out even though I wasn’t too familiar with it before receiving this album.

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Bought by Rob for Liam

Bought because…

Rewind 20 years ago and I’ve just seen (or heard – the exact history at this point is lost to the vagaries of time) Runaway Train for the first time. And it has resonated with me, the shy, timid scrawny 12-year old of a lad that I was, with the force of a neutron bomb. Telling the story of disaffection and loneliness (my parents had almost certainly just split up) it was poignant and heartfelt and left a massive imprint on my developing sense of self.

I saved up my pocket money and bought the record from which the single came, Grave Dancers Union, (we didn’t have a CD player at the time) from the now long-gone Monkey Time Records in Cannock one Friday after school, and have loved this album ever since.

It’s by no means a classic – it’s not even Soul Asylum’s best album – something you can only truly appreciate with a bit of time and perspective, but the reason for sending this album to Liam for a 1p Album Club review stems from a brief discussion about their finest moment in my opinion, And the Horse they Rode in onfollowing the announcement that the chaps at 33 1/3 were looking for new submissions.

Anyway, And the Horse… was available for 1p at one moment in time, and I was originally going to get it, but it was now up to 4p and as such exempt from purchase. Sitting chronologically next to  And the Horse…, and a kindred spirit in style and sound, Grave Dancers Union was the next logical offering and I hope Liam enjoys it.

There’s definitely plenty to love; Soul Asylum’s story is one of the perennial underdog done good. From humble beginnings in Minneapolis as the third-tier supports to The Replacements and Husker Du, they were loved locally but ignored nationally. As both of those struck big, Soul Asylum floundered at A&M, despite releasing their finest body of work (Hang Time and And the Horse…). Following hiatus, and singer Dave Pirner’s growing hearing problem, the band regrouped and somehow hit the big time with Grave Dancers Union, ironically achieving far more success than their Minneapolis peers in the process.

It’s something of a double-edged sword though. Even today many people think of Grave Dancers Union as Soul Asylum’s debut, meaning their largely excellent back-catalogue of post-punk/proto-grunge alternative rock goes criminally ignored – and yet I’m somewhat propagating this myth by plugging the ‘safe’ option. But for me, this album is always about far more than just the music. This was my gateway into first The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and the Afghan Whigs, then Pavement, Dillon Fence and the Gin Blossoms. Even now, at the age of 33, it’s hard to find another album that has had such a profound impact on my listening habits.

The verdict…

Before this arrived my knowledge of Soul Asylum was limited to Runaway Train. I’d always mentally pigeon-holed them as 90s one-hit-wonders but when I tweeted a picture of this album on its arrival, the response showed that maybe I was wrong – there was a lot of love for Soul Asylum. A quick Google also showed that they have a career almost as old as me, so one-hit-wonders they are not.

Somebody to Shove is a strong opener with an intro reminiscent of Guns and Roses and the palm-mute and aggression of classic ‘77 punk. While it may have the refrain of "I want somebody to shove” it also has a driving sugary chorus. This and Black Gold, with its reverb-heavy acoustic and power chord chorus, quickly and firmly set the pop-rock tone for the rest of the album.

Runaway Train comes next and, despite it being the one song I already know well, it surprised me how it didn’t jar or stick out - a sure sign for how strong and consistent the early part of this album is. Runaway Train is quite simply a great song; it’s stupidly simple, stupidly good, and brought back many memories.

While the album opens incredibly strongly, it does fade off into patchy territory after track four. Keep It Up may have soaring sing along chorus you can imagine being played alongside Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, but it’s followed by the slightly too cheesy and cliched Homesick.

Get On Out comes next and is a fairly nothing song that just sounds formulaic. The general theme of the lyrics is "I tend to worry about stuff, but I should really stop that." Its the 90s pop rock equivalent to a Keep Calm and Carry On poster. That said, it’s nothing compared to April Fool - a cheesy song in which Dave Pirner awkwardly pretends to be drunk and sings of "doing anything to be cool". Its a shame as it’s got a phenomenally great chorus, but it also has the nauseating moral vibe of the episode of Saved by The Bell when they all sit around talking about saying NO to drugs.

Grave Dancers Union is a funny album. On the whole I’d have to say it’s a very average album but with some well above-average songs. As an album, it’s patchy, front-loaded and dated in parts, but it feels wrong to dismiss it as merely ‘average’ as the album’s strong points are really strong. The first four tracks are truly excellent and sadly it’s the fact that the rest of the album doesn’t live up to this that makes it hard to get too excited about. A band I’ll definitely be checking out more of though - a great introduction for a penny. Cheers Rob!

Standout track…

It just has to be

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Bought by Jonty for James

Bought because…

The latter part of the 90s - a period when the whole Britpop era/thing was collapsing under its own stupidity (Be Here Now is still totally unlistenable and the less said about the show I saw on that tour … ). There was an endless stream of bands desperately referencing The Beatles but sounding like nineteenth-rate Oasis copyists. It was a horrible period in (British) pop generally.

I was desperately trying to find music that didn’t sound like sub-Liam vocalists and sub-Bonehead rhythm guitarists at the time and in one of those slightly serendipitous moments I picked this album mostly because I liked the cover which I found strangely enigmatic. Santa Cruz only released this one album (and a song which was on the cover CD for The Big Issue’s 6th anniversary – obscure, huh?).

It starts with what sounds like the rumble of train wheels on tube tracks and brakes being applied, followed by a fascinating mix of classic early 90s baggy drum beat and a John Squire-like guitar line. That’s Sail On. That initial blast of music settles down to an album dominated mid-tempo tracks, lyrically mostly about someone else but expressed indirectly. Musically I can hear bits of the Beatles, Crowded House, Stone Roses, early 80s lush pop (ABC, that kind of thing). It’s this refusal to adhere to one particular genre I liked about the album.

The key song for me is Vultures – just a guitar and a lyric that captures a certain kind of Anglo-melancholy which I’ve always found deeply attractive (Starsailor’s Love is Here picks up a similar theme). It’s on an old mix tape that I rediscovered a couple of years ago and brought roaring back memories of an old unrequited love from that era. This is why I picked this album out – it’s a snapshot of a memory of that time in my life. I still wonder what happened to Lyn in the years since.

Like James’ first choice, I can’t tell if this is a good or bad record, it’s too entangled in my memories with the emotions of the time. Our next respective choice, however, will be a bit of a bromance, I fear!

The verdict…

Disagreeing about music’s half of what being a music nerd’s about, right? I hadn’t seen Jonty’s ‘bought because’ section when I first stuck on Santa Cruz, and when opener Sail On hit the first chorus, that vocal slur just screamed Liam Gallagher to me. Equally, though, that isn’t quite such a negative for me. Though I was born in the early 80s, my education in music is very much as a 90s child. The first album I ever owned was Oasis’ What’s The Story (Morning Glory), which I still consider exceptional. I rate Blur too, and Pulp are an absolute shoe in for my top five bands of all time, even above the two aforementioned giants.

This Santa Cruz album, of course, comes from the era when even us Oasis fans can admit that the band’s quality was already on a downward slope that was to continue right up to the point where High Flying Birds and the cringe fest that is Beady Eye seemed like a good idea. I wouldn’t like to lump Santa Cruz in with that: Way Out is definitely better, but it carries that same hopeless, dour lyrical tone, laced with a modest hope. See my personal stand out Rocket Man, a Stone Roses-esque pop song that closes with an unlikely bleeping future scape of digital effects, a love/hate tracks that hints at the power shift that was to change British politics from then on.

Way Out could only be British: while I’d never heard of Santa Cruz before this dropped on my door mat, it reeks of our inbuilt melancholy; the outlook of a nation that prefers the expression ‘not too bad’ to ‘great’ when asked how we’re doing, and finds a certain comfort in the distinctively minor key style of acts like Joy Division, Radiohead, Portishead and Suede.

Do I like it? The most honest answer is probably that I would have liked Way Out a lot if I’d heard it 17 years ago. I can appreciate how it might worm it’s way into a psyche, like it did for Jonty, and tracks like Scissorman and Vultures still stand up to modern musical standards fairly well for me. It’s well produced, as you’d expect from a major label release, and has a nice sense of completeness as an album.

The low points – like 30 Degree Below – sound seriously dated. I can’t picture myself spending a lot of time with Way Out, but equally it’s not an album I find less than a perfectly pleasant listen. Like many albums of its era, repeat listens have suggested to me that it’s style sounds better through poorer quality speakers. Not a ringing endorsement, admittedly, but the tinny edge to my PC’s built in gurglers actually fits the tone.

At the very least, I’d give ‘Rocket Man’ a spin. It’ll take you back.

Standout track…

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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…