Ian and Phil Jackson are the father / son duo that ARE the post punk band Nutopians. Not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves, they’ve become one of my go to bands over the last few years. Indebted to The Chameleons (that’s The Chameleons UK to us in the US), Echo & the Bunnymen, and the Buzzcocks (among others), the band has a way of writing post punk gems for the modern era. Over the last few releases, Ian’s vocals have become more confident, Phil’s instrumentation more articulate. The band’s latest full length – their 3rd – is their strongest offering to date. Indeed, Civilisation is an early contender for album of the year.
When I was about 19 in the mid 90’s in the midst of the Britpop scene, I used to wander the aisles of the Princeton Record Exchange (Princeton, NJ) looking for the latest and greatest up and coming bands. Back in those days record collecting wasn’t as easy as following the links on the “world wide web”. You had to read, read, and read some more. And sometimes, I went with my intuition if an album cover caught my eye. And so it was with the 2nd Strangelove album, Love and Other Demons. A “blind” purchase, if you will – it instantly became a favorite record. There was a connection to the band Suede, but I truly had no idea about that when I bought the album. It has remained a treasured album in my collection for over 22 years since. A perfect mix of hope, melancholy, and a sense of being out of control. I loved it, love it, and will always love it. Singer Patrick Duff in particular spoke to me on a deeper level. Lyrically, I related to the themes of loss, love, and despair. Vocally, he was somewhat indebted to the nuances of Depeche Mode’s David Gahan, as filtered through the glam rock sensibility of Suede’s Brett Anderson. The years passed, the band sobered up, broke up, and Patrick forged his own path as a solo artist. But that path was quite unlike any he had walked before.
Part 47 of a series that will run throughout 2013 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays
In 1997 at some point – the exact details are hazy – a friend and I set out to see a show at the TLA on South Street in Philadelphia. The headliners were a band called The Seahorses, featuring John Squire, formerly of The Stone Roses. Although I had their record, I really wasn’t there to see them (and as it would turn out, I wouldn’t even stay for their set that night). The opening band was a band called Mansun who had recently released their debut record, Attack of the Grey Lantern.
The mid 90’s was a strange time period for a wannabe hipster latching onto the Britpop scene. Oasis, Blur, Pulp, and Suede (that’s The London Suede for us Yanks) were all clearly within the genre, but there were dozens – if not hundreds – of bands that didn’t quite fit so neatly into the tag. I bought anything I could that was lumped into the scene, sometimes based on an article I’d read in an import music magazine whilst killing time at Barnes & Noble. I’d read about Mansun, and their glam inspired look combined with decidedly non britpop musical leanings pulled me in. Their 1st record quickly became a favorite of mine, culminating with the show I caught at the TLA. They ended their set with an incredible version of their 1st single “Take it Easy, Chicken” and my friend and I felt like there was no way The Seahorses – John Squire and all – could ever top Mansun. And so we left the venue. Upon reflection, this may have signaled the end of my personal Britpop phase.
Part 40 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays
Perspective can be a curious thing. In the context of the present, a struggle can seem insurmountable – the prospects very dim. With the benefit of hindsight you can look at that very same struggle and think to yourself “It was well worth it. It made me the person I am today”. Everyone’s struggle can be different, and who are we to judge the plights of another fellow human being? You can view this statement in the context of just about any situation you may face in life – whether it is a personal attack on your core beliefs, financial struggles, or even getting a debut record heard by the masses. It isn’t a stretch at all for me to say that the 1st record by Dido, No Angel, was a slow burner that has gained mainstream recognition.
I’ll probably repeat myself many, many times over the course of my reviews when it comes to one topic that puzzles me – the term “hipster”. What does it mean? What does it denote? I’m still not certain, even after reading about how I live in the hipster capital of the United States (Yes, Seattle beats out a few other cities I thought would be ahead of us). Death Cab for Cutie were considered an up and coming indie band up through 2003’s Transatlanticism. This, along with The Postal Service‘s Give Up (Benjamin Gibbard’s side project with Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello, also released in 2003) appears to have been the peak of anything about Death Cab for Cutie appearing hip. From there, the band adopted mass acceptance which in turn turned the hipsters against them. I’ve liked or loved everything they’ve done though, and I approached the news of a solo Benjamin Gibbard album with curiosity – how would it differ from the band’s albums?
Radiohead have always been a bit of a polarizing band in the indie elitist music community. I view them as the music world’s version of Apple Computers – have a bit of an outsider feel to them, absolutely the best at what they do, and really, really successful. As much as I love almost everything Radiohead has released (with the exception of most of Pablo Honey), the reviews ushered forth from other “indie” music websites were so laughable in their utter fan-boy adulation for ANYTHING Radiohead released it honestly made me a bit Radiohead jaded. For all of the praise on Thom Yorke’s lyrics, consider this comparison:
In 1993 I was starting 11th grade in a suburban Philadelphia high school and as most kids are at that age – uncertain about a lot of things. As things tend to do for teenagers things always came back to music. This was a very strange time to be in high school – we had the emergence of grunge with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. On the opposite side we also saw the rise of Dr. Dre, newly solo from the group N.W.A, his protegé Snoop Doggy Dogg, and gangsta rap. Honestly, I loved it all. There was also a strange pop-ish band out of Sweden evoking the spirit of Abba that went by the name of Ace of Base. I remember sitting in my behavioral science class with a friend who was a huge Pantera fan and we started talking about how many times we had heard the song “All That She Wants” on the radio that day. Strangely we both agreed – it was a pretty damn good song. What’s the correlation? Lana Del Rey is 2012’s version of Ace of Base – catchy as hell, a bit polarizing, and a lot of fun.