What I’m Listening To On My Way To Work This Week

I have enough time each week to listen to approximately 5 albums. It’s harder than you might imagine, for a nut-bar like me, to choose a mere 5, but I soldier through it each and every week. Do I pick a particular theme, making sure I painstakingly select bands in the same genre? Hell no. It’s all about variety of mood, ‘cause each day brings different issues and problems which brings out different emotions, and I don’t really feel like listening to “Fun Fun Fun” by the B-Boys after a particularly tough day at work. So it’s all about fluctuation.

Here’s this weeks selection:

Trans Europe Express by Kraftwerk: No other electronic band, before or since, has been able to graft emotions into machine music as successfully as Kraftwerk, and this is their absolute peak. Less naïve than Autobahn (although that album’s title track remains my all time favorite cross country driving song), TEE finds the band poking fun at themselves (Showroom Dummies) and penning beautifully melancholy songs such as the title track and Europe Endless. Icy is not a word I’d use to describe any of Kraftwerk’s albums, especially this one.

Self Titled by Paul Weller (Deluxe Edition): His first as a solo artist. I missed the whole Style Council period save for a few singles (Long Hot Summer, Speak Like a child, etc), so this album really has a special place in my collection. It’s where Weller got back to basics, but it’s also where he penned some of his most creative and weirdly psychedelic tunes, The Strange Museum and Kosmos leading the pack. Like the majority of his “periods”, he would reach a peak (Wild Wood or, some would contend, Stanley Road), fall from commercial grace for a while, then make a remarkable comeback (22 Dreams) album reminding everyone of his genius.

Lysergic Legacy by The Fuzztones: The best of the best of the best of the early 80’s garage band revival, and still going pretty strong today! Mixing the sonics of bands like The Seeds and the lyrical concerns (E.C. horror comics, psych wards, etc) of bands like the Cramps, The Fuzztones were harder, faster and a great deal funnier than their contemporaries. Songs like Strychnine, Ward 81, Cinderella and, ahem, Johnson In A Headlock are mini genre masterpieces. If you can find it, run out and buy the proper album Lysergic Emanations. This one is a compilation. And please don’t blame them for the likes of The Hives or the Vines, please. It’s not their fault!

Armed Forces by Elvis Costello: This was the first Costello album I bought, and it remains my favorite. This is often the case for me, that the first album I buy from an artist remains, after many years, my favorite. Is this the case for anyone else? Accidents Will Happen is probably my favorite album-opener, period, and other songs are just as steller: Senior Service, Goon Squad, Moods For Moderns and Two Little Hitlers are pure, Elvis Gold. Other fans will cite This Years Model, or Get Happy!, but I will always contend that this is his best album.

Soul Mining by The THE: The THE or, more specifically Matt Johnson, is one of the most underrated songwriters of the 80’s and 90’s, and this is the album that started it all. Of course the hit off Sould Mining would, ironically and somewhat ludicrously, come to prominence via a supremely silly M&M commercial (This Is The Day), the album as a whole is a deeply schizophrenic affair, containing words of hope and despair in equal measures. The album stands the test of time for me thanks to little bits of traditional instrumental brilliance, like getting Jools Holland to contribute a fantastic piano solo in the middle of Uncertain Smile. You may want to start with Mind Bomb, but after you discover the wonders of that particular record, get this.

…and, time permitting, the Smiths debut album, still a breathtaking listen after almost 27 years since it hit the shelves. God, has it really been that long?