Though the midst of a global pandemic might not seem the ideal conditions to move to another country, as I write I am on a bus from Praha to Nürnburg, final destination Düsseldorf. With Covid cases rising fast in Czechia it appears that the country might very soon be on the danger list for Deutschland. It may turn out that I’ve barely avoided a mandatory two week quarantine. Phew. So what was I listening to on my last month in Praha?
Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible
Epic – 1994
The prospects of a move to a new life appears to have put me in full reflective mode and the urge to listen to music from my past has pushed its way to the surface of my mind without me really noticing until after the fact. In subsequent years I’ve perhaps been embarrassed of the fact, but when I was about 14 or 15 years old I was obsessed with Manic Street Preachers. If any of the band’s albums had to be a hill for me to die on it would be “The Holy Bible”. While Oasis and Blur were being hyped up in the UK as the most exciting new music of the times, I was listening to this album non-stop and warping my young mind with songs about prostitution (“Yes”), genocide (“The Intense Humming of Evil”), anorexia (“4st 7lb”)and it doesn’t get any lighter. Fuck it, I still love this album. You can take your “Wonderwall” and “Parklife” and bolt.
Swans – White Light From The Mouth of Infinity
Young God – 1991
Although band leader Michael Gira brought Swans back to overdue wider appreciation in 2010 (and was blown away by their live shows from that and later tours) I will probably always appreciate most the band’s earlier music. “White Light From the Mouth of Infinity”was the first I owned and like with “The Holy Bible” during my angsty teens this album was my icon in my mid 20s. As teenage angst makes way for existential dread, so enters Michael Gira and the void. Huge, enveloping, gothic rock to be played at high volume, this album also contains one of my favourite songs by anyone “Why Are We Alive?”.
Aerosmith – Draw the Line
Columbia – 1977
If you want tales of rock ‘n’ roll excess they don’t get much wilder than Aerosmith. As was probably the case for a lot of people my age I first knew the band from their 80s MTV-era international chart domination, but once I did some digging I discovered they’d actually been one of the greatest US rock bands of the 70s before they went to the wall in spectacular fashion (before being brought back to life with the help a procession of co-writers). On “Draw the Line” the drugs are starting to take their toll, but I love the ragged, red-eyed debauchery of it all and this album has some of my favourite songs by the band like “Get it Up”, “The Hand that Feeds” and “Sight for Sore Eyes”. Give me this over the MTV era any day of the week.
Faceless Burial – Speciation
Dark Descent Records – 2020
Yes I did actually listen to some metal last month and it was this new release by Australia’s Faceless Burial that really caught my attention. Extreme, brutal metal played with panache. I really appreciate the variety of this album, it’s chock-a-block with cool and interesting riffing.
Screaming Trees – Sweet Oblivion
Epic – 1992
Last month I read Mark Lanegan’s brilliant but harrowing autobiography “Sing Backwards and Weep” and so inevitably I found myself taking another trip back into my music listening past. Although “Dust” is also pretty great, “Sweet Oblivion” is the album I go back to most often when I want to listen to Lanegan’s former band. If you want bruising tales of excess and brooding regret, backed up with muscular hard rock, you won’t find much better than songs like “Troubled Times” and “Julie Paradise” (not to mention the brilliant title track). Lanegan’s solo albums tend to be more reflective, but no less great and you’ll probably recognise that unmistakable whiskey soaked vocal tone from his time with Queens of the Stone Age and the loads of the other collaborative work he’s done. A true living legend.