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diskant rewind: Asking For Trouble #3

Posted: March 27th, 2009, by Marceline Smith

(Originally posted February 2002)

Asking For Trouble by Marceline Smith

I’ve decided to pick out my favourite ten records of 2001 otherwise I’d likely be here all month. As always happens, most of them were released in the last three months of the year but what are you going to do about it…

Fugazi ‘The Argument’ and ‘Furniture’ [Dischord]
The greatest band in the world ever. If Fugazi didn’t exist nobody would dare try to invent them. They’re always developing and yet always keeping their unmistakeable Fugazi sound. I’ll just pick out three songs. Opener Cashout is achingly heartfelt and political; emotive vocals over tumbling guitars. Guy’s Full Disclosure finds him gleefully screaming reams of unintelligable noise before slipping easily into complete POP mode complete with ‘ooh oohs’ and Ex-Spectator has enough guitars and hollering to keep me happy for a long time. And then, just to push the point right home, Fugazi casually released a single on the same day with the Repeater-era Furniture which was possibly the most fantastic reminder of how utterly utterly great Fugazi are when they kick out the hardcore guitars. It makes me laugh like crazy, it’s so great. I don’t know why I’m bothering to write about this really. If you don’t already own both these records you’re a fool. A fool who should be on their way to the record store. Now.

Hood ‘Cold House’ [Domino]
My favourite record of the year and my ultimate winter record. When I walk to work in the morning with the ice and the fog and the sun still struggling to rise in the sky, well, nothing soundtracks this better than Hood. There’s so many emotions here but mostly loss and regret and the changing of seasons. The sound is layered at times, bleakly sparse in others with the loveliest bits of piano and brass. The vocals sounded wrong on my first listen but soon became essential, cut up and treated to complement the understated beats. Take the final track You’re Worth The Whole World for example. The music could be one of Mogwai’s finer quieter moments, all drawn-out melodies and piano then on top of that the vocals seem to have been fed through an accordion adding a whole new oddly skewed angle to the song. Complicated electronic music never sounded so simple and natural.

The James Orr Complex ‘Figa’ [Rock Action]
The solo form of Chris Mack, Eska singer/guitarist and one of the most genuine, friendly and talented people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. This 5 track EP is simply a joy from beginning to end. Just one man and an acoustic guitar but the short songs mix simple melodies with some extraordinarily impressive guitar and are completed by Chris’ character-filled vocals. Opener A Million Men rolls along, sparkling with the freshness of newly fallen snow and Slip Into Slumber lilts and soothes with you following the twists and turns, the slowing and the quickening with complete trust. More now please.

The Crack Pipes ‘Hot Dang!’ [Paintcan Chandelierier]
Come on, it’s called Hot Dang! It’s spunky garage punk rock from Texas. It sounds like it was recorded on someone’s actual garage in one take on a crappy taperecorder. The chorus goes ‘Woo! Hot Dang!’. I don’t know or care when this was released, all I know is that it was stuck to my record player for many a month and rock never sounded so ace. Hot Dang.

Low ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ [Tugboat]
The Low album that finally chased away my fears and made me love this band for always. I had rather a traumatic introduction to Low [it’s called Songs For A Dead Pilot…] which took me a long time to recover from but the day I heard Dinosaur Act was a whole new beginning for me. The thing I love most about Low, which is most strongly obvious on this album, is how perfectly the music suits any mood. In good times it sounds open and uplifting and when things are bad it soothes, comforts and understands. It’s impossible to write about Low without desperately grasping for words to describe such loveliness and falling horribly short so I’m not even going to try. Next you’ll be asking me what it is I love about sunshine or snow or hot coffee.

Mogwai ‘Rock Action’ [Southpaw]
If I’d been asked to guess the direction of Mogwai’s next album I certainly wouldn’t have said, ‘oh, less than 40 minutes long, gentle songs, mostly with vocals, some of them less than a minute long, quite a lot of electronic stuff and oh, maybe a collaboration with Super Furry Animals’. But that’s what we got and I’m in no doubt that it’s the best Mogwai album so far. They’ve got better songs maybe but both the previous ‘proper’ albums were kind of patchy and over-long. Rock Action, on the other hand is a perfect little album. Short enough to leave you wanting more [or so you can hear it all if you put it on to fall asleep to as Stuart said] and beautifully layered and textured throughout. Essentially there’s two different sides on show: the vocal tracks including the sweetly Low-like Take Me Somewhere Nice and the welsh-language downbeat pop song Dial:Revenge and the more experimental instrumental tracks like the thudding and booming opener Sine Wave and the two highlight tracks 2 Rights Make A Wrong and You Don’t Know Jesus. Both the latter two are epic for all the right reasons and tug at the heart in a way that only Mogwai can. And the fact that such emotionally affecting music can be made by a bunch of cheeky scruffy ruffians is just one more reason why Mogwai are so special to me. Tremendous, in a word.

Reynolds/The Oedipus split 7″ [Traditional Songs]
We lost the Oedipus this year after all too short a time but I’ll always remember them for the frantic speed, mid-song stop start pitstop direction changes and Steve’s gleeful vocals. The flipside made me miss the Reynolds live experience so much that I ended up going down to London for a day to see them. Yes, that good. This record is going to make me cry with nostalgia in about 15 years time.

Papa M ‘Whatever, Mortal’ [Domino]
I’m certainly in the mood for simple downbeat autumn songs and this was just the perfect thing for when you’re feeling cold and lonely and don’t want to leave the house. Simple songs, just guitar and Pajo’s vocals for the most part with some banjo and harmonica to add to the fireside singalong feel. If anyone misses the Aerial M type stuff then there’s a couple of instrumentals which have much more of a friendlier live feel than the stuff on the Live From A Shark Cage album, particularly Krusty where Pajo can be heard chortling over an episode of The Simpsons that’s playing in the background. There’s just such a wonderful sense of melody here and a closeness and warmth that feels so trusting. It’s like the first night you really cut loose with a new friend and sit about drinking til dawn and sharing your thoughts and dreams.

Trail of Dead ‘Relative Ways/Homage’ [Interscope]
Anyone worried by the recent move to big scary Interscope would have been very relieved to hear Homage and Blood Rites – TOD at their riotous screaming best. I say ‘would’ because they only released the damn thing in the US. Big swizz. I’d like to thank Interscope for sending me a free copy. hurhur.

Various ‘RND_0.34873349921’ [Pause_2]
This came out very late in the year but I played it non-stop so it still counts. A very cheap compilation of electronica on the fairly new Pause_2 label with some nice maths/programming-based artwork. I find electronic music is so broad that it’s very hard to work out what to buy next so this was ideal for me to expand my tastes a little. Thankfully low on the crazy glitchy stuff that hurts my head it instead showcases some warmer friendlier sounds. Despite filling almost 70 minutes I don’t find myself ever reaching for the skip button and there’s definitely some highlights that have me pressing the repeat button. EU kick in with some delightfully bouncy sounds, the sort of bass that goes straight to my heart and some slippery beats to keep things exciting. The untitled Zan Lyons track sounds like some apocolyptic future of horror, all slow doomed melodies and the muffled clangings of death industry. Like Godspeed remixed by Alec Empire. Seriously good. com.a match catchy clattering beats to what sounds like cut-up news reportage and title it pedophiliaRobot. Nice. Gets me to work and back at a pretty smart pace too. No dawdling here.

Honorary mentions: Tortoise ‘Standards’, American Analog Set ‘Know By Heart’, Death Cab For Cutie ‘We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes’, Enon ‘Believo!’

Further information
The James Orr Complex
The Crack Pipes
Papa M
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

Marceline Smith

Marceline is the fierce, terrifying force behind diskant.net, laughing with disdain as she fires sharpened blades of sarcasm in all directions. Based in Scotland, her lexicon consists of words such as 'jings', 'aboot' and 'aye': our trained voice analysts are yet to decipher some of the relentless stream of genius uttered on a twenty-four hour basis. Marceline's hobbies include working too much and going out in bad weather.


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