Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Play To Z: Abbey Road to All She Wrote

Here are the rules:

  I'm going to listen to every song I own, in alphabetical order by album. Every track gets listened to once, and once only. I won't listen to any songs out of order. If I get new songs, they get slotted into place - if I'm already passed where they would be, they are placed at the front; if not, then I have to wait to listen to them.

  It begin, quite appropriately, with The Beatles.

"The Beatles are generally seen as the single most important rock band of all time, allegedly because they wrote all the best songs. Since both of these suppositions are true, the Beatles are rated properly by everyone."
                                                                                                                - Chuck Klosterman

  Abbey Road is a great album. The Beatles, much like Doctor Who, seem to be one of those cultural institutions that people just absorb as they grow up. I always had a respect for them, but I never truly appreciated them until a couple of years ago, when my friend and Beatles superfan Nick loaned me his Beatles mono boxset. Listening to their entire discography, the sheer skill of their songwriting is astonishing. More importantly, the way their sound evolved over their seven years of putting out studio albums is mind-blowing. I've often railed against bands like Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Foo Fighters that find a sound that works and just stop trying to push themselves. The Beatles had the opposite attitude, continually pushing at the boundaries of pop music and bringing in new influences.  

  Abbey Road, from close to the end of their recording period, exemplifies this, covering a huge amount of ground and swirling genres and song styles together in a brilliant whirlwind of noise. The interlinked series of songs from "Sun King" to "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" moves effortlessly from one to the other while still maintaining musical themes. It's a virtuoso piece of songwriting, brilliantly realised.

Sigur Rós And Earning Your Fist-Pumps

  I don't speak Icelandic. It's my one and only flaw*, but it definitely impacts my enjoyment of Sigur Rós. Most people (especially their fans) would say that you don't need to understand the words: it's all about the vast soundscapes that they create, the harmonised vocals that conjure images of Icelandic plains and mountains. However, they seem to largely trade in that feeling of fist-pumping triumphalism that makes people wish they were surrounded by their friends in a field at sunset; the kind of thing that works well under TV montages of athletics or music festivals. I like that feeling (who doesn't?) but I'm a big believer in earning your happy endings. Bands like LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire create similar emotions, but their songs also tap into loneliness, anger and despair. Sigur Rós' songs might do this, but I have no way of knowing that. To me, it's just noise, and to that end it feels oddly calculated in the way it looks to trigger an emotional reaction.

Always All Day

  I've written a fair bit about All Day by Girl Talk in the past, and I've read some great articles (check out this piece by pal Alex Spencer with links to some other great writing) so I'll just go ahead and say that I listened to it while doing the washing up with a friend who hadn't heard it before, and by the end of the first track, the kitchen had turned into a dance party and I was burning her a copy to take home. It is a perfectly constructed piece of party-starting insanity.

Rediscovered Gem

"Golden Slumbers" by The Beatles

*This may be inaccurate.

1 comment:

  1. Great start to your project.
    Their are many albums I know/pretty certain you have that I'm looking forward to reading your reviews of (to name one example for the 'A' category - At War With The Mystics)
    Keep listening & writing and I'll keep reading. J