Classic Albums: Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

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We often talk about genre-defining albums, or even singles, but was there ever a case of a genre-defining moment? I’m talking about one particular second, a sudden change of style or tempo that has shaped music for the following years. With this album, you can pinpoint that moment accurately: the 1:04 mark in Take Me Out, when seemingly typical, post-Strokes indie song suddenly bursts with funky flame, introducing a riff catchier than flu and a simple, yet memorable chorus. From now on, every band labeled “dance punk” was compared to these Glaswegians (and usually failed to reach that level).

But this record isn’t just about Take Me Out, make no mistake. It’s a collection of 11 extremely well written songs, full of youthful energy and bursting with ideas. Some tracks put more emphasis on the “dance” element (Tell Her Tonight, Matinee), others are clearly more punky (Cheating on You, This Fire) and some are quite surprising, like the closing 40′, a rhythmic, dreamy wonder (Franz have a knack for closers like that, see Outsiders from their sophomore effort for further evidence) or the melancholic Auf Achse.

What makes this album so good is also the sound: the guitars are crystal clear and perfectly balanced, the bass, while sometimes hidden in the mix, is absolutely essential and provides some very tasty licks. The tracklist is great, maybe the only weak point is Cheating on You, where the lack of melody is somewhat masked by the ferocious tempo, but that really is the only flaw you can find here.

FF are one of the most consistent bands in the indie scene, basically every one of their four albums has been great, but the debut sticks out as the one that’s the most groundbreaking, mostly because of THAT 1:04. It will be interesting to see how they will be after the lineup change (Nick McCarthy was so essential he had to be replaced by two people), but we have to wait until February to find out.

 

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Classic Albums: The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses

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This record manages to do the impossible: it fuses groovy music heavily inspired by 80s club scene with guitar work that would make Hendrix himself jealous. It manages to be a catchy pop album while at the same time combining it with great, multi-layered instrumentation.

Yeah, the key to this album greatness is without a doubt the incredible skills of all the people involved. John Squire’s style of playing the guitar matches the style of his painting (he created the iconic artwork) – it’s psychedelic, flashy and colorful. At times he can create delicate, jangly soundscapes and then right after he hits us with a mindblowing solo deeply rooted in 60s hard rock and psychedelia (Made of Stone being the best example).

The rhythm section in on another level too. Mani is an extremely crafty bassist who can sense really well how to blend in and cooperate with the drummer. And the drummer is absolutely batshit crazy. Reni has the sense of rhythm very few can match, and he just effortlessly manages to pull off the craziest sequences. He makes it sound easy too, and you can genuinely hear that he’s having fun.

Ian Brown as a vocalist may not be the finest, but his dreamy and hazy voice compliments the music perfectly, and his songwriting skills provide for some great melodies. She Bangs the Drums or Bye Bye Badman sound like lost songs from The Beatles’ heyday, sweet and innocent at first listen, but showing much more nuances later. I Wanna Be Adored and Waterfall have a sense of mystery to them, very spacious and creative.

It’s perfect from the beginning to finish, even the miniature Elizabeth My Dear fits really well. But they saved the true masterpiece for the end – I Am the Resurrection is not only one of the catchiest songs on the album, but around the four minute mark it transforms into a hypnotic instrumental, with guitar and drums dominating the sound (the bass quietly keeps it all together). It puts you into a sort of trance, a wonderful, unique experience.

Apart from being a great album on its own, the Roses’ debut also set the foundations for all the British rock of the 90s, with bands like Oasis crediting them as a major influence. This record is one of the finest pieces of music to ever come out of the UK, excellent from start to finish.

Classic Albums: Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

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This is the album that quite possibly defined most alternative bands in the 90s and later. From Nirvana to King Gizz, has been, consciously or not, ripping off this marvellous doble album. Seventy minutes of noisy, chaotic and energetic rock n’ roll that is simply the finest (without any question) piece of music released in that awful era that was the 1980s.

Teenage Riot, the opening track starts off quite dreamy, with Kim Gordon mumbling something in the backgroud for over a minute, and then a riff kicks in. THAT RIFF. No one managed to sound so cool ever since. Moore and Ranaldo compliment each other perfectly, with the latter’s more melodic style sort of neutralising Thurston’s fierce agression.

What’s even more impressive are the melodies – memorable and catchy, but without damaging the rebellious nature of the songs. Silver Rocket or Total Trash are just so well written that even the middle parts of these songs, dissonant and instrumental, can’t destroy the accessibilty.

The album is over an hour long, but it doesn’t really feel that long – well written tunes, great skills, three vocalists with radically different singing styles – not a single song feels boring or forced – even Providence seems like it’s supposed to be there. While Sonic Youth’s career has many highlights, this is the go-to album if you want to start listening to them. An impressive record, true masterpiece, whose impact can still be felt in modern music.

Classic Albums: My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

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“Don’t judge a book by its cover” they say. Well, in case of this legendary Irish band’s sophomore release, the cover really tells you everything you need to know about this record. The image of a blurry guitar drenched in sweet neon pink has become iconic over the years and it perfectly captures the essence of the album: it’s noisy, distorted but also incredibly melodic and warm.

It kicks off with a bang: Only Shallow starts with a quick drum beat followed by a MASSIVE riff accompanied by another guitar making a noise that sounds like something between a vacuum cleaner and an elephant. This part acts like a chorus on this song, while the verses are much more delicate, with Bilinda Butcher’s distant, ethereal vocals.

I could go on and describe all the songs here, but it’s hard to really capture what this is about – it’s an album you have to experience on your own. Multiple layers of guitars, incredibly complex production, dreamy, hazy vocals by both Butcher and Kevin Shields, the main man behind this masterpiece – it all adds to how dense and atmospheric this album is.

From the beginning to the closing track Soon (which echoes a bit of Stone Roses in the rhythm) it’s a wonderful, spiritual experience of an album. It only takes one listen to completely fall in love.