Best tunes of 1991: #19 Spirit of the West “D for Democracy (Scour the house)”

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I’ve told this story before on these pages but I’ll tell it again.

“D for Democracy” is the first Spirit of the West song I ever consciously heard. Yes, all of this began while I was watching a special, all-Canadian edition of “Good rockin’ tonite” one Friday night in 1991. They finished the show with this particular video (see below) and I noticed at some point during it that the accordion player, Linda McRae, was wearing a Wonder Stuff long sleeved T-shirt. For those that don’t know, I was a huge Stuffies fan back in those days and didn’t know many others who shared my enthusiasm. Luckily for me, I happened to be video taping the entire episode as I watched it so as soon as it finished, I rewinded the tape to watch the video again. And again. Shortly after that, I also managed to video tape the video for the re-recorded “Political”, for which I also fell hard, and then, decided to buy “Go figure” on cassette tape.

So I guess I came for The Wonder Stuff shirt and stayed for the music.

Linda McRae likely got the shirt when Spirit of the West was on tour in England with The Wonder Stuff and the two bands became friends. They recorded a cover of “Will the circle be unbroken” together and McRae (and her accordion) appears on “Welcome to the cheap seats”. It was actually while on tour with The Wonder Stuff that Spirit of the West decided that they wanted to add more of a rock edge to their sound. To that end, they enlisted a drummer before recording the follow up to 1990’s “Save this house”. Enter Vince Ditrich into the picture. The new sound didn’t sit well with all of their existing fans, some of whom preferred the more traditional Celtic folk direction, but it did win the band more radio airplay and new legions of alternative rock fans.

As its title suggests, “D for Democracy (scour the house)” is a political song, an attack on the Brian Mulroney-led government of the day, as are many of the songs on “Go figure”. Musically, Vince Ditrich’s impact is noticeable here, right from the outset. The drums are flexing their well-oiled muscles but not to be outdone, so are Geoffrey Kelly’s flutes. It’s like the band’s two directions came to a head on the intro to this song. The celtic folk becoming celtic folk rock in one jump up-and-down riot. Of course, the vocals come in and up the ante, John Mann singing loud and clear to “Scour the house, flip the wig, shake the tree.”

Indeed.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2011: #27 Noah And The Whale “Life is life”

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It’s Sunday and I’m on a mini-holiday. So I’m not going to go into an all out rail against Pitchfork, that taste-making, music-reviewing website that sometimes feels like its trying too hard to keep its taste-making credentials intact. But I will say this: if I didn’t listen to all the albums for which they have given rotten reviews, I might be missing out on some of my favourite albums.

Noah and the Whale’s debut, “Peaceful, the world lays me down”, for instance, was given a lowly 2.6 rating out of 10, the reviewer calling it “twee pop you might order in a kit”. For my own part, I guess I must have a soft spot for generic, derivative schlock, because I actually quite enjoyed the album.

Thankfully for me and scores of others, the indie pop band out of Twickenham either has thick skin or never did read the article. I say thankfully because they continued on, releasing three more albums before finally calling it quits seven years later. By 2011, though, Laura Marling and Doug Fink, brother of frontman Charlie Fink, had both left the band and Noah and the Whale’s sound had changed quite a bit. They had dispensed with the ukuleles, banjos, and glockenspiels, and really, the folk pop sound that was so prominent on the debut and then, added synths and crisp production on their third album, “Last night on earth”.

“Life is life” is the opening track and third single released off this third album. The mechanized sounding beats that open the song are definitely no longer twee, nor are the synthesizers. However, the handclaps and crowd vocals still signal that this is Noah and the Whale. A rousing number, it’s a third person observation on the act of scrapping everything to start anew. “Left his house at midnight, resolute and young, in search of something greater than the person he’d become.” Perhaps it’s a little heavy-handed and obvious but it’s got a great beat and energy to spare. And of course, it’s cheerful, like a lot of their work, and sometimes, that’s just what you need.

Almost like a Sunday morning, on a mini-holiday. Cheers.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Vinyl love: Suede “Coming up”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Suede
Album Title: Coming up
Year released: 1996
Year reissued: 2016
Details: Gatefold sleeve, Limited edition, 20th anniversary, 180 gram, Double LP, translucent yellow vinyl, numbered 324/1000

The skinny: Suede and their lead guitarist Bernard Butler parted ways in acrimony before the recording of their sophomore album, “Dog man star”, was completed. The band soldiered on, however, and had a new lineup and new sound for their third album, “Coming up”. The guitars were still present without Butler but they were just another layer of support for Brett Anderson’s vocals and lecherous lyrics. The album as a whole was glam-infused and club-worthy, and in the end, is now considered a britpop classic. This 20th anniversary reissue was the template upon which the 25th anniversary edition of the self-titled debut was based: coloured vinyl double LP, the second disc featuring the era’s B-sides.

Standout track: “Beautiful ones”