Vinyl love: Gene “Olympian”

(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: Gene
Album Title: Olympian
Year released: 1995
Year reissued: 2015
Details: 20th anniversary limited edition, gatefold, 180 gram, blue vinyl

The skinny: Back when Gene’s debut album, “Olympian”, was released in 1995, they were being hailed by the British press as the next coming of The Smiths. Of course, they weren’t the first band to have bestowed upon them this dubious and weighty comparison, but in Gene’s case, they not only had the jangly guitars but also a secret weapon in Martin Rossiter, whose vocals rang very similar to those of Morrissey. Close comparison or no, I loved “Olympian”, as did a host of others, and it sold very well. Unfortunately, Gene’s fortunes were tied to that of Britpop’s popularity, like many other bands at the time, and when it waned, so did Gene’s listenership, and their latter albums didn’t sell nearly as well. Nevertheless, when I saw this 20th anniversary pressing on blue vinyl by Demon Records online, I knew I had to have it. And yes, it sounds as lively and fun as it did back then.

Standout track: “Haunted by you”

Live music galleries: Slowdive [2017]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

Slowdive live at L’Olympia in Montreal, 2017

Artist: Slowdive
When: May 6th, 2017
Where: L’Olympia, Montreal
Context: Many of you will know by now that I had a thing for early ’90s shoegaze but to be honest, Slowdive wasn’t one of those bands that grabbed me back in the day. It took the discovery of Neil Halstead’s and Rachel Goswell’s second band, Mojave 3, to make me want to take a second look. I love Slowdive now, of course, so I was right there with the rest of them when they announced reunion shows in 2014, subsequent tours over the next few years, and then, a brand new album back in 2017. That self-titled record was so incredible (it was my second favourite album that year), I decided to drag Victoria with me to Montreal, right around this time three years ago, for Slowdive’s stop there. Of course, ever since that time we went to saw James there in 2008 and struggled to stay awake on the drive home afterward, we’ve made weekends out of these concert voyages and took time on each trip to explore the city. Even through all the amazing meals, the trip to the museum, and old Montreal, the highlight for me that weekend was still the concert, just oh so beautiful, “alien and angelic”, and I think even Victoria really enjoyed it.
Point of reference song: Star roving

Rachel Goswell of Slowdive
The Slowdive experience
Nick Chaplin and Neil Halstead of Slowdive
Christian Savill of Slowdive
Neil Halstead of Slowdive

Best tunes of 2002: #13 Badly Drawn Boy “Something to talk about”

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In the early spring of 2000, I met up with my old roommate and university friend, Ryan, and we went to see a new John Cusack flick at the Bloor and Yonge cinemas in Toronto. We both came out of the theatre talking excitedly, both us having immensely enjoyed “High fidelity”. Over beers afterwards on some patio or other along Bloor street near the Annex, Ryan told me that he liked it just as much as the book by Nick Hornby, upon which it was based. I hadn’t known about the book and so shortly after that evening, I went out and bought it in trade paperback, promptly devoured it, and put it away on my shelf.

Fast forward about two and a half years, I was then living with my future wife Victoria in a basement apartment in the Vanier neighbourhood of Ottawa, something I never would have fathomed that evening over beers with Ryan. But there I was and given my meagre call centre salary and Victoria’s part-time hours while finishing up her Master’s degree, we were living a frugal existence to say the least. They say that necessity breeds ingenuity. I guess this is how I discovered that the Ottawa public library loaned out DVDs for free and how I managed to watch a lot of films I might not have otherwise seen (like “Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind”, for example).

On one of my many trips to the main branch downtown (where they had the best selection), I picked up a Hugh Grant rom-com called “About a boy”. I’ve always loved Hugh Grant in pretty much everything he’s done, despite the fact that there’s some truth to the critique that he’s always playing the same character with only slight variations. However, his role of Will in “About a boy” seemed to me then (and still does) the role Hugh Grant was born to play and the film was so much more than your normal rom-com fare. I remember sitting afterwards while the credits rolled and absently humming along with the music, not really knowing what hit me, and I noticed that it was based on a book by Nick Hornby. The name seemed vaguely familiar so I crossed the living room to my desktop computer, booted it up, and did a Google search. The connection was made, I ordered the Nick Hornby book from the library, finished it, and ordered another and another, until I had gotten through everything he had thus far written. Hornby has since become one of my favourite authors to read (though for some reason, I still can never remember his name).

The film “About a boy” (properly) introduced me to Nick Hornby but it also introduced me to English singer/songwriter, Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy). On the back of his wildly successful debut released two years beforehand*, the filmmakers asked Gough to score the film and his soundtrack is a mix soundbite-like jingles and fully-formed songs, all with the same laidback groove and hipster cool feel. “Something to talk about” is one of these latter and the second proper single released from the album. It’s got the strut and flow and attitude of the film’s main character. Indeed, you could easily imagine Gough walking down the street behind Will, performing this as his personal theme music, all decked out in knitted hat, shaggy hair, beard, and sunglasses. Subtle and hip and effortless. That is all.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

*I spoke a bit about that debut when “Once around the block”, one of its singles, appeared on my Best tunes of 2000 list.