Best tunes of 1991: #17 Northside “Take 5”

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So here’s yet another tune in this list that I discovered while recording music videos off MuchMusic’s Friday night alternative show, “City Limits”, back in 1991. I’m pretty sure the VJ for the show at that time, Simon Evans, might have even been wearing a Northside “Chicken rhythms” t-shirt that night, he was so stoked about the band.

I loved “Take 5” immediately and replayed the video on my VCR constantly after that. And later on, when Simon Evans played the video for “My rising star”, I knew I had to get a copy of that album. The problem was that I couldn’t find it anywhere on cassette tape, not in my small town of Bowmanville, nor even in Oshawa, the next city over. “Chicken rhythms” ended up being my first ever CD purchase for this reason, it just happened to be the only format I could find the album in. And because I didn’t yet have a player, I had to record a copy to cassette using my parent’s stereo so that I could then play it ad nauseum in my Sony Sports Walkman.

Northside formed in Manchester in 1989 by Warren “Dermo” Dermody and Cliff Ogier, and Timmy Walsh and Paul Walsh later filled out the band to a quartet. They were very much part of the baggy, acid house scene in the early nineties that included Inspiral Carpets and The Happy Mondays. I had thought they were so full of promise, given that “Chicken rhythms” was their debut, but it was not to be. A second album was recorded and the release was imminent before their record label, Factory Records, went bankrupt and everything fell apart. I remember hearing at the time that Factory’s collapse was a direct result of Happy Mondays blowing their budget partying while recording their follow up to “Pills ‘n’ thrills and bellyaches”. It was for this reason that I bore an irrational grudge against the Mondays for many years.

“Take 5” was actually slightly bigger here in North America, cracking the alternative billboard charts, than it was in England, where the two previous singles, “Shall we take a trip” and “My rising star” did better. I always liked the way it started off the album with that fantastic bass line that tore this way and that, the funky drumming kicking everything into high gear and then those wicked jangly guitars. It wasn’t a deep song. The lyrics are really secondary to the exuberance of the music. Every time I hear it, I just want to get up and freak out on the dance floor, which is kind of inconvenient on the morning bus ride. It’s been known to get me some strange looks as I bop along.

Have a listen and see that your toes don’t tap a bit.

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

Vinyl love: The National “Sleep well beast”

(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: The National
Album Title: Sleep well beast
Year released: 2017
Details: Limited edition, Double LP, translucent blue vinyl, 24″x24″ poster

The skinny: The National’s seventh record landed on a number of ‘end of the year’ lists last year, notably (for me anyway) finding itself at the number three spot on my own best of 2017 list. They pushed the envelope and experimented with their sound, while keeping the general ethos of their music intact. It is atmospheric and lush and dark. It looks and sounds great on vinyl and I am about hear what it sounds like live and in person later today.

Standout track: “The system only dreams in total darkness”

Best tunes of 2001: #12 Elbow “Red”

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Manchester’s Elbow had been around a long time before they released their debut album in 2001. Its members started playing together in a band in 1990 when they were but teenagers, though their name changed a few times before settling on the moniker by which they are now known. They were signed to Island in the late 90s and recorded a debut album, but as luck would have it, it never saw the light. The band was dropped from the roster when Island was acquired by a bigger fish. Such is life, I guess.

I picked up on “Asleep in the back” a few months after its release, around the same time as I did Doves’ “The last broadcast”. I will forever connect these two albums, not just because they came to me at the same time, but because I saw similarities in their sounds. Both are atmospheric and many-layered, music for getting lost in with a set of earphones, but where Doves was geared more towards rave-ups and dance floors, Elbow was more introspective and cerebral. It is just beautiful music to listen to and as trite as that may sound, it is the best way I can describe it.

“Red” was the first single released off “Asleep in the back” and is one of six tracks that had originally been recorded for the aforementioned aborted album and redone here. Like much of “Asleep in the back”, “Red” is big in sound, the tap-tap of the drums are quickly joined by a relentless flailing line of keys. There’s a sliding bass and warming strings. There’s guitars that jump and dither, in and out. And there’s Guy Harvey’s vocals, Peter Gabriel all over again, and he’s singing a warning to anyone out there living too fast and too hard, a “tragedy starting to happen”. The “red” is both a stop light and a spatter of blood, and neither, but the foreboding can be felt in every lovely layer. And it all bleeds together when you close eyes and press play.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.