Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: Engineers “Engineers”

(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: Engineers
Album Title: Engineers
Year released: 2005
Year reissued: 2022
Details: Gatefold sleeve, 2 x 180 gram, white, numbered 502/1500

The skinny: Of all the great albums released during the first shoegaze revival wave of the early 2000s, Engineers’ self-titled debut was one of my favourites. The group formed as a four-piece – Mark Peters, Simon Phipps, Dan MacBean, and Andrew Sweeney – in London back in 2003. I happened upon the debut shortly after its release and latched on to a great many of the songs, recognizing in Engineers’ aesthetic the bands of my youth. Though some of their later work was pretty great as well, I wasn’t as immediately enamoured with it, always holding it up to this fantastic debut. It had been on my wishlist from pretty much the beginning of my collecting days but given what I perceived as their cult-like status, I didn’t think my chances were great at finding a copy on vinyl. My hopes were raised earlier this year when I saw that Music on Vinyl was reissuing Engineers’ debut EP, “Folly”, for Record Store Day, especially given that label’s track record of reissuing other classic shoegaze works. Then, I caught wind of this reissue of the debut LP on 2 x 180 gram slabs of white vinyl and jumped headlong aboard the pre-order train. It’s a thing of beauty.

Standout track: “Come in out of the rain”

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2003: #21 The Weakerthans “One great city!”

<< #22    |    #20 >>

“And up above us all, leaning into sky
A golden business boy will watch the North End die
And sing I love this town
Then let his arcing wrecking ball proclaim
I hate Winnipeg”

The last time I was in Winnipeg was in 2010. It was my third visit to the central Canadian town but the first time for pleasure. My wife and I went there to visit friends of ours who we had met in Ottawa but who had moved back home a few years prior. It just so happened that our visit coincided with the annual folk festival held in Birds Hill Provincial Park, just outside of the city, and it didn’t take much to convince our friends to bring us out to experience it.

We attended two afternoon songwriting showcase workshops, one of which was on ‘writing about home’, featured the likes of Jon and Roy and The Swell season, and was led by Winnipeg’s unofficial poet laureate and Weakerthans frontman, John K. Samson. The festival organizers couldn’t have picked a better moderator for such a topic, given The Weakerthans’ penchant and talent for highlighting the best and the worst of life in Canada, especially from their particular section of it.

“One great city!”, track number ten on the group’s third full-length album, “Reconstruction site”, is a prime example. The title is taken from Winnipeg’s former town motto and this, set against the song refrain of “I hate Winnipeg”, belies a certain love/hate relationship that Samson, and likely, most of the city’s residents, have with the place that they live. The instrumentation is simple enough. The sound of two sets of hands plucking away at two acoustic guitars, the pacing even and insistent. They share the space equally with Samson’s vocals, instantly recognizable as Canadian, sounding like a cross between Neil Young and Gord Downey.

But that’s not to say Samson is not his own man. Indeed, it’s his songwriting and lyricism that has won over so many hearts to the Weakerthans’ cause. His three minute portrait is shown through the spotted and smudged glasses of a dollar store clerk and the grimy windshield of a city bus and its driver. It is echoed in the stomping feet of commuters in the underpass. It invokes the storied name of long broken up bands and folded NHL teams (though this latter has since returned) and the wistful and beautiful sadness of historic buildings abandoned and boarded up. It is a rom/com in the absurdist vein of Wes Anderson or Charlie Kaufman. It is a faded and creased polaroid in the pocket of both Winnipeggers that long for home and those who have never been there but hear in Samson’s words stories of their own hometown.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.

Categories
Albums

Best albums of 2000: #2 The Dandy Warhols “Thirteen tales from urban bohemia”

Just about five years ago, I was nearing the end of my Best tunes of 2000 list and the excellent second single of this record, “Bohemian like you”, came up at number two. I’ve got my posts linked so that when they go live, a blast also goes out through my Twitter account and I distinctly remember that when that particular post went out, whoever manages the Dandy Warhols Twitter account gave my tweet a like but responded that the song should’ve been number one. And they weren’t wrong. It definitely would’ve been at the top if it weren’t for that one niggling song by Coldplay.

Well, if the Dandy Warhols Twitter handlers are paying attention again, my apologies to you because you’re once again second best. But at least this time, it won’t be to Coldplay.*

“Thirteen tales of urban bohemia” was the album that got me hooked on the Dandies. When I saw the album on the CD racks of HMV**, I picked it up and flashed right on back to seeing them open for The Charlatans three years prior. That momentary jolt and total recall pushed me to bring the compact disc home with me. And the album’s mix of psych and glam and country rock was a whole lot of fun and had me returning the disc to the platter quite often that year. I remember bringing it into work with me and playing it for Michael, my tool rental colleague, as well as (incidentally) the recent Charlatans album, “Us and us only”, as a way of refuting his theory that rock was dead in the face of pop and hip hop. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor has made reference to the fact that the band had wanted to make one last great classic rock record when they went into the studio to make this album.

Well, I don’t know about classic rock but it is certainly a great rock record and criminally, overlooked, if you ask me. It got a bit of burn in the UK after the aforementioned single was picked up for commercial use but if it weren’t for that, it might have gone nearly unnoticed.

“Thirteen tales of urban bohemia” was the Portland, Oregon-quartet’s third album but first with new drummer, Brent DeBoer, who came on to replace the original kit man Eric Hedford. It is a collection of thirteen fantastic and playful tunes that show a band peaking and getting it all exactly right. There is so much to love here that I could go on all day but I will limit myself to sharing my typical three picks for you. Enjoy.


“Get off”: “I love god all the same / But all I wanna do is get off / I feel it I feel it I feel it babe / Baby, come on” The first of my picks was the first single to be released off the album. Track eight is just over three minutes of pumping and chugging adrenaline. It doesn’t seem to be deep at all. No hidden meaning. No politics or diatribe. Just good fun. Like the first night of frost week. Like the celebration after winning the championship. The guitars get a boost from The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe, who if you believe the hype from the documentary “Dig!” that came out a few years later, was in a constant feud with the band. It don’t sound as much here, the guitars fall right in line with the rhythm of the drums, the feet stomp and the whole band grunts and groans its agreement with our intrepid frontman.

“Godless“: The opening track was released as single number three. As an opener, it totally works, that yawning and searing, reverb soaked guitar intro just eases its way up and down your spine and allows you time to soak it all in until the song and really, the album starts in properly. At just after the thirty second mark, the acoustic strumming commences, as does the marching rhythm and the trumpet flourishes provided by hired gun, Eric Matthews. Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s vocals are understated here, mostly a whisper and a hint at what’s to come. “Hey, I said you’re godless man /Hey, and you’re a soulless friend /Hey, I said you’re thoughtless / And I swear, I swear.” He’s crooning and hitting out at all the evil deeds done in the name of religion and godliness, and it feels quite in line with thematic titles that appear later in the album, like “Nietzsche” and “Mohammed”.

“Bohemian like you”: The second single to be released off of “Thirteen tales” is arguably one of the band’s biggest tunes and commercially high points. Not bad for a tune that started off as Taylor-Taylor’s musings and fantasizing about a girl stopped at a traffic light outside of his apartment. “Wait! Who’s that guy? Just hanging at your pad. He’s looking kinda bummed. Yeah, you broke up, that’s too bad. I guess it’s fair if he always pays the rent and he doesn’t get bent about sleeping on the couch when I’m there.” As I wrote about the tune when it appeared at number two on my best tunes of 2000 list, it’s a hell of a rocker, like many of the tracks on the album. But this one, in my opinion, is elevated slightly higher by its ability to not take itself, nor its performers too seriously. Woo-ooo-ooo!


Once again, I’m still not on a regular schedule around here so I won’t promise when we’ll get to album #1… but, as I say below, I’m hoping to close off this list before this year is out. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Richard Ashcroft “Alone with everybody”
9. The New Pornographers “Mass romantic”
8. The Cure  “Bloodflowers”
7. The Weakerthans “Left and leaving”
6. The Clientele “Suburban light”
5. Belle and Sebastian “Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant”
4. Coldplay “Parachutes”
3. Mojave 3 “Excuses for travellers”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

*Coldplay’s “Parachutes” came in at number four. I am hoping that the number one album for this list will see the light of day before the end of this year.

**Remember them?