Best tunes of 1990: #17 Ride “Chelsea girl”

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Ride. Yessss!!!!

I feel like I’ve loved these guys forever, even though I know it’s an impossibility. In the more than twenty years since I first laid ears on them, the music by this Oxford-based, four piece hasn’t strayed very far from my front of consciousness, at least their first two albums haven’t.

They formed in 1988 and caught the attention of Jim Reid (of Jesus and Mary Chain) via a demo tape they had recorded in bassist, Steve Querait’s bedroom, which, in due course, led to interest by Creation Records’ Alan McGee. Ride would go on to record four full-length albums for that label, as well as a mess of EPs and singles. They did really well commercially in their native England but not so much here in North America. Their legacy, however, grew immensely over the years and endures today. They never much liked the shoegaze label with which they were saddled but despite that, they have since become icons of the original wave of said genre from the early nineties and have had a massive influence on the bands of the second wave that started in the 2000s. So much so, that a reunion became inevitable and when it finally happened two years ago, I scored a ticket to their tour’s stop in Toronto. As you might guess, it was a brilliant show…

…But I digress…

“Chelsea girl”, along with “Drive blind”, were songs on that aforementioned demo and were re-recorded for the Ride’s self-titled, debut EP.  On the former (without discussing the latter), the guitars start out semi clean, albeit heavily treated with effects pedals, and they follow the bouncing ball on an arpeggiating intro. But have no fear: they quickly fall down the rabbit hole, turning messy and heavy, just like molasses, and just as sweet. Hiding in weeds and peeking out at just the right moments are the lackadaisical vocal harmonies of Bell and Gardener, providing yet another sweet melody to the mix. But the real treat here, is the punishing drum onslaught displayed by Loz Colbert. I’ve always thought all four members of the band talented on the piece that they add to the beautiful puzzle but for me, “Chelsea girl” is the beaut that it is because of Colbert.

Turn it up as loud as your speakers can handle and you just might thank me for it.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1990: #18 Morrissey “November spawned a monster”

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Due to the particulars of my own musical education, the year, the age, and my own geographical location, I definitely put the cart before the horse when it comes to Morrissey and The Smiths. I became familiar and fell in love with Morrissey’s solo material long before I did so with The Smiths. My very first exposure to the Moz was his song “Interesting drug”, thanks to a mixed tape given to me by a friend, and it wasn’t long after that I began searching out his other solo material. As for The Smiths, I heard them throughout my university years but with the exception of a few tracks, I did my best to avoid listening to them on purpose, after having them foisted upon me by one of my roommates.

The former frontman of the band released his solo debut, “Viva hate”, mere months after the dissolution of The Smiths. He had planned to title his sophomore album “Bona drag” but ended up using the title for his first compilation album, which became a necessity in 1990 after he had spent the two previous years dropping single after successful single.

“November spawned a monster” was the last of these singles to be released before making its appearance on “Bona drag” and though not his highest charting, it is one of Morrissey’s personal favourites. Yes, it’s a pretty great track but in my own opinion, quite spooky and not a little a bit freaky. In amongst the jangly guitars, there’s something sinister and ominous happening, nothing quite so obvious as a malevolent harpsichord but it’s there, nonetheless. Then, right in the middle of this, up pops these bone-chilling backing vocals, sounding too much like either someone in agony or a violent voodoo invocation.

And if that all weren’t enough, we’ve got something a bit off-putting about his lyrics, like when he seemingly clucks his tongue at us about the “poor twisted child, so ugly, so ugly”, or those damning words that gave the song its title: “November spawned a monster in the shape of this child”. Like many of his songs, its meaning is up to interpretation, but to me, this one is all about society’s treatment of the physically challenged, through no fault of their own. But unlike some of his other works, Morrissey gives us hope at the end of this one:

“Oh one fine day
she won’t be rich or beautiful
but she’ll be walking your streets
in the clothes that she went out
and chose for herself”

Yep, this is the glory of Morrissey at the height of his powers. Enjoy.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2000: #10 Doves “Catch the sun”

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This fine Tuesday morning we take a tentative step into the top ten of my Best of 2000 list with “Catch the sun”, the second single off Doves’ debut album, “Lost souls”.

Doves were a Cheshire-based trio, made up of vocalist/bassist Jimi Goodwin and twin brothers Andy and Jez Williams (drums and guitars, respectively). They were high school friends but didn’t actually form as a band until they ran into each other at the famed Haçienda during the heights of the Madchester scene. They originally operated under the name, Sub Sub and released a handful of dance-infused singles throughout the 90s on Rob Gretton’s record label, Robs Records. After their studio containing all their equipment burnt down in 1996, they decided to regroup with a new sound and a new name. “Lost souls” was released to critical acclaim, only losing out on winning the Mercury Prize to another album on which they performed: Badly Drawn Boy’s “The hour of the bewilderbeast” (“Once around the block” appeared at #15 on this list). Doves would go on to release three more just as incredible albums before going on indefinite hiatus in 2010. Goodwin released a solo record, “Odludek”, in 2014 and the Williams twins formed Black Rivers, releasing a self-titled long player in the very same year.

I fell in love with Doves’ sophomore album, “The last broadcast”, in 2002, a story which I’m sure will come out in a future post, and I immediately went on the research offensive, gobbling up “Lost souls” in short order and picking up each successive album when they were released. As I mentioned in the intro to this list, I had a hard time finding new music that I liked in 2000 and 2001 was only marginally better. I was beginning to worry that “alternative rock” music had died off with BritPop in the late 90s but Doves were one of a handful of the bands that gave me hope. Their deeply-textured and epic brand of atmospheric rock was just the thing that I was searching for and I didn’t even know it.

“Catch the sun” is probably one of the more straightforward songs on “Lost souls”, except perhaps for the fact that there’s no intro. But who needs those? No timidity, no testing of the waters, just jump right in with two feet stomping. “Every day it comes to this, catch the things you might have missed. You say, get back to yesterday. I ain’t ever going back.” Jimi Goodwin just lays it all out there with his matter-of-fact and assured delivery, sounding very much like he comes from a long line of Madchester vocalists, like a meeting over pints with Ian Brown and Tim Burgess but with some bourbon thrown in for depth. And he’s got the guitar and drum muscle to back him up on this song, all driving and gut-wrenching, creating an envelope of sound that you wish you could seal yourself up in for the afternoon. However, it’s not to be as Goodwin and the brothers Williams are urging you forward, to get you out there into the world and experience everything under the sun.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.