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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?

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #17 The Verve “Slide away”

<< #18    |    #16 >>

Verve was an alternative rock band that was formed in Wigan, England in 1990 by Peter Salisbury, Simon Jones, Nick McCabe, and Richard Ashcroft. They started to amass a following early on with their engaging live shows that were explosions of psychedelic and shoegaze guitar miasma and boasted an unpredictable but golden-voiced frontman. They were forced to add the ‘The’ to the front of their name shortly after the release of their debut album, “A storm in heaven”, when they received notice from a certain American jazz label who had already been using the name for years.

It didn’t hurt the band’s burgeoning success any, though, and after the release of a second album, “A northern soul”, they were regularly hitting the UK singles charts. They broke up for the first time in 1995, only to re-form the following year and resurface with the album that would give them notoriety the world over. It was the single, “Bittersweet symphony”, that did it for them. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the band a cent at the time, given the oft-reported story of an ex-manager for The Rolling Stones claiming all royalties for the sample used as its backbone, a story that only found closure in 2019 when the songwriting credits were finally signed over in full to Richard Ashcroft. Sadly, this event likely contributed to the first (1999) of two more breakups by the band, the second (2008) of which has held fast up to now.

Oh, you’ve heard of this band? I’m not surprised.

Like many, I became a fan of The Verve with “Urban hymns” and that ubiquitous lead single. But I remember at the time thinking the band name familiar and was pretty certain I had an idea where from. So I went back and reviewed my cache of VHS tapes loaded with music videos recorded off the various shows on MuchMusic in the early 90s. And sure enough, it was there: “Slide away”.

“So take your time
I wonder if you’re here just to use my mind
Don’t take it slow
You know I’ve got a place to go”

In the video, the band is featured, very young looking, long-haired hippie freaks, tripping and freaking out in the desert and as intense as ‘Mad’ Richard looks, some brave soul picks up the motley hitchhikers and then, brings them to a town where they inexplicably have a gig booked in a brothel. As crazy as all this sounds and looks, it seems to make perfect sense to the band members in such obvious ecstatic states. Not the video you would expect for a single and yet, though the song didn’t garner them a lot of attention in the UK, it made a massive splash on the US indie rock charts.

That muscular bassline, those swirling guitars, and of course, the hazy and lazy vocals had such a great groove and won me over every time I watched that video. And when I rediscovered the group a few years later, I fell in love with song all over again.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

Categories
Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Phosphorescent [2013]

(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. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Phosphorescent at Ottawa Bluesfest, 2013

Artist: Phosphorescent
When: July 13, 2013
Where: River stage, Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Context: Out of all the great performers at Bluesfest back in 2013, Phosphorescent’s (the stage name of singer/songwriter Matthew Houck) was one of the sets to which I was most looking forward. I had fallen in love with “Muchacho”, his psych-folk album from that year, almost at first listen, and then, when I went back to explore his back catalogue, I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to discover his work. I consumed it all like it was candy, so obviously, I was good and pumped for Phosphorescent’s early evening set and dragged my friend Jean-Pierre along for the ride. Houck had a five-piece touring band with him, many, if not all, of whom had also helped him record the aforementioned “Muchacho”. It was a pretty impressive ensemble cast, including an organist, as well as a keyboard player, a bongo player, and an incredible drummer, which made for a voluminous sound, a sound to get lost in with the hopes of never returning. The band played a good selection of tracks from Houck’s last three albums. Each song, though also long on the recording, was given the full freakout jam treatment with Houck wailing on his guitar and playing the feedback like it was art. My highlight, of course, was when they played “Song for Zula”, likely my favourite track off “Muchacho”. Nope, Phosphorescent did not disappoint despite high expectations on my part. My only beef was that the set seemed cut short, ending half hour earlier than the schedule stated it would.
Point of reference song: Song for Zula

Matthew Houck and Rustine Bragaw of Phosphorescent
Jo Schornikow of Phosphorescent
Scott Stapleton and David Torch of Phosphorescent
Christopher Marine of Phosphorescent
Matthew Houck