Vinyl love: Various artists “Help: The album”

(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: Various artists
Album Title: Help: The album
Year released: 1995
Year reissued: 2020
Details: 2 x LP, 25th anniversary reissue

The skinny: On September 4th, 1995, many of the biggest names in British rock went into studios across England and Ireland to record a brand new song to contribute to a charity compilation album in support of War Child. These recordings were all handed over to Brian Eno for mixing the next day and on September 9th, the resulting compilation album was released and went straight to number one on the UK album charts (for compilations). Late in August of this year, it was announced by War Child (and many of the contributing artists) that the album would be reissued on vinyl on September 9th, 2020, to celebrate its 25th anniversary and I was one of thousands that frantically went online to pre-order it. Yeah, the first run of 2020 copies completely sold out on the first day and they’ve since had to press a second run. The excitement was palpable the day I found it in my mailbox and walked home with it. In my humble opinion, this is the best the compilation album ever recorded. I distinctly remember when I purchased my first copy of it on CD from the now long defunct Penguin Music in Toronto and there was sticker providing the track listing affixed to the jewel case, so done because the artwork (done by The Stone Roses’ John Squire and Massive Attack’s 3D) was printed concurrently with album’s recording and couldn’t possibly include the finalized track list. My eyes must’ve bulged out of my head upon reading the wealth of my (at the time) favourite artists who appeared on the compilation: Blur, Oasis, Suede, Radiohead, The Boo Radleys, The Charlatans, Levellers, The Stone Roses, and more. The quick timeline on the album’s release meant that many of the songs were either original works in progress or covers of already established tracks. Indeed, two of the songs on this album have already appeared my 100 best covers list (at #100 and #74) and I feel like we might see at least one or two more make an appearance on that list. I still have that CD, though I played the hell out of it over the years, and now I have it my vinyl collection. And that makes me smile.

Standout track: “Come together” by The Smokin’ Mojo Filters (Paul McCartney, Noel Gallagher, and Paul Weller)

Best tunes of 1992: #10 Suede “My insatiable one”

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There are certain bands who have been, at certain points in their career, so prolific that even their B-sides are phenomenal. Such is the case with London-based glam rockers, Suede (known as The London Suede in North America), and this is especially true of their early years. So it came as little surprise to me when I learned that “My insatiable one” was originally released as a B-side to Suede’s very first single, “The drowners”.

I first heard the song the year following this single’s release, when it was included on the soundtrack for the Mike Myers vehicle, “So I married an axe murderer”. Haven’t heard of it? I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I enjoyed it at the time but really, the best thing about it is Myers’ secondary role in the film as his protagonist’s father, complete with the same outrageous Scottish accent he later reused in SNL sketches (“If it’s nae Scottish, it’s crrrrrrap”) and for the “Austin Powers” villain, Fat Bastard.

Oh yeah, sorry, the soundtrack for the film was fantastic too. The La’s original classic, “There she goes”, as well as a cover of it by The Boo Radleys, served as a theme of sorts for the film. And the soundtrack also included Ned’s Atomic Dustbin covering a Charlene pop song, Big Audio Dynamite II’s amazing single, “Rush”, a little early 90s hit called “Two princes” by the Spin Doctors, and of course, Suede’s “My insatiable one”.

The boys show here (on a B-side) why they were such a hot and exciting item back in those early days and why they are considered one of the bands that kickstarted the BritPop movement. Bernard Butler’s athletic and aggressive guitar playing is more restrained on this tune but still very much present, arpeggiating all over the place, climbing up and down the walls, roaring like a lion, while Brett Anderson prances about the stage, vocals operatic and theatrical, playing fey and falsetto, and well, daring, his listeners come along with him for the ride.

“Oh he is gone, he’s my insatiable one.”

The fact that Brett was singing about a “he” being his “insatiable one” raised a few eyebrows at the time and he riled things up even further by claiming at times that the song was about anal sex. Knowing Anderson, though, I would tend to believe his other explanation, the one that posits that he wrote it about himself from Justine Frischmann’s (whom many of you might remember as the frontwoman of Elastica and erstwhile girlfriend of Damon Albarn, but who got her start with Suede and as Anderson’s girlfriend) point of view.

Either way, this is a great tune. A B-side that plays as a single that should’ve been a hit kind of great tune.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2002: #20 Suede “Lonely girls”

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In 1992, Suede (known as The London Suede here in North America) was seen as the “best new band in Britain” by many in the music press and this was before they had even released a full-length album. Ten years later, the band would release their fifth album, “A new morning”, so titled to signify that they were looking at it as a new start. The previous four albums had all done very well commercially in Suede’s native country. In fact, they were seen as one of Britpop’s big four, along with Blur, Pulp, and Oasis. However, the band’s frontman, Brett Anderson, had not been clean for much of the decade and described the difficult recording process for this fifth album as the only work that hadn’t been informed by heavy drug use. Unfortunately, for the group, it would go on record as their least successful, commercially and critically, an album they would later regret releasing and perhaps precipitated their dissolution.

Personally, I didn’t think “A new morning” all bad, a bit uneven and forced, perhaps, but it definitely had some good tracks. Never released as a single, “Lonely girls” is still one of my favourite latter day tunes from the band, even counting the ones on the three albums Suede has issued since reuniting in 2010. The lyrics of the song read almost like a response to The Nails’ classic “88 lines about 44 women”, except maybe with not so many lines and not so many women (or girls).

“Stephanie stares at the posters on the wall
Tina sits and waits for a telephone call
Maxine mixes alcohol with polythene and paint”

Brett Anderson is also not listing these women to brag of his sexual exploits or to remember past loves. This is a call out to loneliness and broken dreams and realizing that life is not necessarily what the glamour magazines are trying to sell us. It is all grown up, holding the scuzz and dirt at arms’ length. The rough and epic guitar rock of “Dog man star” seems like ages ago, Bernard Butler just a memory, and what we have left is the hip shaking arpeggios played on acoustic guitar, gentle washes of synths, and Anderson playing at sage adult, sharing wisdom earned in the gutters. The production is crisp and clean and almost too easy to listen to.

But I love it all the same.

Yup. It appeals to the same part of me that has me laughing along to every joke in a Hugh Grant rom com and I’m not afraid who knows it.

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