Categories
Playlists

Playlist: In the summertime

Earlier this year, I had this brilliant idea to make a series of seasonal-themed playlists and post each on these pages on the first day of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The idea was inspired by my friend Andrew Rodriguez, who has posited in the past that there are certain songs and albums that just scream out a particular season to him. I think there’s something to his idea and wanted to shared the love and expand upon it.

My playlist for Spring, the aptly titled “The first day of spring”, went off without a hitch. It was predictably full of the hope and pent-up excitement that the season brings and I posted it right on time. Of course, and incidentally, my summer playlist wasn’t as punctual. I had it made in time for the turning of the season on the calendar date but perhaps something in me felt that the time wasn’t quite right. Indeed, if you listen to these twenty-five tracks, it just screams out from the depths and the heights of mid-summer, wavering between the hazy and languid, and the all out beach and patio party.

Yes, I know August is more than half over and the kids are heading back to school soon but that doesn’t mean we have to let the summer end. As long as the sun beats down on us and the patios remain open, we can stretch this thing out and enjoy it to the fullest. So I suggest we put this playlist on repeat, turn it up, and get ready to “Lay back in the sun” and hit as many “Happy hour”s as we can.

Other highlights on this mix include:

    • “In the summertime”, the title track and opening number sets the tone with love
    • Camera Obscura’s “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken” isn’t necessarily linked to the season lyrically but it definitely has the feel that we wished all summers had
    • “Island in the sun” is Weezer as The Beach Boys and resulted in one of their biggest ever hits
    • I remember first hearing Smash Mouth’s retro fling, “Walkin’ on the sun” in the summer of 1997, falling for it, and then, falling all over myself trying to find their album in the stores
    • Black Box Recorder’s lovely cover of the wistful “Seasons in the sun”, a song originally made famous by Canadian Terry Jacks

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist (complete with YouTube links) as I’ve created it:

1. The Rural Alberta Advantage “In the summertime”
2. The Housemartins “Happy hour”
3. Primal Scream “Higher than the sun”
4. Young Galaxy “New summer”
5. Doves “Catch the sun”
6. Camera Obscura “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken”
7. Galaxy 500 “Fourth of July”
8. The Airborne Toxic Event “The girls in their summer dresses”
9. Weezer “Island in the sun”
10. Pink Mountaintops “The second summer of love”
11. Violent Femmes “Blister in the sun”
12. The Polyphonic Spree “Light & day / Reach for the sun”
13. The Pogues “Summer in Siam”
14. Spiritualized “Lay back in the sun”
15. The Sundays “Summertime”
16. Rachel Goswell “Warm summer sun”
17. Munroe “Summer”
18. Belle and Sebastian “Another sunny day”
19. Shannon Lay “August”
20. Vampire Weekend “Cape Cod kwassa Bkwassa”
21. Smash Mouth “Walkin’ on the sun”
22. Dodgy “Staying out for the summer”
23. Black Box Recorder “Seasons in the sun”
24. The Jezabels “Endless summer”
25. The Decemberists “Anti-summersong”

And as I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Until next time, enjoy the tunes.

For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.

Categories
Albums

Best albums of 1988: #1 The Pogues “If I should fall from grace with god”

Yeah. These guys. You know them. You love them.

Though it’s likely they didn’t actually invent the whole Celtic folk punk genre, The Pogues certainly popularized it, inspiring a whole boatload of next generation musicians to form bands like Flogging Molly, The Dropkick Murphys, and The Mahones. Interesting, then, that the group was formed in London, rather than Dublin, and only ever included two Irish born members in their large and rotating contingent.

Getting started in 1982 with original members Shane MacGowan, Spider Stacy, and Jem Finer, their name evolved out of an anglicisation of ‘póg mo thóin’, celtic for ‘kiss my arse’. The Pogues released a total of seven studio albums before calling it quits in 1996. However, for many, there’s only two albums in their catalogue (their second and third) that really mattered and between those two, the debate rages on over which is the superior.

For me, “If I should fall from grace with god” only just wins out over “Rum sodomy and the lash” and it is the mere presence of one great, transcendent song that will surely be discussed a little later that does the trick. Both albums are solid and complete albums. Where “Rum” is slightly more focused on the Celtic folk punk sound, however, “If I should fall from grace” branches out quite a bit more, dabbling and cavorting around the world of music. Many of the band’s contingent have also pointed to this album as their favourite and best, agreeing that nowhere else were they as on their game. And it’s true that as varied as the songs are across the track listing, nothing feels amiss or disjointed. An amazing feat considering the varied sounds and instrumentation that make up its whole and the contributions that included an additional eight musicians to the eight players that made up the band at that particular time.

There are fifteen tracks in total on “If I should fall from grace with god” from which I could have chosen my three picks for you, and one was a given, leaving me two. It was an onerous task but I perservered. You’re welcome.


“If I should fall from grace with god”: From what I’ve read, the title track on the album was originally recorded for the “Straight to hell” soundtrack, albeit at a slower speed. I’ve never heard it but don’t think I’d want to. The pace of the version on the album seems perfect to me, a rousing bar number that feels precariously close to shambles. And that’s the beauty of The Pogues, especially on this album, where the musicianship is so tight it feels loose and free. And I feel a lot of the credit has to go to the frontman at the time, the notorious Shane MacGowan, a deceptively great songwriter whose growling and screaming vocals create an energy all of their own. The rest of The Pogues’ cast can only help but follow along, navigating such speeds by the seats of their pants. “If I’m buried ‘neath the sod but the angels won’t receive me, let me go, boys.” Indeed, Shane, indeed.

“Thousands are sailing”: Starts off haunting with a pluck on the banjo and a hollow, echoing flute, sounding like they’re being played by the ghosts in the profound depths of the coffin ship’s hull. The music gets more spritely from there, gentle on the verses, just enough to urge MacGowan along with accordion melodies and incidental drumming, but picks up substantially at the choruses, drumming heavy handed and accordion, mandolin, and banjo becoming a hootenanny, almost drowning out the singing. Phil Chevron’s words as sung by MacGowan, though, never stray from the heartbreak, sowing the tale of thousands of Irish immigrants and of those who never actually survived the trip to the US shores. “Ah, no, says he, ’twas not to be. On a coffin ship I came here. And I never even got so far that they could change my name.”

“Fairytale of New York”: Not only is this now considered one of the all-time great Christmas tunes, ranking up there with Nat King Cole’s iconic “Christmas song”, Bing Crosby’s ubiquitous “Little Drummer Boy” duet with David Bowie, and Band Aid’s fundraising theme “Do they know it’s Christmas time”, but it’s also one of my all-time favourite Pogues tunes. At it’s heart, it’s a story of love that’s lost and found again on Christmas day, all brought to life by the excellent imagery of characters created in the juxtaposition of the rough and raucous voice of Shane MacGowan against the beautiful pipes of guest vocalist Kirsty MacColl. Her call and response banter, matching MacGowan’s snarl and rasp with just the right degree of attitude and defiance, really makes this song the classic that it is. Her disillusioned muse ‘character’ holds nothing back, even the love that she unbelievable still feels for the character of her drunken partner in MacGowan. The lyrics are grittier here than you would normally expect from a heartwarming Christmas tune but these just make the softer moments all the more mind blowing. Witness below:

Kirsty:
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you…

Shane:
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone
I’ve built my dreams around you

Indeed, my wife Victoria loved these lyrics and the sentiment of building your dreams around someone you love so much that she insisted we work them into our own wedding vows almost 10 years ago. Who was I to argue?


In case you missed them, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Sugarcubes “Life’s too good”
9. Erasure “The innocents”
8. Billy Bragg “Worker’s playtime”
7. Jane’s Addiction “Nothing’s shocking”
6. Leonard Cohen “I’m your man”
5. R.E.M. “Green”
4. Pixies “Surfer rosa”
3. The Waterboys “Fisherman’s blues”
2. The Wonder Stuff “The eight legged groove machine”

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

Categories
Tunes

100 best covers: #81 The Pogues “Dirty old town”

<< #82    |    #80 >>

Ok. So it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted one for this series, well over three months for sure. And this is another that I didn’t know was a cover for the longest time. The Pogues recorded “Dirty old town” for their second album, 1985’s “Rum, sodomy, and the lash”, and it’s here that I’ve heard and sung along to these words countless times.

It was originally written in 1949 by actor, poet, playwright and songwriter, Ewan MacColl, who is, incidentally, the father of Kirsty MacColl. (I’m sure you all see the connection.) He wrote it for one his plays, “Landscape with chimneys”, as an ode of sorts to Salford, the town of his birth. He later recorded it in 1952 and it has become a folk classic, apparently covered dozens and dozens of times. Perhaps it was most famously done by The Dubliners in 1976, whose version (check it here) was upbeat and raucous, with banjos, fiddles, and shout along vocals, and likely influenced that of The Pogues.

MacColl’s original, at least the recording in the video below, is by contrast scratchy and hissing and full of cobwebs, sounding forgotten in the darkest corner of your grandparents’ attic. It is a soft strum on the guitars, almost an afterthought to the sorrowful vocals, MacColl warbling all over the place. It is only 2 minutes 45 but feels a whole lot longer.

The Pogues’ cover is also sad but decidedly more upbeat. It is not hoarse and roaring like The Dubliners do it, nor as punk-influenced as other tunes in The Pogues back catalogue. It is a song to sway to with a frothy pint in hand, the band off in the pub’s corner, a harmonica crying sadly, the mandolin waffling and sniffling, the fiddles creaking like a squeaky old door, and Pogues’ vocalist Shane MacGowan slurring roughly, as he is wont to do. All in all, there’s plenty of memories and regret in each note and tap on the drums.

So in sum, I think all three of the versions here are great but the one by The Pogues is my preference. Thoughts?

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.