Entry #25 – Blur (a.k.a Fame’s a Bitch part 2.5)

Blur | blur | Official website

Not too long ago I finished reading the Blur biography 3862 Days, written up by Stuart Maconie at the time of the release of 13 in the dying months of the 20th century. Most Blur fans already know the cliffnotes of the band’s 90s output but this book really fills in the gaps and expands on the bits and pieces you can find on Wikipedia. It provides the thoughts and feelings of the band and the crew on the main events of the decade; the annus horribilis of 1992, the ever growing wedge between the band and Dave Balfe, the megastorm of Parklife and of course that oh so oversaturated piece of history the Battle of Britpop.

But what caught my intrigue the most was the aftermath of the release of The Great Escape and then WTSMG. We all know that with the release of the latter album the tide turned and Blur suddenly went from the dog’s bollocks to just plain bollocks. The cartoony Britpop sound exemplified by Country House didn’t sit well with the masses who were by now high on Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back in Anger and Champagne Supernova. Since learning about the tide change a while back, I also noticed that it nearly led to a split in the band which baffled me. I mean, ok, public perception of you just took a sharp turn and that can damage morale and all but you can bounce back right? Well it wasn’t quite as simple as that according to the book.

The combination of Graham Coxon and the life of a popstar with screaming teenagers drowning out the music had gone together about as well as a dictator and a dignified exit. Simply put he wasn’t enjoying the music nor the lifestyle, feeling that being in Blur had become a job that he disliked. Obviously this put him at loggerheads with his bandmates, in particular Alex James who was the antithesis of Graham and loving every second of it and the bottles of bubbly it brought. Consequently there was a split down the middle and that was where Blur very nearly died.

However, Damon was beginning to share the cynicism of the Britpop sound with Graham after The Great Escape’s fall from grace and took onboard his mate’s wishes to make music that scared people again. The result was a grittier, lo-fi effort taking influence from American bands such as Pavement and doing away with the bombastic brass and strings. And for me, it’s where it all began.

This is Blur.

Track #1 – Beetlebum

The first song I ever talked about on A-Side Glance and my thoughts on it haven’t changed since then so I’ll just say it’s an excellent opening track, definitely Blur’s best, one which will always be in at least my top five of their entire catalogue and move on.

Track #2 – Song 2

The most happy accident of them all. Blur jokingly pitched this as the second single of the album, the label ran with it and next thing you know it’s on practically every trailer for every piece of media in 1997-98. Oh and it became Blur’s biggest hit in America by a country mile. Irony is no finer than when a band who at one point acted out against grunge made a grunge parody and found themselves in the upper echelons of Billboard as a result. Delish. Anyway, yes this song is completely overplayed and is nowhere near as good as people might say but it’s short and sweet and I have gone on record as saying Alex’s bassline is fantastic so there that is.

Track #3 – Country Sad Ballad Man

This is where the lo-fi really kicks in, with a hazy little number. It’s uneven but in a good way, with Graham getting a chance to flourish as the song approaches its end. I think it might be one designed to lull you into a false sense of security; hence the title, it is a ballad until it approaches the climax and then it turns into one glorious mess of noisy music. A late-entry tone setter for Blur.

Track #4 – M.O.R

Arguably the most commercial and standard piece of alt-rock to be found on Blur. Aptly it is rather middle of the road considering the rest of the album’s playlist but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact it’s one song that I find myself listening to a fair bit, it’s a good song to rock out and have a bit of a head bop to.

Track #5 – On Your Own

Gorillaz track zero. This is where Damon unwittingly begins transforming into 2D and we see the band experiment with a drum machine and synths. Again, fine and good for a fleeting listen but nothing to write home about.

Track #6 – Theme from Retro

Ooh I like this. After being more down to Earth for the last couple of songs we take a trip into space with this song, one of mystique and unease. Those organ sounds definitely do their damndest to make your neck hairs stand on end. It’s a bit of a left turn but after the last two tracks it’s a welcome change of pace and acts as a decent bridge into the next portion of the album.

Track #7 – You’re so Great

Graham Coxon should have done more Blur songs. This and Coffee & TV are two of my favourite songs from the band’s post-Britpop era and some days I actually find myself preferring this to his later effort. This is such a wonderfully intimate song, balancing the woes of alcoholism and love. I must admit though I am on the fence with the distortion of the overall sound which keeps the song in line with the lo-fi tone of the album. On the one hand I feel it’s a little unnecessary and takes away from the beauty of the song. Then again, maybe it suits the shy and retiring Graham to a tee, hiding behind whatever he can whilst pouring his heart out. After all, he did record this under a table in the dark, according to Maconie’s book. Regardless, this is my third favourite track, definitely a worthy winner of the bronze medal.

Track #8 – Death of a Party

Silver medal however goes to this song, one which was written during the Modern Life is Rubbish days and is based off the AIDS epidemic. Two words: Hammond organ. This song is deliciously spooky and I am all here for it.

Track #9 – Chinese Bombs

A runtime of 1:25? This is going to be this album’s Bank Holiday. This was one of the two songs first played live from Blur and I would have gladly paid to see everyone’s reaction to this. Blur’s fast songs have always felt punky but adding the distortion brings up a notch.  Could have easily had this on a Tony Hawk game. Like Theme From Retro, a decent bridge into the final third of Blur.

Track #10 – I’m Just a Killer for Your Love

Hmm…I’m mixed on this one. I’ll get the cons out of the way first by saying that I’m not a massive fan of Damon’s singing style on this one. It suits the song, sure, but it just sounds a bit too American for my liking. In fact I was wondering if that even was him singing at first. Then there’s what he was singing. You’d have an easier time trying to work out what Duran Duran are singing about in A View to a Kill. However, the outweighing pro here is once again the music. Graham is on form as always; you can tell he’s having a much better time than in the Britpop days, being able to twist the noise of his guitar strings, and Dave especially commands the track with a solid drumbeat. Very raw sounding, like a one take wonder straight from the studio to the disc.

Track #11 – Look Inside America

Don’t like this one. Weakest track on the album in my opinion. While it’s based off the lads touring in the US which could make for a tasty bit of writing, honestly it’s much more interesting reading about the real deal then listening to this.

Track #12 – Strange News from Another Star

Most pleasant surprise on the album since Theme from Retro. I don’t know, I guess I’m a sucker for the more ‘spacy’ songs on Blur. But yeah, Strange News for my money has the best intro since Beetlebum and has a nice David Bowie vibe running through it. While the song manages to remain calm for the most part the little harsh beats behind the acoustic guitar gives the impression of a star threatening to go supernova. This song so easily could have just flipped and gone all out in the final minute but we get a drumbeat that makes it sound like it’s marching toward its end like a good soldier. Life goes marching on. Only complaint I have is that I wish there was one more verse frankly. I genuinely really like this track, and I think Graham is going to have share that bronze medal now.

Track #13 – Movin’ On

I feel like this is a precursor to Bugman from the next album, they both sound incredibly similar. Except this is at a much more reasonable volume (Apologies for the tangent, but f*ck Bugman, that song scared the living shit out of me when I was five). Anyway, after the slower songs we’ve had for the past 12 minutes, this is a nice way to get the blood pumping again. I think it should have kept going until the final note instead of fading out but never mind.

Track #14 – Essex Dogs

Oh, Essex Dogs. I heard things about you. How in the hell did Graham produce that noise?! He made that guitar sound like an engine motor, droning on and off and on in waves and growling louder than a Subaru Impreza rally car. If he wanted to create music that scared people on Blur, mission accomplished. Here he has created a monster, one that creeps up on you and roars in your face over and over again. This is the most pants-shitting Blur have ever gotten (Well, until bloody Bugman that is. Sorry I’ll shut up about that now). And Damon. I disliked his different style of vocals on Killer for Your Love. Here he’s changed things up again and it is excellent; spoken verse, once again leaning into the Bowie influence and making him sound almost like Jarvis. This song more than any emphasises how much more personal his songwriting has been on this album, as he waxes lyrical about how much of a shithole his home of Colchester is. What a way to end.

Conclusion

Blur is a mixed bag but I’m happy to say it’s one with way more ups than downs. While the lo-fi-influenced sound isn’t always my cup of tea, it does provide a welcome change of pace from Blur’s Britpop trilogy and allows the band to go off in different directions and flex their creative muscles. In keeping with the Bowie influences heard across the album, they have that mantra in their heads of making music for themselves rather than their audience and it delivers in spades in most parts.

Not an easy listen by any stretch of the imagination and one that I’m willing to bet would be thought of by less die hard fans as an album that they respect more than they like (As I felt with Pulp’s This is Hardcore). But this was the start of Blur’s experimental phase that would continue for the second half of their careers and would be improved upon with 13 and, dare I say it, parts of Think Tank. They’d had their day in the commercial sun, they had been cast into the shadows and now they were making music that would keep themselves going and they were damn well going to make themselves heard. Even if lo-fi ain’t your cup of tea either, you are going to be pleasantly surprised by songs like Strange News from Another Star, You’re So Great and Essex Dogs. Just be prepared for a couple of dips in quality because like I say it is a mixed bag; not everything is impressive. Even the worst tracks are passable though so give Blur a shot if you haven’t already and see what you think.

Entry #24 – Sampling Soundtracks IV: Spider-Man on the PS1 (a.k.a Ollie, go to bed)

The RetroBeat: Remembering 2000's big Spider-Man game | VentureBeat
Spider-Man 2: Enter: Electro Box Shot for PlayStation - GameFAQs

I seem to have developed a thing as of late where as I’m starting to feel like I should wind down and turn in for the night my brain decides to try everything it can to stop me from doing so. The other night it was by reminding me of a fanmade version of the Doctor Who theme in the style of Jean Michel Jarre, and last night it was making me admire just how damn good those basslines are for the soundtrack to Spider-Man for the Playstation 1, better known as Spider-Man 2000.

Yup, it’s another game that I played when I was a wee lad and still occasionally play today as a wee adult. Released on the eve of the Tobey Maguire films, the two Spider-Man games released for the Playstation 1 were two of the very first games I had for that particular console and as a result they are the first thing I think of when I think of Spider-Man. Which also means that my favourite version of Spidey isn’t Maguire or Andrew Garfield or Tom Holland, it’s Rino Romano. And whenever I decide to pick up a Spidey comic I typically end up apply the voices from these games to the various characters (I’ll take Daran Norris over Tom Hardy anyday) and may very well have the soundtrack to Spidey 2000 and Enter Electro bouncing around in my head whilst reading.

Simply put, while a lot of these bits of music that I’m going to showcase here are pretty much the same few seconds of track on a loop, each one is definitive of the level they represent. And for the record, yes, I am including Enter Electro aswell because even though it is the weaker of the two soundtracks, I have rose-tinted spectacles and tend to put both OSTs on the same level as a result.

Let’s have a quick look, starting in the year 2000.

Spider-Man 2000 theme

I didn’t realise until writing this that the main theme song for the first game, a remix of the one used for the 1960’s cartoon, was done by Apollo 440. Not a fan of the band overall but Stop the Rock was one of my favourite songs growing up (Thanks, FIFA 2000) so I guess this is extra reason to appreciate the turn-of-the-millennium style tune that greets you upon booting up the game.

Stop the Bomb

A bit of sneaky-sneak and dropping from the ceiling to punch goons’ lights out, represented by slithery bassline and a smug guitar riff respectively.

Special mention as well to a recently rediscovered ‘extended’ version from the game’s beta stage that has a bridge that I think creates a nice bit of build up to Spidey emerging from the shadows to save the day.

Police Chopper Chase

Most of the soundtrack to Spider-Man 2000 is sadly compressed owing to the smaller storage spaces in games at the time. Thankfully though, Police Chopper Chase is not one of them, which means we can appreciate its guitar riffs in all their heart racing glory. Bonus points if you’ve got What If mode on and the helicopter pilot starts humming Flight of the Valkyries.

Hidden Switches

When I was younger I spent most of my time playing this game on Kid Mode, an easier than easy difficulty. How easy? Well on the Hidden Switches level, normally you would have to go around, activate switches and open a gate. On Kid Mode, it’s all done and ready. You can literally walk through the level in five seconds flat. Doesn’t really give you enough time to appreciate this more grungey piece that compliments the endless amount of Lizardmen coming your way.

Symbiotes Infest Bugle

The most electronic, and I’d argue most unnerving, track in Tommy Tallarico’s arsenal from the original game that I’ll talk about here, this one gives the sense you are really alone and the stakes are kind of against you as you do battle with symbiotes that have taken over your own work place.

Elevator Descent

The one that caused me to really admire the basslines in this game last night. I mean, listen to that thing, it’s tremendous!

Spider-Man vs Mysterio

I’m currently watching the MCU films for the first time with my Dad right now, and we’re nearly at the end of Phase One. If I get to Far From Home and discover that this track hasn’t somehow found its way into the soundtrack when Spidey encounters Mysterio, I will be immeasurably disappointed.

Carnage + Monster Ock

Bumping two tracks together here. The first, for the battle against Carnage, sums up the character perfectly; insanity and bloodthirst rolled into one mesh of symbiote. Then there’s the second, for when the symbiote melds with Doc Ock (Yes that actually happened, and it scarred many a child, myself included). The insanity of Cletus Kassidy is still there, but the bloodthirst? Oh dear lord, the bloodthirst, that right there is one pissed off symbiote. It doesn’t help that you can’t even fight Monster Ock; if he catches you, you’re stuffed. All you can do is run, and this track ain’t gonna help your heartrate. Damn your guitars, Tallarico.

That’s about it for the first game and its industrial metal-inspired soundtrack, time now to move on to the second game which focuses more exclusively on electronica. Some call it a step down, and I can see why, but I think of it as more of a natural progression. After all, 2000 already churned a lot of the a-tier villains and the b-tier ones found here in Enter Electro aren’t exactly worthy of tracks such as Mysterio’s theme. Regardless though, there’s still a lot to like here, such as…

Enter the Webhead/Vs. Sandman

First level, first track and it’s not one that makes you feel easy about proceedings thanks to the inclusion of a choir and a guitar riff that, while not quite as punchy as those found in the first game, is still relatively effective. Definitely worthy of being reused later on during the encounter against Sandman.

Spidey Vs. Shocker

From what I’ve seen Shocker seems to be considered something of a joke by the Spidey fandom. Well 5 year old me would never have guessed that if this is what they give us for his fight music, easily the best track in the game. This feels like it should be used at the end for fighting Electro, or maybe even Mysterio back in the first game, not Herman bloody Schultz. That electronic whisper-chant is just too good for him.

In Darkest Night + Heart of Darkness

Again, lumping two together seeing as they exist in the same location of the trainyard. Very much gives the sense of stealth and that you’re alone on dangerous territory.

Spidey Vs. Lizard

They really did well with the boss fight music in this game (Apart from the very last one), like Monster Ock before you know that if you don’t act fast and efficiently you’re going to get torn to pieces. The Lizard’s constant roaring doesn’t help.

Rock of Ages

The long climb that remains as only the final obstacle in your long awaited showdown with Electro. You know by this point you’re within a gnat’s hair of getting to the end of the game and you just need to keep going. Then a cascade of electricity comes down and sends you plummeting back down to the bottom. F*ck’s sakes.

Spidey Vs. Electro

By this point Electro has almost everything he needs to become a god, so to reflect that we have a track that very nicely conveys both the fact he is drunk with power as well as the stakes if Spidey were to fall now. I just wish that instead of recycling an infinitely less intense piece of music from earlier in the game (Smoke Screen), we had got a remixed version of this as the final battle took place atop the (not)World Trade Centre.

Entry #23 – Earthling (a.k.a Onomatopoeic music)

David Bowie Earthling 12" Album Cover Framed Print, Wood, Multi-Colour, 32  x 32 x 1.5 cm: Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home

Story goes I was bored during lockdown. I know, shocking. I needed something new to listen to in order to pass the time. After careful thinking I decided to step away from my usual hunting grounds of good ol’ fashioned Britpop and try out some David Bowie. But then I was confronted with the one question you must ask yourself when you are diving into a discography as rich and expansive as his: Where do you start? The man released nearly 30 studio albums for crying out loud, you could jump out of a helicopter into a collection of his records and be softly cushioned by the pile. In the end I had to resort to asking a crowd of people in a Discord server I’m part of where to go, specifying that I wanted to go for one of the lesser appreciated or disregarded efforts; frankly there isn’t much point in writing about Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane or Hunky Dory, that’s all been done to death and I’d more than likely just end up gushing over them. Eventually the choices came down to Scary Monsters, Earthling and Hours. In the end I settled on Earthling which from what I’ve gathered is one of the more experimental albums in Bowie’s catalogue. Interesting times ahead.

Track #1 – Little Wonder

Well. That was a wake up call. Upon starting we are greeted by a very 90s drum and bass cum Prodigy sound that uncomfortably melds with the classic Bowie voice and piano. When I actually heard that drum sample for the first time I thought I was listening to a remixed version of the theme from Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Not entirely what I was expecting. It’s a bit of a mess if I’m being honest, with the drum loops and the shrieky guitars and…train noises? I do like the left turn it seems to take around four minutes in with Bowie repeating ‘So far away’ but apart from that, not a fan. Music video is a fascinating piece of work though.

Track #2 – Looking for Satellites

Once again, messy. It feels like Bowie and co. produced a bunch of noises and sounds that only barely manage to mesh together to create something resembling a song. It’s very trippy and a good example of post rock but I feel like it’s trying a bit too hard. Having said that though, I do love that guitar riff.

Track #3 – Battle For Britain (The Letter)

I feel like this is the first song on this album where Bowie himself really resonates, the previous two having been dominated by the music. I guess that means either I’m getting used to the sound of Earthling or this is a better song. Probably both. It still has yet to get me in the mood though, there’s something about this album that just isn’t connecting with me. Perhaps I’m just not a big fan of the spikier drum and bass genre, or maybe this album so far just feels like David Bowie having a ‘How do you do, fellow kids?’ moment. Either way, I’m going along with proceedings but only tentatively.

Track #4 – Seven Years in Tibet

The creeping start with the electronic beat is a refreshing change of pace from how in your face affairs have been so far. Then we get some compressed lyrics followed by another decent guitar riff that makes me wonder if we’re listening to one of the lo-fi efforts of Blur’s self-titled album. However, I like that album and I actually really like this song. It definitely benefits from the slower tempo; the instruments feel less clumped together and have room to express themselves, and there’s an undercurrent of the plastic soul from Young Americans hiding just under the surface. Definitely the highlight of the album so far as we approach the halfway stage.

Track #5 – Dead Man Walking

Disregard that last sentence. This is the highlight of the album so far. I think at this point I have adjusted to the sound of Earthling and am really starting to enjoy myself now. While this is definitely the most 90s sounding song since Little Wonder and seems designed to be a club anthem, it benefits from what is undoubtedly Bowie’s best performance up to this point. Little wonder (Sorry, couldn’t resist) that this got him nominated for a Best Male Performance Grammy. Ok, if the Simpsons have taught me anything it’s that Grammys mean next to nothing but hey, award nominations are award nominations, right? Anyway, yes, love it, and at a 7 and a bit minute runtime it definitely doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Track #6 – Telling Lies

Quite an interesting choice for a lead single. I suppose it was probably the best candidate to give the audience a taste of what was to come, not going too heavy handed into the industrial electronica of Earthling. It’s more enigmatic and evokes curiosity, mostly because of the narrator who Bowie gives a voice too. Looking through those lyrics I’m not sure if it’s God per se but definitely someone who thinks he is. Bond villain maybe? It’s also worth talking about the release of the single, one of the more unique ways of doing things back in 1996. It was done via the Internet along with a Q&A webchat with three David Bowies; one was real, the other two were pretending to be him, and it was up to the participants to guess who was the real deal and who was telling lies. The full transcript is available to read if you’re interested: (http://www.bowiewonderworld.com/chats/dbchat0996.htm)

Track #7 – The Last Thing You Should Do

A very electronic-dominated song that honestly evoked memories of Ridge Racer Type 4 (See here: https://asideglance.com/2020/12/07/entry-13-sampling-soundtracks-i-ridge-racer-type-4-a-k-a-hey-its-a-new-record/). It feels like a song you can race to, and the crescendo in the middle really gets the blood pumping. However, with Bowie repeating the same lines of verse over and over again, you start to pay more attention to the music and realise there is something rather unnerving in its sound. Danger-ish. Combined with the title of the song it indicates something very bad has happened or is happening. A drug trip perhaps? As delightfully eerie as it is though, the end of the song kind of spoils things with how abrupt it is. I’d be fine with it if the very last sound you hear didn’t sound like a fart. The last thing you should do is end with that kind of sound.

Track #8 – I’m Afraid of Americans

As one of the more talked about singles from this album, I was rather looking forward to this song. It’s got a very similar tone to the previous one, albeit leaning towards outright scariness rather than putting you off-ease. The constant repetition of the lines once again combined with the loud noise and messiness that harks back to the beginning creates a feeling of madness from the narrator. That repetition also creates one of the less subtle subject matters found on Earthling; the anti-Americanisation sentiment in the lyrics. It feels very much like a song lifted from the post-World War II era, dropped into the 90s and bathed in industrial rock. And considering recent events, I’d say that this song has aged rather well, which is unfortunate. A little bit of a step down from the last few songs but I’ll put that down to having the bar raised by the aforementioned expectations I had before booting this track up.

Track #9 – Law (Earthlings on Fire)

And so we end with another song that sounds like it was born to be a dancefloor anthem. Not much to say about it honestly, but I’m going to hazard a guess and say that I think this was based of Bowie’s fears from the time of how big the Internet was going to grow. In which case this is the most well-aged track on the album, even moreso than I’m Afraid of Americans. Did David have a crystal ball to hand when he was busy finishing off this album? As the finale this is of course where Earthling’s main influences of the Prodigy and Underworld really come together. Very much the lovechild of those two musical styles. A serviceable end.

Conclusion:

It took a while for Earthling to get going but once it did it won me over. The first third is a bit of a slog but once you reach Seven Years in Tibet you’re set for a half hour of great music. I guess my main takeaway from this is that don’t go in with expectations on this one, especially if those expectations include a ‘classic’ Bowie sound. Otherwise you’re just going to end up shocked and disappointed. Or then again, do. With a bit of patience you can adjust to it like I did.

I do think that this album really fits the post-80s mantra David Bowie had, that he would only be making music for himself rather than the audience after he ‘sold out’ with records like Tonight, Let’s Dance and…the other one, the crap one. Not the most accessible album ever made, rather dated considering drum and bass is a much more niche genre these days, and definitely not quintessential Bowie, but I’d say it’s worth at least a curious peek. If none of the songs on their own are your cup of tea then maybe it would be worth checking out the remixes.

Because good tapdancing Christ, there are a LOT of remixes…

Entry #22 – Stop the Clocks (a.k.a The Holy Grail of Oasis)

Stop The Clocks by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds on Amazon Music -  Amazon.co.uk

When I reviewed the GoldenEye soundtrack a while ago I mentioned that the recently leaked Xbox Live Arcade remaster of the game was pretty much the holy grail for Bond game fans. Well, I’m about to use that term again to describe this song I decided to listen to today.

For a good ten years it seems, the holy grail for Oasis fans was Stop the Clocks.

For those who don’t know this was a song that had first reared its head during the Heathen Chemistry sessions back in 2001 but obviously it did not make it on to the album. Not much of a big deal was made of it until Noel began talking about it on and off in interviews and then it made its live debut in 2003. Curiosity piqued. Oasis then began the recording sessions for their next album the following year. The album’s title? Stop the Clocks.

However, that doesn’t last long, eventually the song is dropped from the album which is renamed to Don’t Believe the Truth (Which for the record is an album title I will defend). Then the following year a best-of compilation album is released. The album’s title? Stop the Clocks.

Surely that should mean the song should finally appear as a bonus track.

Nope. No sign of it. Apparently no matter how many times they tried, the band couldn’t seem to get it right. They still hadn’t got it right by the time they released their final album Dig Out Your Soul. After Oasis’ breakup it seemed that the only way to hear Stop the Clocks would be via some leaks.

So with a history like that, I felt that of all of the songs released by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds this was the one I should check out (The only one I’ve really tried and liked of NGHFB’s so far is Ballad of the Mighty I). Surely after ten years sitting on the backburner, and with Noel having 100% creative control over it with his band, this was going to be the apex of his efforts.

And it’s good. That’s it. Just good.

Instrumentally it’s a corker. The Birds really bring the song to life with a Masterplan-esque tune with the notes of a keyboard adding a bit of psychedelic dreaminess into the mix. Perfect for a song where the narrator contemplates ‘if [he’s] already dead’ and ‘when the night is over where will [he] rise?’. Basically it’s a Noel acoustic ballad like Talk Tonight or D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman? with a lot of extra peppering that fuels its launch into space. That choir especially makes this one sound out of this world. Then as we fly through the stars as the song goes on we come crashing back down to Earth as the night comes to an end, as represented by a wonderful if slightly clumsy jam. Honestly, I love the sound of this song, it’s…I hate to use the word, it’s so overused, but I guess it applies here: epic. Sorry.

But there is one reason why I only rank the song as good. The weak link here is Noel’s vocals. They’re not his best. This might just be me but I swear there is something wrong with his enunciation. He sounds like he did a take or two while tipsy and they accidentally found their way into the final mix. Less ‘When the night is over’, more ‘when the nye’s over’. By the time we get to the last verse, where he states how when ‘the night is over there’ll be no sound’, he sounds like he is struggling to keep the word ‘sound’ in tune. Doesn’t really do justice to what is a damned fine set of lyrics. I think this may be the area where Oasis kept slipping up that caused this song to never be released by the band; there were versions done by Liam which I can’t see going well as this song doesn’t really suit his more aggressive style. It’s a song tailored for Noel’s gentler voice but if this is the best he can do with what’s he written then maybe it should have remained a lost classic.

It’s tricky to say. An excellent piece of music dragged down by the man behind the vocals. Not to say it isn’t listenable as a result, far from it, you should absolutely listen to this if you can spare the time. But I think I can categorically say that after being hyped up for nearly ten years by a rabid fanbase who at that point in 2011 wanted anything they could get from the glory days of Oasis, Stop the Clocks was always going to be at least a bit of a letdown. And that is a crying shame.

N.B: I am aware that this song is not a single but it is still getting lumped into the ‘Singles’ category on the blog because it is a single song that I am reviewing. My blog, my rules. And I’m allowed to break my rules.

Entry #21 – idkwhyidkwhere (a.k.a Word of mouth is a wonderful thing)

Image

Well this is something a wee bit different for the blog. For the first time I have been contacted by someone in the outside world and they have asked me if I would consider listening to a band’s music, specifically their latest single, and give my thoughts and feelings here on A-Side Glance. Of course, I said. Glad I did too.

The single in question comes from an indie rock band in Devon by the name of Region, a three piece consisting of Luke, Rio and Will who describe themselves on their website as “friends who just want to have fun with their music”. Their inspirations include the Foo Fighters, so immediately I know I’m dealing with a band with good taste which is always good. So far they have two singles to their name and it’s their most recent that we’ve got on our plate here, just released on February 20th.

First thing I got from this song: Noise. The slight sound of static gives way to a loud whining guitar that grabs your attention and puts you on your toes. Rather gritty, borderline punk sound which immediately strikes me with the thought that this is going to be a song that translates well onto the stage once live shows are up and running again (No more cock ups till June, please and thank you). It’s a tune that reflects well on the opening lyrics talking of ‘Driving towards the sunset’ before we get deeper into the song and the narrator laments how the person they are singing to isn’t the same as they once were. While like I say there is an undercurrent of punk to this song, the theme of melancholy quickly becomes apparent. ‘I just don’t know whether you are yourself anymore’. It’s not full blown sadness, it’s frustration more than anything. The repetition of the line ‘I don’t know’ throughout the song then indicates that frustration has given way to hopelessness.

And I don’t think that’s more apparent than in the third verse, the first after the chorus. Luke has gone on record saying this is his favourite verse that he has written up to this point, and I would have to agree as it is the lyrical highlight of the song. While ‘I don’t know’ is a recurring line throughout, here this verse deals with the person being trapped in his head, like a fly buzzing around in your ear; it’s bloody annoying and we end with the mantra ‘Just get out, get out, get out, get out’. We all get that feeling of getting something or someone stuck in our heads but when it’s something we don’t think we can solve or do anything about, we loath every minute we spend dwelling on it. After all, what’s the point?

If I do have to be critical about one thing with this song, it has to be with the chorus. While I love the tune behind this song and all three members are doing a cracking job with their instruments, I do feel like that the mixing is just a smidge off and that Luke’s vocals are ever so slightly drowned out by the guitar riffs. Like I say I love the tune but there is a point where it becomes overbearing and that is the point unfortunately. However, that is the only real nit I had to pick and apart from that, I rather enjoyed idkwhyidkwhere. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Region have got up their sleeve once the world has unscrewed itself.

If you want to check them out for yourselves you can follow the link below to their website, and below that is a vid where Luke explains the lyrics and production of the song.

Also, if you’re an up-and-coming artist like Region and you want me to check out your music for the blog then feel free to drop me an email: asideglance21@gmail.com

Region’s website: https://regionbandofficial.wixsite.com/regionofficial