Wire’s 100 Records that set the world on fire while no one was listening.56-60

Today’s selection of albums that The Wire list have chosen are eclectic to say the least (WAIT till you get to the Fred Lane) but each and every one heralds the entrance the 80’s. Music, more than ever before was becoming a parody of itself and its own influences. The anxieties of post-modernism we well in force here, as sound is coming from the guts of heroin addicts and born again Christians. The music never lets us down eh? It manages to capture the feel, the mood, (for want of a less clicky word) the Zeitgeist perfectly. Russia is looming as an indestructible force and we are all starting to see that the US shits where it wants.

Life was never better.

The music was never better.


(This post is part of a series of posts on the Wire list. For the previous post please go here. To see the Wire’s original list, please go here. )

Al Green

The Belle Album

Absolutely everything that can happen to a man happened and then Al made The Belle Album. here we see a departure from long time producer Willie Mitchell and the high rhythm section that had marked him before. Along with this, the label Hi Records is gone. Green has found rel-i-gun and become a pastor and had sold his soul to gospel. But this album didn’t herald an end so much as a new beginning. This is pop infused with Pentecostal fire.  Here’s what Wire had to say:

These were songs not intended so much to rattle the pop cage as to find Green himself a new and sanctified place in the music. But the shift was too much for anyone in 1977 and left even the cognoscenti confused. And no wonder “Belle” proposed a menage a trois with God; “Country Boy” was an apologia of Southern life, skillfully hidden in part by the hieroglyphics of Southern dialect; there was the spirited eschatology of “Chariots Of Fire”; the ethereal spun gold of “Dreaming”. Even by 1977’s production and technical standards, it sounded like a field recording, especially with Green playing his own lead guitar. But it had real down home power. As Green himself once said, this was music as strong as death.

Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs

Raudelunas ‘Pataphysical Revue

This bizarre collection of sound dominated by the (insane?) Fred Lane. I’m going to default to the Wire’s blurb again for this mad cap brilliance, (and I need to add that Mutant Sounds have a great write-up of this masterpiece of an album) but before that I have to break with tradition and  post a second you tube sample, because Fred Lane’s Rubber Room is just something you HAVE to hear. I LOVE the juxtaposition between that voice from heaven and the lyric.  Check it out:

A document of a single evening in the university town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, March 1975, at the Second Raudelunas Exposition. Dominating proceedings is Fred Lane, towering alter ego of flautist and whirlygig sculptor Tim Reed, who compares with a series of hilarious lateral jokes and weird monologues. His cover versions of “Volare” and “My Kind Of Town” backed by Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs – a hot, swinging, meandering big band – set new standards as melody gives way to controlled, impassioned and deeply humorous improvisation. This monumental work also features Anne LeBaron’s superb “Concerto For Active Frogs”; Mitchell Cashions’s charming settings of Julius Caesar’s “The Chief Divisions Of The People Of Gaul”; Industrial noise from The Captains Of Industry; and wild Improv combo The Blue Denim Deals Without The Arms. No other record has ever come as close to realizing Alfred Jarry’s desire “to make the soul monstrous” – or even had the vision or invention to try. It’s all over the place. The sleevenotes describe it as “the best thing ever” – time has not damaged this audacious claim.

Iggy Pop & James Williamson

Kill City

Mmmmm…. it shouldn’t take any self-respecting list long to get around to Iggy the man.  Iggy Pop is on weekend release here from Neuropsychiatric Institute in Los Angeles, and this is what he comes up with.  This is a mish mash of love squashed between the Stooges time and the forthcoming David Bowie groove fest. There would be no takers for the album until 1977 when, following the success of Pop’s solo albums The Idiot and Lust for Life, James Williamson got an advance from Bomp to release the album; some of which was used to fund studio time to finish off the original recordings by adding overdubs and remixing. Pop later appeared as himself on the Tales from the Crypt TV series and performed the title track. The master tapes were lost shortly after the release of the original album and all subsequent CD releases were mastered from the original poor quality green vinyl pressing. This partly accounts for the somewhat muddy sound of the album. After the explicit savagery of 1973’s Raw Power, this sounds initially muted and less vivid. But Iggy’s arrangements – or should that read Williamson’s? – perfectly highlight a kind of benumbed amorality and sense of toxic dislocation. The title track is a cold slap in the face to the decadent pretensions of The Doors’ “LA Woman”; “I Got Nothin'” is a cold blast of pop nihilism; “Lucky Monkeys” is the kind of post-narcotic comedown groove that Royal Trux have made their name with. Released against Iggy’s wishes, Kill City is a fascinating document of darkness and hard vitality.  And please – anything that reveals The Doors to be puritanical is cool with me.

The Human League

Being Boiled / Circus of Death

Kraftwerk have brought Kraut Rock out of its secret underground cave and that cool sex-of-synth sound with impassive performers smolders around our anxieties about a new era of industrial disease. I adore early Human League. With Martin Ware and Ian Marsh and that oh-so-smooth sexy distance of Phil Oakley they had the formula and only self annihilation could stop them – which of course is exactly what did. This album is credited as being the first electronic pop albums produced in the UK. Despite the Buddah references and the oriental niceties, this is a dark brooding album that perfectly summed up its era. At a time when grand passion, political or sexual, was pop’s expressive orthodoxy (responsible for most of the 80s’ worst music, including some by the later versions of themselves), The League chose to program their drum machines with the driest Sheffield wit – just as ‘human’ a response, after all, and far harder to fake – and then demonstrated considerable heroism sticking to the plan in the face of intransigent pubrock bigotry on the circuit.

The Walker Brothers

Nite Flights

Because this album is here for a specific reason – and because it’s not one high on my radar – I’m going to default to the Wires list for this one as well:

Only the first four tracks, Scott Walker’s own, concern me, as the rest of the album is given over to the other ‘brothers, with mediocre results. “Shutout” rips open with ominous bass, knife-edge drumming and a heavy sustained chord screaming into a tunnel of absolute despair. One of the best voices in contemporary music enters, stabbing an elliptical litany of terrors chased by Les Davidson’s chainsaw guitar eating into metal. The brooding atmosphere is set as Walker breathes wreath-like free falls throughout the surging skin-bursting of “Fat Mama Kick” and “Nite Flights”. “The Electrician”, a masterpiece (also bizarrely released as the most uncommercial single ever), follows; the ultimate in barbed intensity. Walker pours venom against US involvement in the politics of torture in South America, from within an evil cloud of shimmering menace (echoing the Eno/Bowie/Visconti hinterlands of Low and Lodger). A middle section flashes from the electric storm as lush orchestration eases into a calming Spanish guitar only to plunge back into the velvet blackness. Brutally honest, somber yet sensual, these tracks shimmer and resonate with as much relevance and power now as they did when they were originally released to near obscurity 20 years ago.