Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Three Wise Discs


In a Festive Special we'll be taking on Three Christmas Themed Albums and asking our virtually assembled round table to give us some critical perspective on them.


Recording is scheduled for Saturday 5th December 2020 @ 11 am
You must register before taking part


Email: TAC@kingofthebuttons.co.uk




Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Reviews for 'Is this Desire?' by PJ Harvey



I’ve been aware of Polly Harvey for a long time, but not what you would call a ‘fan’. The early indie guitar driven songs were not for me and her vocal style didn’t drag me in. So this album was my first chance to sit down and immerse myself into the Polly Harvey world. Thankfully, the guitar led stuff appears to have been spread out and more of the songs in the collection were rooted in electronica with beats behind simple vocals. Where the guitars turn up those are a hard listen for me. There is no ‘hit single’ amongst these tunes. There are elements of the trip-hop scene from Bristol popping up every now and then, which I did enjoy. The lyrics are mainly brooding questions about the nature of human relationships and the consequences of expressing desire. Best tunes, ’The Wind’, ’The River’ and ‘Is This Desire?’

-Marek


There is something watery about PJ Harvey's music of this era. Beneath the surface, however, something deadly lurks. If I was looking for a soundtrack to the modern reboot of the adventures of Ulysses, I would use Is This Desire to accompany the scene with the sirens. Undulating, deep baselines, haunting melodies, and the ever present threat of a watery death at the hands of desire, list and greed, Is This Desire is like a Greek tragedy for our modern world.

-Matthew


I love Polly Jean. No really, I mean ‘love’ her. Everything about this angst-ridden raven in the early and mid 1990’s had me smitten... until, that is, the release of this album. A toned down (perceivably depressive) PJ spilt out her guts and I did not like it. No guitar driven ‘Dress’, ‘Sheela Na Gig’ or ‘50 Foot Queenie’ here sadly but pared down keyboard and experimental tunes. I guess ‘Down by the Water’ from the preceding ‘To Bring You My Love’ was a warning sign of the direction future releases could take and here was a new woman clearly articulating some of her life’s issues and problems. That said, she cites this album as her best work. Fortunately, for me at least, the roller coaster of her labours picked up again straight away with the Mercury Prize winning Stories from the City. It is a familiar pattern I’ve often found in Polly’s work; a subsequent nosedive to White Calk before escalating to new heights again with her latter albums. If nothing else she keeps you on your tones this thing of beauty.

-Ciaran



Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Getting Ready...

 

We're getting ready for our next virtual roundtable recording 

on Friday 4th September 2020 @ 6pm.

We'll be discussing 'Is this Desire?' by PJ Harvey (1998)

If you're interested in joining us you can register at:

TAC@kingofthebuttons.co.uk


Sunday, 19 July 2020

The Album Club Condensed!


As we try and work out a few tech problems we thought you might like to know that Album Club regular Marek takes to the air with James Sandy on Tuesday 21st July at 7 pm on Switch Radio as part of The Unseen Swerve. The album in question this time around is 1978's The Man by Barry White.

Tune in for what we're dubbing 'The Album Club Condensed'.

I'm afraid I can't let you do that...


We're having a few technical issues with our 'usual' 
Album Club set up at the moment. 

For the next couple of weeks 
we'll be focusing on options and fixing 'HAL'. 



Thursday, 2 July 2020

Reviews for Album Club Remixed #7:


Kid A was a turning point not just for Radiohead but also for me and my relationship with music. I loved OK Computer and wanted more stadium sized songs I could wallow in, but when confronted with the icy landscape with apparently no hooks, I immediately dismissed it. Fortunately for me, I liked Idioteque enough to keep coming back to the album. Over time, small details started to win me over. The discordant strings which suddenly silence themselves and create a moment of absolute calm during How To Disappear Completely was one such moment. Over time these small details I had missed weaved themselves together and I embraced the album. It took several years, and I had to mature in my music tastes and become more adventurous and open to new things, but I got there. 


Had Radiohead not made such a defiant about turn, had they simply churned out another set of fine songs as they had on their previous two albums, then I doubt that they would be revered as they are today. They might be another blast from the past treading the boards of the smaller festivals along with Travis, Reef and Dodgy. Instead they are, in my opinion, my generation's Beatles, willing to experiment and push their comfort zone, constantly looking to evolve and never rehashing the same formula to diminishing returns.
-Matthew




The album that followed The Bends and OK Computer and I’m sure people that had caught onto those albums were expecting more of the same. But Radiohead went against the grain and produced something ‘arty’. Introducing many electronica elements and turning down the guitar-rack. Good for them I say, kudos for trying something different. However, in the car my wife asks “can we listen to something else?”, which is the moment to try and understand how she cannot appreciate what is being played or is it indeed pants. If you liked Radiohead for one thing can you still like them for another, this is the question hovering over Kid A? For me, I’m glad they gave it a go, but the tunes sound half finished and the album is missing a ‘big’ song or two. It sold a bucket load…so what do I know?
-Marek




Although often cited as Radiohead's "In Utero" (i.e. a conscious effort to not be commercial), the majority of these tracks would not be out of place on OK Computer. Even when trying to be inaccessible, Radiohead can't help but write excellent songs! Thom Yorke's method of randomly selecting phrases to use as lyrics adds to the detached feeling of the album, but nothing sounds jarring or out of place.


This heralded the era of what we now think of as the Radiohead sound - "Optimistic" is the blueprint for the majority of Radiohead songs after this, and would not be out of place on In Rainbows.

The Bends, OK Computer and Kid A all worked perfectly as a complete album - it took Radiohead a few goes after this to achieve that complete package again (only hitting gold again on In Rainbows). Kid A mixes the electronic influences (notably Aphex Twin), soundscapes and straight up songwriting beautifully, in a way they tried to replicate on albums like Hail To The Thief and Amnesiac with only fleeting success.
-Joe






Saturday, 27 June 2020

Homework Sheet July 2020


The Album Club Remixed July 2020
"Kid A" by Radiohead (2000)

Listen!
Be it MP3, vinyl or  cassette it goes without saying that we’ll get the most from the discussion if you have a good listen to the album in the run up.



The two key tracks* from the album are:

Track 1: Everything in its Right Place
Track 8: Idioteque

*These are tracks we’ll focus on, but we do want to talk about the whole album. 

Write!
Please can you let me have a three bullet point review of the album (by email) by 12 Noon on Thursday 2nd July or submit something via this blog.  This will help to prompt the discussion and give us something to get the ball rolling.

You can say what you loved, what you hated, what you don’t understand, how you felt, what was missing...

How it works...
You will receive an email invitation to participate via cleanfeed (you should use a WiFi/4G connection and headphones). 

We will start with some introductions and any questions before we kick off.

The discussion will take in- a bit of an overview, a discussion framed around two key tracks, comments, thoughts and views on the album. It will last for 20 mins and then be edited to form the future radio show.

The session will be hosted by James Sandy from Switch Radio and is planned to air on Tuesday 7th July 2020 @7 pm as part of regular arts & culture show The Unseen Swerve


Thursday, 25 June 2020

The Album Cub Remixed #7



The Album Club Remixed is a regular virtual music discussion with recorded contributions and reviews from a growing band of volunteers.

The next album up for discussion is "Kid A" By Radiohead (2000).

The next recording session is planned for Friday 3rd July 2020 at 6.30 pm.

You must notify us by email if you would like to take part (oh yeah, and do some homework).

The final edit of the discussion will feature in The Unseen Swerve scheduled to broadcast on Tuesday 7th July 2020 @7 pm on Switch Radio.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Reviews for Silent Alarm by Bloc Party





Energetic and vibrant, it is an enjoyable listen to any fans of guitar based rock. I think that it came at a time where guitar rock was perhaps in its death throes and having one last big resurgence amid contemporaries such as The Libertines, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys etc. As part of that whole movement, they come across to me as the equivalent of what a band like Echobelly were to the whole Britpop thing. They were fine, they sort of did what their contemporaries were doing, but to a less fulfilling extent. They didn't score the big singles nor albums, but they were there at the time, and that's nice for them. There's leaders and there's followers, there are innovators and copiers, and I think Bloc Party fall into the latter of each set of groupings.  
- Matthew

"A new one for me. They had not crossed my path before even though this album is some 15 years old. It is ‘sitting on the fence’ time for me. I don’t dislike it, but there again I find few things that would have me rushing out to add it to my collection. If I was at a festival, standing in a field with a some cloudy cider watching this band for their 30 or 40 minutes, I think I’d quite enjoy that. But listening to the album in isolation I don’t hear any standout tunes and the vocal doesn’t stand out either (things that would possibly have me wanting to explore further). If you listen to BBC 6music during the day, their schedule is full of very similar bands (and that current indie sound) and it is very difficult to differentiate between them all”.
-Marek

Thursday, 4 June 2020

The Album Club Remixed #6


The Album Club Remixed is a regular virtual music discussion with recorded contributions and reviews from a growing band of volunteers.

The next album up for discussion is "Silent Alarm" By Bloc Party (2005).

The next recording session is planned for Friday 19th June 2020 at 6.30 pm.

You must notify us by email if you would like to take part (oh yeah, and do some homework).

The final edit of the discussion will feature in The Unseen Swerve scheduled to broadcast on Tuesday 23rd June 2020 @7 pm on Switch Radio.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Album Reviews for Kraftwerk's 'The Man Machine'


I’d been aware of Kraftwerk from their ‘Autobahn’ single a few years earlier, but nothing else. As the punk scene began to fragment at the end of the 1970’s the pace-setters to come next were the New Romantics and the New Wavers. They were looking for new sounds and styles and the synthesiser was readily available and harked back to the punk ethos of “anyone can do it” because of its ease to use. But the newer bands were still melding electronic music with traditional band line-ups. Kraftwerk had been doing their thing for at least a decade at that point, ignoring the two guitars, bass and drums set up and indeed with someone who could sing. The main point of ‘The Man Machine’ was that Kraftwerk had begun to introduce beats that you could dance to. I can remember this album getting played to death at Birmingham clubs such as Holy City Zoo and The Rum Runner.
-Marek





The sound of Der Mencsh Machine is, to me, like cities made of glass crackling with blue tongue licking lashes of electricity.

It is the most pop leaning record of the band's career to that point, with "The Model" being perhaps their best known piece and representing the band's success in honing the new technology they had been working with into instruments which could be accepted and embraced by generations of musical purists.

The Krautrock revolution, as it has become known (though when I mentioned the term to a German friend she did not know it and thought it rather insulting) was the sound of Germany looking to put it's past behind it, but not by jumping on the bandwagon of the popular American music dominating the airwaves. It was the search for a new identity from the ruins of a troubled history.


Its influence is far reaching. I could name LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk songs that directly lift some of the melodies from Metropolis and The Robots without apology.
-Matthew

Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Album Club Remixed #5


The Album Club Remixed is a new format for our regular music discussions which now happens virtually with recorded contributions from a growing band of volunteers.

The next album up for discussion is "The Man Machine" by Kraftwerk (1978)

In part a tribute to Florian Schneider who dies recently.

The next recording session is planned for Friday 29th May 2020 at 6.30 pm.

You must notify us by email if you would like to take part (oh yeah, and do some homework).

The final edit of the discussion will feature in The Unseen Swerve scheduled to broadcast on Tuesday 2nd June 2020 @7 pm on Switch Radio.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Albums of Influence

As I'm sure many of you have, I recently received an invitation from a good friend via facebook to post ten albums that have influenced or informed my musical tastes over the years. The deal was that you couldn't say anything about them or review them,  you just let the sleeve do the talking and then pass on the invitation to another good friend. 

Lock down comes with many rules, but this one had to be broken. And so some personal reflections on my ten albums of influence...

Harvest By Neil Young

In amongst the badly mixed paints and fractured half-pots of our school art room I heard the warn tones of this album. Our art teacher at the time (the mighty Mr Taylor) motivated our half attempts at art with tunes from a dying box amp or an occasional wander through the art room accompanied playing his own old battered guitar. This album dominated my weeks in the fifth year of secondary school. Sunday still doesn't seem right without hearing a track (or six).

Suede

Although initially unimpressed with Brett Anderson's frantic struts on TOTP one Thursday in March 1993, I soon grew to love the unworldly swirls and buzz saw guitars of this debut. I recall watching a BBC news documentary about lost kids and social issues with my parents at the time. It used almost the entire Suede album as its soundtrack. I was sold. My parents were less than enamoured (not quite James Last).

Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors by Fish

Having inherited the sounds of Marillion from an early age this album was destined to effect me in some way. I still have it on gatefold vinyl. The cover alone makes it a classic. It's songs are overly complicated stabs at pop-prog, but I still know most of the lyrics and find myself subconsciously singing the 'hits'. I think if anything I learnt that listening to music should be a serious business and that albums must be taken on as a long-term prospect- a relationship.

Unplugged by Neil Young

Gone are the soft country feedback twangs of Harvest (almost). This album came to me one evening via a BBC 2 repeat of MTV's flagging flagship show for people that just wanted to put a tape on. Looking like a discarded, rain soaked, hippy and clad in a 90s-tastic leather look jacket Neil channels something exceptional. After stopping traffic with solely a guitar he then launches near falsetto into twisted versions of his classics on a booming pump organ. This album made me listen to live albums more and differently. It told me lots about the spontaneity (or not) of songs and how they should sound on the tape- unmixed and unrefined.  

Murder Ballads by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Aside from Sean Hughes' regular references and blatant T-shirt worship, I didn't really know much about King Ink in the early 90s. Unsure of the Kylie duet I boldly invested in the album from Lancaster's now long gone Ear 'Ere Records (Penny Street). I nearly bust my stereo listening to this album. A macabre jaunt into the world of murder through a storybook of lost fairy tales. It took me years to work out that the odd sounding instrument on 'Stagger Lee' was- it is Blixa Bargeld constantly screaming. From hence forth I have been a massive Bad Seeds fan and have enjoyed the journey- bright and pure. 


The Happiest Man Alive by Babybird

Stephen Jones is one of the most underated artists I could name. His output is prolific and the albums solid. This album made me think seriously about the mechanics of recording and the glory of back bedroom audio production. In truth it is part of the origin story of the King of the Buttons empire (film rights available). It taught me that there are not really any limitations in creativity- whatever kind. You should follow that idea, however mad (It's also got some guilt free dance-a-longs on it).

Are you serious by Andrew Bird

In the summer of 2016 this open ended statement/question took on a whole new significance for me as the country declared splendid isolationism to a world crying out for solidarity. How Andrew Bird manages to construct and deconstruct in such a hip swinging manner I really don't know. And so, the language of soulful defiance beyond rhetoric became clearer to me.

Magpie by Stephen Fretwell

Drifting into a peaceful dream one night in my flatpack Swindon exec pad I recalled a late guest on Mark Radcliffe's holy BBC R2 show. A few days later this album appeared as a welcome leaving gift from an equally welcome comrade. It is the throw away, casual tone of the album that warrants endless listening. It is music that is of a moment, for a moment and that lives in the moment. Magpie is an opportunist of a record that reminds me that music is as vital as coffee.

56 by Elvis Presley

All religions have their deities. All dogs have their day. 1956 was the year in which the messiah jolted every notion of sensible blues and teen music with the lunging devil of rock'n'roll. EAP is captured without the fluff, without the burgers and with the full ammunition of a lost boy making the world of music his own. Cheap compilations and magazine freebies to the floor. This disk made me take Elvis seriously.

Gorgeous George by Edwyn Collins

The last of the go-getters. An energetic collection of songs that describes the passing of an age, the death of 'indie' and the nonsense of the big bucks festival. A 60's sound reheated to challenge the very revolutions that it inspired. Intelligent pop without involving Neil Tennant- It's possible?

Hear for yourself...


Wednesday, 6 May 2020

The Album Club Remixed #4 - Soull II Soul 'Club Classic Vol. One'- Reviews


Soul II Soul, evocative sounding isn't it?!? Getting illusions of tasting the Godfathers Jimmy B or Georgie C? Don't, because this sure aint Soul and it definitely aint funky so if you're hungry for either you've come to the wrong place.. This is 1989 and this is, erm.... well, R&B is probably were you'd find it (mis)filed in the shiny racks of HMV, Virgin or Woolworths.

If there is any message, political or otherwise, regarding the times and the origins of these 'tunes' it is more than subtly hidden behind breakbeats and heavily synthesised strings. Is this music to dance to? Is it music to chill out to?  It fails both tests but fortunately we have the eponymous Mr B explain on 'Jazzie's Groove' that this is just him and his London crew with their sound system making some music as they've always done.  Unfortunately labeling this long player as some sort of antidote to the Second Summer of Love rave scene is probably the kindest I can personally muster.

The dawn of this ground breaking new decade shouldn't be remembered for the saturation of television screens of Soul II Soul in their yard swaying to the 'Back to Life' video. 1989 saw notable releases from Faith No More, Stone Roses, The Pixies, The Cure, (not to mention Nirvana's Bleach) all hitting the shelves around the time of this album. So, remember for a real recipe of soul and elusive funk De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising was there to be devoured too. Now that is a real club classic to feast upon. Peace out Funki Dreds.

Ciaran 


Thursday, 30 April 2020

Album Reviews for Handsworth Revolution by Steel Pulse

"I’m old enough to have lived through the ‘Punk wars’, mid-teens, getting to end of school and discovering a musical scene that was mine not someone else’s. Attending gigs then, the obligatory pre-gig soundtrack was reggae. It was quite an experience to encounter wall shaking dub records for the first time. But I didn’t know enough about it to understand the themes or the patois. Steel Pulse arrived, they were from up the road, so I was getting to hear their records being played. They sang in clear tones that I could decipher and in that clearer Bob Marley style which I had heard before and liked. Brummies talking about empowerment, freedom, religion, peace, racism. Its got some great tunes, wonderful harmonies and a message. I was in".
-Marek

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The Album Club Remixed #3


The Album club remixed is a new format for our regular music discussions which now happens virtually with recorded contributions from a growing band of volunteers.

The next album up for discussion is Steel Pulse's 1978 Album "Handsworth Revolution"

The next recording session is planned for Friday 1st May 2020 at 6.30 pm.

You must notify us by email if you would like to take part (oh yeah, and do some homework).

The final edit of the discussion will feature in The Unseen Swerve scheduled to broadcast on Tuesday 5th May 2020 @7 pm on Switch Radio.


Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Album Reviews for The Streets- Original Pirate Music


Photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash

The Streets- Original Pirate Music 
"When I first heard a bit of this album it really was a “what the heck is that?” moment. A guy not rapping, not singing, sort of talking, sort of reciting poetry, telling stories? The background is a mixture of orchestral strings, synths, drum machines switched onto beats, broken beats and steady recognisable tunes.

I wasn't sure what to make of it but it was intriguing. So you find out a bit more, a recording emerging out of the UK Garage scene which explained the beats, but there was this layer of lyrics calling out the experience of a twenty-something and talking about their interests and perception of life. All done in voice which was readily recognisable and a world away from the American rapper style.

This is not an aspirational series of tales, this is gritty street-level, possibly documenting a sense of boredom and lack of opportunity. As such it was refreshing breath of air, from the music business that was hurtling towards blandness and repetition.

Twenty years on….it still sounds fabulous”.
- Marek

When I was living in Dublin I heard this and it made me nostalgic for Birmingham.

It wasn't until I was older, in my early thirties, that the significance of the album hit me, with the line in "Weak Become Heroes" that goes; "Then the girl in the cafe tape me on the shoulder, I realise five years went by and I'm older, Memories smoulder, winter's colder, But the same piano loops over and over and over." It's a testament to the timetraveling power of music that a piano loop can transport you to a time in your past, and for a daydreaming minute you're there again.

Lee Satchel went to school with my friend who went to school with Mike Skinner. He says he was always chasing the birds and fighting the geezers. He was a bit of a "barstard" by all accounts.
-Matthew


Friday, 10 April 2020

The Album Club Remixed #2


The Album club remixed is a new format for our regular discussion on a nominated album.

The conversation happens virtually, with recorded contributions and written comments or questions from social media.

The next album up for discussion is the 2002 debut from The Streets- 'Original Pirate Music'

The next recording session is planned for Friday 17th April 2020 at 6.30 pm.

You must notify us by email if you would like to take part (oh yeah, and do some homework).

The final edit of the discussion will feature in The Unseen Swerve scheduled to broadcast on Tuesday 21st April 2020 @7pm on Switch Radio.


Thursday, 2 April 2020

Swerve...

For more info on the new show and home of The Album Club Remixed visit

The Album Club Remixed is hosted within a new programme: 

'The Unseen Swerve' which starts at 7 pm on Tuesday 7th April 2020

Switch Radio 107.5 FM, DAB and Online

https://theunseenswerve.blogspot.com

This times discussion has been recorded and the next album and future recording date will be announced shortly.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

The Album Club Remixed...

The Album Club Remixed April 2020
Michael Kiwanuka (2016) 'Love & Hate'

The Album club remixed is a new format for our regular discussion on a nominated album. The conversation happens virtually, with recorded contributions and written comments or questions from social media.

Listen!
Be it MP3, vinyl or  cassette it goes without saying that we’ll get the most from the discussion if you have a good listen to the album in the run up.

Here’s a spotify link: 

The two key tracks* from the album are:
Track 2
Black Man in a White World
Track 6
One More Night
*These are tracks we’ll focus on, but we do want to talk about the whole album.

Write!
Please can you let me have a three bullet point review of the album (by email) by 10pm on Thursday 2nd April.  This will help to prompt the discussion and give us something to get the ball rolling. You can say what you loved, what you hated,
what you don’t understand, how you felt, what was missing...

How it works...
You will receive an email invitation to participate via Cleanfeed (you should use a wifi/4g connection and headphones). 

We will start with some introductions and any questions before we kick off.

The discussion will take in- a bit of an overview, a discussion framed around two key tracks, comments, thoughts and views on the album.

It will last for 10-15 mins and then be edited to form the future radio show. This show is planned to air on Tuesday 7th April 2020 @7pm

The session will be hosted by James Sandy from Switch Radio.

You must email us to take part in the session:




Thursday, 19 March 2020

Fluff on the needle...


As you can appreciate The Album Club has had to be put on hold for a bit. We'll be in touch again soon as things develop and also keep you posted on how you might get involved with other projects.

Stay Safe.


Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Influence...


The Influence Project celebrates the impact that leading Black musicians have had on contemporary sound and culture, and their enduring creative, social and political influence on new generations of artists. The exhibition is a collaboration between photographer Alexis Chabala and curator Lorayne Crawford, featuring portraits of over 100 artists plus a selection of photographs shown publicly for the first time ever. 

It runs at MAC Birmingham until Sunday 22nd March 2020.

To celebrate these innovators of sound, The Album Club has chosen Michael Kiwanuka's 2016 album 'Love & Hate' for its next meeting on Wednesday 18th March 2020 @ 7pm, Saintbury Room, MAC Birmingham.

This meeting has been cancelled. The Album Club will return and 'Love & Hate' properly considered in due course.




Let us know if you're planning to come at:


Wednesday, 22 January 2020

It's Adele...


The next Album for discussion is 21 by Adele
Click here for the Spotify Link

See you Wednesday 5th Feb @7 pm at MAC Birmingham



Happy Listening!!




Sunday, 12 January 2020

Looking back going forward...

The next Album club considers some of the big albums from the 2010's...



Vote for the one you think we should discuss here


The Next Album Club will be held on 

Wednesday 5th February 2020

7 pm in PM1


MAC Birmingham