Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Random album review #2

Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

#19 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. #2 in Mojo's 100 Best Albums list. #3 in The Times All Time Top 100 Albums. Voted the 9th greatest album of all time in a combined poll by Channel 4, HMV, Classic FM and The Guardian. #6 in Q Magazine's 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. Elvis Costello, Johnny Depp and Martin Scorsese all adore it (says Wikipedia).


As any regular readers (hey, I can dream) will know, in my last post the newly introduced 'Random Album Generator'™ set me the task of reviewing Van Morrison's 1968 'classic', Astral Weeks, as part of the random album reviews series. While the opening to the series was a raging success and even drew more viewers than the opening episode of David Attenborough's latest nature programme, Life, when they went head to head on Monday evening (this blog peaked at 7.2 million viewers, compared to Life's 6.5m), I fear that things are headed rapidly downhill from here. Returning to the pretence for a second that I actually have readers, anyone who made it to the end of the previous post without resorting to the classic formula: shotgun + mouth = better than reading The Hardcore and The Gentle, will have seen that my prediction for how well I got along with a review of Astral Weeks could be judged by the amount of "songs I'm currently loving" that followed at the bottom of this post. In other words, the worse the review writing process went, the more filler would be inserted at the end. Scroll down. Look at the songs. Just look at them - there are loads. The very fact that I know there are loads betrays the fact that I wrote the "songs I'm currently loving" bit first, to put off having to write this sodding review. So, reluctantly, here I go...

In case you hadn't already realised, I don't like Astral Weeks. Or, more accurately, I can't see what the fuss that the likes of Mojo and Rolling Stone have been kicking up is about. For those of you who have read up to this point and are still wondering what the bejesus I'm on about, lemme break it down for you. Van Morrison is the rock and roll/folk singer-songwriter from Belfast that released Astral Weeks, his second solo album, back in 1968. If you know the name Van Morrison but are struggling to place him, his best known songs are probably Moondance and Brown Eyed Girl. Which, unfortunately for me, are not on Astral Weeks. What is on Astral Weeks, however, is a collection of - in m'opinion -fairly dull folk-y tunes. Upon first listening, the whole thing very much washed over me with the possible exception of Sweet Thing and The Way Young Lovers Do, which stood out as above average tracks. "Aha, never worry!", I thought. This has got "it's all about the LYRICS, maaan" written all over it. As a big fan of a clever or thoughtful lyric I was rubbing my hands with glee, waiting for Van the Man to sock it to me and send me to Emotionsville. Unfortunately the train to Emotionsville never arrived. I strained my ears in an effort to absorb each and every lyric, panning for the gold that must surely nestle just below the surface of Astral Weeks' stream of uninteresting melodies. To no avail. Panicking, I headed to the internet lyrics pages, desperate to understand why this album was held in such high esteem. Browsing through Lyricsfreak brought a shade more appreciation for the lyrics, but, well, when you're resorting to looking up the lyrics (plus a little additional search for song meanings) you know you haven't found an album that's gonna rest in your heart forever more.

In my eyes, it's just a bit boring. It's not dreadful by any means, but I can't think of any situation when I'd enjoy listening to Astral Weeks. I'm no hater of 60's-style folk rock, but I'd recommend albums such as Love's Forever Changes and Nick Drake's Pink Moon instead of Astral Weeks if you're in the mood for a bit of that particular genre (and a healthy dollop of Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel and Fleetwood Mac would do no harm either). It is, of course, blindingly obvious that I'm wrong. Now, I'm no list's bitch, but if you look at the sheer amount of critical acclaim and high-charting in all time greatest albums run-downs that this album has received, I can accept that maybe I just don't quite get it. I'd definitely recommend checking this album out for yourself rather than pay any heed to what I have to say about it, and for that I apologise for making you heed me in this blog post up until now. Heeding may now cease.

Actually, heed a bit more as it's now time for the nail-biting moment that is: selecting the next random album to review. For details on how the album is chosen, please consult the previous post. Billions of Pounds and Canadian Dollars have already been placed on the outcome of this iTunes library shuffling. Derren Brown claims to have predicted the outcome and is ready and waiting smugly in a studio somewhere, carefully lining up his split screen. President Obama is agitatedly sitting in the Oval Office with his finger hovering over 'the button', just in case it turns out to be 'Inside In / Inside Out' by The Kooks.

So, without further ado, the album to be reviewed in the third instalment of this random album reviews series is....

Oho sweet!

The complex random album generating procedure has just so happened to throw up one of my all time favourite dance LPs:


So, there you have it. Tune in next time for my assessment of the Canadian duo's first forray in to the world of the full length album. For now, I'll leave you with a taster of The Looks; a song that just so happens to be sitting on top of my iTunes 'Top 25 Most Played', having passed through my ear holes no less than 89 times:

MSTRKRFT - Street Justice

Songs I'm Currently Loving:

Here's a new one from a man who could be said to do no wrong:

Thom Yorke - The Hollow Earth

And here's an old remix of Mr. Yorke's solo work by perennial The Hardcore and The Gentle fave, The Field:

And while we're at it, here's an example of everyone's favourite musical genre - the mashup, of course - that fuses together Radiohead and Jay-Z. Big up to Matt (currently residing in the U.S. of America - he's asked me to make it known that he now avidly supports this man and everything he stands for) for the heads up on this, the rest of the album can be downloaded for nada here

Jaydiohead - No Karma

  • Jem - They (Cut Chemist Remix)
  • M.I.A. & Blaqstarr - Way Down In The Hole - Cover of The Wire theme song
  • Taio Cruz - Break Your Heart - if you disapprove of this then my balls will be available for sucking between 10am - 4pm, Thursdays - Mondays
  • Dorian Concept - The Fucking Formula
  • Nightmares On Wax - Biofeedback Dub
  • Dr Syntax - Subcultures
  • FaltyDL - Tronman
  • Squeak E. Clean feat. Karen O - Hello Tomorrow - this was used in an advert for Nike or Adidas ages ago, featuring the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on vocals. It's been buried in my iTunes for a long time now and I've only recently unearthed it again. It's good.
  • Ed Cox - Aired Karks - an example of Cambridge man Ed Cox's 'clowncore': circus-style accordion tunes played over jungle/breakcore beats. See if you can spot what he's up to with the title of this track..

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