“Equanimity, when confined to the fundamentals of A to B, is a concept attainable.” (A. Rolland, 2021)
I know you’ve heard it too; that passing racket from a particular cyclist, portable radio in-basket, roaming about the pave-ways projecting their track-list of choice to all about, atypical to what you would expect to hear. An example, eh… A fellow there was, well over a year ago, possibly 2, gliding (specifically) through Northern Quarter, blasting out a track by (abrupt interlude)… Rheingold, huh? A Neue Deutsche Welle group of all things, yes (Lionel Hutz nodding)… hardly what you might define as a general listen to help breeze the peddling…
(Q) So, randomly selected or a conscientious choice, hmm?
He didn’t seem the type for it, in comparison to the past-dwelling retrospectives you would normally associate with stated genre; content in mispronouncing the Teutonic-tongue, purchasing sort-after vinyl to use only as informal wallpaper and tending to plants (they own) with an overdose of H2O, the final spite towards the dreaded expense of botanical cultivation.
The light is fading, yet the cries of battle ring out to startle the non-conflicted. And by that I mean circling the Gardens of Piccadilly while listening in on a brawl, unscripted and bloody. Shout, right-hook, kick, eye-gouge… you name it, ‘tis in the manual. But what of the consequences? I couldn’t just stroll up to a policeman and say:
“What’s the happening plankton, there’s a fly-chasin’ geezer with implement! Your prompt intervention would do them benefit…”
To utter such a thing, I’d more than likely see the darkened confines of a cell than an instigation of help for a fellow citizen. After all, what an in-uniform does for them-self amounts to lonesome preservation; a distant hope of a badge shining and the casual acceptance of things being dropped gently into their unbuttoned pocket, all expenses tethered. Conversely, if I cycled into the fray with my bike-lock chain (unlocked) and swung it around as though a mace, what percussive samples could be sourced from the scattering of their teeth? Well, their diction would be lacking, that’s for sure.
If I may elaborate on the final part of the title (see above): soaring volumes and the clash of stubble-d ruffians… at this point, now irrelevant. Instead, I’m drawn into the side-road-rage of shout and retort, (sighs) the perennial tick-tac-toe. You know, the idiot walking into the cycle lane oblivious to that incoming front-wheel, or the accidental crashing into of a deliveryman (the idiot reversal?), scowling as he checks that his pizzas’ sense of shape isn’t something the late Salvador Dali would have had in mind for a sculpture, culinary in focus. RED…AMBER… GREEN… and… Vroom! Cars man, those motorised coffins sure make for a roadside contemporary I’d really… rather not encounter, however encounter… I do. The choice of stations on their ‘built-in’ stereos, in conjunction with vehicular “features” like open windows, is ever an undelight… and honestly, a missed opportunity.
*BBC Radi…* (Static)… “Uh oh…” (notices something’s wrong) *CAPITAL F…* (Static) “Stop, stop… cut TRANSMISSION!” (peddling intensifies)… *Smooooooooooooth Radio*… (look of resignation) “too late…” I sympathise in a way; a non-digital setup’s variety isn’t particularly outstanding, aye. The process of driving, with its entailments of sign-posted iconography and surveillanced ‘courtesies’… a regimented bore, no? Gated reverb, a hypnotic wonder and indeed a temptation, that much is true… but Smooth fucking Radio? Couldn’t you have just rode in silence like a good little sport, perhaps humming to a frequency only bats can hear as you lament your journey toward the 9 to 5? JUST WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!? Aside from the wanton anguish you inflict on the passengers within (that heap of welded tin!), you’re also putting yourself at risk, since… if I had another chain to spare, I’d be sure to give it a swing!
I miss shit nights out. Now I know this is a bold claim, and no, I don’t just miss being hammered. Alcohol certainly helps ease the evening along when the tunes aren’t to your taste, but I don’t think that’s the driving force behind appreciating them. Since the pubs opened on the 12th April it’s been great to have a big one at the pub, but as I sat there with my mates I couldn’t help missing the sensation of being in a crowded, crappy club with cheesy hits blasting in my ears. Still need convincing? I’ll talk you through the stages of a basic night out, all the way from loathing to loving.
Stage 1: Disbelief. I think everyone has their trigger song that kicks off this stage. Mine is ‘Come on Eileen’, a song I personally believe is a strong contender for the worst audio recording of the 20th century. Anyway, I could write a whole article about that, so let’s not get sidetracked. In the middle of the crowded dance floor, your trigger song comes on, and all you can do is stand there in awe as you foresee the night degenerating before your eyes. “I can’t fucking believe this”, you think to yourself, “the one song I didn’t need them to play was this, and now it’s on”. There you stand, helpless, as your mates drunkenly wiggle to the anthem of your waking nightmare.
Stage 2: Anger. The shock is over, now it’s time to start thinking of all the other places you could be instead. You reel through all of the cooler clubs that you could be in, all of the missed Skiddle tickets and unbooked Ubers that could’ve brought you to a dodgy industrial estate, to enter a warehouse full of overpriced Red Stripe and that specific subgenre of techno that makes you look interesting if it’s on your playlist. That’s what I should be doing, you say to yourself furiously, instead here I am listening to Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson and watching my mate get off with the person they swore they never, ever would ever again. What a wasted opportunity.
Stage 3: Acceptance. Well, you’re not in the warehouse, so you might as well make the most of things. It’s at this point you realise not all is lost, that you can in fact have a good time listening to music that you don’t love. Nights out aren’t all about the tunes, they’re about being with your mates and having fun, you remind yourself. Let’s face it, you actually kind of like ‘Hips Don’t Lie’. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a banger.
Stage 4: Joy. That was an understatement- you LOVE ‘Hips Don’t Lie’, and you couldn’t care less if that makes you embarrassing. Everyone seems to be having a really great time, no one’s trying too hard to look cool- in fact the exact opposite is happening. It hits you that you’re having a better time right now in this grimey club than you’ve had at ticketed events, and that’s because nothing quite brings people together as much as a collective cringe. Bad music and bad dancing make us do something that we often aren’t allowed to, and that’s to let go and be the most unhinged versions of ourselves we can be. The best bit is – no one cares! This is precisely what you’re expected to do here, embrace the cringe. What’s the worst that could happen?
Good lord, I love the Cramps (like any respectable Bad Girl Should). They’re hyper-sexualised, no holds barred, grimy punk perfection. Shit loads of leopard print, shit loads of leather, shit loads of stillettos. Endearingly sleazy. To love the Cramps is to celebrate one’s own filth in all its grungy glory. And what better way to pay tribute to the kings and queen of camp than to traverse through their endless library of excellent album covers? Featuring predominantly the blisteringly beautiful Poison Ivy herself, these covers are some of the most iconic of their genre, and epitomize everything the Cramps are about. Here are ten of their best album or single artworks, from the bootleg to the bikini-clad girls with machine guns in hand…
10 THE CRAMPS / BOOTLEG ALBUM: TALES FROM THE CRAMPS / 1977-79
9. SMELL OF FEMALE
8.LOOK MOM NO HEAD!
7. WHAT’S INSIDE A GIRL?
6. FIENDS OF DOPE ISLAND
5. DATE WITH ELVIS
3. STAY SICK!
2. CAN YOUR PUSSY DO THE DOG?
Ah yes, the magnum opus of Cramps covers. Truly a sight to behold. It has everything one could want from a punk record’s cover really – a badass woman wearing a badass sequin bikini with a badass machine gun in hand. And don’t even get me started on that lush wallpaper. If they sold this in B&Q, that would be well plastered in my living room let me tell you. From the beloved aforementioned Stay Sick, this single cover more than packs a punch and does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s bold, it’s beautiful, it’s bloody cool. I don’t need to say much more on the matter other than that I am simply desperate to be this woman. The Cramps forever and ever, man.
Whether you’re crunching numbers from a cluttered office in a crowded apartment outside London, or burning the midnight oil from a dingy student bedroom, self-motivation has never been more taxing for the stay-at-home generation. If you’ve found yourself struggling to maintain focus or needing a kick into productive action, this list may have what you’ve been seeking. I’ve compiled tracks ranging from contemporary classical, through ambient, to the left-field corners of electronic music that have helped me through this difficult period when a black coffee and an impending deadline just isn’t cutting it!
1. ‘Scene Suspended’ – Jon Hopkins
I first came across Jon Hopkins’ work on realising his role in coproducing much of Coldplay’s early albums (give ‘Light Through the Veins’ a spin if you need convincing!) and his close ties with Brian Eno. A personal favourite artist of mine from my years of discovering new music, Hopkins has, in my view, an unrivalled ability to blend truly beautiful classical melodies with hard-hitting and transcendental techno. His new ‘Polarity’ tour of opera houses across Europe, is a masterful demonstration of this ability to weave the seemingly paradoxical genres together and was the last gig I managed to catch before the pandemic called time on live music. ‘Scene Suspended’ is one of Hopkins more recent productions, firmly on the classical end of the spectrum and a perfect soundtrack when clarity of mind and focus is what you’re after.
For fans of: Brian Eno, Biosphere
2. ‘Everything You Do Is A Balloon’ – Boards of Canada
You could do far worse than sticking any Boards of Canada album on shuffle if you’re in need of a late night grind at the desktop. I’ve opted however for one of the brother’s earliest tracks, from their 1996 EP ‘Hi Scores’ that I feel captures both a love of the vintage analogue synthesizer sound and catchy trip-hop beats. The EP as a whole perfectly represents the stripped back, lo-fi sound the duo have crafted over the years and is the perfect soundtrack for those more reflective moments of concentration.
For fans of: Autechre, The Future Sound of London
3. ‘Recovery’ – Rival Consoles
Leicester-born producer Ryan Lee West (Rival Consoles) has been a staple on the London-based Erased Tapes record label with a repertoire ranging from complex IDM and glitch, to harder club-orientated tracks. I first heard ‘Recovery’ played in a Boiler Room set from Italian electronic duo Mind Against back in 2015 when the track first released and I’ve not tired of it since. Expect an emotional backdrop of eerie synths accompanied by an erratic yet melancholy lead and a powerful yet subtle drum arrangement. This track is brain food at its finest!
For fans of: Kiasmos, Max Cooper
4. ‘Styge’ (Ochre Remix) – Ed Chamberlain
The track that immediately springs to mind under the ‘braindance’ genre (if that’s not too pretentious a category), ‘Styge’ is an electro-infused composition that really encapsulates intelligent dance music. Dug up from the depths of the underground and given a delicate remix from Ochre, this 2008 version features the same warping ambience and complex drum patterns of the original, but the melody is complemented by a harp rhythm which gives the track a tranquil and relaxing tone overall. A fitting demonstration of how electronic music can be shaped for different environments and a must-have on your focus playlist.
For fans of: Four Tet, Skee Mask
5. ‘Negative Returns’ (Four Tet Remix) – Krust
Upping the tempo somewhat, Kieran Hebden’s (Four Tet) recent take on Kirk George Thompson’s ‘Negative Returns’ is exactly what you’d expect from the former artist. This remix is completely new territory for Hebden who has produced extensively but never released a remix in the 170+bpm range. Unsurprisingly however, for those familiar with Four Tet’s discography, the track is rearranged and mastered beautifully. It strips back the aggression and ‘noise’ of the original and leaves a delicate and floating liquid d’n’b track which hits those frequencies that really allow you to tune into what you’re doing. Expect emotional and ethereal synths paired with the sample selections we know and love, as well as something a little bit new when it comes to the drums.
For fans of: Floating Points, Calibre
6. ‘Lone Swordsman’ – Daniel Avery
A favourite selection on Mary Anne Hobbs’ BBC Radio 6 morning slot, ‘Lone Swordsman’ is a track from Daniel Avery’s ‘Dusting for Smoke’ EP released on Phantasy records last year. Avery’s track has a simple and contemplative feel befitting of its purpose as a homage to the late Andrew Weatherall, a true musical pioneer in acid house, rock and beyond. The lead melody is dainty and catchy and the accompaniment from the synth chords and drums is understated and yet exactly what this track demands. A real winner from an artist who continues to impress.
For fans of: Avalon Emerson, Leon Vynehall
7. ‘Love’ – Ben Lukas Boysen
Renown for crafting mesmerising soundscapes that owe much to an early mastering of sampling techniques, Boysen has made his name in sound design working alongside major clients in the advertising, film and gaming industry. This track from his 2020 release ‘Mirage’, available from Erased Tapes records, is a showcase of an exciting genre of avant-garde, experimental electronic music that draws on classical influences. It features a slow and emotional build-up of arpeggiated synths set to the backdrop of a string section reminiscent of a Nils Frahm production. Definitely one of the more dramatic tracks to feature on this list but one that captures an intricate genre that’s worth considering if you’ve always thought classical meant little more than Beethoven’s sixth symphony!
For fans of: Nils Frahm, Rival Consoles, Plaid
8. ‘Fundamental Values’ – Nils Frahm
To wrap up this list we come to an artist who’s love of the black and white keys and modern twist on classical music has earned him global critical acclaim. While working with a true arsenal of equipment and scaling up to full blown orchestras in his live performances, Frahm’s compositions centre on a real appreciation and command of the piano. ‘Fundamental Values’ takes the listener on a mesmerising 14 minute journey. It begins with spritely, delayed synth patterns and slightly eerie chords before the piano comes in. The track is a testimony to Frahm’s ability to marry electronic minimalism and looping techniques with a dynamic and free flowing grand piano lead. The track slowly gathers momentum and drama as Frahm introduces and manipulates backing vocals before it enters its final phase in the last four minutes with high feedback on the synths and rapid percussive elements. A true masterclass in the ‘not quite classical’ bracket!
For fans of: Jon Hopkins, Hans Zimmer
While these tracks may not be a definitive, catch-all solution to getting stuff done, hopefully they serve as a starting point for those unfamiliar with an interesting and burgeoning genre exploring the intersection between electronic music and new classical. Whether they end up being used as a backing playlist to work or study to, or simply tracks to look out the window and ponder the meaning of life at 2am is entirely up to you!
Oi! Did you see the drink token on the ground? Did you? Did… you? Well??? Good, you’ll need it. The quartet we are seeing, or outfit as I will come to overuse throughout, BOAST influences stretching from the disparate corners of both proto and… post, with a sound so indie… it will compel you to go full circle and undergo a frontal lobotomy… for real autonomy is but a shroud.
“Reach for the clogs, but don’t TAKETH THESE POGS!” Kudos, kudos… certainly some witty lyrics from the aforementioned outfit right there, which I will now refer to as lyricism. I mean, tacking on a suffix or two just makes everything better DOESISH IT NOTISM? Like gifting a 10 pound note-superimposed rubber to a homeless person… camera at the ready! Let’s hope the flash doesn’t make his retinas glow… for that would spoil my op, warrant a mop (upon seeing the jaundice prevalent), and thereby render the whole thing a… box-office flop?
Actually, that was boring… recall the token? Well, time to put it to use, after all, only a Stanley Standard would queue up to buy a pint full-price, wasting what little dosh they… and probably you have, unlike I. What is it you’ve chosen? A Newcastle Brown Ale, is it not? A quench repulsive, you’d agree?A Salford Quay swig it is! *Smashes the glass on the ground* You ought to try Thatchers, it replicates the taste of Devon just enough for you to (genuinely) believe you’re a peak-cap certifiable! And accent wise, non-rhotic galore! Wowee, the outfit’s lyricism strikes once more unto, “Fuck this infernal crisp, for now I have… THE ETERNAL LISP!” clearly, the syntactical nuances of Anglo-Saxon are strong with this one; I’d wager 2:1 in Lit, 79% ENTJ and a gold star for P.K.Q (Pub Knowledge Questioning)… defferinos, for I do so believe…
Oh no! It looks like someone split their head open on the rafters while crowd surfing, ouchy. Now then, back to your drink of choice. Why, oh why… the Weiss Sturm, over the sacramental K, good sir? Sheet metals are hazardous to the sole, desecrate the greenery (like our Platt Fields) and makes you look like the non-toothed tramp we earlier encountered. By comparison; K is an offering smooth on the grip, caustic on the cracked-o-lip, elevates your social standing in the smoking area to about the rank of ‘hip’, and… In terms of the red-on-black branding… you can plonk it on top of your wardrobe as though a trophy, making your room, as they say: less a tip. Aho, the sonic-outfit-extraordinaire(s) have yet more food-for-thought to offer, “If I happened to be in possession of an accom FOB, I’d be sure to give it a hefty LOB, at that ersatz journo KNOB, known to most as Prince… JOHN ROBB!” Rivets and bolts man, rivets and bolts! Whether evoking the LYRICISM of the late Tom Weights or simply a cough from the Clever Clarence influenza… it matters not, the deified OUTFIT have cracked the code on this vault and placed the lid (right) on the genie, just as the horoscope prophesied!!!! If only a PR budget, un-prohibitive, were theirs to spend… Hey, let’s go backstage and steal shit from their rider!
Warning: This is by no means a ‘professional’ article. It reads more like a personal essay. Die-hard avid Alanis fanclub members, please do tolerate my ramblings, there are some glimmers of Ms Morrissette in here, and not just my diary, honestly…
Recently, I revisited an album that I hadn’t listened to in eons. Do you ever have a record that you once played cover to cover, and you just one day abandoned, never really to be returned to again? Musical maturity seems to dictate that we don’t return to old favourites, that we seek the new, bold and exciting. This of course is completely fine – it’s what we’re all about on this blog, of course. But the nostalgia that ensued from my sitting down and relistening to this record in full was more blissful than even the most sparkling epiphany one experiences at new discoveries. The moment that I shuffled this on Spotify and let it flood gratefully into my auditory nerves, illuminating my ear canals with glorious rainbows and celestial seas…God, I’m even drifting off dreamily into this sentence as Mary Jane plays from my battered soundsystem. I can’t even tell you the incredible contentedness that en-swathed me. I had, within about ten minutes, opened up Ebay, purchased a vinyl copy of this record, and in another tab opened up Google Docs to pen this very article you are currently privy to. The sense of urgency that this rediscovery inspired in me was remarkable. I suppose it is because it is an album that is nothing short of remarkable. This is an album that resonated with me in my youth. An album that, at that juncture of my life, seemed to mainly appeal to my general teenage angst, but upon relisten has touched me in a totally different. That album is of course, Jagged Little Pill, by the imitable Alanis Morrissette. I’m going to link it below. I want you to shuffle it, or at the very least start from the start. Press play, now. I’m hoping I can express my feelings about this record successfully enough that you will begin to see what I mean.
I was putting together a radio show, a show that focused on the year of 1995 (you can listen to it here, for contextual purposes in relation to this article and not for reasons of self-promotion, of course). Having to favour the cleaner-cut side of ’95, my hip-hop choices were slim to none due to the cursed claws of censorship, and I didn’t want to rely solely on Britpop offerings (I am a musical Mancunian cliche, but not that much, honest). I decided to delve more into alt-rock, and then I had that realisation – of course! Alanis! How could I forget her? She was once a dear companion of mine.
When I was about 14, I went through a slightly difficult part of my life. My friends became sparse and few and far between all of a sudden. I had to work myself out a lot. It’s a strangely formative age, being 14. You’re a teenager, certainly, but not quite old enough to do daring things you’d seen the teenagers in Hollyoaks do. I longed for the normal things all 14 year olds do, really. To be pretty (I struggled with this a lot, I wish I could give little me a big squeeze). To kiss a boy (turns out it’s not all it’s hyped up to be). To have legions of loving mates (this eventually sort of happened, but it took me some time, trust me). I was a lanky emo with braces and cripplingly low self-esteem. I was sweet, though. Naive, but sweet. I was finding figuring myself out a little more difficult than I’d initially anticipated. How did I want to present myself? What kind of people did I want to surround myself with? It’s all well and good having an incredibly loving and supporting family who adore you unconditionally, but trying to navigate high school where nobody has to like you and in fact, not many people do? It’s a whole different ball park. I had a real journey of independence to embark on, and by God, was I going to do it. It was either succumb to shyness and self-doubt, or come out of my shell, and be who I had long-romanticised myself to be. I decided to throw myself into creative endeavours and hope that somehow, the world would maybe start working out in my favour – and that perhaps the girls in the P.E queue for rounders bats would stop kicking the back of my legs and verbally pondering my sexuality. They never quite got it right. I wonder what guess they would hazard now.
Slowly, it worked, and my confidence built up. Though I no longer play and lost interest in the craft with age, I played guitar at this time. I didn’t reckon myself to be very good, but I enjoyed it. My dad taught me bar chords and songs that I liked, while I did scales and boring paint-by-numbers Classical Guitar at school. My guitar teacher at school was a bit dull to say the least, and didn’t really want me to tackle more contemporary stuff. But the one thing he did bring me, the one pivotal album he taught me pretty much in full? Jagged Little Pill. This guy was obsessed with Alanis. I’m talking borderline Stan and Slim Shady level. I’ve been lucky to have had the most fortunate of musical educations and upbringings, and yet I didn’t even know who she was before our lessons. My guitar teacher had a specific songbook for the album, and he lent it to me. I’ve always been one for words. I remember poring over the lyrics, marvelling in how this woman that I hadn’t even known existed was somehow opening my mind to experiences and opinions that I either already had, or would go on to have as I grew. The way that she responded to things that I struggled with intrigued me. She was defiant, she was boisterous, she was angry. Her self-worth and respect are evident throughout the record, not just in the way that men treat her, but in the way that society does. A young woman with such a grasp and perspective on herself was, to a lost young lady such as myself, so revolutionary and a breath of fresh air. I had previously aligned myself with musicians who were wracked with self loathing. I guess that’s the allure of being an emo when you’re that age, a strange sense of community. But Alanis immediately made me want to break away from these negative notions I’d long harboured about myself. Within a month or so, my mum had bought me the CD and I had played it until it was adorned with sparkling scratches. I had officially become entangled in the Canadian songstress’ web, and she had become entangled in mine, without ever knowing.
You know that old chestnut, where people say to [insert fairly run-of-the-mill mediocre musician] – “your music saved me”. I finally understood this sentiment. Sure, it can seem silly, cringe or even trite to the more cynical among us. But if words and melodies inspire you, if they offer you support when you’re a bit lonely and don’t really have the comfort of anything else, and really if they spur you to positively grow and adapt? Well, I don’t think it’s a bad assessment to make at all. I don’t think it’s unrealistic, either. Who are we to criticise someone’s bond and personal connection with an artist, even if nobody else really understands it? It’s a plight I empathise with hugely, because I truly do maintain that this album did save me. I slowly but surely came out of my shell. I think on reflection that school and the strange ideals young women are pressured into from a young age really instilled a strange toxic dislike of other girls in me, almost an ugly resentment of girls that I felt were prettier than me and more popular than me. I didn’t understand that we could all be pretty and popular, duh. It’s not a competition. I also think I maybe associated the validation of having a boyfriend with loving yourself and appreciating your quirks far too much, be this from (again) the influence of wider pop culture or just a socialisation thing. I think what I didn’t understand most of all that really, I didn’t need to fully work out my personality just yet to be happy. Everyone has multiple facets of themselves, some parts you will dislike, and some parts that you will love. It’s all about working out a balance that makes you happy. I think Hand In My Pocket really reinforced that for me –
I’m broke, but I’m happy I’m poor, but I’m kind I’m short, but I’m healthy, yeah I’m high, but I’m grounded I’m sane, but I’m overwhelmed I’m lost, but I’m hopeful, baby.
She acknowledged the good and the bad and accepted all of it and everything in between. Because as she said:
What it all boils down to / is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet.
And that’s exactly it. Why should I, a literal child, have panicked and agonised that I hadn’t worked myself out yet? Why was that a thing? It’s messed up how that’s a thing. Alanis taught me to be care-free, to not worry so much what other people thought of me, and most of all to be happy in myself. That summer, soundtracked by my faithful iPod Nano with JLP loaded onto it, I started to connect with people that really made me feel good about myself. I found a bravery that hadn’t really existed before. It goes hand in hand with a heightened self-worth, that. I made one lovely friend in particular who I would listen to Jagged Little Pill with in her attic, feet against the bedframe with our long tangled hair splayed across the carpet with Ironic blasting. I started acting properly, something I’d always felt too scared to do. And it was the strangest thing. As my confidence blossomed and I started making decisions that were truly for my own self-preservation and not out of fear of fitting in, my jealousy, resentment and bitterness against other girls in my class started to dissipate. That’s the thing about Alanis. Her plight for self-love is never at the expense of others. It’s never about tearing peers or other women down, not even when she’s angry like in You Oughta Know. Her feminism was different to the ‘feminism’ I had prescribed to from young-adult gossip magazines – the “hey, hey, you, you, I don’t like your girlfriend” rhetoric (sorry Avril). With my new found friends and self-assured nature, I slowly stopped being bullied and stopped using music as the heavy, heavy emotional crutch I had used it for in those difficult times. I traded it instead for merely a tool for enjoyment now and then. Alanis was pushed to the back of my memory, and I moved on in my musical journey, eating up new artists and interests with every year that passed. But I never forgot the impact that she had on me, or the way that I saw things at that point in my life. You don’t ever truly forget something like that.
So, fast forward to now. Fast forward to the moment that I sat down, pressed play on JLP and felt a swell in my chest and tears prick at my eyes. God, I sound lame. I’d like to blame this sudden serge of emotion on lockdown, I’d like to blame it on the current difficulties in my personal life and mental health. But really, I think it was more just the shock of it. I’ve been in a slump as of late. Low in self-esteem, low in validation, let down by failed romantic endeavours and friends who frittered away. I’ve almost felt in a similar state to how I did all those years ago, but with more pals, better hair and less eyeliner. To be really honest with you, dear readers, I’m worried that I’m losing my confidence and crumbling away. I don’t feel a particular warmth or love for myself that I possessed as recently as a few weeks ago. That’s the thing with self-love, it fluctuates. And you sometimes need a nudge to get you back on track with it. When I let her words wash over me just now, I heard exactly what I needed to hear. Not The Doctor. It’s strange to have lyrics resonate with you in a completely different way than they did when you first heard them. Alanis wrote this record when she was 20/21 (which in itself is baffling). As a 22 year old young woman, I’m now finding that the lyrics are more relatable than ever. Back when I was 14, I modelled myself on Alanis certainly, but I was yet to experience many of the things that she sings about particularly relationship-wise. But now that I’m at exactly the point that she was at, with many a failed relationship under my belt, I empathise and relate with her lyrics and musings moreso. I use Not The Doctor as a key example of this because it is almost exactly how I would summarise my opinions on recent relationships. There’s a plethora of songs about love and heartbreak out there. But for me, this song is different. This is a song that, were I a gifted Bernie Taupin type, I would write myself now.
I don’t wanna be adored for what I merely represent to you. I often battle with this sensation. That men merely romanticise me, and the moment that they realise that I’m actually just a mess of multiple facets of a personality rather than an idea they disappear.
I don’t wanna be your mother / I didn’t carry you in my womb for nine months. I’ve dated many a man who I have babied, and admittedly lost myself completely in because of this bizarre maternal sense I feel in caring for them.
And I don’t wanna be your other half / I believe that one and one make two. That’s my dilemna now. Trying to rebuild myself without this structure of essentially being ‘part’ of someone else. It’s difficult. It’s weird. I can’t help but feel I shouldn’t even have to relocate myself in the first place.
I could go on analysing all day. I just find it incredible, how so many different feelings and attachments to this record have been inspired in me upon listening with a more mature ear. I understand things I never did. I first listened to this record as a little mouse of a girl. I listen to it now as a strong, self-assured woman going through a rough patch. I feel proud of the journey that Alanis and this album have helped me to embark upon and how far we’ve come together.
Enough about the personal connection, though. Factually speaking, this record is genius. It dabbles in a myriad of genres, spanning post-grunge, alternative rock, folk, indie. Vocally, she more than impresses, with a voice that beggars belief that it is coming out of such a young woman. It’s cohesive, and virtually no track is skippable. She explores addiction, heartbreak, It was nominated for NINE, yes, NINE Grammy Awards. And once again, I reiterate – TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE! I grilled a pizza this evening by putting the oven on the wrong setting. It’s funny how usefully others can utilise their short time on this Earth, isn’t it? It’s even been adapted into a Broadway musical that’s been nominated for FIFTEEN Tony Awards. You don’t need to do the maths. Jagged Little Pill is something special. Her exploration of emotions and truths that she realises throughout the tracks reminds me of the songcraft of artists like Carole King. Her emotional maturity and sensibility helped me and has probably helped countless other little girls in the world. I feel privleged to have had her be so pivotal in my own personal growth. Even young starlets who would grow to be some of the biggest artists in the world felt that inspiration, too – Katy Perry said of the record that “Jagged Little Pill was the most perfect female record ever made.” She said that she related to every track. “They’re still so timeless.” Perry has hit the nail on the head there. Timeless. For a record to have this profound effect on me so many years on confirms one thing clearly to me – this record will always be everpresent in my life. No matter how long I leave her unplayed, she’s something special, and she’ll always be waiting for when I need her.
Alanis Morrissette thank you for your honest lyrics and always being the most wonderful role model. Here’s one thing You Oughta Know – Jagged Little Pill changed my life, babe. I hope you know how many other young girls’ lives you changed too. If I ever have a daughter, this will be the first album I’ll ever play for her, rest assured.
It’s not been a great year for the majority of us, and if by chance fortune has smiled upon you, keep it to yourself until June and tell us all about it over a pint. For me, the saving grace, or survival tool, has been music. At the best of times music remains a constant in our day to day meanderings, whether it’s the soundtrack for the punctual bus commute or blasting through speakers into the late night. But from March 2020 to March 2021 (the time of writing), it has progressed to an even greater role than it previously held, inhabiting the shape of a study-buddy, a distraction, and at times, a friend.
Consequently, unlike my previous late teen years, in which the chatter of Snapchat and jealousy inducing Instagram occupied a worrying amount of my life, Spotify has been the app of my twentieth year. Before critiquing the limits to the streaming giant’s promotion of new music, I would like to make clear my appreciation that we had it on hand to guide us through the last twelve months. Life would have been a little bit darker without the convenience of music streaming, as much as we sometimes look down our noses at it while cradling our vinyl records in our arms. Music doesn’t always have to be an event, I feel it’s a luxury we should allow ourselves to indulge in as frequently as possible, and streaming is the easiest way for us to do it.
With that being said, hunting for new music is a discovery unlike most other discoveries, in that the hunt for new music never ends. Very little beats the feeling of hearing a new song for the first time or rediscovering a tune that feels so intimately wrapped in the memories of a certain time in your life. I experienced this a few years ago when I stumbled across Why Can’t This Be Love by Van Halen, a song my Dad had ripped and put on a CD for my Walkman when I was four, and all of those car journeys up and down to Northumberland came flooding back to me. It’s a magical feeling when it happens.
The Spotify algorithm in these trying times was, for many including myself, the primary key to a whole bank of undiscovered discographies and playlists- for a time. Spotify boasts 70 million tracks in its rich database, and yet, as every album I hear fades out the once-infectious now-infected groovy chords of So Good at Being In Trouble buzz into my earphones like an angry wasp. At first I welcomed it in as a kind neighbour, liking it and adding it to all of my summer playlists. But as the winter months arrived I realised that my kind neighbour was a bloodsucking vampire invited into my home, feeding off the algorithm and the opportunities its fellow sixty-nine million fellow tracks deserved.
The unusual thing here, is that Spotify used to have an option to prevent this – a like or dislike function while listening to a radio from a selected song – which disappeared some time ago. In place, the Spotify algorithm rotates between a handful of songs the listener already listens to on a regular basis, Unknown Mortal Orchestra in my case and after some thorough research, Harness Your Hopes by Pavement for my housemates. In a time where bars and gigs are closed, meetings with friends are severely limited, and the churning output of steady music is slower than the usual, it is a shame that Spotify were unable to seize the chance to introduce a new host of upcoming musicians to the world. This, to an extent, was reflected in the inclusion of well-established artists KAYTRANADA and Phoebe Bridgers in the Best New Artist category at the recent 2021 GRAMMY’s with both artists taking a giant streaming leap with Kyoto (31,067,512)and 10% (41,202,083) respectively with major assistance from the Spotify algorithm.
What can we do to counter this? This is by absolutely no means a ‘boycott Spotify’ article, but I can only suggest and encourage you to sign up to newsletters from as many online vinyl retailers (such as Rough Trade and The Turntable Lab), as well as independent, unincentivized music websites (such as us!) to find your new musical fix.
In any case, that is all for now. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, hit the outro…
The year is 2028… Wait, actually; what led to this year, many dozens of months prior, was a period of societal turbulence, related to the policies of those formerly in power. Having taken what was once known as the ‘United Kingdom’ off-piste; their ineptitude in administration, gluttonous mismanagement of the economy and persistent attempts at fostering division gradually turned an apathetic populace against them. Authority withering into disrepair, the ‘Ancien Régime’ stood little chance against the seething mob. Clamouring for new leadership, free from the decadence and limitations of the past, one man heeded the call of the masses.
Straight away, he got to work, and before long rectified the mischief. The formality of title occurs not with he, whom goes only by the given name and only… the name given. A return to the year of relevance; Vincent is a fellow who, as of late, has been in a coma. Awoken, the society once familiar has long since departed. Numbed with aesthesia and greeted by alienation; he has little grasp on where the tide has swept… with value and purpose each an axis disparate. A figure stands at his side… a doctor, an erstwhile friend, the unassuming harbinger…? Blurred perception receding, an ID tag sighting and a room adorned with ornamental oddities: it looks as though ‘Bill’ is about to say something…
Bill: Ahoy there!
Vincent: (No response)
Bill: You look well; I suppose you want an explanation?
Vincent: (Looks around cautiously) I don’t even… What…!? The decorum…? That light shining through…? An aged strobe-light…? or just another delusion? (In reference to a colour-shifting light source coming through the window, adjacent to his bed)
Bill: Oh, that’s just another one of those society-scaled generative art installations…
Bill: I’ll explain, you recall what Brian did for that hospital in Brighton, earlier in the century? Well, now the idyllic luminosity stretches beyond the 4 capacity room, and into the urban cityscape, far grander in scope. Its presence; placating and ever-changing, is here to reassure us Enonians we aren’t blunted ants tarred in the hierarchical pick & mix of before, but relevant entities within a dynamic ecosystem, free from the axe-job of Social Darwinism…!
Bill: Oh…? (Slight look of pity) Haven’t you a clue? E…N…O? You know from Roxy Music.
Vincent: (Squints eyes) I recall his production work on that Coldplay album…
Bill: You bet, a benevolent dictator of sorts… bit of an oxymoron I know, but in this case he’s the Crisp McCoy!
Vincent: You’re taking the piss aren’t you?
Bill: Not at all, not at all… You remember all that austerity bollocks; the unemployment, the rising cost of living, the proliferation of poverty, rampant corruption, reactionary-on-deck no.1, reactionary-on-deck no.2…? Well, to simplify things… that all got cast into a giant sinkhole, courtesy of our untitled-in-chief… (Proceeds to smile)
Vincent: (Gasping for air) Ho… how!?
Bill: (laughs) This sachet of wonder! (Proceeds to drop a pack of cards on the bedside table… they read ‘Oblique Strategies’)
Vincent: (Slumps into his bed) Oh boy…
(A mechanical clock, peculiar in design yet musical in chime… chimes, causing momentary silence)
Bill: (While offering a cup of tea, mug tastefully… bespoke) But the inception Vincent, but the inception…
Vincent: (Collects his thoughts, after observing the clock) What about education? I suppose we’re gonna be whizzing around on egg chairs equipped with florescent wheels, while the professor does some eyeliner?
Bill: (Smirks) Good question my friend, allow me to explain; Brian’s experiences at Winchester College of Art in the late 1960’s had a lasting impact on his worldview. Ironing out a new curriculum from the ground-up with his old tutor, Tom Philips, they have completely broken off from the inadequacies of the past… you know that OFSTED-led tripe? Well, SCENIUS now… SCENIUS tomorrow… and while we’re still on the subject (Bangs fist on the bedside table), SCENIUS for long duration!!! (Regains composure, and continues) They also borrowed from the Finnish system: children are now encouraged to be themselves and focus on what actually interests them. No longer are they cajoled into the generational sausage-maker of that ‘honest vocation’ crap, which seemed only effective at producing unwitting salarymen out of what were once… fledgling minds. (Clenches fist in the air) So far it’s been a gigantic success; I can show you some statistics if you’d li…
Vincent: (Interrupting) Another topic please!
Bill: Sure thing (unclenches fist)… Going back to your eyeliner remark, you recall the discourse about transgender people and the issues they faced from certain elements against their integration into the general fold?
Vincent: (Attentive) Go on…
Bill: Well, owing to Brian’s gender-bending antics in the 70’s, it indirectly afforded him a few qualifications in understanding the plight of the LGBTQ community… plus, his experiences as an ageing man with a lack of hair has…
Vincent: …created a mutual understanding between both gammon and… gammon-not?
Bill: Couldn’t have put it better myself Vince!
Vincent: (Whispers to himself) He really is the Third Uncle…
Bill: (Inquisitive) What’s that?
Vincent: (Slightly perturbed) Nothing, do continue…
Bill: Hmmm… (Scratches chin) Where next might we traverse…?
(15 seconds elapse)
Vincent: (Breaks the impasse) What of foreign policy? Has the international climate changed that much?
Bill: (Nods with satisfaction) Aha! Brian’s stance against human rights abuses, notably with regard to the Israeli Occupied Territories, has prompted him to break off and embargo all who violate the rights of their own citizens. Other countries followed suit and within months the Likud’s grip on power collapsed.
Bill: Odd coincidences aside… an appropriate settlement is now being negotiated, after nearly 80 years, peace is at hand!
Vincent: Whoa… (Hint of suspicion) As great as this all seems… there has to be a cost to all this…? (Thinking cap attached) Surely anyone with that kind of authority would succumb to… what was the word… ah, megalomania…? As certain “case studies” have indicated?
Bill: (Passively acknowledges) Ah the Cult of Personality thing…? Well to be honest, the only aspects I can think of are… the construction projects he favours, as you have already seen, (whispers) slightly… Yet, the employment opportunities generated from this construction boom and the benefits subsequent… have played a big part in the economy’s defibrillation! In turn, the supply & demand situation buoyed, stabilising the prices of commercial goods and public necessities… which, unbeknownst to you, plagued the preceding ‘system’… To take an objective viewpoint (doesn’t take an objective viewpoint), even if society continues to be moulded in Brian’s image, who cares? Taste will always triumph over practicality! (Looks up at the ceiling momentarily)
Vincent: (Visibly perplexed) …Over practicality? I don’t recall any proponents of that idea? Maybe IT IS time I see those statistics…?
Bill: (Looks back at his friend) Yeah… gains and losses or something (waves left hand dismissively)… Anyway, to wrap up this subject, don’t expect to see any gaudy statues or 50ft by 70ft posters portraying Brian as yet another striped-sash strongman, for he is not… Although, I hope you don’t mind hearing more of his ever-expanding discography? Take for instance my earlier train journey; they played the entirety of No Pussyfooting through the speakers, surround sound…!
Vincent: (He flinches… followed by faux-enthusiasm) Oh goody, should I expect to hear ‘After The Heat’ while I’m out shopping for garden ornaments? Or maybe his co-credits on David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, as I skip about on a narrow-boat I’ve just stolen!?
Bill: (Appears unsure) That’s entirely possible, although predictability has never been a word I would dare associate with a man… such as Brian…
Vincent: (Ponders what next to discuss) Slogan…eering… That Scenius thing you were oddly raving about earlier, that’s taken central fiddle?
Bill: Just a bit… Communities are once again being subsidised… and the aspirants of that god awful Neoliberalism ‘experiment’ are being rightly penalised for their former exploitation. Remember Richard Branson? Well, the bearded prick’s assets have been expropriated; take Necker Island for instance, its only purpose now is to house in-transit refugees fleeing from what was once the United States. Even Brian’s old chum, Bono, whom thought he could get off easy owing to their past working relationship, has been made to pay his fair share in tax… for wise-man Brian makes no distinction, friend or stranger.
Vincent: America’s no more?
Bill: Balkanised, some parts are better off than others…
Vincent: Huh, well… (Sense of satisfaction) Sayonara, Uncle Sam! (Laughs)
Bill: Seems there wasn’t a particular care for that… Laissez-faire! (Joins in on the laughter)
(Laughter ceases after 30 seconds)
Vincent: So… would it be correct to assume Branson and Bono are toiling in a cobalt mine somewhere…? Perhaps shackled together by-foot, as they pickaxe the earth to help fuel the Eno-Bahn or whatever next is on the construction roster?
Bill: Not quite, reprisals and score-settling of that nature would conflict with the tenants and teachings of Brian…
Vincent: (Tilts head) And what might that be? Thou shan’t slapeth thy head?
(The clock chimes yet again, its Geneva wheels gyrating as ever)
Bill: (Turns to look out of the window) Musings like altruism and egalitarianism were just the ‘speak of the turtleneck folk’ some decades prior, but now, via the Big Here Initiative, they are inveterate to our society, by order of the Eno! (Looks around nervously, before resuming his previous position)
Vincent: (Detached) Swell… I presume Stoicism has been deemed obsolete, owing to the damaging effects it can have on one’s mental health?
Bill: (Turns away from the window, visibly humoured) Been consulting EBSCO while on the drip, eh Vince?
Vincent: (Inverted smile) But a measured hypothesis, Bill…
Bill: (Visibly impressed) You know, scholarly types are in much demand nowadays… getting your foot in the cupboard would be an easy triumph, I’m sure…
Vincent: That’s a new one (Snorts)… Actually, what about law and order? How could that old hippie understand such a concept?
Bill: Well, rather than brutalising his subjects with batons and tear gas, Brian has made rehabilitation and fairness the norm. His vocal criticism of the former United States’ prison system, ya know; lobbyists bending legislation, inmates as penal labour and… the general shoddiness of the whole thing have compelled him away from coat-tailing the stars-and-stripes, as was the norm prior…
Vincent: (Briefly does jazz hands) Most riveting… err, how’s the field of invention looking… any quantum leaps there, during my comatose absence? Permanent hair restoration…? Speech recognition software for pigeons?
Bill: Ah, the technological angle… Well, Eno’s… (Pauses, then clears throat) Forgive me, Brian’s retrospection on the Manhattan Project, you know, what birthed nuclear weapons… Was summed up by him as brilliant in what could be achieved by humanity’s collective efforts, albeit for entirely the wrong reason! Being the egghead he is, Brian has put the entire scientific potential of our nation to work, away from the capital-drainage of that research & development shit, which he always much despised. Investments are now being directed towards things relevant to progress… cures for diseases still ravishing the modern world for instance. How do you think you recovered?
Vincent: Huh? (Walks over to the mirror and examines where his wounds once were… not a trace)
Bill: (Winks with a thumbs up)
Vincent: (Pleasantly surprised) I’d buy that for a Brian…
Bill: (Agreeable) You certainly would… (Briefly glances at the clock) Right then, you’ve probably heard enough talk of our bald-headed saviour, go and get yourself ready and we’ll hop on the ENO // RAIL… it makes those old bullet trains look like foil-wrapped rolling pins!
Vincent: (Unsurprised) Nice… how did our Brian manage that?
Bill: (Playfully points at his friend) I believe… (pointing ceases) it had something to do with… an oversized living room, a few soldering irons… and quite possibly a set or ten of those Hornby Railway carriages, not to scale of course (half smiles).
When was the last time you watched a music video? And I don’t mean rolling your eyes across a few shots on your way down to the murky depths of an instagram doom-scroll or willfully ignoring those background spotify vignettes, I mean properly sitting down and watching one, on your telly and everything. Before expensively produced and choreographed music videos were the domain of internet breaking american megastars alone, every great song needed a great video to go with it. Recently, I was having a drunken reminisce with a friend about the lost days of that golden era. Those sunday afternoons round your mate’s who had sky telly, flicking through the likes of MTV, VH1, and if mother had been particularly pernicious about you not doing your homework that week, a bit of Kerrang and Scuzz. During this nostalgia trip, we came to a startling conclusion. “Hang on a minute”, my friend exclaimed. “Isn’t it weird how like, basically all music videos had boxing in them?”. I searched my feelings and I knew this to be true. We were onto something. I rushed over towards my laptop, eager to connect these dots and reveal a grave secret to the world. This must’ve been what it felt like when they cracked the enigma codes during the war.
Unfortunately, after an extensive fifteen minutes of research we found that actually quite a lot of old music videos had very little to do with boxing, some not at all. This may be from a position of hindsight, but it appears that the music video directors of ten or fifteen years ago were attempting complex satires of western culture’s infatuation with the oversexualisation of young women. Whatever great artistic visions led to the sweeping use of under-dressed female extras in earlier eras, the answers have unfortunately been lost to the annals of history. One thing we did find out for definite, one thing they can never take away from us. That thing is that some music videos definitely are about boxing. Quite a fair few indeed. What are they like you ask? Have no fear. In the words of our late Field Commander Cohen, let me step into the ring for you, as we go on a voyage through some of the most about boxingest videos of all time.
Dappy – No Regrets
This video captures so perfectly the over produced, over Americanized, totally catered to being on MTV aesthetics that I pictured in my head when looking back at the boxing music video canon. The actual plot per se seems to have very little to do with Dappy, looking more like a narrative straight out of grand theft auto – cue angry young men, lowriders, and LA skylines. One boy chooses not the path of street violence, but instead the path of reasonably socially acceptable pay-per-view violence. In this he becomes a man. That man then boxes his way out of the doldrums and presumably into a cultural and socio economic elite that us mere mortals can only dream of. This is a boy-done-good. A hero’s tale. A new bildungsroman for whatever generation we were in 2011. This is the American Dream. Come to think of it, this has everything to do with Dappy. Clearly, this film is an autobiographical metaphor for a young british rapper trying to conquer the big one and forge a lucrative stateside solo career post N-Dubz. As no one has seen or heard from Dappy in years, I can only assume he was successful, and this very minute is on the top of some Californian highrise, gun-fingers proudly aloft.
In terms of lyrical content, the boxing connection is vague, and other than Dappy “painting a picture of a fighter” and having “the heart of a winner”, any ringside colloquialism is pretty much non-existent. Not too get sidetracked but he does also claim, and I quote – “I am Kurt Cobain”, so double points for that. Also name-dropped by Dappy are Chris Brown, Michael Caine, Frank Gallagher off of Shameless, Marty Mcfly, and Richard Branson. Which is weirdly like that dream you once had isn’t it? Don’t say you can’t remember it. I think we shall leave this one with the words of youtube commenter Victoria Carolyne – ‘Respect to Dappy for using his talent to make this masterpiece’. Victoria, I agree.
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
Dappy is not the first rapper to seek some equivalence with the world of prize fighting. Particularly in american hip-hop, the relationship to boxing is a long and fruitful one. So where to start? In a moment of doubt we have turned and not for the first time, to LL Cool J. three simple reasons. firstly, It’s a fairly old tune. Secondly, It. bangs. And lastly, there’s rather a lot of boxing credence here. The machismo coloured, adversarial nature of even the first line ( Cool J daring you not to ‘call it a comeback’) befits the ring setting. We remain in the ring with Cool for the whole thing, taking a poetic pummeling as he spills synonyms and sibilance over the mat like bits of blood and bottom lip. Thankfully, after nearly five minutes someone throws in the towel for you. You would think so too, in this time LL does inform you he’s gonna knock you out a cool (HA!) 32 times.
However this isn’t just one man boasting about his prowess for violence. Obviously Cool J’s thirst for blood speaks for itself. Don’t know if you remember but this is the fella that in Deep Blue Sea (1999) kills a genetically engineered super-shark. with just a crucifix. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is the relationship between boxing and hip hop is persistent. Possibly no figure exemplifies this better than the man Cool just so happens to namedrop here himself – a certain Muhammad Ali. The influence that makes him such a resonant figure in this neck of the woods is not just his status as an inspirational civil rights leader and icon for black America. This is the man they called the Louisville Lip after all, a wit, a wordsmith, and a self declared poet in his. Practically inventing the art of trash talk, Ali often outthought and outfought his opponents in a war of words before a bell had rung. Another great example of Ali’s shadow ranging across the music world is on The Fugees track Rumble In The Jungle, also featuring A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes. It is well worth a listen (and it’s boxing heavy video is naturally, well worth a watch).
In some ways the boxing/hip-hop relationship came full circle in the early noughties, with well known boomer rapper Eminem’s feature film 8 Mile. the plot was a standard of the sports film genre, but with… battle-rappers?! From the films soundtrack we got the chart topping single Lose Yourself, a song that has blared over a thousand fight night walkouts, and (pub quiz time) won a chuffing oscar.
Tears For Fears – Woman in Chains
Not a great deal of boxing action in this one to be honest but it is the most eighties song ever. No really, Phil Collins is on the drums. Phil Monkey Choccy Advert Collins. It has to be on here. The video lives up to the song, in being very VERY eighties. The Black and white montage of this archetypal prom king and queen couple drifts seamlessly into the wine bar bass lines, until they become one. Initially, the moody shots of this relationship looks to be a beautiful and subtle message on the fetishization and commodification of the aesthetics of both male and female bodies in different forms. Our queen is a stripper, our king, an athlete. However the relationship takes a darker turn. There is more than a tinge of domestic violence to the scenes, and a heavy dose of some fairly toxic masculinity – boxer pushes girlfriend, cries, runs off and twats a fence. The couple’s reconciliation at the end of the video troubles the viewer, leaving us in morally a more grey place than the song itself, which was hailed as a feminist anthem in it’s day. Again, I’m taking that as a conscious artistic decision on the part of the director. Perhaps this was not the intention but I would still want to give the makers of this video the benefit of the doubt , as if there is a worse medium for social commentary than an eighties power ballad, then it could only be the music video for an eighties power ballad.
Lastly, if you’re thinking this is too loose of a connection to be considered amongst the pantheon of great boxing music videos, then look at our male lead having his Of Mice and Men moment with the pigeon in the final scenes and tell me you don’t immediately think of those strange pictures of Iron Mike Tyson admiring his pet doves.
Maroon 5 – One More Night
No, not just because he’s got a bit of a punchable look about him. This video has more of a narrative structure than the older videos. Although a lot of it is Adam ‘Maroon 1’ Levine stalking around in a white vest looking like the worst casting choice imaginable for a Raging Bull reboot. Maybe I’m thinking too much into this but the cinematography gives a half nod to the Scorsese classic. we couldn’t get quite all the way to the golden age of Hollywood style mythical black and white of the film, but we do get a kind of sad, cigarette packet photo grey. We must give this video credit, it’s very much about boxing. He trains, he runs, he holds a small child. After all that he not only fights but bloody wins a boxing match. I think also his girlfriend leaves him for some reason. Poor adam.
On second thoughts, not poor Adam. He was an arse to Keria Knightley in Begin Again. How could you be in a film with James Corden and still come out as the biggest wazzock. Plus the actual song sounds like that copyright free music that people use for youtube tutorials on how to change bike tyres. I’m glad your boxing wife left you.
Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal
I believe it was Albert Camus who once said that a true masterpiece does not reveal everything. Let’s start by looking at what this masterpiece does reveal to us. That’s right, a big, grey, bouncy, boxing ring. I know it may look like perhaps the bass player has a penchant for world wrestling entertainment, but that is a boxing ring and there’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. Other than that this video leaves us only questions. What’s with the japanese kids? How did they do that lean? I get the body popping kid with a mask on is an MJ nose job reference but bloody hell! Watching in 2021 it’s a bit nostradamus isn’t it? And just what on this good earth is going on with the singer’s hair? If you want answers to any of these questions then you have come to the wrong place. All I can tell you is that it’s got a boxing ring in it, and this makes it the best boxing music video of all time. This is the crest of the great wave. Nothing can beat this. Every single one of you will get to the bit where the tune stops and he vaults onto that car thinking the exact same thing – they don’t make ‘em like this anymore do they. Another big question, why don’t they make them like this anymore? And those big questions my friends, aren’t they what Nu-Metal was all about? This one at least, we know the answer to (that answer is yes).
Like most other girls my age, as a pre-teen I had a particular affection for Simon Cowell golden boys One Direction, and whilst they still hold a special place in my heart and their lyrics seared into my brain forever, times change. But as I twirled around my poster-clad room to ‘Gotta Be You’, downstairs my parents were re-living their early 20’s vicariously through their seemingly endless boxes of CDs. Many an evening would me and my sister spend manically dancing around our living room in our vests and pants to Dad’s own mix of rave anthems (or ‘bong dong’ music, as was penned on the CD). Without realising it, my own future excellent music taste was being moulded by a combination of relentless nostalgia and genuinely good music. I will be forever grateful to my mum and Dad and their persistence to show me that music is more than five floppy haired heartthrobs (apart from Harry Styles, the very essence of good taste). The following is a carefully curated list of 10 albums- in no particular order- I believe have done the most towards shaping me into the woman I am today.
Radiohead- The Bends
What better place to begin discussing albums of my childhood than with an album which I see as the fifth member of the Ogden family. My bleach blonde alcoholic older brother, The Bends. Over the years, Radiohead would become a collective obsession of my entire family, specifically my mum who discovered a Facebook group of likeminded middle-aged alternatives and became something of an obsessive. By no means do I believe this to be Radiohead’s best album. For me, their best work comes in the form of In Rainbows, but I am merely here to reminisce rather than to criticise so before I Anthony Fantano myself and start a riot with the Radiohead purists, I will press on. I can’t remember the first time I heard this album, because it’s always just felt like it was part of me. It was always on in the house, in the car, in the garage, coming from Mum’s iPad, by now it’s part of the Ogden DNA. I remember Mum telling me once that ‘High and Dry’ always reminds her of Dad, specifically the lyrics ‘Flying on your motorcycle, watching all the ground beneath you drop’ simply because of his love of motorbikes. Associations don’t have to be that deep do they.
Gorillaz- Demon Days
Another big one for my family. I didn’t like Gorillaz at first. I thought they were weird and that my dad overplayed them. I didn’t like the idea of an animated band, I wanted eye candy. But as I grew older, found my own way sonically and figured out that, yes that is the nation’s favourite Damon Albarn supplying the vocals for empty eyed cartoon 2D, I grew to really appreciate them. I don’t claim to know the most about Gorillaz, as it was always my dad and my sister who were the fans of the family, but this album is certainly my favourite of their discography, and easily their most iconic. As with Radiohead, this is a band that I genuinely enjoy in my own time, not just because of my family. This album has all the big uns, ‘Feel Good Inc.’, ‘DARE’ and ‘Dirty Harry’? A veritable feast of tunes. So far so good Mum and Dad.
The Prodigy- The Fat of the Land
Enter the chaos of my dad’s musical past. As a youngster, my dad was, for lack of better words, a little shit. Being chased by the police, setting fire to your hands and knocking out your front teeth was all a day in the life for a young Ashleigh Ogden. No better album soundtracks how I envision my Father’s raucous teenage years than this. Admittedly, The Prodigy’s 2009 ‘Invaders Must Die’ was a more frequent fixture in my household but in my opinion, this is infinitely better. This album encapsulates what people associate with The Prodigy; a cacophonous combination of classic punk, 90s rave and Keith Flint, god rest his soul. As with Gorillaz, I really wasn’t keen on The Prodigy, but I’ve always secretly enjoyed ‘Breathe’, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ and ‘Firestarter’, the latter being a very appropriate song for my dad, a self-professed casual pyromaniac.
Unlike the other albums on this list, it wasn’t so much the music that drew me in, that came later; because ever since I can remember, I’ve developed extremely intense, albeit fleeting, fixations with weirdly specific things. Currently it’s 1996 Brian Molko. Before that it was regency undergarments. But one of the very first was the cover of my parents’ Trainspotting soundtrack CD. When I was alone, I would pull it out from the stack of CDs and literally just look at it. I think what drew me in was the fact that I wasn’t allowed. Trainspotting was an absolute no go for baby me (for the obvious reasons) so naturally, I wanted to know more. It was only when I turned 16 and anticipating the release of Trainspotting 2 that curiosity got the better of me and I finally saw what is now one of my favourite films. Like any teenager who watches Trainspotting, both the film and its soundtrack instantly became the basis on which I formed my personality for the next year (excluding the use of hard drugs).
10cc- How Dare You!
This offering comes from my maternal side- a part of my family with a vibrant musical history, beginning with my Grandad Mike. In the 60s, together with three of his mates, he formed Purple Haze (no prize for guessing inspiration) which would later become Beggars Farm (again, no prizes) and eventually, The Alligators, whom he was still gigging with until about two years ago. His musical gifts to my mum manifest themselves mostly in narrative song writing, more specifically the penning’s of Paul McCartney (‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘She’s Leaving Home’) and tongue-in-cheek art rockers 10cc’s ‘I’m Mandy, Fly Me’; a tall tale about fictional flight stewardess Mandy and a dramatic plane crash where she becomes the saviour of the song’s subject before mysteriously vanishing. Very prog I know. I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of progressive rock, I don’t even think Mum is either, but we both have this association with 10cc that cross boundaries of genre.
Massive Attack- Protection
When I was growing up, there were always four or five albums that I remember always being played on long car journeys; Justified by Justin Timberlake, Supernature by Goldfrapp, Plastic Beach by Gorillaz and Massive Attack’s 1994 Protection. Massive Attack is a major player in my musical upbringing. I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the songs on this album, but after years of melodic brainwashing, it’s difficult not to catch me humming along. As you’ll come to see, both my parents have an affinity for trip hop and now I do too. It is one of the more top tier genres, both technically and audibly. With its laid-back approach to dance beats, combined with emotive lyricism and the occasional addition of sweeping strings, trip hop is exactly what I want from music sometimes.
The Killers- Hot Fuss
Compared to my other album choices, this isn’t one that was a frequent member of the ‘heard it all the time’ list. This exclusively appeared at family BBQs, and that’s all I remember it for. Many who hear this album and its singles are immediately transported to a sticky nightclub packed to the rafters with Liam Frey wannabes quaffing Red Stripe by the litre, but not me. I’m reminded of hot summer evenings, ‘Glamourous Indie Rock & Roll’ flowing through open windows and filling our back garden whilst Dad grills up another ‘kiddie burger’ for me and my sister, birds tweeting in the trees and Mum in her summer dress sorting the side dishes in the kitchen. And for the record, I fucking loathe ‘Mr Brightside’.
Various- Ska Is the Limit
If there’s one thing my parents love, it’s a compilation album. There was a hell of a lot of them around the house when I was growing up. We had 1 by The Beatles, The Best of Radiohead and of course, when I was given The Sound of the Smiths a few Christmases ago, that went straight in the car. Say what you want about compilation albums, I don’t mind them. They work well for people like my parents who wanted a range of music before the era of playlists. While I was writing this, I had a listen back to the album and I cannot remember any of the songs that aren’t by either The Specials, The Selecter or Fun Boy Three. Dad clearly had his favourites; I don’t know why he didn’t just buy their album.
Massive Attack- Mezzanine
I’ve saved the final two spots on this list for two very special albums, both in my heart and the hearts of my parents. Massive Attack have already made an appearance on this list, but I wasn’t about to skip past this absolute tour de force of an album. Massive Attack take everything they have learnt from Blue Lines and Protection and fuse it with a dark and sensual energy to create a sound that endures. If Mezzanine were a woman, she’d be the one at the party dressed in black and stood in the corner by herself because everyone else is too intimidated to speak to her. She’d be the spot-lit femme fatale smoking a cigarette in a 40s noir flick. Despite being yet another album played on repeat by my parents, even to this day, none of us are sick of it. Mum and Dad even went to see them live on the 20th anniversary of Mezzanine. I will be eternally jealous.
We find ourselves at number 10 of this eclectic assortment, and what a ride it’s been. Thank you for sticking with me. Wrapping up my list is fellow trip hop pioneers Portishead and their debut album Dummy, Mezzanine’s blonde and equally sexy cousin. Another car journey favourite of my family and easily one of my favourite albums of all time. As with Mezzanine, my parents are still as in love with Dummy as they ever were, because that sound is so timeless. The combined element of nostalgia with futuristic effects, particularly in songs like ‘Strangers’ and ‘Numb’, is what keeps Portishead in the mind of the listener. It combines my parent’s taste in music perfectly. For my dad, it offers succulent basslines and an occasional nod to classic breakbeats, whilst also remaining chilled out enough for driving to work, and for my mum it rewards the eery-sweet vocals of Beth Gibbons, akin to PJ Harvey and frequent Massive Attack collaborator Tracy Thorn. With all these elements rolled into 49 minutes of auditory pleasure, its easy to see how it’s stood the test of time with my family.
All album covers used in this article were sourced from Wikipedia.