Unintentionally all old school today. Tales from the M drawer…
Bob Mould: See A Little Light (1989)
This is from Workbook, Bob Mould’s first solo album after the break-up of Hüsker Dü in 1988. After the volume of Hüsker Dü, this was a predominantly acoustic record and I suspect that the new approach surprised a lot of fans. I was lucky enough to see Bob play songs from this and his second solo record when he did a solo tour in 1990, playing the now deceased Gluepot in Auckland. He didn’t play my favourite song from Workbook, “Heartbreak A Stranger”, but he did play this one. This fantastic gig was also my introduction to two pioneers of the New Zealand indie music scene, Martin Phillipps of the Chills, and Chris Knox.
Massive Attack: Angel (1998)
Angel is the first song on Mezzanine, released in 1998, which was the year I spent in Ireland. The band and the album were receiving a lot of publicity, some for the success of the record, but also for the tensions within the group. Despite the upbeat lyrics, I love the darkness and the feeling of menace in this song. When I finally saw the band live at Auckland’s Vector Arena in 2010, this was one of the highlights.
Mercury Rev: Opus 40 (1998)
Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs is another album that reminds me of my year in Ireland. Following the poor reception for their previous record, the band had been dropped from their label, they had lost their drummer, manager and lawyers, they were in debt, and longtime friendships within the band had been strained. Fortunately the album, recorded in the Catskills and featuring members of The Band, was a huge success. The final show of the Deserter’s Songs world tour was in Auckland (when they played a wonderful version of Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet”), and as the band hugged each other at the end of the show, you could see their sense of pride, and probably relief.
Mutton Birds: White Valiant (1992)
This is from the first Mutton Birds album, and I love that it’s full of New Zealand images and expressions. I first heard the Mutton Birds in 1992 while stuck in traffic on the Desert Road with a light coating of snow on both sides of the highway. I was with friends and we were sharing one Walkman between us. When we saw the band a few months later, people were staring at us because we were the only ones who could sing along.
In the words of head Mutton Bird, Don McGlashan….
‘White Valiant’ is, I think, one of the best I’ve ever done. It’s based on a dream I had about being a hitchhiker and being picked up by somebody and then being a part of a long queue of cars that were on their way to something like an outdoor concert which I was supposed to be playing at. I knew that and the driver knew that, but neither of us would mention this. It was one of those dreams of frustration, of not being able to get where you are, but then it turned into one of those meet the Devil type stories, that are everywhere in folk music and the blues… (from here)