Tag Archives: underrated album

The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

26 Jul

It was announced this week that Arcade Fire have completed work on their forth albums. Details are sadly short on the ground, but it will be the follow-up to The Suburbs, one of the most critically-acclaimed and sadly forgotten albums of the last few years.

Image

Whereas their classic 2004 album Funeral was a bombastic ode to childhood, the Suburbs saw the band looking back at their own adolescence through the prism of the places where members Win and Will Butler grew up, the suburbs of Texas. The first few songs capture the uncertainty and boredom of being a teenager in a world ruled by adults, while still managing to create a radio hit in Ready to Start. There’s a heavy sense of nostalgia weighing down on them, a childhood that’s been irreversibly lost.

From there, the album skips on a couple of years. The children – friends, siblings, lovers? – of the early chapters have grown up and are returning home after ‘the markets crashed’ in 2008. The only thing worse than yearning for your youth is having your illusions about it shattered, but that’s what happens. The climax as the album is a two part song called Sprawl. The first one is a mournful, barely musical dirge in which the protagonist attempts to find his old home in the dark and fails, while in the second Win Butler’s wife Régine Chassagne gets to display her vocal talents in an ABBA-inspired track about the daily 9-5 grinding you down. The contrast beautifully sums up the album’s complex and mature themes.

There are a dozen more things I could rave about, from the constant threat of an apocalyptic war that hangs over the early tracks, the clever symbolism of light and darkness throughout or the way it manages to make big statements without ever coming off as pretentious. After the emotionally barren music that we are so often offered nowadays, an album that asks so many personal questions about you comes as a shock.

Full disclosure – it may not be the genre-defining masterpiece I imagine it to be. It may just be the tales of leaving your childhood home struck a chord with me at a time when I was beginning university, leaving a permanent imprint, but that’s exactly what good music should do. It should say the things you can’t and explain the world to you.

Before They Were Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople

9 Jan
Mott The Hoople (1969/70)

Mott The Hoople (1969/70)

Mott the Hoople may forever be linked with their glam-rock anthem “All The Young Dudes,” but some of their best material was released before David Bowie produced their seminal album and provided them with their breakthrough hit. A month before the turn of the decade, Mott the Hoople released their eponymous first album and it helped garner the band a cult following in the UK and even the United States. The album, though, remains unrecognized, as does much of Mott the Hoople’s work prior to All The Young Dudes was released in 1972, and while this is understandable (despite the fact that the majority of the band’s seven albums was released prior to 1972) it is not defensible. Mott the Hoople, released a month before the turn of the decade, features a diverse assortment of rock music that should achieve more recognition.

For most, the story of Mott the Hoople starts in 1972 with the band in discord. After the trio of albums released after their debut received negative reviews and did not sell well, the band seriously considered splitting up. Glam-rock superstar, David Bowie, a fan of Mott the Hoople, pleaded to the band to not traverse the River Styx. He offered them “Suffragette City” and when Mott the Hoople declined, Bowie gave them “All the Young Dudes,” a song he penned, and proceeded to produce the album of the same name. The album was awesome (and well-received), and the band dove head first into the Glam rock genre.

But let’s go back to the debut album. The group was ostensibly formed in 1966 (under a different name), but Mott the Hoople didn’t really start until Ian Hunter joined the band as lead singer/pianist. Mott the Hoople was recorded in a week, and the album features several covers, hard-rock hits, and, well, good Bob Dylan impersonations. Let me explain.

The first track on the 8-track album is a guitar-fueled instrumental cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.”

It’s a three-minute rocker drenched in pedal-aided distortion and classic mid-70s flavor. Mid-70s flavor? I thought this album was released in 1969. It was. I’d argue that the album sounds more like a mid-70s, rock n’ roll-inspired compilation. This is, of course, where Mott the Hoople would end up prior to disbanding. In a sense, they inspired their later material, but in doing so I believe they helped inspire other bands. Listen to this.

You can really hear two styles duking it out in “Rock and Roll Queen,” the fifth track on Mott the Hoople. On one side you can hear bits and pieces of the blues-inspired psychedelic rock that clearly influenced Mott the Hoople’s sound. This, though, is covered up by the conventional 70’s heavy blues sound. You could just as easily hear this piece recorded by Bad Company, which was founded in 1973. Hmm…I wonder why… Well, the song also features a killer guitar solo by Mick Ralphs. Ralphs left Mott the Hoople in 1973 to start a new supergroup with his friend Paul Rodgers. The group’s name was Bad Company.

“Backsliding Fearlessly” is “The Times They Are A Changin.” Okay, it’s not exactly a Dylan song, but it certainly is an ode to Bob Dylan. It’s an excellent song, though; my favorite song on the album. It also represents why I love this album. There is such variety. It is a blend of fading 60s influences and the emerging powerful sound of 70s heavy rock. So, when we talk of Mott the Hoople, let it not just be about all the young dudes.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: