Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Everybody kind of rags on Pitchfork these days as being too cool for school and a bit pretentious but I still like reading it. I have some reservations about some of the appraisals of some bands (for example, I hate the animal bands: Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter etc...) but on the whole I'm ok with it. Recently, they've started a series of interviews with different artists called 5-10-15-20 which I'm really enjoying. The artists chart the most influential or their favourite songs for every five years of their life. I started thinking about this and its an interesting thing to do to think of the year and the songs that shaped you. So I thought I'd write mine up even though its slightly wanky and I'm not famous - but indulge me for a second. It just goes to show that I grew up in an age before Nirvana broke.


Elvis Presley - Suspicious Minds: I have to admit this is more of an unconscious choice based on a conversation I had with my Mum ages ago. While I grew up with one ear trained to the Beatles, ELO etc... from my parents and the other on the Jam and the Clash from my sister, my Mum said she distinctly remembers me dancing around to Elvis and LOVING it when I was little. To be honest, I don't remember this at all but I like to think that even at that early age I loved Suspicious Minds... Because let's face it - it's pretty awesome.


Ray Parker Junior - Ghostbusters: When I was a kid I had an unreasonably vivid imagination and it was largely fed by movies and TV. So it stands to reason my favourite songs came from movies and I loved the Ghostbusters theme (I think my parents still have the 7inch at their house). I don't admit this very often but the very first tape I bought with my own money was the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack because I loved the Axel F. song. Anyhow, I figure this song established not only my long term love of movies but my love of Bill Murray.


Phil Lynott and Gary Moore - Out In The Fields: By the time I was fifteen I had become obsessed with playing guitar and had a new found love of dodgy metal bands (I'm talking Def Leppard, Ozzy, Dio etc...) Top of the heap for me was Gary Moore, an Irish guitarist, who was terribly sincere and let's face it, total crap but he could play the guitar like a demon. I give myself points for this song because Phil Lynott is on it (Gary Moore was briefly in Thin Lizzy) but really, there's no excuse. Gary Moore later reinvented himself as a blues guitarist and basically denied the existence of every album he'd made in the 70's and 80's. Whatever gets you through the night Gary...


Sugar - The Act We Act: Two major things happened between 15 and 20 for me. Firstly, Nirvana broke and I think anyone who underestimates this event is an idiot. There were a few 'alternative' bands I was conscious of before Teen Spirit went blitzkreig (mainly Pixies, Jane's Addiction, Faith No More) BUT this was a land ruled by Poison, Motley Crue and Guns N' Roses - Phil Collins was on the cover of Rolling Stone and everybody loved Mariah Carey. Nirvana smashed all that and while mainstream music is intrinsically lame - indie, alternative, whatever you want to call it became the staple diet for a new generation of music lovers.

The second thing I discovered in that time was Bob Mould. I taped his Live at the Wireless performance off JJJ (I still have the tape and still listen to a cd version of it) and discovered a whole new world of music. Bob was a member of Husker Du and when I fell in love with his music I was obsessed with his first solo album Workbook. However, Bob formed a three piece in the early 90s and released the album Copper Blue which I can say with authority is the one album I have listened to more times than any other. I used to take 24 hour bus trips with a tape with Copper Blue on both sides and listen it non-stop (no exaggeration). I have avidly followed Bob since that time. The Act We Act is the first song on the album and when I hear those opening chords, I still get chills.


Radiohead - Karma Police: 25 was the year I moved to Sydney and I remember a lot of Superchunk and PJ Harvey but I was still in an OK Computer hangover from the year before. I was quite obsessed with them for a few years and listened to this, The Bends and Kid A non-stop (but they kind of lost me around Hail to the Thief).


Queens of the Stone Age - Go With The Flow: Between 25 and 30 I found the one band that rivaled my love for Bob Mould. Queens is this beautiful amalgamation of rock and punk which is swinging, sexy and raw. The other great thing about them is that the albums are really complex with a lot of layering and interesting arrangements - I spent a lot of time listening to them on headphones wrapping my head around the production. At their heart is just excellent musicianship with a kind of primal instinct for melody and attack. Sure they're un-pc but I love 'em anyway...


Death Cab For Cutie - Marching Bands of Manhatten
: My friends, I have a confession. I just checked my Last FM and its clear that the band I've embraced the most since turning 35 is Death Cab For Cutie. I had a few other choices for this period (Mogwai, Cat Power, Future of the Left, Iron and Wine) and I was frightened about putting Death Cab down in writing because to be honest, I always thought they were a bit fey, a bit meh, and a bit shit. But a very good friend of mine got me hooked on the album Plans which I have listened to compulsively for the last six months or so. I am a sucker for both good pop songs and sad songs and this band have somehow melded these two elements in a very addictive way. I also think that Death Cab are masters of what I like to call the 'moment' song. By that I mean that a song is kind of ok and then there is some little twist or moment in it that just makes it special. So, I hate to admit it but I am a late comer but proud lover of Death Cab. Whether I'll be listening to them in a year is another story but for right now, they're just right.



  1. Snap! (Such a terrific piece JH. I love this idea of using music as the markers of periods in our lives. Music is so immediately evocative.)
    Pitchfork is always my first port of call when sussing out a new band discovery too (followed by Metacritic) but I am so with you: I just don't get that whole GrizzlyDeerCollective phenomenon at all. At best this music is unengaging, at worst, slightly irritating. I did try though.
    I thought I was just on the wrong side of 30.
    And spot on re. DCFC. They, (also The National for me) are all about the moment and if you don't have that moment with them, you probably won't like them.
    Makes me think, maybe we just didn't have the 'moment' with GrizzlyDeerCollective?

  2. Hey Katie, I actually wrote about the animal bands and my fear that I was just getting too old to understand 'young' people's music. But then I decided I didn't like it because I think it's a bunch of derivative crap. Maybe I should finish that off - it was entitled Hunting Season.

    But I'm much the same. So much music informs place and time or is a faithful friend through thick and thin. I probably think about music more than anything else which probably explains why I've made a career of not having a career and I'm more excited about the prospect of a new Superchunk ep than, well, pretty much anything.

    Long live the music nerds!

    Jon x

  3. Do it!! "Hunting Season" = GENIUS.
    I'm contemplating a blog piece entitled "Just because you're Indie doesn't mean you're Good" but it's a bit harsh and really just a reaction to the vaguely indie hipsters I was editing up until this afternoon. (On that: music clips would be way more fun if there were no managers, labels and possibly musicians involved.
    There. I said it.)
    Now bring me my slippers and a Horlicks...