The ‘Mistake’ Rack (part one)

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I always wanted to be Charles Shaar-Murray*… 

These two articles (part one and part two) are somewhat atypical of what I normally try to entice you into reading on a Tuesday but, you know, different times, a change is as good as a, wossname, rest and all that.  If you don’t like part one, I feel it only fair to warn you that you are pretty unlikely to like part two, but don’t give in, the rest of my twaddle is the same as ever and there will be no part three.  All the same, I would love to know what you have on your own Mistake Rack…

This is a little bit of a trawl through some of the CDs I have bought over the years that have never quite cut it for me.  They have coalesced into a motley collection of ‘the unwanted’ on a rack that is, for most of the time, hidden from sight.  I played each of the albums as I wrote about them, desperately hoping that they would somehow magically change my mind: that having listened to them again, I would feel obliged to remove them from ‘The Mistake Rack’ and put them back in the light, where they belong.  It has added up to one of those days that I will never get back…

It started because the startlingly awful cover of Alisha Attic’s ‘Alisha Rules the World’ (1996) caught my eye and I couldn’t resist popping it on the player.  The singles taken from it are relatively passable and there are faint echoes of Alanis Morissette hidden away in there somewhere, but I am left with no idea whatsoever of what possessed me to buy it.  It’s not actually offensive, it’s just… I’m sorry, I drifted off there.  ‘Not as bad as I remembered’ would probably be the best review I could give it, which I’m not sure they’d thank me for.  I made it through to track 3, which is probably more than it deserves.  Will it be back in the player any time soon?  No.  It’s back on the shelf, but while I’m there…

Next to it I find River City People’s ‘Say Something Good’ (1990) which I bought on the back of the lead single ‘What’s Wrong With Dreaming?’  They subsequently had a huge hit in the UK with a cover of ‘California Dreamin’’, which is the fourth track on the album and as far as I got.  The band had the good sense to split up after this and, as far as I can see, have not intruded upon the public consciousness since.  Good decision.  It, too, is back on the shelf.

Which brings me to The Seahorses’ ‘Do It Yourself’.  1997 and The Stone Roses were no more, John Squire formed The Seahorses and they released the single ‘Love is the Law’.  Who wouldn’t buy the album?  I so tried to like this.  It has some really good moments, but in the end it is more up itself than all of Oasis’ post-‘Morning Glory’ albums put together.  Love is the Law is the fifth track and, if I’m honest, my attention was seriously flagging by the time I got to it.  I tried to remember where the really good moments were, but it would appear that someone had stolen them.  Shame.  Back on the shelf.

Tasmin Archer’s Sleeping Satellite (1992) next and who can deny, a great song?  The album has two further stand-out tracks (Lords of the New Church and In your Care) but they are not enough to lift the whole collection above turgid. This is a record that has no idea of where it is heading and yet still lacks the conviction to get there.  The satellite is snoozing in the midst of an infinite void.  An album that has no identity – at least not one that you’d want to spend any time with.  Back on the shelf.

Next?  OK, well here’s where I really start to make enemies.  The Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns’ (1997).  I bought this album at the time when there was much discussion over which was the best album of all time, this or Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’.  Truthfully, I don’t believe there could ever be a best of all time because it is all so dependent on time and place.  In any case, who knows what’s to come?  To my mind, however, OK Computer is a very fine album indeed whilst Urban Hymns is not.  Despite some great songs, as a whole it is nothing more than one long, terminal moan.  I made it through to The Drugs Don’t Work, but only because I was out of the room clipping my toenails most of the time.  This is one of the few albums I own that actually annoys me.  It is like Chinese Water Torture.  The first few seconds are fine, I can live with them, but after a while, oh dear me, no… I develop the irrational desire to strangle the CD player.  If I had this album on vinyl, I would scratch it.  Back on the shelf.

In ‘Closing Time’ and ‘Secret Smile’ (1998) Semisonic had two of the big hit singles of the late 90’s.  Unfortunately the album does not stretch beyond those two great songs.  It is hard to warm to an album that is so knowingly eighty percent filler.  Shortly after its release I heard a critic say that the problem with Semisonic was that they were not nearly as good as they thought they were.  With hindsight, they were not even as good as he thought they were.  There is a definite element of not being bothered about this album.  It has the same sense of image over substance as fat-free ice cream.  Like a ballot box in China, there really is no point in it at all.  Back on the shelf.

*NME (New Musical Express) journalist of my youth.

This started out as a much longer piece, which would have tried the patience of a saint.  I cut it in half and even then, as a single piece, I felt that it had the same potential to hold your attention as an interview with Van Morrison, so I have split what remains into parts one and two.  I can’t actually vouch for it being any more interesting this way, but at least you won’t be bored for quite so long.  I can’t help but notice that the nineties don’t come out of this bit terribly well.  I’m not sure whether I was less discerning back then, whether I was more keen to give anything a chance or whether it really was a decade of dross.  I am also fully aware that some of you might really like these albums.  I’m sorry.  The opinions herein are mine alone and so, I really wouldn’t worry about them…

The Mistake Rack (part two) is here.

19 thoughts on “The ‘Mistake’ Rack (part one)

  1. The tribulations of trawling through the ‘I want my money back’ rack. There are so many bands who have the talent to put out one, mebbe two three minute wonders- but no more. Is it me or did the Semisonics use the same template on both those hits? Sounds all too familiar to me.

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  2. I had a couple of K.Tel albums that I probably should have thought twice about and a couple of Television Toppers Charts Hits… You know the ones… Remakes of Top of the Pops hits by some poorly paid session musicians and some not quite up to the mark session singers. I think the attraction to these albums was more to do with the scantily clad young hotties on the album covers…. Ah, the vagaries of youth…

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  3. O my goodness When I think of the money that could have been saved. I can’t find it and I wish I could, but I bought a cd because of the promise o a naked woman on the inside. It was terrible I would tell you what it was but when I tried to locate it I could not. I did find several cd’s of show tunes I got with an ex girlfriend in mind who tried to culture me into musical theatre. some good some ok some terrible

    Laughter is contagious. Start a pandemic


  4. Picture this: My CD player in the car is broken 💿 and I feel reluctant to take it in to be replaced because of the pandemic. So travelling to and from work I’m having to listen to the radio in Wales. Make of it what you will.


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