The ‘Mistake’ Rack (part two)

Photo by Daria Sannikova on

The main thing about the ‘mistake’ rack is that albums do not make their way onto it over a period of time: they do not move there because I have grown bored of them over the years, or because I seldom play them any more – I have many, many CD’s and some of them get played very rarely, but when they do, I still love them.  ‘Mistake’ rack albums are different.  They are destined to be there.  Back in the days of Andy’s Records they would have had appropriate labels on them: ‘This album may not be anything like as good as you think it is going to be.’  Sometimes I have been given them, sometimes I have bought them on the strength of one great track, sometimes I was just looking for something new.  However they came into my possession, I just knew that we were not meant for one another.  I am not saying that they are, necessarily, bad albums – just that, all in all, they would have been better not to have been made… 

So, having paused only for fortification in a glass of 40% proof, I continue my trawl through ‘The Shelf with No Name’.  Next in line, and the most recent album on the shelf is ‘Amulet’ by Circa Survive (2017).  I was led to this partly by a brilliant Roger Dean-esque cover, which is every bit as good as Alisha’s Attic (part one) is bad.  The album is very polished, but so soulless that not even the devil would want it.  This is a band that very badly wants to be Rush, but sadly seldom gets past amble, playing the kind of music you would expect to hear piped into the toilets at a prog-rock convention.  It came off the shelf only very briefly.  It is back there now.

If you can imagine cutting and pasting little bits from every great rock album by every great rock act into a single album and still ending up with something interminably boring, well, that brings me onto the next album on the shelf, because that is exactly what Thirty Seconds to Mars managed to do with ‘A Beautiful Lie’ (2005).  It is an album that is far, far less than the sum of its parts.  Waiting for one track to end, knowing that there is another one to follow is actually painful: not so much a question of where one tracks ends and the next one starts as why they bothered?  It is like throwing every fruit you have ever liked into a liquidizer and switching it on only to end up with a brown, tasteless sludge.  Every little bit of this album detracts from every other bit.  The album sold by the bucket-load (the bucket, in my opinion, is where it should have stayed) and won plaudits galore as well as awards, which just shows what I know.  Like deliberately banging your head on the wall, the only fun to be had from this album is when it stops.  Back on the shelf.

Next in line is The Flaming Lips ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ (2002), an album that I really feel I should like, but I’ve tried and I can’t.  It doesn’t help that the melody from track one (Fight Test) is lifted straight from Cat Steven’s ‘Father to Son’.  It bothers me.  I have checked the cover to see whether it is credited, but it is one of those bloody awful booklets that is either designed to confound all attempts at reading it, or very shoddily printed.  The cover is littered with critical praise and five star reviews, yet the record is nothing like as good as it thinks it is.  This is the class swot.  This is the album that stands in front of the class and says, ‘Look at me’.  This is the record that your parents point out is so much better than you.  I don’t know who Yoshimi is, but I’m pretty sure I’d like to flick him/her with a wet towel.  I played this CD all the way through to give it the chance to change my mind.  It didn’t.  Back on the shelf.

Kula Shaker’s ‘K’ definitely has moments, notably in the singles (a common theme) ‘Hey Dude’, ‘Govinda’ and ‘Tattva’, but the rest of it sounds uncomfortably like a bunch of middle class public school boys who want to be The Stone Roses.  It’s ok for a little while, but then… actually, it’s not ok for a little while.  It’s dispiritingly tedious.  The overall sound is of a band whose independent financial means ensured that the music didn’t really matter.  It’s a bit of an ‘in-joke’.  On the ladder of aptitude, they are many, many rungs above me, but, if I’m honest, that’s nothing like enough and, sadly, I can still hear them.  Rather than a ‘Curate’s Egg’, this is an Easter egg of an album: cool cover, plenty of glitter, but, ultimately, hollow.  It’s back on the shelf.

Finally, we come to an album that it kills me to see there: Iggy and the Stooges ‘Raw Power’.  I know, I know, please let me explain.  I am a life-long Bowie fan.  This album was released in 1973, having been rescued from the record company bins and cleaned up by Bowie at the mixing desk*.  Along with The Sex Pistol’s ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ it is the very best of punk.  Over the years I have played the grooves off the vinyl twice and so eventually decided to buy the re-issued CD, which was re-mixed by Bruce Dickinson and Iggy himself, who did not like the buffed-up edges on Bowie’s mix.  Fair enough, except in re-mixing, they merely seem to have returned it to the kind of sound that nearly blocked its release in the first place.  It sounds as though the whole thing is being played through a child’s megaphone with a sock in it.  They have maxed out everything available to them.  They have borrowed an amp from Spinal Tap and turned it up to 12.  Everything is buried in a fuzzy, messy growl of tinny electrical noise that drives me mad.  There is rough, and there is rough.  I love this album, but the CD has gone on the shelf because every time I think about playing it, I just go downstairs instead and play the worn-out vinyl.  Age has made that a little fuzzy too, but I remember how it used to sound before Iggy tried to force it through a tin box filled with horse-hair and feedback and so, as long as I still have the old vinyl, the CD stays on the shelf with all of its friends…

Once again, I must point out that the opinions expressed above are all etc etc etc.  Before you are tempted to be upset by anything I might say, just remember how worthless my opinion is.  If you feel that you can give me the key to unlock the joy in any of these albums (or indeed those by The Levellers, ARZ or Ben Harper that I never quite got round to mentioning) I would be delighted to hear from you.

*Whilst transposing these two posts onto WordPress (yes, I do still write with a pen on paper) I played Bowie’s three great career-rescuing productions of the 70’s: Lou Reed’s ‘Viscous’, Iggy’s ‘The Idiot’ and Mott the Hoople’s ‘All The Young Dudes’ and the world became a better place.  Now, where did I put those glittery flares?…

The Mistake Rack (part one) is here.

9 thoughts on “The ‘Mistake’ Rack (part two)

  1. Well dear friend, I have to say that I have never listened to any of these albums and from what i perceive to be the strength of your disdain for most of them.. I never will. Heck, I’m still listening to Tamla Motown and KC & the Sunshine Band, plus George Formby, Al Bowley, Geoff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, Stanley Clarke et al…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stick with what you know! You are missing nothing with that lot, I promise you. Whenever certain songs come on the radio in our car, we both chime in with ‘Chris’s band used to do this…’ Happy days – even sharing a bill with the drag artists…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, the band… That was a lifetime ago. I don’t think I could squeeze into those trousers any more.. In fact, due to this covid lark, I’m struggling to squeeze into most of my clothes. Baggy track suit bottoms and an even baggier T Shirt!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I had the Kula Shaker one, bought on the singles. Maybe it was just a moment in time that was right for them. I remember having the CD in the autochanger in the boot (remember them? 6 CD’s mine was…)… it might have still been in there when I sold the car. Nostalgically played to the album on Spotify after hearing a play of ‘Govinda’ on the radio recently… didn’t get far. Left it in Spotify’s boot now.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.