Ian Eason wears his heart on 'Draw', by Matthew Jay.
As a whole piece of pop-art, you don’t get better than Matthew Jay, if you’re looking at the whole story. Draw was a fantastic slice of melodramatic pop that slotted right between Nick Drake and Damien Rice both in time, but also in your CD rack.
Tragically, before Matthew Jay could pursue his career further he fell out of a window in Nottingham and died, having taken a step back from music to study for a degree. You can’t help but think of that when listening to the album, and it colours every track.
Would it be my suggestion without that tragedy? Maybe not. But art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, we consider everything when we’re listening to those special pieces of music, its own history and ours too.
When we listen to Gimme Shelter we know about all the drugs, the girls, about Altamont, and the hazy flurry of angry energy that comes out of it is all the greater for it.
So too with this: when winter’s setting in, and your girlfriend’s just moved miles away and you’re not really sure what happens now, this is the album that you go kick the leaves around to.
Before I begin, there are a few things that you should probably know about this particular artist and album:
Rubber Soul was the first submission to this blog.
It was picked for this particular week as it would have been 45 years since its release on 3 December, 1965.
I love The Beatles.
I really love The Beatles.
Right, now we’ve got that out of the way, let us continue.
Rubber Soul, the sixth studio album recorded and released by Liverpool’s most famous sons, serves as something of a transition from their early Mersey Beat stylings to a more mature and sophisticated sound.
“Drive My Car” exhibits the lighthearted, youthful pop that Beatlemania had become synonymous with. Lyrically, it is somewhat sexist, cynical, yet playful – and is a fantastically upbeat way to begin an album that will only go on to show their growth.
What happens next, never fails to stop me in my tracks. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” will forever be one of my favourite songs of all time. When I hear it, I am transported to a place where only I and the track exist, and for just over two minutes I am incapable of doing anything but listening.
With George Harrison on sitar – making this the first time the instrument had ever featured on a pop recording – and John Lennon’s Dylanesque lyrics and lead vocal, the track marks the point at which The Beatles went from making simple declarations of love, to ballads marred with bitterness and uncertainty.
With “Nowhere Man”, the band make their first complete departure from songs about love, romance and relationships. It’s a track that’s been described by many, as well as the man himself, as autobiographical to Lennon - a factor that makes the lyrics seem all the more desperate as a plea for help.
Then there’s Harrison’s politically charged “Think For Yourself”, something of an all out attack on the government, it would seem. It’s clever, but nowhere near the heights he’ll reach with the same subject matter in “Taxman” on their following album, Revolver.
With “The Word” the band take hold of the hippie ‘peace and love’ ideal, for the first time, and run with it to create a song that begins to dabble in the psychedelia that will define their work in later years.
There’s a quintet of songs, scattered throughout the album, that are about as close to their earlier ‘boy-meets-girl’ recordings as you’ll get. “You Won’t See Me” is about Paul McCartney’s waning relationship with his then girlfriend, Jane Asher. Harrison contributes “If I Needed Someone”, and Ringo Starr takes the lead vocal on the country western flavoured “What Goes On”.
In “Wait”, we hear the anxieties of a man who’s been apart from his lover, and isn’t sure how he’ll be received upon his return. However, my favourite of the five is “I’m Looking Through You”, if only for the line “love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.”
Full of heartbreak, worry and regret, these songs are no “She Loves You” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, but a more mature and considered version of them.
I often pair the ballads “Michelle” and “Girl” together, as they seem to share the same French inspired melody, involve continual repetition of the titular words, and convey their overall messages in very similar ways - though, of course, “Michelle” is a love song first and foremost, whilst “Girl” tells a tale of more romantic misgivings and difficulties.
"In My Life" was probably The Beatles most retrospective track to date, and has since been counted amongst their best work. In it, Lennon reminisces openly about life, love, loss and relationships - there is a wistful longing for the past, but the present and future clearly take precedence.
Closing the album is a song that Lennon has stated he wished he’d never written. “Run For Your Life” is a threatening and sinister offering, whose upbeat, country rock melody lures you into a false sense of security, and then cuts at you with a “it’s me, or you’re dead,” sentiment.
It often seems that Rubber Soul might get overlooked in favour of albums like Revolver or Sgt. Pepper’s, but that’s simply not the case. The record has a huge and faithful following, including Radek and myself. In terms of pure listenability, it’s very easy to be swept away by this album.
Personally, I think it’s an amazing and very complete piece of work, both lyrically and melodically, and that it does quite clearly indicate the direction in which the the band would be moving in next.
For me, if nothing else, the record contains 121 seconds of musical perfection - you can’t argue with that.
Radek Bajenski wears his heart on 'Rubber Soul', by The Beatles.
The Beatles have always been like family to me; perhaps not always around but always in my heart.
I remember being 8, I was playing a taxi driver in my room. I needed a radio and my father had this old tape recorder so I took it.
I pressed play and heard them for the first time. It was ‘Michelle’ from Rubber Soul, the first Beatles song I had ever heard. In that moment I felt that something beautiful inside of me started growing, it was an extraordinary feeling of completeness.
I then heard only two more songs from the album - ‘Girl’ and ‘Nowhere Man’, the melodies of both were dancing in my head.
I changed that day - for the first time I cried real tears in my life.
I like many albums and artists, but Rubber Soul will always hold a special place for me, it’s irreplaceable.
I have a confession to make: I thought that listening to Lungs for a week would be easy. Why? Well, I’ve been listening to it every day for months now, and it’s never taken any effort on my part…
… Until now.
Here’s the problem: this isn’t just an album that Debbie loves, it’s one that I love too. So, whilst the aim of this blog is to try and give an objective and fair review of the records you have submitted, it’s hard to remain unbiased when I feel the same way.
Lungs has been a major contributor to the soundtrack of my life over the last year. It has accompanied me through times of elation, love, loss and desperation. However, as I began listening to it for this project, it dawned on me that I’d actually been taking the record for granted.
Playing this album, in its complete form, over the past seven days wasn’t difficult. I found myself consuming it, without even realising that I’d gone through it twice or three times over. I expect that therein lays crux of the issue – I’d become so used to hearing the record that I hadn’t really been listening to it.
Once this had become apparent, I started paying attention to the album in a way that I’d not done for some time. I listened in a more focused way – a way in which I don’t usually, unless a particular emotional state has prompted me to grasp hold of a song or a lyric that defines that moment.
What did I hear as a result?
An album that strips away the flesh, then screams at you unashamedly and without apology.
‘Dog Days Are Over’ and ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ provide hopeful beginnings to a record which will expose your vulnerabilities in tracks such as ‘I’m Not Calling You A Liar’, ‘Between Two Lungs’ and ‘Cosmic Love’, and pull you apart, limb-from-limb with the primal ‘Howl’.
Where Debbie states that ‘Blinding’ is her most affecting song on the album, ‘Hurricane Drunk’ and ‘Drumming Song’ are mine.
As a reaction to seeing a past lover with someone else, described in a way that is self-destructive - “I’m going out, I’m going to drink myself to death” - yet strangely optimistic - “I’d like to think at least things can’t get any worse”. ‘Hurricane Drunk’ is honest, heart-breaking and hopeful, and something that many, including myself, can relate to entirely.
Then there is ‘Drumming Song’ - a track that is nothing less than epic. The tribal beat and lyrics that convey the desperation of an obsessive and all-consuming love, terrify and comfort me simultaneously. It is unforgiving, and will invade your body without invitation.
Bravely, in thirteen songs, three are covers. The sinister ‘Girl With One Eye’ was originally by The Ludes, and the entertaining ‘Kiss With A Fist’ began life as a track called ‘Happy Slap’, featuring on Ashok’s album Plans, a band that Florence was once a part of.
The bone of contention for many is Welch’s version of ‘You’ve Got The Love’. In covering The Source featuring Candi Staton, and stating how influential the song is to her, Florence puts herself on the line.
For me, I believe that in treating the track honestly and with respect, she has made it her own. It is a rousing, anthemic, and powerful closing sentiment to an album that deals with so much.
Debbie Gallagher wears her heart on 'Lungs', by Florence and the Machine.
I listened to Lungs after a friend introduced me to ‘Rabbit Heart’, and I played it non stop for a day. Then I did the same with ‘Dog Days Are Over’. Then I replayed the album for a week until my partner threatened to leave.
Lungs: Once upon a time, Kate Bush banged The Beatles and birthed a red-haired banshee who sang their boat under the river, poppy-wreathed to their instruments for clowns and crusties everywhere…
Blame Puj, she made me write this!
My favourite was ‘Blinding’.
‘No more dreaming of the day* as if death itself was undone… No more calling like a crow for a boy, for a body in a garden No more dreaming like a girl so in love, so in love No more dreaming like a girl so in love, so in love No more dreaming like a girl… so in love with the wrong world.’*
*The words are actually ‘dead’ and ‘one’ but that’s not what I heard. I heard my own story singing. Throughout the song the lyrics seemed to define me and my loss of belief, love, belief in love and belief in dreaming too. The song marked it and the album marked me.
The first album, loved by someone, has been decided...
Since this blog went live yesterday, I’ve had six album submissions, which is ace. I really appreciate it, and would like to thank you all for taking the time.
The opening record has been chosen based upon the fact that it was one of the albums I was listening to, many months ago, when I came up with the idea for this project. Consequently, it seems apt that this particular LP should be the one to get this blog going.
So, as soon as the contributor has written their piece, we’ll get this show on the road.
Watch this space, kids. It’s going to be a good one.
Are you ready to wear your heart on a record sleeve?
If I asked you what you thought the greatest album ever recorded was, I’m pretty sure I’d get a very considered and exact response. Either that, or I’d be faced with a look of incredulity at the fact that I’d had the audacity to ask you to name just one album that you believed to be the best.
However, what if I asked you to name an album that you really loved? Well, you’d probably reel off a list of five or so albums that meant something to you, and then go on to tell me which one you cared about the most.
In asking someone for their opinion on the greatest album of all time, you’re often searching for a logical, intelligent and reasoned answer. It’s fair to say that some will even attempt to sound much more in the know than they actually are, or go along with a record that someone else has told them is definitively the best album of all time.
So, what’s the aim of this blog? To put aside the professional critics and stereotypes, and to explore the albums that you genuinely love. Maybe we look, or rather listen, too much into a record and miss the point of it entirely. Perhaps the only way to really judge an album is by figuring out how much it honestly affects you.
Now, what do I need from you? Well, that’s simple. All I ask is that you nominate an album, just one that you really love - a record that you’ll always be able to listen to, and go back to whenever you feel like. There are only two restrictions: a) no compilations/soundtracks, b) no ‘Greatest Hits’ packages. When your nomination is picked, you’ll then be asked to write just 150-250 words on why it means so much to you.
After that, I promise to listen to the record you’ve put forward, at least once a day, in its entirety, for a week. As I get through it, I’ll post the occasional song up, and write a little ‘review’ of my own. Of course fellow blog readers are also welcome to contribute with their own personal opinion and experience of the record.
To take part, just click on the ‘Nominate Your Album’ link at the top of this blog. Then write the title of the record you love and the artist responsible for it. Please also provide your name, and an email address - which will not be published - so that I can get back to you.