The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (1986)

Received wisdom was that The Queen is Dead is The Smith’s greatest album. It’s a great album. But not their greatest. That would be Strangeways Here We Come. It’s true. Morrissey and Marr agree with me. But I only have that on CD and cassette so it’s excluded (at least for now) from this blog.
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Nevertheless, this is still an “all killer no filler” kind of record. I played this copy the other day when some friends visited, and provided a talking point while the kids ran about the rest of the house. It struck all of us that there just isn’t a duff track on here. Even the one person who didn’t really like The Smiths grudgingly agreed.

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Our piano

We have a piano in our house. It’s digital but sounds and plays as near as dammit to the real thing. I bought it as a present a little while ago for my wife. She was always playing the one at her parents’ house when we visited and we had often talked about getting one if we ever had the space. And she plays beautifully for someone who has not had any lessons since she was a child.

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The price of vinyl

So, as I continue to explore my boxes of vinyl in the loft, I think it would be nice to have some more up to date records to listen to and write about. Most of my collection stops around 1992 after the purchase of my first CD player and this means that there’s a lot of really great albums I own which I can’t really write about. DJ Shadow, Blur, The Beatles, Orbital et al all only exist on cd in my world.

That in mind I’ve been looking at how much new(ish) vinyl costs. And I’m astounded. It’s become a rich man’s play thing. The new Bowie album will cost £23 when it’s released (fittingly on April Fool’s Day). The Beatles stereo remasters are £20-£30 a pop, or £350 as a box set. Suede’s new one? £16 please.

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Prince – Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987)

Its silly, no? When a rocket ship explodes. And everybody still wants 2 fly.

Sign O The TimesSign ‘O’ The Times is always the critics’ choice for “best Prince album” or “last great double album of the eighties”. I don’t think it merits either of those claims. For me, it’s bloated, dated and for large parts of it quite actually boring. But when it’s good, it is very good indeed.

The album was reportedly a triple set until Warner’s asked Prince to reduce it, concerned about the under-performance of Parade a year before. They were right to be as Sign ‘O’ The Times suffered the same commercial fate. It’s easy to forget that Prince, although still a massive star at the time, was actually declining in sales. The same fate befell Lovesexy a year later, with the Batman soundtrack only holding up because of the huge success of anything related to the movie.

It’s not an album I could happily put on and listen to all the way through any more, as I found out yesterday when I ended up pottering around the house waiting for the next good one to come on. I lose patience with it far too quickly. This is meant to be a classic, after all. How many people actually listen to it all in one go?

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Yello – The Yello Metropolitan Mixdown 1989 Part 1

Standing at the machine every day for all my life I’m used to do it and I need it it’s the only thing I want it’s just a rush, push, cash….

I have never been a Yello fan (The Race and Oh Yeah was all I knew of their work up to this point) and I have absolutely no memory of buying this record. But I am extremely glad that I did.Yello Metropolitan Mixdown Part 1

As a connoissuer of the needlessly long 12″ single I must have been the core target market. Weighing in at a substantial 11 minutes long, Metropolitan Mixdown Part 1 was the b-side to Yello’s Of Course I’m Lying single, presented in a beautiful gatefold sleeve complete with cheeky photos of Dieter and Boris in their euro-finery and a space for that all important part 2 disc. I can only guess that it must have been one of those 99p specials to give it a nudge into the charts (storming to, err, number 27) that attracted me to it in the first instance. That and a chance to finally have Oh Yeah on vinyl. I never bought disc 2.

It’s bloody ace by the way. Pulling together The Race, Bostich, Call it Love, Santiago, Tied Up, Vicious Games, I Love You and Oh Yeah, this record is far more than the sum of its parts, most of which I had never heard before. Nothing outstays its welcome and it nips along at a fair old lick, brilliantly glued together by Paul Dakeyne for DMC.

I have no idea whether this was ever considered cool (Yello always seemed like Kraftwerk’s camp next door neighbour to me) but some of it sounds cool-ish. Or exotic at least.

Here it is. Don’t bother with part 2. It was massively disappointing in comparison.