Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Top Ten Albums: Love

You can always tell when I haven't got much work on. I'll be banging out one of these. So ten months after my last Top Ten album, here is another:

This record brought The Cult to the attention of Rick Rubin and sparked their ill-advised American heavy rock adventure. Two decades after its release Love merited being performed in its entirety, track by track, on a special tour. It's a good album. But let's deal with the downsides first:

Nick Cave apart, I seem drawn to appalling lyricists. Singer Ian Astbury is one of them. But you don't notice at first. Unlike Electric, the terrible follow-up, Love is so immersed in batshit symbolism and dazzling guitar-work, you are distracted from how bad a writer Astbury really is.

But, as appears to be a consistent theme in this Top Ten Albums series, when I first heard it I was 14 and didn't care. Love is a monster.
l-r Ian Astbury, Jamie Stewart, Billy Duffy
She Sells Sanctuary, tucked away as the second-to-last track, is the greatest goth rock anthem ever written. Billy Duffy's ludicrously accomplished guitar playing goes jangly poppy, muscles out a catchy little riff and we're away. Astbury has an affecting voice and his vocal tics serve him well. It's a great song. It reached number 15 in 1985 and in the nineties soundtracked a tampon advert, as well as every indie disco in the country for twenty years.

Nothing else here quite reaches She Sells Sanctuary's poppy heights - yet... almost every other track nearly does. In the old days it was quite common to buy an album on the strength of a stand-out single and spend a depressing 45 minutes becoming progressively disappointed with how much pocket money you have just wasted on a duff bet. Love does not disappoint.

The opener - Love - is solid. Astbury wailing about god knows what and Billy Duffy just tearing. shit. up. Essentially this is the band saying "We're good. We're really good. We can do this sort of thing standing on our heads."

Bearing in mind musicianship wasn't something the dark hordes of post-punk goth/indie ne'er do wells cared for, this band ticked all the aesthetic boxes, yet could evidently play. Made a nice change.

Second up is Big Neon Glitter. The title contains a reference to the "Glitter Beat", a drum rhythm popularised by the paedophile glam-rocker Gary Glitter (and most recently heard on Kanye West's opus Black Skinhead). The Glitter beat drives the track through a range of guitar and vocal sonics, perfectly produced.

Then comes the big rush: Nirvana. A proper singalongagoth anthem, which is still only the second best song on the A side and the fourth best song on the album.

"Goooooorrraaayeyaaahhh!" appears to be the opening line. The chorus? "Yeeeeeveryyyyday. Nirvana! Ooooowweeeessisssbrayy, yeah yeah yeah." Find it, try it, turn it up loud, and soon you too will be singing like Ian Astbury.

The next song, Rain, is a belter. Inadvertent Spinal Tap references notwithstanding ("Hot sticky scenes/You know what I mean..."), it's the track which comes along when you're thinking....

"This album more than alright. I've just heard three cracking numbers and we haven't even got to She Sells Sanctuary yet! Bargain!"

... and proceeds to blow you away. If I had one wish in life it would be to be able to play guitar like Billy Duffy. Or Johnny Marr. But for the purposes of this post, Billy Duffy. It's not just about songwriting or technical ability, it's about a sense of what you are doing within the song and in relation to the other musicians playing it. Duffy does it so well that when Astbury first heard him play he immediately sacked his band so he could build the rest of his career around the mad Manc axe-man. And he did.

I'm not going to go on about the second side of Love - listen to it yourself. Phoenix is awful. Hollow Man is cracking. SSS is amazing, Revolution is lovely and Brother Wolf, Sister Moon is a ballad, compulsory on every goth album in those strange, far-off days.


Other top ten albums added so far:

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Henry's Dream

The Waterboys - This is the Sea
Floodland - Sisters of Mercy
Duran Duran - Rio

The rationale for doing this

Further rationale at the bottom of the This is the Sea entry.

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