Posted by: dan | June 9, 2009

the checkout: may

Checkout May Header

Dan: Ben’s doing a separate post for his May purchases, as most of them were on vinyl after his recent upgrade. The only CD he bought was Zoey Van Goey’s The Cage Was Unlocked All Along, and as we reviewed that earlier, there’s little sense talking about it again here. (It still has the best artwork of the month’s purchases though, so that’s why it’s our header image) As such, this month’s Checkout post is all mine, which means I can go into a lot more detail on my few purchases/experiences.

ZVGSpaceOddityTMWSTWdavid_bowie_pin_upsLDDark_nightSMSFatDSLCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver

Let’s tackle the big one first: Bowie. My collection grows again this month as I fill in his earlier work and add one from quite a bit later. The earlier albums are Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold The World and Pinups. Space Oddity is very obviously Bowie’s first album. In terms of music, it’s very folk, and highly Dylan-influenced. The only track which doesn’t fit is the titular track which opens the album. It’s a great song, and much closer to his later works which are more self-styled. There are a few good tracks on here, but few that will stick in your mind. But the last track, Memory Of A Free Festival is astonishingly good. A sprawling seven minute song that starts as a slow folk song relying mostly on accordian, it doesn’t grab you straight away. But as Bowie’s vocals develop and intensify, you notice the lyrics are of the usual bizarre quality you expect from him. Then, halfway through, it changes tack again, and creeps into a chanting rhythm which aptly fits the atmosphere indicated by the track title. And the repetition of “The Sun machine is coming down, and we’re gonna have a party” along with the musical style reminds me of the second Shortwave Set album, meaning Replica Sun Machine suddenly seemed to make a bit more sense.

The Man Who Sold The World is a very average album, which is what I’ve been expecting (how many tracks can you name from it without looking them up?). For the most part, it’s not a bad album, but for the most part it just doesn’t hit any of the highs that Bowie can usually hit. For the most part. There is one track which stands above them all, and that is the sublime Black Country Rock. A great guitar riff with the same energy as Queen Bitch, though the rest of the song is quite different in style; it deserves to be remembered as one of Bowie’s finer moments. It’s not enough to glorify the album, though. Then we hit a disappointment with Pinups. I was skeptical about it, but I needed another album to make up the 2 for £10 deal, and I didn’t have it. Pinups is a cover album (see why I was skeptical?), and does little to further Bowie’s talent. It works as a kind of musical documentary, going into detail about Bowie’s inspirations and influences and how he developed them into his style, but after a couple of listens, I’m not inclined to go back. Lastly, Let’s Dance, which is from Bowie’s later, pop era. Gone are the rock riffs, and in come the pop beats. Wonderful pop beats, I should add. The opening trio, Modern Love; China Girl and Let’s Dance are all memorable, catchy and well-crafted pop songs. The rest of the album pales in comparison, and as such, there’s little reason to listen past the first half.

And now the non-Bowie half of the article. Obviously I haven’t bought this, as no-one can yet; but Dark Night Of The Soul should get a mention here. It’s odd, and not all that good. It seems like an over-ambitious art project. All the big names attached to it only serve to make it feel clunky and fairly directionless. The music is light, the production is fancy, and the guest vocalists are the only thing that will help you distinguish one track from another. Disappointing, I’m afraid. Unlike LCD Soundsystem’s Sound Of Silver, which I surprised myself with. I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but actually, it’s pretty good. It’s not astonishing in any way, but it’s a nice little dance album with a difference. It’s pretty far from my favourite dance-pop upbeat albums, but still somehow engaging in a strange, melancholically angry way. Of note is All My Friends, which is the album highlight, and is soon to be covered has been covered (thanks commenters!) by Franz Ferdinand [and will be re-released] on the b-side to their next single, Can’t Stop Feeling. I can’t wait to hear how they treat it, after their brilliant cover of Blondie’s Call Me.

I’ve never really liked Talking Heads thanks to Once In A  Lifetime, which I can hardly stand. But, I’ve had Psycho Killer stuck in my head all month, and as it is a good track, I gambled and bought the only Talking Heads album I could find. Stop Making Sense is their live album from the concert with the same name, and is not bad. It works as an introduction, but I think I need to get a studio album or two before I can fully make up my mind. That said, I love Slippery People, and Once In A Lifetime is a million times more listenable performed live.

Ben: I’ll have to throw my oar in here. As any fule no, Stop Making Sense is the soundtrack to the film of the same name which is sorta-kinda a live album but is, more accurately, an artsy combination of three shows. It’s also blinking great. I’ll lend Dan the DVD at some point this month.

Dan: As a final note, can I ask all the Andrew Bird fans to definitely buy the Fitz and the Dizzyspells EP? It’s great, and goes some way to closing the gap in style between Weather Systems and Noble Beast. It’s worth it for the wonderful re-imagining of Anonanimal in See The Enemy.

Dan’s top 5 tracks from May (excluding Zoey Van Goey, as half of their album would appear here):

1. David Bowie – Black Country Rock
2. David Bowie – Memory Of A Free Festival
3. Andrew Bird – See The Enemy
4. Talking Heads – Psycho Killer
5. LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends

Update: Spotify playlist here! N.B. You will need to have Spotify installed for the link to work. If you do, then you’ll get to hear our favourite tracks this month free!

And the obligatory video this month is:



  1. I need that Andrew Bird EP.

    And I’m glad Dan’s getting into Talking Heads.

    • Everyone needs that EP. It’s short, but very sweet.

      Which Talking Heads album do you recommend for a novice like me?

  2. Well… I think Talking Heads :77 is a good way in. Sort of lays the groundwork for the later things.. only slight use of african percussion, and you get a hint of David Byrne’s persona (Psycho Killer is on there, and Pulled Up – which is pure Byrne with the “UP UP UP UP!” bits and the “There’s really no hurry, I’ll eat in a while!” delivery). From there “Fear of Music” starts bringing on some key themes… the tracks “I Zimbra”, “Heaven”, and “Life During Wartime” featuring on it.

    Hard to say, but it’s not “Remain in Light”, and it’s not “Little Creatures”. Despite “Once in a Lifetime” and “Road to Nowhere” respectively.

  3. Actually, now I think of it. Despite it being a live album “The Name of This Band is Talking Heads” more or less covers all the bases for getting into them.

    • But I want a studio album, dagnabit!

  4. I hate to be too pedantic and obsessive fan-like, but Franz Ferdinand have already covered ‘All My Friends’. It a b-side on the LCD Soundsystem single. Assuming it’s the same recording, a load of fans said it was great, but I think Alex sounds half strangled.


    • Pedantic and obsessive fan-like is good, especially when it proves Dan wrong. Haha!

  5. The Franz Ferdinand cover of All My Friends has been out for a while now (a year or so, I would say). I don’t know why they’re releasing it as the b-side to Can’t Stop Feeling.

    • Thank you Sarah and PolkaDot! I had no idea it was already out. I’m blaming my ongoing lack of home internet for my inability to research properly. I’ll try and get around to listening to it over lunch. Thanks again!

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