Manon Williams: Top 20 albums for lockdown (Part 2)

Manon Williams: Top 20 albums for lockdown (Part 2)

And here is the second and concluding part of Manon Williams’ choice of albums to help us get through this period of lockdown:

13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

I’d initially been drawn to Psychedelic Sounds by the compelling front cover as I’m sure most people are. It’s a visceral first-hand experience of an archetypal psychedelic trip. Songs such as ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’, Reverberation’,Slip Inside This House’ and ‘Fire Engine’ have also influenced some of my favourite artists from the likes of Primal Scream and Echo and the Bunnymen to The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Without falling into the stereotype of creating a poor imitation of sixties psychedelia, the Elevators were distinguishable by the addition of Tommy Hall’s electric Jug which added an abrasiveness reminiscent of proto-punk. ‘Roller Coaster’ is evidence of this with Roky Erickson howling throughout the track. The transparency of the Psychedelic Sounds is refreshing to hear.

Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill

Licensed to Ill is the debut album from New York’s finest rap group, Beastie Boys. It’s a lyrical masterpiece merging the melody of rock with the masterful lyricism of hip hop. Including hit single, ‘You’ve Gotta Fight For Your Right’, ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ and ‘Brass Monkey’. Licensed to Ill  is able to transcend all musical barriers and appeal to mainstream music fans and self-confessed critics alike. Each track delivers shouty lyrics met with loud rock guitar. But, it holds a light-heartedness to it, the overexaggerated vocals add comedic value to the album which to people who aren’t familiar with the Beastie Boys may seem crass but the debut album happened to one of the most successful albums the trio ever released clocking in over 7 million copies sold worldwide.

Misfits – Collection II

Collection II is a collection of all Misfits classics combined into one album. ‘We Are 138’ is the opening track with a three-chord progression similar to that of most proto-punk songs. It’s aggressive and quick, just under two minutes. It sets the running theme for Collection II in its entirety.

‘Halloween’, ‘We Bite’ and ‘Return of The Fly’ are all brilliant examples of the static energy the Misfits possessed. It’s impossible not to feel energised after listening to Collection II. Don’t expect a technical masterpiece with well-played chords and a sterile sound. In true punk fashion, this entire album is fast and hard-hitting if you’re feeling a bit deluded with the current situation at hand, put this album on.

DEVO – Q. Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

DEVO are hard to pin down into one genre; mixed punk music met with bizarre spacey synths and comedic prowess. A large majority of people discounted DEVO after they released their chart-topping single, ‘Whip It’ but actually for those who delved further into the band’s history were treated to a back catalogue of creative metallic guitar riffs pieced together. DEVO was America’s answer to Kraftwerk if anyone had even posed the question in the first place? ‘Uncontrollable Urge’, ‘Mongoloid‘ and ‘Jocko Homo’ are all notably stand out tracks that reiterate the spacey synth vibes while ‘Praying Hands’ reveals a strong surf influence.

Beach House – Depression Cherry

Depression Cherry has been an album that I’ve frequently been revisiting during this unprecedented time surely for its transparency in addressing the more solemn sides of human emotion. Beach House have tremendously succeeded in capturing the bleakness that life can sometimes contain. It’s an easily relatable album. In particular, ‘Space Song’ shares transparency both through its lyrics and soft melody. It tugs at the heartstrings and leaves you feeling raw and exposed if you genuinely listen to the album’s context. But, without sounding too glum, it also proves to be a cathartic experience to address these emotions and feelings of fragility.

What makes this fragile world go round? Were you ever lost? Was she ever found?“

Curtis Mayfield – Curtis

To pick you back up from the overbearing sense of melancholy and despair is the epic debut album from American Soul singer, Curtis Mayfield. The opening track, ‘(Don’t Worry) If There Is a Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go’ is a symphony of deeply pitted bass sounds met with a grooving funk sound. This album feels like ska’s early predecessor. You’re also treated to ‘Move On Up’ despite it never reaching chart-topping results as a single, ‘Move On Up’ has solidified itself as a soul music classic enjoyed by everyone alike at some point. It’s either a song you’ve heard deliberately or unintentionally through the radio or during an advert. The lively sound of trumpets and drumming succeeds in lifting spirits and for that song alone. It’s worth listening to the album.

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Barbed Wire Kisses

I loved listening to Psychocandy, but Barbed Wire Kisses solidified my adoration for The Jesus and Mary Chain. A series of harsh and scratchy rhythms that conjure up this malevolent and bleak setting. Every song that Jim Reid applies his dark vocals too only adds to this hard-hitting album. A particular favourite is the cover of Bo Diddley’s, ‘Who Do You Love’ which the Mary Chain have succeeded in making their own with overbearing garage fuzz and Jim Reid’s droning voice that makes for a compelling sound of starkness. Throughout this compilation album, we’re also treated to several more covers including The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin USA’ and ‘Mushroom’ by Can. It’s an undeniable fact that the sounds of mid 60’s garage and surf have influenced the scathing sound of the Mary Chain and these covers do justice in paying homage to their early influences.

Dead Moon – Unknown Passage

Continuing with the present theme of early garage music is the band, Dead Moon. A fully formed garage rock vision that has continued unabated. I can’t recall how I found out about the band – but I’m glad I did. Their album, Unknown Passage has so many shining examples of true unfiltered music making it a severely underrated album. The songs appear to be deceptively simple, but that is only an illusion as there would be only a select few who could even come close to emulating the brilliance of lead singer, Fred Cole. Opening track ‘Dead Moon Night’ best encapsulates their sound fusing the screeching banshee esque voice of Cole fused with deeply ingrained influence from the MC5. Almost every track on this album is a winner, and the doom-laden lyrics make a perfect foil to the fuzzed-out guitar and loose rhythm section.

The Grateful Dead – The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead’s eponymous album debuted in 1967 igniting the psychedelic revolution. During this period the band weren’t recognised as being forefathers in folk-rock or a defining symbol for hippie culture. They were positioned in the flourishing garage rock scene that spawned the likes of the MC5 and The Stooges. ‘Morning Dew’ is perhaps the most recognisable song from this album and it’s a song that still takes me by surprise even after having listened to it countless times, it’s the ability to incite an emotional response that keeps the song fresh. It’s a perfectly balanced mix of Jerry Garcia’s softly drawn-out vocals and a symphonic combination of a Vox organ and guitar. Much can be said for ‘this’ version of ‘Morning Dew’ as it happened to be the first incantation of the song before taking on several forms over the band’s career-changing to suit larger audiences down the line. But, the first mix is primitive and raw. ‘New Minglewood Blues’ and ‘Sitting on Top of the World’ reiterate the garage sound, becoming the soundtrack for many San Franciscan acid-test experiences.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River

To complete the list is Creedence Clearwater Revival’s album, Green River. This album birthed the two most revered songs including ‘Green River‘ and ‘Bad Moon Rising’ my two particular favourites. ‘Bad Moon Rising’ finds itself on the more sinister side of John Fogerty’s lyrical capabilities reinforced with harsh guitar tones. In contrast, the title track ’Green River’ sounds like it belongs in the Louisiana swamps, there is something distinctly countrified about the track. Like its fellows, ‘Green River‘ adheres to a simple but brilliant formula–short and catchy country-rock tinged songs, many of them set to a rockabilly beat, coloured by Fogerty’s foghorn vocals and stinging guitar work.

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