The Blind Taste Test is where one writer gives an album they love to another writer who has never heard it before. This time, hot off the back of an unsuccessful introduction to Pavement, James Spearing sends The Music’s 2002 debut album over to Rick Larson in San Francisco.
Let’s quickly get one fact out of the way. They’re called The Music and their debut album is called The Music. Prententious? Big-headed? I never got that impression. They were just four lads from Leeds who had listened to some Led Zeppelin and some Jane’s Addiction and then got pretty decent at playing. This album was huge for me as a teenager, starting from when I saw them at my first ‘proper’ gig and being totally blown away by the sound they made which, to me, was like nothing else at the time. I bought all their EPs and the CD of The Music barely stopped spinning. I still listen to it, and their follow up album Welcome to the North, regularly today. The artwork was iconic – I had a huge poster on my wall. ‘The People’ was and probably still is their biggest and most fondly remembered hit. ‘Getaway’ and ‘Take The Long Road and Walk It’ were popular too. They could do noisy and fast with a load of drums and guitar on tracks like ‘The Dance’, but also showed a quieter side on songs like ‘Turn Out The Light’ and ‘Too High’. I’m taking a total gamble with this one – I’ve no idea if you’ll like it, and even less confidence that I can adequately relay my experience and relationship with it enough to convince you of its worth in a few short lines. But here we go nonetheless. Get ready for something special.
I’d never heard of The Music or heard its music. Not a peep or a note. I always enjoy listening to something new. The name of the band is a bit off-putting, but James already copped to that. The name does ultimately make some sense to me as I will explain. I apologise; I’m not sure I strictly followed the rules of this feature and hope they are not strict. The following is not an exact record of my immediate contemporaneous impressions; there was some reflection and relistening.
The first track ‘The Dance’ begins ominously with the sort of very slow build of echoing guitar noise and wordless howling that announces, “Serious shit is about to happen.” It’s not very subtle, but plenty of other albums have recovered from this tack. The bass and drums kick in and it sounds like Liam Gallagher trying his hand at a Jane’s Addiction song. That may intrigue some people. I’ll leave that to you. I liked the space invaders sound effects because it reminded me of The Pretenders.
The second track, ‘Take the Long Road and Walk’ starts off with another spooky introduction segueing into what exactly? I’m trying to figure out this band’s angle. I’m flummoxed. This song is very 1970’s to me, but the fringe stuff that the guys who hung out behind the 7-11 listened to. The lead singer is all Robert Planty now and then starts scat singing which is audacious enough to be entertaining. The song should have ended there, but it keeps chugging along with its boogie woogie. James’s description of the band as lads from Leeds who listened to Led Zeppelin and Jane’s Addiction is apt. But, this sounds like if Foghat had a small bit of groove.
The third song, ‘Human’ slows things down a bit and I’m still trying to get my arms around this. I start to think it seems like the original soundtrack to a movie about a fictional band. Like if you heard some actors playing this song in a movie, you’d say, “not bad.” It sounds like the fake band from ‘Almost Famous’ playing The Stone Roses.
That’s maybe the best way I can describe this band: it’s a fictional ‘70’s band playing ‘90’s music. Words are escaping me. This song goes on for 5:28, which is going to be an unfortunate trend.
The fourth song, ‘The Truth Is No Words’ is warmed over Faith No More. I’m fine eating leftovers and I liked Faith No More quite a bit. I went to high school with the drummer from Faith No More and we played whiffle ball at lunch time. This song clocks in at a brisk 4:35.
‘Float’, the fifth track, after the unnecessary, now signature, dramatic build-up kicks into a song that is quite good. I like this one. It’s frantic, sounds different than the others. It would have been a really good three -minute song. Actually, I take that back. It should have been two songs. I like the end of this song. I can totally see tossing my head to this song as a drunk teenager in Leeds or Manchester or Oakland.
Jesus, man, the good feelings are gone with ‘Turn Out the Light’. What are we channeling here? Foreigner? “Baby baby baby baby baby ba ba yah bay” is objectively funny but delivered with no apparent irony.
Sorry, I don’t like ‘The People’.
“The Getaway” is really good for three minutes. But, this goes on for 6:30. You are not CAN, gentlemen.
‘Disco’ is one of those Jane’s Addiction (that influence is becoming clearer) songs you skip on its albums. (The skippers are in the majority.) Turgid, pretentious. I have a feeling drugs were being passed out like candy in The Music recording studio. The band manager and engineer partook.
At the end now with ‘Too High’, which describes what my state would have to be to listen to this again. Certainly, to its credit this album gives you plenty of time to go smoke some weed and not miss the end of a song.
I grappled with what this band is trying to do. My feeling is that “The Music” is a good name for this band. Better might have been just “Music.” It sounds generic to me. That’s not the worst thing; I take generic Zoloft to good effect.
I have no doubt that this is an important band to James and I would not think to diminish or question that. It is quite possible that if I had grown up in his time and place, I would feel the same. You can’t and shouldn’t minimize the emotional connection of live music in one’s youth.
Anyway, this is unobjectionable and I will never listen to it again.
Words by Rick Larson