Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Get Happy!! (1980)
Produced by Nick Lowe.
For the last 12 months I’ve been feeling pretty rubbish about the state of the world (well, the last 30 years, really, but let’s not dwell on that…). So I thought I’d search my records for something to lift my mood. ‘Get Happy!!’ it exclaimed. Well, Elvis, I’m tryin’, but this piece of wax is making it pretty difficult and is making me regret my choice. Look, it’s not horrible, but I just find within the 20 songs there’s nothing much that stands out and I find myself listening to one song and thinking that it sounds like the one before it. Unlike his previous albums that had stuff like ‘Watching the Detectives’, ‘Pump It Up’ and ‘Oliver’s Army’, there just doesn’t seem to be anything memorable on Get Happy!! This is most likely an album that improves with repeated listens, but I’ve had this for over 25 years and nothing has made me want to play it more than once every 5 years. Soz Elv. See ya in 5 years.
Spirit – Spirit of ’84 (1984)
Produced by David DeVore.
I bought this a couple of years ago because of the cover – I’ve always loved this satirical kind of artwork that pokes fun at established icons but has a serious environmental or social message lying underneath. Of course, 2 years ago, I didn’t think this artwork would be so poignant for us here in Melbourne. ‘Spirit of ’84’? How about ‘Spirit of 2020’? Apparently our air quality today was the worst in the world – who woulda thought that could ever happen? Well, probably those former fire chiefs who tried to warn our government over 6 months ago that shit will go down this year. Or Professor Ross Garnaut who’s report in 2008 predicted that because of unaddressed climate change fire seasons would be more intense by 2020…you know, this fucking year. Time to buy a new gas mask, coz my old one’s not gunna last into the apocalypse. On a lighter note, this album’s got a few moments of excellence on it. Most of the album is rerecordings of their older songs. I usually hate when bands remake their own songs, but when I got this it was the first I’d ever heard of Spirit. I went back and listened to the earlier versions and I enjoy the ones on this way more, but I’m no fan of 60s production, so this updated 80s sound makes sense to me. I’m sure original fans of the band hate this record. Then there’s 3 new songs, two of which are excellent; ‘Black Satin Nights’ is a synth-pomp-rock gem and ‘Pick It Up’ is simple, energetic rock’n’roll. There – I think I got just the right balance of impending doom and upbeat frivolity all within around 300 words.
Samson – Before the Storm (1982)
Produced by Jo Julian.
Before the storm the air was filled with smoke from the bushfires. Before the storm it was 36º. Before the storm the dog hadn’t done a panic-wee on the couch. ‘Before The Storm’ is the first Samson album after Bruce Dickinson left to join Iron Maiden and in that one move he both made Samson better and Iron Maiden worse. He’s got a powerful voice but I don’t know – half the time I feel like his over-singing is out of tune. I do admire his fencing and piloting skills, however, ha ha. I much prefer replacement vocalist Nicky Moore’s bluesy rasp and consequently this is my favourite Samson album. Takes a few listens to get into it but then you’re rewarded with some stellar hard rock with a slight AOR bent, almost like they were trying to get away from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal tag. But then the cover art dragged them all the way back. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love this cover art – Barbarians and sea monsters in the distant future…what’s not to love – but I feel like the artwork is at odds with the more mature sound they were going for. Solid production by Jo Julian who also produced one of my favourite albums, ‘Radio 5’ by Alkatrazz (not the Graham Bonnet band), as well as some early Adam and the Ants, Rock Goddess…and was a member of synth-new wave band Berlin. That’s a weird mix – thank you internet!
The Cure – Primary 7” single (1981)
Remember when they used to sell vinyl at Coles? (See price sticker) I wasn’t buying records seriously until around ’86, so I must’ve missed out. Wouldn’t be surprised if they jumped on the bandwagon now and started selling records again – overpriced reissues of shit everyone already has, of course. I’m not a huge fan of the Cure’s later stuff, but there’s some gems earlier on. This is a favourite.
Written by Karl Mautner.
Read more of Karl’s entertaining and insightful thoughts on classic albums at the Rise of the Rat Facebook page, and Karl’s own Instagram page.