Monday, January 02, 2006

Teenage Polyphonic Songook Spree Fanclub

Well, there's no better way to kick of my 50 books in 2006 campaign than to read an entire book on New Year's Day. Yesterday I read Nick Hornby's Songbook (aka 31 Songs when originally published in the UK). As I stated earlier in this blog, Hornby is one of my favorite writers and his obsessions with both football (aka soccer) and music allow me to really relate to what he writes.

Songbook is a collection of essays about 31 songs (duh!) that are memorable to Hornby for one reason or another. I was amazed at both the intersections of our musical tastes as well as the vast ranges of music that I have yet to explore that is tangentially related to the songs in this book.

One of my favorite essays in the book is about Badly Drawn Boy's A Minor Incident (read excerpt here). Before the movie for Hornby's About a Boy came out in 2002, I'd never heard of Badly Drawn Boy but was immediately drawn to the incredible soundtrack (done completely by BDB).

The edition of Songbook that I read also includes 5 extra essays (not in the original 31 Songs). My favorite one gives mad props to the incredible revival in Steve Earle's career as well as a few of the bands on his E-Squared label.

The only band that had two songs in Hornby's 31 Songs list is Teenage Fanclub. I discovered TF when they had a few MTV hits off their album Bandwagonesque. I even saw them live circa 1992 at the Masquerade in Atlanta. Whlie my brother has been a long time fan of TF, I promptly forgot about them until I saw they were playing at Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill a few months back. My brother drove up and we went to the see the first show of their North American tour supporting their new album Man-Made, which made it into my Top 10 of 2005 album list (well, I never actually made a list, but if I had, it would have been there). Both songs that Hornby taps are from the Songs From Northern Britain CD.

I've had a copy of Songs From Northern Britain for a while now as my brother gave me a copies of a large range of Teenage Fanclub's back catalog but I had yet to truly explore that album. Given my resolution to intently listen to 50 albums in 2006 (By the way, I'm planning to up that to 200 just to make it challenging), I figured I'd pull this one out and give it a spin. So yesterday while riding the half-metric, I listened to both this album and The Beginning Stages Of... by the Polyphonic Spree.

Teenage Fanclub is guitar-driven power-pop at it's sweetest. Hornby compares this album with The Beatles' Rubber Soul and I'm not going to argue. This exactly the kind of album that you want to drop in the CD player as you head to the beach or to sing along to at the top of your lungs cruising down the freeway. My favorite tracks after a couple of listens are Your Love is the Place That I Come From and I Don't Care.

The Polyphonic Spree is one of those bands where I completely fell in love with the concept of the band, if not necessarily the music itself. The Spree is a 23-member band from Dallas that looks like the love child of a church choir crossed with a marching band. I picked up this album after reading a review of their opening up for David Bowie's last North American tour in Spin. The songs on this album are hugely instrumented, massively produced, epic rock songs reminiscent of something you might hear on Pink Floyd's The Wall. I had been wanting to pull this album back out since I heard Reach for the Sun on the soundtrack of the incredible documentary Murderball. I enjoy this album but's it not the kind of thing that I'm going to find myself humming as I drive down the road. My favorite tracks here are the opening track Section 1 (Have A Day/Celebratory), Section 8 (Soldier Girl), and Section 9 (Light & Day/Reach for the Sun). Section 10 (A Long Day) is a bizarre wall of sound which I eventually just skipped would be a long day if this track was all you had to listen to.

So after 1 day, I've already marked 2 albums and 1 book off my 2006 Project list.

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