Michael Ross grew up on 80s hair-metal and yet still manages to hold down a job and function in society (more or less). His personal contribution to the world of music consists of inescapably sensible Facebook comments and discussion forum posts, his blog Radio Nowhere, and a commitment to singing in public as little as possible. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – Hanoi Rocks, All Those Wasted Years (Live at the Marquee): As close to hip as hair-metal ever got (if only retrospectively), Finland’s Hanoi Rocks are a touchstone for the genre despite the fact that there was very little resembling metal in a sound that owed more to the New York Dolls and the Clash. Despite some brilliant tracks, Hanoi were inconsistent on record, which is why I find myself once again returning to this all killer no filler 1983 live set. Recorded before a disappointing (album-wise) and tragic (death of drummer-wise) attempt to crack America, this is Hanoi Rocks at their ragged, sleazy, shambolic best. It isn’t big, it isn’t clever, but it is only about five shots of Jack Daniels away from being there.
Check out: Tragedy
2 – The Digable Planets, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space): I was never a hip-hop kid, but I did always enjoy that one Digable Planets track that was inescapable in 1993/94, and, for whatever reason, it recently occurred to me I should finally investigate further. On balance Reachin’ is a one trick pony of an album – it’s the Q-Tip half of Tribe Called Quest jazzed to the hilt with a fairly studied dose of beat poetics thrown in the mix. I could accept people turning up their noses at it, but for me, right now, it really works. I’m loving it.
Check out: Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)
3 – Titus Andronicus, The Monitor: If asked to pick five albums I’m digging right now, one is always going to be some sort of pseudo alternative wordy mid-western/east coast act with a hint of Replacements or Springsteen about them. It could have been Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang, or any number of Hold Steady albums, but right now it’s Titus Andronicus. Abrasive, overblown, punky, fun.
Check out: A More Perfect Union (A 3:30 edit of a 7 minute track)
4 – Bruce Springsteen Magic: And speaking of Springsteen, I came to the Boss late via the Greatest Hits disc and his epic Live 75-85 set, so I’ve never had a particularly close relationship with any of his classic albums (although I’ll fight anyone who has a bad word to say about Darkness on the Edge of Town). However, I do love this one. Slick, sharp arrangements accompany both vitriolic mantras for the final year of the G. W. Bush presidency and more poignant laments. There’s a lot to love here, and, in Girls In Their Summer Clothes, one of the finest in a long line of great Springsteen pop songs. Having finally accepted I’ll likely never particularly enjoy Working on a Dream or this year’s Wrecking Ball, I’ve returned to Magic like an old friend – no small achievement for an album released in year 34 of Springsteen’s recording career.
Check out: Livin’ In The Future
5 – The Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls: So good. Authentic without being consciously retro. Cool as hell without a hint of hipster taint. Garage-band soul at its finest. This is probably my favourite release of 2012.
Check out: The whole damn album