Monday, 19 October 2009

BEATLE-A-DAY!!! #11 - Yellow Submarine (1969)

Hello! As discussed in my post on The Beatles: Rock Band I have decided to embark on a project called Beatle-A-Day, in which I listen to The Beatles' back catalogue in chronological (recorded) order and post about, surprise surprise, an album a day (Weekends and Wednesdays not withstanding!)

Without further delay let's get stuck in!

1. Yellow Submarine

2. Only A Northern Song

3. All Together Now

4. Hey Bulldog

5. It's All Too Much

6. All You Need Is Love

7. Pepperland

8. Sea Of Time

9. Sea Of Holes

10. Sea Of Monsters

11. March Of The Meanies

12. Pepperland Laid Waste

13. Yellow Submarine In Pepperland

I'll go into my Beatle-A-Day!!! post on this album by stating that after listening to Yellow Submarine several times I'm unsure of whether I should include this in the series of a posts; aside from the confused issues revolving around its classification (is it really a full album?) it just isn't a very satisfying release.

As I am a huge fan of the Yellow Submarine animated movie (along with The White Album it was the other Beatles artifact which was eagerly pushed on me by my parents) the biggest shock from the Yellow Submarine album was that it didn't include all of the songs from the film; the omission of classics like Eleanor Rigby, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Nowhere Man and With A Little Help From My Friends is simply baffling.

I understand that this was rectified with the 1999 release of the "songtrack" album accompanying the film's re-release, but it still doesn't change the fact that the original soundtrack release is an unmitigated failure.

On the record's A side there are six bone-fide Beatles songs; the problem with this is that of these six only four are new to this release, and of these only two were recorded specifically for this release (namely Hey Bulldog and All Together Now). As such the album's first half seems like a mish-mash of Beatles material from several eras, and its unintended incoherence leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

As questionable as the first side's claim to be a Beatles album is I was most unprepared for what lay in wait on the record's B side...

If you come to the an album branded as being by The Beatles I don't think it unreasonable to expect the album to feature, at best, freshly written material from the foursome; however, at a push I am prepared to accept the band performing others' material (as on the band's earlier works).

What I would not expect is material neither written or recorded by the band. For an album which is widely considered to be the band's eleventh full album I find it disgusting to find that approximately half of its run time is instead composed by the band's producer and then performed by session musicians.

At this point I think it academic to even debate the musical merit of the score, but I will do so just to stick the boot in a little further; it is in no way the worst film soundtrack I have ever heard, but it is also far, far, far from even being a good one. In a film which is effectively sound tracked by The Beatles' own work these symphonic pieces serve more as transitions between Beatles material, and as such don't really have much of their own personality.

In closing I would say that this release would be, without a doubt, the worst release that the normally Fab Four ever put their name to - however I don't even feel vindicated saying even this since I wouldn't even consider it a Beatles release.

As such the best I can muster is the following: don't buy this knock off piece of money grabbing non-Beatles material. Instead either purchase the 1999 songtrack or download the four new songs on iTunes - Hey Bulldog is a rocking song so don't miss out just because of this release's disappointing nature.

sam sam

Sunday, 18 October 2009

BEATLE-A-DAY!!! #10 - The Beatles (The White Album) (1968)

Hello! As discussed in my post on The Beatles: Rock Band I have decided to embark on a project called Beatle-A-Day, in which I listen to The Beatles' back catalogue in chronological (recorded) order and post about, surprise surprise, an album a day (Weekends and Wednesdays not withstanding!)

Without further delay let's get stuck in!

Disk One

1. Back In The USSR
2. Dear Prudence
3. Glass Onion
4. Ob La Di Ob La Da
5. Wild Honey Pie
6. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
8. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
9. Martha My Dear
10. I'm So Tired
11. Blackbird
12. Piggies
13. Rocky Raccoon
14. Don't Pass Me By
15. Why Don't We Do It In The Road
16. I Will
17. Julia

Disk Two

1. Birthday
2. Yer Blues
3. Mother Nature's Son
4. Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
5. Sexy Sadie
6. Helter Skelter
7. Long Long Long
8. Revolution 1
9. Honey Pie
10. Savoy Truffle
11. Cry Baby Cry
12. Revolution 9
13. Good Night

The White Album (or The Beatles as it is officially titled) will always hold a very special place in my heart, as it was THE Beatles album of my childhood. Both my parents enthused about it, and I was so intrigued by why this was that it was one of the first albums I recorded to Mini-Disc when I received my player one Christmas morning...*sigh*

At the time I found the album's much paraded excellence rather hard to pin down; unlike Magical Mystery Tour or Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band the album does not have any overt structure or tone. This unquantifiable essence made me slightly wary of the album, I understood that it contained some truly excellent songs, but couldn't fathom why songs like Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da would be next to much lighter songs, such as Wild Honey Pie.

Through writing these Beatle-A-Day!!! post though I have a much greater understanding of the album's overall structure; it came at a point of the band pulling violently apart, and as a result is the sound of four band member's very different musical interests combining and conflicting. When you consider the intense pressure on the foursome it is astounding that they created such a sprawling release, which almost seems to serve as a snapshot of all Western pop music released to its date of release.

As with musical styles the album's lyrical focus and tone also have no coherent threads; whilst some are overtly political others exist in the fantasy "Nowhere Land" of The Beatles' mid-period, others speak of other Beatles' songs (Glass Onion perhaps exemplifies this best) and Rocky Raccoon even serves as a narrative set in the deep south - and told with an eager Southern drawl to match.

However, I don't think this lack of direction to be of any detriment to The White Album; in fact I think it to be its greatest asset. Because of it we have The Beatles' most rocking material (Back In The U.S.S.R., Why Don't We Do It In The Road, Birthday, Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey and the apocalyptic, and huge personal favorite, Helter Skelter), their most emotionally affecting songs (Dear Prudence, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness Is A Warm Gun and Blackbird)... get the idea. I could list almost every single song in such a list, with the result being the same - that you realize that The White Album is one of the most important albums of the century, if not the single most important release. I was originally planning to cover each disk of The White Album in a Beatle-A-Day!!! post of its own, but when I came to write this post I realized that whatever I typed for the second disk would be more or less the same as the first post, just using different examples.

Aside from giving blow by blow descriptions of songs (which seems to me to be a worthless endeavor, if you listen to the songs you don't need me to ineffectually describe how they sound!) I don't see what else can be said about The White Album; as nebulous as it is I think it impossible to make many more sweeping statements about the album's style, conception or reception, and as such anything else delves so far into minutia that it renders itself worthless.

My final statement on the album though is that I believe it signals the end of The Beatles in more ways than one. Aside from the quarrels, disputes and tension it also shows a band becoming more musically expansive than ever before; to the extent that I consider it to be the first album of The Beatles' late period, or to use Beatle-A-Day!!!'s over arching analogy the signaling of The Beatles' ascension to adulthood.

The album has some moments of real darkness and cynicism which seem ill-fitting with the earlier "Love" period, and herald the maturity of the four's musical careers. As such it is unquestionably The Beatles' fifth masterpiece, and a watershed moment in Western culture.

In this context the experimental Revolution 9's statement that "Everyone of them knew that as time went by they'd get a little bit older and a litter slower, but..." resonates uneasily in my mind - did the four know that the end wasn't that far off?

sam sam

Monday, 12 October 2009

BEATLE-A-DAY!!! #09 - Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Hello! As discussed in my post on The Beatles: Rock Band I have decided to embark on a project called Beatle-A-Day, in which I listen to The Beatles' back catalogue in chronological (recorded) order and post about, surprise surprise, an album a day (Weekends and Wednesdays not withstanding!)

Without further delay let's get stuck in!

1. Magical Mystery Tour
2. The Fool On The Hill
3. Flying
4. Blue Jay Way
5. Your Mother Should Know
6. I Am The Walrus
7. Hello Goodbye
8. Strawberry Fields Forever
9. Penny Lane
10. Baby You're A Rich Man
11. All You Need Is Love

Before we jump straight into this entry of Beatle-A-Day!!! I think it prudent to explain exactly which version of the release this post will cover. Magical Mystery Tour was released as a double EP, with the subsequent US release adding other singles - it is this US version which is held up as definitive, with the new remasterings using this version. As such it is this expanded edition we will be looking at today, and my lord it's pretty good.

After researching the album's muddled release (and largely negative reaction to the TV film of the same name) I wasn't expecting a coherent release, more so a collection of songs featuring Beatles classics such as I Am The Walrus, All You Need Is Love, Strawberry Fields Forever and Hello Goodbye.

After several listings though I find the release to function as an incredibly coherent release all things considered - after several more I came away with the impression that Magical Mystery Tour is in fact one of my favorite releases by the Fab Foursome.

My reasoning for this is that it works perfectly as an accompaniment to the previous Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band; thematically it continues in the same blissed out vein of drug experimentation, but features a much cleaner and less ornate instrumentation. Songs like Fool On The Hill and Blue Jay Way are no less experimental than the Pepper material, but feel much thinner and, dare I say, more precise.

As with the last few albums it seems fruitless to give a blow by blow description of the release's "best bits", as doing so would result in an explanation of every song on the album. What I will say though is that Blue Way Jay in particular strikes me as one of The Beatles' best works - it's affected vocals, reversed drum samples and dreamlike momentum lend the song a timeless appeal and stands foremost as one of the four's most out there pieces.

All in all Magical Mystery Tour took me somewhat by surprise, and from my revisionist viewpoint deserves to be reinstated as The Beatles' fourth concurrent masterpiece; it is emotionally affecting, exciting and musically deft - to close it's certainly something that you should listen to more often than you already do :-p

sam sam

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Wednesday Compilation - 7th October 2009

Download link will follow at the bottom of the post.

Track 01 04/10/05 Sunday by Fantomas (from Suspended Animation)

Without any doubt Suspended Animation is Fantomas' most unhinged release, and an album which I still find stupidly brutal to this day. This track is actually one of the albums more subdued numbers, but I chose it because it has such an awesome set of riffs in the middle which recall King Buzzo's day job in The Melvins.

In all this is the Fantomas release I find myself returning to the most; after this album everything else (bar Delerium Cordia) feels like a test run for this. The album's precision is even more scary when you consider that they played songs from this album note for note when I saw them live - seriously, one of the tightest things I have ever seen!

Track 02 Gobbledigook by Sigur Ros (from Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust)

In retrospect I was supremely disappointed with this Sigur Ros album, mainly because the whole album did not reflect the genius of this song - as a pre-release song it tainted all subsequent listens to the album with an air of "why can't it all sound like that Gobbledigook song?!"

Oh, but what a song it is. With a drum led forward momentum (and a distinctive hint of Animal Collective) the song is unlike any other Sigur Ros song - at once it is positive, youthful and energetic in a way which sounds brand new.

Listening to the song as I type this I can't help but hope that they return to this sound in their subsequent releases - it really is that good.

Track 03 Remove Your Teeth by Stop It!! (from Self Made Maps)

Stop It!! are one of my most listened bands, a feat which is pretty remarkable when you consider that their output amounts to little more than this 12" and a demo 10". From their pulsing bass lines, unexpected tempo changes and attack heavy guitars Stop It!! create a sound which is much more than just its individual parts - when everything is put together the band are simply the best at what they do.

As for what they do I don't exactly know what to describe it as; I guess it falls into the vague "post-hardcore" bracket, but that seems to do them a grave disservice. In our house we refer to loads of bands as having "Stop It!! esque elements", a much more fitting way to reference their sound I think!

Track 04 100 Years Ago by Tim Hecker (from An Imaginary Country)

Tim Hecker's latest offering is a truly beautiful fuzz of sound, and something I find myself listening to in a surprising variety of contexts. Whilst reading on the bus might seem a fitting time to listen to music like this I also find myself listening to it when I'm doing more energetic activities - getting ready for a NIGHT OUT (yeah!!!!) and getting pumped UP by ambient warmth is an odd, but great experience! Give it a go!

If you like this track you should like the album in its entirety, as it all displays the same good natured feelings - I can see this becoming one of my albums of the year pretty easily.

On an entirely unrelated note, does anyone get the scent of Relayer by Yes in the opening to this track? I can't help but expect that song's guitars to scale in at any second! Damn fine songs the both of them!

Track 05 We Are Water by Health (from Get Color)

This album served as my introduction to Health, and this song has stood out from that first listen a the album's most epic song. What I love about the song is the way it manages to be both huge and yet maintain a palpable sense of forward momentum through its drums.

I've heard that Health are fantastic live, and I'm sorry to say that its an experience I have never had - if anyone is planning to see them soon (I hear they play London a lot) please let me tag along!

Oh and, the section around 3:15 - YES MAYTE!!!!

Track 06 Unusual Cruelty by Agoraphobic Nosebleed (from Domestic Powerviolence (Apartment 213 Split))

Agoraphobic Nosebleed going slow?

As crazy as that sounds it works so well; using Man is the Bastard as their primary reference point the band create what I think will, in retrospect, be regarded as one of their best works. The vocals fit the materiel's more grimy feel perfectly, and Scott Hull's drum programming utilises the drum machines unique properties fantastically - the song always feels to be in danger of collapsing on itself, but the drum programming makes it sound like it rediscovers its legs after a few stumbles.

Damn heavy bass guitar work too - makes you wonder why the mostly mid-paced Agrapocalypse didn't take more cues from this release really....

Track 07 Street Flash by Animal Collective (from Water Curses)

I think this Animal Collective Ep to be unfairly dismissed by many as a stopgap release between Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion - something that I don't think could be more off the mark.

I think that the first half of this four track EP is some of teh finest material Animal Collective have ever recorded, with this song (the EP's second) being my personal favourite. In particular I adore the way the band turn tortured screams into euphoric waves of noise from 3:41 onwards - I can't help but smile and get shivers down my spine everytime I hear them.

I also love the way the song's instrumention is drenched in rhythmical reverb - it gives the whole song a dreamlike context I adore.

Top song!

Track 08 Antagonismus by Yacopsae (from Tanz Grosny Tanz)

Yacopsae aren't a band that let up, and in the follow up to the stupidly brutal
Einstweilige Vernichtung they somehow craft an album that is even more extreme - heavier sounds, more stop starts, more whimsical sections.

And they do it all, including the stops (!), live. My god yes.

Track 09 Superman On Ice by 13 & God (from 13 & God)

13 & God will always have a place in my mind as a more sleepy and mellowed out version of cLOUDDEAD - certainly not a bad thing! This song illustrates that song beautifully and uses a string accompaniment to great effect - the song feels really melancholic and earnest.

I love the nasal tone of the vocals, and the lyrics speak in a poetic metaphors that I can't help but get taken in by, all in all just a lovely listening experience to lie in bed to.

Track 10 Against The Day by Land of Kush (from Against The Day)

As you ,might guess from the above album art Against The Day is a pretty eclectic album, with each song differing greatly from the last. I chose the title song for this compilation because it has such a strong melody running throughout the majority of its run time.

Although it may seem like an odd comparison I find the album actually recalls a more post rocky (it's a Constellation Records super group of sorts after all) version of yesterday's Beatle-A-Day!!! entry, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - it features the same counter intuitive instrumentation and songwriting, but somehow it all forms a hugely decadent, dense and syrupy whole.

Highly recommended, check it out!

Track 11 Texas by Dr. Manhattan (from Jam Dreams)

I was drawn to this album by the Deerhoof esque cover art (I kinda get a Friend Opportunity vibe), and the album bears that connection out slightly; in fact it sounds somewhere between The Blood Brothers and The Chinese Stars, with a garnish of Deerhoof style curve balls.

The album has a deliciously camp vibe running throughout, but I actually chose to include one of the more subdued tracks just because I found myself whistling it to myself at six in the morning. The album's punchy production and vocals lend it a poppy sensibility, but this sugar is laced with a more dangerous element - highly distorted and heavy guitars. I know its a bit of a dumb album, but it's such good fun I can't help but enjoy it!

Track 12 Break by Fugazi (from End Hits)

I've had a really strange relationship with a lot of Dischord bands; for whatever reason they never seemed to click with me. Whilst I'm still not a devout disciple it was this album, and in particular this song, which served as my doorway into just why Fugazi are such a fantastic band.

I love so much about this song that listing it all would demolish the song to its individual parts and destroy it - suffice to say I love the way the guitar is actually given room to generate a range of sounds with only one pedal, it really brings home just how silly having 8300 of the things really is.

Also the funky bass lines and vocals make my shake my white booty - in fact I think I'm going to delve further into their work in the next few days...

Track 13 The Lisbon Maru by Fuck Buttons (from Tarot Sport)

I was really apprehensive about the new Fuck Buttons album; through a combination of over listening to the first album and some truly lackluster live performances of new material I wasn't really interested in even hearing it.

I think I was very, very wrong, as Tarot Sport is every bit as good as its predecessor, if not better. The album seems much more mature because even though it uses the same palate of sounds the songwriting has subtly, but meaningfully, evolved.

Instead of just cranking on distortion halfway though a song Tarot Sport displays a more rounded understanding of gradation and allows the songs to reach these "switch on" points in a much more organic manner.

The Lisbon Maru is my favourite song on the album, and when listened to LOUD I'm sure you'll see why; it's epic, emotional and engaging - TOTAL WIN!!!

and that ends the seventh dog show hello compilation!!!!

you can download it HERE

Peace out and speak soon!

Sam Sam

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

BEATLE-A-DAY!!! #08 - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band (1967)

Hello! As discussed in my post on The Beatles: Rock Band I have decided to embark on a project called Beatle-A-Day, in which I listen to The Beatles' back catalogue in chronological (recorded) order and post about, surprise surprise, an album a day (Weekends and Wednesdays not withstanding!)

Without further delay let's get stuck in!

1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help From My Friends
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing A Hole
6. She's Leaving Home
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite
8. Within You Without You
9. When I'm Sixty Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (2)
13. A Day In The Life

Before I re-listened to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band for this Beatle-A-Day!!! feature I always thought of the album as The Beatles' most childlike and dream-inspired album - and whilst these things are indeed still true I didn't seem to previously realise just how experimental the album's instrumentation and melodies are. The album also has some really rocking numbers, and isn't as twee as my younger self used to think.

Considering the leap between Help! and Rubber Soul, and then Rubber Soul and Revolver it would be fair to say that the experimental leap between them grows at an exponential rate - something Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band reinforces. If Revolver was the first psychedelic rock/pop album then it stands to reason that its follow up is so far gone from that template that it become something completely new - to this day I don't really know how I would classify the album as it certainly isn't a "pop" album (in the generic sense of the word).

Aside from the album itself the response to the album really shocks me; widespread acceptance of something this idiosyncratic seems so foreign to me. To think of every man and mother in western civilization bopping along to songs as out there as the dreamy Within You Without You boggles my mind, and is certainly something I can't ever see happening again (for a start, due to the wider range of media available, and numerous other factors).

As for the album's itself I can only describe the whole album as extremely dense. The album features so many layers of experimental effects, vocals and studio effects that it really does take numerous listens to absorb everything that is going on. The eclectic range of instruments used seems to be a direct consequence of the album's studio origin, and often gives each song its own unique flavour; oddly however the album somehow works as a whole.

Aside from the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band musical framing device the whole album works together in a manner contrary to common sense; at the risk of sounding like I'm making a contradictory statement I think that the albums cohesive nature stems from the songs' disparate sensibilities.

By throwing so many conflicting elements together (Dear Rita next to Good Morning Good Morning? Really?!) the album creates a all encompassing feelings of excess and richness. In the same way that each songs' incongruous musical combinations work through sheer bloody mindedness the album stands as a cohesive metamorphic work; although each segment reflects its own aspects they all form a cogent whole when viewed together from far enough back.

In probably the most bizarre analogy I will ever make (and therefore quite fitting for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band!) the album is akin to Frasier's apartment in the TV series baring his name; although it consists of very different items the fact that they are collected together creates a non-pattern of uniqueness, and one which is cohesive precisely because of the lack of a pre-existing relationship between the items.


...and if the fact that the album forces my writing into a tautological Mobius strip doesn't convince you that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is worth many listens then hopefully the fact that this is The Beatles' third unquestionable masterpiece in a row will.

sam sam

Monday, 5 October 2009

BEATLE-A-DAY!!! #07 - Revolver (1966)

Hello! As discussed in my post on The Beatles: Rock Band I have decided to embark on a project called Beatle-A-Day, in which I listen to The Beatles' back catalogue in chronological (recorded) order and post about, surprise surprise, an album a day (Weekends and Wednesdays not withstanding!)

Without further delay let's get stuck in!

1. Taxman
2. Eleanor Rigby
3. I'm Only Sleeping
4. Love You To
5. Here There And Everywhere
6. Yellow Submarine
7. She Said She Said
8. Good Day Sunshine
9. And Your Bird Can Sing
10. For No One
11. Docter Robert
12. I Want To Tell You
13. Got To Get You Into My Life
14. Tomorrow Never Knows


Even after Rubber Soul's fantastic display of growth Revolver still caught me by surprise; as with Rubber Soul every song is a unique and brilliant, but, if anything there is even more variance offered from Revolver's menagerie.

I think it very telling that The Beatles took their first career break after Rubber Soul; although only a short six months the effect on the foursome is considerable. It seems as if each band member is given space to chart their own musical explorations, but, fantastically, these disparate paths somehow coagulate into a cohesive and impeccably paced musical experience.

Following on in the Beatle-A-Day!!! tradition it is apparent that of the foursome George Harrison in particular, stepping up to offer more to the album more than any other previous. Songs like the sitar laden Love You Too and She Said She Said displaying his experimentation with eastern instrumentation and melodies, the myriad of explorations in guitar texture and effects are present across the entirety of the album. The culmination of the voyage into hitherforeto uncharted tonal waters of Tomorrow Never Knows - a fitting finale to a spectacular album - a song so arresting that my only complaint with it is that it doesn't stretch out across another ten minutes.

Of course, the other three members all demonstrate their formidable musical talents on Revolver - I mention George only because his growth seems to be a touchstone in this series of articles, the same could certainly be done with the other three members.

Likewise picking out particular songs on musical merit would also be a fruitless endeavor - every song on the album is worthy of repeated listens and reveals more depth with every subsequent hearing.

In fact, the only problem I have with Revolver is related to just how forward it feels, and perhaps because of my inescapable revisionist look on The Beatles' career. I first came to The Beatles through my father's insistence that I watch the fantastic animated film Yellow Submarine, perhaps because of the film's drugged inspired saturated colours and feverish images I always associated its soundtrack with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band.

As such I think Elenor Rigby and (perhaps much morso) Yellow Submarine would fit into the more fantastic setting of The Beatles' next album, the aforementioned Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band. However, aside from that one idiosyncratic quibble Revolver is The Beatles' second masterpiece, and one which is still viable listening in today's musical climate.

In fact so much of Revolver is regurgitated in much contemporary music that the recent remasterings should make many modern bands blush with embarrassment!

sam sam

Sunday, 4 October 2009

BEATLE-A-DAY!!! #06 - Rubber Soul (1965)

Hello! As discussed in my post on The Beatles: Rock Band I have decided to embark on a project called Beatle-A-Day, in which I listen to The Beatles' back catalogue in chronological (recorded) order and post about, surprise surprise, an album a day (Weekends and Wednesdays not withstanding!)

Without further delay let's get stuck in!

1. Drive My Car
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
3. You Won't See Me
4. Nowhere Man
5. Think For Yourself
6. Word, The
7. Michelle
8. What Goes On
9. Girl
10. I'm Looking Through You
11. In My Life
12. Wait
13. If I Needed Someone
14. Run For Your Life

I'm starting to see a pattern forming in Beatle-A-Day!!! - as with Help!, Rubber Soul is my favourite album from the foursome to date.

If Help! was The Beatles' requiem to the first part of their career then Rubber Soul is their first step into maturity, and what a step it is. Far from being a tentative progression Rubber Soul instead leaps into a new musical landscape with a youthful gusto.

Although the album's opener, Drive My Car, would seem only slightly incongruous on it's predecessor (being as it is a clever rocky number) Rubber Soul comes into it's own from Norwegian Wood's first sitar drone. Although it might seem a slightly kitch touchstone I honestly believe that the addition of the instrument is so much more than just an added Eastern twang.

Instead I like to think that it signals The Beatles' expanding musical horizons; the fab four are no longer content to experiment with slightly more introspective lyrics and instrumentation - instead it presents a band starting to think in terms of pure sound.

The song itself is also notable as it contains some of their best lyrics to date, and a healthy experimentation in chord progressions. It's a catchy number which stands even now as one of the band's most affecting numbers.

Rubber Soul also shows The Beatles becoming more comfortable with more openly polemic lyrical content - Nowhere Man and The Word display this most openly, with the later proudly displaying the first instance in which the word "love" is held up as a rallying slogan.

In another continuing theme from Beatle-A-Day!!! the star of the album is unquestionably George's guitar (although Paul's closing bass line on Michelle is also unquestionably deserving of praise). Harrison continues to experiment with rhythm and tone, creating lines which still seem fresh today.

A great example of this can be heard on the county inspired stomp of What Goes On; on first listen my predilection against country music won over, but subsequent listens were drawn to the highly inventive guitar lines on display. If you havnt noticed it before try listening primarily to the variety of guitar tones generated - they differ slightly from phrase to phrase, with an organic range of variance in intonation.

To close this entry I want to definitively state that every song on Rubber Soul is exceptional and contains at least one moment of unadulterated genius. Additionally such moments hint at The Beatles' future trajectory; for example I'm Looking Through You's anarchic organ squeals hint at even more aggressive material to follow - something that is certainly borne out on their next album, Revolver

In short Rubber Soul is The Beatles first true masterpiece. It really is that good.

sam sam