Round 2 – Group 23:
My heart sank when we pulled out this collection of albums. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some big names here, but these four albums all seemed to barely scrape through their respective round 1 groups. Now, I make a slight exception for Keane of course. Perfect Symmetry edged past Alkaline Trio’s Agony And Irony in group 123, in what was
an agonising decision, because I’m rather fond of that Alklaine album. On relfection, I thought that maybe I had made the wrong choice, Perfect Symmetry has some solid melodies on it but isn’t quite as charming as Keane’s first two efforts Hopes and Fears and Under The Iron Sea. That said, all the Keane albums that I own are solid affairs (and all went to number 1 I believe) so I wasn’t too concerned about that one.
The other three were definitely a bit dodgy by my recollection. Tumbleweed Connection struggled to escape from a group that featured the weird extreme socialist rock of Future Of The Left and Blur’s Great Escape was only a nose ahead of David Gray’s rather plodding White Ladder.
Alice In Chain’s Unplugged meanwhile, barely escaped from a group of Alice In Chains albums. I feel this one needs slightly more explanation. You see, when I started this ‘tournament’, I had a finite collection of albums, which I threw into loads of random groups. By the time I had got through them all I had naturally procured a ton of new music. My bright idea at the time was to tackle these ‘newer’ albums in alphabetical order, a decision I soon regretted after having to listen to 3 groups of Aermosmith albums in a row. That was 12 Aerosmith albums, one after another, for more than 2 months. I needed to change it up a bit so went back to random groupings. Hence, group 108 saw Unplugged scrape past Alice In Chains studio albums Dirt and ‘Alice In Chains’, in a group that wasn’t particularly enjoyable.
You Haven’t Told Me Anything I Don’t Already Know
Back to the present then, and Perfect Symmetry takes this group in rather a solid manner. Its anthems are its strength, opener Spiralling is superb. I always liked the thought provoking exclamation that “when we fall in love, we’re just falling in love with ourselves“.
Black Burning Heart and Again and Again are strong songs too but in between, the album meanders a bit, with the likes of Playing Along and Better Than This. Eventually this became a safe pair of hands for top spot.
Where To Now Sir Elton?
Tumbleweed Connection suprised me a little bit. This is way better than I remember. Elton’s musical class shines through, the piano playing, the guitars, the overall musicianship. It has a slightly whimsical feel this effort, both lyrically and musically, depicting a southern Americana soundscape. With songs of ranches, horses, guns and drinking saloons, it captures the feel of the west. Featuring a solid collection of ballads like Come Down In Time, My Father’s Gun and Where To Now St. Peter?, it’s a tight and brilliantly produced album. Easily second place.
Blur prove they can Entertain Me
Blur’s Great Escape is a few steps behind Tumbleweed. Solidly produced and yet quirky throughout, this album lyrically captures the social landscape of Nineties England perfectly. Stereotypes gets the ball rolling and with Top Man, Ernold Same, Charmless Man and Country House all delivered by Damon’s essex accent, this is quintessentially British pop. ‘BritPop’ if you will. I’m also quite impressed by The Universal and enjoy Entertain Me, with Yoku and Hiro being the perfect closer for this album. The Great Escape is creative, fun, bouncy and sardonic, and remains one of Blur’s better albums.
Unplugged by Alice In Chains was released in 1996 and features acoustic versions of the bands biggest hits and lesser-known songs. After several listens I can appreciate their art and tolerate the majortiy of the songs but I’ve never been a fan, it’s all rather dull. Down In A Hole, Heaven Beside You and Angry Chair
remain the most engaging material but there’s some duff material in the shape of Rooster, Frogs, Sludge Factory and a few others.