Sunday, 17 February 2008

Whipping Boy - Heartworm

Every now and again you stumble upon an album so astonishing in its brilliance, that you assume it must have sold by the truckload and somehow just passed you by. Sadly of course, this is often not the case. Music's illustrious history is liberally scattered with great albums which just didn't make it out into the wider consciousness, for one reason or another, and sometimes it just makes no sense.

Sometimes an album simply has the misfortune to be released at the wrong time. Such is the case with Heartworm, the second album from Irish indie-rockers Whipping Boy. Their debut effort, the long-deleted Submarine, could scarcely have sold fewer copies had they not released it at all. It offered nothing to suggest that Whipping Boy would be anything other than tiny fish in the crowded indie pond.

However, then came the startling, dark and emotional (not to mention briefly controversial) sophomore album that was Heartworm. Released in 1995, it was perhaps just a couple of years ahead of its time. Certainly, you only need to get halfway through opening track (and first single) "Twinkle" to see where Snow Patrol got their ideas from. Had this album come out in 1997 or 1998 (or perhaps later), it's not inconceivable that Whipping Boy would have been huge stars by now, and Snow Patrol would be dismissed as mere copyists.

It is perhaps unfair to labour the Snow Patrol comparisons. Whipping Boy's output is far darker in tone than Snow Patrol, not least on "We Don't Need Nobody Else", an almost spoken-word piece which delves into the dark heart of domestic violence. Lyrics like "I hit you for the first time today" (a chillingly-worded line if ever there was one) and "That really hurt, you said / Yeah / And you thought you knew me" led to misguided accusations of misogyny (presumably from critics who hadn't actually listened to the song). This is one of those rare songs that can send a shiver down the spine.

Both of those songs are included for download below, alongside "Users", another songwriting masterclass ("Remember how not long ago, we screwed away the pain").

Grab them all, and listen carefully. This lot really were as good as I say they were.

Download: Whipping Boy - Twinkle
Download: Whipping Boy - We Don't Need Nobody Else
Download: Whipping Boy - Users

There is an official website for Whipping Boy here but it doesn't appear to have been updated for a while - still worth a look though.

Most importantly, you can buy Heartworm here at Amazon UK (and it's pretty cheap too!) or at HMV (also cheap!) or wherever else you prefer to shop!

That's all for now, folks...

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Cover Lay Down

Occasionally I stumble on another MP3 blog which is so astoundingly good that I want to tell everyone about it. Can you see where I'm heading here?

Last night I happened to find the truly excellent Cover Lay Down blog. This US-based site showcases, "Folk covers of familiar songs" and "Reimagined versions of folk song". Now, this is so far up my street it's virtually living in my back bedroom. I have an unhealthy level of interest in cover versions and as regular readers will know, I'm an unashamed folky to boot. Have a look at Cover Lay Down - it's a fantastic site with some great tracks to listen to.

Inspired as I am by that swanky blog, I thought a nice way to accompany this hefty plug would be to post a couple of cover versions myself (that's not cheating, is it?).

First up is Christy Moore covering Woody Guthrie's The Ludlow Massacre. This emotive song tells the story of the 1914 Ludlow Coal Massacre, at which the Colorado National Guard attacked a colony of striking miners and their families, killing 25 people - including 12 children. A cheery story it may not be, but it's a startling song and needs to be heard. Also worth looking up is Ramblin' Jack Elliott's version (and Guthrie's original, of course). Christy's version comes from his first solo album, 1972's "Prosperous".

Whilst trawling through the Cover Lay Down archives yesterday, I came across Patti Smith and her sublime version of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. That reminded me of another excellent version of the same song.

In 1992, Tori Amos released the 5-track EP, "Crucify". Three of the five tracks are cover versions (Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones are the other two). As a whole, it's a fine record, but the standout track is easily Smells Like Teen Spirit, wherein Kurt Cobain's grunge megalith is transformed into a stark piano/voice ballad. It might not be genius, but it's not far off...

Finally for today, here's a slice of classic psychedelia from 1968. This is Deep Purple, from their very first album "Shades Of Deep Purple". Those unfamiliar with the Purple's first two albums may be surprised at the sound - it would be a while before they evolved into the rock behemoths behind Smoke On The Water and Black Night. Anyway, here they are doing a song by some band called The Beatles.

That's all for now, folks. Catch you again soon.

Artist web links:

Christy Moore
Tori Amos
Deep Purple