a rogue ask: how would you you rank Graham's albums, and what specifically about each is it that makes you like it to such an extent?
AKL:HGSDHGSDHG:DS YES THANK YOU FOR THIS ASK OMG!!!!! :D
THIS IS GONNA BE REALLY HARD CAUSE THE TOP 3 ARE KINDA EQUAL IN MY MIND BUT…
The Spinning Top (2009) I think that the last three albums Graham has made have each shown incredible growth in his songwriting and each master a facet of his style as a musician, so it is hard for me to rank them. But I think The Spinning Top stands alone for how ambitious it was but musically and conceptually. It is a true masterpiece that shows Graham’s incredible technical skills as a guitar player (and his willingness to push himself to master a style of playing that he had always felt intimidated by). The thing I love most about this album is that it shows Graham pushing into unfamiliar territory in every way and yet it feels effortless and entirely him. The acoustic songs are lovely, heartbreaking, and nuanced, they grow more beautiful the more you listen to them. The songs that are electric are examples of Graham’s innovative and unique sound. “Dead Bees”, “If You Want Me”, and “Humble Man” all fit the tone of the albums folk/blues influence, but take it to an abrasive and expressive place. “Tripping Over” is one of the most emotional songs Graham has written, a stunning example of his ability to transform complex feelings into sound. Knowing where Graham was while writing this album, it is evident that it is the sound of him finding the confidence to do something undeniably extraordinary. His songwriting is at its best and the songs reflect his maturity, self-reflection, and vulnerability. The album’s concept is a man’s life from birth to death and the struggle to find your way home, and every song hits the mark emotionally. He shows that he is a man who has lived that struggle and come out the other side, aware of what there is at stake and determined to hold on and find peace. It is a truly special album.
A+E (2012) There could not be a better follow-up to The Spinning Top than A+E, which is the complete opposite in every way. The industrial, krautrock sound is as far away from the delicate songs of the previous album as you can get. But like The Spinning Top, the songs follow a loose narrative that helps the album come together conceptually. An endless night out in an unfamiliar place, violence and perversion lie beneath the surface. Graham’s wit and existential angst give the darker songs a sense of humor and ground the album in his own personal experience. One of the best moments on the album are the final minute or so of “What’ll It Take” where Graham screams repeatedly into the void “WHAT’S WRONG WITH MEEEEEE!??!?!?!?” While he has figured a lot of his shit out, he is still the boy he has always been. “Running For Your Life” recalls the early days of Blur, performing in the north where people would yell “GET THE FUCK BACK DOWN THE M1!″ The lyric “we don’t like your accent or your Northampton shoes/get back down the M1 cause we don’t like you” is one of the most Graham lyrics ever. The album ends in the glaring sunlight with bluesy “Ooh, Yeh Yeh”, inspired by an encounter with a friend one Sunday morning who had been out all night and was really not doing good. It is a perfect ending to the album. The sound of the whole album is sophisticated, layered, grungy, dusty old synths and light reflected in dirty wet asphalt.
Love Travels At Illegal Speeds (2006) LTAIS is Graham’s “sound” in its most refined and mature form. It is the first of his albums that holds a loose concept, exploring the loss of love and the fear of risking that heartache again and again. The songs are lyrically much stronger than his previous albums and really reflect inwardly on his personal struggle to find and change the parts of himself that get in the way of healthy relationships. The songs “Just A State of Mind” and “I Don’t Believe Anything I Say” ask a lot of tough questions about his own hypocrisy and fear in relationships. The line “just be happy, you are strong now, it’s so lonely to love someone” is at the core of most of the songs. The album addresses old wounds and new hopes with great maturity. The thread of sexual frustration that runs through the album is cheeky and playful. “See A Better Day” ends the album in a hopeful place, with a new relationship and the potential to find happiness.
Happiness in Magazines (2004) While I believe LTAIS is a better album, I personally love Happiness in Magazines a bit more. It is charmingly odd, witty, and fresh. The first album Graham made after leaving Blur, it shows a real dedication to showing himself as a confident and professional musician. Produced by Stephen Street, it is the first that Graham didn’t self-produce and it allows the songs to really shine. The album is packed with potential singles that show different facets of Graham’s sound. For me it is the most representative of what I think of when I think of Graham’s solo work and I love that it is a bit unrefined and quirky. It maintains some of the roughness of his early solo work, but it is sophisticated as well.
The Kiss of Morning (2002) The Kiss of Morning and Crow Sit on Blood Tree are the two underrated gems in Graham’s catalog. Most of this album was written when Graham was in rehab and it is full of hurt, guilt, and tremendous vulnerability. “Bitter Tears” opens the album strong, it is one of Graham’s best, and it lays the ground for the rest of the album. I love it because, though it is incredibly honest and vulnerable, it shows a determination to move forward and it is full of pain but also strength. The album pretty much builds off of that foundation, it explores many different avenues of pain and guilt, but never loses that determination. Graham explores more of a blues/country sound that is appropriate given the subject matter. His songwriting shows growth and maturity and the production and musicianship are strong. It is the most finished feeling of his self-produced albums and gives the listener an idea of what is to come.
Crow Sit on Blood Tree (2001) This album is particularly impressive considering it was recorded in 5 days. It feels very much like a release of all the pain and frustration and doubt he was feeling in that moment, a bit of a mess, but a compelling mess. This one, more than the two previous, feels like something he needed to make, to get those feelings out. And for as rough as it is, it is shockingly cohesive and there are a lot of really good songs on it. “Empty Word” again, opens the album and sets the emotional tone. It is one to scream along to, but it is lyrically heartbreaking, he is not in a good place. “All Has Gone” is a beautiful and sad little acoustic song that is hugely underrated. But the real gem on the album is “Big Bird” which has circular kind of repetition that is a bit like “Tender”. Other standout songs include bluesy “I’m Going Away” and “Tired”, melancholy “Too Uptight”, and infamous “You Never Will Be.” Overall I think this album deserves more love, it is an emotional look into a turbulent moment in Graham’s life.
The Sky is Too High (1998)
The Golden D (2000) Graham’s first two albums are tough for me, but I think The Sky is Too High has a few stronger songs. “That’s All I Wanna Do”, “R U Lonely”, “I Wish”, and “Hard & Slow” are all really solid songs, especially “I Wish”. The Golden D holds together better as an album but the strongest songs on it are the two Mission of Burma covers, “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” and “Fame and Fortune”, which are both stellar and true to what Graham was feeling in Blur at that time. As I have said many times, The Golden D is worth listening alone for out of place jazz funk MASTERPIECE “Oochy Woochy”. The appearance of this random jazz funk song on an angry punk/metal album is one of my favorite things Graham has ever done.
THIS WAS SUPER LONG AND SELF-INDULGENT BUT THANK YOU FOR ASKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
hey ive been into punk for about a year now and im familiar with (if not a fan of) all the punk bands you just mentioned. whats the next level of the iceberg gangthony fourtano
Mission of Burma
This Routine Is Hell
You got this?! 🙌🔨👏👊
We’re calling it a Mission of Burma No Comply as ‘Academy Fight Song’ is a beauty. Name the skater/filmer to win a prize. Do the trick and send it to us this weekend by tagging @crossfirezine to win the goddam internet. #chooseskateboarding #missionofburma #skate
Let us mull over this idea of Brandon Flowers being the Artist of the Year for 2015 shall we….
For some, this may seem crazy, for others, well deserved and that’s totally understandable. Brandon Flowers seems to bring about some polarizing opinions, there are those who love the guy (and really love him) and those who absolutely view him (and or The Killers) as awful. Over the years I’m sure there’s become some sort of middle ground, and of course there’s those who simply don’t give a shit either way. Then there’s those who, in light of this promising solo venture, view him as a perfectly fine Pop star, one who skirts the line between massive world wide success and one who embodies a somewhat grounded-in-their-record-collection type who longed to be like their heroes (Moz, Bowie, Gahan); and that is where I stand.
Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the successful pop group The Killers, embarked on a second solo outing this year and made his first huge step at becoming a (bigger) Pop Star who attracts (even more) attention from both sides of the aisle. Less of a vanity project and more of a “need to keep creating” moment, Flowers hit on something new with this sophomore solo jaunt. By embracing capital P pop music, Flowers in a way became more of an outsider artist, which is of course contradictory, but nonetheless true. At a time when “going pop” is all the rage within “indie” circles, Flowers decided to not only embrace this ideal, but he manged to do it better than everyone else around him. But how, and why? The answer is simple, it’s because….
……..Brandon Flowers is a very smart man. A calculated man. A man armed with an astute musical acumen. A true student of pop music history, who has gone to great lengths to show it over his very successful career.
All of the truly great rock/pop frontmen possessed these traits. Why was Morrissey such an enigmatic and powerful figure, because he knew his way around the Pop music history books. Ian Curtis, Morrissey, Julian Casablancas, Flowers etc; they were all devout fans growing up. They weren’t just fans of pop music, they showed extreme devotion to those who came before them. Where would Casablancas be without Lou Reed, or where would Brandon Flowers be without Morrissey (and where would any of them be without Bowie!). These individuals all studied those who preempted them, and again, they weren’t just fans, they were obsessives.
Brandon Flowers, from the get go, was destined for stardom. The Las Vegas native who put in work by obsessing over albums and the pop stars of yore wanted it. And yes, success came rather quickly to The Killers, compared to other groups, but the groundwork had long been laid by an eager Flowers. But this isn’t a career retrospective, this piece is about what took place within the last year or so, which in many ways, was the birth of a new artist…..
‘The Desired Effect’ is the second LP to bear the Brandon Flowers name and can almost be seen as a debut of sorts or at the very least, a new incarnation of the singer’s ever evolving persona. In 2015, there’s no denying that Flowers is a famous “rock star”, but this time around something feels different. With ‘The Desired Effect’ Flowers has taken even further strides in becoming a Pop auteur, but he did so by embracing the idea that certain strains of pop music could be seen as new and invigorating. Simply put, this is his Bryan Ferry coming out party…..
Flowers has always been a bit of a chameleon re-inventor (something he no doubt learned, in a far less extreme way, from Bowie), one who appropriates a new look every album cycle. From the eyeliner of ‘Hot Fuss’ to the leather jacket clad bad boy of ‘Battle Born’, Flowers has always had keen sense of his image. In the lead up to his new album, that already sharp sense of style transitioned into a debonair Bryan Ferry/Chris Issak/Robert Palmer/Luke Perry type phase, both stylistically and musically. Throughout his career he’s managed to take on some of the corniest schtick the 80’s had to offer and completely owned it, without a single trace of irony (which is the key).
Never one too shy away from the corniest of corny shit, Flowers pretty much pulls it off with aplomb and never makes you doubt his sincerity. Everything he does is fully realized, from the music to the overall aesthetic. The man is without a doubt my favorite Pop Star, and he surely designed it that way. Taking bits and pieces of every male icon I’ve ever desired or longed to be and (custom) stitched them together, creating a finely tuned adult idol….
‘The Desired Effect’ has been a success, both artistically and commercially. It broadened Flowers musical range by reinterpreting past forms of Pop and presenting them as fresh. Sure, there’s still some of that Springsteen Americana that The Killers adopted post-’Hot Fuss’, but there’s also some trickier pure pop elements in play. Flowers, the aforementioned studied and detailed Pop auteur, created an album that ranges widely from tropicali new wave to Dire Straits 80’s rock, but with all bravado Flowers can muster (which is a ton).
Flowers’ conscious decision to collaborate with Ariel Rechtshaid on ‘The Desired Effect’ proved to be a wise one. The former indie rocker turned go-to producer was the perfect “co pilot” for Flowers’ big tent desires. The singer has openly stated how Rechtshaid pushed him out of his comfort zone during the making of the album and credits the producer for his contributions to the overall sound and focus (my favorite story regarding Rechtshaid and the recording process being, in Flowers words: “I’m telling you it was tough….I wanted to fire him. Four times. He knows. I remember my wife was in the kitchen; I got a song from him on my phone. We played it and I said: ‘I can’t fire, him can I?’ She said, ‘No, you can’t. That’s too good.’”).
While the album as a whole is great, it’s the singles that really catapult Flowers into the higher reaches of the Pop stratosphere…..
……..“Can’t Deny My Love”, “Still Want You”, “Lonely Town”, and “I Can Change” are massively fun (and intricate) songs and obvious surefire singles. These felt like tailor made singles from yesteryear, from the actual music on down to the aesthetically themed album covers (not to mention that their place within the album is a damn good job of sequencing).
Honestly, I had little intention of listening to another solo Flowers album; until I laid eyes upon the early promos and the album artwork (see above). My interest was suddenly sparked, but that early interest wouldn’t have meant shit if the songs weren’t good, so thankfully, those early singles more than exceeded my expectations.
From the very beginning (with The Killers) Flowers was creating music that seemed BIG. It was the type of earnest and anthemic music that influential artists like Depeche Mode or U2 were making in their heyday and the kind that attracted both casual and serious music fans alike. And that’s important, because the modern world needs great Pop songs and capable Pop Stars creating them. Rarely are things both popular AND good, especially nowadays, yet Flowers manages to cover both (maybe that’s reason enough right there for him to be the artist of the year).
Another reason why I’ve chosen Flowers as my Artist of the Year is that he’s something of an anomaly in the modern Pop world (besides the whole being both popular and good thing). Flowers is a walking strutting contradiction in many ways. A practicing Mormon who’s own religion stands against the idea of same sex marriage, yet Flowers is the dandiest motherfucker there is. He’s the aesthetically ideal gay icon in pose and song, yet is a married family man who is seen as a rare “conservative” in the Pop world. This all leads to Flowers being one interesting subject and one who’s private life I find honestly refreshing.
While I, a “serious music fan”, may be heaping praise upon Brandon Flowers, there’s plenty of “serious music publications” who continue to deny their love, or at least respect, for the artist.
It’s downright laughable that the “indie” sites have continued to shun Flowers, while continuing this ridiculous courting of acts like Bieber, Swift, Beyonce, and whatever other click bait artists they can wrangle. Look, I completely understand the Poptimist case and I’m fully capable of being on board with crossover appeal, but holy shit, it’s starting to border on parody now. It’s basically the equivalent of an “indie zine” in the 80’s dedicating the same amount of ink to The Smiths, Wham!, R.E.M., Debbie Gibson, Mission of Burma, and Menudo…..but whatever, I get it, it’s something to do with mono-culture, Poptimism, and get off my lawn blah blah. Just give the guy his due.
Holy shit, let’s wrap this up shall we. Brandon Flowers is my Artist of the Year because he pulled off a rare feat, he took an already successful career and manged to make an artistic statement while perhaps becoming even more popular(?). He manged to become the updated version of an 80′s Bowie / Ferry / Knopfler / Estefan / Springsteen hybrid. He manged to outwit and outdo the Levine’s and Twin Shadows of the modern world and did so without a trace of irony. You can agree, or you can disagree, I’m just glad we made it to the end.
Vinyl addict Alex Rodriguez crisscrossed the country to stock Coachella’s onsite music store with 50,000 records and rarities
“I’ve been buying,” says Alex Rodriguez, with a mix of guilt and glee that would befit an addict. But he is after a different fix—vinyl—and the 35-year record junkie, who manages the music shop at Pomona’s Glass House concert venue, has a worthy mission for the monkey on his back. “I want to make a really amazing record store for Coachella with some extremely hard-to-find stuff. That’s why I traveled across the U.S.”