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29 September 2017

Life Is Like A Box Of Records: Al Nero (Armellodie)

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Stalwart Scottish DIY label Armellodie has turned 10 years old! A feat for any independent and one that founder Al Nero has worked tirelessly to keep going.

A special compilation has been released to celebrate the big 1-0 featuring the likes of The Scottish Enlightenment, The Hazey Janes, Yip Man (Nero’s solo project) and many more. You can purchase via the Armellodie Bandcamp!

To top it off, Armellodie will be hosting a gig this weekend at Glasgow’s The Glad Cafe. The line-up features: Yip Man, Ewan Cruickshanks, Cuddly Shark and Galoshins. Tickets can be purchased HERE!

We asked Mr Nero to put together this Life Is Like A Box Of Records – a selection of special songs that have soundtracked his life thus far. Without further ado, it’s over to Al…

Peter Gabriel – Big Time

When I think back on being a wee lad listening to tunes, Peter Gabriel’s solo stuff always springs to mind. I was maybe 7 or 8 when I first heard his stuff. In those days I only had access to music through my dad and my uncle. My dad had all those classic dad-records, Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Tea For The Tillerman by Cat Stevens. You know, classic stuff. My uncle is a bit more rock than my dad and pricked my ears to the likes of Deep Purple, ZZ Top, Motorhead and Marillion. However, both of them owned the Peter Gabriel compilation, ‘Shaking The Tree’. It’s a great compilation; it really works well as an album in its own right. My dad also had a VHS of all those amazing experimental animated videos that Gabriel was making at the time, such a feast for the eyes. I’d never seen nothing like them before. I still love them. Gabriel’s catalogue is so immersive too, there’s a lot to delve into. From the early Genesis stuff – especially Foxtrot and Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, to the four self-titled records to the massive sellers, So and Us, there’s a lot to admire. My dad and I were fortunate enough to get to go and see him play live a few years back too. That was a really lovely night. The old man, my dad that is, was in fine voice.

Blur – End of a Century

Blur Parklife is 23 years old at the time of writing. It was this first album I ever bought that was properly my own discovery. That seems silly to say given it was a huge record at the time. I remember it well, Fopp, Edinburgh, 1994. It was Activities Week in first year at Oldmachar Academy. Some kids went to Paris, some kids went to Rome, and I went to Edinburgh for a week. Still, I had my Walkman so I was happy enough. Plus I right fancied a lass called Rebecca Stirling at the time and she was going so that was a coup. Got some spending money from my folks for the trip and chanced upon Fopp. I bought Blur’s Parklife on cassette for £6.99 and no surprises here, a Peter Gabriel compilation of tracks from albums 1 to 4, also on cassette for £2.99. Oh and Scatman John, ‘Scatman (Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop)’ cassette single for 99p. I’d say they’ve all stood the test of time wouldn’t you…? I didn’t get anywhere with Rebecca. RIP Scatman John.

Weezer – Say It Ain’t So

After 20 odd years the Weezer debate still burns brightly in my close circle of friends as to which album is better, the self-titled debut or the band’s second album, Pinkerton. They both mean a great deal to me. Rivers Cuomo was a smart cookie. The albums are trim, just 10 songs on each, and each one a master-class in power-pop. I sway as to which is my favourite. Blue probably edges it these days, the songs, the sound, the melodies and the harmonies – it’s near perfect. These records are ancient now but they’re still my go-to albums when I just want some upbeat vibes. Weezer’s career thereafter has taken a considerable nose-dive in terms of quality control. I enjoyed their latest self-titled (‘white’) album. Nostalgia? Maybe.

Radiohead – Let Down

Recently on social media there’s been a spout of posts about teen-albums, those that made an impression on oneself during the formative years. My teen years were placed firmly in the Britpop era and so my list is a rather predictable tour de ‘90s. Blur, Pulp, Supergrass, Super Furry Animals, Oasis, I could go on, The Boo Radleys, I better stop. Those bands still mean a lot to me but one record that totally changed things for me was Radiohead’s Ok Computer. I was late to The Bends party and though I enjoyed that album, Ok Computer just sounded so otherworldly and much more intriguing to my ear. It’s cinematic and it’s a very complete work, the songs are great individually but taken as a whole it’s a wide-screen, colossal, and just gripping. The album opened up my musical palette massively. I didn’t think they’d manage to repeat the trick ever and then In Rainbows came out ten years later and blew my ears clean again.

The Smiths – A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours

One of my bestie school pals, Larry got into The Smiths a bit ahead of the rest of our wee gang. I’m sure he’d admit himself that back then he had a superiority complex. Whilst I was listening to whatever, Oasis or Nirvana, he would lay it on thick with his love of Jack Kerouac, Dylan, Joy Division and The Smiths – you know, “intellectual stuff man”. He was also a better guitarist than me which back then was a real bugbear – he could play Stairway To Heaven properly y’know. I’m sure it was him that let me hear The Smiths for the first time, Hatful of Hollow I think it was. Morrissey and Marr were just the dream team, a ridiculous amount of great songs, catchy tunes with the best lyrics ever. I couldn’t pick a favourite record of theirs; it’s changed so many times over the years. Every so often I’ll just go on a Smiths binge – it sort of puts me in my place musically. On the bright-side I reckon if I tried really hard I could probably play Stairway To Heaven now, just as good as Larry.

Pixies – Here Comes Your Man

For a few years in my late-teens I worked in a call-centre for a shoddy double-glazing company. There was a manager there who only had three fingers on one of his hands. He was imaginatively nicknamed, Crow. He knew I was into tunes and told me I should be listening to Pixies. For fear of missing out I got myself into town and to the now sadly departed record shop, One-Up in Aberdeen, and bought Surfer Rosa. I didn’t know what album to get. Surfer Rosa has a naked lady on the front, quite a thrill for a teenage boy. I heard Bone Machine and absolutely hated it. Just didn’t get it. It was all too strange. A year later, a friend was playing a compilation in his car and Here Comes Your Man came on, he informed me it was Pixies. I loved it from the off. It didn’t add up with what I perceived Pixies to be. I bought Doolittle, it’s still probably my favourite record ever. I have played it to death. I went back to Surfer Rosa and realised what a fool I’d been. Of course it’s fucking magnificent. The influence that Frank Black has had on my writing is immeasurable, from Pixies to his early solo work through to some of his latter more country-laced stuff I have worshipped at the altar of Frank Black for a very long time.

Elvis Costello – Beyond Belief

I spent my late-teens and early twenties devouring back-catalogues of iconic artists. The aforementioned One-Up (RIP) had a great second hand section and I’d just check it every other day. I knew most of the staff in there and they were very good to me with discounts and things. So I got all the Prince stuff, Talking Heads, Paul Simon, Bowie, Neil Young, Dylan. All of it, even the records no one wants to hear twice (Come by Prince, sheesh). It was an education. I became such an Elvis Costello fanboy in this respect. He just had so much stuff to get stuck into and I lapped it up. Not just his straight rock records but the Juliet Letters with the Brodsky Quartet, Painted From Memory with Burt Bacharach, the sample-y one When I Was Cruel, there is such scope in his catalogue. Armed Forces and Imperial Bedroom however are my go-to Costello records of choice. The latter, in my opinion, is his song-writing peak. So many great songs and much like Frank Black, he’s had a lasting impression on my songwriting that I’ll always be grateful for.

Randy Newman – Losing You

Randy was probably the logical progression for me after I jumped off the Costello-wagon. I’ve been in awe of his writing for years now. I got his ‘Songbook’ vinyl boxset from my folks for Christmas this year and it’s testament to the amount of amazing songs he’s got. What’s really enviable about it is the songs were written over the last 50 odd years or something stupid and stripped down to voice and piano, as they all are on the boxset, they could all have been written yesterday; so well have they stood the test of time. Unlike a lot of artists I actually think he’s got better with age and his latter studio albums, Harps and Angels and Bad Love are both superb. I mean, even the Toy Story song can make me greet like a bairn – when he does it live he wryly says he tossed it off to order. Bastard.

Joanna Newsom – Sapokanikan

Joanna Newsom’s music is a source of constant beauty to me. Over four albums she’s proven there’s no one quite like her and I can go back to any of her records and discover something new with every listen. When I think of spine-tingling moments in music its Joanna that’s delivered those most frequently for me of recent times. Musically her songs can be a lot to stomach; lyrically ‘wordy’ doesn’t even come close. It’s not for everyone but I’m a sucker for it. If I had to call it I’d say her most recent album, Divers, is my favourite of hers. She sort of distilled the Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell influences in her music on that one. It’s lush, experimental and a bit more condensed than some of her more sprawling efforts, none less exciting though.

Jake Thackray – Lah Di Dah

I discovered Jake Thackray last year upon an evening when I was distracting myself from real work by following a rabbit-hole of Youtube videos. Somehow I ended up watching this ever so strange but comical Yorkshire man telling stories and singing these wonderful songs. It was Jake Thackray. I investigated further and found a boxset called Jake in a Box with near enough everything he ever recorded (4 albums proper and a load of other songs). It’s been on in the car for months, I’m obsessed. My wife describes it as torture. I can understand where she’s coming from but in truth I cannot get enough. My band reworked a version of Lah Di Dah for a BBC Session recently; it was really enjoyable to put our spin on it. If you’ve not heard of Thackray, I’d recommend firing right into The Last Will and Testament, his debut album from 1967. It’s nothing short of genius.

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