People frequently stop me on the street and say "Mark, you’re so hip, you’re so now, you’re the man I wish I had been, you’re no longer under investigation for running a white slavery ring, you’re practically poured into those jeans, you’re in the way, you’re gonna die in the flames of hell for all eternity for what you did to my alsatian" and then follow it up with "but what is the real you really like?" and I laugh in their faces because it’s all true but I have no desire to let anyone into knowing the real me and having that desire triggers off my giggle gland.
But people – in addition to the all-pervasive odour – are inquisitive and persistant and I have grown tired of the involuntary chortling. So, by way of a compromise and with a quick check around for non sequiturs – we appear to be clear – I’ve had a hunt through my record collection and pulled out albums that I think will help explain my inner workings without me actually having to do much myself.
Observe the scans, read the reviews, and conclude what you will.
Kros Kris – Trapped In Moscow Zoo
This was the Russian duo’s follow-up album to the hugely successful (in Kazakhstan) debut Deffer Than Gorky which you may remember as it featured the dance anthem Jump, Or Be Shot As A Spy.
Their second album dropped most of the hip-hop beats and Americanisms that had gained them a cult following among young soviet boys and embraced the concept of the concept album using orchestral arrangements, choral backing, and samples of wild animals to appeal to a wider and hopefully more-evenly-spaced-among-the-sexes audience. It bombed.
Kros Kris consisted of Alexei "Mack Tolstoy" Finlandia and Viktor "Tolstoy Mack" Stolichnaya. Their record company dropped them after disappointing sales of Trapped In Moscow Zoo and both boys returned to their pre-music-career jobs as cinema ushers.
I bought this album in 1997 as the concept behind it appealed to me. At the time I had been planning a daring heist on Marwell Zoo which involved releasing the caged beasts as a distraction. After listening to Tolstoy Mack’s quivering, childlike voice on "Please Don’t Let The Penguins In The Storeroom" my conscience refused to let me go ahead with my plan and I started a timeshare business instead.
Various Artists – Stars Of Lithuania
NME said: "K-Tel have done it again and produced the definitive album of up-and-coming and well-established and disappeared-suddenly music stars of Lithuania. From the erotic ballad ‘Plastik 69’ by pop duo Sisters Volvo through to the hard-rocking, upbeat, angry ‘Tractor Death Farm’ by The Jurg Gulag Accordion Trio you’ll find at least one and possibly two songs that you can tolerate from this oft-overlooked country in Eastern Europe."
And they weren’t wrong.
I saw this album in a local second-hand shop almost fifteen years after reading that review and it came flooding back thanks to a superior brain arrangement and mental filing system developed by the boffins at Yardley’s Perfumes, Bath Salts, & Cranial Reconstruction Laboratory in Luton. Scanning the back cover I noticed that Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler was guest vocalist with a group called Plb (which I assumed was an acronym for something but which I later learned was Lithuanian slang for "naked shepherdesses") and that sold it for me (and the naked shepherdesses probably sold it for Steven.)
Certainly the stand-out track on the album was the first track on side 2, a cover of Abba’s ‘Waterloo’ by Lithuanian group The Konstantin Krew. At the time I had a bit of a crush on one of the members of Abba. All I can say is he or she no longer has a beard.
Various Artists – 20 Songs About Pointing
I think every young, white male brought up in a good household at some point simply rebels against the system.
My mum and dad liked their Irish music and they liked their country music and I grew up on a diet of The Dubliners, Connie Francis, The Fureys, and John Denver. Nevertheless, it came time for me to go to university and with a sense of self-preservation that was a "congratulations, it’s come time for you to go to university" present from my mad uncle Rich I left my Martina McBride and Daniel O’Donnell record collection at home and spent most of my student loan on new, cooler music to impress the strangers I’d be hating every minute in the company of during the next three years.
It was the early 90s and there was still a big decision to be made. Of the rebellious music groups the big ones were the ‘shoegazers’ with bands like The Cult, The Sisters Of Mercy, and Echo & The Bunnymen and the ‘hip-hoppers’ with bands like Public Enemy, N.W.A., and Gangstarr. I rebelled further than that and chose the ‘pointers.’
20 Songs About Pointing was my first rebellious pointer purchase. It seemed appropriate as I didn’t know which of the pointer bands I’d really like and I didn’t trust the reviews in ‘Pointing Music Weekly.’
I must admit that I was disappointed. ‘Look You, In The Pit’ by the Llandudno Boys Choir was a very rousing first song but lacked any of the elements that I thought would earn me respect from my peers and the playlist didn’t get much better from there on. Without a doubt the worst track was the last one: ‘Urgh, Urgh, What’s That?’ by DJ Fingers & MC Pointy McKnuckles was a lazy attempt to cash-in on the success of pop sensations Pat & Mick (it sampled ‘I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet’ quite heavily.)
Surfin’ Tariq – A Tribute To Dead Elvis
Surfin’ Tariq hails from the beautiful city of Beirut and uses every opportunity to get to the coast and indulge his passion for all things related to the world of surfing. The Mediterranean isn’t renowned for its huge waves and large surfing following but that doesn’t stop the young Lebanese singer from falling off his board in front of anyone who cares to watch. Mostly it’s the Israeli Defence Force disguised as sand dunes trying to determine if he’s part of Hezbollah. Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t; it all adds to the mystery of Tariq and is why he has such a huge fanbase at home and in Syria.
I ordered this album online not because I’m a fan of surfing music – Tariq’s specialty in case you couldn’t guess – nor because I’m fan of Elvis. I’m not a fan of Elvis. I didn’t like him when he was alive and could order his goonsquad to punish me for bad-mouthing him (Vegas, 1974, still got the scars) and I like him just as little now that he’s dead. And that’s why I ordered this album. Think: Elvis songs. Think: Elvis songs sung by young Tariq who’s never actually read the lyrics. Think: Elvis songs sung by young Tariq who’s never actually read the lyrics with a Beach Boys feel. Think: great!
Who can fail to be moved by Love Meat Tenderer? Who won’t get up, get down, und boogie to the toe-tapping Hard Rake Hotel? If you don’t cry to Oil Weighs On My Mime then you’re simply not human.