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Under the Influence - Morrissey

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      03.11.2012 19:30
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      Morrissey's favourite songs

      Under the Influence - Morrissey is a compilation album and was part of a series by DMC UK. The series had different singers or groups choosing songs that have influenced them (or they just love anyway) and this particular Under the Influence compilation was chosen by Morrissey. So you get Morrissey's fifteen favourite songs and what a strange eclectic collection it is. You'd expect a compilation album chosen by Morrissey to be rather Sandie Shaw and Cilla Black but this is surprisingly popless for the most part. I don't know if popless is a word but it should be. It's certainly interesting and introduced me to a few great songs I was unaware of previously but I can't say that on the evidence of this I always share Morrissey's taste in music. The most notable absence is David Bowie I think. David Bowie was always one of Morrissey's heroes but they fell out on a tour they conducted together in the nineties so that explains why none of his songs are here I suppose. Under the Influence - Morrissey begins with Saturday Night Special by Lesa Cormier & The Sundown Playboys. No, I've no idea who they were either. This first selection by Morrissey is a 1950s country and western rockabilly thing with lots of accordion and someone wailing a lot. Not really my cup of tea and biscuit but the music is quite catchy and I like the fiddle. Next is Trash by seventies glam punk group New York Dolls. This was their most famous song and Morrissey did a pretty decent cover himself in some of his concerts. It's edgy and grungy but has quite an immediate chrous at the heart of the song and the line "We're trash, don't throw your life away" always feels very anthemic and seems to perfectly express the philosophy of the group.

      Next is Woodpecker Rock by someone called Nat Couty. More rockabilly and even more 1950s than Biff Tannen getting cow dung dumped on his sports car as Michael J Fox skateboards away in the distance. I don't think I could listen to too much of this to be honest although the musicians are obviously very talented and the song is upbeat and rather catchy. Unavoidably though this sounds very dated and tinny now and is only really for those who are into this sort of music. Next is So Little Time - the best song recorded by Diana Dors I think and a lot of fun. Very melodramatic and sixties pop and the more modern (for the time of course) music and approach serves Dors much better than on her 1960 album of big band and musical staples. You could imagine this as the theme to some old television series in the vein of The Avengers. The next selection by El Morrissey is Breaking The Rules by Ludus and taken from a 1983 album. You've probably never heard of Ludus but (and call me cynical but I had a feeling they would pop up here) one of their members, a woman named Linder Sterling, is a long time friend of Morrissey. This is very much of the era and sounds like a much grungier version of The Human League. Very electronic with female vocals that sound like they were sung by someone with their head in a bucket. It's not bad actually and has a lot of energy. It's very short though. Before you know the song suddenly crashes to a halt.

      One Hand Loose is more vintage rockabilly, this time by Charlie Feathers. He's obviously very talented but unfortunately this type of music just always ends up sounding all the same to me in the end. This is an up tempo song and very well done but it's not something I would go out of my way to listen to. Next is Great Horse by Tyrannosaurus Rex - taken (I think) from their 1970 album Bead of Stars. A typically obscure choice from Morrissey as regards this group (which he loved and was apparently one of the first he went to see in concert when he was growing up). The song is a dreamy acoustic one, rather short and to the point, and Marc Bolan's vocal is so ethereal I could barely make out what he was saying. It's a nice song though and probably one you might not be familiar with so the inclusion is nice. (There Goes) The Forgotten Man is yet more rockabilly, this time by Jimmy Radcliff. I'm not familiar with the artist but the song is pretty much what you would expect. Top-tapping rockabilly with female backing singers and Radcliffe sounding a bit like Elvis and warbling a catchy vocal. It's perfectly fine but at the risk of repeating myself not the sort of thing I would listen to given a choice. Next is De Castrow by Jaybee Wasden. More fifties rockabilly. Aargh. Ok, Morrissey. That's enough rockabilly for now. Nice piano on this and it's more country and western than toe-tapping Elvis but not really my thing.

      Next is Judy Is A Punk - possibly the best known song by the Ramones and great. Judy is a runt, she went to the Ice Capades etc. What are the Ice Capades? I demand to know. The song is very catchy and has geat energy. Short and sweet. The following bauble, Arts & Crafts Spectacular by Sparks (the weird electronica duo where one had a Hitler tache), is apparently from the 1960s and an unreleased demo so the inclusion here is a nice touch. It's pretty good and very experimental and psychedelic with marching drums and distorted vocals that seem to be filtering in from through the etha. A fun song. Swan Lake is next and by The Cats. Tchaikowsky meets ska. No idea who The Cats were but this is quite nice and a new take on a tune that everyone will know. I like the flutes that come in too. All That Is My Own by Nico is Morrissey's next selection and totally bonkers with strange myriad sound effects at the start and bizarre vocals that sound like a choir girl singing through a dustbin. I quite like this for the melodrama alone. It becomes even madder as it goes on with fanfares and crackly distorted noises. Next is Hey Joe by Patti Smith and a cover of an oft covered song that she put out as a b-side in 1974. The song is about a man on the run after shooting his wife and now heading for the Mexican border. Smith changed it so that the song is about fugitive heiress Patty Hearst instead (and includes a cheeky spoken 18 certificate intro piece about Hearst). It's a great, great song and Patti Smith's version is amazing. I love the way her vocal soars as the song slowly sparks into life and the chorus kicks in.

      Death by Klaus Nomi ends the collection. Nomi was famous for his bizarre theatrical affectations and presenting synthesiser versions of operas in his remarkable falsetto voice. He looked like Pee Wee Herman's grungy older brother and this gothic slice of nonsense is interesting and impressive at first glance although I don't think I could listen to too much of this. Under the Influence - Morrissey is interesting and contains some nice rare songs but ultimately it's a very mixed bag and probably for the curious only.


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