Saturday, 21 October 2017
A year and a half after the album came out, I found this 7" single of Toxicity at a record fair in Southampton for £3. It seemed rude not to buy it, and I was certainly drawn in by the promise of an "extremely rare" b-side.
Toxicity itself is a strong song, and clearly one of the best songs on the album other than Chop Suey!. Storaged is not as exciting as I'd hoped for, but I knew nothing of the context until just now - it appeared on a demo cassette for the first album, but had never seen the light of day otherwise. It's short, and I can see it working well live.
Again, the sleeve is pretty minimal - also featuring stills from the video on the reverse.
Format: 12", numbered #5604
Cost: £3 second hand
Bought: Record Fair, Southampton
When System of a Down released Chop Suey! I, for some reason, bought all the versions of the single - the two and cds and, a day later, the 7". I don't know if I was planning on building up a complete SOAD collection or not, or maybe it was just because it was just after my birthday and I was feeling relatively flush. The cds had some live tracks as b-sides, along with the new song here, Johnny.
Chop Suey! was, without doubt, System's breakout hit. It took them to levels of fame so many steps above where they were, and where they would have been had the second album not featured it. It's still quite fun, despite having heard it played to death in rock clubs over the years. It did everything you wanted the band to do in one song, was sufficiently weird, and has a few "movements". In a lot of ways, it was their Bohemian Rhapsody. The b-side is nice enough, and has a strong chorus.
The cds were minimal in their artwork - featuring a clear case and the cd only printed as far as there was music, leaving a clear band of plastic for most of its 5"s. Fittingly, the 7" is on clear vinyl, and numbered. The reverse just shows images from the video for the song, which is an unusual route to take - a type of promotion I'd not seen before.
Format: 7", numbered #2161
Cost: £1.50 new
Bought: FM Music, Southampton
System of a Down were one of the bands you had to like if you were into nu-metal around the year 2000. They somehow were the edgy, cool band to like, especially if it was before their second album came out. The first one, released in 1998, felt like the closest thing to an "underground hit" that the genre had, at least amongst the people I knew (which is obviously bollocks in hindsight, but felt like it at the time. Like I've said many times, the early 2000's was a dangerous time to be a teenager). Their second album, Toxicity, came out in 2001 and suddenly they were everywhere.
I got a copy of the first album in 2001, just weeks before Toxicity came out, but I'd borrowed it from a friend earlier and made a cassette copy, so knew the songs very well. On top of that, I'd bought a copy of a limited edition tour cd from a distro that a guy someone had met at a record fair was running – it had three of the album tracks twice each, the studio version and a live recording. Toxicity dropped the day after they played a great set at Reading Festival on the main stage, almost certainly winning them many more fans (I distinctly remember the maniacal look in the bassist's eyes as they walked out on stage to a song about how they're all on drugs). An enterprising record store owner who routinely had a stall at the festival stayed open until midnight to sell copies of Toxicity and Iowa, the new Slipknot album released on the same day; they must have made a killing with that festival audience.
SOAD enjoyed a lot of success from Toxicity, especially from the single Chop Suey!, which became an instant classic in rock clubs all over the country. Then they had the awkward follow-up, the difficult second album (except, in this case, the difficult third album). In 2002 they released Steal This Album!, an album I always believed to be a b-sides/rarities album, but I've just read online that it was more along the lines of leftovers from Toxicity, or even tentatively a sequel to the album. Either way, it wasn't billed as a regular album, so I certainly never listened to it as such.
The cd was released with four different designs on the cd itself, which given that it didn't have a sleeve was basically the cover of the album. I bought the one with the skull on it, which was my favourite of the lot at the time – I think the shop had at least one of each. A few months later I was in Nottingham after an open day at Lancaster University, and found this double picture disc of the album for a bargain £9.50. It was appealing in itself, but I liked that each side had one of the four covers on; it made me feel better about having picked just one of them on cd. That price seems like even more of a bargain given that copies on Discogs are now around £75.
As an album, I remember liking it less than the first two, but that was almost to be expected, given that it wasn't an album proper. A.D.D. was always the highlight and still has a huge chorus. It could have been a huge song had it been on either of the first two albums, although that awkward transition between the verse and the chorus probably needed some more work. Otherwise, there were some nice enough songs (Highway Song has the second best chorus on the album) and a few slower moments (good ones, like Mr Jack and unnecessary ones, like Roulette). A common theme was one of half-heartedness, or incompleteness - Chic 'n' Stu and I-E-A-I-A-I-O both had that fast-paced singing that Serj could so uniquely do, but piss-poor lyrics; Boom was a political song with none of the subtlety they'd shown in the past. All in all, an odd collection, but a nice enough record to own.
Format: Double picture disc 12", insert
Cost: £9.50 new
Bought: Selectadisc, Nottingham
Colour: Picture disc
Tuesday, 17 October 2017
This album is just Very Bad. I don't think I've ever taken any real enjoyment from it. Every now and again, if I'm in a particularly shitty toilet in a bar or pub, I think to myself "I really hope I don't die here; I'd be so embarrassed for people to know that this was the last place I was alive". Listening to Unwritten Law in 2017, I'm thinking "god, I hope I don't die listening to this; I'd be so embarrassed for people to know this was the last music I heard". What if people thought the last music I heard was so important to me that I wanted it played at my funeral. What a shitty funeral it'd be, soundtracked to this album. Urgh. If you're reading this, I didn't die listening to Unwritten Law (at least, intentionally) so that's good.
When I was at school, we pretty much all had copies of each other's cds collections on tape or minidiscs. Nick had Unwritten Law's third, self-titled album, and I remember having a minidisc of it (in fact, I still do, but either my minidisc player is broken, or all of my minidiscs have broken themselves). I guess I enjoyed that album at the time, but I couldn't tell you much about it. I was never a huge fan of that California-punk, and it'd be a long time before I started listening to other genres of punk.
A few years later, I was in Nottingham and found this for £4 in Selectadisc. I bought so many records in there that day that I was putting some back because I couldn't carry them all. Luckily, I can't remember what I put back, because I'd almost certainly be kicking myself. It's hard to imagine what could've been less enjoyable than this. According to Wikipedia, Unwritten Law made a conscious choice to move away from punk towards a more "accessible hard rock" sound. I wish they'd put that on the fucking sticker, rather than boasting about two singles I now know to be shit.
There are many crimes on this album, but one of the worst is the first song - Mean Girl is the worst song on the album, and opens the album for reasons I can't fathom. Up All Night isn't terrible in comparison - it's probably not a good song, but compared to the opener it's quite the relief. There are other lows (Actress, Model... is appalling) and some moments that aren't as shit as everything else, but it's all relative. It's also far too long. In two words: stupid and pointless.
Format: 12", insert
Cost: £4 new
Bought: Selectadisc, Nottingham
I wrote about Billy Talent a few years ago with this post about a shaped-7" of Devil in the Midnight Mass. They were never a band I was hugely into, but I do seem to have a lot of their 7" records (three, to be precise). I'd enjoyed Try Honesty from their first album (which I eventually bought, around the time the second one was out) and found myself buying all the singles from the second, despite never hearing the full album.
Fallen Leaves was the third and, thus, the last I bought. I think I knew by this point that I wasn't going to be a huge fan of the band, but it was £1 and I enjoyed the clear picture disc. I found this around the time it was released in my local HMV, a few weeks after buying the shaped picture disc in Paris. The song is catchy enough but a little repetitive. The b-side is a live recording of the same song (lame) from MTV, but sounds terrible. I know picture discs aren't known for their quality, but this is really bad. Still, you can't argue with that price.
Format: 7", picture disc, insert
Cost: £1 new
Bought: HMV Lancaster
Colour: Picture disc
Red Flag was the first Billy Talent release I bought. A few of the singles from their first album had been plastered across MTV a summer or two beforehand, so I knew the name and knew what they sounded like. About a month after buying this, I bought a cheap copy of their debut album. I never heard any of the subsequent albums.
Red Flag has a huge chorus, as you'd expect from the band, but the extent to which I find the singer's voice annoying was stretched on this song. I knew what I was getting into, so that's on me really. The b-side is a demo of what I assume is an album track. It's an ok song, but only a fraction as catchy as the single itself. I went on to buy a few more singles from the second album, but I think they were never really going to be a band for me, so that's about where I left it; everything I own by them was bought within a five-month period, after which I was done. That says a lot.
Format: 7", gatefold sleeve
Cost: £1 new
Bought: HMV, Winchester
Again, see here for the obligatory prefix on the band. Last Train Home was the second single from the second album, and came out a couple of weeks after the album did. I bought the album, but have so few memories of it that I barely remembered owning it. I was 19 and the appeal of a band like this was wearing off. On top of that, these songs now feel miles away from the debut album and the version of the band we'd got into. I don't remember thinking that at the time, I just didn't enjoy them so much. I think they released further albums, but I stopped paying attention shortly after buying this record.
The appeal of this 7" was almost certainly in the b-side - an acoustic version of Shinobi Vs. Dragon Ninja from the first album. For £1.50, I was mostly just curious about how that'd sound. To save you all the wonder, it sounds bad. I've always been a sucker for acoustic versions, but this just doesn't work. The riff holds up ok, but the changes into the chorus just jars. They've tried to cover it up with some faint strings, but it sounds wrong. Since I'll almost certainly never listen to the band again, it seems rather fitting to leave it on such a dud.
Cost: £1.50 new
Bought: HMV, Lancaster