Five of the Best: #7: Dave Kerr

Just a couple more of these to come now, and this one is from Dave Kerr, Music and Online Editor of The Skinny and Commandant of the checked shirt brigade. Despite being the busiest man in the Northern Hemisphere, Dave occasionally finds the time to squeeze out some words for Drowned in Sound, The List and The Big Issue. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas.

At the Drive-In – Relationship of Command (2000)

When I first heard it

September 2000. I bought the One Armed Scissor single after hearing it in the old Virgin in Dundee and – judging by the state of the songs they dared to call b-sides – it was obvious an exceptional album was in the post. Britpop was over and nu-metal had become depressingly dominant in its wake. Rage Against the Machine had just called it quits, but here was this punk band with a similar energy on this crusade to stop circle pits. My mate Brian brought the album over to my house with a few cans the week it came out; he was well acquainted with it by Friday and played Rolodex Propaganda all night (the tune with Iggy Pop ghosting Cedric Bixler and Jim Ward over the chorus).

Why I love it

With the exception of The Doors, Cream, Hendrix and James Brown, this album opened my eyes to music that was much older than I was. I enjoyed a lot of grunge as a teenager, but most of its proto-punk influences left me cold until these guys came along. Bands like MC5 and The Stooges somehow made more sense once I’d taken in ATD-I’s back catalogue, it was all in the attitude.

What it reminds me of

The worst post-gig tinnitus I’ve ever had – The Arches, Glasgow, December 2000.

Standout track

Quarantined.

Deftones – White Pony (2000)

When I first heard it

Utterly steaming, some time in late 2000. An old girlfriend had gotten me into Deftones a few years before and although I was blown away by Around the Fur in its day I just didn’t enjoy much metal at the time — ‘nu’ or otherwise. But a good friend and accomplished musician who exclusively listened to the Beatles up until that point came rolling in the door clutching this new piece of plastic one day, professing White Pony to be “the next level.” How could I not listen to the album that single-handedly jolted this man out of the 60s?

Why I love it

Forget King Diamond’s kick-in-the-balls falsetto, this is the closest thing to a heavy metal opera I’ve ever heard. Terry Date’s production is characteristically clean, which helps project these profound impressions of terror, violence, tragedy and euphoria. Chino Moreno’s basically chasing you down with a scalpel for 53 minutes and you live to tell the tale, soundtracking that ordeal is a band making progress on its own terms; hiding the ball and distancing itself from the other players. Their drummer Abe Cunningham once told me they were in the business of “making hits for another time”, as though they were only presently misunderstood. Their debut might not have aged well, but White Pony still feels like a thing of the future.

What it reminds me of

American Psycho. Also, seeing them play Edinburgh Corn Exchange a few months after the album came out. The band walked on to Laura Palmer’s Theme and it’s the only time I’ve felt as though the clinical ambience of the venue somehow lent itself to the occasion — chills for weeks.

Standout track

Knife Prty.

DJ Shadow – The Private Press (2002)

When I first heard it

June 2002, I recall buying it from the old Dundee FOPP the day before buggering off to work in Arizona for the summer. I’d converted every penny I had into dollars but wasn’t sure I’d find many decent record shops out in the desert, thus parted with 13 of my last 20 British pounds.

I was pensive on first listen. Having spent so much time hammering Endtroducing, UNKLE, the Cut Chemist collaborations and anything I could find by Quannum, Shadow was up on a pedestal in my book. The late 90s were a bit light on great music but this guy had a palette that could soundtrack any aspect of your life, so expectations were weighty. At the same time, I couldn’t quite see how Shadow would find a way to stay relevant in 2002 because so many copyists had come and gone since ‘96. Before warming to it (considerably), first impressions were – in all my hip-hop purist snobbery – that Josh Davis was making a play for Moby’s king of the coffee table anthem status. The 02 advert didn’t help.

Why I love it

Of course, I look like an arsehole saying that now; I’m listening to the album for the first time in a few years as I write this and still hear fresh nuances dripping from every cut. Anyone who can evoke the energy of Run DMC (Walkie Talkie) with John Carpenter (Mongrel… / …Meets His Maker) in quick succession deserves a platinum medal. The Private Press opened up a new world of found sounds to explore, in the same way a few fragmented samples from Endtroducing made me want to hear more from Kurtis Blow or watch Prince of Darkness. Sample-rich albums like these say a lot about the obsessive nature of crate digging and remind me that I’d do well to even scratch the surface of what’s out there in a lifetime.

What it reminds me of

Studying. The Private Press stayed with me through third year and made a comeback during fourth year uni finals. Nothing brings the skull back to its centre quite like a bit of You Can’t Go Home Again.

Standout track

Blood on the Motorway.

Anything else?

I wonder how much he’d charge to do a funeral.

Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002)

When I first heard it

Circumstances of my first encounter with this album couldn’t have been more appropriate, save for a naked Indian on peyote stepping out from behind a cactus and handing me a copy. I bought Songs for the Deaf one night in August 2002 while making the long drive back to Tucson from Scottsdale – proper desert terrain – with my friend Glover (sadly, no relation to Danny). The album wasn’t due out until the next day, but it was past midnight and we imagined some eager retailer would be stocking. So we stopped by almost every garage with a CD stand for 130 miles until arriving at the unlikely site of a 24 hour Borders (RIP). Glover ran around the shop like Anneka Rice until he found the only copy they’d ordered in. The remainder of the trip home was bittersweet – we had the album on the car stereo but it wasn’t yet mine, goddammit.

Why I love it

Rated R (2000) is a disheveled beauty and it’s difficult to rate this above it. I do so because a) I Think I Lost My Headache ends R on an endurance test and b) Songs for the Deaf is undisputable proof that supergroups can be far greater than the sum of their egos. At risk of sounding pretty auld, there’s a danger to this album that I’ve rarely heard in a band since. I’m sure they were blissfully unaware at the time, but this incarnation of the Queens smells like four remarkable talents (Homme, Oliveri, Grohl and Lanegan) finding a way to reach their collective zenith in an awesome moment they couldn’t possibly sustain.

What it reminds me of

Climbing the walls after a troublesome encounter with the philosopher’s blend.

Standout track

The Sky is Fallin’.

Johnny Cash – IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)

When I first heard it

I was cold (knackered central heating) and skint in late 2002. The album came out not long after I finished reading his autobiography; though it was the first full Cash LP I’d spent any real time with and was worth the £15.99 import price HMV sold it for. Once I learned about the fascinating life the man had lead and read about the optimism that the second wind he’d found in his elderly years gave him it made me want to hear much more.

Why I love it

When I first heard Johnny Cash covering Beck and Soundgarden in the mid-90s I put it down to a bizarre novelty and have since heard people criticise the American series as Rick Rubin’s tasteless document of the man in black’s slow decline. But somewhere in-between, I’ve yet to see a more poignant music video than Mark Romanek’s treatment for Cash’s rendition of Hurt. In the context of American IV – alongside the glorious second coming implied by the title track’s biblical references and the inherently optimistic war time classic We’ll Meet Again – the effect is an uplifting counter-balance.

What it reminds me of

Trying to come to terms with the death of my good friend Brian Robertson.

Standout track

The Man Comes Around

Choice Cut Video: At The Drive In – Quarantined

http://www.youtube.com/v/SqsNR5pI6bw&hl=en_GB&fs=1&

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