Spirit of SSL v6

12th December 2001

Spirit of SSL v6, front cover Spirit of SSL v6, back cover
  1. Danmass - Happy Here (andy)
    Well, this was a pleasant enough way to start the CD, wasn't it? When I first heard it at the SSL office, I didn't really pick out those northern kids' voices chattering away, which adds something. And I suppose it's nice to hear the old Rolf Harris Stylophone - one of the most overlooked instruments in the orchestra. That said, isn't not exactly Dark Side of the Moon. Or even Arnold Layne.
        5/10. Could do better.

  2. Captain Beefheart - Sure 'nuff 'n Yes I Do (nich)
    Interesting. I think I'd been misled by the Zappa connection, but somehow I expected Beefheart to be a bit weirder than this. But this just weird enough, and anyway I'm a sucker for the blues. I have a hunch I'll like this more as I listen to it more, but for now

  3. Blur - To The End (mirk)
    This is my selection, so I'm sure I don't need to say how wonderful I think it is. But let's just draw attention to the miraculous blend of multiple textures and styles, the gorgeous melody and the lyric that says ... er, what exactly? Oh well, never mind. One little imperfection doesn't stop it being perfect, right? And there is something inexplicably heart-wrenching about the observation ``It looks like we might have made it to the end.'' Is it a good thing to make it to the end? Or a bad thing? Ah, the magic of ambiguity.
        10/10 obviously.

  4. Kiss - Shock Me (sacha)
    This time around - what with it being near Christmas and all - I have resolved to be positive where I can, and say nothing at all when I can't. So I'll limit myself to a single observation on this selection. The lines that go:
    Shock me! Make me feel better!
    Shock me! Put on your black leather!
    would rhyme better if they said ``Put on your black sweater''.
        2/10. Not particularly unpleasant.

  5. Pachelbel - Canon (mas)
    Granted that Pachelbel was a genius and that this is one of the all-time great pieces of music, does anyone else think that it's really, really boring?
        3/10 because you sort of can't really object to it.

  6. My Bloody Valentine - You Made Me Realise (olly)
    Once again, I have to bring into play my new ``If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all'' strategy. As it happens, I have not one but two things to say in favour of this selection.

    Firstly, unlike the Kiss song, it seems that there's a bit of commitment to festulence[1] here. I almost prefer something actively repellent to the kind of anodyne faux-metal in that track (It's OK to be rude about Shock Me after having assigned its mark, right?)

    Secondly, I was able to save two precious megabytes of disk space with this track, because when I wound the MP3 bit-rate right down to 48kbit/s there was no discernible decrease in quality. (Incidentally, you can argue that it sounds better at 8kbit/s - or at least, more interesting. Take a listen and see what you think.)

  7. Nick Drake - Northern Sky (becca)
    As it happens, I got my introduction to Nick Drake a few weeks ago when someone lent me the album Bryter Later from which this is taken. It's the sort of song that's likely to grow on me, but hasn't really done it yet. One thing's for sure: it sounds about hundred times better on headphones in a quiet office than it does in a SoSSL session packed with pizza-eating wine-drinkers!
        7/10 probably.

  8. Nick Cave - Red Right Hand (mike)
    As it happens, I got my introduction to Nick Cave a few weeks ago when someone lent me the album No More Shall We Part. I feel like I ought to admire this, but I can't make myself like it.
        5/10 I suppose.

  9. Pulp - Mile End (matthew)
    B'dmp dmp dmp dmp, bmp-a-dmp, b'dmp
    B'dmp dmp dmp dmp, bmp-a-dmp, b'dmp
        9/10. Infectious. In a good way.

  10. The Beatles - Ticket to Ride (mark)
    I'm old fashioned enough to love the Beatles and be unashamed of it, but is this really one of their best tracks? Oh well.

  11. Blind Mississippi Morris & Brad Webb - When We Gone (les)
    Serious blues. Mmmm -- nnnice!

  12. Mirwais - Paradise (Not For Me) (damien)
    Once the extremely unpromising intro is over, I can't help really liking this. The world could probably use a bit less synth-robot voice treatment, and the vocal performance is pretty poor from start to end, but it's still a gorgeous texture. [Stop press: just found out from allmusic.com that the vocal is by Madonna, which explains the total lack of inflection, musicality or indeed any signs of any talent whatsoever.] Er. Surely it can't be 7/10 for a third consecutive track, can it?
        7/10. Yep. Despite Madonna's sterling efforts at dragging it down to a 6.

  13. U2 - Seconds (nathan)
    I already love this song, in part because it reminds me of being sixteen - you know, that whole ``it was an important part of my life'' thing. But you have to love the sheer energy of it. ``U.S.S.R! D.D.R! London! New York, Peking!'' Never more appropriate than post-September 11, either.

  14. Matt Cranitch - Slip Jig & Three Reels (john)
    If I can't think of something nice to say, then I'll say nothing. So with that in mind, here are my thoughts on Slip Jig & Three Reels: ``''

    Oh no, wait, I've thought of something: it's less than twenty minutes long.

  15. Paul Weller - Wild Wood (mark)
    I bought this CD for a friend a while back, and sneaked a listen before giving it to him. It's easy to like. Not sure if that's really enough, though.

  16. Bob Marley - Judge Not (alec)
    Well, Spirit of SSL has done it again. Just when I think that it can't possibly come up with anything worse, it surprises me.

    It's at times like this that I long for the relatively innocent days of SoSSLv1, when I thought the Pixies' Debaser was about as bad as music could get. Ah, how little I knew! SoSSLv2 brought with it Poison's execrable Look What the Cat Dragged In, but with the perspective of history, that was just softening up for SoSSLv5's Like This with the Devil.

    Make no mistake, these are three truly awful songs. I mean really, really bad. Devoid of any redeeming feature whatsoever. And yet even these monstrosities, so wantonly perpetrated upon us, had this in their favour: they were performed with some bare minimum of technical competence. Judge Not exhibits a courageous willingness to cast even this aside in favour of an ill-judged (har!) melange of out-of-tune instruments (the flute is a good quarter-tone sharp), wildly lunging sloppy rhythms and flatulent vocals.

    At the SoSSL premiere, Alec remarked that I looked like I was going to be sick as this was playing. He's not far wrong. Listening to this actually causes me physical pain. It's an offense against all that is music. I would honestly rather listen to a pneumatic drill.

    On top of this is the well-known fact that reggae is just fundamentally awful. Yes it it. Notwithstanding my claim in the pub after the premiere that there's one good song in every musical genre, I can't think of a good reggae song. In the past I've reserved most of my vitriol for the cod reggae produced by White Bands That Should Know Better: Simply Red are, for some reason, a particularly foul repeat offender. But the awful truth is that Judge Not is a more loathsome experience even than Hillside Avenue from the Pink Pancake-meister's otherwise exemplary Life album.

    In a nutshell: Judge Not sucks.

    (Observant readers will notice that I've been forced to abandon my ``If you can't say anything nice'' policy. Still, it lasted for fifteen songs, that's not bad.)
        0/10 and it's only got that high a mark because I'm feeling generous today.

  17. Boards of Canada - Roygbiv (olly)
    ``Boreds of Canada'', more like.
        4/10. Had worse.

  18. The Strokes - Trying Your Luck (alec)
    I've listened to this three times now and I still can't remember one single thing about it. Not only that, but I'm still in a bad mood about having had to listen to Judge Not again. So:

Overall comments: SoSSLv6 doesn't feel as adventurous as its predecessors: even Sacha, for example, has gone very mainstream with the tame metal-for-fourteen-year-olds that is Kiss; whereas at least with his previous selection of Like This with the Devil, I felt like there might be something there that I didn't ``get'' (and was glad not to.) But every previous Spirit CD has grown on me a lot as I've listened to it repeatedly, and I guess this one will too.

It's still a great project!

(on to Volume 7.)



No, ``festulence'' is not a real word, but I think it captures exactly the feeling I'm looking for here: a sort of festering pestilence with a hint of crapulence. [back]
Feedback to <mike@miketaylor.org.uk> is welcome!