An atypical Dylan track, given its comparative lack of words, the great man holding back some, letting the atmosphere speak (c/o Daniel Lanois’ masterful production). So in the end, it’s like a troubled dream that never resolves, just leaves you with questions and shadows and rumours of apocalypse. Who is he anyway, the man in the long black coat? And why does the mere thought of him fill you with dread?
“The release date of Berlin based Einsturzende Neubauten‘s fifth album Haus Der Luge was 4-September-1989, roughly two months before The Wall finally fell. So yes, all that rage and delirium you’re feeling, it’s the real thing, the house is indeed full of lies, the new buildings are all coming down, Neubauten being one of those bands who absolutely sounded like the history they were riding, the sum result of forty-odd years of two opposed worlds grinding up against each other, something/everything finally giving. Historians now seem to give Ronald Reagan the credit. F*** that sh**. It was Neubauten all the way. Music that dissolved concrete, melted barbed wire, changed everything forever. At least, that’s what it felt like at the time.” (Philip Random)
“Yes, that is Michael Hutchence laying out the bleak truth care of his other ‘band’, Max Q, which briefly co-existed with INXS but only briefly. One album, no tours. But The Way of the World found me anyway. Must’ve been the feel good lyrics. You are born into this world – Looking down the barrel of a gun – And those who hold the gun – Want you to work fast and die young – And if you don’t work – If you don’t obey – They’ll make you live in fear till your dying day. And that’s just the first half of the first verse.” (Philip Random)
“I pretty much gave up on Bob Dylan in the 1980s. Yeah, the old songs were mostly still gathering no moss, but ever since he’d stumbled out of all the Jesus stuff, nothing fresh or necessary seemed to be happening. Everything overproduced, voice way too thin, barely cutting the mix at all, and it kept getting worse. But then, from out of nowhere, right at the end of the decade, the man suddenly delivers Oh Mercy, with Political World the lead off track, telling no lies, taking no prisoners. Like he’d been undercover the whole time, pretending lame, but always taking notes, and now here he was, filing his report, and deep and rich it was. It may even have brought down Soviet Union.” (Philip Random)
“The Pixies were nothing if not fresh when I first heard them, which was pretty much as they hit. All the rage and bile of punk and hardcore applied to a smart, tight pop sense. But I’d be lying if I said I was entirely blown away. Because there was something a little too obvious about it. Like, why had it taken so long for somebody to put this formula together? Also, you had all manner of other stuff erupting at the time, all kinds of cool futures getting invented. It was only maybe five years later, (after they’d broken up) that I realized just how strong and good a band they were, with Doolittle the album they’d never top.” (Philip Random)
NoMeansNo finally got it right on Wrong: the ferocious musicality of their live thunder captured in the studio, pressed to vinyl, unleashed upon the world. The whole album tends to flow together as one prolonged eruption of ugly-beautiful wrongness, but The Tower gets it singled out because it f***ing towers.
“I heard the Pixies pretty much right out of the box. I even liked them. But for some reason, I just didn’t care that much. Blame hip-hop, I guess, which was kicking seriously hard at the time, ripping shit up all over. Guitar based rock music just didn’t seem that relevant anymore, regardless of how tight, explosive, intense, poetic, funny it was. I was wrong, which I finally figured out once Doolittle showed up.” (Philip Random)
Two Stone Roses tracks presented as one because they really are – just played in different directions. Or as some genius put it at the time, “You know the drugs are good when songs are changing direction and you don’t really notice.” And the drugs were very good in Manchester at the time of that first (and only really) Stone Roses album.
By 1989, Public Image Ltd weren’t exactly redefining the zeitgeist anymore. In fact, it’s arguable they weren’t really a band anymore – just John Lydon‘s personal project. Which, in the case of Warrior, seemed to be about proving that he could rock at least as big as U2 (or whoever) and succeeding, with the best version a remix that’s now almost impossible to find, probably because of the sample of Old Lodge Skins himself laying down his humble but fierce warrior prayer.