Monthly Archives: March 2013

1994. The best year of modern music?

1994. The best year of modern music?


It was brought to my attention over a few beers by an outspoken friend of mine that one of the finest years for modern music was 1994. He may have even said to me ‘The best year ever for music was 1994.’ At the time I agreed with him having experienced this time in music myself.

A few nights later I pondered his statement and decided to do a bit of research on what albums were released that year. My discovery sparked a number of different thoughts and feelings, some of the albums I knew had had a direct influence on my life at the time, others I had picked up on a few years later and some just outright astounded me that they had all been released in the same twelve months.

This amazing array of music made me think that if the music was so good that year what else of note happened and if 1994 was just a particularly good time in our planet’s history?

United States President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed the Kremlin Accords a series of treaties that stopped the programmed aiming of nuclear missiles at any nation.

Brazil won their fourth FIFA World Cup in the United States, beating Italy on Penalties.

The cinema also had a good year as films such as Forest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, Four Weddings and A Funeral, The Madness of King George and Ed Wood found their way onto the Big Screen.

The Republic of South Africa voted in its first Black President Nelson Mandela in its first fully representative multiracial election. He served for 5 years and his administration focused it’s time on undoing the apartheid legacy, and reducing poverty.

But this article is about music.

The music of 1994 helped influence the way I now listen to and love music. It introduced me to a whole new variety of genres from Dance to Metal and Hip-hop to Pop, before the year in question I had spent my time listening almost exclusively to a three piece Garage band from Seattle. It also paved the way for an eclectic personal back catalogue. Two albums in particular opened my eyes to something more than just Grunge music.

Firstly, Ill Communication by The Beastie Boys found its way into my hands and before long into my heart. Inspired after hearing ‘Sabotage’ on the radio I went out and bought the album. Upon first play I was surprised by the mixture of Jazz, Punk, Funk, Hip-Hop and Rock that drifted out of the speakers at me, it took quite a few listens and a bit of patience for me but I figure it out. It’s a collection of songs that should not really be on the same album together, but somehow they work. This made it clear to me that they were more than just a bunch of white guys making some gimmick Rap songs. They were, in fact, a group of accomplished musicians making inventive and original music. In my opinion their finest work.

The Second album was Music For The Jilted Generation by The Prodigy. A friend from school leant me the cassette and I took it with me on a family holiday. It never left my personal stereo for the whole week we were away and for that entire week all that I heard was the musical genius of Liam Howlett. Ever since I have followed his, Maxim and Keith’s careers with fascination as they continuously make thumping dance music. The mix of rave, heavy riffs and deep base lines still sets my heart pumping and feet tapping to this day. I believe Kerrang Magazine had called it the heaviest album of the year. In a year that included Far Beyond Driven by Pantera, debut albums from both Korn by Korn and Burn My Eyes by Machine Head and the second studio album of Trent Reznor’s material The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails this was a bold statement indeed.

Other albums that hooked me in at the time were Dookie by Green Day, a short but sweet piece of modern punk rock The Holy Bible by The Manic Street Preachers a journey into the darker side of their work and Troublegum by Therapy? a masterpiece of heavy rock if ever there was one. All three of them received a lot of playtime and still get dusted off every now and then for a replay. Their best album on all counts by a country mile.

Indie music was taking the industry by storm and the media fuelled battle between North and South England began with the debut album Definitely Maybe by Oasis and with the release of the third studio album Parklife by Blur, with this pairing British media had their two contenders. Other bands from all over the British Isles that were being labelled in the same Britpop category were releasing material. From Sheffield His ‘n’ Hers by Pulp, released their fourth album. Londoners Dog Man Star by Suede, were getting in on the action, Irish four piece No Need To Argue by The Cranberries from Limerick and Bradford based How To Make Friends and Influence People by Terrorvision. Trip Hop was still making noises from Bristol with Protection by Massive Attack and Dummy by Portishead and British music in general had a good year. The Second Coming by The Stone Roses gave us a second and last album by the four-piece from Manchester. The Division Bell by Pink Floyd showed that old masters were still making good music in what would be their last album to date.

British music was also making waves across the pond with Sixteen Stone by Bush becoming massive in the United States and the American market was having a good year also. Grunge may have seen the death of its involuntary hero as Kurt Cobain commit suicide, although MTV Unplugged in New York by Nirvana did get released, but the Seattle Rock scene lived on with Jar of Flies by Alice In Chains an acoustic EP recorded over two days as a break from extensive touring,  Superunknown by Soundgarden their breakthrough album that brought them notoriety and Vitalogy by Pearl Jam.  The US Rock genre in general continued to produce good work with many diverse acts publicising quality music such as Purple by The Stone Temple Pilots, Weezer by Weezer, Smash by The Offspring, Live Through This by Hole, Welcome To Sky Valley by Kyuss, Grace by Jeff Buckley, Mellow Gold by Beck, and Monster by R.E.M. Mainstream music in the States gave as good as everyone else with CrazySexyCool by T.L.C, Bedtime Stories by Madonna, Ready To Die By Notorious B.I.G., Illmatic by Nas and southernplayalisticadillacmuzik by OutKast adding credit to the year from the RnB/Soul market.

So looking at the list of material above I think I will have to agree with my highly opinionated friend that those twelve months were possibly one of the greatest in modern music history. You may disagree, if so I am willing to hear your argument and open to listen to the reasons you give for an alternative year. But for me it’s all about 1994.

Below is a more comprehensive list of albums and their release dates including many more artists not mentioned above:

Jar of Flies by Alice In Chains. January 24th

Dookie by Green Day. February 1st

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement. February 2nd

Troublegum by Therapy? February 7th

Mellow Gold by Beck. March 1st

Point Blank by Nailbomb. March 8th

The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails. March 8th

Superunknown by Soundgarden. March 8th

Vauxhall and I by Morrissey. March 14th

Far Beyond Driven by Pantera. March 18th

The Division Bell by Pink Floyd. March 30th

Live Through This by Hole. April 12th

Give Out But Don’t Give Up by Primal Scream. April 12th

Weight by Rollins Band. April 12th

Let Love In by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. April 18th

His ‘n’ Hers by Pulp. April 18th

How To Make Friends and Influence People by Terrorvision. April 18th

Smash by The Offspring. April 19th

Illmatic by Nas. April 19th

Parklife by Blur. April 25th

southernplayalisticadillacmuzik by OutKast. April 26th

Stacked up by Senser. May 2nd

Weezer by Weezer. May 10th

Ill Communication by The Beastie Boys. May, 23rd

Seal II by Seal. May 23rd

Lifeforms by The Future Sound of London.  May 27th

Purple by The Stone Temple Pilots. June 7th

Regulate…G Funk Era by Warren G. June 7th

Welcome To Sky Valley by Kyuss. June 28th

Music For The Jilted Generation by The Prodigy. July 4th

Portrait of an American Family by Marilyn Manson. July 19th

Burn My Eyes by Machine Head. August 7th

Niggamortis by Gravediggaz. August 9th

Dummy by Portishead. August 22nd

Grace by Jeff Buckley. August 23rd

Without a Sound by Dinosaur Jr. August 23rd

Snivilisation by Orbital. August 23rd

The Holy Bible by The Manic Street Preachers. August 29th

Definitely Maybe by Oasis. August 29th

Change Giver by Shed Seven. September 5th

Stranger Than Fiction by Bad Religion. September 6th

File Under: Easy Listening by Sugar. September 6th

Ready To Die By Notorious B.I.G. September 13th

Monster by R.E.M. September 23rd

Protection by Massive Attack. September 26th

Deliverance by Corrosion of Conformity. September 27th

Divine Intervention by Slayer. September 27th

Under The Pink by Tori Amos. October 2nd

No Need To Argue by The Cranberries. October 3rd

Dog Man Star by Suede. October 10th

Homegrown by Dodgy. October 17th

Everybody’s Got One by Echobelly. October 25th

Bedtime Stories by Madonna. October 25th

MTV Unplugged in New York by Nirvana. November 1st

Wildflowers by Tom Petty. November 1st

Korn by Korn. November 7th

CrazySexyCool by T.L.C. November 15th

Sixteen Stone by Bush. December 5th

The Second Coming by The Stone Roses. December 5th

Vitalogy by Pearl Jam. December 6th


An Interesting Form Of Employment – Concluded.

An Interesting Form Of Employment – Concluded.


The cold hits me first, then the water, then the rock beneath the surface. I feel my ribs crack but cannot count how many have been damaged. As the tide swirls me around, my mind is drawn to how I have come to this predicament. Never have I pulled the trigger on impulse, always am I sure of my shot, but his eyes seemed to burrow right down into my skin. And that cold smile, did he know I was there? My feet find some purchase so I push in the direction I think is up. I break the surface and sweet, sweet oxygen bursts into my lungs but before I can get my bearings, a wave pushes me back towards the shore sending tides of shooting pain from my broken ribs across my whole body. Only the salt water in my mouth stops me from crying out in agony. The second wave forces me into unconsciousness for what seems like only a moment and I’m smacked awake again as I am dumped head first into the shingle on the beach. I rise before the next wave can batter me some more and pull my revolver.

One of the guards is following me down on my rope so I put three rounds into him. I hear his body hit the ocean as I hold my stance waiting for the next man to follow. My error becomes apparent as the footfall on the sand beside me reveals that he was not the first man down after me but the second. Training is the key to such moments, but my ribs hinder my movement and my revolver is lost to the dark as a fist makes contact with my wrist. The lay of the shoreline has me slightly on the higher ground which proves as always to be the advantage.  His second strike doesn’t hit home but my left knee finds his throat with graceful ease. As I return to my feet he hits the floor gasping for air just as the tide hits a second blow right down onto his upper torso.

I leave at a sprint hoping to get some distance on him before he regains his composure.

Rifle, revolver and knife all lost.  Not a successful night.

My car is where I left it though and soon I am on the road and away from the worst work of my career.

The bath water was helping, but not much. I would need to go see someone about my ribs but not at this location.  I will need to relocate twice before I can receive medical help.  For now I will have to rely on my own field knowledge, which is more than adequate but not ideal.

Relocating will have to wait for now as an email has brought my night’s less than convincing performance to the front of all future tasks. The Employer is pleased and wishes to meet and thank me for my excellent work. My suspicions are high and I decide to soak some more before formulating a response.

A ping from my laptop announces that the Employer is a less than patient person. The message expresses his absolute desire to meet and includes a payment option for the face to face which amounts to a sum four times the payment for the initial contract. Money is of little consequence to me, but this exchange would see me into a nice relaxing retirement. For a time I sit back and let the water ease my strained muscles.

Another ping of a different tone sounds, which distinguishes my emails from my bank account details, the money has already been wired.

Conflict resides in my thoughts for the next hour.

Do I take the money, run and go against all my own codes of client loyalty?

Kindly reject the offer and return the money? Once wired, the money was gone and never going back to the client so a drop off would have to be arranged.

Or take the payment and go against all of my instincts that it is a set up?

For my sins, I respond with where would you like to meet?

Multi-story car parks have never been a favoured form of architecture to me and this one was no exception. Upon retirement though, I would never have to experience one again. So I enter, keeping to as many shadows as the halogen lights allow.

As I wait in the darkest corner my instincts are telling me to leave, forget the money and just go, that amount of money can be achieved again. Not nearly as quickly though. Seven or eight contracts over a three year period would probably see the amount reached, but only just. I have a few years left in me yet, although a recovery period for the broken ribs would more than likely leave me a good six months where working at a hundred per cent would just not be possible.  And if I am not at the top of my game, I do not play.

Before I can dwell on the dilemma any longer a vehicle engine cuts the silence.

A long black Limousine coasts into the empty lot and waits with its motor still running, the driver’s door opens and the chauffeur steps out. Without pause he is at the passenger door and it is opened. A man steps out his features are hidden by a deep hood that covers his whole head.  He nods his head to the chauffeur and walks towards the front of the car.  The driver’s door shuts as he returns to behind the wheel.

The hooded figure walks twenty feet in front of the vehicle and turns to face me from my hidden position.

How is that possible? Perhaps I have grown lax in my camouflage training of late. Practise will be required on all of my skills after this escapade. But will they? Retirement looms and much earlier than I had planned. All that can wait.  Let me get through this meeting first.

I decide to approach sticking to the shadows until the last possible moment. Fifteen yards away is close enough and I step just out into the light.

‘You wanted to see me? Well here I stand.’

A long pause and no response trouble me.

‘Do I not deserve a reply?’

The figure’s hand raises towards his hood and my hand reaches for my sidearm.

‘I will not be played with.’ I bark at him. ‘Answer me.’

The removal of his hood reveals his dilemma. The face before me is not a face at all. Its cheekbones and eye sockets are where they should be but no other features remained. Nose, eyes and mouth all void, a completely blank canvas of a face.

‘It is not he who wishes to meet you,’ a voice from the dark interjected.

I draw my weapon and turn towards the source of the voice.

‘You have no need for that,’ he continued.

I glance back at the featureless man but he has vanished without so much as a sound.  Movement takes my attention as the speaker steps into the light. His face is so familiar it turns my stomach, bringing forth a feeling I have not felt in a number of years, Fear.

I feel my grip loosen on my weapon, doubt and disbelief flooding over me.

His face smiles at me, a smile I had torn in two not twenty four hours previously. My client standing before me living and breathing and not a scratch upon his face.

Words fail me, but not he.

With a grin that could charm the world he states ‘I think I may have a job for you.’

THE END


An Interesting Form of Employment

An Interesting Form of Employment


And so I wait, patiently as always.

For what?

Time to pass? To an extent, yes, but not tonight.

Tonight I wait for a pay cheque. In the same way the money has always come in, flat on my belly staring down the scope of a high powered rifle, waiting for the right head to appear in the centre of the cross hairs. Whose head it is has long become unimportant just another face with an Incubus résumé sent to me by some wanton employer.

I myself am no angel, but neither am I one of the Fallen. This form of employment that I have found my main source of income is wrong and I have no illusions about it. I might tell myself that what I am doing is for the greater good, but it is no less evil than the men and sometimes women that I execute.

This evening’s employer is new to my services something that I do not do regularly. But as my asking price was doubled upon first contact, exceptions can be made.

Surrounded by bodyguards twenty four seven and bullet proof glass at home, in all his vehicles and places of work, this client has proven to be a tough man to eliminate.

For three months I have followed him trying to find a weakness in his daily routine, but to no avail. His home has, in fact, become the most viable spot for completion of the contract. Yet this will also be difficult. Impenetrable from the front due to ten feet high security fences with razor wire as the peak of these walls. Closed-circuit television monitoring every pre-sighted area of the courtyard and surrounding gardens, except for one very small section at the back North East corner. But this is theoretically covered by a two hundred foot drop straight down into the Ocean and a twenty foot overhang making it almost impossible to scale. Almost!

Oceans can be sailed and cliffs can be ascended, with the right equipment and training.

At the moment no one is home and all the lights are out, apart from the single glowing bulb from the guardhouse window.

Hydraulics whine and metal clanks as the electric gates open and the contract drives into the courtyard, his black Bentley disappearing round the side of the house. Lights begin to come on all over the overly lavish villa and gardens. I am almost caught in the sudden illumination and duck further down into the bushes.

Three figures wander into the living area. All are familiar to me; two males and a female.

The woman, a brunette, dressed in a red dress barely covering her modesty, heads to the mini bar and proceeds to pour herself a Hendrick’s gin and Tonic. She seems just another female for my client. Although, I have seen her face more than once so perhaps she is a favourite?

The two men stand face to face in discussion. One of them is clearly giving out orders and the other is listening intently. The latter nods in agreement. A well-formed man, his posture betraying his Military training, he is the client’s Chief of Security. His black suit and black polo neck jumper ill-fitting to his soldier’s physique.

Dressed in a fine, Milan tailored, dark grey pin striped suit and crimson shirt, my client couldn’t have looked more at ease in his outfit. A legitimate business at a glance, his various company books all appeared to be in order and above board, scratch the surface and you will find a number of charities contributing to the local and global communities. Look at him and you would see an all-round, nice, charitable and hard-working civilian. But appearances can be deceptive.

He was one of hundreds of ex-Soviet comrades who found themselves surplus to requirements after the collapse of Communism. KGB trained in The Lubyanka Building, Moscow, in all the relevant skills to make himself become invisible when he so required it. After 1991, he took himself to warmer climates helping with the sale and distribution of unused Soviet hardware to every small time dictator across the Americas. Murder, kidnapping, extortion and bribery brought him wealth and power in abundance.

The Chief of Security gives a nod, talks into his left suit cuff and walks over to the patio door. He slides it open and steps out into the cool coastal night. The client asks him to leave the door open. My job just got a whole lot easier. The chief begins his rounds of the garden before heading to his usual spot next to his two colleagues in the guardhouse.

The woman has my client all to herself and is wasting no time getting what she wants out of him on one of the sofas. Voyeuristic as my work is, I have never found sexual arousal in watching the carnal acts of the human species. I am a professional killer not a peeping Tom.

I turn my attentions to the grounds and the routine sweep that the two guards are now making. Their paths have long become memorised to the point where I know the exact amount of steps it will take each of them to reach each plant pot, hedge, piece of art, fountain or decorative lamp. Guard One never lingers and is professional to the last. Guard Two however is somewhat younger and lonelier I would imagine as I notice his steps falter at the sight of the woman writhing on the lap of his employer. A fault I had looked into as his attentions regularly drifted towards the sounds of his Employer during coitus, but apart from an affinity to very young looking girls on his web history, Guard Two was solid enough.

Their quarterly sweep completed, the guards go back to their house to fill the next 15 minutes with whatever they did for entertainment.

Even from this distant I can hear the woman’s over exaggerated climax. She must have been watching the same materials that Guard Two enjoyed so much. I return my right eye to the scope and watch her climb off my client, sweating and out of breath. My client has barely a bead of upon his forehead. She gives him a long, deep kiss, which he hardly acknowledges, grabs her dress and makes her leave for, I imagine, the bathroom. My Client in one swift motion rises to his feet and buckles up his trousers and with another quick stride he reaches the bar. This man is quick, very quick indeed. His hand darts into the ice bucket and drops the cubes into a glass then back for a bottle of Appleton Estate dark rum. He pours a healthy measure and swiftly takes a long gulp. In two large bounds he is at the open door. Now is my chance.

I take a breath and hold it.

My client takes another mouthful of rum.

The crosshairs centre at his forehead.

He lowers his glass to his side.

I flick the safety catch off.

He drops his empty glass onto a nearby chair.

I let out my breath.

His eyes meet mine as he stares straight down the scope at me, a broad smile forming across his face.

I pull the trigger, more out of shock than training. My client falls backward onto the glass coffee table just as his favourite returns from refreshing herself. Her scream pierces the night and brings the guardhouse spilling out into the grounds. I squeeze off another round and silence the screams. I readjust my aim and put two more bullets into the Chief of Security. He disappears amongst a bed of roses.

It’s time to leave.

I sling the rifle over my shoulder and grab the rope I have tied to a nearby tree, Without hesitation is the only way. I throw myself backwards off the cliff. At thirty feet from the water I pull on the ropes to slow my descent. Within twenty feet of the surf below the rope gets pulled from above and knocks the wind out of me. With more pace than seems possible, I am being pulled back up. I draw my knife and cut the rope relaxing my body to soften the impending impact.

TO BE CONCLUDED


Onlooker

Onlooker


Why can’t I stop this, this soulless act of brutality unfolding before me like some graphic nightmare?  Have to reach out, to help in some way, and stop the events I know are about to take place.  But like so many of my nightmares I am rooted to the spot, limbs held so rigid with fear all feeling has left them. Weightlessness has flooded my senses and pins and needles covering me from head to foot. My vision blurs yet stays focused enough to witness every grim detail.

I try to close my eyes in hope of ridding myself of these images, but they won’t shut. Neither will they avert to another part of the room, away from the scene. I just stare transfixed with morbid fascination.

The figure before me moves swiftly around his victim’s motionless body, only an occasional muscle spasm or semi-conscious roll of the eyeballs giving away any signs of life.

It’s a ritual.

Working back and forth across her skull his hands move with expert precision and with no pause or hesitation he is finished. In one easy motion he has her onto his shoulder, turning on his heel and striding into the next room.

The need to stay where I am and leave this man to his business fills my thoughts. I have no desire to see the end product of his works.  And yet I am following, stopping to watch from the doorway.

He has her in the bathroom.

At the bath, her lifeless body hangs upside down over the tub. With one arm he has a firm grip around her hips while the other works on tying her legs up. The strength of this man is incredible and his almost inhuman power instills yet more fear in me.

He leaves her hanging and crosses over to the sink. A click breaks the silence like a thunder clap and the small lamp above the mirror slowly blinks to life. The weak bulb only illuminate’s the room slightly more and his face became only a touch more visible.

The illumination sparks some recollection of the face before me. I know this man! I have seen his features on many an occasion, may have even held conversations with him, and yet still he is a stranger to me. Nobody I know could perform such acts upon another human life.

How do I know what is about to happen?

Have I seen this all before?

Or is this just some recurring nightmare that haunts my dreams? Am I to wake up drenched in a cold sweat, my sheets tangled between my legs?

No, this is actually happening and I am powerless to stop it.

For what seems like an eternity I watch him just staring blankly at his own reflection. No movement and no attempt to style his hair or any aspects of vanity. He just stares right back into his own cold black eyes.

From inside his loose clothing he extracts a large hunting knife it gleams in the poorly lit room like a beacon in the dull surroundings.

Only now do his eyes leave the mirror. A measured glance around the room before his job can commence. My heart jumps into my mouth as his gaze focuses on me.

Lord, he has seen me!

I want to run, to flee from his empty stare, from the blood of this defenseless woman soon to be spilt, from the dirty smothering heat of this place. But I have not been noticed. His eyes don’t even pause in my area. It is as if I am not here.  Again, I question whether I am dreaming.

He steps to her side, the blade in hand, ready to perform its purpose. He pauses to study where to begin and with frightening speed and accuracy his cuts are made.

The blood! So much blood! Flowing like water.

I can’t pull my stare away as her eyelids flutter like two newly hatched butterflies. She’s starting to come around and with her consciousness comes pain, her life force draining out of her. And as the agony finally forms onto her features, my tolerance gives way.  As my vision falters, darkness closing in around me, I see him standing, watching with that same impassive face.