As Benjamin and I scurry away at work for our upcoming print zine, this Office Chart nearly never happened. It’s more difficult to compile something as coherent as it is eclectic, on a regular basis, than I thought. So, I was somewhat lucky with this one. Many of the tracks fell into place with barely a nudge, making an end product that might be one of the more intriguing charts yet. Unfortunately, it may also be the final Office Chart that I make in this way. With Secret Cave moving in a different direction, I’m not sure what place they’ll have in the future. It’s something I’d like to continue, but it’s generally these write-ups that make it hard to maintain. We’d rather concentrate on meatier content, but I’ll be posting something directly about that very soon. Until then, thanks for listening and don’t forget to check out past charts!
Iron Galaxy – Cannibal Ox
Cannibal Ox have been alt-hip-hop darlings since the release of their first album, The Cold Vein. After that, they disappeared for a while before returning with a follow up, Blade of the Ronin. If you ask me, it was too little and too late to live up to the tsunamic quality of their debut. With some of the most confrontational and dark lyrical themes I’ve heard in hip-hop, Cannibal Ox demand much more active listening than many of their peers. This isn’t just because of the construction of their verses, but the fascinating production throughout The Cold Vein. Iron Galaxy sets out that store perfectly, promising a shadowed and layered work that’s unanimously achieved.
Here Come the Rubber Cops – The Sexual Objects
In the past couple of weeks, The Sexual Objects released a remix of their recent song, Sometimes, by Boards of Canada. Anyone who’s checked out my Office Charts before will know exactly why that’s significant. Remixes by Boards of Canada made appearances on each of my charts, before I ran out of examples I enjoyed. When that happened, I began to include dedicated Boards of Canada tracks in their stead. We’ll hear more from them later, since I’ve been including a piece from their albums sequentially for four months now. For now, this is going to have to take Sometimes‘ place (since The Sexual Objects haven’t yet made it available on Spotify). Fortunately, this keeps up the Boards of Canada connection I was shooting for. Produced by the legendary Scottish duo, I have to admit that I probably never would have heard it otherwise.
Weaves – Jack Lawtey
Hand on heart, Jack Lawtey is one of my oldest and closest personal friends. You’ll just have to trust me that I have grander reasons behind the inclusion of this track than that. Frankly, as soon as you click play, you’ll probably understand why I don’t need any personal connection to feature it here. Lawtey is a magnificent songwriter whose compositions are only bolstered by a voice that betrays his modesty. Soulful in the extreme, music of this heart is a very rare thing indeed. Recently, Lawtey and I got into a discussion about the use of some of his music on an upcoming Secret Cave project. I wasn’t even aware his stuff is on Spotify and, when I discovered it is, I shoved this on without a second’s hesitation. I’m waiting for an official announcement to reveal the project, but Lawtey’s inclusion is a true honour.
Machismo – Gomez
Gomez’s debut album, Bring It On, is amongst my favourite albums of all time. Not only was it excellent when I was a mere fourteen years old, but it stands up today as an exceedingly fine record. However, it’s a matter of public contention that they lost it a little after that. Painfully, I’m forced to agree with that assessment. They weren’t devoid of great music post-Bring It On, though. A good example of that is their EP, Machismo. Released in 2000, it’s a schizophrenic little work that shows off Gomez’s propensity for shaking up genres admirably. Its title track, included on this Office Chart, is very tough to categorise without downplaying an important part of its structure. I suggest listening to it away from any presumed labels. Hearing hip-hop inspired speech samples next to honed alt-folk is as jarring as it is delightful.
Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) – Baz Luhrmann
Something for Everybody is a remarkably odd record. Being made up of music from Luhrmann films, remixed or re-worked, it’s hard to determine exactly who composed its various tracks. It’s not a work I have interest in, beyond its unusual theme, but there is something of note hidden within. This piece is actually an instrumental version of Rozalla‘s 1991 single, Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good). With a spoken-word vocal on top, provided by Lee Perry, the effects are deeply profound. The speech included is a performance of Wear Sunscreen, an essay from Mary Schmich dispensing snippets of advice for a happier and healthier life. Its insightful, honest and simple observations can be as comforting as they are sincere. The music itself makes for joyful listening, but I would particularly single out the brilliant synth-bass in its second half.
Say You Don’t Mind – Colin Blunstone
What an incredible song this is. Colin Blunstone, also a key member of The Zombies, imbues its clever songwriting and arrangement with a touching verve. Interestingly enough, the composition was actually provided by Denny Laine, best known as a founding member of both The Moody Blues and Wings. Digging deeper into the trivia rabbit hole, the playful string arrangement of this 1971 hit was handled by Christopher Gunning. With so many talented names involved in its makeup, you’d have thought that some sort of “too many cooks” situation would arise. Fortunately, the purity of each of its constituent elements shines loud and clear for its every second. This track was actually a suggestion from Lawtey, who’s shown me more great music over the years than I can mention.
Why Don’t You Do Right (Get Me Some Money Too) – Peggy Lee
I would have preferred to include the version of this song by Alan Silvestri and Amy Irving. Included as the most memorable part of the film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it’s a song I love for nostalgic reasons as much as compositional. In one of Spotify’s biggest crimes, it remains unavailable on their platform. I was forced to include the famed Peggy Lee version in its stead; a vastly different beast with more upbeat pacing. It’s a fantastic song in any rendition, with Lee offering it an entirely different allure. Comically, it was originally titled The Weed Smoker’s Dream. Concerned with a stoner’s lack of financial restraint, it probably wouldn’t have been as big a hit for Lee, or included in a children’s film, with such a hilarious moniker. On the other hand, I would suggest it as an apt title for Snoop Dogg‘s latest release…
The final thirty-or-so seconds of this is, possibly, the finest piece of rap production and delivery known to man. When I first heard it, I stood up in excited shock at its supremacy. The minutes preceding it are bloody good too, from its disgusting bass to its intricate rhythms. It’s just that something special happens in its final moments that has to be heard to be believed. I’m late to the game with Tyler, The Creator, which is something I’m immensely ashamed of. As a result, I had a genuine and ongoing debate with myself about whether I should include this or IFHY, a 2013 track featuring Pharrell. In the end, the closing moments of Who Dat Boy won it the spot, but I’m sure IFHY will show its face on a future chart; that is, if there are any future charts.
Mindfields – The Prodigy
I’ve listened to The Prodigy since I was about eight, which makes them the earliest progenitors of my taste (along with Billy Bragg and, of course, Radiohead). They’re a rather aggressive band for a juvenile to be a fan of, but I blame that on the unfiltered influence of my elder brother. I still adore them to this day, and they remain up there with the best acts I’ve ever seen live. While I would be the first to say that Fat of the Land, their legendary third album, is somewhat overrated, Mindfields is probably The Prodigy firing on all cylinders. They never really recaptured the heights presented here, but Liam Howlett had already done enough for his genre. What’s worth mentioning is the absence of Keith Flint on this track, which is a thought I’ll simply leave there. Maxim, however, growls as well as he ever did.
Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In) – Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
I’ll admit it right off the bat; yes, I did first hear this track through the soundtrack to The Big Lebowski. For anyone born in the 90’s onward, I’d be willing to bet that it’s the same for you. That is, of course, unless you’ve never seen that film before and you’re discovering it here. If so, you’re in for an intense treat. In fact, it was penned by Mickey Newbury and first recorded by Teddy Hill & the Southern Soul in 1967. Just one year later, Kenny Rogers came out with this version. It’s, clearly, the definitive approach. Its arrangement is perfect for its subject, which tells of an LSD trip gone wrong. The heavily tremolo’d guitar solo on this relic is the handiwork of Glen Campbell, a prolific musician of insane repute.
Vitamin C – Can
Can intimidate me, because I’m well aware of how much I’d love them. It puts me in one of those annoying situations where you want to delve into a back catalogue, but don’t through sheer fear at its size. I assure you, I feel terrible about this musical oversight in my life and will be remedying it before I leave this mortal plane. I’ll have to make do with the little bits that have floated into my sphere in the meantime. Thankfully, I have friends like Lawtey to suggest me gems like this. That makes this his third contribution to this month’s Office Chart, which is something I want him to get fair credit for. With its breakneck alacrity, Vitamin C isn’t strictly the kind of music that Can are known for. It’s a rhythmic jungle, somehow haunting in its wistful bubbling.
Nothing is Real – Boards of Canada
It was just a matter of time before this Office Chart‘s obligatory Boards of Canada track made its appearance. It actually makes sense that this potentially final edition features a track from Tomorrow’s Harvest, their latest release. This got a bit disregarded by some fans as a modern version of Roygbiv, possibly their most recognisable tune. Nonsense. There are similarities between the two, I’ll accept that, but Nothing is Real works entirely on its own merits. Boards of Canada evoke intense nostalgia with much of their music; so much so that it’s a recurring feature of their work. To me, this expressed that feeling the strongest of any of its surrounding brethren. I consider Tomorrow’s Harvest to be a near-flawless album, and Nothing is Real is a consistent high point.
30 Century Man (Futurama Version) – The Jigsaw Seen
This is the obvious choice when it comes to Scott Walker songs. Firstly, I couldn’t give less of a shit that it’s cliched. Secondly, it’s glaringly obvious why it’s ubiquitous. Honestly, I don’t care who The Jigsaw Seen are either, but their approach to the song does deserve hearing, since Walker’s is featured on every other film released. I first heard it on the Futurama film, Bender’s Big Score. Chances are that the creators of Futurama wanted to utilise it without just cynically using its overplayed original. While I’ve made it sound like I have some disdain for The Jigsaw Seen, I just simply don’t have the time to explore them. This version of 30 Century Man is genuinely gorgeous, and they deserve credit for not murdering a song that would usually be so easy to ruin.
Home – Depeche Mode
I can’t get this incessant earworm out of my head, so I’m hoping I can pass that on. I’ve never had much knowledge of Depeche Mode. The 80’s are a huge blank spot in my expertise, mainly thanks to some childhood prejudices. That said, I’ve liked almost all of the Depeche Mode that I’ve ever heard. When carrying out some household chores last week, this popped up on BBC Radio 6 Music, a station I have endless respect for. I instantly dropped whatever inane task I was doing and ran upstairs to open Spotify, adding this track to the formative Office Chart. While it’s irritating how much it sails around my brain in silent downtime, it’s still marvellous with every play. This saw release in 1997 but, thanks to Depeche Mode’s roots, it makes me want to explore the 80’s in greater depth sooner rather than later…
Style – Orbital
Many of this track’s distinctive hooks are made by the simple stylophone, a naff instrument invented as a gimmick in 1967. Essentially, stylophones sound like utter shite and are nothing more than one-use Christmas presents. Because Orbital are top-level producers, they can utilise its unique sound to its highest potential. In their hands, it becomes a playfully retro tone in a cleverly developing electronic masterwork. It’s the closing track to The Middle of Nowhere, a frighteningly underrated album that never drops below an unbelievable level of quality. In actuality, Style is one of its weaker tracks. However, its length was all too snug of a fit to finish this Office Chart, since other tracks from the album can go on for quite some time. Consider this an introduction; go and listen to The Middle of Nowhere ASAP (well, after this Office Chart).
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