COMEDIAN JOZ NORRIS REVEALS HIS FANTASY ALBUM TRACKLISTING
WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF FANTASY ALBUMS WHERE MUSIC FANS ARE PUT TO THE TEST TO DECIPHER THEIR ULTIMATE COLLECTION.
The rules are simple(ish): they can’t repeat an album, and to just make it that little bit more interesting they have to use the same track number from another album. For example, Track 1 could be the opening track of the incredible Stone Roses’ debut ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. Track 2 could be Blur’s ‘Song 2′ – you get the idea? – basically their fave track 1,2,3 etc from 10 different albums.
This months Fantasy Album is called ‘Be Careful What You Pretend To Be’, and has been curated by Joz Norris. Joz is a firm favourite on the British alternative comedy scene, he has written and performed solo shows up in Edinburgh Fringe festival since 2013 and has won numerous awards. Most recently his show ‘Joz Norris is Dead: Long Live Mr Fruit Salad’ won the Comedians Choice Award.
When Joz isn’t performing his solo work, he can be found performing with the Comedians Cinema Club, Weirdos and The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society (ACMS).
This is one of the most ridiculous album openers of all time. The first five minutes are an incredibly portentous, over-the-top overture for Elton John’s own funeral. Then it all kicks off and the next six minutes are dedicated to one of the best pop-rock tunes he ever wrote. I have no idea if he intended for “Love Lies Bleeding” to be part of the overture to his own funeral as well, or if he imagines they’ll just stop the track at that point. Either way, it’s a very funny reason to write a piece of music.
I’m maintaining the ridiculous, preposterous tone of this album into track 2 with a song that has more swagger than anything else in the history of music. I love “Sledgehammer,” it’s just about aware of how goofy it is to not lose any of its irresistible sense of cool. One of my favourite things to do is to walk down the entire length of the central aisle of an Overground train while listening to the last 90 seconds. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.
Things get a bit more quiet and introspective on the album now. The Blue Nile only ever released four albums, each one about ten years apart, but they’re all absolutely perfect. They’re sad and gentle and glacial and epic and intimate all at the same time. “Let’s Go Out Tonight” is one of their very loveliest. I would kill for a voice like Paul Buchanan’s. Not kill. But, y’know. He’s got a lovely voice.
Keeping up the slow, introspective mood now with our Joni, singing an odd, meditative little song about a strange overgrown child who can’t grow up, “his crazy wisdom holding onto something wild.” This is from Hejira, an album where she ditches her ear for catchy melodies and hummable tunes in exchange for vast, meandering jazz soundscapes, aided and abetted by Weather Report’s Jaco Pastorius on bass. It’s a strange, powerful, unfathomable album and this is my favourite track from it.
Still thinking a lot about the sequencing here – “Cloudbusting” picks up the tempo a lot, but it still has a sort of nostalgic, yearning sadness to it, so I think it picks up from the last two tracks quite well. It’s one of Kate Bush’s best songs, a sort of surreal dreamscape about someone whose dad is taken away by the government for building a machine that can control the weather. It uses a string section as the principal accompanying instrument rather than a guitar or a keyboard, and it sounds incredible.
Another upbeat, happy-sounding song that actually feels quite sad and heartache-y. I listen to this song maybe more than any other. There’s a peppy little guitar riff at the centre of it that is the most effortlessly cheerful thing you’ll ever hear, but then later some sweeping strings come into it that make it all feel quite melancholic and sad. I like any song that manages to make something that tugs your heart in so many different directions at once. Eno was a massive fan of vocal harmonies, and there are some absolutely beautiful ones in this.
“Spinning Away” manages to combine happiness and sadness into something that really lifts your heart. “Distant Sky” does the same but will absolutely rip your heart out and make you sob. Its sound is endlessly hopeful but, whereas a lot of the songs on Skeleton Tree were written before the tragic death of Cave’s teenage son, it’s hard to hear him sing “They told us our dreams would outlive us, but they lied” without thinking this song has to be his way of processing that tragedy. Else Torp’s guest vocal on the chorus is astonishingly beautiful.
This feels like cheating, because this is the greatest album closer of all time, but the Crime Of The Century album only has 8 tracks and I want my fantasy album to have more than that, so this song has to appear earlier than it should. The song itself is a pretty, thoughtful, cynical little thing from bandleader Rick Davies, but a minute or so in it explodes into an epic, dark, menacing instrumental outro. Just after the piano section midway through, as the drums kick in, there’s a long, droning note from a water-gong which, to this day, remains my favourite recorded sound of all time. I love this song.
Hard to follow such a bruising, mighty song which was originally supposed to close an album, but “Rocky Ground” has the sense of someone picking themselves up after an ordeal, dusting themselves down and keeping on going, so it feels right to put it here. It’s a slower, more thoughtful and introspective side to Springsteen than we usually see, and even has a rap break in it, just to show that he can still try new things. It’s one of my favourite Springsteen songs and for a long time it was my favourite on the Wrecking Ball album, until I came to my senses and realised it’s actually the third-best after “Wrecking Ball” and “Land Of Hope And Dreams.” It’s beautiful, though.
And from Bruce’s thoughtful, contemplative mood, we move forwards to find Neil Young in a similar vein with this simple, slow, sad epic about letting the world die. “I heard a perfect echo die into an anonymous wall of digital sound” is, I think, the most beautiful lyric ever written about the shortcomings of the MP3 format. But, easy as it is to characterise Young as a bit of an out-of-touch grump sitting on his front porch moaning about how he doesn’t understand anything any more and shouting at kids telling them to get off his lawn, it doesn’t change the fact that when he’s on form, he continues to be able to make really beautiful music.
This is one of those “We’re getting near to the end of the album” tracks, and one of the very best. It starts very small and intimate, like Feist is serenading you directly, and then builds to something big and momentous and dramatic. I won’t lie – I think this song is brilliant, but it’s far from my favourite Feist song. There were others I would’ve wanted to put on this list, but this was the way the track listing rules worked out. I just really wanted to get a Feist song on here because I think she’s great. Go listen to “The Bad In Each Other” right now, and also “Any Party.” This is cheating, isn’t it?
If you’re a big Tom Waits nerd and are thinking “Hey, that’s not right! “Train Song” was track 16 on Franks Wild Years, not track 12!” Well, congratulations, idiot, you outed yourself as actually not that big a Tom Waits nerd, because of course I’m talking about the live version from the Big Time album, where it is, indeed, track 12. “Train Song” is one of Tom Waits’s most simple, beautiful songs, about homesickness and loss; about having “come 10,000 miles away, with not one thing to show,” and lamenting that “It must have been a train that took me away from here, but a train can’t bring me home.” The live version also opens with Waits’s incredibly funny retelling of an old wive’s tale about getting pregnant without intercourse, and it’s a masterclass in comic storytelling.
And this is just one of my favourite album closers ever – it’s not a great epic like “Crime Of The Century” or “Purple Rain” or “A Day In The Life,” and takes the opposite approach to how to end an album. Beirut’s The Flying Club Cup album ends on this short, lightweight, jaunty little song that sends you away with a spring in your step and a smile on your face. It’s absolutely lovely.
Thanks to Joz for an excellent and emotional album and we forgive him for cheating. ‘Be Careful What You Pretend To Be’ is sure to induce a few tears and also hopefully be a starting point for people to discover some bewitching pieces of music.