Radiohead - The Bends
No, it’s not my favourite Radiohead album but if there’s ever an album that could describe my 90s, it’s probably this one. I remember vividly darting around the hills and mountains of North Wales with this album (on tape) lacing my family’s ears through the H-reg Vauxhall Astra speakers as we headed out for our weekly shop at Safeways.
I found it difficult to fathom that all the songs were from the same band. High and Dry to my youthful ears was an optimistic array of sound due to the gentle drums at the beginning, the beautiful sliding motion on the acoustic guitar, the one note hits on the bass and Johnny fading in and out on the electric guitar. Clearly, I had no understanding of lyrics back then as a song about a person selling their soul isn’t very optimistic. That gentleness would then be replaced with the mammoth sound of Just. Accompanied by one of the best music videos I have ever seen, this track sent me deeper into finding the origins of distortion. It took me to AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix - which would inevitably make me want to learn how to play the guitar. BEST.DECISION. EVER.
On this album we have ‘Street Spirit (Fade out)’. A haunting track that me and my sisters would call ‘cân gwrach’ which means ‘the witches’ song’. I remember crossing the Menai bridge with all three of us huddled on the back seats of the Astra pretending to be witches. A lot of hissing, cackles and claw action. This album started my serious relationship with music. Not many people my age have a favourite band as it’s deemed immature. However, Radiohead has been part of every stitch in my life so far and it would be impossible for me to say that they aren’t my all-time favourite band.
Avalanches - Since I Left You
From snooker to almost burning the house down – this is where everything changed.
My first experience of this album was hearing Frontier Psychiatrist on the radio when it was released in 2000 – just a few months before I started secondary school. The song captivated me instantly and I managed to record it on tape off the radio. I was so chuffed with myself. Prior to this I was watching a re-run of a snooker match on TV, lying on the floor next to a plug-in radiator that was propped up on one side by C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The TV was muted to ensure that I could hear all the new music coming from the radio. When Avalanches came on, I was so excited by this new sound that I swung around and kicked the radiator without realising. This caused the carpet to slowly burn behind me without me noticing. Luckily, my mum could smell the carpet burning from downstairs which eventually alerted me to the smouldering mess. Thanks Mum!
The next day I went to school with my tape, hoping to play it on the bus on the way to our weekly swimming lesson. The bus would usually blare out Spice Girls or Take That – but not today. The teacher stuck the tape into the player and clicked play. It was on for a whole 30 seconds before the disgust of my entire class forced the teacher to turn it off. Immature morons. It wasn’t until I went to secondary school that I would hear this album in its entirety as I borrowed it from a student at school. It blew my mind and directed me towards DJ Shadow, Lemon Jelly and Mr Scruff – which then fixed my path towards funk, soul, reggae, afrobeat and so on. From Since I Left You to Extra Kings this album brings nothing but joy and still to this day an album I visit frequently. Life changing stuff.
Super Furry Animals – Mwng
Wait…they’re singing in Welsh on Radio 1?
A huge moment for the Welsh language, Welsh people and Welsh music. If you could ask every Welsh speaker what their favourite Welsh album is, I am certain that 90% would say Mwng by Super Furry Animals.
Where do I even start with this album? Probably May 15th, 2000.
My dad has just bought this album on tape from Cob Records in Bangor (I think) and that H-reg Vauxhall played the hell out of that tape for many months. It starts off with a 1 minute and 23 second banger, Drygioni. From Drygioni it slips into Ymaelodi A’r Ymylon which has Gruff Rhys’ mesmerising vocals ascending and descending in such a way that it never fails to give me goosebumps. The most popular song from this album would probably be Ysbeidiau Heulog which translates to ‘Sunny Intervals’. The song found itself on English radio and peaked at number 89 in the UK charts. The album also contains SFA’s rendition of Y Teimlad by Datblygu which in my opinion, is better than the original.
This album has been with me throughout my life and helped me get onto a teaching course 3 years ago. If you’re thinking of becoming a Technology teacher and you want to teach students about development – grab Mwng on vinyl, tape, CD, upload it to an iPod, show it on Spotify and go for it.
John Lee Hooker – The Healer
This album doesn’t necessarily reach my all-time favourite albums, but it is the first ever vinyl record that I owned which started my whole vinyl record obsession. Prior to this my parents’ record collection would come out now and again and we would listen to Rainbow, The Beatles’ red and blue best of albums and my all-time favourite, Michael Jackson’s Thirller LP at 45rpm. Always made me giggle. I was always fascinated with vinyl records and on my 12th or 13th birthday my parents gave me John Lee Hooker’s The Healer on vinyl. I had just learned the blues scale on the guitar and this album was perfect to practice it on. I would always go back to Cuttin’ Out which featured Canned Heat and play my little guitar riff over it. Sally Mae was also a firm favourite due to the sloppy hum and slide on the guitar and the foot stomping bass drum in the background. After I was given this record that was it – I had to start collecting.
Kings of Leon – Youth and Young Manhood
‘Why are you wearing girls’ shoes?!’
Fashion has never really been my thing and it still isn’t to be honest, but this album made me bloody try. I was captivated with KOL’s sound and whole look. I mean who didn’t want long hair, a beard, zipped up Chelsea boots, flares and a leather bomber jacket when they were 15? Turns out – a lot.
When my dad introduced me to this album, I was just starting to play the guitar. Most of this album is played in the E chord which meant I could shred down on the 12th fret through a 10watt Kustom amp. Granted I wasn’t very good, but I kept at it and I’m pretty sure it drove my family mad hearing Red Morning Light on loop. Not a single bad song on this album and there’s hidden track called Talihina Sky on the last song at 8.21 (if you’re listening to it on CD), well worth a listen.
Oh, and yes, I still wear Chelsea boots. Thanks KOL!
Antibalas – Talkatif
Without this album, I would not have been in a band.
I remember my friend ordering this album at Cob Records in Bangor. I had no idea what he was buying nor had I ever heard of ‘Antibalas’ or ‘afrobeat’ back then. As he was collecting his order, I was flicking through the blues records in the shop knowing well that I didn’t have enough money to buy a single thing, however, going through records and looking at the sleeves was far more appealing than hanging outside Woolworths causing chaos.
When we left the shop and got on the 86-bus home, my mate was talking a lot about this album and its origins. Half listening, I asked if I could borrow it for a day at some point – knowing that I was going to rip it on the old Windows XP. When I was finally given the CD, I shoved it into the computer and played it through the speakers. From the first shake of the shaker and tap of the woodblock I was hooked. This was something new and exciting to me which shaped my interest of afrobeat, funk and soul. The album starts with Gabes New Joint which is a nice slow groove that’s bursting with brass. Songs like Nyash, Hypocrite and Nesta 75 blast out a rich colourful sound that really matches or even surpasses the album cover. I am certain that without this album, my band Derwyddon Dr Gonzo wouldn’t have existed…maybe.
Rick James – Street Songs
Almost losing my finger and this album made me fall in love with Manchester.
I had listened to a few Rick James tracks over the years and was already in love with Give It to Me Baby – which has the best music video ever FYI. However, I had never given Street Songs my full attention until I accidentally but also stupidly stuck my finger into a circular saw at work. I, as many do, use music to transport themselves to a different place filled with peace and tranquillity. It’s exactly what I needed when my finger was hanging off and squirting blood. I didn’t have a phone at the time as it had mysteriously broken after I dropped it into a full pint and drank it out, but my iPod classic was still fully functional. On the way to the hospital I found myself listening to this album on repeat to keep myself distracted.
My finger was fixed by the doctor and I left the hospital with the album still on repeat soothing my eardrums. As I left the hospital, I was greeted to a busy Oxford Road at Manchester. The sun beamed on smiling faces and an array of naturally cool people in colourful suits, shirts and dresses. Accompanied with Rick James slapping his bass in my ears it made a perfect combination which made me fall head over heels for Manchester.
Psychic Mirrors – Nature of Evil
A newish album that shot up to one of my favourite albums of all time. Psychic Mirrors are a perfect combination of 80s heartthrob synth and classic funk. This album is filled with slap bass and beautiful vocals – it’s impossible to not fall in love with it.
This album takes me back to when I was a DJ at Dulcimer, Chorlton under the alias Pat the Butcher. As the clock struck 11.30pm a flock of happy drunken people would stumble in expecting something to dance to and trust me, this album never disappointed. The song Head of the Class would always get people asking about the album and who the band were. It would also sometimes get me a free drink from a drunk dancer on the dance floor. Those drinks were always welcome.
This album guided me towards 80’s synth funk which I never really took interest in for years. I always believed that the best funk comes from the ’70s and that the ’80s stuff was just pop riddled rubbish. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Psychic Mirrors pushed me towards bands like The Time, Zapp and the fabulous Gwen McCrae. I mean, imagine dismissing McCrae’s Hang In just because it was released in ’82 – scandalous. So, for that, I thank Psychic Mirrors for changing this stubborn fool.
Ifan is 31 and lives in Royton, Greater Manchester with his fiancée. He is a secondary school teacher during the day and sometimes DJ’s around the Manchester area during the night.
Ifan has also started his own podcast called Sŵn (pronounced ‘soon) that is available on platforms such as Anchor, Spotify and Outcast.
Sŵn Podcast is all about music and is revolved around a playlist within each episode. The playlist is aimed to provide listeners with new music or to rediscover lost gems. Within each episode, Ifan hand picks a few tracks to include in the podcast and provides facts about each song – along with some personal stories.
You can listen to Sŵn Podcast in here - https://anchor.fm/swn.podcast
You can also follow Sŵn Podcast on Facebook, Instagram (Swn.Podcast) and Twitter (Swn.Pod).
You can also contact Ifan regarding Sŵn Podcast at Swn.Podcast@outlook.com