For my first Tuesday Ten proper in about two months, I’m looking at guest appearances. I thought I had covered this before, but somehow it appears that I haven’t. Anyway – guest appearances are either used a little cynically (to get the guest artist more exposure, or even to get the other artist more “credibility” by a certain guest appearing), or simply because it’s a good musical fit. I’m hoping that most of this list at least is the latter. Other suggestions for ones that I’ve missed are welcome.
Click on the Spotify icon for the playlist in listenable form, missing one song and with a few bonus tracks I didn’t have the time to write about (and that would take me beyond the usual ten).
This is where this week’s post began, with this track appearing on random (on one of our iPods) in the car over Christmas. From the album, of course, that was treated like the second coming by the music press at the time, that had more than it’s fair share of guest stars littered across the album (also worthy of note – Dot Allison’s breathy, wordless vocal on Dirge, and Bobby Gillespie’s freaky Soul Auctioneer, that sounds like it was recorded in the depths of a very, very bad acid trip), and was for once actually worthy of all the accolades. But of all the guest slots, it was this truly and utterly mental appearance from Iggy Pop that really caught the attention. Six minutes of rumbling, psych-electro-rock, with Iggy Pop rambling on about being a serial killer. What’s not to like?
Eighties covers: an idea that went out of fashion a long time ago, and was also done to death a long time ago, too (not that many bands seem to have got the memo – sorry, the new Soman cover of Blue Monday is the latest example of a lacklustre attempt). So I approached this track with some trepidation – not that I had worried. In Strict Confidence have had something of a magic touch over the past decade, and their touch is clear here – a glorious, bombastic take on a-ha’s finest moment that is only made better by the additional vocals supplied by Melotron.
The Lo-Fi’s first album was very much of it’s time – infused with chaotic “big beat” electronics, a druggy, fuzzy atmosphere and vocals that frankly bordered on the beat poet-esque. And even the more up-tempo tracks somehow ended up feeling languid and lazy. So thank god for Pigeonhed giving the band an almighty kick up the arse and providing the one moment of full-throated power on the album, in the form of an astonishing hip-hop rhythm and vocal that absolutely slayed in clubs, or just simply played very, very loud indeed.
While Pigeonhed weren’t all that well known, after all, The Chemical Brothers brought in a real hip-hop heavyweight in the form of Q-Tip for the lead single from their fifth album Push The Button. While guest appearances from the famous and not so famous have been the norm on Chems albums before and since, none quite worked like this one did for me. A pounding, bass-heavy monster of a track, with a kick-ass breakdown and clever use of string samples, it’s truly brought to life by Q-Tip’s rapping that urges you to “keep pace” and rush along with the track. It’s just a shame that the rest of the album didn’t come close to this.
By a long chalk the best track on the rather disappointing Deviant album, this was three minutes of gleeful trashing of shitty US TV, in the form of a marvellous guest vocal from punk legend Jello Biafra. Short-ish and sweet, with outlandish, insane lyrics – but imagery that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine TV execs actually coming up with at some point in the future. And let’s be honest – who doesn’t want devil horn implants? Oh, it’s just me?
While the choice of guest vocalist for the actual release of this track was odd enough – a notorious former teen pr0n star – it’s amazing to think that the original choice for this was actually Kylie Minogue! The Richey-penned lyrics, of course, were about the exploitation of a woman, and in the circumstances I think they probably ended up choosing the right singer. For me, the idea of Kylie singing it never seemed quite right (listen for yourself here to a live bootleg of the one appearance Kylie did make). As for the song, it’s early Manics – so somewhat pretentious hard rock that wasn’t yet the finished article.
Sometimes forgotten amongst the guitar-based storms whipped up before (Like Herod) and after (Mogwai Fear Satan) on Mogwai’s near-perfect debut album – and indeed an album they are still trying to better fourteen years on – is the band’s only truly successful attempt at adding vocals to their music. It’s not their own vocals, though, it was that of labelmate and fellow Scot Aidan Moffat from indie miserablists Arab Strap. The music is a delicately picked, restrained guitar melody, and booming piano chords, with Aidan Moffat sticking to what he knows best – speaking, in excruciating detail, about the down sides of relationships, and you can’t help but feel his pain as he documents a relationship falling to pieces. It’s probably one of his finest moments on record, too.
Stromkern’s breakthrough album wasn’t all about the singles (the dancefloor smash Stand Up and the bitterly political Reminders). An album that worked brilliantly when listened to as a whole piece, it was even more impressive that two very different guest appearances on the album both stood out and fitted in perfectly at the same time. Of the two, though, it was the appearance of Seabound single Frank Spinath that really caught the attention, though. His hissed tale of, from what I can tell, a terrorist attack and the aftermath of searching for answers why it happened, is beautiful and brittle at the same time, with Ned Kirby providing a steely vocal backup in the chorus while the music could only be that of Stromkern.
Back before he reformed the Sex Pistols, hawked butter on TV, and generally seemed to do a pretty good job of pissing all over his old bands legacies (both Sex Pistols and PiL), it’s easy to forget that he has delivered the odd brilliant moment. Like this one, where he delivered a fiery, impassioned vocal on top of this stomping techno monster of a track. Despite their origins, Leftfield never really took the “easy” route of pounding dancefloor tracks all that often, and in this case, I’m glad they did.
Another drum’n’bass’rock hybrid, but one who perhaps a more organic take on it than Pendulum, and one that is perhaps more rock than emo, too – particularly as they don’t go in for whiny, autotuned-to-death vocals, either (and Pendulum used to be so good…). Anyway, The Qemists first album Join The Q was a strikingly effective – and enormously enjoyable – listen, and of the many guest vocal appearances, it’s Mike Patton’s that stands out. Hardly the only appearance he’s made – he’s been in countless projects of his own, never mind appearances on other people’s songs, just check his discography on Wiki – but this one stands out for almost how conventional it is, in his terms. A song about a crazy sounding weekend, delivered in a bark and a soulful croon, with added “woo hoos”, this is Mr. Bungle on uppers, in the midst of a monstrous party, thrown to the drum’n’bass wolves to tear it up. Needless to say, it rules.