The countdown currently occupying our Sundays around here is pulled from the March 16, 1990 issue of CMJ New Music Report, the trade publication that served college radio for a few happy decades before imploding the last couple of years. In the era of the issue in question, the front cover of the weekly publication told a story. There were always four album covers on the front, representing the best new music of the week — presumably in ranked order. I purchased the back issue in part because it aligned with a banner week for college rock: Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, The Chill’s Submarine Bells, Luke Bloom’s Riverside, the House of Love’s self-titled album, and Robyn Hitchcock’s Eye are all reviewed in the issue.
Despite the presence of at least one album that immediately announced itself as a true classic, the fine music fans at CMJ awarded the week’s pole position to somewhat curious entrant: Swagger, the fourth studio album by the British band Blue Aeroplanes. I don’t submit that fact with animosity nor judgment. Instead, I mean it as an acknowledgement that — more so than with other types of pop culture — music can be thrilling and disarming a different speeds. The crafty complexities of Swagger absolutely rattled the brain when the needle first dropped, and yet the album opener and lead single, “Jacket Hangs,” offered a firm promise that the album was built on the most terrifically accessible songcraft. Layers and intricacy are great, but an irresistible guitar riff is even better.
“Listen to this record once and you’ll probably find yourself drawn to it again; listen to it a lot and you just might find yourself measuring your life to it, a milestone LP that’ll always be a marker reminding you of this time here and now,” wrote CMJ.
Again, I think there are a couple other records in the issue that would have been more prescient recipients of that line of praise, but I must admit that Swagger does have that quality of placing me back in my old radio station air studio, as firmly and certainly as a well-honed sense memory. It was grand, that time when wonderful discoveries could be pressed into any number of records that came through our doors.
Listen or download —> Blue Aeroplanes, “Jacket Hangs”
(Disclaimer: In truth, I have a hard time discerning whether or not this song — or the album it stems from — is available as a physical item that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. It appears that Blue Aeroplanes have never really ceased as a going concern and there are all sorts of albums that have been issued under their name. So let this shared song be an encouragement to seek out material from the band rather than a replacement for engaging in commerce. And definitely hit that local record store. Tis the season for box stores and online retailers beckoning shoppers away. The record store deserves your love and your dollars more. Although I mean no harm and believe I’m adhering to a well-established legal principle of fair use, I will gladly and promptly remove this track from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)