Ziltoid the Omniscient

A couple I’ve known for over 15 years visited us at the weekend. They now have three kids, a seven year old boy, a four year old girl and a six month old girl, which made for an enjoyable if slightly chaotic visit. The boy in particular reminded me of myself at the same age. He had just discovered the joys of football, and delighted in taking me through his world cup sticker album in great detail. I advised him he was better off not following my team, Leeds United, but fortunately he seems much more interested in Barcelona and Real Madrid in any case.

With more relevance to this blog, he had also just started to take an interest in music, and his father has started to expose him to the full range of his musical tastes, from classical to Devin Townsend’s ‘Ziltoid the Omniscient’, described as “a concept album about a fictional extraterrestrial being named Ziltoid from the planet Ziltoidia 9. Ziltoid travels to Earth in search of “your universe’s ultimate cup of coffee”. A cup of coffee is delivered to him and he is promptly appalled by its taste, declaring it “fetid”, and summons the Ziltoidian warlords to attack Earth, facing the full might of Earth’s army”. I really must have a listen to this at some point, but the boy seemed to prefer the classical. They had also been listening to Skrillex together in the car, the image of which makes me smile.

It made me excited for the time when Frida starts to discover music, but also nostalgic for that time as a child when you come to music completely fresh. You have no concept of what’s cool, no knowledge about the band or singer, no prejudices to affect your judgement. In a way this is the purest time for enjoying music, appreciating everything on its’ own merits.
It also got me thinking about bands I listened to in my schooldays, but don’t any more, which gives me an excuse to make another list: The top ten bands I used to love but no longer listen to. I was going to call this the top ten bands I no longer like, but it seemed a bit churlish given the pleasure they have given me in the past.

So, in vaguely chronological order:

1. Status Quo – For my 6th birthday I was given a Fisher Price cassette player. When asked to choose an album to play in it, I chose Status Quo. I can’t even remember which album it was, or why on earth I would have chosen it, or even where I would have heard them. They’re pretty far from my current musical taste (although I quite like ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’) and I may never listen to them again, but at one time they must have been my most listened to band as it was the only tape I owned.

2. Erasure – The next album I remember choosing was Erasure’s ‘Pop – The First Twenty Hits’. Kylie and Jason seemed to be what kids in the late eighties were supposed to be listening to, but for whatever reason I preferred the slightly more adult-orientated synth-pop duo (I suspect I may have seen them on Going Live)

3. Bon Jovi – After my listening to music completely indiscriminately phase, and before my indie/grunge purist phase (so probably about age 12/13) I listened to a lot of stadium rock. I could have just as easily listed Alice Cooper or Guns n Roses here, as they were probably my three favourite acts for a while, but Bon Jovi are the ones I have absolutely no residual affection for.

4. Skunk Anansie – When I heard their early single ‘Little Baby Swastika’ on the radio for the first time, it was one of the most exciting and strange things I’d ever heard, and I loved the next couple of singles as well. I saw them at the first festival I ever went to (the Heineken Festival in Leeds), they were the first gig I ever went to, and they were the first band whom I hung around the back door of the gig trying to meet. So I was a big fan. In retrospect though, I don’t like anything after the first album much at all. Strangely, they were the last band to headline Glastonbury in the 20th century

5. Catatonia – I had all of their albums, and would have described them as one of my favourite bands at one point, but they’re one of the many Britpop era bands who haven’t dated well. Still, I’ll never forget seeing them playing a stadium gig on TV, and how delighted and astonished they looked at 30,000 people bellowing their songs back at them. Plus, singer Cerys Matthews has since become a wonderful radio DJ, so yay!

6. Bush – When they first arrived in the mid-nineties, every music journalist dismissed them as an extremely poor Nirvana imitation. I was convinced they were actually really good. In this case, the music journalists may have been closer to the truth than me. Lately to be found crowdfunding their new album: http://www.nme.com/news/bush/79264

7. No Doubt – Coincidentally, both halves of the Stefani/Rossdale marriage appear on this list. When I was around 16/17, pop-punk and then ska-punk swept through my friendship group. No Doubt were the most successful of the groups I listened to at the time, but there were plenty of others (Reel Big Fish were another favourite), pretty much none of which I ever put on nowadays. Not out of dislike, more just disinterest. If I have a mid-life crisis, I could imagine ska-punk being the music I return to.

8. Feeder – This one’s a really shame. One of my friends worked with the singer’s mum, so I saw them a lot in their early days. They were lovely guys, who had to deal with the tragic suicide of their drummer Jon Lee in 2002, and I had a great time at many of their gigs, but the more albums they released the less I enjoyed them and so I eventually just stopped listening

9. Cecil – Little remembered Scouse britrockers, who became really popular amongst me and my friends after appearing at the aforementioned Heineken Festival. I remember we went to see them at Joseph’s Well in Leeds and made up half the crowd. The singer insulted me for wearing a Kenickie t-shirt as they apparently stood for everything he hated in music. They never had much success, but a group of Leeds schoolboys loved them for a while. Their single ‘Fishes’ also had the distinction of, shall we say ‘inspiring’ Skunk Anansie’s ‘Weak’ shortly after the two bands had toured together.

10. Fear Factory – Most of my school friends became metallers, especially the boys. I never threw myself whole heartedly into it (I was pretty much the only person I knew not to go and see Korn), but I did like some of the bands, such as Fear Factory. I would feel very silly listening to lyrics like ‘I am rape, I am hate’ now though.

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