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Baker's Dozen

Critic's Round-Up: Mark Kermode's Favourite Albums
Marc Burrows , February 11th, 2014 08:20

The film critic, television presenter and skiffle bassist sets aside his DVD stack to talk top records with Marc Burrows

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For anyone who regularly listens to Mark Kermode's hugely popular BBC 5 live show interviewing him over the phone has a surreal edge. He's just as likely to divert onto sideways anecdotes, correct grammar, do silly voices and build head-of-steam rants as he is on air; it's like having a conversation with the radio where it actually answers back.

Officially "the nations most trusted film critic", Kermode has carved out a unique niche as one of the UK's go-to authorities on all things film, moonlighting as the lead movie critic simultaneously for 5 live, the BBC News Channel, Newsnight Review, The Culture Show and The Observer. That's despite being a horror nut who rarely toes the line of critical consensus and will happily skewer the most sacred of cows if he feels it's not up to standard. He's a man clearly in love with his art, as his recent book Hatchet Job, an analysis and celebration of the role of the critic in the post-internet age, proves with some style.

It's not all about film though - throughout his two decades of movie rants he's maintained a double life playing upright bass, first in 90s skiffle/rockabilly band The Railtown Bottlers, and more recently in Southampton quartet The Dodge Brothers whose third album, The Sun Set: Recorded At Sun Studio, Memphis, Tennessee was, as the title suggests, cut live to tape at the legendary Memphis studios. He's keen to stress his interest in music isn't the obsessive, academic authority that marks his work with movies though. "Put it this way," he says "I used to live around the corner from Mark Lamarr. Mark Lamarr is encyclopaedic on that stuff, I have very specific areas of interest in slap bass and all that kind of thing. I used to go to Mark's house and you couldn't see the walls for records, beautifully alphabetised, and he knew where every record was. In the same way Philip French [venerable Observer film critic who Kermode replaced in 2013] has seen so many films, Mark has this encyclopaedic knowledge and it's lovely listening to someone who really loves this stuff and can explain it to you, and can contextualise it." While he feels as a film critic his role is to talk about movies, not make them, his attitude to music is the exact opposite. "I'm not a music critic," he says "I see the two things as separate - I make music, I work with The Dodge Brothers and what we do is a very specific form of music. Later on, through the genius of [silent film pianist] Neil Brand we ended up accompanying silent movies and the two things came together, music and cinema, but I'm not a music critic." Although he admits, guiltily "I must 'fess up, I did write a review of a rockabilly compilation a few years ago."

While he may not be as encyclopaedic as the similarly bequiffed Mark Lamarr, narrowing down thirteen choices for his Bakers Dozen still gave Kermode some trouble.

"There's a lot of stuff I couldn't really mention," he says, "some of it because it's on collections. I've got the entire Washboard Sam collection, there's a series that's just called Washboard Sam: Complete Recorded Works, in chronological order, on Document records. There's volumes I-X and they're just brilliant. The problem is I can't name one of these as an album, because it's the complete works of Washboard Sam. They've got a brilliant sound, and if you're interested in jug and skiffle and bluegrass they're just fantastic. Then there's The Sun Story box sets and there's various versions of that which people have given me over the years, they're usually called Sun or The Sun Story and there's umpteen collections. When we were leading up to doing The Dodge Brothers album we just listened over and over again to everything. The interesting thing is no matter what the tracks are, no matter what order they're compiled in, they all sound like Sun. All these different artists and records and they all sound like Sun. Again though, it's not really an album. The Mary Poppins soundtrack was fighting for space, I think those songs are absolutely wonderful. There's the Dead Presidents soundtrack album, which came out in this period along with Forest Gump in which soundtrack albums were great pop compilations, which goes back to something like American Graffiti and later on Philip Kaufman's The Wanderers. I haven't got anything by Carole King, but do you have a Carole King album, or do you have the Grace Of My Heart soundtrack, which was the film attempting to do her life? I haven't got Joni Mitchell, I'd love to put Blue in but I've just ran out of numbers."

Click on his image below to begin scrolling through Mark's choices

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Basstunedtored
Feb 11, 2014 4:29pm

Listeners to the FiveLive film show won't find too many surprises here. Even so, a few I've not heard so will check them out.

Cheers, Marc and Mark!

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Feb 12, 2014 7:58am

Pleased to see Dougal and the Blue Cat in there. A strange and wonderful film too.

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andy
Feb 12, 2014 9:03am

I also think Fire Walk With Me is an excellent, creepy movie.

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Fixed Grin.
Feb 12, 2014 9:21am

"A friend of mine's daughter has just got a record player, as we would call it, and he was trying to get a record collection together for her" - URGGH.

Kermode's right about the Fire Walk With Me soundtrack though, it's a terrific listen regardless of whether you've seen the film or not.

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Nizzy
Feb 12, 2014 10:14am

Bit of a rollercoaster ride of emotion for me as Kermode picks an all-time favourite, Songs To Remember, then brands it "slightly knobby". Oh well. Good to see Don't Stand Me Down and a few others in there.

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Bartoli
Feb 12, 2014 11:12am

Mark Lamarr is a shout to get on bakers dozen!

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lodger
Feb 12, 2014 9:23pm

He should listen Bowie's Outside .... for sure it was recorded after Tonight .......ha ha... and it's one of his best...and finally somebody to mention one of the greatest post punk albums, Comsat Angels: Sleep No More!!!

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Bewar3them00n
Feb 13, 2014 10:55pm

Have to agree with Mark about Fire Walk With Me, it's been essential listening ever since the film came out, which seemed to go down well among our group of friends, I'm on my 3rd copy...

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Paul Sturrock
Feb 14, 2014 12:54am

Great stuff from Kermode - not surprised at all at the quality.

What she's like? What she's like?

In time, in time...

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Anthony
Feb 17, 2014 9:46am

Sleep no more is also a great favourite of mine. I recently resurrected a turntable so I'm again enjoying it's expansive sound 30myears after it's release.

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Bob Sacco
Apr 19, 2014 8:53pm

In reply to Anthony:

The Comsat Angels are as relevant today as any band. They single-handidly bridged punk and what we call "alternative rock" with the back-to-back LPs "Waiting for a Miracle" and "Sleep No More."

How many bands can make claim to creating a music genre?

For those not aware of this band, listening to the Comsat Angels is a tour of raw power of crushing thunderous hypnotic grooves interlaced with hypnotic melodies. Sleep No More exists in the ethers. It contains the aural allure of watching an accident where you are pinned down, unable to move, unable to turn away. It's beautiful yet threatening at the same time. Stephen Fellows' punishing baritone voice nails you to the floor with the economy of truth in his lyrics. Nothing is wasted. The band serpentines through each song with emotional purpose and pulse. Sonic landscapes created by this band are rarely achieved. Of note, I'd say Eno or Lanois have reached or understood these heights. Creating this music in 1981 was so far ahead of the curve that musicians and bands today are discovery the Comsats' footprint today and finding it relevant. It's been over 30 years since Sleep No More yet side one of this LP rocks a shards as any LP released since. Give it a spin.

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Bob Sacco
Apr 19, 2014 8:54pm

In reply to Anthony:

The Comsat Angels are as relevant today as any band. They single-handidly bridged punk and what we call "alternative rock" with the back-to-back LPs "Waiting for a Miracle" and "Sleep No More."

How many bands can make claim to creating a music genre?

For those not aware of this band, listening to the Comsat Angels is a tour of raw power of crushing thunderous hypnotic grooves interlaced with hypnotic melodies. Sleep No More exists in the ethers. It contains the aural allure of watching an accident where you are pinned down, unable to move, unable to turn away. It's beautiful yet threatening at the same time. Stephen Fellows' punishing baritone voice nails you to the floor with the economy of truth in his lyrics. Nothing is wasted. The band serpentines through each song with emotional purpose and pulse. Sonic landscapes created by this band are rarely achieved. Of note, I'd say Eno or Lanois have reached or understood these heights. Creating this music in 1981 was so far ahead of the curve that musicians and bands today are discovery the Comsats' footprint today and finding it relevant. It's been over 30 years since Sleep No More yet side one of this LP rocks a shards as any LP released since. Give it a spin.

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AFRO ZEN
Jun 24, 2015 12:57am

HE'S RIGHT ABOUT DEXYS!

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Chrisw
Nov 20, 2015 9:39pm

Eclectic for sure. Comsats are still getting airplay on my players. Dead right could/should have been bigger perhaps lyrics required a bit of thought which can frighten the horses. However lets give Fiction & Chasing Shadows a big thumbs up much better by far. Love to see the last last weekend as the last one was, well if you were there you'd know.

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Dew
Jan 4, 2016 5:56pm

Just got the Edsel reissue of Chasing Shadows by the Comsat Angels and its amazing a blast from 1986, its a million miles better than any of the junk that's spewed out in this bland mediocre age we are now unfortunately in.

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yibbedy
Dec 27, 2016 8:30pm

Comsats - simply THE best band of all time. Bar none. Astonishing, a fantastic back catalogue. No band ever made a first three albums as good as WFAM, SNM and Fiction.

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