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Baker's Dozen

Bon Appétit: James Acaster's Favourite Albums
Emma Garland , February 9th, 2022 10:36

From the tiny emo scene of noughties Kettering to a love of underground hip-hop and the undying appeal of a cult classic, comedian James Acaster takes Emma Garland through the albums that have defined his life


The Get Up Kids – Something To Write Home About

I got into the more poppy and indie rock sides of emo when I was in my late teens, which is the perfect age for this album. I was in bands with this guy called Graham so we would often share music with each other, and I bought it coincidentally around the same time as him. His version had bonus tracks and mine didn’t, so he thought his was better. I disagree.

This is a very special album to me, and it’s an album I haven't had the chance to talk about much. I always prioritise talking about Nevermind or Graceland or something, but I don't want to do that here. There’s a real open heartedness about Something To Write Home About… I got given a graphic novel for Christmas called Blankets, and I enjoyed it, but I know I would have liked it so much more in my late teens because I was exactly like the person in the book. I think [the book] is deliberately meant to make you cringe a bit, but because I discovered The Get Up Kids at that age it’ll never feel cringe to me now. I'm still amazed at how much I love this album.

There's a lot of other stuff I got into around that time that I do feel cringey about that I wouldn’t be able to go back to, because it’s too on the nose with its emotive and earnest lyrics. But there’s a few albums that I still think are amazing – Something To Write Home About, Clarity by Jimmy Eat World, and… maybe that’s it? And mainly it’s because I think they nailed that particular sound in a way that they've not even managed to do since. It's just something that, for my personal taste, never makes me go, ‘Oh that's a bit too cheesy’ or ‘That’s very of the time and it hasn’t aged well’. There’s the inventiveness mixed with the melodic side of it, and that blends really perfectly. I think the lyrics about being that age are really spot on. Also, I was a drummer at the time, and the drummer of The Get Up Kids is awesome on this album. He’s really expressive. He uses drums as a melodic instrument and that was really exciting all the way through.

It’s probably not my favourite anymore, but the final song on this album, ‘I’ll Catch You’, is so vulnerable and earnest. Being in my late teens and hating most people who were my age but really being drawn to the people who liked to talk about their feelings a bit more, emo was quite a brief phase but a really intense one that I went through musically, where it was like ‘Oh, I’m allowed to be vulnerable, and I’m allowed to talk about my feelings, and that’s cool.’ The Get Up Kids are the band that still stand out from all that, for sure.

Was there much of an emo scene in Kettering when you were a teenager?

Not really. There was a guy, I can't remember what his name was. Stewart something. He formed an emo band called Alias 12 and had the proper fringe that went down across his face. And there was another band called Forever Until October, who were obviously an emo band. They were great, they supported Hundred Reasons on tour for a bit, so that was quite exciting for Kettering. I kind of got to know them at the pub and I remember seeing them for the first time and thinking they were incredible. They did all these time signature changes, had a singer who was a proper singer. And afterwards they were saying how bad the gig had been, and I remember thinking, ‘Man, I really want to get to the point one day where I can do a gig that everyone in the room thinks is amazing even though I think it’s shit.’ And now I’ve built a career off thinking every single thing I do is shit, which actually doesn’t feel that great.