Ahead of the release of his third album next month, Galway’s Loner Deluxe aka Keith Wallace (also founder of independent label Rusted Rail) guides us through his all-time favourite songs from Nico, Can, Mercury Rev, Silver Jews, Neu! and more
Loner Deluxe’s Field Recordings is released on March 5th
Mercury Rev – Frittering
I’ve loved this song for so long that when I heard Cian Ó Cíobháin play it recently on air on his An Taobh Tuathail radio show on RnaG I nearly levitated off the couch. This song and its parent album turn 30 this year and I’ve yet to really hear anything that can equal the lazy yet transcendent power that this song musters. Fading in as a melodic campfire strum the song slowly explodes over its length, achieving the kind of stellar lift-off that doesn’t require any stimulation to achieve. Sensory derangement is guaranteed every time. The band went on to reinvent themselves as some kind of ersatz Cosmic American roadhouse band with the utterly overrated Deserter’s Songs 7 years later (losing colourful vocalist David Baker along the way). Yerself Is Steam is where it’s at for me when it comes to Mercury Rev albums. Turn it on, turn it up, and leave this world a while.
Silver Jews – Trains Across The Sea
I remember finding a secondhand copy of this in a dank basement-based record shop on a gig-going/music-buying trip to Dublin in late 1994. Having read a glowing review of it in Melody Maker, I already knew about the Pavement connection so that was good enough for me to take it to the till. Nothing could have prepared me for the impact of David Berman’s lyrics, yoked to the mellow, shambling but always on point music backing from a couple of the Pavement dudes, best showcased on this bar-room soliloquy –
“Half hours on earth, what are they worth, I don’t know.
In 27 years I’ve drunk fifty thousand beers,
and they just wash against me, like the sea into a pier”
We lost a fine American poet when Berman took leave of this world on the eve of his comeback tour as Purple Mountains in 2019.
Neu! – Hallogallo
Germanic genius. Restless forward motion means you always end up ahead of yourself. Because I’m an eco-conscious person I don’t drive but it would be a dream to be driven down a motorway or autobahn at steady 55mph while this song was blasting, the endless horizon never any nearer but the journey unfolding anyways. They really nailed that Motorik beat, didn’t they? There’s not much to say about this song except that it will make your life better if you listen to and even though it was recorded in 1972 it stull sounds like the future, and it always will, forever/für immer
Def Leppard – Hysteria
The only “multi-platinum” selling song on this list – and probably the apex of late 80’s bouffant rock record production courtesy of Mutt Lange. I’m not usually a fan of clinical 1980’s rock recordings but there something about the glistening sheen and painstaking polish on this album that transcends its sonically timestamped era. The lyrics are spur of the moment nonsense of course, but Joe Elliot sings them so convincingly while Rick Allen single-handedly changes the style of 80’s hair metal drumming. But it’s all about that guitar break at 3.20 – where the scientific soloing of Phil Collen is undercut by the ragged glorious swaggering guitar of the late Steve Clark. Their guitar duel still reminds me of rewinding and replaying that section again and again on my Walkman, all those decades ago.
Neil Young – Will To Love
The crackle and pops are because he recorded the original version in front of his fireplace on a boombox and then took it to the studio with his right-hand-man/vibemaster/producer David Briggs, who encouraged Young to play everything you hear on the track – drums, piano, vibraphone, with Neil’s vocals wobbling thru a vibrato pedal to make him fishlike. Recorded under the influence of a full moon (the ideal way to record – you should try it), this is my favourite song ever written from the perspective of a salmon swimming upstream, its aquatic wah-wah guitar revealing it as a lightly country-fried cousin to Robert Wyatt’s somnambulistic submarine explorations on ‘Rock Bottom’.
Can – Sing Swan Song
You’ve been wanting to hear some mesmeric psychedelic folk-rock recorded in an abandoned cinema by a German groove unit with a Japanese singer who they found busking on the street, right? This is it – those early 70’s Germans are at it again. Threaded through with some kind of weird almost medieval mysteries which unspool throughout the song – this is proper hallucinatory Kosmiche Folk.
Yo La Tengo – Stockholm Syndrome
I could have picked any number of Yo La Tengo songs but I’ve decided to go with this one from the last Great American Indie Rock Band. ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ is taken from their kinda-breakthrough 1997 album I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and it sums up what I love about YLT – melody, noise and vulnerability intertwined. Sung by bassist James McNew, this folk-pop shuffle is split wide open by one of Ira Kaplan’s trademark berserk guitars solos. This song hits the sweet spot every time and you won’t be long siding with your captors when you hear it.
Nico – These Days
The femme fatale from the Velvet Underground wraps her unique pipes around a Jackson Brown song and completely makes it her own. John Cale’s Bavarian baroque string arrangement adds portentous depth to the proceedings, somehow simultaneously imbuing a heavy song with a lightness of touch. “Please don’t don’t confront me with my failures – I have not forgotten them”.
Vic Chesnutt – Where Were You
Vic Chesnutt was the first musician I ever interviewed for a zine, in a now demolished seaside hotel in Galway in the mid-90’s – his wonderful way with words being as evident in conversation as in his lyrics. This was also the first time I ever heard of hummus mentioned in a song lyric, whilst minimal and effective piano interjections are provided by his then-champion Michael Stipe. It’s such a shame Vic is no longer with us but I live in hope that a new generation of ears will discover his unique, ornery and bleakly humourous songs.
Boo Radleys – Lazarus (12″ Version)
Anytime I hear this track it’s a case of instant time travel back to 1993 to the legendary indie-night known as Psychedelia in the now-vanished Castle club in Salthill, Galway. UV lights glowing, smoke machine hissing, strobe lights flashing, an epic sound system rattling my ribcage – a much younger me is stone-cold sober on the dancefloor and instantly in another world. The 12″ version is your only man, the lame album edit on their Giant Steps album robs its off all its ambient mystery and dubby grace. Seek out the 12″ version, you won’t regret it.
Irvine/Lunny/Brady – Băneasă’s Green Glade/Mominsko Horo (Live at The Embankment)
It’s 1976 in a smoke-filled room full of fans drinking and listening attentively to the trio onstage who are weaving some magical music previously unknown to aficionados of Irish trad and folk (many of us would trade a nonvital organ to be in a live music scenario like this right now, eh?). Things start to get transcendent at the 3-minute mark, courtesy of some truly levitational playing. Planxty had disintegrated but this unholy trinity rose from their ashes – Andy Irvine’s lightning-fast fingers, Donal Lunny’s infectious enthusiasm and the smile on the face of a pre-middle of the road Paul Brady as the song hits escape velocity says it all. Passion, precision and purity – this is an essential performance.