Thursday, 19 April 2012

My Top 25 Albums - Part 1, 25-13

Who has the patience to listen all the way through an album these days? Hell, most bands failed to sustain the standard across a whole album anyway, beyond a couple of stand out tracks, which were probably released as singles anyway.

But I have to admit, I'm still a sucker for an album. Following its flow all the way through, between great, good and filler tracks. I don't buy that many albums now, but my I-Tunes tells me I have 10.4 days worth of tracks, of which only the 0.4 are individual tracks flying free of albums.

Here is a chart in two parts of my 25 all-time top albums, with a representative track from each. I hope some of them you share a liking for and maybe others you've never heard of you may come to try out.

25) Husker Du - "Zen Arcade" 1984

All 3 band members were really accomplished musicians, all three contributed songwriting and despite the internal pressures that ultimately ripped the band apart, they came together seamlessly to produce this double album of power guitar pop with a despairing edge.

24) Dizzee Rascal - "Maths And English" 2007

What I like about this album is that it's a quintissentially English retort to US Hip-Hop. Sure Dizzee presents a similar tale of gangs, violence and laddish lairiness, but it's done in London argot, with British rhythms and lashings of cheek. Check out his duet with Lily Allen if you don't believe me.

23) South Central - "The Owl Of Minerva" 2008

I was never a raver. Never into summers of love and being spaced out dancing in a field. And yet I do really like this Nu-Rave album, and yes it does make me want to get up and dance. But not in a field, holding a glo-stick.

22) Funkadelic - "America Eats Its Young" 1972

Beam me up to the Mothership and take me to your leader George Clinton. This a music that puts you in a mood like no other style. Fabulously mad, but oh how funky! With tracks on the album like "Loose Booty" and "I Call My Baby Pussycat" rubbing up against the more politically astute "If You Don't Like The Effect, Don't Produce The Cause" this double album is just a joy to sail along to (I'd say 'drive' but I don't have a car. Nor an 8-Track to play it on).

21) Clipse - "Lord Willin" 2002

This was Clipse's debut album and though I had other of their LPs, I only came by this recently and it just blew me away. I think what I really like about it is the tight musical theme, a recurring set of beats and distorted electronic squalls. Yes the lyrical content is the usual hip hop fare of street dealing, girls and male prowess, but there is just something here musically that carries it to a higher level.

20) Gun Club - "Miami" 1982

If their debut album was a wonderful mess of swamp blues, this follow up was a lot tighter and polished. Confusingly stand out track "Fire Of Love" was actually the name of their debut album, although it's actually a cover version of a Jody Reynolds song, but the Club's version is just about the most primal rock and roll you could ever wish to hear.

19) Gang Of Four - "Entertainment" 1979

A few years ago and this would have been in my top 10. I do still love it, but years of playing it endlessly have slightly jaded my palate for it. I still think the track "Anthrax" is one of the most radical (anti-?) rock and roll songs musically and lyrically as it deconstructs the pop love song.

Andy Gill's choppy guitar style is still jaw droppingly amazing to listen to.

18) The Specials - "The Specials" 1979

Like I suggested above, every new musical movement produces one great album that knocks all the others into a cocked hat. You can keep your Madness and The Beat, for me Ska was The Specials and this wonderful debut. The range of world wearyness to pleading in a band so young was like a punch to the solar plexus. A wake-up call to us all back in the dark days of the early 1980s. But then there were also the really cheery, dancey upbeat numbers too, just so we didn't get too downhearted.

17) Spacemen 3 - "The Perfect Prescription" 1987

It was really hard to decide which of the first 2 Spacemen 3 albums I prefer, so almost perfect are they. Consummate stoner rock, paeans to other worldly states of mind and the gentle (sometimes distorted in feedback) ambient guitar rock to soundtrack such journeys. Blissful is the only word and I've never even smoked weed in my life. Listen to this record and it's succumb to the effects of secondary inhalation!

16) The Fall - "Grotesque After The Gramme" 1980

And by way of complete contrast, the snarling, state of the nation address by one Mark E Smith. In truth there are many fine Fall albums, but for me this one marks them for greatness, not least for the two singles that preceded it (both of which made John Peel's all time favourite songs) but never made it on to the original album in that perverse way of Smith's. Fear not pop pickers, I'm pretty sure both tracks are included on any current version of the album.

15) The Bug - "Pressure" 2003

Dub-Step. Atmospheric, minimalist slices of the urban cityscape rendered in sound. What I really like about The Bug, is that he fills in some of those tripped out spaces with some really heavy sounds and some of the vocals doff their backwards baseball caps in the direction of Rastafarianism's relationship to the Old Testament. The visions on this album are truly more apocalyptic than the usual dub step incoherent vocal fare.

14) Big Black - "Atomizer" 1986

Intense, relentless, blue collar post-punk Mid-West of America. Live they played their strings so hard, their fingers bled. Lyrically they only dealt with taboos. I love it.

13) Mos Def - "The Ecstatic" 2009

Don't let the heavily lisping delivery mislead you, this is rap of the highest intelligence. There isn't a duff track on this album, it's that good.


James Everington said...

Some great choices there, especially Spacemen 3 & Gang Of Four...

Adam B said...

Think I've found me a new CD collection to raid. Not my usual fare, but some things to check out.
Adam B @revhappiness

Jeffrey Jones said...

re: The Birthday Party. I thought they actually got better after Phill Calvert left and Mick Harvey stepped into the drum seat. The Bad Seed and Mutiny! EPs were probably their best work...the Berlin and Blixa influence of the latter creating their masterpiece Mutiny in Heaven, and the former containing the incendiary Sonny's Burning and Rowland's beautiful love song Say a Spell ("Snatching such a vision burns a shape into me"). Speaking of in peace; and Tracey too. I wonder if they are muttering 'if this is heaven, I'm bailing out'? haha

Sulci Collective said...

I agree about those 2 EPs being superior to Junkyard, but sadly I couldn't really count them as albums. Sonny's Burning is one of my all-time favourite songs. It took me quite a few listens until i realised the change going on in Howard's guitar towards the end. I know what you mean about Harvey, but as good an instrumentalist as he is to switch to drums, it took away from the guitar punch of the band.