Tuesday, June 30, 2009

495. New Day Rising- the best example of whatever genre this stuff is.

Album: New Day Rising
Artist: Husker Du
Year: 1985
Genre: Hardcore punk with a soft centre? Honestly I’m not sure.

1. New Day Rising
2. The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill
3. I Apologize
4. Folk Lore
5. If I Told You
6. Celebrated Summer
7. Perfect Example
8. Terms of Psychic Warfare
9. Times the Pain
10. Powerline
11. Books About UFOs
12. I Don't Know What You're Talking About
13. How to Skin a Cat
14. Whatcha Drinkin
15. Plans I Make

I have to come clean here and admit that the only thing I knew about Husker Du before I heard New Day Rising was their name. I was aware that there was a band out there called Husker Du but I couldn’t tell you what genre they fit into. Late 60’s psychedelic? Early eighties latin grooves? Gansta Rap? Polka? I had no idea. Having listened to New Day Rising several times I’m still not sure I could put them in a box, which is ironic since it sounds like their album was recorded in a carton. If you twisted my arm and demanded I gave them a genre then I’d probably say they were punk but they don’t sound like any punk I’ve ever heard before.

Most of the songs on New Day Rising are lightning fast. They come flying at you at a million beats per minute (actually 198 beats per minute, I counted) with distorted guitar chords forming a soup from which the vocals don’t seem capable of escaping, which is very hardcore punk. Maybe I need to broaden my horizons (perhaps by listening to the top 500 albums?) but Husker Du seem to break out of the traditional punk box. Their lyrics are esoteric, there is an attempt at harmonized backing vocals, the guitarist takes a lead break, the bass player provides melodic runs and at one point there’s even a honky tonk piano.

The one thing that is very Punk about New Day Rising is the production. I listened with earphones and still couldn’t tell if the album was in mono or just really tight stereo. It sounds like the producer shoved the band down one end of a corridor and then set up a mic, told them to sing their song and let the echo decide who was right or wrong. At times the lead vocals sit clearly on top of the rest of the album while at other times it’s so submerged you could believe they were just muttering along to guide their playing. Apparently this was produced by a guy named Spot who is a well regarded punk producer. I could be wrong but I it strikes me that the role of producer on punk labels is pretty different to mainstream rock. I think he’s main responsibility is producing the drugs at the right time. Or perhaps the songs on New Day Rising are so fast that the band had played them through before Spot realised they’d started.

Depending on your point of view the production of New Day Rising is either its major flaw or the source of much of its appeal. Either way I really enjoyed it. It caught me by surprise but I have to say I’m becoming a bit of a fan of the Du (or The Huskers, I must work out what the correct lingo is). There are some great songs here: I Apologise is really catchy as is The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill. I even like the first track (although slightly less since I realised they were repeating “New Day Rising” and not “Nude Arising” which struck me as a great lyric). The highlight is possibly Books about UFO’s which I would describe as jaunty if I wasn’t worried about offending Husker Du fans who don’t strike me as the jaunty type. It’s a honky-tonk tune with distorted guitars and says more than anything else that Husker Du don’t care about genres they just like playing what they play. Good for them, it certainly worked for me.

Highlight: Books about UFO’s it’s my new favourite song.
Lowlight: Celebrated Summer. For many this is the standout track due to its Heavy/Light but when the vocals get buried under a single acoustic guitar I just get frustrated.
Influenced by: A keen desire not to be boxed.
Influenced: American college bands who shared the above sentiment.
Favourite Amazon customer review quote: “Best album by the greatest band ever. Therefore my friends, this is the greatest album of all-time.”
-You have to love people who aren’t afraid to make the bold statements.

So do you Husker Du or do you Husker Don’t? Let me know below.

Friday, June 26, 2009

496. Destroyer- Keep It Simple Stupid.

Album: Destroyer.
Artist: KISS
Year: 1976
Genre: Heavy metal/Hard Rock/High Silliness.
1. Detroit Rock City
2. King of the Night Time World
3. God of Thunder
4. Great Expectations
5. Flaming Youth
6. Sweet Pain
7. Shout It Out Loud
8. Beth
9. Do You Love Me?
10. Untitled

When I was at primary school all the cool kids listened to KISS. I’ve got no idea what the uncool kids listened to, which is odd because I was one, but I know that the truly popular loved Kiss's music and their costumes and their facepaint and the fake blood spitting and most of all the fact that parents hated it. When I was 8 or thereabouts, four guys in my year had costumes made, donned make-up and lip-synced to a short KISS set complete with cardboard guitars and stage antics. At the time this was only slightly less cool than KISS itself and way cooler than anything else that had happened on the planet up to that point.

When I heard Destroyer (the first KISS album I’d ever listened to all the way through) I expected to be reminded of those times. What I wasn’t expecting was to be constantly reminded of one of my favourite films.

The music of KISS is so close to This is Spinal Tap that I found it easier to conjure images of Nigel Tufnell than I did Gene Simmons. I’ve never heard it officially said but when they sat down to write the music for Tap they must have used Destroyer as a blueprint. You could take Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight and slip it between tracks in Destroyer and it wouldn’t sound out of place at all. If anything it would only be slightly less funny than the rest of the album.

Make no mistake about it- Destroyer is hilarious. Laugh out loud funny. My first listen was while out walking and I had to stop at certain points because I was doubled over with hilarity. Gods of Thunder is vintage Spinal Tap: “I was born on Olympus/To my father a son/I was raised by the demons/Trained to reign as the one. God of thunder and rock and roll/ The spell you're under/Will slowly rob you of your virgin soul.”

How brilliant is that? It’s hysterical on paper but when full of heavy metal bombast and pomposity it’s just side-splitting. I thought it couldn’t get any funnier until the next song came along. Great Expectations features these magnificent lines: “You watch me singing this song/You see what my mouth can do/And you wish you were the one I was doing it to.” If they meant that as a joke its fantastic, if not it’s even better. Like every track on the album Great Expectations features an anthemic chorus that is sung to death. But unlike the rest of Destroyer the “You’ve got, Great Expectations” refrain is augmented by a children’s choir. Only a comic genius can add a chorus of adolescents to a dirty song about would-be-groupies. Well done lads.

If you don’t believe me about the Spinal Tap comparisons compare these two lyrical extracts. The first is Tap (from Christmas with the Devil)…

The elves are dressed in leather,
and the angels are in chains.
The sugar plums are rancid,
and the stockings are in flames.

And this is KISS (from Flaming Youth)…

My uniform is leather,
and my power is my age.
I'm gettin' it together,
to break out of my cage.

Spookily similar or possibly just my imagination. The jury is still out.

Pretty much every song on Destroyer sounds exactly the same. There may be lots of sound effects and weirdness to try and cover it up but the end result is a lot of hilarity accompanied by a terrible guitar solo and multi-tracked vocals repeating the anthemic chorus over and over until it fades out. The one exception is Beth, the album’s obligatory Ballad which is hopefully the low point on the entire 500 list. If it gets worse than this then I don’t want to hear it. Beth is the sad tale of the singer’s girl who is trapped at home while the band is rehearsing. It’s a syrupy ooze of goop that wallows in a fudge of strings and a flute and sentiments that kill the laughter stone dead and just makes your sphincter pucker with embarrassment. I naively thought this would be the track that KISS fans would hate but according to the research I’ve done on Mr Internet this is regarded as one of the album’s greatest moments. KISS fans and I aren’t just on different pages were at extreme ends of the library.

It’s off the topic but a serious thought… there are lots of albums that I think should be on this list but aren’t. I’m trying not to harp on about them but one should be raised here: I seriously believe that This is Spinal Tap should be somewhere in the top 500. If one criteria for making it on this listing is influence then TIST definitely deserves its place. I honestly believe that the film and the subsequent album influenced artists all over the world. Whenever a band started to get a bit too pretentious and wanky it would only take a quick mention of Stonehenge to make them think twice. Influence works two ways.

Highlight: The entire album if you don’t take it seriously.
Lowlight: The entire album if you take it seriously.
Influced by: Black Sabbath. Vaudeville.
Influenced: Nobody above the age of 16

Best Amazon Customer review Quote: “I listen to this when I'm getting syked to get together with my lady. It puts me in the mood!!”
–That doesn’t even bear thinking about.

So were you one of the cool kids in make up or did you give Kiss a Miss? Are they the Kings of your night time world or would you rather spit them out like a fake blood capsule? Let me know below.

497. Yo! Bumrush the Show- Apparently it’s the Sergeant Peppers of Hip Hop (or maybe the Revolver).

Album: Yo! Bum rush the show.
Artist: Public Enemy.
Year: 1986
Genre: Hip Hop
1. You're Gonna Get Yours
2. Sophisticated Bitch
3. Miuzi Weighs a Ton
4. Timebomb
5. Too Much Posse
6. Rightstarter (Message to a Black Man)
7. Public Enemy No. 1
8. M.P.E.
9. Yo! Bum Rush the Show
10. Raise the Roof
11. Megablast
12. Terminator X Speaks With His Hands

I think part of my problem is that I thought bumrushing a show was a bad thing. “Well we completely bumrushed that show- the bass player was crap, the keyboard player fell asleep and at one point I panicked completely and started singing polka songs”. Apparently I was wrong and bumrushing a show is actually a good thing. Which just goes to prove how much of a Hip Hop guy I’m not.

Public Enemy’s Yo Bumrush the Show is the first hip-hop album I’ve ever listened to. In fact it’s the first time I’ve really heard hip-hop in any forum other than blasting out of a nearby car. So with an open mind I threw on the earphones and cranked Public Enemy’s debut album into my brain.

My first surprise was that I didn’t have to make any allowances for the year. I was expecting an album recorded in 1987 to sound like it was over 20 years old. Bumrush doesn’t sound like a product of its time. It could have have been recorded last year. Surprise number 2 was Vernon Reid, the guitarist from Living Colour whose presence suggested a level of instrumental prowess that I’ve never associated with Hip Hop.

While there may be a long list of names on the credit list, Yo! Bumrush the Groove is all about the rapping of Chuck D and Flava Flav, who share lead vocal duties. Vernon Reid and the other musicians are lost in the background among the 4 people credited with “programming” (either drums or synths) and “scratching” which is supplied by two lads called Juice and Terminator X. Consequently the “band” isn’t something that I can get especially inspired by. There are no lead breaks, nobody takes a solo and the musicians don’t lock together to supply a groove of any kind. But that’s okay because that’s why they’re there: as backing for Flava Flav and Chuck D. This is Hip Hop, if this show is going to get bumrushed it’s not the band it’s the man with the mic in his hand that’s going to get this party started. In other words if you don’t like the rap stylings of Mr Flav and Mr D you might as well stop listening right now.

I won’t get stuck into the tedious and overblown debate about rap lyrics. There are those who claim rap is a poetry that expresses the human condition as authentically as Byron or Shelly ever did. While there are some in the other camp who think it’s all just senseless rhyming filled with sexism and male posturing and the main contributors to gang culture in the world today. I’ve always hated the idea of scapegoating music for society’s problems and I struggle to appreciate poetry anyway so I’m not really going to lay down an argument on either side. All I know is that I’m not really the sort of guy who can appreciate rap lyrics. It’s all about a lifestyle that I just don’t understand. The closest thing I’ve ever had to a posse are my childhood Star Wars figurines. I don’t drive a 98 Oldsmobile, I catch trains. I’m hardly a Public Enemy and even if I did have an uzi if it weighed a ton I couldn’t pick it up let alone fire it. It’s music written with a specific audience in mind: those who either possess or else aspire to a certain lifestyle. Those of us outside that culture just find it hard to get on board.

I’d like to say that I appreciate the ability to string rhymes together but that always sounds really patronizing doesn’t it? It’s the sort of thing academics say in order to appear less out of touch: “It really is a most original use of iambic pentameter that shows a clear understanding of both structure and narrative.” The truth is that I just don’t get it. Having said that I find Rap less painful than I thought it would be. The sort of music that really gets on my nerves is mindlessly repetitive and catchy at the same time- tunes that get stuck in your head and won't shift. There’s none of that on Yo Bumrush but nothing I can really latch onto either. Hopefully I’ll have more sensible things to say when I’ve heard another rap album later on in the count-down and can make some point of comparison.

Highlight: Probably the opening track.
Lowlight: That feeling you get around track five when you think “This is going to be like this for the whole album isn’t it?”
Influenced by: Grandmaster Flash I’m assuming.
Influenced: Apparently anyone who has ever rapped since.
Favourite Amazon Customer review quote: Actually Amazon’s reviewers were quite subdued about this release but I did find a review from Q magazine that said this: “...just the first, in retrospect almost shy, step on a remarkable journey...”
-Almost shy? Shy? Are you kidding? What about lyrics like: “My style is supreme - number one is my rank, And I got more power than the New York Yanks.” How bashful is that?

So did Public enemy leave you feeling bumrushed or is it just a load of rap? Let me know below.

498. Tres Hombres- White boy blues played by garden gnomes.

Album: Tres Hombres
Artist: ZZ top
Year: 1973
Genre: Southern rock/bearded boogie/whiteboy blues

1. Waitin' for the Bus
2. Jesus Just Left Chicago
3. Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers
4. Master of Sparks
5. Hot, Blue and Righteous
6. Move Me on down the Line
7. Precious and Grace
8. La Grange
9. Shiek
10. Have You Heard?

Here’s a thesis question for all the student’s out there looking for an entry point into academia: just how important is facial hair? Apparently the CIA poured thousands of dollars into plots to cause Fidel Castro’s beard to fall out under the belief that one glimpse of his hairless jowls would cause the population of Cuba to denounce communism: (“I used to be happy living in a Marxist state but now I’ve seen that chin dimple I’m having second thoughts.”) Whole paragraphs in your thesis could be dedicated to the career of ZZ Top whose image is just as famous as their musical output. Would they have cracked the mainstream if there was no image to back them up? If they lost the sunglasses and the scrotum-covering facial hair would anyone care?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that the enormous, orange growths hide a lack of talent. The rhythm section is tight and Billy Gibbons plays a mean guitar. But then so did lots of other bands playing the bar scenes around Texas. Listening to Tres Hombres I can’t shake the feeling that the band just doesn’t have enough new ideas to justify a record contract. Most of the songs are standard boogie tracks with nothing to make them stick in your head after they’ve finished. The lyrical weirdness (“I met a shiek from Mozambique/Who led me to the congo/He dreamed to go to mexico/And sample a burrito”) will stay with you much longer than the tunes. The only two songs that really leave any sort of impression are very thinly veiled blues rip-offs.

Tres Hombres’ (and ZZ Top’s) biggest hit is La Grange, which owes a bigger debt to John Lee Hooker than the third world owes to the IMF. La Grange’s signature riff is Hooker’s Boogie Chillun and is as much a blues standard as cheap alcohol and unfaithful women. The other big hit is Jesus Just Left Chicago which you will immediately recognise as sounding like almost every other blues song you’ve ever heard, the only difference being that instead of a cheating woman the lyrics are about a roadtrip taken by a leading religious figure, which I’ll admit is a novel twist. (Frankly I wish they’d mined the novelty of this lyrical direction for the entire album. A concept album about religious figures going for wanders strikes me as a genius concept: “Bhudda left Brazil” “Vishnu Vacated Venuzeula” “Zeus struck out from Alabama before returning because he’d forgotten his mobile phone”)

I wish I had nicer things to say about Tres Hombres but to be frank I was just really disappointed. I looked at the track listing and was encouraged by the two songs I recognized but let down by the rest of it. I confess I’m really confused as to why it’s on this list. Have you ever heard of a band citing them as an influence? Does anyone know any ZZ top fans? Anyone out there own any albums? expect this one to get dropped when the inevitable list revision arrives in a few years time.

Highlight: They may not be the most original moments in rock and roll but La Grange and Jesus Left Chicago are dynamite tracks.
Lowlight: Possibly this lyric from Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: “Soundin a lot like a house congressional/cause we’re experimental and professional” what the hell does that mean?
Influenced by: Albert King and John Lee Hooker.
Influenced: A whole generation of American college kids to drink lots.
Best amazon customer quote: “Moreover, the band's advocacies of sanctions against countries that convict foreign visitors for trumped-up crimes, capital punishment/life without parole for aggravated kidnapping, and increased funding for law enforcement make it especially gratifying that their best album is now available on CD as it was originally meant to be heard.”

So are the boys with the beards the ZZ Top of your 500 list or is Tres Hombre a bit ho-humbre? Let me know below.

499. Born under a bad sign- Authentic but truncated blues.

Album: Born under a bad sign.
Artist: Albert King.
Year: 1967.
Genre: Big Band electric Blues
1. Born Under A Bad Sign
2. Crosscut Saw
3. Kansas City
4. Oh, Pretty Woman
5. Down Don't Bother Me
6. The Hunter
7. I Almost Lost My Mind
8. Personal Manager
9. Laundromat Blues
10. As The Years Go Passing By
11. The Very Thought Of You

Album 499 takes us sixteen years back in time from Touch and is a completely different concept musically. While number 500 gave us a talented vocalist with an impressive range backed by a collection of soulless noises, Born under a Bad Sign features a vocalist who would make nobody’s top ten list backed by some very talented musicians playing real instruments.

Even if, like me, you’ve never heard this album before you’re probably familiar with a lot of the songs. The title track has been covered by almost everyone who fancies themselves a blues guitarist and other cuts on the album have seen renditions by Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Moore amongst a host of others. You would also be familiar with most of the musicians backing King throughout the album. Even if you’ve never heard of Booker T, Donald Dunn, Steve Cropper and Issac Hayes you’d know them as “the guys who play well but act badly in The Blues Brothers” and “the chef from Southpark”.

I have to be honest, King sounds pretty bored during the vocals on a lot of these songs. He has a limited range and it seems even less limited interest when it comes to his vocal arrangements. But his vocal chords aren’t what scored King a record contract, it’s his trademark blues guitar playing which carries as much emotion as any singer I’ve heard lately. He really wails on that six string. Covering the full range of blues emotions from “My woman’s cheating on me so I’m gonna leave her” right through to “My woman’s left me but she was cheating on me anyway”.

Actually that’s a bit unfair, there is a bigger lyrical range to Born Under a Bad Sign than just a lot of moaning about unfaithful women. Like all good blues albums there’s some great metaphorical smut. It’s a fair bet that if a blues musician is singing lines that don’t make any literal sense he’s being filthy and he’s just disguising it well. When King tells us in The Hunter that he’s armed with “a love gun” he’s not talking about any weapon you could commit armed robbery with. More baffling howerver is Crosscut saw: “I'm a crosscut saw, Baby, drag me across your log. I'm a crosscut saw, Baby, drag me across your log. I cut your wood so easy for you, You can't help but say, "Hot Dog!" ...Sorry I may be missing something but I need a bit of clarification here. A woman has a log? I thought men had wood not women? I’m baffled. Someone needs to write a book called “Lemon Juice- Sex allusions in blues songs explained,” It would certainly make for interesting reading.

The most frustrating thing about Born under a bad sign is the track length. Most of the songs fade out before the three minute mark even though the band was really cooking. Apparently all these tracks were designed to get airplay so they can’t push over the 3 minute radio-listener attention span. One track even fades out a few seconds after King shouts “Watch me now” and sets off for what is clearly an epic lead break. We’d love to watch you Al but sadly we can’t, partly because records are primarily an auditory experience but also because you’ve faded away into another track.

So does it deserve to be in the top 500? Well there’s no doubt Albert King does. He’s the real deal, the authentic blues experience. He doesn’t need his birth certificate and astrology records to prove he was born under a bad sign, just give him a guitar and he’ll provide you with solid proof. But the album tries to squeeze his blues into a three minute pop track, which doesn’t always work. Listening to Born Under a Bad sign made me think “I bet this guy can really cook in a live setting” and I was correct, he can. I hunted down some of his live work which I really enjoyed. Still this is fantastic stuff and makes for a great listen. Highly recommended.

Highlight: The title track and I almost lost my mind. whoever thought to contrast King’s vocals with a flute was clearly inspired.
Lowlight: The disappointment whenever a track fades out.
Influenced by: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Squinting Willie Turnbuckle, Legless Jim McFloozy, Stuttering Davey Gallbladder, Flatulent Billy Tootingbum and other people with physical impairments of some kind in their names.
Influenced: Clapton, Page, Hendrix, Vaughan, Peter Green- all those lads.
Favourite Amazon Customer review quote: “Take it from one born on a 13th (albeit not a Friday) and under a half moon on the decline…”
-Wow. Do all true blues fans know what the moon was doing on the day they were born?

So is Albert the King or is the whole album born under a bad sign? Let me know below.

500. Touch- A new wave tsunami of synthesised noise.

Album: Touch
Artist: Eurythmics
Year: 1983
Genre: New Wave, Electro.
1. Here comes the rain again.
2. Regrets
3. Right by your side
4. Cool blue.
5. Who’s that girl?
6. The first cut.
7. Aqua
8. No fear, no hate no broken hearts
9. Paint a rumour.

Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox were at the forefront of something called New Wave, which is a musical movement that nobody really understands. New Wave is the Postmodernism of the musical world, it’s a term everybody uses but nobody can really define. I have no New Wave in my musical collection so Touch was not just my introduction to the Eurhythmics but to the movement in general.

I have to say it’s not an album I responded to all that well. My problem isn’t with Annie Lennox, (who has a fantastic voice) or Dave Stewart (who is a skilled producer), it’s with the third member of the Eurythmics trio- the synthesizer.
With the exception of some great bass riffs (which sound like they came straight from the Seinfeld theme music) and a few strings, there are few real instruments on Touch. Most of the backing is made up of a series of bloops, bleeps, whirs, purrs and other artificially produced weirdness as supplied by a synthesizer. Touch isn’t just an album from 1983 it’s an album that is incredibly, unbelievably totally from 1983. It couldn’t come from any time other than that woeful year when for some reason the world tired of organic sounds and wanted music from other planets. It’s no coincidence that Scarface, the greatest movie ever to be cursed with an appalling soundtrack, came out in 83.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get past the Synth effects that are all over Touch. The album’s soundscape is made up of processed, electronica layered over that strange percussion noise that sounds like someone slapping a waterbed with a cricket bat (you’d know it if you heard it). Annie’s vocals get lost in amongst the vast sea of blooping sounds along with her own multi-tracked backing vocal interjections.

I started to really wonder about the album when a spaceship landed just after the two minute mark in the second track. One of those 1950’s sci fi space ships with the sleek, metal exterior and poorly concealed fishing wire descends with its instantly recognizable landing noise in the right-hand channel before dematerializing and then returning a bit later on for something it forgot. It doesn’t fit into the musical landscape around it, there’s no musical or lyrical cue; the sound just descends on the track like… well like an alien spacecraft. What I wondered then and wonder now is: how did they know when to time ET’s arrival? How do you decide when to make the spaceship sound effect? Years later when Stewart remastered Touch did he agree or disagree with his youthful decision? “Bugger, I totally ruined that track by bringing the spaceship in ten seconds too early”

The UFO returns for an extended landing at the start of the next track, presumably to drop off some percussion sounds from their home planet: “Here Dave, why not use these on your track, they sound like nothing on earth”.

While the three singles (Who's that girl, Right by your side and Here comes the rain again) are melodic pop tunes ruined by unnatural sounds the final track is really mystifying. Paint a Rumour lasts for seven minutes but listening to it feels like reliving the entire of 1983 all over again. It’s an eternity of repetitive vocals over the top of a mid-tempo beat augmented but what I swear is the sound of someone playing space invaders. I tried but I can’t get a handle on this sort of thing because I have no idea what I’m meant to do with it. What reaction are you supposed to have to 7 minutes of slow-paced electro? You can’t dance to it. You can’t sing along. There’s no way you can air guitar, bang your head or tap your toes. It’s not seductive unless you’re trying to woo a Commodore 64. You can’t appreciate the musical talents of the creators (unless you’re capable of recognising a well played game of space invaders based purely on the sound effects). I just don’t understand how I can relate to it.

So do I think Touch deserves its place in the top 500? Well not really. I suppose it’s there because it’s the seminal work in a particular genre. I just can’t get into the style of music it represents. It hasn’t converted me to synthpop but I suppose if I had to listen to a synthpop release it might as well be one fronted by an unarguably talented vocalist.

Highlight: The cover, it looks like Annie came in disguise to compete against herself in a nude arm-wrestling competition.
Lowlight: Following up a line about drowning and watching bubbles surface with lots of impressions of bubbles.
Influence by: Krautrock, electronica, pacman.
Influenced: Johnny two Hats and the rest of Kraftwerk Orange.
Favourite amazon customer review quote: “Regrets" is struggling between herky jerky electronics and soulful blandness, which keeps it an interesting battle”
-I agree with the herky jerky bit but I’m not sure what soulful blandness is and how it keeps a battle interesting.

So do you Rave about Dave or think Lennox is bollocks? Where you touched by Touch or do you hate beeping synthesizer music? Let me know below

Saturday, June 20, 2009

500 Horizons, an introduction.

I love my music. Like any male the only thing I like listening to more than my music collection are my own opinions. I don’t just like albums I can tell you why you should like them as well. I don’t just appreciate a good album I elevate it to the point where it’s not just good music but the pinnacle of western civilization.

Obviously I’m just the sort of guy who pounces on music lists. The journalists who work for Rock and roll publications such as Rolling Stone Magazine depend on saddies such as myself who will see a publication called “top 100 guitar solos in songs about public nudity” and know that life isn’t complete until I’ve found out what number one is and then voiced my indignation at their omissions, inclusions and rankings.

For many the top position in the “list of great rock lists” is held by Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. Published in 2003 it gave 167 music critics the chance to vote on the greatest albums and then compiled it together into a comprehensive list. And like all great Rock lists it makes me angry. Great albums linger in the lower recesses or are left off completely. Artists whose work I treasure were ignored completely. And of course it gives me lots of chances to utter the catch-cry of the opinionated list reader: “what the hell is that doing there?”

Convinced at the ineptitude of all of the voters, I’ve railed against this list several times and elevated myself to the top of the 500 Most Boring Rock Nerds list with my attempts to convince anyone not clever enough to run when they see me coming. Recently however I sat down and had a look at what was placed where and came to some realizations. Despite my boasts about the depth of my CD collection, there are lots of albums on the list that I’ve never actually heard. There are entire artists that I’m completely unfamiliar with. How can I decry the position of my favourite album if I’ve never heard the LP sitting above it? What right do I have to cast opinions about the listing if 75% of it has never graced my ears?

And so I made it my mission to hunt down the albums I don’t own and give them an extended listen. Not just a once over but a real study in order to see what it is I’m missing. While I’m there I plan to revisit the albums that I know and love, to see whether they hold up as well as I think they do. I decided to give every one of the albums on the top 500 equal time on my stereo/mp3 player starting with 500 and working my way up to number one. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet I can turn this mission into a blog and share my views with people who actually care rather than people who can’t avoid me.

These are the rules that I’ve decided to set myself in order to make sure this experience is run with a sense of discipline.

Rule One: I will listen to every note of every album at least four times.

Rule Two: I will approach every album with a completely open mind as if hearing it for the first time.

Rule Three: I will read what others thought of the album. If I’m going to share my opinions I should probably take some time to experience others. (I’ll include my favourite comment from the Amazon customer’s reviews as well)

Rule Four: With only one exception, I will never use the word genius, which is the most over-used and abused word in the English language.

Rule Five: I will find something nice to say about every single album.

Rule Six: I will never abuse anyone who shares an opinion if they comment on my blog posts. I’m not doing this to troll or start a flame war.

Enjoy my posts and please feel free to comment as often as you like.