After the first part of my odyssey went live, I was pretty sure the tumbleweed that limped lazily down our deserted main street in response meant I was off the hook for listening to the remaining 474 nuggets of musical excrement that make up the titular list. But then a couple of people asked about it, in terms that seemed to merit my continuing with this pointless endeavour. So, I’m back!
The Rules: Try and listen to all the albums on the Rolling Stone top 500 albums of all time. No vetoes. I’m not even allowed to veto things on the grounds that they contain Ian Brown.
My Progress: 474-450
474 Manu Chao – Próxima Estación: Esperanza: I seem to be settling into a bit of a pattern with this now; I get a few albums that test my patience to breaking point with their unremitting awfulness, and then just when I’m about to give up, I find a little lovely gem that restores my faith in this, an endeavour of my own design. This Spanish mix of laid-back surf music, acoustic guitar and electronica has healed my heart and filled it up with joy. Finally, I know what my life is for, and now I’m ready to begin again and AW HELL NAW IT’S THE SMITHS NEXT WHY AM I FUCKING DOING THIS
473 The Smiths – S/T: I’m never going to be a fan of Morrissey. His work is like being stroked to death by someone wearing circular glasses and a Dr Who scarf while they explain in detail why they have their favourite tones of beige, then cry about how their Mum doesn’t love them. All of it, everything he has ever done. I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.
472 George Michael – Faith: Maybe it’s because I’ve just sat through Morrisey’s stupid whinging nonsense; maybe it’s because this was one of my Mum’s favourite albums when I was growing up, but I really don’t mind Faith. I mean, it’s bobbins, but it’s inoffensive bobbins. Apparently this series has forced me to drastically reassess my scale of awfulness.
471 Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight: Jingle jangle folky bollocks. I am starting to actually crave breakdowns and blastbeats now. Hang on. Wait a minute. Hold the phone. Actually, on second thought, maybe this is rather pleasant. I mean, it’s not downright awful. Am I enjoying myself again? I don’t know. Can someone please send gin.
470 LL Cool J – Radio: Hey ho, it’s old school hip-hop time! This sounds so innocent now, all cute and fluffy and pre-gangster rap. The production has held up better than you might imagine, and LL Cool J is a better rapper than I remember. I can think of a hundred hip-hop albums I’d rather see on here, but this isn’t bad.
469 Fugees – The Score: Slightly less old school. I remember during the 90s when this came out, my Dad asked for it for Christmas on the back of Killing Me Softly, despite my protestations. He hated it, and not for the first time was I proven correct in such matters. Again, it may be because hip-hop seems so devoid of merit these days, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this. Aside from ‘that’ single, it’s a pretty damn good album.
468 The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – S/T: I only just finished listening to this but I’ve already cleansed it from my memory. I think it was a blues album. It was perfectly fine. Don’t make me listen to it again.
467 Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love: From the Cadillac to the Road House font; from the haircut, to the weird skinny tie thing, the cover just screams “1980s!!!” There are times when that storied decade’s cocaine-dusted production values threaten to overwhelm the songs, but for the most part this is a pretty decent slice of the Boss’ particular brand of American Proletariat Rock.
466 Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head: You could sit me down and try and explain Coldplay’s appeal to me from now until the end of time and I wouldn’t have a clue what you were talking about. Mainly because I’ll be too focused on trying to reduce you to a heap of smouldering ashes using the power of my own mind. A rush of dull to the boring.
465 The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs: This is 69 songs long. That’s quite a lot of songs about love. I imagine there’s a really, really good album in here amongst all the not quite so great stuff. Why don’t you imagine it too?
464 Def Leppard – Hysteria: Oh there’s my childhood. I remember every line of this album, every lick, every mullet, every cheesy chorus. Brilliant.
463 Echo & The Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here: Well this is bleak. I always thought Ian McCulloch’s Echo were a jingly jangly cagoule band, and there’s bits of that here. But this is mostly grim gothic depression about the 1980s. So naturally, I rather enjoyed it.
462 R.E.M. – Document: Ground zero for the American flavour of grating indie pop beloved of students. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the images it conjures in the mind of flannel-wearing hippies flouncing about to it with their eyes closed and their arms outstretched; a wry, knowing smile at their own rebellious nature playing across their lips. Urgh.
461 Public Image Ltd – Metal Box: This is a joke, right? I’m all for experimentation, but this is less wildly improvisational and more bafflingly tedious. It sounds like the first rehearsal of a bunch of spotty teenagers who have learnt three chords each and now feel equipped to start destroying modern music from within. And anyway, what the hell is Johnny Rotten’s problem? Is there any frontman in the history of music with any less charisma? Oh wait! Sorry, forgot Ian Brown. This is like fingernails inching down a chalkboard, except made to last for ever. Every now and again the first 30 seconds of a song seem to hold a nugget of promise, but then it spills back over into tedious bilge.
460 Hole – Live Through This: Oh thank fuck for that. This album has stayed with me, even when I’ve long since grown bored of its peers. Brilliantly snarling grungy punk, whose feminist rage is forever justified by people still assuming Kurt must have written most of the songs, because surely a girl can’t write songs that good?!
459 The Drifters – The Drifters’ Golden Hits: Snooooooooooooooooooooooooze.
458 Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection: I grew up in a world where Elton John was an idiot peddling generic 1980s pop, completely unaware that such gems as this existed. Now my favourite Elton album, mainly because of the magnificent My Father’s Gun. Brilliant Americana with tinges of British RnB and Detroit soul.
457 My Morning Jacket – Z: Perfectly pleasant but underwhelming lo-fi American indie. Which seems to be my most oft-repeated phrase in this task.
456 Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear: Marvin Gaye can only ever be one of two things; a titan of American Soul with a voice as smooth as butter and songs that perfectly match their lofty ambitions, OR a terribly generic hack issuing a slightly-troubling stream of misogynistic bilge. Sometimes he is both of these in the same song. Unfortunately this album is entirely the latter. Also, the album cover is just about the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
455 Los Lobos – How Will the Wolf Survive?: Generic American AOR with occasional Mexican inflections. In fact the more Mexican it gets, the more I enjoy it. I can imagine these songs playing in the background of any number of 1980s films, which is actually not surprising since a quick trip to Wikipedia reveals Los Lobos to have been on the soundtrack to every film produced in the last thirty years with Hispanic people in it. But this doesn’t have La Bamba on it, which is disappointing.
454 Alice Cooper – Love It to Death: It’s not exactly dated well, this, but there’s still something inherently charming about this slice of theatrical shock rock. Even the slightly dodgy references to ‘black juju’ are charming, somehow. Plus you have to respect someone as ugly as Vincent Furnier managing to make it as a major rock star.
453 EPMD – Strictly Business: The fact that I’d never heard this album and yet I own all the albums of Jurassic 5 speaks volumes about just how white I am. Funk driven laid back hip hop from 1988 that sounds like it was recorded at least ten years later. Really like this.
452 John Prine – S/T: So, as a consequence of doing these lists, I find that I’m now starting to really fucking hate country music. This is (apparently) a winning mix of country, folk, bluegrass and humour, if Wikipedia is to be believed. I would call it tedious, intellectually stagnant and as much fun as genital herpes. Next.
451 Amy Winehouse – Back to Black: Give a warm welcome to the new poster-child for generic Brit soul, taking over for Beverley Knight. She had a good voice, she had a decent production, and she made pop music that had enough soul in it to draw in the kind of people who get all their cues about music from Jools Holland’s Hootenanny. I could not give less of a fuck.
450 Jackson Browne – For Everyman: Do you know what this list really needs more of? Tedious Country-Folk-Rock from the 1970s! So thank Big Jock Christ for Jackson Browne, because there just isn’t enough bland arse-drip in the world already. Jesus fucking wept. Then he took a deep breath and wept some more.
Can I stop now? Just for a while. I need to lie down in a bath of shattered ice and discordant guitars. Tune in for the next exciting installment, wherein I must to listen not one but TWO ‘arresting’ albums by The Police. It’s therefore entirely possible that part three of this epistle may be coming to you live from a Belmarsh prison cell. Ta-ra!