Rolling Stone Top 500 Challenge III


Yes, I’m still doing it. No, I still don’t know why.

Let’s crack on shall we?

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: 449-425

449 Big StarThird/Sister Lovers: Starting with an utterly baffling soup of jarring noise, my first instinct is to throw my generic mp3 player in the bin to make it stop; but then it morphs into power pop with a seriously 90s alt edge, except made in the 70s. You can tell that most of the bands I grew up with must have grown up with Big Star themselves, and that kind of makes me predisposed to them, I suppose. I bloody love this. Great start, maybe this leg of the challenge will be a breeze OH GOD THERE’S STING NEXT WHY

448 The Police Synchronicity: The prospect of this album nearly made me abandon the whole damn venture. Again. Sting. STING. Not only that, but Sting multiplied by the 80s, with keyboards squared. WHY IS IT SO HAPPY? SHUT UP STING. There are pan pipes. Why are there pan pipes? Thankfully, it only lasts for 11 Sting-ridden tracks, then wafts out the door like the quintessential bad smell. Good riddance.

447 Stan Getz & João GilbertoGetz/Gilberto: ‘Do the bossanova!’ No, I’m okay thanks. It turns out bossanova is basically laid-back jazz, with all the effortless cool removed by a Gitanes-smoking man in a polo neck, and replaced with chintz. It’s so laid back as to require embalming.

446 MC5Back in the USA: Alas, I was hoping for the firebrand political garage rock of Kick out the Jams, but instead this is the follow up to their debut; a collection of vaguely interesting garagey songs with most of the edges polished off. This is still a pretty damn good album though, and after the last few albums I’ve had to endure, I’ll take that.

445 Steve Miller BandFly Like An Eagle: Oh good, it’s a generic 70s blues rock album with vaguely psychedelic prog inflections (read keyboards and sitars), and I don’t want to kill myself at all by the third song in. There are some half decent songs on here but nothing that really stands up to his bluesy earlier material or which has the catchiness of The Joker.  A great big shrug.

WAR 2.jpg

444 WarThe World is a Ghetto: Perfectly enjoyable funk with lots of other stuff thrown in for good measure. The first song is a bit nondescript, but after that the record opens up into a long funk groove and becomes pretty damn good. Finally, I think we’re getting somewhere.

443 Cheap TrickIn Color: More 70s rock, more pop than punk, but with enough of a snarl in there alongside the glam stomp to make it interesting. If I imagine I’m cruising a Californian desert highway in an old Camaro rather than sitting at a desk in the ashen skied north of England then it works considerably better. Also, I Want You To Want Me is a brilliant song. So there.

442 DevoQ: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!: This is tremendous fun; early new wave with bags more intelligence and humour than most of its contemporaries, and a great cover of Satisfaction thrown in  for good measure.

441 Suicide Suicide: Okay, we’re now in serious danger of hearing four good albums in a row here, none of which I’d heard before. Damn it, Rolling Stone I’m supposed to be mocking you, not agreeing with you. This is early electro/proto punk, and all I can say is if either electro or punk had carried on as brilliantly menacing and brooding as this then I might have paid more attention to them. Top stuff.

440 The PoguesRum, Sodomy & The Lash: Surely I don’t need to point out the brilliance of The Pogues to anyone intelligent and attractive enough to read Demon Pigeon? Utterly berserk drunken gypsy folk and lubricated poetry assaults from the world’s ugliest band. We’re now five for five, and I’m genuinely starting to warm to this list—which is wrong.

439 Sam CookeLive At The Harlem Square Club, 1963: I’m not normally a fan of live albums; they rarely capture the mood of the event and usually sound terrible to boot. This is no different, not least because Cooke’s cheesy on stage banter makes me want to die inside just a little bit (more). On the plus side, it proves just how damn good Sam Cooke’s voice was, which was pretty damn good indeed, and Bring it on Home to Me is absolutely incendiary. I’d still rather listen to the studio albums though.

438 The CureBoys Don’t Cry: Oh look, it’s the world’s cheeriest goth band! I’ve always felt The Cure get by with a mix that’s mostly charm and a bare handful of really good songs. Alas, this is more the former than the latter, but it passes the time nicely enough.


437 Li’l WayneTha Carter III: For the duration of this album, I assume I’m stuck in some kind of Truman Show-style elaborate joke, where people get paid for saying the most misogynistic, derivative drivel is the greatest thing in history and I sit there for hours trying to work how anyone, let alone actual ‘journalists’, could possibly think that. This is just the stupidest bullshit.

436 BeckSea Change: Not my favourite Beck album by any stretch of the imagination; it’s all a bit laid back for my tastes. I’d rather have the scuzzy brilliance of Mellow Gold. After the atrocious Li’l Wayne album, however, this is like a soothing balm on a nasty sore, so that’ll do pig, that’ll do. Actually the further I get into this the better it is; it’s a peach of an album. Imagine changing your mind at my age.

435 NirvanaIn Utero: At last, an album that would have a good shot at making my own top ten. I could listen to this endlessly, unlike the now-dated and then-overplayed Nevermind. It was brilliant then, it’s brilliant now, and if you don’t agree you can go do a shut up. Thanks.

434 Big Star#1 Record: If I take nothing else out of this challenge, at least it’s introduced me to Big Star. I love this band, although I think I preferred Third to this, which seems a bit more straight ahead 70s pop rock with a lot of Beatles worship. Still very good though. Cheers Rolling Stone, I take back all the mean things I said. Although having said that, I’m still not sure this entirely makes up for that endless Merle Haggard album, or the Li’l Wayne album, for that matter.

433 George HarrisonAll Things Must Pass: I know that we’re all supposed to revere St George as the most hipster friendly of all the Beatles (not as ostentatiously obvious as Lennon, not as prone to ruining opening and closing ceremonies as Macca, not as Ringo as Ringo) but while this is a perfectly pleasant album full of perfectly pleasant songs, it’s hardly Rubber Soul is it?

432 Brian EnoHere Come the Warm Jets: There is no doubting the influential shadow Eno casts over modern music. There’s also no doubting that this is an unlistenable mess of pretentious bullshit. Either that or it’s fucking brilliant. I’m leaning firmly towards the former, but only because I think my ‘zaniness’ tolerance has by now expired.

431 PJ HarveyStories From The City, Stories From The Sea: What’s not to like? Great songs, great lyrics, great voice. PJ Harvey is great. In case you’re not already on the Harvey train, if the idea of twisted pop gloom and bleak storytelling lyrics sounds good to you then go listen. If it doesn’t, why the hell are you reading this website?



430 Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend: I’m trying to summon the words for how much I detest this jingle jangle indie haircut bullshit, but I’m failing. The musical equivalent of drinking a cup of coffee that was made with curdled milk and then left to go cold. At gunpoint. How the fuck this made it to a ‘best albums of ALL TIME’ list, I have no idea.

429 Brian EnoAnother Green World: Oh good, more Eno. Actually, this is even odder than the earlier one, and as a result, quite a lot more interesting. I can hear the groundwork of a lot of my music collection in this, from Mogwai to Neurosis. Top stuff.

428 The PoliceOutlandos D’Amour: Roooooooooooooooooooooooooooxanne! I think I’ve made my position on The Police quite clear, thank you very much. Fuck The Police.

427 Peter WolfSleepless: Time for some truck-driving, chain-smoking, beer-swilling, redneck country rock, except actually, it’s precisely 75% less fun than that sounds. What if Kid Rock had been around in the 70s? Listen to this, and you’d have the size of it—even though it was actually released in 2002. Randomly, Keith Jagger and Mick Richards show up and add precisely nothing to it. On the plus side, it’s quite short.


426 Cheap TrickAt Budokan: As live albums go this is pretty good fun, although once again I fail to see the appeal of listening to a badly produced and imperfectly played version of a band’s output; although I’m immediately forced to eat humble pie because I must admit, this sounds great and the band are very tight. Meanwhile, I now have finally heard an album referenced on Wayne’s World. So that’s something. Also, I Want You To Want Me is still a great fucking song.

425 Gram ParsonsGrievous Angel: As I reach the end of another chunk of 25 albums in this, my completely pointless quest, I need to hear another country album like I need to have my hands superglued to my face. This is nowhere near as poisonous as most of the country music on this list so far, which is unsurprising given Parsons’ legacy with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, but I’ve now been listening to albums from this list for two weeks straight, and what I really need now is something so ridiculously aggressive as to make my ears hurt and my neighbours tremble. Sorry, Gram.

So that brings us to the end of part three of my challenge. 75 down and only 425 albums to go. Jesus wept, that’s depressing.

I don’t know what we’ve learnt from this episode, other than that Big Star were a good band, I Want You To Want Me is a fucking great song, and this challenge really was an utterly silly idea. Anyone who wants to come to my house and kill me thoroughly to death when I gear up to start the next chapter is welcome to do so.



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