I’m rattling through these albums lickety-bloody-split at the moment, to take advantage of the fact that nobody’s bothered to release any good records yet this year, and I’m bored of all the stuff from last year. We’re definitely not running out of steam, honest. Like all our manifold serialised ‘articles’, we will one day get this finished.
Without further ado:
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: 375-351
375 Jackson Browne – Late For The Sky: I’m beginning to wonder whether Jackson Browne was on the panel that decided this list, and his sole contribution was to give them a list of all his own records copied off of Wikipedia. Yet more bland 70s AOR. You could make an argument for this being better than his two records further back in the list, but you’ll notice that I’m not.
374 Roxy Music – Siren: If the last Roxy Music album on the list failed to win me over, then this one does a much better job. 1970s post-punk art-pop, but with some excellent songs, and a dark, menacing vibe throughout.
373 Jefferson Airplane – Volunteers: Given the cultural significance of the so called hippie movement, there’s been precious little hippie music on this list so far, but Jefferson Airplane change all that. This is folk rock twisted through a pharmaceutical haze, and it’s bloody brilliant. Also, they later got on cocaine and changed their name to STARSHIP, and we heartily approve of that.
372 The Police – Reggatta De Blanc: Fuck off, Sting.
371 Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not: This veers between brilliantly catchy working class British rock with inventive lyrics, and meandering dull indie fare. The fact that it can even claim the first part at all probably makes it the best British indie album in a decade.
370 Mott the Hoople – Mott: Looking at the next run of four albums set this whole ridiculous enterprise back by a few days, filling me as it did with a deep ladle-full of dread. I mean, forgotten glam rockers, the most boring band on the planet, a washed up pop star and The Fucking Smiths. You try looking at that list and pressing play. Urgh. But this took me by surprise; less the Bowie-aping glam stomp of their earlier work, more bluesy, biting and only a bit glam rock.
369 The Smiths – Louder Than Bombs: I must be feeling charitable after being delighted by Mott, because despite my utter hatred for ‘meat eaters are paedophiles’ Morrissey and his whingy, awful band of tossers, this double-disc retrospective (*sigh*) is actually not as objectionable as it might be. It even has a bona fide ‘quite good’ song, London, which I hadn’t heard before. My world is upturned.
368 Eagles – Eagles: My sense of lost equilibrium is not helped at all by this, the first album by American snooze merchants the Eagles also being much better than I thought it was going to be. For fuck’s sake. Laid back without being dull, this is marginally rougher round the edges than their later stuff and really rather good.
367 Madonna – Ray of Light. Ah, there you go. Expectations well and truly met. I grew up quite liking Madonna, but I notice that the one really great album she made (Erotica) doesn’t make this list, so instead we have to put up with this thoroughly dull pop/dance hybrid which could have done with being twinned with some personality.
366 Johnny Cash – American Recordings: I absolutely adore this album, the richness of Cash’s voice is like butter but really sad butter, the production is probably the best thing Rick Rubin has ever done and the songs are heart-wrenching, dark and bleakly comic. Brilliant.
365 Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine: It turns out I remember every single lyric on this album, which I think makes me a semi-qualified rapper. I might try and find a ‘battle’ somewhere and test this theory. This is, of course, brilliant, but then you knew that already.
364 The Doors – L.A. Woman: From the opening riff of The Changeling to the closing bars of Riders on the Storm this is The Doors at their flawless, bluesiest best. Brilliant. Wait! Once again, that’s three brilliant albums in a row, and that can mean only one thing…
363 New Order – Substance: …nooooo, it’s another two-disc retrospective! Of a British electro-pop band from the 80s that I utterly despise! If anyone ever wanted to know what was so bad about the 1980s, point them at New Order. When the drum machine heralding the start of Blue Monday comes in I want to end all of the world and its contents. This sounds like the band you formed when you were seven and there were two of you with keyboards and you just hit the demo buttons and sang mumbled tuneless bullshit about the girl down the street who you fancied over the top of it. By you, I mean me, obviously. That this stuff gets played on BBC Radio Two to this very fucking day completely breaks my mind.
362 The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream: If you’d have asked me my favourite album of all time throughout most of my teens and early 20s I’d have told you this was it; and it hasn’t slipped all that far down the list in the intervening decades. Not a note wasted, and the richest guitar tones known to mankind, this is deliriously good. Fuck sake, why’d you fucking ruin it Billy?
361 Outkast – Stankonia: You can see how this launched Outkast into the astrosphere sales-wise; brilliantly offbeat lyrics and massive pop melodies. It’s a fairly enjoyable ride throughout.
360 Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady: Again, I fail to see how a greatest hits compilation qualifies as an album. If those are the rules, we might as well start letting Jeremy Clarkson decide what’s cool. But it seems that at least half this list of greatest albums is comprised of not-actually-albums-except-in-contractual-terms. Hey ho. This is exactly what you’d expect from a Buzzcocks best-of, concise pop-punk with occasional moments of brilliance and a fair amount of ballast.
359 Elton John – Honky Chateau: One of the last albums in Elton’s period of absolute brilliance, when he could swirl Americana, blues, soul and British pop into a big old pot and come out with something majestic. Then the 80s (ie, cocaine) came along and turned him into a cartoon pop buffoon wearing wacky Timmy Mallett glasses. This is excellent, though.
358 Miles Davis – Sketches Of Spain: As smooth as a highly-polished thing being buffed to a sheen in Smoothsville, USA, this mixture of Davis’ more laid-back jazz and flamenco rhythms is quite lovely, if perhaps not quite as memorable as works Davis would produce elsewhere.
357 The Rolling Stones – Between the Buttons: This is the first of ten Rolling Stones albums on this list, and in our opinion, the tenth best album on anyone’s back catalogue—even that of Jesus Christ himself—doesn’t deserve a place anywhere near a list of the greatest albums of all time. And so it proves here, with this utterly bland collection of songs from the Stones.
356 Randy Newman – 12 Songs: Again, I can’t listen to this without hearing the Toy Story theme, mainly because all this is is Newman’s ‘say what you see’ whimsy over 12 nauseating tracks. It’s just so dull.
355 The Yardbirds – Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds: There’s an argument to be made that The Yardbirds are the most important British rock band of the 60s, seeing as they variously had Clapton, Beck and Page as their ‘axemen’, but that would clearly be a stupid argument so I don’t know why I mentioned it. This album features all three at various points and is brilliantly excitable blues and soul-inflected rock ‘n’ roll. I bet they were incredible live.
354 Billy Joel – 52nd Street: It’s clear on this how much Joel wants to be Elton John. It’s also clear that Joel is utterly deluded. This is inoffensive 70s radio-friendly AOR, and as such, actually contrives to be as offensive as possible.
353 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: This flits between brilliant and inventive, and bland and worryingly misogynistic; and the longer it goes on the more it drifts towards the latter, especially the song that apes Iron Man by Sabbath as Kanye indulges his woman-hating douchebaggery. An odd mix. Also the title sounds like one of those weird Facebook groups full of inspiring confidence-boosting quotes that the mentally subnormal subscribe to.
352 Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms: I probably don’t need to review this as I’d be surprised if anyone reading hadn’t heard it. Some great songs ruined by terrible production, and some boring songs made worse by terrible production. Bit of a snoozeathon, all told.
351 Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps: This album is so good that it effectively sapped Young’s creative powers to the extent that he would be unable to release another good album for an entire decade. From the acoustic folk of the first side—all wistful and brooding—to the raucous and belligerent rock of the second, this is fantastic. Good old Uncle Neil.
And there you have it, another 25 classic records evaluated, devoured and pummelled to the ground. My educational musical odyssey will return… in The Critic Who Loved To Hate.
Tune in next time if you can be bothered. BYE!