Rolling Stone Top 500 Challenge VII

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By now news of this webzine’s impending demise may have reached your fragile, birdlike ears, which does raise the question: What the fuck was this whole Rolling Stone thing for, anyway? We’re nowhere near finished with it, and now we never will be. What gives? Well, I can’t answer that, I’m too busy burying my head in the sand, carrying on listening to the bloody things in a futile attempt to reach some kind of closure in the next few days that will render the enterprise as anything other than a complete and utter waste of time.

Here’s how I’ve been getting on:

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: 350-326

350 The YardbirdsRoger the Engineer: More Yardbirds fun, it’s pretty basic rock and roll really, but done with panache, verve and humour. It’s good fun, even if it’s over quicker than George Osborne masturbating to pictures of a Victorian poor house.

349 Jay-ZThe Black Album: Jay Z is everything that is wrong with hip-hop, or at least that was what I thought for a while, but this is pretty good, once you get past that slightly annoying delivery method that he has. It’s all bombast and big pop hooks, and sometimes that’s okay.

348 Muddy WatersAt Newport 1960: This album is so damn cool, and benefits greatly from not being a four-disc career retrospective, therefore ending well before I got bored of it.

347 Pink FloydThe Piper At The Gates Of Dawn: Speaking of boredom, from an intellectual standpoint this represented a huge leap forward in what was possible within the confines of ‘pop’ music, but on the other hand, it’s about as enjoyable as being in the next room to George Osborne masturbating to pictures of a Victorian poor house. That’s right, I’m introducing a running gag. Don’t worry, I won’t use it again.

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George Osborne, pictured “piping” at the gates of Downing Street

346 De La Soul3 Feet High and Rising: This is a delightful ray of sunshine that has utterly rescued my day. I loved this album as a kid, the first hip-hop album I heard that wasn’t ‘gangsta’; it reminds me of carefree afternoons in the parks, sunny days and happiness, so I presume it must be someone else’s childhood I’m remembering.

345 Talking HeadsStop Making Sense: Live albums are, as a rule, a bit pish, but I’d like to hereby amend that rule to allow for live albums whose original songs were generally destroyed by hideous 80s production. This is beefier, more organic and just plain urgent than Talking Heads’ albums, and therefore utterly allowable.

344 Lou ReedBerlin: This often gets billed as the most depressing album ever, which certainly piqued my interest. While I think most of my record collection has it beat for gloominess, there’s certainly no denying the crushing misery in Reed’s lyrics here, and the overall album is a startling mix of bombast and ennui. Excellent.

343 Meat LoafBat Out Of Hell: This list throws up some interesting juxtapositions at times, and going from the ultra-gloom of Lou Reed to Meat Loaf’s vaudevillian mix of Jerry Lee Lewis, Queen and rock opera makes for quite the change. This is, of course, completely ridiculous, but I can’t help but love it just a little bit.

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342 Depeche ModeViolator: My brother went to school with Dave Gahan, which may go some way to explaining why Dave Gahan is so bloody miserable. This album, which is like a gloomy British Pretty Hate Machine, is phenomenal. Cheers bro!

341 MobyPlay: In which the white man finally killed the blues. This is just awful. Imagine you took DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing….., removed everything vital, interesting or good about it, and replaced it with the white noise from inside an advertising executive’s head. This is what you get. Oh, for reference, Endtroducing….. didn’t make this list. So there’s that.

340 Black FlagDamaged: This may sound like it was recorded inside a tiny wooden box at the top of a flight of stairs on the summit of a cliff, but the sheer force of personality contained within it still shines through. It’s also bloody nice to finally hear some proper distortion and angry teenagers after the bleepy-bloopy-cultural-appropriatey nonsense of Moby.

339 Tom WaitsThe Heart of Saturday Night: More bar-soaked blues from Mr Waits, this time dating from an era when he could ostensibly ‘carry a tune’, which almost ruins it somehow. At times it strays into lounge act cheese, but manages to pull it back most of the time.

"We're monkeys with money and guns." -- Tom Waits

“We’re monkeys with money and guns.” — Tom Waits

338 Big Brother & The Holding CompanyCheap Thrills: I’d never heard of this, but it’s the major label debut of Janis Joplin. The production is dreadful, it sounds like a bad live recording, and the band aren’t exactly The Experience. But for all that, the power of Janis’ voice mixed with the bluesy rock and some good songwriting make this a pretty decent album.

337 Jethro TullAqualung: Poppy proggy stuff from The Tull. I can imagine at least one Demon Pigeon writer who probably worships this album and has it in seventeen formats, including one composed entirely from crystallised baby tears but while I enjoyed it well enough, it faded from my memory almost instantly.

336 RadioheadIn Rainbows: When you look around at the bands that came out of England in the mid-90s and compare them with Radiohead’s nigh on 25-year career, you realise just how unique a band they were and continue to be. This album, even if you strip away the hype around its release method, is as excellent as you’d expect, which is to say they continue to hit a bar that only they can even see from the ground.

335 SoundgardenSuperunknown: I loved this when I was a fresh faced teen in a flannel shirt and cherry red DMs, but over time the shine has come off the Soundgarden train, perhaps as a result of their god awful reunion album. Anyway, this has some great tracks on it, but it misses the dirty feel of its predecessor and is probably five or six songs too long.

Soundgarden+Gun

334 Graham ParkerSqueezing Out Sparks: This represented my toughest ordeal yet in terms of tracking it down, with not even your more piratey of bays having a copy. I managed to cobble together a playlist on Spotify of all but one track, although with a fair few live versions. Anyway, this is basically 70s British pub rock of the Elvis Costello variety, pleasant enough, with a few jaunty catchy tunes. Not bad, if hardly earth-shattering.

333 XWild Gift: X were apparently LA’s answer to the punk rock ‘revolution’ and this is pretty much what you’d expect, fairly basic punk crossed with a dash of Ramones-style pop nous. Not bad but nothing to write home about. Or indeed, write an article on a music blog about, even though that’s exactly what I’m doing.

332 Richard and Linda ThompsonShoot Out the Lights: I dimly recall an album by these two earlier on in the challenge, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. Sure, I could look at what I wrote last time, but I’m not going to. This is perfectly pleasant for the most part, Linda’s songs in particular are nice little folk numbers, while Richard’s are less enticing. But it passes the time well enough.

331 The BeatlesHelp!: I was going to write the standard ‘blah blah blueprint for pop music, blah blah amazing songwriting, blah blah pop perfection’ thing, and it’d all be true, but then I got to You Like Me Too Much, a song I’ve heard many times before without really listening to, and if you think Blurred Lines was a bit on the creepy side, then get a load of this. Here’s a game: Pick an actor who creeps you out. Read the lyrics in your head, but in his voice. Terrified yet? Of course it’s delivered with all the cheeky pop charm you’d expect, but it struck me as a bit odd. Great album though.

Michael+Cera+Rocks+Creepy+Mustache+ZUw7iAKnDMFl

330 Neil YoungTonight’s the Night: Written in the aftermath of the deaths of some of Young’s close friends to drugs, this is absolutely gripping, An at times literal howl of grief, this has some of Young’s strongest songs delivered in a shambolic drunken stupor. It’s not an easy listen. Young’s already ‘interesting’ vocal delivery style doesn’t even find anything close to the melody at times, but it’s incredibly moving, engrossing and brilliant.

329 James BrownIn the Jungle Groove: Set the misogyny ray to full blast! The opening track of this album is somewhat ruined by lyrics that play like an earnest version of Harry Enfield’s ‘women, know your place’ routine. But after that the godfather of soul decides to shut the hell up and essentially do nothing more than play the hype man to his own band as they storm through endless funk workouts, chipping in occasionally with a ‘hit me’, ‘ooh,’ or ‘waaaaa’. This drastically improves the album, although by its end I’m bored to tears of funk.

328 Sonic YouthDaydream Nation: This is absolutely brilliant. I don’t really know what more to say about it than that. If you like alternative rock, or art rock, or anything even remotely offbeat, and you don’t like Sonic Youth, well then shit. I can’t help you I’m afraid.

327 Liz PhairExile in Guyville: There’s an awful lot of stuff on this list I’ve never heard before, obviously, but very few occasions where I have never even heard of the artist at all. But strike me down, I’d never heard of Liz Phair before, despite her being an alt rock feminist star from the 90s. The 90s are my thing! Or so I thought. I could only assume this was an undiscovered gem in waiting. The lyrics are funny, confrontational and full of feminist ire (the album is a riposte to the sexual braggadocio of the Stones’ Exile on Main Street, from a woman’s perspective) and the songs are easily good enough to back it up, all laid-back guitar and minimal production. A great find. Hooray for the 90s!

326 The CureDisintegration: This is definitely the high water mark for The Cure and their foppish goth, although it’s all a bit too wishy washy to truly win me over. It’s alright though.

So there you go. Over a third of the way through. That counts as a milestone, right? Tune in to see if I can manage to get another load done before THE END.

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