Rolling Stone Top 500 Challenge VIII

"Cool Santa" by peter_h_hammond_1953

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End of the line, folks. This’ll be the last one of these, at least for here and now. I didn’t make it to the peak, where Sgt Peppers resides in all his predictable pomp. I failed. I am a failure.

Enjoy!

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: 325-301

325 Eric ClaptonSlowhand: It still baffles me that someone can go from being in The Yardbirds and Cream, both incredibly vital, urgent, excellent bands… to this. Meandering, plodding and pedestrian, this is utterly dull. How anyone can make a song about doing too much cocaine sound like an overdose of cocoa is beyond me.

324 David BowieStation to Station: This is full on 80s Bowie, and veers from unlistenable flirtations with disco, to fairly dull Bowie-by-numbers, to a couple of excellent guitar-led numbers. It whistled past me quickly enough.

323 The PoliceGhost in the Machine: Seriously though, fuck off Sting.

"Stewart Copeland of The Police was so fed up with Sting that he wrote the words "FUCK FACE" and "FUCK OFF YOU CUNT" on his drum heads, so he could take out his frustrations with Sting in an inspired manner."

Stewart Copeland of The Police was so fed up with Sting that he wrote “FUCK OFF YOU CUNT” on his drum heads, so he could take out his frustrations.”

322 Randy NewmanSail Away: I’m beginning to wonder if the rest of this challenge is going to revolve around me having to listen to Sting, then Randy Newman, then Sting again, then maybe some Jackson Browne. Lather, rinse, repeat. This is my third Randy Newman album, and I’ve become increasingly less tolerant of his bullshit with each one. Awful.

321 Nick DrakePink Moon: Ahhh, that’s better. Lustrous folk that’s dripping with sadness; after the previous four albums this is like a warm shower after a strenuous workout. I’d imagine, anyway, I don’t do exercise as a rule, because why on earth would you choose to do that?

320 RadioheadAmnesiac: More loveliness, courtesy of Oxford’s finest. You could argue that an album of offcuts from the Kid A recording sessions shouldn’t warrant inclusion here, but then we would have to stop talking to each other, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

319 Bob Marley & The WailersBurnin’: I’m trying to recall if this is the first reggae album we’ve had on the list so far, but my brain is still a bit burnt out from that Randy Newman album. It all starts to haunts you, eventually. Anyway, this is pretty decent really. Not hugely my cup of tea but it’s got some great songs, good earfeel etc.

318 The O’JaysBack Stabbers: This is 70s soul at its dullest. It starts brightly enough, with a political protest song, but then gives way to endless generic love songs. When the best song on the album is ‘Love Train’ then you know you have problems.

Soulfunk 80's

Soulfunk 80’s

317 PixiesSurfer Rosa: It’s amazing how fresh The Pixies sound, even now, when every rock man and his alt dog has spent the subsequent decades copying their blueprint so shamelessly. Anyway, this is brilliant, and has Where Is My Mind on it, which is my favourite Pixies song (wow, controversial choice, not).

316 The Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground: This is Velvet Underground at their most relaxed, with a distinct lack of the avant-garde oddness that made them so famous—apart from a head meltingly atonal nine-minute song at the end. Other than that it’s rather pleasant.

315 Tom Petty and The HeartbreakersDamn The Torpedoes: This is unashamedly American blue collar rawwwk, straight from the heartlands of wherever. You can imagine all of the songs being played by a blond haired boy on a tractor in Iowa, but for all that it’s very likeable, the epic hooks and anthemic choruses tempered by downtrodden working class lyrics with their feet in Steinbeck’s America.

314 Lauryn HillThe Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: This is pretty near perfect. Blending together the best of soul, hip hop, reggae and funk with intelligent, brash and militant lyrics and a strong, powerful woman at the centre of it all. Brilliant.

You want to give that up mate, it'll kill you.

You want to give that up mate, it’ll kill you.

313 NirvanaMTV Unplugged in New York: You have to wonder if this album would be quite so revered if it didn’t serve as a kind of epitaph for Kurt, but that’s how it’s ended up so you can’t really separate the two anymore. I remember very clearly seeing this for the first time on the day he died, when MTV UK went into Kurt overload, as I was doing myself. Listening back now you wonder if the scarcity of his own songs reflected his lack of faith in his own repertoire or his boredom with it. Either way, it’s a flawed and compelling album, and the finale of Leadbelly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night still sends shivers down my spine.

312 Jane’s AddictionNothing’s Shocking: I’ve never quite understood the reverence towards Jane’s, they’re a passably good 90s alternative band whose influence was more to do with their involvement in Lollapalooza than their musical output. This is okay, but nothing more, and Perry Farrell’s voice is one of the more irritating things in this life.

311 Various ArtistsThe Sun Records Collection: This is the sort of thing that reminds me what I’m doing this challenge for. Three discs of blues, r’n’b, country and rockabilly from the archives of one of the most important studios in history. At three hours it never drags, the more obvious acts like Elvis, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis sitting alongside people I’ve never heard of on a fascinating look at the very birth of popular music. Absolutely brilliant.

310 Red Hot Chili PeppersBlood Sugar Sex Magik: I loved this album when I was thirteen because it’s exactly the sort of album that appeals to a thirteen-year-old boys, with lyrics straight out of the letters page of a wank mag. But listening back now it’s interesting how much better this sounds than the Chili’s subsequent works, with Flea’s bass much more prominently mixed than Frusciante’s weedy guitar probably being the main reason. It’s infantile whiteboy faux-funk certainly, but it’s a lot more fun than anything else they’ve done.

Fuck off, would you lads?

Fuck off, would you lads?

309 Creedence Clearwater RevivalWilly And The Poor Boys: Late 60s politically charged swamp rock from Creedence, another band on the list of bands I’ve always meant to listen to. I don’t know why I like things that are tinged with down-home country music when I hate country so much, but this is excellent, especially Fortunate Son. In fact, I love this so much I’ve already made a playlist of their other albums to listen to after I’m done with this. Yes I am a fucking idiot, what of it?

308 Frank Sinatra Songs for Swingin’ Lovers: This is actually my dad’s favourite album of all time, so you could say I’m fairly well acquainted with it. There’s been a serious deficit of swing on this list, but this more than makes up for it. It’s really all you’d ever need when it comes to Ol’ Blue Eyes; it has endlessly opulent big band arrangements and Sinatra’s voice is sublime here. An effortless cool envelops the whole thing. Forget the ruinations visited upon this genre by Bublé and his ilk, this is marvellous.

307 The BeatlesA Hard Day’s Night: If there’s one thing I’m really starting to appreciate in an album the further I get into this endeavour, it’s brevity. This mop-top era album by the Fab Four is pretty dull really, lacking any really great songs, but it’s only 30 minutes long, so that’s just fine by me.

306 BeckOdelay: This album is more like a time capsule now, a reminder of a time when you could do some pretty out there stuff and still score a major worldwide smash, so long as you had a handful of good tunes in there and you were ’cool’ enough. It’s not quite as good as I remember it being, but it’s still a good listen.

305 Lucinda WilliamsCar Wheels On A Gravel Road: This is very odd. Williams has a very distinctive voice; think Sheryl Crow with an added dash of huskiness. But this album has a very glossy sheen to it which does not suit the oddness of her voice. The few songs where the production does get stripped back work a lot better, but then they aren’t great songs in and of themselves. A very frustrating listen.

~forever young forever in are hearts~

~forever young forever in are hearts~

304 Jeff BuckleyGrace: I adore this album. Buckley’s voice is simply extraordinary, exceeding the gymnastic dexterity of your general X factor warbling automata and combining it with soul, passion and—ironically—a certain ‘X’ factor, then backing it up with an album of brilliant songs. Not many people could get away with a cover of Corpus Christi Carol on a rock album, but Jeff could. In the pantheon of sad rock stories, the fact that we’ll never hear Grace’s follow up is probably the saddest.

303 Bob DylanJohn Wesley Harding: This was Dylan returning to his roots after three electric albums, incorporating a country vibe. It’s fantastic, Dylan’s voice is very strong, with some great songs and some of his better lyrics.

302 Public EnemyFear Of A Black Planet: Angry, confrontational, noisy as hell, funny as shit and smarter than you or I. Who in their right mind wouldn’t love this? There are times when their soundclash production gets a bit much, but they are few and far between.

And fanfare please…

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301 Dolly PartonCoat Of Many Colors: Here we are then, the 200th album on this list that I’ve listened to, and the last one I’ll be writing about here. After two solid weeks of listening to nothing else I’m looking forward to choosing my own music for a while, but I’ll get round to finishing the other 300 at some point. I may even write about it if any of you lot seem remotely interested in reading it, who knows! As for this album, well it’s quite good really. I really like Dolly Parton, I think she’s an awesome woman, and while she’s far too straight ahead country for me normally, there’s something very charming about her delivery and lyrics here that win me over.

So that’s that. Bye!

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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.

Rolling Stone Top 500 Challenge VI

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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 BrowneLate 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 MusicSiren: 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 AirplaneVolunteers: 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 PoliceReggatta De Blanc: Fuck off, Sting.

And not tantrically, either.

And not tantrically, either.

371 Arctic MonkeysWhatever 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 HoopleMott: 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 SmithsLouder 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 EaglesEagles: 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.

the eagles

367 MadonnaRay 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 CashAmerican 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 MachineRage 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 DoorsL.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 OrderSubstance: …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 PumpkinsSiamese 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 OutkastStankonia: 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 BuzzcocksSingles 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.

Elton John pictured in 1983.

Elton John pictured in 1983.

359 Elton JohnHonky 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 DavisSketches 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 StonesBetween 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 Newman12 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.

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355 The YardbirdsHaving 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 Joel52nd 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 WestMy 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 StraitsBrothers 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 HorseRust 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.

His name is Young but he is old. That's the joke.

His name is Young but he is old. That’s the joke.

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!

Rolling Stone Top 500 Challenge V

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We’re now a quarter-way through this list of the supposed greatest albums of all time, as decided by whoever Rolling Stone magazine thought was important enough to ask at the time. Now that we’re clear of the bottom hundred, you’d expect the oddities and scratch-your-head moments to be less frequent; for the list to become a nailed-on cavalcade of brilliance. Right?

Haha. Let’s find out.

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: 399-376

399 Tom WaitsRain Dogs: Not a bad way to start the fifth leg of this ridiculous enterprise, bar-soaked off-kilter blues-jazz-rock hyphenated-stuff from the man with a voice like a stabbed bear. Brilliant.

398 ZZ Top Eliminator: Every time I was starting to enjoy this slice of prime ‘Dad Rock’, I was transfixed by a mental image of Jeremy ‘Jeremy’ Clarkson rocking out in his finest shiny leather blouson and tight blue jeans, the lights of an empty dance floor rebounding off his bald spot and his moccasins, and when he turned round to smile at me, it was my face he was wearing.

397 Massive AttackBlue Lines: For some reason this is preferred over the infinitely better Mezzanine. I understand this lay down the blueprint for all the trip-hop that would follow, but anyone who would argue that it has anything more than a handful of good tunes and one classic scattered across its running time would be lying. To your face.

396 Roxy MusicFor Your Pleasure: I fully expected to hate this due to my own shady memories identifying them as some kind of 80s yuppie nonsense, but it’s actually a lot more like sophisticated experimental glam punk than I was expecting. I still don’t particularly like it, though.

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395 LCD SoundsystemSound of Silver: As someone who lived most of his formative years above various nightclubs around London and Essex, I have a utter hatred for anything that has a traditional dance beat, soundtracking as it did countless endless nights of broken sleep and tears. As this starts I start finding myself banging my head against the wall in a sudden attack of muscle and sense memory, but across its running time I find myself being quite won over by this album’s charms. What is happening to me?

394 Randy NewmanGood Old Boys: As someone who only really knows Newman from the Toy Story films and that Family Guy skit, I wasn’t really expecting savagely cutting satire, but that’s what this album delivers in spades. Unfortunately it couples this lyrical excellence with a songwriting style that is basically ‘every song sounds like the song from Toy Story.’ Every. Single. Song. What a weird album.

393 M.I.A.Kala: I don’t really understand what this is, but I think I quite like it. Either that or I utterly detest it. I can’t tell any more. I think it might be the latter. Yes, it’s awful. Unless it’s not. It is though.

392 The BeatlesLet It Be: And so we get to the first of ten Beatles albums on the list. One of their more relaxed efforts, there’s as you would expect some great songs in here, and some overrated self-indulgent dross. Nestled in amongst the other shit on this list it’s a bright little ray of sunshine, even if it’s really not good enough to warrant inclusion on any sane person’s list.

391 Jackson BrowneThe Pretender: I’d already done a Jackson Browne album on this list, but couldn’t remember it at all. Now I know why. This is the blandest, most generic dreadfulness. Urgh. There’s another one of his albums in the next leg, and I’ll have probably forgotten what he sounds like again before I get to it.

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390 The White StripesElephant: I’m actually rather fond or The White Stripes, who seem to be the only people to have become mainstream rock acts without particularly compromising their integrity in recent years. I love Jack White’s guitar tone, and Meg’s ability to keep the rhythm completely loose. It’s not my favourite album of theirs, but I’d take this over your Kings of Leons and your Killers from here until, well, the end of time.

389 Don HenleyThe End of the Innocence: Well now this is just awful. It doesn’t even have American Pie on it. I hate American Pie, but it’d still be preferable to all the other songs on offer on this excremental 80s AOR fare.

388 Various ArtistsThe Indestructible Beat of Soweto: Listen, if you feel that owning some world music somehow alleviates your white guilt and middle class privilege then go right ahead, but please don’t try and convince me that it’s good, because it’s just not. In fact I think this might be the worst album I’ve heard on this list so far, an unlistenable melange of bad 80s production, weak melodies repeated ad infinitum and absolutely nothing whatsoever to redeem it, save for the aforementioned middle class guilt avoidance hippie bullshit aesthetic. It’s like nails on a blackboard for an hour.

387 Wu-Tang ClanEnter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers): This is more like it. Sublimely ridiculous cartoon gangsta hip hop. I’ve heard this album christ knows how many times and it still makes me giggle every single time.

386 Steely DanPretzel Logic: I’m starting to think that this is Rolling Stone’s top 500 generic AOR albums from the 70s and 80s when its writers were actually young, with a few modern additions to make them seem vaguely hip. This is dull, and I can’t think of anything else to say about it than that.

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385 Bob DylanLove And Theft: On the one hand it’s great that an artist like Dylan can find the drive to keep going well into his dotage, on the other hand it’s not so good that we actually have to listen to it. This is fairly generic folk rock, delivered with all the grace and poise of a tramp pissing into your mouth.

384 The WhoA Quick One: The Who are one of the bands that I was hoping to get to know a bit better over this exercise, a band I always meant to get around to. On the strength of this, their second album, maybe I should not be so hasty. Mop top brit pop from the 60s, it’s all perfectly fine, but I can’t find anything in this to justify the hype I’ve heard about this band throughout my life. It’s the first of seven Who albums on the list, however, so I’ll have plenty of opportunities to change my mind. *loads shotgun*

383 Talking HeadsMore Songs About Buildings and Food:  There’s a strange disco vibe on this second album by oddball post-punks Talking Heads, which is possibly why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was expecting to. The lyrics and vocals of David Byrne are as enjoyable as you’d expect, but the music just feels flat and tinny and overly repetitive, and the music just feels flat and tinny and overly repetitive.

382 Modern LoversModern Lovers: This is interesting, somewhere between the Velvet Underground and punk, I’d never heard of this before. Hey look, this list accomplished something!

381 The Beach BoysSmile: This list predates Brian Wilson finishing Smile properly I assume, which is why I have to listen to this mish mash instead, a completely half-baked clump of ideas, occasional moments of genius nestled amongst the detritus of the rest of it. Frustrating.

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380 Toots and The MaytalsFunky Kingston: Now this is delightful. Proper Jamaican reggae, this is like swallowing sunshine or taking a bath in happiness. Lovely.

379 TLCCrazysexycool: Jesus. This is the worst kind of generic 90s R’n’B pop, but it’s sold loads of millions of copies despite it only having a couple of catchy tunes on it and a production so tepid that it would make Michael Bolton weep, so that must make it worthy of inclusion on a list of the so-called greatest albums of all time, right? RIGHT?

378 Oasis(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?: This was less of a listening experience, more a traumatic dip into the murky backwater swamp of my own wretched past, an unwelcome reminder of bad times and things best forgotten. Cheers Rolling Stone.

377 John Lee HookerThe Ultimate Collection (1948-1990): I got the ‘I-really-like-John-Lee-Hooker-but-I-don’t-think-anyone-really-needs-to-ever-sit-through-three-straight-CDs-of-his-back-catalogue-what-with-his-songs-all-being-really-similar-and-that’ blues

376 BjörkPost: You can take your Lady Gagas and your M.I.As and shove them, quite frankly. If you want incredibly innovative, brilliantly written and completely nuts art-pop, then Bjork has been doing it a hell of a lot longer and better than anyone else. This album is dripping with menace, beauty, fragility, power, sexuality and brilliance. And she’s never ruined the Muppets.

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Hooray! That’s another 25 albums gobbled up in short order, and to ensure complete digestion I must now sleep them off, otherwise I’ll be bringing them all back up again in a minute. With another leg done, that’s only… 15 to go! 

 oh god

Rolling Stone Top 500 Challenge IV

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I am still doing it—’it’ being a joyless trudge through one of these exhaustive musical lists everyone’s so fond of. Except this one is massive, and is crammed up to the eyeslots with hurt. I am now 20 per cent of the way through. Do you think we’ll ever be troubled by what Rolling Stone imagines are the real best albums of all time?

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: 424-400

424 Bruce SpringsteenThe Rising: The Boss’ first album in seven years was a response to 9/11, and was chock full of positivity and healing ‘vibes’. Which probably means I’m a really bad person for finding it as soothing as eczema.

423 Diana Ross and The SupremesAnthology: Do we really need another three disc anthology on the list? Especially one that’s not actually on Spotify and needs to be manually recreated from their entire discography? There’s naturally a lot of filler on here, especially the later 70’s stuff when they shift from Motown to disco. But for the most part, this is good pop.

422 The RonettesPresenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica: Ah, the Phil Spector wall of sound. Whoever came up with that term has clearly never heard of Ufomammut. We transition from 1960s girl band pop to 1960s girl band pop, and I’d rather listen to this than Pic n Mix or whatever the current girl band du jour is. It’s also an actual album rather than an elaborate box-set compilation, so doesn’t take the best part of a day to listen to.

421 Various ArtistsThe Best of the Girl Groups: Ah yes, good old Various Artis—wait, more 60s girl band pop? Jesus. Ok then. Once again this took longer to assemble in Spotify than it did to listen to it, which is slightly irritating. I’m starting to tire of the 60s sound now. Need riffs please.

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420 Buddy Holly & The CricketsThe “Chirping” Crickets: I loved Buddy Holly when I was growing up, so much so that my parents took me to see the musical Buddy four times. I’m so metal. Anyway, Buddy Holly was excellent. So there. Still, can we have something that is younger than I am please?

419 PortisheadDummy: That’s more like it. One of my favourite albums of all time, still as haunting and weird now as it was then. I have no idea how this managed to end up as popular as it did, but then the people have to get something right every now and then. Roads is still the best of all the best things.

418 WingsBand on the Run: Baaaaaaand on the ruuun, baaaand ooon the RUN. JET! JET! Wooo  Oooooooooo Ooooooo! This album is equal parts ‘hey Macca was a great songwriter once, wasn’t he?’ and ‘oh shut up Macca you insufferable buffoon.’ Mostly the latter.

417 U2Boy: Oh for fuck’s sake. I have counted five U2 albums on this list, which means it is, objectively, at least one per cent complete bullshit. And to push our statistical analysis still further, there are 11 U2 tracks on this album, which makes it, definitively, 100 per cent bullshit.

416 Tom WaitsMule Variations: Here’s a lesson for all aspiring singers. Bono can hit lots of those notes that you hear about. Tom Waits, by contrast, can’t hit any of them; nor can he sound like anything other than a drunken vacuum cleaner. But I would rather listen to Tom than Bono from now until the end of time.

415 Van HalenVan Halen: Tremendous fun, great guitars, sleazy vocals, all delivered with an earnest cheeky chappie delivery and a twinkle in the eye. Whilst this was playing in my head I became Dalton from Road House. I’d love to be Dalton from Road House. Such hair, many bar fight. Wow.

414 The Go-Go’sBeauty and the Beat: Well this is jolly. New wave pop with Belinda Carlisle on vocals. A delightful breezy bundle of hooks and jaunty jangly guitars.

413 MinutemenDouble Nickels on the Dime: So often when you get to hear something that is considered a pivotal record, the result is disappointing; a legacy forming all the bands and albums that follow in its wake tarnishes whatever brilliance it may have once held. I assumed this would be the case with Minutemen, a band I’ve heard about for years and never got round to. How wrong. Mixing early hardcore with the songwriting brilliance of the Pixies and the funk of—well, funk, this double album full of one or two-minute bursts of magnificence is quite something.

412 WirePink Flag: Steady on Rolling Stone, you’re actually introducing me to some good albums here. This record was recorded in 1977, the same year the Sex Pistols were releasing Never Mind The Bollocks. Whereas the latter is an infantile energy bomb that has (let’s face it) not aged well, this was quietly setting the template for the post punk and hardcore scenes while punk was in its infancy. Brilliant.

411 Eric Clapton461 Ocean Boulevard: If this is the kind of album you make when you’re recovering from heroin addiction then it’s a good job Kurt Cobain shot himself in the face instead.

410 Bob DylanTime Out Of Mind: Okay, Rolling Stone, I get that you really like Dylan. There are 12 of his albums on this list after all, but if an album doesn’t get anywhere near an artist’s individual top ten, do you really think it should be counted as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time in any genre of popular music? No. This is fine, but Highway 61 it is not. It’s also the source of the song Make You Feel My Love, which surely classes it as a biological weapon of some kind.

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409 The DoorsStrange Days: Can’t go wrong with The Doors. Not much more to say than that.

408 Sinead O’ ConnorI Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got: So much cheerfulness I don’t think I can take it. At first, I would have said I enjoyed this, but on balance, I don’t think it’s an album to enjoy, so much as to endure. Bleakness sliders pushed to maximum. By the end I was checking how much runtime was left every few minutes, which isn’t a great sign. Afterwards, I moved on to something more uplifting, like undercover slaughterhouse footage.

407 The ClashSandinista!: If, like me, 99 per cent of albums recorded in the 1980s make you want to replace your headphones with a pair of power drills, you’ll probably not be so keen on this. But aside from the awful production, this manages to take a handful of genre-bending scraps of excellence, then pad them out with over two additional discs of utter bilge, which lasts longer than eternity.

406 PJ HarveyRid Of Me: This is the sort of album that worms its way into your very core; a dirty, snarling bit of brilliance. I love Polly. More Polly please.

405 Big StarRadio City: Not going to lie, I was expecting big things from this, given how much I loved the two albums lower down this list. But this fell a bit flat. Shame.

404 Dr. JohnDr. John’s Gumbo: I used to think Jools Holland had tainted “the boogie woogie” so much that I couldn’t actually listen to it any more—until I listened to this, which was excellent. Now I’m just confused. Who could ever have guessed “the boogie woogie” might actually be good?

403 Lynyrd Skynyrd(pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd): I have a ridiculous amount of affection for this album, but then given that it contains Tuesday’s Gone, Simple Man and Freebird amongst its scant eight tracks, maybe it’s not that ridiculous. I mean, some of the other songs are a bit shit really, but if you like your rock served southern and you don’t love this album, you’re doing your life wrong.

402 NasIllmatic: Oh look Rolling Stone remembered hip hop exists! This album is so good, it makes pretty much all the other mainstream hip hop albums ever made cower in incredulous inferiority.

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401 Red Hot Chili PeppersCalifornication: A festering pustule of an album. The moment when alternative rock as a genre finally jumped over the entire Jaws saga. The sum total of all of history’s cumulative banality. This album is all of these things. If your reply to this is ‘yeah but Flea is a great bassist’ then fuck you. You need to have a good hard look at yourself, because you are what’s wrong with almost everything.

400 The TemptationsAnthology: Jesus wept, this seems to be the episode of many anthologies. I don’t mind The Temptations, but I don’t need two hours’ worth of what is quite frankly a very repetitive formula, repeated once every three to five minutes.

But with 100 records down, and one-fifth of the entire list thoughtfully digested, that’s me done. Do I feel suitably enriched by my experience with the lower echelons of time’s greatest music? I suppose there’s only one way you’ll ever find out. Until next time…

Rolling Stone Top 500 Challenge III

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

Cheers.

Rolling Stone Top 500 Challenge II

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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!

LET’S GO.

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 ChaoPróxima 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 SmithsS/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 MichaelFaith: 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 ThompsonI 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 JRadio: 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.

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469 FugeesThe 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 BandS/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 SpringsteenTunnel 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 ColdplayA 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.

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465 The Magnetic Fields69 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 LeppardHysteria: Oh there’s my childhood. I remember every line of this album, every lick, every mullet, every cheesy chorus. Brilliant.

463 Echo & The BunnymenHeaven 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.

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460 HoleLive 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 DriftersThe Drifters’ Golden Hits: Snooooooooooooooooooooooooze.

458 Elton JohnTumbleweed 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 JacketZ: Perfectly pleasant but underwhelming lo-fi American indie. Which seems to be my most oft-repeated phrase in this task.

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456 Marvin GayeHere, 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 CooperLove 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.

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453 EPMDStrictly 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 PrineS/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 WinehouseBack 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 BrowneFor 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!