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.

Roxy+Music

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

The Most Listable Time of the Year – Part Two

"Cool Santa" by Unknown Artist

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Editors’ Note: Hello. Go here and read this. Then come back here.

It’s been quite the year. We think. We’ve forgotten most of it already, and what we seem to have retained is just a swirling mass of bizarre faux-pas and horrific crimes committed mostly by famous people and politicians, as one after another after another was revealed to be either corrupt, a nonce, or both. That warm fuzzy Olympic glow never seemed so far away, did it?

We here at Demon Pigeon are now utterly convinced that we’re going through life at super-speed, too fast to be able to appreciate things like ‘writing’ and ‘music’ and ‘Demon Pigeon’. That’s because every turn of the clock gives us something fresh to anticipate and plan for. You’ve barely finished icing your Nigella Lawson Christmas cake before it’s time to start planning your New Year’s Eve pale ale and pomade party, by which time the Creme Eggs are already in the shops.

No wonder it feels like we’re getting flushed through life’s reeking U-bend at top fucking speed, getting mugged at every hand. And if it isn’t actually Valentine’s Day or Hallowe’en—neither of which are particularly different from the other (pissed people in fancy dress howling and moaning all night)—then the world just starts making up reasons why you should buy things. Our last actual vivid emotional memory is from July, of some teenagers fighting one another in an ASDA over a ~*SuMMeRY*~ Coca-Cola bottle with their name on it, while we struggled to pay for our groceries. 

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, Demon Pigeon presents:

40-Ish Albums From 2013 About Which Our Lazy And Distracted Bunch Of Voluntary Content Creators (AKA Battery-Farmed Egos) Could Not Justify The Effort Involved In Writing; But Now—Having Been Pestered, Cajoled And Psychologically Wounded Into Compliance—They Have Roused Themselves From Their Respective Slumbers To Excrete Their Views Into A Spontaneous And Largely Unwelcome Puddle, Which You Can Inspect Below! Thank’s.

List begin:

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

I was a 15-year-old once, and Daft Punk was the thing to be seen to have knowledge of, along with JUSTICE. That was the high-water mark of a spectrum that I would like to call “the mistake phase” of young personhood, which submerged itself right alongside other totally unforgivable things, like nu-rave and Lostprophets. I’m not about to state that Daft Punk is music for arseholes; some of my best friends are Daft Punk fans. But even they’d agree this was a disappointing collection of elevator music, entirely absent any of the thumping impact of their previous records. Dross. JB

NailsAbandon All Life

As short and to the point as this write up, as unremittingly furious as a teenage gamer on Xbox Live, as brutal as Iain Duncan-Smith‘s welfare reforms, as powerful as Cillit Bang Extra and as intelligent and sharp as these similes are not—this is a ball of hateful grindcore that makes most rivals look like amateurs. Glad to see these fellas ageing disgracefully. AW

My Bloody Valentinembv

One day it was never going to happen. And then it did. It starts out kind of exactly how you’d imagine, all shimmering textural unriffs and ghostly murmurs, and honestly? If it had stayed sounding just like the child of Loveless that it first indicates it’ll be, that would have been just fine. It doesn’t do that though, preferring instead to channel that curious half-light that you only ever see on the way home from those nights where all you really remember is how much fun you had with no specifics available, and filters that uneasy smirk through a heady brew of ever-spiralling tension and paranoiac, splintered tones. A fine riposte to one of the longest-running musical punchlines. RM

Clutch – Earth Rocker

I remained agnostic on the subject of Clutch until earlier this year, when this album came along to reset the standard for whisky-necked fighting music. Nothing has really touched it since. NOX

FactorWoke up Alone

2013’s best hip hop concept album about a man attempting to bring his wife back from the dead using necromancy. GO

"Cool Santa" by B0bJones

“Cool Santa” by B0bJones

Weekend Nachos Still

Ridiculously fun grind-tinged hardcore that somehow managed to be the toast of the indie mags, despite it actually being rather good. PS

Carpet – Elysian Pleasures

Easygoing, laid-back organ-rich jazz-rock provides the underpinning to this morsel of summery psychedelia. NOX

DeafheavenSunbather

When the dust settles on the infinite best-of-year lists across the music press and blogosphere, this album will likely have secured enough number one picks to ensure its inevitable reissue will have a sticker big enough to cover its subversively pink cover. Thankfully, the hype is mostly justified, as Deafheaven’s oh-so-clever meld of black metal and hipster douchebaggery manages to emerge as something both brutal and understatedly beautiful. PS

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

I’m quite pleased that Trent popped his muscular tree-trunk neck out of the mud and spat up a new album. This has a striding enthusiasm that is good to see out of a musician this prolific. This naughty, groovy album pumps like set-dressing music from an Underworld/True Blood crossover fanfic, and yet NO—it sounds cool, still. Really, I promise. JB

Church of Misery – Thy Kingdom Scum

Like belching up a throatful of stagnant ditchwater and then murdering a prostitute with a hammer. But in a good way. NOX

"Cool Santa" by Dreamstime.com

“Cool Santa” by Dreamstime.com

Boards Of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest

*swoon* Yeah, that’s how I feel about this, pretty much. Seriously lovely electronica from the masters of the art, all analogue squelchy niceness underpinned with some disturbing, devilish arpeggios and head-wrecking, yet still comforting beats. RM

Altar of PlaguesTeeth Glory and Injury

Absolutely disgusting. Sounds like Satan being sick on an animal shelter that’s on fire. At Christmas. I love it. GO

KataKlysmWaiting For The End To Come

Blander than a beige cardigan wrapped around a tub of vanilla ice cream and painted magnolia, this album couldn’t be more aptly named. No chuggy gooey delicious yum here, just robbed Arch Enemy riffs and the worst vocals ever. WD

MogwaiLes Revenants

Scotland’s finest instrumentalists soundtrack France’s blockbusting horror export to overwhelming success, ranging between eerie and terrifying with remarkable ease. PS

Kanye West – Yeezus

Despite Kanye West being, for many, a laughing stock akin to internet troll victim Christian Weston Chandler, there’s actually some excellent stuff to be found on Yeezus. Savant sampling of Nina Simone—that would have sounded ridiculous, had anyone else done it—made me grin from ear to ear. People call Kanye West a narcissist, but the anger and urgency on Yeezus make me think he might be far more grounded than people say he is. JB

"Cool Santa" by gts

“Cool Santa” by gts

Norma JeanWrongdoers

Having somewhat underwhelmed on their last few efforts, metalcore’s sole remaining interesting band return with a snarling, feral beast of an album, which even manages to remain listenable when the inevitable emo choruses kick in. PS

Ghost – Infestissumam

Fuck knows what this is supposed to be. Fucking do one mate and take your stupid fucking hat with you. NOX

Billy WoodsDour Candy

Billy Woods released one of the best albums of 2012 in History Will Absolve Me. Billy Woods also released two of the best albums of 2013. Billy Woods is clever. GO

Armand HammerRace Music

Billy Woods again, this time with Elucid. This one has a Cold Vein vibe about it. If that means anything to you then you should get onto this album right away. If that means nothing to you then you should get onto this album right away. GO

Run The JewelsRun The Jewels

Well, it’s El-P and Killer Mike innit. It could hardly fail to be at least fun, and it fulfilled the vague brief of ‘old-school type shit’ fantastically well. El-P has some serious songwriting skills, and proves he also knows how to sequence a record almost perfectly to keep you interested and occasionally make you do a big old eyes-bulging ‘WTF!’ face (see the drop from DDFH into Sea Legs for one stellar example). Full attack mode from everyone that raps on this makes it a charged, occasionally funny as fuck (Prince Paul as Chest Rockwell, notably) romp through some effortlessly modernised gangsta rap. RM

"Cool Santa" by Unknown Artist

“Cool Santa” by Unknown Artist

AmenraMass V

The bleakest, most horrifying album of the year, this post metal epic is harrowing in every way, from its blood-curdling vocals to discordant guitars and forays into bleakest doom. In other words it’s fucking great. PS

CelesteAnimale(s)

What is it with the French this year? Couple this with the aforementioned Amenra album and you’ve got two possible signals that French need to up their collective Valium intake. PS

Action BronsonSaaab Stories

He’s a dead good rapper, this bloke. Especially if you like Ghostface Killah and wondered what he might sound like about five minutes before his tea’s ready. Interesting flow with a voice that’s easy to listen to, with some fine production care of Harry Fraud. Whilst this is much darker than the likes of Blue Chips, Bronson is still fun and nonchalant enough to carry it off. RM

Melvins – Everyone Loves Sausages

I love Melvins and their cover of You’re My Best Friend here instantly brings a grin to my face, so it’s already better than anything else on this list. NOX

Black Sun EmpireVariations On Black

A fucking ace collection of remixed tracks from the finest drum & bass production crew out there, in my opinion. Two and a half hours of headbanging, bassface-inducing floor-pointers – seriously dark and nasty, but never forgetting the crucial element of funk that makes all the best d&b so irresistible. RM

"Cool Santa and Reindeer" by ICP_SyntheticDarkness666

“Cool Santa and Reindeer” by ICP_SyntheticDarkness666

Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School Of MedicineWhite People And The Damage Done

We can see from your Twitter and Facebook feeds how angry you all are; angry about trains being late, angry at people putting apostrophes where they should’nt be and absolutely furious at who got voted off I’m A Celebrity when it should have been her off that thing with that bloke from Hollyoaks. You’re at boiling point, mate. Where do you go from here? Well, if you can’t get any more angry, then Jello Biafra can do it on your behalf. Except he does it with wit, sarcasm, and – well – with something worth actually being angry about as the subject matter. The most punk lyrics these days seem confined to hip-hop or grindcore over actual punk rock. Glad to see Eric still showing the young pups how it’s done. Visceral. AW

Light Bearer Silver Tongue

There’s a bit on this album that sounds like all 16 of the colossi from Shadow of the Colossus losing their shit (probably over being systematically stalked and killed by some little twerp) and stomping the shit out of the whole world. Actually only 15 of them, because there’s one that can’t move isn’t there? That one’s shooting its fireballs anyway. GO

Stuart WarwickThe Butcher’s Voice

High-voiced man sings lovely sounding songs about gender identity and taking a staple gun to the mouth of Ann Widdecombe. GO

YC The CynicGNK

This guy is about 12 but his rapping skills are ridiculous. God knows how good he’ll be when he finally gets some pubes. GO

Sleepers AwakeTranscension

Depsite almost universal acclaim from the very best music writers out there—and also us—this metal epic seems to have remained firmly under the radar. With nods to Opeth, Iron Maiden, Porcupine Tree and While Heaven Wept, this is packed with ideas, melodies, riffs and all the other things that make a classic album. Lyrics too. It’s got lyrics. AW

"Santa Looking Cool With A Bit Of An Attitude On His Shiny New Red And Chrome Chopper" by Anon

“Santa Looking Cool With A Bit Of An Attitude On His Shiny New Red And Chrome Chopper” by Anon

No Bird SingDefinition Sickness

Caused my other half to exclaim “what the fuck is this shit?” So I really like it. GO

Russian CirclesMemorial

Wilfully ignoring the fact that it is no longer 2005 and nobody really cares about instrumental post rock any more, Russian Circles deliver another crushing mammoth of an album. PS

PelicanForever Becoming

Wilfully ignoring the fact that it is no longer 2005 and nobody really cares about instrumental post rock any more, Pelican deliver another crushing bore of an album. PS

IhsahnDas Seelenbrechen

Careering out of the speakers and mashing up all manner of noises like some preposterous aural smorgasbord, old Vegard the bearded wizard spat this opus at us as the year drew to a close. A dark and sexy fusion of black metal, jazz and prog (if you find that sort of thing sexy), this album is so dense and weird that you will either love it or you will just not get it (in which case you will need to pretend you get it to look clever). Buy it, if you like. AW

HumanflyAwesome Science

Completely shedding their bleak metal  past in favour of progtastic deftness of touch, Humanfly released a stunningly good album and then promptly split up. Boo, hiss etc. PS

"Cool Santa (Royalty Free)" by Dreamstime.com

“Cool Santa (Royalty Free)” by Dreamstime.com

ASGBlood Drive

Stoner pop veterans return to a market buoyed by the success of Baroness, Torche et al, and deliver rather an excellent album. PS

WindhandSoma

More doom than you can shake a gloom at. PS

Red FangWhales And Leeches

No doubt utterly fed up of being compared with Mastodon and considered a pale imitation, we are here to compare them yet again, but venture the controversial opinion (#edgy) that they are a better version of Mastodon—less bloated and meandering, more focused and to the point. A tasty juggernaut of proto-metal noise. AW

HacktivistHacktivist EP

Hacktivist are a band who have conjoined words for their band name and we don’t like this. Portmant-no! Far too 90s. They have also conjoined grime/dubstep and djent too. Individually these things are quite good but mixing them up is just wrong. If you think this sounds like your cup of tea then you should listen to them (Hacktivist) and they have done a record and it is an EP called Hacktivist. AW

The Old WindFeast on your Gone

This was originally a solo project of ex-Breach singer Tomas Liljedahl, then he decided to round it out with a full band, so he hired most of Breach. But it isn’t Breach. It does sound quite a lot like Breach, to be fair, except with a bit more gloomy doomy about it. This is in no way a bad thing. Basically if you like Breach, you’ll like this. If you don’t know Breach then they sound a lot like this, except a bit less gloomy doomy. Just buy the fucking thing, will you? PS

"Cool Santa" by DarkVigilante

“Cool Santa” by DarkVigilante

KEN ModeEntrench

Thoroughly enjoyable pissed off techy hardcore from one of the genre’s unfairly unsung bands. PS

Inter ArmaSky Burial

Hands down this reviewer’s new favourite band, this takes all the best bits of black metal, post metal, doom and prog and squashes them into one thoroughly unpredictable lump of excellence. PS

milothings that happen at day/things that happen at night/cavalcade

Actually impossible to pick the best out of these three EPs so they’re all going in. However, if you’re after a rap EP that samples folk rock band America (and of course you do) then start with Cavalcade. milo sounds like no one else. GO

"Cool Santa" by GoneGalt1993

“Cool Santa” by GoneGalt1993

NoisemAgony Defined

12-year-olds release album of outrageous goodness. Everyone over 16 feels ancient and useless. GO

RestorationsLP2

When I listen to this I put my rucksack on both shoulders, I grab the straps and I sway back and forth, pointing my face to the sky with my eyes closed. GO

Armed for ApocalypseThe Road Will End

The kind of metallic hardcore that will get you windmilling in your office if you don’t pay close enough attention to what you’re doing, with the added bonus of a Phil Anselmo-alike singer that allows you to imagine that Mr Anselmo has been in a good band at least once in his long career. PS

Pro-PainThe Final Revolution

Punch things and kick things and maybe join the army and invade a small Arab nation or at least play Call Of Duty whilst swearing down a microphone. Gary Meskil is back to teach you a lesson and to play the bass very loudly in your general direction whilst shouting stuff. Effortlessly brilliant thumpy, jumpy, groovy hardcore with more than enough yelling and probably some pointing too. AW

"Cool Santa" by peter_h_hammond_1953

“Cool Santa” by peter_h_hammond_1953

THE END. Have a magical M&S Coca­-Cola Tesco McChristmas. We love you.

The Most Listable Time of the Year – Part One

"Cool Santa" by Unknown Artist

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Editors’ Note: It’s the nub-end of the year again, the time when we draw another metaphorical line in the accumulated sands of time (by now burying us up to our armpits) and try to use it to accurately gauge the worth of whatever the hell the last 12 months of our lives have been about. It’s a tradition as old as time itself.

For those of us who feel important enough to flick our opinions out into the void of the internet like extra-long, deeply-rooted bogies (or “boogers”, for our foreign readers), it also means declaring our list of the tippest-of-the-top, absolute-cream-of-the-crop top 10, or 20, or 50, or a hundred and four of all the albums that came out in the calendar year; as if it is actually possible to stack and assess against each other all the many, many albums strewn out into the world, across all the many genres, because music, and therefore life, is really just a childish game of Top Trumps. It’s a tradition as old as music journalism itself.

Obviously, as you know by now, we here at Pigeon Towers are above such things. Yet, at the same time we really, really want to show off how knowledgeable we are about music, (much more knowledgeable than you are, you see), so we settled on doing this instead.

So without further ado, ladies and jellyspoons, Demon Pigeon presents:

23 Albums From 2013 About Which Our Heroic Crew Of Writers Felt Strongly Enough To Actually Review, Without Realising That At The End Of The Year Some Needy, Self-Important Editor (Hi Mum) Would Harvest A Few Words, Completely At Random, From Their Carefully Considered And Constructed Opinions, To Hastily Cook Up An End-Of-Year List, In The Increasingly Frayed Hope That Readers (That’s You) Might Click On The Links, And Provide An Ailing And Practically Defunct Website With Some Desperately-Needed Traffic!

This just can’t fail.

Cult of LunaVertikal

“If it had been released in December it would have been adorned with all sorts of ‘album of year’ histrionics, but it wasn’t. So now every reviewer has to find room for the line ‘We’ve only just seen the back of end of year lists but mark my words,come next December, Vertikal will be challenging for album of the year honours.’ It’s the law.” PS

TomahawkOddfellows

“I love this. In fact I bloody love this. You can now refer to me as Will ‘I bloody love Tomahawk’ Downes.”WD

Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsPush the Sky Away

“Nine tracks, and not an ounce of fat.” PS

HatebreedThe Divinity of Purpose

“The lyrical highlight for me is Jamey Jasta screaming ‘nothing fucking scars me!’ like he’s fucking Wolverine or Wolverine’s brother with the nails and that.” WD

"Evil Santa" by Crimson-X

“Evil Santa” by Crimson-X

Uncle Acid & The DeadbeatsMind Control

“Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats haven’t made a bad record, here. It’s pretty decent drugs-rock, as drugs-rock goes… but there’s surely a dozen other perfectly decent drugs-rock records of equal unoriginality that have been released in the last month or so. Can I recommend this record over those records? Having not heard them, of course I can’t.” PGR

Earthtone9IV

“Not bad for a bunch of old farts. Here’s hoping they finally achieve the recognition they so thoroughly deserve. If they do, it won’t be because of their history, or their legacy, it’ll be because 15 years after their debut, there’s still nobody out there who can touch them.” PS

The OceanPelagial

“Scary noises now. Guitars and keys all doing different things. Can’t concentrate. Can’t get a handle on any one thing. Time… slowing down. Stretching.” CM

Dillinger Escape PlanOne of Us is the Killer

“It rocks like a motherfucker.” PS

"Evil Santa" by JammyJet

“Evil Santa” by JammyJet

Black Sabbath13

“There are some decent bits, there are some absolutely terrible bits, there’s way too much of it and the artwork is pathetic. Ozzy is drenched in so many effects to mask his ailing pipes that it sounds like Stephen Hawking burst into the studio—obligatory heavy metal horns raised—skidded his wheelchair to a tyre-smoking halt in the vocal booth and refused to leave until he’d overdubbed the whole thing in his best ‘sad robot’ voice.” RM

Queens of the Stone AgeLike Clockwork

“I can’t pretend I hate Like Clockwork, and it’s hard to imagine why anyone would give a shit about it, either. But if you do, that’s great.” NOX

CircleSix Day Run

“If you like weird loops and lumpy time signatures that gleam like a petrol puddle caught in a chrome hubcap, and which stick in the musical bit of your brain like roofing nails in a horse’s hoof, then you’ll wanna check these six instrumentals out sooner rather than later.” PGR

Alice in ChainsThe Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

“Right off the bat it has a rubbish cover, a rubbish title, and Layne Staley is no more alive than he was four years ago, so the omens aren’t great. But while still nowhere near as enticing as the band’s historical output, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is at least seven per cent more interesting than its predecessor. And that’s a money-back guarantee, if not exactly a glowing endorsement.” PS

"Evil Santa" by Kasek

“Evil Santa” by Kasek

Causa SuiEuporie Tide

“What do you need to know about Euporie Tide? It’s fully instrumental. It is one hour long. It grooves. It swings. It writhes. It rocks. It rolls. It JAMS. And it riffs. Oh, how it riffs. All across its length, this record is bursting not to piss itself over its own building euphoria, its joyful momentum driven by the interplay of jazzy organ passages, lightning-hot, soaring guitar licks and a craggy, dusty, desert rock atmosphere.” NOX

Vista ChinoPeace

“Josh Whomme?” NOX

King CrimsonThe Road To Red

“If I were alone on a desert island with just this, a generator and a means to play it, I would live out my years with all the musical entertainment I need, nursing my painful, distended loins, and weeping under the starless, bible black skies.” CM

Monster MagnetThe Last Patrol

“This record is perfectly acceptable. And that isn’t good enough.” NOX

"Evil Santa" by KornFanHead

“Evil Santa” by KornFanHead

All Pigs Must DieNothing Violates This Nature

“It’s 33 minutes long, full of what I suppose you might call ‘faceripping riffs’ and ‘full-on bangers’ if you were a wally prone to insane hyperbole, wrapped in some lovely artwork, and buying it will instantly make your record collection 1.45% cooler (2.18% on vinyl).” RM

EarthlessFrom the Ages

“Like losing control and wiping out while sledging down a reeking mountain of sticky bud on the back of an exploding Marshall stack.” NOX

The Fierce and The DeadSpooky Action

“It’s rare that an instrumental album is so full of melodic hooks, never taking its eye off the goal of entertaining the listener, even rarer for one to do so in juxtaposition with noise and academic compositional theory; advanced harmonic sense and polyrhythms.” CM

Monkey3The 5th Sun

‘There’s a machine-like quality to Monkey3’s sound; the loping, lazy turns of its rhythm possess precision, like an enormous, eternally meshing internal clockwork; the squealing guitar leads and grinding organs that outgas in vivid curlicues, like coronal mass ejections; and a shimmering halo of reverb that blankets the work in a furious, wincing light, even when it goes dark—like staring at your warped reflection in the glowing hull of something completely alien.’ NOX

"Evil Santa" by MichaelRoydenoya50

“Evil Santa” by MichaelRoydenoya50

Pearl JamLightning Bolt

Lightning Bolt is crammed from start to finish with the kind of masterful songwriting that Pearl Jam do so well. If you enjoy hooks, then this is like walking into a giant out-of-town fishing emporium that’s having a BOGOF and a January sale, simultaneously.” PS

RSJHiggs Boson

“They’ve got bits of all the good things about the sort of heavy metal you wore baggy jeans and facial piercings to a few years ago, grounded in a proper appreciation for the sort of heavy metal that still demands you have long hair and wear jeans that fit you properly.” RM

GroanRide the Snake

“Unforced, loose-limbed strut and shimmy.” RM

"Evil Santa" by A7X_Sam_1996

“Evil Santa” by A7X_Sam_1996

Part two is coming soon! Bye!

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.

Morrisons Doors

Morrisons Doors

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…