Monday, 30 July 2007

Top 5 Albums

Time to go for a really big topic then. My Top five favourite albums of all time. This is the sort of subject I could probably publish a slightly different list for every month, but for now here's my current Top five.

1. "Surfer Rosa" - Pixies

2. "Ramones" - Ramones

3. "Nevermind" - Nirvana

4. "Out of Time" - R.E.M.

5. "The Undertones" - The Undertones

The problem with a topic as big as this is overcoming your desire to show how ecclectic and broad ranging your tastes are whilst actually still picking five albums you actually do really like. I'm pretty happy with this list. The Pixies could easily claim all five positions I like them that much. Surfer Rosa is their debut full length album and is pretty much the perfect example of everything that was great about the band. Its also produced by Steve Albini which is always a good indication that an album is going to be good (Hmm future topic - Top 5 record producers).

I have been a relatively recent convert to the Ramones, but this album (again their debut) has rocketed to the top of my favourites list. It's a perfect album, fourteen tracks every single one as good as the last. Their sound obviously didn't change a great deal from then on but if you only own one Ramones album then this is the one to have, they never got it as perfect again.

I agonised a little over the inclusion of Nevermind, "is it a little too obvious?" I thought, I really like In Utero (also produced by Albini by the way) and their debut Bleach, maybe one of those were more deserving? Then I played Nevermind again just to check. Well, there's no competition it is a genuinely great LP. I think I suffer a bit from over familiarality with music and generally choose to play music that's newer over music I used to love. This one's still got it though an amazing piece of rock.

Talking of over familiarality "Out of Time" is another. I almost feel guilty for still liking this as much as I do. It was the big breakthrough album for R.E.M. (and the first one I heard). Subsequently they realised "Automatic for the People" a widely regarded career highlight, and previously they had stayed truer to their indie roots with "Murmur" and "Document" being particularly good. However, in the summer of 1991 I played this constantly. I love the variety of musical styles and the expanse of ideas, and more importantly I know it inside out. From the KRS-1 rap in "Radio Song", through Kate Pierson's gorgeous backing vocals in "Shiny Happy People", to the Americana of "Country Feedback" it's still an album with surprises and delights enclosed within.

The Undertones is the third debut album in the list and much like Ramones is packed full of fantastic tunes. I went to see the band play a few years back in a small club in Islington. Fergal Sharkey had long since detached himself from the band and showed no interest it getting involved again when asked so his place had been filled by a new guy. Despite Sharkey's obvious importance to their sound, his voice still has a unique quality about it, I really didn't notice his absence. It was a great night in which they played so many of these songs and what stood out was that the songwriting shines through and they still sound as good now as they did in 1979.


Anonymous said...

Ah, christ. I wondered when this'd come.

Mine (and this is impossible):

5. Massive Attack - Mezzanine: Aural orgasm. Creeping, thumping, sensory overload. In some ways it's an album that can never be better, but dance music isn't my thing so it will have to stay down here.

4. Leftfield - Leftism: Wow. I got this as a student and it pretty much got me first time through. It's just a perfectly flowing album that, as above, really couldn't be improved upon.

3. Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine: You can't listen to this every day, but my f@cking god this is the greatest loud album that ever there was. Incredible.

2. Afghan Whigs - Black Love: Oof! This is just beautiful. The last song, Faded, is the only song I've ever heard that perfectly captures the deep misery of being still awake at 5am having just had your world completely collapse around you. It's a 7 minute wonder. On the way you've got loads of massive, funky guitars and dark lyrics of the like you can't get anywhere else. Peerless.

1. Something by Juliana Hatfield/Blake Babies. I can't pick one.

List doesn't include jazz. John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" is the finest record ever made, I think.


Anonymous said...

(this is good, btw, good idea!

Chopper said...

An interesting Top 5 Rich. I only have one Massive Attack album which I probably should go and listen to again now I come to think of it. Have never heard Leftfield (though did they have something out with John Lydon or was that a one off?). I bought Rage, based largely on the cover and it sounding absolutely incredible through the headphones in HMV. Never really caught on to the Whigs or Julian Hatfield either. That's what I really love about music though, it doesn't matter how much stuff you get into there's always something else really interesting just around the corner!

Anonymous said...

Mezzanine is the album when they went all dark and got guitars in on things. Amazing. I'll lend you a copy at the ducks if you want!

Have a look at the leftfield reviews on amazon... they say it all really.

Juliana Hatfield's just been an acquired taste, and her work over the last 15 years is so diverse that you cuoldn't really say it's like anything (indie darling, then major label star, then disappearing off the scene, then cult hero). The Afghan Whigs aren't to everyone's taste but it's sort of soulful rock with really overblown arrangements.. again, can lend you at the ducks if you like.

Your list was interesting too. Nirvana is obviously very very good, as is the REM choice (might end up having to do top 5 rem?!), although I haven't got *that* into the Ramones and despite owning loads of Pixies records they haven't quite grabbed me at any deep level. I'll try again tonight. Need to get one of these mp3 player things that everyone seems to have!


Anonymous said...

but thinking more about the pixies I can see that you've got a load of originality there and a huge range of stuff. I think I had a live album of theirs back in the day too, which was excellent.

Anonymous said...

This is a good "Black Love" review off Amazon:

'Black Love', as its title hints, is a very dark album. A stoned darkness permeates proceedings- putting it next to albums like 'There's a Riot Goin On', 'Trouble Man', 'Being There' and 'All Shook Down'. It extends on the sounds of 'Congregation', 'Uptown Avondale' and 'Gentlemen'- taking the soulful guitar thang many steps further...
It opens with the cheery 'Crime Scene Part One', which initially sounds like Slint or Mogwai (well, Slint). A Spiritualized organ heralds Dulli's vocal- who is "saying goodbye to everyone who loves me". This is a dark give-it-all album, in the mode of Neil Young's 'Tonight's The Night'; but with the Whigs grunge-soul style (that sub-genre never really took off, sadly!). The song builds to a great pulse of drums, the saddest guitars howl- imagine Joy Division playing Curtis Mayfield...'My Enemy' speeds up proceedings, with a monster riff and a wall of feedback- not to forget a funkybassline. This is such a wasted song- the bridge ("The sun is gone") is shattering. As dark as the excellent 'Dust' by Screaming Trees...'Double Day' is a darker extension on songs like 'Be Sweet' and 'Fountain & Fairfax'- "Tonight's the night I take it home", Dulli screams...'Blame, Etc.' (great title) is closer to the sound of '1965'- a Bobby Womack/Curtis Mayfield/Baby Huey feel is captured. Imagine The Charlatans 'Tellin Stories' played by grungey-Americans!...'Step Into The Light' is one of Dulli's darkest songs- a dark countryish lull (with a hint of blues) down there with songs like 'Sadly Beautiful', 'The Lonely 1', 'Anodyne' and 'Come Pick Me Up'. The darkness has taken over; Dulli pleads for a return to light (which '1965' would deliver, to an extent)...'Going to Town' lets The Whigs indulge in a New Order style drum-track- very '1963' or 'Lonesome Tonight'. It's the most Whigs by numbers track...'Honky's Ladder' is much better- a dark funk- imagine Green on Red doing 'Dirty Mind'-Prince and you're near!...'Night By Candlelight' is a string-led ballad- close to the dark soulful sounds of Mark Lanegan...'Bulletproof' sounds like The Charlatans initially, it builds slowly to a funky riff- not far from earlier songs like 'Debonair' and 'Conjure Me'...'Summer's Kiss' is another Mark Lanegan sounding ballad- very 'Whiskey for the Holy Ghost' or The Gun Club's 'Fire of Love'...'Faded' is the epic finale, Eight-plus minutes of soulful goodbyes and woes. Close to Wilco's 'Amphetamine' or 'Sunken Treasure'. Or even Jeff Buckley's 'Dream Brother'. A fantastic riff takes us home, on this- one of the darkest soulful albums of all time. Hopefully in the future this will achieve classic status and a place in your record collection. This is the Whigs dark masterpiece- the one you HAVE to own.

ME AGAIN HERE. Oh, and note the Jeff Buckley reference. His Grace album completely missed my brain in all this, but is wonderful.

Chopper said...

Excellent stuff Rich - I will investigate sometime. I played Grace again last night as it was a definate contender and it IS still brilliant. By the way my iPod tops my list of "Top 5 things I ever bought"!