Eight Bowie records is entirely too many for this list and this is one that could be easily cut. TIile cut is fine of course but the gloomy instrumentals on side 2 are extremely tedious and pointless -- even for Eno fans – and sound dated besides. This is replacement-level at best, with only the rarest bits of intrigue.
Dramatic, lavish (over-orchestrated at times), intense -- quite strong. Feels like a higher-end version fo the Las debut or a high-gloss Kinks record.
Substantive and coherent. Thoughtful and driving. No real huge hits but a certain timelessness -- professionally executed at a very high level. Holds up and will continue to. Thom Yorke's guest appearance tells you all you need to know about the overall quality and band's position at the time.
Awfully good and easy-swinging. Highly polished in composition and tone and execution. There’s real elegance in the straightforwardness and simplicity of the playing and a richness and warmth from the large format. Just strong all the way around. Solid 4.
Four albums by Metallica in this list is just a joke. Even the editors make apologies for this one (“tinny sound,” “overprocessed,”). Clearly they’re the experts on this genre and this band. Other than a very few redeeming bits (the opening section of “One,” which sounds briefly like actual, you know, music), I just hear repetitive sound and structure, grunted vocals, sophomoric lyrics, thrashy breaks with quick flips back to speed (what editors call “riff salads”). For all the extremity, it’s quite paint by numbers.
Meh. Songs I knew sounded about like I recalled. "Tales of Brave Ulysses" remains the best. Songs I didn't know were okay, a few piquing interest.
Pure power pop. Only a handful of songs are that memorable or engaging. The screaming crowd is half the story ... almost like an instrument ... Robin Z seems to address it slowly and loudly, like a bad, monolingual tourist. So tight and energetic, but oh so bubble-gummy.
Overall, pretty great, lovely and thoughtful and highly respectful (and thus somewhat predictable) interpretation. A little monotonous in tone as the album goes on. I don't recall if this was one of the records Willie had to pump out because of his tax issues or how different or surprising this would have seemed for Willie fans at the time.
Love the moodiness and under-statedness of this overall, particularly the guitars. Drum machine feels way dated. Not as dark as I remember it. Whole lotta Joy Division, more so than New Order. Not many cuts blow me away, it's more about the atmospherics. I will listen again.
Not generally my cup of tea, but there is a consistently energy level and tone that makes this a fine listen.
I don't necessarily love how this album influence dso many artists and records that came later, but it's strikingly original .
Really good, classic of the genre and if it's good enough for Michael Stipe, its' good enough for me. "America Snoring" is standout track to me, but love the overall feel and mood of the record. My total sweet spot -- both in style and timing -- early ;90s but I didn't give them enough time back in the day. I almost certainly would have seen them open for someone but can't recall. They deserved more recognition for sure.
Not nearly as dated-sounding or even caricature-ish as I feared it would sound. Perhaps an excess of some go-go-boots sounding hooks and the blues numbers are unconvincing, but the two big singles hold up great and lots of interesting sounds between them. Main reaction is one of disappointment that this group would turn into the perfectly awful Starship.
Really strong and hooky, template for the future, love the counterintuitive moodiness in the dance templates.
Sprawling, inventive, fun.
It's like weird time-travel karaoke -- or a satire of 1970s Europop. Impeccable harmonies on the ESL and smiley-face rhythms bouncing along. The instrumentation is the aural equivalent of a two-ply polyester leisure suit of mustard yellow. I’m hearing oompah bands and seeing feathered hair styles. Syrupy strings on top of syrupy synths for the ultimate ‘70s sugar high. Quaint enough, cute enough, and some happy moments (I'm now thinking of Barney) but I struggle to take this very seriously.
Don't remember this record being so good. Perhaps I never gave it a full chance back in the day, but seems really well balanced, not obnoxiously hard-edged or contrived in being hard-edged, but organically edgy and rage-y. Songs hold up as distinctive, too.
Pretty good, thoughtful, well executed. I think Graceland is the better record. Have always graded Paul Simon on anti-curve ... that is, I've been a bit of a hater for as long as I've known what an a-hole he is reputed to be (sourced by members of his band).
Lots of hot hooks and smoldering riffs and slow burns. Classic. A tale of two sides, with second half the much artier and avant-garder.
Dramatic, lavish (over-orchestrated at times), intense -- quite strong. Feels like a higher-end version fo the Las debut or a high-gloss Kinks record.
WIth no rave drugs on hand, this sounds like music for a bad video game. Or a dodgy party you realize, upon arrival, you should have skipped. Has not aged well so far and unlikely to improve -- sounds like random noise now that audio and synth tech has moved on and the referents are too long in the past. Don't get the critical hype but follow what Christgau said -- "cheap music" -- though maybe a tattoo you wish you'd never gotten is better analogy. We all have a right to be ashamed of our youthful indiscretions; one hopes fans of this act are appropriately so.
Don't feel too qualified to judge, but the tempo and overall feel seems a pivotal moment for hip-hop -- from showier and classic acts to grittier, more specifically urban (i.e., NYC-centric). Pretty ill, indeed. Beats seem very much of the moment. Clear, articulate flows in the rapping, too.
Great -- angry at times and haunting at others, moody and a bit rough around the edges, but powerful across the board.
Meh. Feels inconsistent -- the haunting folk of "Scarborough Fair" and "To Emily" bookending some pretty forgettable and dated-sounding (not to mention pretentious) stuff.
Unlistenable. Could be genre bias.
I confess to hating this album (or at least the singles from it that I heard) upon its release as it fit neither the classic rock mode I was growing out of (but still enjoying and respecting) and the new wave/alt direction I was heading into for college and beyond. Full appreciation for Steely Dan was still quite a few years off, though they were vaguely on the radar, from summer hits heard at the swimming pool. Their breaking up just as I was entering high school didn’t help, but obviously the music is more sophisticated than I could process at the time. I remember hearing about the high-tech recording approach and thinking “yeah, but the music is still lame and wimpy.” I would have guessed the release date of this was later. I can definitely remember hating the annoying, repetitive synths and his strainy-thin-voiced vocal, but now I get their mellowness and love the shapely, unhurried guitar solos over them (“New Frontier”) and the phrasing and dry-martini vocal tone seem one-of-a-kind. The overall mood of this record is just totally up my alley on a snowy Friday afternoon nearly 40 years on. Not only does it hold up well, it’s somehow got a lot better.
Love the band. So tart and peppy, ragged-edged and sarcastic. Not sure it's my favorite Pulp, but a pleasure to listen to. Takes itself with precisely the right level of seriousness, with the perfect dash (or seven) of irony. Plus, it holds up well musically.
Another of these records where the hit is misleading about overall texture, which is interesting throughout and occasionally weird, though it scans as much less weird today than 40+ years ago. It's a whole album, a unit of measurement that isn't much used anymore. I still think of it all as a peace with the other three early albums. Whole lotta Eno, too, works for me. Zimbra, Air, Heaven, Drugs are the personal faves.
The temptation is to not take this seriously, but that's habit, isn't it? Awfully fun and clean and good. There's just a hint of haunting to the wholesomeness, isn't there? The crispness and the simplicity of the playing are notable, as is the quality of Elvis' voice, which is worth being reminded of.
Authentically punk and believably angry (e.g., they sound like “Bored Teenagers") and even kind of substantive, but so narrow as to be one note.
Hard to believe only going 3 stars here but just too much as this was an all-time high school-era fave but it's too heavy and bombastic now, even grading on a rock opera curve. I wonder how the movie would look/feel after all these years.
Don't Believe the Hype, indeed! Just foundational, a true template for so much to come (for better or worse). Chuck D-Flavor Flav maybe the Lennon-McCartney (or Simon-Garfunkel) of hip-hop. The grit and energy and edge are true and strong after all these years, even if the beats and tech are dated. Fear of a Black Planet even better.
Feels more gritty than glam. Some solid hooks throughout but nothing real special here. Certainly no transcendence for me. My problem with Bowie has always been the incessant posturing/posing. That approach makes for some interesting (and even several memorable) moments or songs, but harder for the work to sustain itself or stay in the mind. “Jean Genie” is not a good song.
Some standout hooks and beats, and nice steady flow in the mid-tempo range, but like much else in this genre, it gets a little samey and stale, and the tech sounds dated.
I like the brooder/slow-burner tracks (e.g., "Dirt") more than the rippers (e.g., "Down on the Street") and those that devolve into Iggy howling. Interplay of fiercely played instruments (e.g., late in "Fun House") alternates between punishingly discordant and beautifully anarchic.
I love hearing this in more detail, though it sounds at time like it was recorded underwater. The template is here right from the start. Blazing and punky, and yet melodic. Mascis gets away with so much thanks to the weirdly-working mix of the searing solos and slacker vocals. I had no idea that the Cure cover went so far back. The strangeness of Poledo is a nice add. How Kracked sets up Green Mind songs. What rough and hot and sweet playing.
Classic that hides its time signature innovations in plain sight. "Take 5" still sounds as fresh as ever. Could be a Paul Desmond album.
Too intentionally heavy, and only intermittently (e.g., "Ball and Chain") do the blues feel authentic and cohesive. Otherwise I hear more screaming than singing on. Non-Janis cuts are muddy and ragged and kind of predictable. Some moments, but overall nothing special.
Hot and sleek like a state-of-the-art sports car, but a little samey in the end. "Take Me Out" is one of the great rocks songs of the last 20 years. Lack of perfect hooks across the rest of the record, however.
I find this stunning though obviously its power was enhanced by the proximity of release to death of the artist. It's honest and uncontrived (which can't be said of all Bowie records) but also typically odd and off-kilter (as most Bowie records are). The pluses are the consistency of range and style and melancholia of both lyric and vocal. I expect this will be my favorite Bowie record.
Sharp, stark and sinister, but lacking variety generally and dramatic high points specifically. This band would grow obviously, but this goth-y gloom fails to move much, without being outright bad or obnoxious.
Just perfect in its execution against its aims. "It was Christmas Eve in the drunk take" is an all-time opening line -- in song or literature. Who knew the Irish lads could do Turkish and Spanish and Aussie so well? (Well, we knew the Aussie a bit.) Just not a wrong foot placed here, in spite of the legendary sloppiness. Great fun besides. Only quibble would be the relative lack of singalong "smash hits" here vs other records which lacked the consistent ambience or pervasive depth of this one.
On the one hand, one of the great all-time opening tracks (“Tom Sawyer”), great side 2 opening tracks (“Limelight”), epic drumming and intense opera singing -- net-net: three all-time songs out of seven total. On the other, some all-time prog-rock excesses -- including epic drumming and intense opera singing and attempts at otherworldly composition -- all pretty easily caricatured Spinal Tappishly). Another way of putting this: this band’s (and record’s) greatest strengths and weaknesses are hopelessly intertwined. So, my mesmerized sixth-grade self was right in that the good stuff holds up extremely well. But the concept (if there was/is one) I missed then collapses by the end of the record now. I always feel like Rush wanted its audience to pay more attention to the stuff people were inclined to skip (and not just on this record). Still, three out of seven -- and because “Vital Signs” is much better than I recall (major Police influence) -- let’s make it 3.5 out of 7 and 4.5 out of potential five stars.
I can find no flaws or imperfections across decades of listening. 5/5. Serious candidate for best of album of all time in any genre.
The forward influence is clear, even for those who don’t where this falls in pantheon of classic R&B. Band is tight -- a Platonic ideal as much as a point in time. Green's vocal quality seems more distinctive and extremely versatile than all-timey, perhaps too effortfully here and there.
Gloriously weird in conception, totally hilarious (a component often lacking in the genre) and super detailed in execution. Love what got pulled off here.
This is my sweet-spot era and I first listened on cassette, for which I had to spring because "Love Plus One" was just too good then (despite dumb video I couldn't confess to like) and remains today an all-time pop delicacy -- light and pure and effervescent. Rest of record is more substantive than I remember, crisp playing and clean production. This disc is nowhere near Nick Heyward's "North of a Miracle" but holds up well.
Competently executed but sorta soulless and glossy and generic late 2010s global pop … music for an airport lounge when wait is hopefully not too long.
Substantive and coherent. Thoughtful and driving. No real huge hits but a certain timelessness -- professionally executed at a very high level. Holds up and will continue to. Thom Yorke's guest appearance tells you all you need to know about the overall quality and band's position at the time.
Not my genre so can’t speak to why this record merits attention -- maybe the technical proficiency or speed of the playing? The extreme and outlandish nature of this record doesn’t make it worth knowing (in my view). The best that can be said is that you can barely hear the lyrics, which are apparently shocking. I hope these people are okay. Or were they just posing?
It’s easy to forget how out there this record seemed in the very late ‘70s. Holds up better than most kitsch of that era. Though the latter work significantly degraded their legacy (approaching at the nadir novelty act status), this is tight and hooky and edgy, interesting and original. Somehow arty and vaguely punk at the same time. 3.5 stars but gets 4 because of the originality.
This is such a good record, haunting and lilting. I love the energy of and playing on the uptempo numbers and the poetry and quietude of the ballads and pausier tunes. It starts on such a high that there’s an inevitable dip on the backside but such a labor of love is a great listen.
Sounds cleaner than I remember and the playing slightly more competent (low bar) than I recall. A landmark, sure, but more for the hype or celebration of teen angst than anything musical. It’s a gimmick, a statement, and thus reads contrived and even soulless. New Wave would up it with much greater range – musically, emotionally and creatively. The tunelessness is more annoying than the anger is affecting. Plus, just feels so performative and insincere (blame John Lydon, who is at least somewhat distinctive as a vocalist). I find current DIY records more compelling, or least more worthy of being given a chance. Could/would this record inspire anyone today? It’s worth knowing its place in history, sure, but that doesn’t make it worth listening to anymore. Just because it was unprecedented at the time doesn't mean it's any better now. There's a reason there's only one Sex Pistols record.
Gotta say I’m a little unmoved or underwhelmed by this (given how I would have expected to react and my excitement at first hearing your music decades ago). I think these recordings with overly formal arrangements, mannerly phrasing and lush and syrupy strings are not aging well to my ears. Still, one of the most distinctive voices ever.
Solid and rich-feeling all the way around – a throwback-feeling rock record, made by a big talent with a feel for genre-mixing. Feels authentic, if a bit reachy-y at times. Maybe a touch all over the place. “Are You Gonna” is the better LK record. Solid 3.25
Consistently interesting, but a bit of a relic, and behind both Blue and Hissing of Summer Lawns in my book. As good as the writing is, the vocals get a little too talky at times, though she does a lot with a sorta average voice.
Great overall vibe and exploration – great balance of variety and consistency, and commitment to creating a certain vibe and mood. He sounds credible alternately as an old-school bluesman (way more than Stones or Zeppelin) and an uber-confident hipster/chancer/con man. The soloing – just wow! Near overwhelming at times, and there seems to be a reason some songs fade out on solos; even on a double album, the cuts must eventually end. “Burning the Midnight Lamp” – raw guitars + harpsichord + loose, swaggering vocal = hard psychedelia. “Rainy Day, Dream Away” is also cool and surprising, as is “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” and “House Burning Down.” “Watchtower” sounds a bit like it belongs on a different record, but is a classic nonetheless.
Narrow and a bit one-note-y as many cult classics are. When this came out, I remember thinking “what’s all the fuss?” though the endorsement of all the cool chicks made an impression. Yes, it’s substantive. And certainly the cleverness, raw emotion, pluck and attitude of the songs’ “characters” are all appealing. It also overreaches and/or seems to be trying too hard at times. “Fuck and Run” is a minor classic and “Never Said” and “Canary” are easy to like. Super resonant of the ‘90s, a borderline relic, actually; would sharper or more expansive production have made this more timeless? She’s more than a one-hit wonder, sure, but it’s only one record so maybe a “one-off” wonder? 3.5 is the score, rounding down.
Absolutely state of the art pop, but so over-engineered that the songwriting (quite strong) gets buried. Just too much going on. Bunch of truly great songs – “Welcome to New York,” “Shake It Off,” “Clean” – that would be better without all the window dressing or at least with a whole lot less. That Ryan Adams redid the whole record speaks to its strengths and shows the weakness of the production. 3.75 but rounding down.
Overly dramatic dreck, combining the worst instincts and excesses of the glam and prog rock traditions. Has a few moments of interest, but mostly goes – and stays – off the rails. Distinctive guitar sounds and over-the-top theatricality that would be tamed/harnessed to better effect in the future, but this is just too much, much too much. No more than 2.25 stars.
The funk is forever, but the keys sound a bit dated. Of the big hits, only "Little Red Corvette" really works for me. "DMSR" is a plus-plus track and side 2 – especially the moderated, non-hits "Free" and "Lady Cab Driver" and "All the Critics Love You" and "International Lover" – are strong adds, better than I remember. 3.8 but rounding up because of the body of work.
The opening hook is one-of-a-kind, but rest of the record is as forgettable as it is memorable – you hear the crunching guitars on one track, you've heard on all, with lyrics designed to spark #metoo complaints. One big meh serving of troglodytic rock.
Drug music for fashionable people and cute, arty girlfriends with better than average taste in music and taste for synthetic buzzes. That’s what comes to mind, anyway. A shade darker and moodier than I remember, with strong vocals and guitar. Some clever touches (the piano on “Villiers Terrace,” the closing “jam” [by new wave standards, anyway] on “Happy Death Man”) but sort of generic and simple-sounding at times, a prototypical new wave record, and in a way. 3.675 – not really a 4 because of being vaguely undistinguished and not really their best work, but better than a 3 and of my generation so … 4
Hard not to like this but the whole enterprise raises questions. Certainly it mostly avoids seeming a gimmick (of which there was a high likelihood). The sui generis voice with good cameos (Los Lobos and B. Raitt the best; Santana axe work just this side of obnoxious and just short of overwhelming the track). The whole thing works because JLH is front and center on every track. And last few tracks (JLH alone) may be the strongest overall. I want to give it a 5, but feel compromised. Is this really just JLH-lite? Why/how is this the only Hooker in the book? Would a 5 rating seem to degrade the earlier work? One feels certain there are superior records in the archives though blues scholars would be best positioned to say. Does it raise the issue of cultural appropriation (see also Graceland)? It feels pretty authentic (save for Santana opener). Is this an homage/honoring or could it be read as more established artists (including both white and people of color) feeling like he needed a rescuing or drafting off his lead (see also the entire history of rock/pop music)? Overall, I get an honoring vibe, but these are complex questions hovering around what really is an excellent listen. Plus, it’s inspiring me to go deeper into the back catalog … more of which should be “known” … let’s go 5.
An unholy and totally groovy mess. Sounds like late night sessions, alternately mellow and angry and despairing. 3.8
Awfully good and easy-swinging. Highly polished in composition and tone and execution. There’s real elegance in the straightforwardness and simplicity of the playing and a richness and warmth from the large format. Just strong all the way around. Solid 4.
As much as there is to like, New Order records never quite live up to the promise offered by the many, many great hooks. Relatedly, their completely distinct sound is a plus, but too many songs sound like nothing so much as – wait for it – other New Order songs. Self-referential or just same-y? There are other issues, too – e.g., the jarring shift in tone after the great opener. “Love Vigilantes” feels like it belongs to a different record. A few too many light and synthetic-sounding synths, quite a few that haven’t survived too well across the decades. Peter Hook’s epic bass-ing only redeems some the tracks and Sumner’s earnest-plaintive vocals fully hit on just more than half of the songs. When it all works, it works very well, but that’s not often enough to sustain the occasional and fleeing transcendence. 3.7.
Classic for a reason and a masterpiece of its kind. Everything fits, everything works. Can’t go 5 because of the era (feels olds even if it sounds fresh) and a few cliches (the organ solo on "Smokin'" and excessive shrieking by Delp), plus demerits for the association with Aerosmith, but otherwise good in almost every way a record can be good. 4.65 rounding down.
OverallUK version of Lambchop is what I think, but maybe not quite as good overall. Opener is lovely and thoughtful and “Bones of You,” very groovy and compelling. The record is interesting throughout – lots of moments. ”One Day Like This” is a later highlight. I admit not loving Garvey’s vocals or style. And I get a little lost in the inclining to melodrama and theatricality, which feels like trying too hard. The production is overdone at times, too. The uplift from the initial cuts is never re-achieved, though I suspect this is a record that rewards repeat listening (say on a long flight). 3.7 and rounding up (with bonus points more for Damon Runyon references than the Mercury Prize) but not a strong 4, a 4-minus, if you will.
Dance music is definitely not my thing, but this wasn't terrible; it starts fun, upbeat and tuneful, sort of predicting Daft Punk. But then it begins to illustrate several of the universal laws of dance music. 1. It doesn't work outside of a club (with possible exception of gym). 2. It doesn’t sound right at any time of day other than late night. 3. Listening sober is no good. 4. It began to grate the longer it went on. 5. The more vocals the worse the track. 6. Darker tracks read as failed attempts to be taken seriously. 6. The sound ages poorly (in this case the drum machine and synths), starting almost immediately, because of the overreliance on tech. 2.2 at best, even grading on the dance music curve.
Haunting, just haunting, with real depth, beauty and tunefulness within the darkness, which is enveloping. Powerful, too. You can hear the future of so much goth, gloom-pop, etc. to come.
State of the art pop from the late ‘80s, with a plethora of sugar-high hooks and packaged like a consumer product. It’s hard to argue with the number of hits and sales, but I find the oversinging (close to outright hollering at times, and way too breathless and syllable-adding at others at other) bothersome. But the tinny, canned beats (“Monkey” and “Look at Your Hands”) just don’t hold up very well and like a lot of high-end pop music, it’s overproduced and plays to the lowest common denominator of popular taste (which makes for forgettable and short lifespan). On the plus side, his voice is so good on “Kissing a Fool” (just a beautiful song – best thing he ever did in my view and makes me wish for more of such); “Hand to Mouth” is a cool tune, too, more compelling than all of the hits. Still the emphasis of sales over musical quality makes me downgrade the 3.6 to a 3.
Gritty, impassioned and powerful, but more straightforward than Stories and Let England Shake, and thus less sharp and dramatic. “Happy and Bleeding” and “Sheela-Na-Gig” and “Dress” are best moments (and very good indeed). One digs quite a few hooks (bassline on “Victory”) and like the rough edges (as at the end of “Dress.”) This is a solid 4, even without grading on the curve for the debut. Still, I feel compelled to question the presence of four PJH records in this list. (This one or Rid of Me would be the one to go, probably.) Artistic growth was going to come, but they never were going to be Radiohead.
Some intermittent drama, the occasional winning hook and very solid (even groovy textures with intricate instrumentation – cool keys here and there and strong, steady bassing), but there’s a one-note and droning quality that leaves me lukewarm – especially to the singing, which feels below average. The stiff vocals seem to befit the blocky structures. One hears the influence of “Peaches” and “Down in the Sewer” on The Fall. They were legendary live, weren’t they? This recordings may suffer in comparison. IMHO, they got better as they got poppier and more sophisticated, which represented a pretty big leap from the rougher early days heard here. The cheeky cover of “Walk on By” also rocks (in rather their original mode and maybe the best thing they ever did).
It’s like Bach programming a first-gen Atari set. Programmatic music with synths mimicking speeding cars … meh. The keys are kitschy as often as they’re catchy. Some weirdly wondrous moments (“Kometenmelodie 2” and closing track), plus obvious bonus points for originality, sure, but hasn’t aged that well. Has KW transcended previous under-ratedness and obscurity to become overhyped/overrated and, thus, underwhelming? Or is its reputation perfectly balanced with its aesthetic quality? 3.2 for 3.
Man is this ugly – just totally lurid and shocking – but also real funny and inventive. It meant to provoke, of course, trolling before trolling was cool, and succeeded spectacularly. Certainly the moralizing critics had a point about it being toxic, however much one wishes they would pipe down and/or make an effort to get in on the joke. The mushroom song is hilarious and horrifying at the same time. “Bonnie & Clyde” sounds cool but then the lyrics sink in – just ghastly especially in contrast to the “Two of Us” sample. That Maryilyn Manson thought it too shocking says everything. Beats are solid chill and there are nice-touch sound effects all over the place; the whole thing is set up to showcase the rhymes and storytelling, which is as it should be as Em raps spectacularly at times. Les Nessman and Marty Schottenheimer are two fave name-checks. Honestly, I hope my kids never listen to this, and for that I can’t decide whether that means Slim Shady deserves bonus points or demerits. I don't want to like it or admire it as much as I do; it too often goes too obviously for shock value. But hard to argue with the ambition, the narrative concept, and the vast majority of the execution. 3.8 for 4.
Definitely an artist to know, but how influential he has been I can’t say. I hear lots of subtly layered playing, two great songs I’m glad to know the provenance of (I’ve always loved Billy Bragg’s version of “Dolphins” and think I prefer Neil’s original “Everybody’s Talking at Me” to the bigger hit), a wonderful jammy raga to close, and distinctive (if heavy, blocky) voice. This feels like a period piece, though, again, a good one to know. 3.2 for 3.
Quite interesting and likable, but the contrast (or clash) of styles presented by “Hero” undercuts the overall effect. The influence sound of that song is clear – John Lydon would steal this vocal style. and Bowie pay respects – but it belongs on a different album and maybe to a different band. Sign me up for the chiller, subtler and more evocative tracks (“ISI,” “Seeland” “Leb Wohl” and “E-Musik”), all of which have wonderful meditative hooks (like spa or chill music before it was cool). I think I prefer Neu! to the much better known Kraftwerk. Glad to know it and will listen again. However, I am dubious about the “invented the remix” claim and can’t / don’t love unconditionally, at least not initially. 3.6 for 4 (but just barely).
Groovy right out of the gate, from literally the first note. Raw, ragged and rollicking, the Small Faces made a big sound and seem to be having a big time doing it. More garage-rocky than trippy or psychedelic, the all-out drum rolls and coruscating hooks and crunches, are nicely complemented by the keyboard flourishes and committed vocals. The music is great overall, but the spoken word story is silly and adds nothing, knocking this down to a 3.
All mud and no honey, and sheer monotony besides; guitars are fast and scratchy, vocals screechy and howly. If the songs weren’t so uniformly noisy, the snoring effect on the penultimate cut would be even more apt. 1.2 / 1.
Only goes so far. “Robots” is way too Sprockets-y right out of the gate, though subsequent tracks set a more artful mood and tone. Intermittently intriguing and even lovely (“Neon Lights”) but the synths make it very much non-timeless. One feels the pressure to like it as a signifier of good taste, but it’s just not aged all that well to these ears. For monotonous minimalism, give me Steve Reich or Terry Riley. If it’s high-concept and avant-garde (“sound poetry”), should we even consider it pop (much less rock) music?
Moby Grape: Can’t you just smell the lava lamps burning? Hipper and groovier than one expected and pretty tuneful, but true to the cliches of the ‘60s. One gets why there was some hype here, but it feels just about 55 years old, doesn’t it? More garage than psychedelic at times. Opening side is gritty and driving (save for “8:05” which is quite good) but starts feeling canned by the end. Side 2 is much the more effective. There’s something fun to “Ain’t No Use” and dreamy about “Sitting by the Window.” Overall, the playing seems just slightly above average and the singing maybe slightly below. One wants to say you’ll like this sort of thing if you like this sort of thing – this sort of thing being standard-issue ‘60s rock. Solid effort – but not much more – despite one of the dumbest band names in rock history.
Countrypolitan rules! If the record has a flaw, it’s the lack of rough edges – it’s almost too perfect. In fact, it’s as slick, shiny and all-in-place as the man's epic hair. Ingeniously conceived and perfectly executed. There are gorgeous keyboard and pedal steel flourishes all over the place. The unifying concept would be good loving gone bad or fear thereof. The even-toned, occasionally deadpanning crooning is steadily consistent – no matter how cheekily humorous, crushingly sad, shockingly earnest or blindingly self-delusional the line. One wonders how often he smiled (or winked) when performing these gems. About as good (and polished) as country can be. “Borrowed Angel” and “She Told Me So “are the highlights (for the irony, probably) but no real duds (save maybe for the closing cut). 4.4 for 4 (I wasn’t kidding about being too perfect and it also seems maybe more like a series of songs than an album.)
Lotsa flow and a few standout songs (“Back in the Day,” “Can You Hear Me”) – notably the more R&B-oriented ones – beyond “Work It.” One likes the empowered-woman vibe, but the boasting, self-referencing and name-dropping bore after a bit. The spoken-word stuff is tedious, too, even if it’s hard to disagree with the messaging. 3.4 > 3
Rich and varied, weird and wonderful, one can make a case that this is not just the best Beatles album, but the best two. Good records make it hard to pick the best 2 or 3 songs, great records the best 4-5; for this one, the top 8 or 10 are debatable. So many underappreciated gems – both from Lennon (“Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “I’m So Tired” “Julia,” “Sexy Sadie,” “Me & My Monkey) and McCartney (“Mother Nature’s Son” and “Helter Skelter” [one wishes we’d heard from extreme Paul down the years.]) Plus solid contributions from Ringo and George. The contrasting cuts between tracks makes for compelling texture – from “Piggies” to “Rocky Raccoon” to “Don’t Pass Me By;” from “Bungalow Bill” to “While My Guitar;” from “Do It in the Road” to “I Will” are all attention-grabbing segues. Yes, “Revolution No 9” might have been a few minutes shorter and binning “Ob-La-Di” would be addition by subtraction, but it’s the excess that makes the overall record so excellent and endearing. I can’t get enough of this record, which is saying something, considering how much of it there is. So good that “Hey Jude” failed to make the cut. 4.8/5
Feels sort of bland and tired. “Sheriff,” “Please Be With Me,” and “Let It Grow’ are all good. Other tracks are mellow and inoffensive, generic and background-y. Clapton is not a very good singer. 3.3 for 3.
There’s an honesty and purity and directness to this singing and playing that is very rewarding. Burke had such a big voice, but it’s agile and fluid, too, moving smoothly through the different sub-styles (e.g., Calypso, blues, ballads). “You Can’t Love Them All” and “Beautiful Brown Eyes” are the highlights for me. 4/4. Easy.
Don’t get the hype. Self-serious and often silly, the lyrics are overcooked; he’s too clever by half and not as witty as he thinks he is (a dangerous mix). Musically, it’s undistinguished, with effects that mimic the overreaching jokes, if intermittently above average (“It’s Easier“). However you feel about Randy Newman, you’re likely to feel about this guy. I may explore another record or two, but this feels like a future unsubscribe. In the meantime, give me Craig Finn or Father John Misty over this snowflake any time. 3 (and only just)
Good solid Ska fun, definitely not all a load of bollocks. Won’t change your life, but will make you smile, which, come to think of it, can change your life, I suppose. “International Jet Set” is well remembered old fave. 3.3 for 3.
Moderately interesting and entertaining, but not much to get truly excited about. “Speedy Marie” and “Headache” and “Big Red” are solid+, but fall far short of Pixies at their best. Probably about even with the band’s replacement-level output. It all feels average (or above average if you like FB and the P’s) but not much stands out to any great degree (even accounting for high expectations). Also, the decent amount of dreck seems inevitable on a 22-track effort – with the net result being that we barely clear the forgettability threshold. I suspect inclusion of this record to be a personal project (pet peeve) of one of the editors. 2.8 for 3.
Sweet and dreamy and one can hear the the progress toward the high art of Pet Sounds. Still this is lighter and not fully cooked, especially side 1. Side 2 is demonstrably better and more interesting, reflecting that eternal dividing line of knowledge/appreciation re the Beach Boys (those who know only surfing/cars vs those who get, or are at least open to the idea of, Brian’s genius [it’s worth noting that endless reunion tours don’t help the latter’s cause]). Of the hits, I’ve always had a soft spot re “Help Me Ronda” but the dancing songs are too bubble-gummy. “Kiss Me,” “She Knows Me” and “I’m So Young” point forward. Good Beach-y fun, but relatively insubstantial in the shadow of what was to come. 3.5 for 3. [The author’s comments that this is better than Pet Sounds is mere trolling/provocation – it’s not close. The unspecified claim about “the worst track in the entire book” intrigues but doesn’t land – plus, just tell us the damn thing instead of more trolling.]
This is a nice – even very nice – record to know, largely because I suspect few people who read this book / take on this project would know it well, if at all. It’s just my speed, really, pleasantly understated overall, and extraordinarily smooth in its genre-fusing. But it never reaches desert island disc territory, never quite sweeps one fully away. “Somebody Who Loves You” sounds both terrifically intricate and powerfully intimate. “Help Yourself” and “Water with the Wine” are other highlights, plus the lap steel flourishes on the opener. “Polished and professional” is right, as is the idea that she deserved more than a pigeonhole and much better sales and acknowledgement. I loved the voice and style from first hearing (“Drop the Pilot” of course, which is a great song) and I'm sufficiently inspired to listen to this one more than once and to go deeper in the catalog, too. 3.8 for 4.
Cool and edgy, sharp and angular, jagged and argumentative – this sounds exactly like politically engaged music should sound. One can hear its influence (even if one wonders whether the influencees are fully aware of the actual influencers.) It gets to feeling a little one-note after a time, but this is a band/record to know for sure, and a clear marker of a cultural moment. 3.2 for 3.
Better than I remember. The opening chords echo across all time, even as the naughty lyrics have reached full taboo. It’s lurid and grimy – ”Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” might be the druggiest song ever. One is pleasantly surprised by the lesser-known and underrated “Sway” and “I Got the Blues” and “Moonlight Mile,” which maintain a very high standard between the hits. “Bitch” (all-time horn lick) and “Dead Flowers” (such countrified tongue-in-cheekiness) also stand out. One can make the case that "Brown Sugar" is actually one of the weaker cuts. “Wild Horses” is borderline mawkish, but Mick fully owns it. Some longeurs late, but awfully good overall, if not quite Beggars Banquet. 4.4 / 4
Not exactly Liege and Leaf, but sneakily and steadily good. The quieter cuts are best – ”Withered and Died,” “Has He Got a Friend,” The End of the Rainbow.” The cultural reclamation tunes (“The Cavalry Cross” “We Sing Hallelujah”) also work well in context. RT isn’t much of a singer, but the excellent and subtle playing, song selections and overall plan more than make up for it. 3.6 > 4
Maybe not quite his best (I prefer Illumination) but a very high level of quality is sustained from start to finish and oh was it good to get the Modfather back to recording. It’s a fully worthy installment in the Weller canon, the rest of which certainly should not be slept on. 3.6 > 4.
Generic '90s rock that aims to big, but not in ways that work for me. They still have too much competition in this genre and this era.
Just not that good. Likable and approachable, sure, but first half is awfully samey and formulaic (simple chords + mid-tempos + rolling beats + longing, semi-ironic vocals + rinse + repeat). Second half is slightly better. The steel guitar on “Hannah and Gabi” just reminds one how little variation there is. “Drug Buddy” and “Bit Part” are best of the lot. The S&G cover is merely annoying, partially because it was well-loved by knuckleheads. This is my sweet spot and era and these guys failed to impress then, a poor-man’s Replacements at best, strike me the same way now. They didn’t exactly overwhelm contemporary competition (Buffalo Tom, Soul Asylum and Grant Lee Buffalo and, adjacently, Yo La Tengo and Dinosaur, Jr. [both of which, along with the criminally-excluded-from-this-study ‘Mats, are much, MUCH better bands]). One smiles, one taps one’s toe, but remains underwhelmed, but "bubblegrunge" was on target and maybe flattering to the LH’s. 2.5 > 2
This was just to troll Greil Marcus, wasn’t it, because he included “Shake Some Action” (not pictured here) in his Rock History in 10 Songs (strong recommend). At their best, the FGs sound like the top Stones tribute band in suburban New Jersey, 1971 edition. Not exactly life-changing. Or, more to the point, had one died without hearing this, would anyone have noticed? 2.4 > 2.
I suppose this is the Platonic ideal of a certain class of fin de siecle funk/nu metal. But to this genre non-lover, I hear every song riding the same basic template – big, doofy metal hooks and banks, which drown out the interesting bits (e.g., the lighter, vaguely Indo groove on “Nowhere Fast” and the suggestion of slow burn on “Consequence”). The singer sounds like he’s competing in American Idol or some such, and seeking bonus points for range and emoting. And I’m sure some teenage fanboy (only boys of course) might tell me why this drummer (or bassist or guitarist) is the GOAT. And if I asked to know why and how this combo differs meaningfully from certain hair bands of earlier generations, I’d likely be told that I just don’t understand. Guilty as charged – this is not at all my thing and I just don’t see the case for hearing this urgently or ever.
Evidence of Stones expanding their palette in interesting ways – some credible, others less so. “LadyJane” Is most intriguing case in point. I took it seriously and probably found it beautiful upon first hearing it in late 70s, early 80s, but now it sounds contrived (probably because Stones abandoned such artiness in favor of … well, so many other alternatives.. Mick’s yelping, growling and whooping now sound more like a valid interpretation of the blues, and there are many cool guitar licks and accents. “Goin’ Home” is great and points the way forward to “Love in Vain” and the longer-form jams to come. Solid from top to bottom and one feels the gathering storm, even if this remains sub-masterpiece. Note the UK and US versions have different tracks -- the former opens with “Mother’s Little Helper” (latter with “Paint It Black”) and has more songs.
Edge and energized and I suppose distinctive (I've certainly heard little like it, especially with the thickly accented rapping), but I find it also pretty annoying and not very relatable. He sure rhymes fast. Must be something the kids like.
Every bit as cool as its reputation – and maybe even cooler. “Do Your Thing” is elevated and epic – just about as good as rock/soul/pop music can be. The title track completely unmistakable, truly one of a kind The instrumentals work every bit as well as those cuts where the nonpareil voice (casual, knowing) comes. Awesome in every way as it can be. 4.8 / 5
Pretty fucking epic. So many very-good-to-great songs (“Crucify,” “Girl,” “Silent,” “China” and “Little Earthquakes” and “Tear in a Hand”). There’s a likable consistency to the tone and arrangements (centered on vocals and piano), and yet enough variety to keep listeners consistently engaged. Her voice is classic (if occasionally overextended) and the playing and instrumentation offer lots of grace notes and nice touches. This is way better than I remember (heard a lot when it came out) and has aged extremely well (even improved), an easy 4.5, even accounting for the fact that it was one of my ex-wife’s favorite records, and rounding up for overall excellence.
The odd career arc to go from shy and fey and suffering synth types to the club music equivalent of arena rockers never made sense. This seems a reach to be taken more seriously by being less danceable, but the hooks get a little mechanistic and blocky. “Nothing” and “Agent Orange” are engaging, but “Route 66” and the “Moonlight Sonata” are utterly unconvincing, not even as filler.
Haunting and austere. The playing seems extra clean and there’s a tired, take-it-or-leave-it feel to the vocals. Classic, yet underrated. 4
An encyclopedia of rock and roll and cliches, circa 1972. Is it possible to enjoy “Smoke On the Water” in any non-ironic sense? (I doubt “Space Truckin’” can be enjoyed at all.) And three Deep Purple records on this list – seriously? Someone needs to time-travel a good bit forward.
This has held up extremely well. I remembered it seeming a bit forced and over involved back in the day, but it sounds great today, raw and driving and engaging. Opens strong – first 4-5 cuts are all very good. And ends strong, too – “Next Time Round,” which I don’t recall hearing before is a new BFF track for me.
More rocking than one expects – especially the opener and the sizzling solo on “Out of the Blue” (one can hear Ultravox and early 80s guitars that were on the way). And just great fun all the way around (“If It Takes All Night,” “Casanova”). A lot more than meets the eye beyond the cover (which was a favorite and first stop on visits to any record store in any mall for this teenage boy).
Much comes down to whether you like Berman’s relaxed-yet-tortured vocal style or not, and (his also relaxed-yet-tortured) imagistic lyrics. I’m good on both and thus consider this a quirky classic and minor masterpiece. Many good songs, with highlights throughout. “Slow Education,”” Time Will Break the World,” “Horseleg Swastikas, “Tennessee”
Pleasant enough, but not much more than moderately interesting. She sings too precisely and almost talks on a few cuts. The arty guitar ‘80s vintage (“Straight Lines,” Undertow”) is probably the highlight. To be appreciated more than excited by.
Can’t tell an album by the cover, I suppose. I was expecting some harmonies, maybe some sweetness, but these guys sound like a completely unskilled and totally overexcited cover band from some region not known for its music or art scenes … oh, wait, that’s what they were.
Just tinny sounding and awful. Not just ‘80s-cheesy-bad, but timelessly awful in being stupid and posturing and playing into the worst rock cliches (including taking themselves way too seriously). The worst part is that they seemed to make the world safe for even shittier and lamer hair bands and so many more bad power ballads. “Photograph” is a great song. Otherwise, this is gets awfully close to Spinal Tap territory (“Stagefright” especially).
Of moderate interest musically, but lyrically pretty silly. “Stephanie Knows” is overstuffed and not representative of what’s to come, most immediately, the dreamy “Orange Skies.” “She Comes in Colors” is a Stones rip-off, no? The most interesting song, the epic, slow-jam closer “Revelation” suggests the darkness of the ‘70s to come, with some guitaring that sounds like Neil Young was sitting in and a soprano sax (or clarinet) solo for the ages. Those bits are way better than the extended vocal improv bit in the middle of the 20 minutes, and the strange transition ending – drum solo into harpsichord nod-off.
Other than a few moments (“Last Goodbye,” “Lover,” of course, “Hallelujah”), this is overwrought and not all that great. Title cut is particularly excessive and the singing generally is extreme; is he showing off on the Britten piece (which feels lovely but also that it belongs on a different record, maybe, if only for the rap-rock opening to next cut)?. The mood is also undercut by too many hard-rock/even metal-y riffs. This record was ubiquitous for being overhyped (IMHO) back in the day – who doesn’t love the dying-young-romantic-rock-n-roll-hero story? Old as Byron and Keats at least.
Undoubtedly fun and funky, but may be too chicken-friend for my tastes. Personal highlights include “Whispering Pines” and “Rockin’ Chair” and “Look Out Cleveland.”I find the singing sort of labored at times, too, though mostly effective, even if vocal quality isn’t exactly first-rate. (Dylan would be the comp I suppose and vocals hold up well there.) I recognize that this may have been a very “of the moment” record in 1969, but it’s hard to hear that now or judge the music based in terms of social commentary or perceived impact. And anyway Big Pink is considerably better.
Four albums by Metallica in this list is just a joke. Even the editors make apologies for this one (“tinny sound,” “overprocessed,”). Clearly they’re the experts on this genre and this band. Other than a very few redeeming bits (the opening section of “One,” which sounds briefly like actual, you know, music), I just hear repetitive sound and structure, grunted vocals, sophomoric lyrics, thrashy breaks with quick flips back to speed (what editors call “riff salads”). For all the extremity, it’s quite paint by numbers.
Likably (if intentionally) ragged and discordant. Same with the strained vocals, which are obviously (and perhaps excessively) affected, as nearly everything is with Malkmus. “Cut Your Hair” is a stone-cold classic (and not just for stoners) and “Range Life” is excellent. I think this band has an understandably split personality based on being underrated by half of the listening public and overrated by the other half. I’ve never been entirely sure how seriously they want to be taken. The all-pervasive ironies, the constant smugness, the off-key singing, the lo-fi “whatever” vibe – they don’t want to make it easy for you to like them, though Malkmus wont’ fully commit to the tortured artist act, either. All of which tells us … what, exactly? Again, I’ve never been sure about this band. I might be overthinking it, the kind of thing I suspect Malkmus would both do and make fun of others for doing. The only thing that’s clear is that this is a very good record
I am so down with music that makes you sexier – not just feel sexier, but actually be sexier and enhance your performance, too. Just buttery smooth and awesome. Neo-soul forever.
Nice that Iggy got sober, and Bowie helped him out, but musically, this is pretty dull and droning. Iggy is neither blessed with a good voice nor a good singer – at least not on this record. He sounds rusty, like a poor man’s Lou Reed recorded while swimming underwater. Are we supposed to take “China Girl” seriously? The warbly voice that gives itself over to screaming suggests IP is taking the piss. The band has its moments of fine form (including on “China Girl” once Iggy stops wailing) and “Tiny Girls” is somewhat affecting. But one man’s musical therapy does not necessarily a great record make. 2.5 and only rounding up based on the “godfather of punk” rule.”
I was blown away by this record when I first heard it in college radio days in the mid-to-late ‘80s and I’m even more impressed at how well it’s stood up. Soul Mining avoids all the excess and cliche of the era. It’s dramatic and cinematic; new wave-y, but not self-consciously so; it’s politically committed and serious-minded, but not humorless; it’s emotionally rich and balanced and musically intriguing. “This Is the Day” is a first-rate pop song and “Uncertain Smile” a higher-order musical event, truly one for the ages with an all-time great piano solo (I ran right for the extended 9+ minute mix after hearing it here for the first time in ages). “The Twilight Hour” and “Giant” are also hugely engaging and very impressive tracks (but generally, little-known). So good, with bonus points for reconnecting me to my youth.
There’s a math problem or science experiment feel to this … a producer in his studio with all the toys, or a mad scientist in his lab. But when the groove gets right – as on “other voices” and "call the police” and – it’s very right indeed. Sounding very much how 2017 felt for an aging hipster, the druggy drones of club life are given a heavier weight and sharper edge. Equally suitable to headphones or the dance floor, this is music to simultaneously boogie to and ruminate on.
Yes, funky, and yes, complex rhythmically, but personally, I find too much going on here, especially percussion-wise. Title track, “Holiday” and “Blues la Machito” are tops for me but there is a large amount of sameness, inclusive of much impressive playing and soloing. Plus it all sounds good. But it’s almost too jazzy, too typically popular big band (as Machito aimed for the charts and broad acceptance, one supposes). One wishes for a bit more of a world music feel. Compare this to say Ethiopiques albums and you see what I mean. File under “not quite my thing.”
“On the point Tip – Yea, all the time.” A little leaner and straight-up funkier than first record, but not quite as chill, fun or boldly creative. Awfully strong all the way around, especially or a second outing so soon after the first, speaking to the Tribe’s high professionalism.
A forgotten and underrated genius. This is soulful, sprawling and serious. Godfather of hip-hop indeed. Was a pleasure to go deeper with an artist I knew only tangentially.
Maybe this was ahead of its time, but it feels tired and pointless today. The songs are too long and just not that interesting. If you said this pointed the way toward industrial music, would that be a feature or a bug? His later records would suggest that, born in another era, Lydon could’ve been a Borscht Belt comedian or vaudeville ventriloquist, such a poseur is he.
Strong beats and a steady stream of solid cuts. Shows some passion and thoughtfulness re soical issues without being preachy or presumptuous.
A case can be made that few, if any, ‘80s band are truer to the core essence – the raw soul – of rock and roll than the ‘Mats. That’s true both in spirit and execution. There’s skiffle and punk and early rave up in it. Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Hamburg Beatles, early Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis – all of these would have endorsed what Westerburg & co. were up to. “Unsatisfied” is an all-time personal fave, “I Will Dare” a great opener, and “Androgynous,” “Seen Your Video” “Sixteen Blue” and “Answering Machine” very good, too. Westerburg could be RnR HoF for songwriting reasons alone, and the band in the antics division. There were more very strong (and more polished) records to come, a few of which could easily be in this list.
DM always seemed about making dance music that wanted to be taken seriously. It’s not a formula that has ever added up for me, save for the very occasional breakthrough exception (e.g. “People Are People”) that proves the rule. “Enjoy the Silence” and “Policy of Truth” are best songs. I’ve always found the unforgettable bounce and hook of “Personal Jesus” more annoying than anything, the lyrics just silly (and likely intentionally provocative). This might be as good a record as this genre can produce, and it’s interesting to me how big and popular DM got, but that just proves another rule: broad popular taste can’t be trusted. Thought I’d like this more after all these years, but, sadly, no.
Angular and hooky and melodic and oh so influential, this is music for intelligent folk. It’s also the Rosetta Stone for New Wave and indie rock, a source document that would be plundered in the decades that followed. The vocals are pretty mediocre (and not too pleasant to hear), but the vibes, mood and tempo are compelling, as is the lack of studio trickery. The title track is an epic of understatement, how you can go big in rock without being utterly bombastic – it’s a minor miracle that it was recorded in one track. “Elevation” and “Guiding Light” (oh, the lilting outro) are also fantastic, simultaneously entrancing and ear-wormy. It’s amazing how much they could mine from a pretty simple and straightforward approach. One for the ages and rounding up because they have been criminally overlooked and underrated.
Powerful and haunting. The straight-up blues of the opener is great, followed by the harrowing and novelistic. “Four Women.” “That’s All I Ask” and “Either Way I Lose” are both very strong. Much comes down to how one feels about her voice. This is a tour de force of singing, with believable and compelling performances ranging from deep vulnerability and tenderness to outright rage and despair and bitterness.
There’s a lot to like here, with quite a few enjoyable (if broad and middle-of-road-y) songs. There’s very much of a Britpop’s final days feel to this, meaning that some of it can feel tired and generic. Maybe rocks unnecessarily hard (to my taste) here and there but “Rolling People” is overall fine. “Sonnet” and “The Drugs Don’t Work” and “Velvet Morning” are also strong. To me, the charge of Oasis-lite is pretty on target, but I may be missing some subtle differences. This feels a little more considered (maybe too much so) and a good bit less showy (though still posturing). There is some annoying repetition in the lyrics and vocals across several songs (singing the same words again and again) which is meant for emotional impact but falls flat after a few reprises. There’s a reaching for seriousness that doesn’t always come off and though I enjoyed this but I’m left short of feeling elevated or even that much engaged.
Tight, rollicking and sharp-edged, this is classic EC. Every song works, the sound is well unified, with the organ bleeping and swirliing making strong links and all sorts of nifty, biting guitar licks ("Chelsea" especially). There are almost too many highlights to name – “No Action,” “This Year’s Girl” "The Beat" "Don't ... Chelsea," “Lipstick Vogue” "Radio Radio." This was an artist moving from strength to strength and staying at the top of the game.
The “til Tuesdayesque rocker that opens the record is a bit off-point in terms of what’s to come which is very polished and utterly winsome songwriter-powered pop. Just a treat to listen to, really, as was the whole career renaissance that followed.
The textures make the record, the mix of beats, samples and live playing – especially the live playing. A lot to dig. Fun to hear Q-tip in this context.
Likably DIY and attitudinal. “Hot Topic” is a highlight, one of the awesomer pop tunes of the late ‘90s – all politically/socially aware songs should be this danceable. “Eau d’Bedroom Dancing” is good fun, too and the last few tracks are engaging, too. Solid, fun and interesting – a rare trifecta for pop bands to pull off, especially second acts and side projects.
More varied and interesting than the early records and a strong contrast even to Stories. The anger takes on more compelling forms than rage and hollering. PJ actually sings most of the record, and in a sense it’s almost more haunting to hear her voice at lower decibel and more accessible pitch. So many grace notes – the bugle gate-call on “This Glorious Land” – add texture and dimension. “On Battleship Hill” and “Hanging on the Wire” are lovely. The lighter touch makes a bigger impact on this mature minor, masterpiece of a sort. 4.2 for 4.
I was born to entertain, so here I go.” That seems about right. One gets the feeling he’s doing this for himself, following his muse and exploring his ideas, more than worrying what the listener would expect. Some of the songs (“Promised Land”) emphasize concept/angle over payoff (or all premise-no punchline as comics say).“Pristeen” is strong opener, followed by a few pretty meh tracks. Then things elevate significantly – “Not Raving” and “Head” and “Beautiful Love” and “American Lite” are all good and “Las Vegas Basement” is a highlight to close. Maybe slightly excessive as a double album, but interesting and engaging all the way through from an artist that’s worth getting to know a bit better.
Will the real Love please stand up? This could not be more different than Da Capo, which is worthwhile in very different ways. This sounds like – and the chart history would seem to confirm – like a failed experiment, a band searching for an identity. The horns, strings and other flourishes provide several affecting (though perhaps excessively Donovan-esque) moments. Personally, I like the softer playing, but one never feels maximum impact. That Arthur Lee got a second life is satisfying (he deserved more recognition), but it’s possible this the recovery of Love’s reputation is a case of protesting too much against the initial obscurity. 3.5
Utterly lush and lavnish. So many great tracks within a nicely integrated feel overall. Beyond the obvious (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B”), the very mature and uncanny cuts (“That’s Not Me” and “Caroline, No” and “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”) make the record. The brightness and harmonies hide the shadows and weirdness (aren’t we glad Brian had this creative outlet?). Beyond the contrapuntal hymnal feel, there’s vulnerability and authenticity in the storytelling – the songs are about confused kids trying to find love, stay positive and be grateful (to put it in contemporary, self-carey terms). Sure, it’s over-indulgent at times, but that’s where the opulence and ethereality come from, so too the fucking Bach-esque haunting of the liltiest bits and highest glee-club registers (the vocals on “You Still Believe in Me” are a chorale, for christ’s sake). No way BB Today! Is a better record (as editors claim). That’s blasphemy, not even a quality troll because it’s so wrong (plus being indicative of dodgy taste). 4.8
Bouncy and spicy and inventively sampled and layered, plus enlightened-sounding and fun to listen to. This monolingual globalist knows he’s missing a lot of meaning and subtlety and probably irony, too. Still, doesn’t quite get to life-changing or deathbed-worthy. 3.4
Eight Bowie records is entirely too many for this list and this is one that could be easily cut. TIile cut is fine of course but the gloomy instrumentals on side 2 are extremely tedious and pointless -- even for Eno fans – and sound dated besides. This is replacement-level at best, with only the rarest bits of intrigue.
This is fine and fun to listen to and yes of course one realizes just how seminal and influential this must have been (without LR, no … DNA, stem cells, etc, etc.) and it’s fun to imagine a previous generation hearing “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop” for the first time. But it seems pretty basic to hear now and hard to get too excited about (one is so terribly jaded, one supposes). One also notes how the sax was once positioned to become the star of the show in rock and roll (instead of the guitar and behind the outlandish frontman of course).
A masterpiece and right up my hip-hop alley, with chill beats and fun samples, easy rhymes and flows and great production. Sounds just as fun today as did 30 years ago.
This starts off just okay but then gets very good on the back side, which feels much less frantic and forced. As much as I like Karen O’s voice, she deploys the same tricks on song after song (especialy the rockers). “Soft Shock” and “Runaway” and “Dragon Queen” and “Hysteric” and “Little Shadows” are best cuts. All of the best ones are quieter and dreamier (mostly later in record), which together make for a satisfying ending. YYYs were certainly au courant and very much “now” back in its time, but (sigh) not so much anymore. Still this had them almost living up to their ( unjustifiably huge) hype. 3.6 > 4
I love a synthtart band as much as the next (straight) guy, but this is hard to credit. I mean, “Shopping”? “What Have I Done” is an all-time earworm, but only in the annoying sense. The sound is hollow on some songs and the synths deeply cheesy on others (“It’s a Sin”). On the plus side, “I love you/You pay my rent” is pretty funny. I realize there might be finely honed irony too subtle for me to perceive, but to me the overall effects are of lightness and silliness. A poor man’s Blow Monkeys, and that’s a very charitable assessment.
Feels more trippy than punk, and DIY in the extreme. One appreciates the influence more than one enjoys the music. Not even Mark Smith of the Fall sounds as much like Mark Smith of the Fall as Iggy does here.
This no doubt sounded hopelessly futuristic then, which perfectly balances its sounding hopelessly dated now. Eno’s ambient is an order of magnitude better (his stuff only occasionally sounds like A Planet of the Apes soundtrack) and Kraftwerk the poppier side of prog better. Sure, there are a few moments, but they pass too quickly – e.g., Pt 5 sounds briefly like a Bach fugue but then morphs into a TV soundtrack theme, with chimes sounding not ominous or profound, but more contrived and self-consciously weighted. Maybe this was precisely when 80s started; if so, let’s run back the clock shall we and see if we can choose a more propitious course or at least wait a bit til the synths outgrew this beeping-and-blooping thinness.
False and artificial-sounding from the first note. Yes, there are some likable (even infectious) grooves (e.g., “Rhythm Nation,” “Alright”) and some sweetness here and there (“Love Will Never Do,” “Livin in a World,” “Someday is Tonight”). But the heavy-handed (to put it mildly) production and canned beats mostly overwhelm the musicality such that there’s a distinct lack of soul that makes this feel utterly disposable and mostly forgettable.
Non-troglodytic classic rock. Morrison’s got the archetypal rock star voice and mien and the band are so tight and polished behind, even when they are aiming to show rough edges. Opens with an all-time lick and, after a few weaker cuts, excels from “Peace Frog” right through to the end. It all feels fresh and even a bit fun, too. One always worries about the Doors taking themselves a bit too seriously, and one suspected this would have not aged well (one took it so seriously when one was younger, that how could one take it seriously now?) but there’s still a vitality and relevance to the mood and tone. They were in a groove about this time and it plays out to pretty powerful and enjoyable effect overall. And we’ve all had time enough away and one is comfortable enough of his own skin not to not feel embarrassed about liking it now.
Hooky and melodic punk, it’s easy to see how this points forward to new wave and why people get excited about it but really it’s no great shakes for me personally. 3.2/3
Rollicking, high-impact and true-sounding. Hard to resist the purity of the rhyming and the hooks and beats, which start big and keep getting bigger. One certainly wishes for less Aerosmith in the world generally and rap-rock is long since played-out, but the cover of “WTW” is pretty great fun, though borderline novelty and just barely makes the top 5 songs on the record. Considering all that’s happened in hip-hop in the 35 years (including the baleful emphasis on violence and the virulent sexism), this can seem quaint at times, but it holds up awfully well and remains a stone-cold classic for a reason, the definition of old-school hip-hop.
The offbeat samples (some syrupy – almost woozy – classical strings, old movie soundtracks, eerily repeating bells over simple drum tracks, classic soul) make the record, but maybe don’t make it quite the cinematic or novelistic experience its creators intended. Does this record reflect the height of gangsta’s baroque period? Still, it’s an interesting listen.
One likes the kaleidoscopic, even messianic, pop here; one senses TR’s urgency and immense commitment and that he wants to share. There is a nearly tangible joy and exuberance in the considerable sprawl; one pictures a boy with the run of a fully stocked toy store, a mad scientist in his expertly equipped lab (see silly Studio Sounds spoken word piece and the much better “Breathless - Instrumental” that follows). TR comes off as a solitary visionary than a tortured artist, and it’s quite good fun, if excessively accessorized, too densely layered and obviously show-offy at times. Sameyness is a fair criticism, especially the over-reliance of keyboard manias (some of it sounding quite harpsichordy). Also, it probably didn’t have to be a double album (“Money” doesn’t feel absolutely necessary, e.g., and the studio chatter adds nothing). But there’s a wealth of quality – if not quite an embarrassment of riches: “Couldn't’ I Just Tell You” and “Dust in the Wind” are excellent, while “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me” are hits for a reason. “It Wouldn’t Have …” “Cold Morning Light” “Marlene” “Carousel Burned Down” and “You Left Me Sore” are all very solid. “Slut” highlights how sexual perceptions and boundaries have changed. Definitely worth knowing, this one.
Hooky and thrashy, but super repetitive and not all that interesting. "Broken Hearts" isn't bad, a nice break from the overdone heaviness. "Funny Vibe" is neither. "Glamour Boys" would be good save for more heavy-handed axing. "What's Your Favorite Color" shows how they coulda/shoulda leaned into funk instead of sinking into the mire of metal-y sludge. Decent vocals but the little broadcast snippets add nothing and feel totally tacked-on. Nothing special here and if not imminently forgettable, then at least mostly so.
Certainly they transcend the novelty act trap (and memories) but don’t get to actual substance or any real merit beyond the occasional chuckle or non-negligible cleverness. “Satisfaction’ works pretty well and “Gut Feeling” is the closest to straight-up effectiveness in the New Wave/indie rock vein – but there’s a saminess has the satire wearing thin before too long. One likes the commitment to doing something different and pretty damn original without loving the output. In time, the funny hats would make it hard to take the music seriously; one wonders if they were taking the piss out of their fans or who took whom too seriously (or not seriously enough). One doesn’t think enough of the product to be inspired to consider the depth or poignancy of the social satire (consumer culture is a pretty fat target) or how this fares as performance art. (That it was on the radio makes pop music the main genre. Were they merely a less serious Talking Heads? Were they outdone by their spiritual heirs (e.g., They Might Be Giants, Dead Milkmen and Magnetic Fields)? 2.5 > 2
It’s the tuneful and dramatic passages (“I Know What I Like” “Firth of Fifth” “After the Ordeal” and “The Cinema Show” are standout examples ) that make prog rock albums for me, and there are certainly more than a few here. They create a kind of mosaic-y feel (artists probably want you to think Renaissance tapestries). “More Fool Me” and “Epping Forest” (at least the first part) sound pretty modern. And while I like quite a few bits, there is almost as much excessive noodling and Gabriel gets dangerously close to “Minister of Silly Voices” territory here and there. Still, pretty solid overall and holds up relatively well.
Best lines: “I rock pleats in my khakis” and “You look like A.C. Green / Don’t call here anymore.” It’s all in the beats and the eerie, almost sinister instrumentation (guitar twirls repeating, synth and keys chiming quietly). Too many references to Eminem maybe and the Vince Carter shout-out dates it, obvs. As hard to look past the misogyny as it is the milestone influence.
If Japan stole some from Roxy Music, then Duran Duran stole most [maybe all] from Japan. I don’t know whether this is more New Wave or New Romantic, but it feels ahead of its time for ‘79 and a big advance from glam which had got awfully tired. Certainly, this sounds like the '80s looked. Way underrated.
Lots of interesting sound, but more vibey than tuneful. "Two Weeks," the most tuneful, earworms in the worst way. Few of the songs advance far beyond the premise, which feels workably arty though also cold and hypothetical. Thought this record was overhyped upon release and still think so.
Shrill, sprawling and squalling – and excessively nu-metallic for one’s taste. The “everything at once and at high speed” vibe is grating and the breaks (e.g., the first part of “Eriatarka” [whatever TF that means]; the last part “Cicatriz Esp [whatever TF that means]) are far too few. One’s limited genre knowledge means one can’t judge all the virtuosity (which seems pretty extensive). Bonus points for crystalline production and the “let’s throw it all on the wall and see what sticks attitude,” though ultimately this feels like much ruckus with little merit. 2.7/3
So loose and lush, flamboyantly fun and futuristically funky, -- “a whole lot of rhythm goin’ round” indeed. This is original and classic, with a warm and welcoming let-it-all-hang-out vibe and great joyfulness. One loves the updating of old-time gospel (“Swing Low Sweet Chariot”) to the space age, which makes George Clinton the Sun Ra of his genre. There’s a reason so much of this is sampled. And bonus points for coining (one thinks) “the bomb."
Literate, clever ("Must you tell me all your secrets when it's hard enough to love you knowing nothing?") and excellent, this is a hallmark of early '80s indie rock or alt pop or post-new wave or something. One can make a case he was a kinder, gentler (or better read and educated) Elvis Costello, but this and next few records had a lot to offer, even if he never seemed quite cut out for music biz. An all-time personal favorite, though one can see the flaws (perhaps too many name-droppy preferences and pretty muddy production). The tone and tenor and surfeit of great songs – "Perfect Skin," "Forest Fire" and "Patience" "Are Your Ready to Be Heartbroken" and "Rattlesnakes" – more than compensate. Barely a foot wrong here.
Art music of the highest order, both powerfully beautiful and beautifully powerful, and perhaps the apotheosis of their yearslong shift from mere rock band to sonic artists, authentic cultural expression and rich commentary on time and the world. Ambient and affecting and ambitious Interesting and intense. On and on (and on...) one could go – haunting and harrowing, intense and intelligent, etc., etc.
Just-right reggae, with squeaky clean beats and perfectly balanced tempos, nary a note goes wrong.
ery much has that so-underrated-that-it’s-come-to-be-overrated energy. Moody and groovy. It sounds more classic than dated actually (though organ is a bit in its prominence, sounds hockey rinkish at times). But, overall, it’s all a bit too basic to be any sort of major musical milestone. Everyone loves an underdog (in this case studio musicians), wants to root for good guys (i.e, unsung heroes) to make it, and even more so to flatter their own taste and perception by discovering hidden gems and the non-obvious. But such overcompensations often distort the fundamental truths of thing; and for this album that truth is that it’s cool and groovy and an authentic artifact and should be better known, but is really only above average along each of these vectors. I bet there are in this class rather more underappreciated such artifacts out there waiting to be discovered. A 4 but just barely.
One's always dinged and (perhaps) underrated Elton for all the silliness and celebrity-ing. This is quality, with spirit and soulfulness in the playing and singing and no shortage of willingness to have some fun. One forgets how good songs like "Harmony" were/are. Perhaps the softening in one's cynicism toward certain stars is to be expected. 3.7 / 4
Grim, gorgeous and powerful. Stylewise, it’s art song in the mode of John Cale, with Leonard Cohen gravitas, and some vague echoes (for me) of The Final Cut. Hard to imagine what he would have been dealing with emotionally. 4.1 > 4
Four all-time tunes -- "Rolling Stone," "Queen Jane Approx," [maybe his greatest ever] "Tom's Thumbs" and "Desolation Row" -- somehow don't add up to a 5 because much of the middle bits are pretty samey and even get a little grating. "Blood on the Tracks" is his classic, and while this is extraordinary by anyone else's standards, it's just not quite peak Dylan to me, consistently superior outputs perhaps leading to unfair expectations.
Brilliant and beautiful -- is there a better or bolder track 1 of a debut album than "Suite Judy Blue Eyes"? The rest of the record holds true, too, and the strength of the lesser known songs is testament to the overall quality. Deja Vu might be even better. One wonders how modern production techniques would have lifted the sound, elevated the harmonies even higher.
One prefers the lyrical sweetness ("Sunday Morning," "Femme Fatale," "I'll Be Your Mirror") to the harsher tracks, but the power surely originates in the contrast. Bonus points to this record for the classic tracks of "There She Goes" and "All Tomorrow's Parties" – it's the melancholia, innit?
Undoubtedly cool and vibe-y and obviously influential though one's not qualified to say whether it's the greatest downtempo album ever. One certaintly doesn't agree with the notion that "Unfinished Sympahty" is the song of the decade. The vocals are pretty shaky at times and sound dated, but would have been ahead of their time, viewed slightly differently. The follow-up records are better – Protection for the chiller, fatter grooves and less-is-more vocals and Mezzanine for its sheer massiveness and fond memories of the day (the exclusion of the latter from this list makes no sense).
Neither terrible nor terribly interesting, this record’s inclusion smacks of rockism. Feels pretty indistinct in the post-grunge, high-alt category – in which there were many similar bands (say the non-included Foo Fighters) circa late-90s. Editors claim they’re more original than Britpoppers, who were surely cleverer by half and much less one-note, too. There are winning moments and effects, but they get a bit lost in the excessively rock-y din (see the fade-out of “Darkside Lightside”).. Best song: “Gone the Dream,” though the Jackie Chan and “Oh Yeah” and “Lost in You” are also strong. Grading up on the curve for they were only 19, and then down because of the (really shouldn’t have been mentioned) "unmentionable" hidden track, plus they don’t seem to have done much since this impressive-ish debut.
“Take On Me” has always sounded like it should have been a one-hit wonder. The rest of this record more than confirms that impression. What’s the most apt description of A-ha: a pale and unsophisticated imitation of Roxy Music? A poor man’s Depeche Mode? (Who’d a thunk one would ever find oneself defending Depeche Mode!?!?) While the video, for its originality and quality, might – might – be worth knowing before one passes, one could very peacefully and contentedly pass without knowing this record.
Well, what can one say about nuevo tango (or any tango) – you either dig it or you don't. This is intense, both in the driving passages and the melanchoic suspensions (where it sounds like the composer is questioning himself). GB adds a swing and ligthness to a form that can get somber and rigid. One hasn't the authority to say whether this should be included or excluded to other milestones of the genre (or sub-genre), but surely there must be room for more. The setting at Montreux would seem to add to both the intensity (of which neuvo tango had plenty) and the occassion. "Laura's Dream" is a highlight.
"Cute cute in a stupid-ass way" is the obvious (also fitting) snark. Great voice, if a little too theatrical in the phrasings -- a bit too rooted in Sinatra-era and vaguely Shatneresque, too. Arrangements are way overdone – a near blizzard of schmaltz, the aural equivalent of polyeste, velour and Sansabelt slacks. The oozing, melodramatic orchestrations also undercut the social commentary on "Next" and other songs, which seem as if they're meant to be taken more seriously than the music allows. Same with the stiff, neutral and occasionally smiley vocals. The vibe and aesthetic are very1960s television variety show and not sure who came first, SW or Neil Diamond, but one's decidely not hip to either.
The love child of punk and glam , fully impish and a touch zany this is quite good fun. Way better than Arctic Monkeys, todays closest comp. Trying to recall if better than Superchunk a band Of same era. “Sofa of my Lethargy” is best cut and a great song. “Alright” and “She’s So Loose” and “Time” and “Time to Go” are also strong.
So many good songs beyond the obvious “hits” – notably “Tears of Rage” and “Kingdom Come.” And the outre twaningness late in the record is also great – “Chest Free” and “The Wheel’s on Fire” have a lot going on and most of it is quite good. Vocals aren’t optimal (on “I Shall Be Released” in particular) but effective enough. I rate this higher than the 2nd record. Last Waltz should be on this list, if only for historical impact and resonance (Neil’s “Helpless,” Scorcese, etc.) and because many of the same songs play better live.
Who knew they were Finnish? The band is exceedingly poorly packaged and one wonders who the band is for. They look like glam-hair metalists (e.g., Motley Crue, Ratt), but then shift into much looser and more tuneful cuts, with indie, roots and roadhouse inflections. Not that it’s great – it’s frequently bashing and the lyrics are rudimentary – like childhood limerick rudimentary (maybe because ESL because Finnish). The rolling pianos and honking saxes are nice touches, but there’s a drum break that was surely lifted from the Bay City Rollers. And too often the band reverts to metal posturing (sometimes in the same songs with more promising alt-y hooks). “Tooting Bec Wreck” is almost indie rock in orientation, like the Replacements on a well organized day. “Sailing Down” is molten and plenty metal for one’s tastes. It’s also brief, which one likes, and surprisingly good doesn’t necessarily equate to great. Plus, serious points off for paving the way to hair metal.
The problems of prog rock are on full view in the segue from “Roundabout” a great rollicking rock tune, to “Cans and Brahms” which sounds like a soundtrack to an underfunded children’s television show. The dramatic contrast, wherein ambitious prog rockers likely thought the art came in, reads as pointless, silly and self-defeating. “Made from Heaven” and “South of the Sky” redeem matters with engaging moments and passages. “Long Distance Runaround,” with its rich and satisfying hooks and layering, is the best of prog rock, with enough counterpoint to build tension and noodling to present surprise, but not too much to lose the listener. Anderson is a strong and distinct (likely underrated) vocalist. “The Fish” is groovy. “Heart of the Sunrise” is very affecting at times but compromised by the Vincent Price-y organ explorations (another example of prog rock’s original sin [they would prefer one to say Achilles Heel] of trying to do too much with every song, of burdening them with too much compositional weight and structure). Still, one believes this to be a high-water mark for one's favorite prog band.
Wondering how to make the world’s most pompous and self-serious band even more so? Add a full orchestra. The crowd noise and singalongs are silly and grow increasingly annoying. Like so much metal this is strictly for fans; non-fans will find it super-samey, a monotony — nay, an eternity — of glug-glug-glug (with the extra ballast of strings) and might be given to wonder how this is anything more than a heavier Mannheim Steamroller. The opening instrumentals are vaguely interesting (likely because there is the least Metallica).
Tuneful and R&B-driven, with every track offering considerable merit. One digs the musical mood, as well as the candid talk about sex, bodies and money from the women’s perspective (e.g., "Honest honest .... I'ma take all I can get / that money keeps that pussy wet.") A work of authenticity, feeling and (one thinks) considerable social currency. Maybe coulda been longer.
Rough, discordant and assertively ugly. This can feel like musical nihilism, but then certain riffs seem to have a point (or want to reach one) – see “Brendan #1” and “Shut the Door.” One doesn’t mind the shadowy elements or overall toughness – see “Blueprint” and the guitar work on “Reprovisional,” though the latter is ruined by the vocals. In fact, across the record, the singing … well, it isn’t really singing, is it? “Song #1” sounds like a bad (and much older) Beastie Boys cover band. As with some abstract expressionism, one feels the artist is deliberately trying to offend (or at least startle). In that sense, it’s job done, but at the cost of ensuring one will not be inclined to seek this out ever again. Fans will feel themselves special for withstanding the assault. The band is basically choosing its fans by asking “who can stand to listen to this?” One feels the record deserves a severe rounding down as it might have been vastly more interesting (and not just prettier or more pleasant).
Some very strong songs here and excellent moments – starting with the very promising opener. But despite a decently high level of quality throughout, there’s a vintage quality to this, a feel that makes it seem more of its time than truly timeless. Debbie Harry has a very distinctive voice, without necessarily being a great singer (one finds her a bit all over the place, excessively talky one moment and then given to yelping the next). “Fade Away & Radiate” and “Pretty Baby” are both interesting without quite being fully affecting. “Picture This” has a great (if too short guitar solo) and “Sunday Girl” and “11:59” are engaging. “Heart of Glass” is pure pop-disco fun. Still this is mainly enjoyable rather than inspirational. One wonders if maybe they were better live and figures that this might be just about the replacement level for deathbed records.
Rock’s role as an outlet for personal rage is one’s first thought after hearing this. It’s a slippery slope: while adding passion and energy when well handled, rage (authentic or fabricated) can be off-putting to people who don’t share another’s anger, sympathize with its alleged/perceived causes, are allergic to posing or excessive self-seriousness, or might be looking for other musical qualities and evocations. It may also cause one to ask “hey rock star -- whatcha so mad about?” (Perhaps CL’s fury was from not having an iPhone or Instagram just yet.) Hole harness and balance the power pretty well here (“Doll Parts” is good and not overdone somehow) and there are some striking hooks and more tuneful textures. Unfortunately, they are too quickly buried into the default banging. And the shrill crescendos and scream-outs come in nearly every song, often on top of pretty cliched axe-crunching, the combo of which comes off now as both dull and dated. Did Courtney Love maybe want to be a rock star or – perish the thought – celebrity a bit too much than is seemly? One suspects that might be the case. (Ironically, [maybe I mean paradoxically] “Rock Star” is a simulacrum of this record’s strengths and weaknesses – a cool hook [“I went to school/In Olympia-uh-uh-uh’] sacrificed to the habitual banging and screaming.) At any rate, “Celebrity Skin” is a better record. Hole may have been one of the best bands of the ‘90’s but in going back over that era in this exercise one begins to think it’s a bit of a tall pygmy award. Plus, they’re an easy (and fully legitimate) target for the anti-rockist crowd.
One likes a hip-hop record that has a smile on its face even when exploring substantive issues (e.g., slavery, sexism). Indeed, there’s a mellow ebullience and (perhaps Southern) sweetness here – see the loose hopefulness of “Mr. Wendal” and “Washed Away,” with beats that are smooth and accessible and gently (not violently) infectious. The seriousness of intent and themes (“Mama always on stage” and “Give a man a fish…/Teach a man to fish”) bind the record coherently and make it considerably more than ear candy (without being excessively preachy or angry or programmatic). It’s deep and thoughtful as much as it’s fun and musical – consider how the danciest track might be “Vision for Religion” and the biggest hit was a debate with God about manumission. Still sounds fresh and relevant, which makes it even more mystifying that they did little else after this. (Rounding up because they really shouldn't have been a one-hit wonder.)
A few great hooks, but an excess of synthy cheese overall. AL has a rich, resonant voice and she's a dynamic vocalist. But there's a lot here that feels dated, even terminally time-boxed in the '80s ("Wrap It Up" being exhibit A). Synths like this have a very near expiry date or statute of limitations, meaning this plays today as neither nostalgic art song or particularly durable pop. 2.8 / 3
A hair greasy and honky for one's tastes, but the bluesy mood and tempos are well sustained and the cuts land coherently and, for the most part, effectively. One worried about the novelty act factor (partly because of the silly name), which never materializes so score one for low expectations. "Sad and Lonely Times" is terrific. There is overindexing on the organ on the latter half of the record, which overreaches generally. But, as a whole, the album works well as a jaunty melding of blues and psychedelia and just a touch of country (alas, the silly name works out to be inapt). Glad to have heard.
Any record that opens with “Sympathy” has a huge headstart, but it builds from there; just the transition to “No Expectations” points to the mostly mellow and sometimes lovely journey ahead. “Parachute Woman,” “Jigsaw Puzzle” and “Factory Girl” are all underappreciated gems. The playing feels loose, almost tossed-off at times, but it’s actually quite crisp and controlled – what the Stones did best, not exactly making it look easy but looking cool and insouciant while doing it well (and sometimes wild). All that plus “Street Fighting Man,” the awesomeness of which is easy to forget somehow and a truly great closer ("Salt of the Earth"), a fitting and graceful crescendo. The straightforward approach and seemingly narrower ambition paid out an incredible yield – the best-ever Stones record (no mean feat, that). 4.8 / 5
Has ever an album title better captured its contents? “Summer Girl” and “Zurich” are very good, "Here" about as earnest and tender as SM can do, and the discordant and spicy "Loretta’s Scars” nearly sublime (in right listening environment). The tossed-off vibe is here both a weakness and strength (as it would be for what followed). Far too much ("No Life," "Conduit," Chelsey's") seems no better than throwaway half-jokes, even by loose slacker standards. I suspect they never thought this would take off the way it did and were thus conflicted (mainly about how seriously to take themselves and their audience) for the rest of their career. Do they think they should have tried harder here? One wonders, as one does also about what might have been. Should they have leaned darker and become more like a US version of the Fall or a softer-edged Fugazi? Or, stuck to the silliness ala Camper Van Beethoven or the Dead Milkmen? Might Pavement best be viewed as the precise midpoint between such clusters? And who’s more effective in the end – Pavement or Silver Jews? (One prefers the latter.)
At once gritty and urbane, the record does pretty well in living up to considerable hype. One could make a case it's all an algorithm (plus, maybe, a hologram) of VU updated to early oughts. Three great songs on the back side, more than make up for the samey effect on first side. Remains solid and enjoyable which is more than can be said of many other a next big thing.
Supremely smart and sophisticated pop – no wonder it didn't sell. Perhaps it was insufficiently bold or ambitious relative to what else was happening on this chart durnig this seminal year. "Death of a Clown" and "Two Sisters" are terrific and every cut is tuneful with interesting flourishes (some brass here, some harpsichord tinkling there). They all land with impact, for being sharp and tight, as well as awfully clever and frequently fun, with the apotheosis of "Waterloo Sunset," a pure classic of wistful melancholy.
As good as this mostly loathsome genre can be. There are some great melodies and a few great tracks, but much that's meh, too and a lot of sameness (both in sound and content) in the harder-edge tracks. "Welcome to the Jungle" is a great opening track, setting the dark and gritty tone and "n. "Sweet Child" is a stone-cold classic, instantly recognizable and seriously addictive – to the extent that one wonders just how much the die-hard fans really hate it for being mirepresentative. The unit seems perhaps over-rehearsed and fused by an intense focus to get it right and be, you know, huge. Later records would show just how delicately balanced this was and probably revealed their true colors.
The glorification of DIY gets pretty close to jumping the shark here. Sure, it's raw and rootsy, and there is undeniable quality ("The Same Boy" and "We're Going to Be Friends" and "Offend In Every Way"). But much of the rest is mostly brash and trite, with the simplicity getting real simplistic real quickly. One senses a blatant reaching for hipsterdom, a reach that exceeds the grasp; the “hey look at how much noise we can make” energy doesn’t make up for the rudimentary playing. The production is worth noting, its clarity specifically, which enhances some cuts but rather unsparingly reveals flaws and defects in others. This is certainly not in one's sweet spot, but even if it were, one guesses one would still find it less than fully convincing. It was overhyped at the time and today that remains the right judgment.
Fully formed, well integrated and crisp and perfectly pitched to its moment, this as good a debut album as has ever been. Unique too. “Break on Thru” and “Light My Fire” are classics for a reason but every cut has a good bit to offer and there’s not a single throwaway in the whole lot. The playing — tight and polished with smooth and strong overlaps and transitions between the players — is a perfect foundation for Morisson’s vocals and attitude. Quite original-seeming as a whole despite the obvious influences of the parts. One tries to overlook the sexist bits.
A revelation! Did not know this record and not much about T. Rex (or T. Rexstasy!) but totally dig the beautiful, sprawling holy mess of this. All the strings, the bounding drumming, the out-of-control of guitar hooks and Bolan's dizzyingly good vocals.
Considerably better than 2 (just removing half the schmaltzy orchestration did the trick [classic addition by subtraction]). But it still feels a touch too dramatic and too earnestly artistic (see the vesper-y backing vocals). Lyrics are poetic tending to the maudlin. Singing seems better suited to the subject matter (including the song about Stalin, which features a brief bit of pretty effective scatting [more of that please]). “Get Behind Me” is almost a proper rock song – another suggestion of what might have been. Maybe it’s justifiably influential, but one’s not convinced and isn’t motivated enough by the music to explore and validate the hypothesis on one’s own.
More like raw noise. This has moments – but feels more like acting out or rage-y posturing than any important musical artifact. Iggy was all in and the guitars squall just about like you'd expect. Sure it's touch and gritty, but there isn't much beyond "Gimme Danger" to actually, you know, enjoy. The reissues are startlingly better engineered so one can at least hear a few instruments, but still ... one sincerely hopes there are better (and more elevating) things to hear as one approaches one's demise.
Simple and powerful but also somewhat pallid and simplistic. And the material seems awfully angry and protest-y to be sung so calmly. One wonders how it became such a big hit, and remembers just how it might have happened and also feeling somewhat hopeful about someone like TC becoming such a star out of the blue (the editors of the book help explain the big break). The voice is very distinctive and "Fast Car" reads almost like a nursery rhyme for working-class adults. There are a few other solid tracks that one had forgotten and the overall authenticity can't be denied, though it's accurately described as naive.
Deeply cool, thogh there would be better records later, especially Transcendental Blues, as I recall. The production is tinny and a case can be made that SE over-sings (overtwangs?) on some cuts. Still, lots of lovely moments and authenticity to spare, which more than overcomes the '80s effect. This is an obvous template of more than half (and definitely the better half) of the Americana to come.
Excess on a grand – and mostly annoying – scale. The album seems composed to bring together the worst impulses of all the many genres it touches -- from classical leider to music hall/vaudeville to hair metal and glam. It's mostly bouffant nonsense (perhaps its intentino) -- clear evidence of why less is more. \"Best Friend\" is a terrific pop song, but doesn't come close to redeeming the rest. \"'39\" sounds wonderful – probably because it's a realitvely straightfoward, you know, pop song, rather than an overwrought song cycle. It all comes together in \"Bohemian Rhapsody,\" which is briliiant but also enocouraged further excess in the future. Whle there's much to admire, it works out to be just too much – much too much, in fact.
One's 17-year-old self is delighted that this record still sounds as good as it does and one's current mid-50s self is surprised to have enjoyed it so much. The openers on each side are powerful starts. The range of guitar – the massive, jagged soloing to the slide whooshes to full-on folk pastoralism – are as impossibly broad. The singing is over the top when its not under the moon – Plant was the best of all the late '60s-to-early-'70s singer-screamers. Easily one of the highest-impact debuts of history.
Sweet, big-hearted and fun, this is impossible not to like. One considers Jeff Lynne both a high-quality entertainer and something of a pop music genius, as well as an underrated vocalist and songwriter. Sure, it's Beatles-Lite but the hooks don't stop. Lynne gets great mileage out of – and is clearly having a blast with – all the toys and tricks at his disposal. The synths, the strings, the backing vocals, the echo box. It all works even when one's convinced it shouldn't. "Sweet Talkin' Woman" (check the swinging articulation on "WOE-myn") is irresistible and "Turn to Stone" is just short of that, though a total toe-tapper. "Mr. Blue Sky" is light opera for people who don't like light opera. "Steppin Out" and "Big Wheel" are poignant and "Sweet is the Night" is moving. After considerable deliberation, one has decided that the fact that his 12-year-old-son loves ELO is a feature not a bug.
Dynamic and engaging, but one is worn out by the constant "n"-ing and subject matter (admittedly not just the album here, which gets repetitive, but also the 30 years since). Feels a litlte put-on and trite today, but there's no denying it's got more than a few teeth.
Just great. CK's voice is not great but what a singer – such poise and balance and credibiltiy in the delivery. The little-girl songs ("Will You Still Love Me Tomrrow") become true adult experiences, with rich ethical and timeless resoances . No cliche to call her the voice of a generation (and it might be two). A masterpiece that sounds like easy listening but is rich with bittersweetness. One has a little more faith – a little – in popular tastes given that this was such a major seller.
One's not actually qualified to assess the subtleties of this one or whether Mali was some secret fount of the blues. But one likes it a lot nonetheless, as one has almost everything one's heard from AFT (especialy In the Heart of the Moon).Plenty of haunting melodies and straight-up blues riffs. At once listenable and substantive, rootsy in the best sense (that is, having great depth). And certainly one wishes one knew what was being sung. One expects it would be soulful and wise.
Seminal in every way – from the basic song structure and central instrumentation to the nerd-cool vibe and lyrical tone and content. "Not Fade Away" is one of the most addictive (and powerfully so) melodies in all pop-rock. 4 straight-up all-time tunes is not bad at all for a debut. Perhaps not the first-first but awfully near and sounding suspiciously like the invention of a category in real time.
Sign one up for socially conscious hip-hop. But this feels at times rigid and preachy and also too talky, neither as upbeat nor as fun as Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul (both bands that are notably name-drooped and/or sampled). the "Chinese Restaurant" nonsense is a waste of time. There are excellent cuts – "Kililng Me Softly" and "No Woman, No Cry" chief among them ["Fugee-La also good and groovy in a consciously contemplative way] – but they feel a bit scattered. And what does it tell us that the F's use sample "Bonita Applebaum" that distinctively, poingy sitar sound and that the best cuts are those most associated with other artists (e.g., Roberta Flack, Bob Marley). It's not the most elevating of conscious hip-hop. Plus, the principles would go on to do better work in different contexts. For all that, this feels less than the first rank.
One finally found a record one likes by this guy and it’s very good indeed (though 4 [5 if you count the fully execrable Birthday Party] is way too many for Cave). Haunting and lovely, with organic-seeming and genuine drama and tension, much less contrived than on earlier records. The backing vocals are the difference-makers in this regard. The only thing that makes it a double album, one supposes, is that the two sides were released at the same time. And the only thing that keeps it from being full marks (5) is the handful of overlong clunkers on the first set. Lyre is much the stronger “side,” with a few first-rate tracks – “Breathless,” “Easy Money,” and “Babe, You Turn Me On” and “Oh Children.” Only “There Goes My Beautiful World” and “Let the Bells Ring” from Abattoir reach that level. One did not know this record, is glad to do so now, and will definitely queue it up again in the future, though one’s preference for Tom Waits over NC has not been overturned (if only for the crimes against culture committed by The Birthday Party).
Sounds like the exact midpoint between Echo & the Bunnymen and Oasis. Little twinges of New Wave drama remain, but one prefers the more distilled pop and faux-glam of the earlier records than the overreaching toward the art song (e.g., “The 2 of Us”) and full symphonic rhapsody ("Still Life") which comes off as much too much (though one half-admires the ambition). There's much like to here – “The Asphalt World” works intriguingly well and “Stay Together” is also quite good. One's glad to know it better.
Awfully good and strong throughout. Some haunting moments in the playing -- the solos on “Some Misunderstanding” and some richly dark overtones. Title cut, “Strength of Strings” and “The True One” are all winners. The synthy outro on the closer is another strong moment. One hears – and surmises – the future influence, though one will have take others’ word for the full extent of it. As for the argument that it’s some lost gem or classic, one remains less than fully persuaded, partially because GC is not a great singer.; it’s more like a nice find, which one is glad to have heard and likely to hear again (of one’s own volition). 3.7/4 (And yes rounding up because underratedness.)
Without a doubt, this was a personal 5; one forced oneself to listen after reading all the plaudits and awards, despite being ready to loathe it, was taken aback by a thoroughgoing (even deep) enjoyment, which has largely lasted on subsequent listening across multiple years. But it might fall just short in pure critical terms. “Slow Burn” is a great opener, and “Lonely Weekend” nearly matches it. “Happy and Sad” is terrific, real pathos hiding in the easy beats and the title track is as good a love song as one has heard in years – really it should close the record. Perhaps one has to be a writerly type (as one is) or exceedingly editorial-minded (ditto) to appreciate the full and profound significance of the comma in “Space, Cowboy.” There is a precision-engineered, high-end feel to these songs, as if this is the absolute best and most advanced pop-country-music industrial complex can produce. The songs are almost clinically good (winningly so in “Oh What a World” and “Wonder Woman,” less effectively with “Velvet Elvis” and “High Horse” both of which one can do without because they seem jokey toss-offs, what with the cutesy production flourishes.) And yet one was deeply moved by the title cut upon first listening and still love it, can be touched even, when one slows down to listen to it. [Weird that this record is not listed in one’s book, nor on the 1001.net site, even under the exes.] 4.5 / 5 (rounding up for personal meaning)
The title is dumb, the cover shot moronic and the music still not exactly genius in contrast. It's not hard to hear how the '80s made this bunch extinct. The vocals are good enough to wonder how effective he might have been in another context. The big bank-y, coruscating guitars sound cool but seem wasted in the service of utter rock cliches. There might not be a more quintessential '70s sound than these guys and I don't mean that in a good way. Also, way points off for overdubbing parts.
Lush and rich and shadowy, despite the countrypolitan sheen. VIntage in the best sense and Americana-ish (weird, old division) plus Lynchian and this is how cool country could/can be.
Speed metal meets Gilbert and Sullivan.
Lean, driving and understated, with beats intricately and subtly embedded. It’s likable enough and one supports the intellectual content and positive sentiments, but doesn’t engage on or elevate to the same level as Three Feet High and Rising, say. When the palette expands – see “Good Newz Comin’” – it’s more engaging. Still, a strong effort throughout.
Straight-up overrated, though the great opening line raised expectations perhaps unfairly. Being ironic about things like "Gloria" and "NIght of a Thousand Dances" really isn't that ironic, much less arch; and if it's a deconstruction exercise, is it worth the time? How this is an advancement on punk is just not clear. Would we feel differently about all this if Mapplethorpe hadn't shot the cover? Passion and commitment only get you so far.
Their passion and commitment are clear and convincing. The playing and arrangements are generally effective and intermittently compelling. The hooks are decent and there are some immersive atmospheres. Varied textures and tempos add to the ride as well. Certainly, the drama builds but one questions whether it builds to any crescendo worth reaching – that is, someplace one would find relatable or sufficiently resonant to merit the effort of the journey. Lyrics remain mostly pedestrian, though with quite a few less howlers than on Funeral, which had many of the same strengths (and weaknesses). Much preferring the National, one just can’t go all the way with AF. It feels like an objective 4, but in terms of personal engagement a 3.
Masterpiece -- lyrically, musically and evocatively. The playing is driven and relentless and there's never been a record with lyrics of greater literary quality; the sincerity and irony is balanced beautifally -- not easy to do, as Smiths' subsequent output confirmed, but massively satisfying when it's got right as it is here, fully. "Frankly Mr. Shankly" is Morrissey at his most Wildean and it's all so authentic and, therefore, affecting. There are few, if any, better indie rock records or any records than this one. Editors are wrong (again); worst song isn't "No One Ever" but "Vicar in a Tutu" and when that's the worst song on a record, you're in the toppermost of the poppermost, even while being in the blackest of depths ("I Know It's Over"). "Bigmouth" and "Light That Never" are all-timers.
Beatlesque in the best possible way. Lush and layered and sweet-natured, with the exception of the stunning and irreligious closer, "Dear God." Partridge is a skilled lyricist (with a slightly endency toward cuteness [e.g., "pushing the pedals on the season's cycle"]) and, as a chamber pop composer, knows how to make excellent use of the strings. It approaches a kaleidoscopy swirl at times, which was cutting-edge in the day but still works pretty effectively, thanks to very strong overall content and strong production.
Wild, sprawling and exuberant, this is relentlessly original music, that fuses funk, rock and hip-hop, with a smattering of soul. So many engaging and satisfying beats and tempos and textures. The extracrurricular snippets don't add much necessarily, but they fade out to longer/stronger songs and vibes later on in the record. The artier and genre-mixing it gets, the better it is, which is how music transcends its time – see "So Fresh, So Clean," "Mrs. Jackson" and the amazing closer, "Stanklove." Hip-hop's Radiohead seems about right to this indie rock fan.
Sneakily excellent and brilliantly structured, this is easily the best thing McCartney ever did. Title track, "Jet" and the very underrrated (almost forgotten) "1985" are all extremely strong, drivig pop, with terrific hooks, and the in-between cuts are diverse enough to provide spicy variety. One's always been more Lennon than Macca, but this still rates a 5.
High-level big-band jazz. Maybe a slightly thinner sound than the best of the Ellington band, but every bit as polished, and perhaps even a touch smoother. There’s plenty of swing to go around, and some lovely understated touches by Basie on the piano (which contrast nicely with the big and brassy tutti sections at the end of several tracks).. I love the sultry (or “slinky”) “After Supper” and generally prefer the mid-tempo and quieter cuts, including “Midnight Blue” and “Splanky” especially “Lil Darlin’” with its hook for the ages.
Tuneful and fun and relatable, with great beats and samples, and the raw ambition (and excessive length) of many a great hip-hop album. Fair amount of Puff Daddy, innit? “Slow Jamz” is outstanding (“I’m gonna play this Vandross/You gonna take your pants off”) “We Don’t Care” and “Graduation Day” and “Through the Wire” and “Last Call” also excellent. Skits don’t add much, though one liked the spoken word outro (though it’s self-serving).
Cool and groovy and sophisticated.
Spiky and tart. "Common People" and "Disco 2000" and "Something Changed" are sharply observed and delightful. Funny thing, for all Cocker's reputation for snark and irony, one believes every word he sings – and believes he believes them, too (which is perhaps more to the point). The playing and tones are ideally suited to his style as well.
Intense and dynamic. Dancers probably find it danceable. One's not qualified to say much more than it sounds cool and substantive and lord knows we've all heard much worse world music and if this made him a global star, it must be good, right?
One’s personal high-water mark for hip-hop. The joy and warmth and humor, plus the communal feel of the whole thing. Listening today, one senses there’s perhaps too much filler (or forgettable inserts). This many full-on classics makes this 5. Shame about the lawsuit. And don’t sleep on De La Soul is Dead.
Crisp and compelling throughout, with flashes of genius (“Norwegian Wood,” “In My Life). This was a major advancement from being a pop group to true artists; it worked both as designed and in execution. The new wrinkles were the addition of the sitar and more room for George, plus a Ringo-sung song, all of which would become hallmarks (plus markers of tension, too, the tension that added to the deepening and expanding artistic impact). “Nowhere Man” and “I’m Looking Through You” are quite sharp and every track is a cut above the average pop song. Greil Marcus was right about “Girl,” though that doesn’t make it a great pop song. Basically every Beatles record from this one on feels like a 5 (they succeed almost perfectly as what they are) but it’s worth noting this is notch below Revolver and Sgt Pepper.
Another landmark punk album that’s borderline unlistenable (surely just a coincidence). And only borderline because it’s brief (mercifully so).
Though performative, seems credibly and – perhaps more to the point – earnestly so. Some of the beats are tight and basic-sounding (as 30-year-old records invariably do), but it’s much richer, and not nearly as one-note as one recalls. The soulful song-on-the-radio-esque "Express Yourself" the fun Steve Miller sample-snippet on “Something Like That,” the singalong humor of "I Ain’t Tha 1” and the borderline novelty “Something 2 Dance 2” add more than a bit of texture and straight-up fun. And in the end ,there is as much about sexual politics as social protest (which seems not quite as flat and obvious, not as shocking, as in back in the day).
Everything you’d expect from a quintessential metal record of this vintage — growling vocals, driving riffs (several of which were outright lifted by Screaming Trees), themes straddling the sexy/sexist divide (“Jailbait”) beloved by Spinal Tap, total lack of irony, and high lyricism (“I’ve got no excuse/you like it fast and loose” “Wake up and let me in/for some original sin” “I love the life I lead/another beer is what I need” “come on baby, let me get you in the sack/you know the chase is better than the catch”). It all adds up to metal’s usual exercise in tedium.
Beyond the imagistic lyrics, what makes these records are the subtle touches – strings, backing vocals, the odd guitar riff or drumming. Listen to the end of Suzanne” you barely notice the ethereal strings and backing vocals coming back in in which elevates the haunting. The electric guitar flourishes on “Master Song” and is that a harpsichord on “Winter Lady” along with the plucked guitar. The accordion (I think) and piercing backing vocals on “So Long Marianne,” which is a real highlight, the drums and accordion (again) on “Sisters of Mercy,” and the whistling outro on “Both of Us Cannot Be Wrong,” a most fitting bookend to “Suzanne.” “No Way to Say Goodbye” is also classic. The quieter and more controlled singing here is more effective than the gruff and growling than “Love and Hate.” The knocks (fair) are that's it's a bit samey in tempo and style across songs and yes, a bit wallow-y, downgrading melancholy into something like entropy. Still, it's LC, so 4.
Stewart at his most soulful and before he become so calculated. From what we know now, the earnestness can seem like a put-on, but maybe that's just one beign jaded. Four very good songs – title cut, "County Comfort," "My Way of Giving," and "Lady Day" – the soulful ones basically. Much else feels disposable, replacement level rock of the era. His tone and phrasing are authentic, as the long-ago RS review had it, and well-judged, but few – if any – singers have had a voice better suited to rock. And to his credit, he works it well and versatilely and in many different styles. Perhaps that makes him a bit too chameleon-like but here the effect is coherent because of the marterial and mostly effective.
A record that has meant a lot down the years and the standout tracks (especially “Saturday Sun”) still do. That it’s seminal chamber pop (in vibe and effect) could be viewed as a plus or minus, depending on one’s tastes. But one is struck by the contrast between the modesty of the record and the power of the man’s myth. One’s glad it resurfaced and all ND’s records became better known, but context is necessary as the classic cycle of aggressive “discovery” of the obscure leading the underrated to become canonical, common, borderline mythical and, ultimately, overrated. Yes, the songs are gorgeous and sad, lilting and lovely, but also tend to the lethargic and yawny. One understands, in other words, why they didn’t light up the charts. Certainly original and understated – qualities one wants more of in music, generally – and extremely well suited (in the day-parting sense) to certain moods and hours and conditions. But one feels less moved by them than one once did, and maybe a bit bored besides. Once discovered, some undiscovered geniuses can suddenly seem so yesterday, no? 3.6
An inspired melange but a melange nonetheless, with more than a little overreaching. One wonders if Beck is motivated more by boredom (just to see what works and what he can get away with) or ambition (to be all things to all types of listeners or to provide some form of universalist Rosetta Stone of slacker fin de siecle music). The synthesizing creaks obviously in places — the inert mingling of a tepid Schubert passage (“Unfinished Symphony”) with some middling hip-hop beats. The bits of mid-‘70s Stones and funk sound fine, if toothless, landing as little more than noodling or homage-y nods. The faux-Beastie Boys riffs and cuts sound on-point but fall short of the actual, you know, Beastie Boys. “Jack-Ass” sounds tired, much more lethargic than one recalls – with the backing track outright stolen from Them. One can’t help but think “dilettante” as much as “genius” and also about the originality of such assemblage and whether Beck woulda been better served (and served his listeners better) by just playing it straight, or at least occasionally straighter.
They were better with surfer vocalist than with this showoffy shrieker. “Epic” is easily one of the most annoying songs of the ‘90s, but most of this whole thing is just lame and moronic, with “Falling to Pieces” and “Edge of the World” the least lame and moronic (though both are sullied by the overdone vocals). Is there some skilled playing? Sure, but mainly in the service of bombast and excess, such masturbatory bass-slapping, such RCHP-esque posturing, so many overplayed and overlong songs. Why does every band in this genre take itself so f-ing seriously, and think itself so bloody epic? One finds the confluence of rap-funk-rock and nu-metal to be the least salubrious musical trend since the birth of rock and roll. FNM were a lot more fun during the Bathe No More era (see “Anne’s Song,” e.g.). And serious points off for “inspiring” Korn, Limp Bizkit and the rest of that odious lot.
All-time classic, innit, for reasons of variety and ambition, mainly, but also the depth and breadth of quality. Everything just works, spanning hard and dark edges to the lightest brightest pop hooks. One doubts not the commitment or the authenticity of the lads – they are all in on every cut. And while one hesitates to take artists too seriously in their political proclamations, the Clash (okay, Strummer) seems considerably more credible and informed than others. Surely his heart's in the right place. There's not a bit filler across both sides of both discs, so many of the songs (experimental as they seem at the outset) seem like they could be toss-offs, but the band gives it a full go on each and every. The stars just align sometimes, one supposes, from the cover photo to lyrics to the teamwork and effort, and willingness to share the spotlight. A sub-genre stradding high-water mark of popular music.
At least one understands the bombast and sheer over-the-topness right out of the gate, from the first screeching notes of the eponymous opener. One always felt a bit sorry for Meat Loaf, his clownishness and obvious need for adoration (occupational hazard for actors, alas). Certainly he could sing, but was it necessary to oversing every f’ing note or for every song to be operatic? That the playing is overwrought may be stylistically consistent, but makes for an exhausting listening experience. There are Mahler symphonies that take a lighter touch than “For Crying Out Loud,” the mawkishenss-on-steroids closer. One blames Steinman, obviously, with TR as an accomplice. Neither were fluent in understatement or subtlety. There is broad appeal – “Two Out of Three” straight up works and “Paradise” is unforgettable (both in the positive and pejorative senses) with the Rizzuto clips approaching performance art –but, per usual, one finds broad appeal to be more bug than feature. Plus, the incessant and near-desperate overreaching for the audience is cringe-making – utterly undignified and approaching outright groveling at times. Meat Loaf seems to fall roughly between a roadside attraction and a novelty act, more than a one-hit wonder, but not much more, which feels about right, karmically speaking, in the grand scheme.
Full marks for being different and influential and pushing the DIY envelope in arty ways. However, on substance, this is moderately interesting at best and often primitive-sounding. Much of it barely qualifies as music or, for that matter, a record. "Found sound" (especially answering machine content) jumped the shark quite some time ago, no? One might be just intrigued enough to explore a touch more of the catalog (liking soundscapes, obscurities and irrelevant artistic endeavors as much as one tends to do), but it’s certainly not a no-brainer and one’s skeptical about finding much else worthwhile.
Editors get this one right: "a monument to musical possibility." The idea that the best jazz is built on spontaneous composition (aka improvisation) is the first among many reasons that more jazz records should be included on this list. Jazz is a fundamentally diffrent game than verse-chorus-verse-chorus pop songs (no matter how clever) or rock bands doing endless power chords (no matter how magisterially). Certainly there are ample KJ releases that are worthy, though this one is unique in its mostly uplifting vibe (again, kudos to editors for noting that). One feels more soul in this work than in other drier, more academic recordings. And one doesn't have to love every single note to appreciate – and be awed by – the magnitude of effort and brilliance on display. A magical night, under sub-optimal conditions, nearly 50 years ago, still translates into a transporting musical experience today – the mark of a classic or deathbed recording in any genre.
So now we have the answer to the question of just how many high-decibel sounds an axe can make. Speaking personally, one did not actually need such an answer. But if all you have are hammers (or guitars), everything looks like a nail (or an overwrought and masturbatory solo). On the plus (or at least the least minus) side, this seems slightly more tuneful and slightly cleaner/tighter than most of the other metal, which is almost uniformly wretched, on this esteemed list. That makes it a 0.8 day,as opposed to a 0.3, say. And, seriously, editors, this is “mature” songwriting: “Winds blow from the bowels of hell/Will we get warning? Only time will tell.” And this “sardonic commentary:” “The end is near, it's crystal clear/Part of the master plan/Don't look now to Israel/It might be your homelands.” It’s all just meant to scare the women and children, right? What else could possibly be the point?
In this case, dying young may not have been the savvy career move it so often is, but one has forgotten how great this posthumously related record was/is. One always thought Janis too much of a screamer but on this record, she stays just inside the line of control, while still unleashing ample passion. Plus, the band knows its role, keeping it tight and playing to set up and complement the vocals. A cohesive sound throughout adds to the experience, and every song holds up – all filler cuts should be as original and endearing (and silly) as "Oh Lord." "Bobby McGee" will live forever (and should). One's not sure he'd go as far as editors in ranking her with Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith, but those comps aren't way off and overall this is awfully good. Personal bonus points for being reminded of one's own long forgotten, college-era girlfriends who didn't necessarily turn one on to this record, but played it a lot (thinking that it equated to feminism). 4.5/5
"One’s initial reaction is: “Oh look another overrated Bowie record. Can't have enough of those in this list, now can we?” This is definitely not terrible, but also neither life-changing nor even all that interesting. On a second listen, that reaction is more or less confirmed. Sure, there’s some edgy textures, but the production is alternately muddy and tinny. Man, are those some cheesy synths on “Speed of Life.” There’s much that’s derivative (typical Bowie), always aiming to sound like something (or someone) else, in this case Kraftwerk. The slightly-ahead-of-its-time sonic factor and the substantial coolness of ""Sound and Vision,” “Be My Wife” and “A New Career in a New Town” (the last being the best thing on the record) can’t make up for the wholly contrived feel of this thing (again, typical Bowie). Then there’s the standard (speaking of tinny) Tin Machine penalty that must be retroactively assigned to every Bowie record. The last four wordless, ambient tracks are okay, semi-interesting experimentation and noodling, but a bit too synthetic. One wants to ask why they aren’t credited to Eno. And just because Joy Division were inspired to choose their original name from the lugubrious “Warszawa” doesn’t make it great or memorable (or any less turgid for that matter). They get pretty ponderous pretty quickly, sounding more like Muzak of slightly-above-average artiness, what the mid-70s thought the future would sound like (mid-’70s were mostly wrong, it would seem). This is a 3.4 (rounding down because of overexposure) – in no way imperative to hear or essential (more like tangential) to a life’s listening.
Pure energy, visceral and fearsome. However, one’s always hated most of these songs, which are basic and childish. JLL is a livewire and a screamer, no doubting the stage presence or commitment. Also the insanity (see wife, 13-year-old cousin as). Grudgingly rating up because it does sound like a landmark and production is surprisingly crisp for a nearly 60-year-old recording.
A rock record that shows the power of holding something back and staying in control, of embracing the mid-tempo, as opposed to playng every note as fast and loud as possible, and amping up every song to be the ultimate in epic-osity. "Sworn and Broken" is best cut on a clunker-free collection. The interesting touches of strings, bells, synths, acoustic instruments, etc. sparkle up the textures and add to the interest. The playing is solid all the way around, and frequently inspired (without being over the top [bears repeating]) and the vocals are state-of-the-art cool. Yes, it's got a distinctly mid-90s vvibe, but the highly effective execution makes it worth knowing today.
Elevating and beyond soulful, or rather definitively soulful. One thinks the back-up singers get perhaps less credit than they deserve. Gospel never sounded so sexy, or love songs quite so upstanding. The playing is solid +, letting the Queen do what she could do. The reinterpretations of Redding and Mayfileld shows how she can have her way with a song, and it's how she inhabits the song, not just singing it, that makes AF the Queen of Soul, right? And she is indeed Queen of Soul AF.
One likes how he lets it all hang out, but man does this feel like an ‘80s special, with the poppy bass-ing, the quite practiced representin’/testifyin’ vocal gestures (up and down and across the verses, the beat and melodies) the back-up singers, the tinny keys, etc. One might expect a bit more poetry given the title. The lyrics about apple pie and fried chicken don’t quite qualify. Still there’s loads of soul here, especially in “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” and “Where Do We Go From Here,” the two closing cuts; apparently BW likes saving the best two songs for last. One wishes one liked it a bit more.
Feels unnecessarily discordant and knotty in places, and never quite returns to the very high standard of the opening cut, "Schizophrenia." Relentlessly tough and dark art rock, this is far from their best (or biggest) work.
Substantial chops plus an understated vibe as the antidote to the chaos of disco and punk. There’s a modesty that underscores the quality, the restrained and refined licks a new brand of non-show-offy guitar heroics. The record has a vaguely cry-from-the-wilderness feel. One gets the feeling that this band kept its head down, avoiding all the noise around it, just doing its thing, and doing it at an extremely high level. "Wild West End" is a personal all-time favorite, and "Lions" and "In the Gallery" are seriously underrated, bookending "Down to the Waterline" and "Water of Love" in terms of intrigue and listenability. "Sultans" is fine, but barely a top five on this excellent sert. And much better was still to come – namely, Making Movies and Love Over Gold, egregious and utterly inexplicable exclusions to this list. Bonus points for the cool and arty cover photo, which the headbands-cum-wristbands-cum-wife-beater look (speaking of egregious) would rather unfortunately cancel out.
Lovely and elevating, almost purifying. One feels almost vegan by the end. But such earnest loveliness – not to mention understatment – is a welcome break from the bombast and posturing across so much of rock/pop music history. "White Winter Hymnal" is of generational quality, in terms of defining a moment and clarifying a sub-genre, or heralding a micro-era (these guys being head and shoulders above Avett Bros, Mumford & Sux, Old Crow and others mining the neo-traditional vein about this time). Fro the very strong start, the record just keeps getting better and better, with the last cuts – "Quiet Houses," "Your Protector," "Meadowlarks," "Blue Ridge Mountains" and "Oliver James" – achieving and maintaining a very high standard indeed.
One has always enjoyed the melodious sweetness herein, which contrast with dense, sonically fuzzy backdrop not nearly as dark and certainly not as heavy or screechy as Psychocandy. The sincere non-morbid yearning is well articulated in the singalong chorus (“Du-du-DUHdu-du”) of the opener. The tension between the tunefulness and drone-y walls balance provides the energy. There's a likable simplicity here, too, as if basic, relatively innocent ‘50s songs were updated with a more metallic sonic palette and near-industrial-strength production effects, pushing coolness from white t-shirts, leather jackets and cigarettes to the post-new wavey angst of torn, all-black clothes, thick boots and harder drugs. In the end, a highly evocative and richly satisfying pop record thanks to sweet, solid hooks within pleasantly dark shadings.
Rich and expansive and proving out that (South) African jazz is very much a thing. So why isn't there more of it in this esteemed list? Great playing throughout. "Minawa" is lovely, with impassioned soloing upping the emotional stakes, and "Maesha" beautifully contemplative, then engagingly energetic.
Very cleverly conceived and exceedingly well executed. A delight to hear. Somehow, it's hard to imagine how it can be so, but, after all these years, Kinks still feel underrated.
Hot Fuss indeed! There's a lot to like here, even if one is a little sheepish and abashed in admitting to like it. It feels a bit dated, it feels a little ripped off the Strokes and Franz F, it feels a little too glitzy-night-clubby rock for one's taste, but it's infectious and stylish so .... in fact, what it mostly is is "Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll," a title which shows these lads knew their own product.
Endlessly (and brashly) creative, but sometimes self-indulgently so, as if he might have been better served by having less studio gadgetry to hand or more rigid structure. (One likes sex jokes and references and sexiness as much as the next guy, but perhaps there is too much of it here – gets a little tedious. Certainly the synths and drum machines sound awfully dated (occupational hazard for musicians of this era). Opening title cut is pretty great, and other outright (and oddball) winners include “Dorothy Parker” and “Starfish and Coffee” and “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and “Never Take the Place of You” (which has an all-time ‘80s synth hook) and “Adore.” Given the richness of the quality here, one struggles to understand how there weren’t more hits; on the other hand, given public taste, it’s not so surprising.
Well, we didn’t really know what we were in for, did we? And it still sounds fresh 40 years on. The enthusiasm and commitment and near-perfect integration of the playing make the record. The inscrutable lyrics only add to the charm. There are many winners, but the whole sounds of a piece, consistent in tone and mood, and executed with an attractive balance of precision and swing. “Radio Free Europe” still sounds like a call to arms, a new way to view the world through music or to do music. “Laughing” is criminally underrated and “Perfect Circle” just gorgeous, as elegant a song as REM (or anyone) would ever do. “Shaking Through” is pure delight. “Sitting Still” is an absolute gem, a personal all-time fave the inspirational ending of which (“I can hear you/Can you hear me?” with the hopeful bell-like up-chiming last note) can still bring one near to tears. One can’t be objective about this record as it has meant so much, having (almost literally) grown up (in Georgia) with this band – with this and Chronic Town on cassette and having seen them a dozen or so times, across most of their tours, going back to Reckoning (which should be on this list, as one of the great all-time sophomore efforts, and a better record than this one, IMHO). And as seminal and influential as this record was (for which it gets a 5), it’s important to remember how much better they got and how much more great music was to come. That the record apparently still means so much speaks to its rarely-paralleled excellence.
Ragged and wan, as if everyone knew the end was nigh. Everything feels tossed off, but in a likable way. The iron-deficient “Femme Fatale” succeeds in seeming to approach a vanishing point. “Jesus Christ” is a bit more stable but with undercurrents of apathy and listlessness. The rockers are less effective, generally, not unlike Wilco (another of their esteemed progeny) in that sense. Did Big Star deserve better? It can be said, but they are perhaps flattered by their adherents.
Fierce and gritty, the energy is strong and sustained, with an unmistakable style. There’s just enough variety (“It Was a Good Day”) to keep it from being a bit too one-note. Cube may have got a bit cliched, but back in the day there’s no doubting his top-doggedness. While one’s race and background prevent one from judging the authenticity of these rhymes and flows, they certainly seem credible and reflect the musical moment of LA early ‘90s. Not sure I see the “The Black Bob Dylan” angle, though Perry Farrell would be well positioned to know. “Check Yo Self” and “Tear This MF Up” and “Who Got the Camera” are the other top cuts.
Opening cut track just slays, one of a funky decade's funkiest drops, and somehow restrained too (from whence its unique power perhaps emanates). It’s a groove so good they redo it on the closer (the height of forgivability, that choice is). Vocals don't seem 100% required on several tracks. There’s almost a baroque effect here (baroque in the best sense) with the world-historical steady and to-die-for basslines, the spicy, intercutting strings, the just slightly more-upbeat-than-languid tempos and the ample space for grooves to open, expand, ripen. And all so much chiller than one might expect, too. One finds this much more refined than in any way risque.
Tight and focused where Astral Weeks was sprawling and ethereal but every bit as effective and haunting, perhaps even slightly more so. The first side is a landmark – great opener "And It Stoned Me," followed by the title cut (rare among monstrously overplayed tunes in that it holds up and doesn't become annoying – probably because it's perfectly structured), "Crazy Love" a sweet and endearing ballad, the groovy "Caravan" and "Into the Mystic" – is there better set of five consecutive songs in this whole book? Side 2 is lighter and freer, and a bit more joyful, but only the slightest of comedowns.
This record cast a spell from the first listen and at once confounded and captivated so many different types of music fans, who were drawn to the sheer originality or the rich spiritual tones. The haunting yet comforting vocals, the balance of dreaminess and power, the playing for mysticism or contemplation – all of it was (and still is) massively affecting. Whether it's post-rock or something else matters not – the case for it being rock would have to do with SR being an artier version of Pink Floyd, one supposes; but whatever it is, it's just brilliant and much more powerful than so much power-cord-driven rock.
You can keep “Rainy Day Woman” and one only sorta likes “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat” for reasons of snark, but so many classics. Even “Mobile-Memphis Blues” is way better now than it was in one's high-school/college/angry-anxious young man era. “Visions of Johanna” is top drawer, so too “Sooner or Later” (underestimated classic) and “I Want You” -- an embarrassment of riches. “Sad-Eyed Lady” is a prayer. And where has “Fourth Time Around” been hiding all these years; one has no recollection of this liltingly urgent track from all the years of listening (which were, admittedly, mostly three decades ago). Not quite "Blood on the Tracks" and perhaps just slightly overlong, but still damn close to as good as it gets.
Maximalist in the best sense. Makes one wish equally one were a dancer and a political revolutionary. There's a sense of humor, too, the little folk song quotes at end of title cut. When it comes to FK, one's definitely up to Follow Follow.
Slackerishly ragged and full-on stoner vibey, the best cuts come early and the willful and sloppy discordance of the rest wears itself out. Lacking the pathos (perhaps accidental) of Pavement or the elevating ennui of Dinosaur, Jr. or the depth and ambition of Sonic Youth. In other words, the overall effect is rather more of scrape than bubble. Some fun lines, (“Here I am, on my knees / With nothing to blame but my curiosity” and “I see something we should do / If you need one, then you need two / I won't hold back, so why should you?”) keep it just the right side of average but not quite all the way to excellence.
Moody, broody and a little boring. One is made much less breathless by this material than LdR is. One accepts that one may not know the oeuvre well enough to appreciate the intertextual subtleties, but she seems an obvious and oversharing sort of writer – and not nearly as good as one suspects her most devoted followers think she is. There are a few good lines. “It's hard to be lonely, but it's the right thing to do”) but an equal number of clunkers(“I don't wanna live with a life of regret / I don't wanna end up like Tammy Wynette”). It would be too obvious to say she’s Alanis or Fiona A lite or simply an extension thereof, but one finds it hard to avoid thinking it.
A vintage release from a top-class artist, this speaks to his considerable strengths, starting with his sheer originality. Throughout all the various reinvention attempts (both subtle and bold), one always knows it’s him. That can lead to a little sameness but the quality of tracks and professionalism of craft are uniformly high, here as on other records. "Party Girl" is a personal fave. "What's So Funny" a reminder of Nick Lowe's glaring and egregious omission from this esteemed index.
Much more interesting than Blue. Title cut, “Shadows and Light,” and “Edith and the Kingpin” all work well. It’s safe to say that one prefers the more observant and jazzier Joni to the outwardly emotional Joni.
Perfectly dreadful – these clowns clearly love their axes, but why then keep doing the same thing with them over and over again? No surprise they've been banished from the book.
Is it dumb to say that this sounds better than it is? For all the drama and competence (singing, playing, production), one senses a distinct lack of soul. After the big-hit opening duo, there’s a big lull until “I’ll Be Waiting” and “One and Only,” both of which are well north of solid. Of the Cure cover, the less said the better. One’s view is that it’s borderline blasphemous, besides being lazy and obvious. One’s general sense that this won’t age all that well seems borne out by the book’s banishing Adele – both 21 and 25, in fact – in the latest editions.
Pure and true and uplifting, like the artist herself. One felt the quality just kept creeping up, overcoming concerns about corniness or sentimentality. She's every bit as distinct a writer, as she is a singer. This is timeless, a masterpiece on its own terms, sounding not at all dated and fully relevant. "Mystery of the Mystery" is tops, but every cut has ample merits, particularly "Early Morning Breeze," and "She Never Met and Man" and title cut, too, of course. Refined and understated playing throughout.
Just fine and just what one would expect from him. Best songs are “Certain People” and “We Hate It When…” and “Tomorrow” (especially the cute little piano fadeout). One might prefer other of his solo releases (this one starts a bit unnecessarily rocking), but have pretty much enjoyed pretty much everything he’s ever put out, including this. 3.8 > 4
Lovely and thoughtful. Pretty tuneful, too. And early milestone in the singer-songwriter category and still well worth one's time today.
First two cuts (wait for it) rock, but the balance of the record is a grungy grimy, utterly uninspired muddle. Last cut is okay too but too quasi-Queen-esque to clear the bar of sheer mediocrity. 2.5 at best but rounding down for their many subsequent crimes against good taste and musical decency (very much including judging singing contest television shows) which far outweigh their (not-really-much-more-than modest-when-one-considers-their-rather-unfortunate-it-worked-out) longevity. In other words, all their awful later work more than canceled out the decent amount of solid-to-solid-plus material they released earlier.
A nice find here, stylish and interesting. One’s not entirely sure how one missed this group in real time. First cut features as elegant and upmarket a “booty call” as one is likely to get. There’s an arty ominousness to the proceedings and lyrics, which keeps one engaged and a bit on edge. Societal decay and personal deterioration seem also danceable, in a modulated, melancholic sort of way. The falsetto is the strongest, and most original effect, and nicely suits the polished-up and sleekly modernized new wave vibe of the playing. Will be looking to hear more.
One doesn’t think of Spiritualized as understated but in this case the record’s undeniable interest and, ultimately, power sort of sneaks up. “Shine and Light” (what a bass or baritone sax-ing) and “Angel Sigh” are the twin peaks late of a very strong finish that pays off handsomely for the fairly slow (or slow-building) start.
The sassiest and most satisfying sort of soul. An astonishing debut on multiple levels, the conifdent delivery and assuredness, her versatile singing style, from belting to vamping. The lyrics are great, too, with many funny bits ("Fuck Me Pumps," "I Heard Love Is Blind") and empowered feminist (and post-feminist) proclamations ("Stronger Than Me," "What Is It About Men"). A big-time talent strutting her stuff for the first time. One loves the overall vibe and feel of the record, too – the retro instrumentation and song selection, backed by modern beats and 'tudes – "Mr. Magic" is a great exemplar of how this respectfully and intelligently freshens up a classic genre. Excellent all the way around.
The genuine article, Zeppeine were the truest and most assured purveyors of the purest hard rock at the level of the hook, plus legitimate in delivering white British blues and lovely pastoral and folk-tinged psychedeia, even the odd proggy exploration (love the chrurch organ on "Thank You") of otherworldly role-playing. It all worked, often fantastically well, even when it seemed like it shouldn't. And the feel for melody is seriously underrated. LZ remain unsurpassable and every band that tried later (looking at you Deep Purple, and at you, Bad Company and Van Halen and won't even mention for fuck's sake the recent adherents who don't even merit the looking at, much less the calling out [okay, okay, rhymes with "Shreta pan Cleet]) all of whom are such pallid imitators that one feels mostly embarrassed for them. Zeppelin backed up the bombast, had the chops to execute on the Appolonian ambition, while also being resolutely credible in the Dionysian reaching. These other hacks could only pretend, on their best days. II may be the verty slightest notch down from the debut (perhaps only for the newness) but is anything but a sophomore slump. There is the all-time opening riff on "Whole Lotta Love," and a half-dozen other world-class, weapons-grade hooks – "What Is ...," "Good Times, Bad Times," "Heartbreaker," "Living Loving Maid," "Moby Dick" and "Bring It On Home" – any of which individually may seem almost a throwaway in the embarrassment-of-riches context of this record, but each of which is hall-of-fame quality in its own right. Clapton is wrong about Zeppelin (as with much else [as has recently been made abundantly clear]) and Jack White (who doesn't trust people who don't like Led Zeppelin) dead right.
Utterly dreadful, and they seem to have doubled down on dreadfulness as every song is completely unlistenable in almost the exact same way.
Wild, out-there fun. Not one's cup of tea, generally, but this takes off to otherworldly places and mostly stays there. Awfully listenable for being so densely layered.
Warm and soulful and a sweet overall listen. If it's good enough for Obama ...
With the caveat that "Birthday" is a great song, this was overrated them and remains so today. And it has provided a foundation for the steady overrating of Bjork down the years. If the band truly started out as a joke, one wonder whom it's been on.
Awfully good and the ear-candy effect has aged quite well indeed. Who doesn't love Bob Mould? The first half-dozen tracks amount to one sustained banger – and it's fun, too. One finds "Helpless" to be the favorite, but really likes them all. The second side drags just a touch, but overall this is impossible not to like – and a lot, too.
How DIY should be – hooky and tuneful, with some likably raffish edges. "Riddle of the Eighties" and "Liberty for Our Friends" and "Time with You" and "Understanding" are standouts within a very coherent and consistenly strong set of songs. The melodic folkie bits passages are the perfect leavening to the grittier and punkier bits.
Lush and lilting. Marv could be both the sexy songbird and the quite naughty grinder. There's a flow and a funk to the falsetto sweetness here – and the difference between moaning lovemaking sound effects on records from this era and today's hip-hop records is notably huge (see "You Sure to Love Ball"); the shame-free, honesty that accompanies even the most direct proclamations of desire, plus the sophisticated and elevating string arrangements give this an authenticity that's borderline pure and innocent.
"Modern chamber music" is right. Frequently lovely and often engrossing, this is her high watermark.Untroubled by genre expectations and free to do what she wants, Bjork explores the interior frontiers to powerful and moving effect. One finds it quite dramatic and emotionally intense, and admits to liking the record much more now than when it was released. It's perhaps a bit overdetermined (like much of her work), but she pulls it off and the instrumentation (clicky electro microbeats, harps, choirs) and studio soundscapes work better there than elsewhere in her catalogue. “Hidden Place” is good and the “Cocoon” makes one wonder what it would be like to be Matthew Barney for a day. “It’s Not Up to You” and “Pagan Poetry” are the highlights, and “Unison” a very strong end, after a bit of a lull on the previous few cuts. This is an artist creating her own genre so one finds it hard to figure a set of criteria to apply here.
A little downbeat, a little understated, and quite a bit gritty and lean. The mid-tempo vibes fade out or just break down in a way that feels both quiet and slightly ominous. The tinny shuffling drum beat links the track and one like the grace notes and chime-y bells that toll across cuts. No huge standouts, just a murky, sometimes menacing mood, like SI on a grey day, one supposes. And of course the Mussorgsky opening is a nifty touch. One feels inspired to log a bit more time in some Chambers with the WTC.
They amped up the energy and anger from the debut, but not necessarily to great effect. One prefers the sustained control and powder-keg effect of Dry to the raw emotional and (borderline hysterical) outpourings here (one would say that, being a dude). There’s a sameness to many of the songs, especially on the first side. The drumming is consistently ferocious (and some of the licks are hot), but much of the playing leans toward undistinguished grunge. Plus, there’s more screaming, yelling and groaning than actual singing. The diversity of the latter tracks improves the overall experience – “Dry” is quite good, for instance, and “Man-Size Sextet” and “Dry” and “Me-Jane.” The cool Dylan cover gets bonus points for creative interpretation, but somehow leaves one a touch cold. From a lesser band this would be something like a high-water mark; for PJH, not much better than average. 3.4 for 3.
One is largely sympathetic to the politics. But much less so to the music. Only intermittent bits of playing appeal — such as the last little groovy-near-jazzylicks on “Killing in the Name” and edgy, organ-y keyboard riff on “Know Your Enemy” (wouldn’t the more biblical “Know Thy Enemy” been nicer?) Otherwise, much sameyness, much that’s derived from Public Enemy and metal, say, which one considers much more worth one’s time.
Editors are right that there was reason to be skeptical about M's post-Smiths output but this was a winning effort all the way around. "Everyday Is Like Sunday" and "Suedehead" are all-time pop songs. "Bengali" is terrifc, too. Other than this being lighter and perhaps slightly less biting and driving, there's not a huge diff musically from late Smiths. But the overreaching guitar solo on "I Don't Mind" reminds one of this record's Marrlessness. Still overall this is quite a bit more than solid – and not only from having avoided being worse, which it very much could have been.
Tepid and tedious chill/club music. One may be missing some subtlety, though there's nothing to engage non-fans, nor any reason to listen to it before or after death.
Not as good as the eponymous debut (the criticism on the latter as being "too pure" is like criticizing Shakespeare plays for being too well structured). Still this is a great record. Driving, gritty and winningly downbeat. The last few cuts really take it from very good to the classic and timeless. "Barbarism Begins at Home" is terrific and the last few minutes of instrumental is a master class in how to give depth and gravity to pop music. Title cut does the same and makes it awfully hard to get off the mind. The lack of a hit was tempered by the fact that "How Soon Is Now" was on the original US release. Today, it reads just as an extraordinarily good record for people serious about serious music.
As a child of the '80s, one fears that beloved records – or indeed any record – of that era will come off today as unbearably cheesy or silly (like the fashion and haircuts of the time). This one, however, easily transcends such fear with its quality and substance. Duran Duran feel almost like a punch line, a band far too easy to hate for the stylishenss and glamour, primarily. But the songs hold up quite sturdily. Title cut's horn furious interplay and driving beat make it both danceable and a bit of a banger -- mix of Sex Pistols and Chic indeed!. "Hungry" may be the best song about sex ever written – oh, the suggestiveness. The playing is quite good throghout, the singing excellent and the belief/commitment fully credible. It's not too precious or pretty; the guitars have real teeth – a New Wave edginess – and the synths, while ubiquitous, never quite overwhelm. There are no dogs or throwaways – it's a real album, not just a random collection of tunes; each cut works on its own terms, and the consistent sounds and rhythms and instrumentation make for a consistent listening experience, just this side of samey. Perhaps most amazingly, there is nary a single cringe-making "ultimate '80s" moment. Much were we wrong about in our teen years. This record is not, apparently, one of them, though one confesses to feeling some slight embarrassment in admitting one likes it, which keeps it from being a 5, but only just.
Bombastic drum fills, great guitar playing and effective and evocative moods created, strong loud-quiet-loud dynamics, but one isn't fully motivated to explore all the myths and legends. or even mind the lyrics very much. One fears for Geddy Lee's vocal cords and for the destinties of all the adolescent fans who took it all too seriously. But Rush seem a bit more focused and stayed in their range more effectively than many of their prog rock contemporaries, who overused their synths and keys and suffered from an excess of ideas. One's boyhood affiliations and allegiances (i.e., the fact that one had a huge 3x5 or 4x6 Rush poster on his boyhood bedroom wall, bought for $4 at Six Flags Over Georgia in the summer of 1981) causes the rounding up, which is borderline dubious.
Typically barbed and sour, but rougher and harder-edged, too, adding some grunge to the glammy bits while staying within bounds of vintage Britpop. As with all their records, this is a decidedly mixed bag. Beatlesque opener is quite good and "Song 2" has that hook for the ages, but feels just the slightest bit gimmicky. The inevitable song about America is slightly above replacement level compared to their other Yank takedowns. "Strange New from Another Star" is a highlight. The general sense of experimentation feels jokey and very much in the spirit of taking the piss; a non-impressive percentage of the larks come off, however ("You're So Great" mostly does, while "Theme from Retro" does not, decidedly), causing one to wonder just how seriously to take any cut. Also, the surfeit of songs would have benefitted from a trimming – starting with "Chinese Bombs." One always feels close to liking Blur, but then feels the liking might be sort of beside the point from their perspective. Hence the rounding down from 3.5.
Not one’s favorite Miles; it seems almost anti-tuneful at times, though it’s also exceedingly thoughtful and interesting in its commitment to explorations (some of which sound borderline lazy) and resolute quietude. The communications and exchanges feel nearly tensile, the passing of the solos of such control and understatement. Side 2 just glows with vibes: Miles and McLaughlin flickering in and out early; Zawinul and Shorter pointing and dousing each other at the dozen-minute mark, and the beautiful, beautiful ending. Just exquisite, even its near emotionless neutrality – a listener's feelings may shade to mournful or joyous, but always in a restrained sort of way.
Listening to this for first time in a long time, one's reminded of the immortal words of Beavis and Butthead "why are English people such whining wussies?" But also that Coldplay would've done better to stay in precisely that sadder, whinier and more emo mode, rather than trying so naively to conquer the world with, you know, love and joy, or whatever other limpid motivations inspired their later (and very badly misguided) efforts. They were never going to convince with that quite callow effort, now were they? The happier and more earnest and ambitious they got, the more they sucked. And in their faux intensity ended up this generation's Styx (in the immortal words of J. Hoberman), try as they might have been to be U2 (whose own later efforts have fairly trilled with rather Coldplay-like insipidities). Still, one must cop to having been quite taken by this record upon its release, much as one is embarrassed admitting it now, given how bloody awful and insufferable Coldplay has been for so long now. The hidden track at the end is a clear harbinger of the pretension to come. One liked this record originally for reasons (perhaps misconceptions) having to do with being melancholic and jaded in a stylish and sophisticated and globally au courant sort of way (the life one was leading at the time, alas). And even now this is occasionally gorgeous and affecting, which is just cringe-making to confess, this being a tortured affection rather than a guilty pleasure. "Yellow," once annoyingly ubiquitous, and "Trouble" chime and sort of swing appealingly, if basically. "Sparks" and "We Never Change" have precisely that sort of languor and ennui for which one has always had a weak spot, perhaps mistaking it for depth or meaning, rather than seeing it for the cloying sentiment it surely is here, though well hidden here under the guise of world weariness. The bottom line is that one still sees the surface appeal as much as one wishes one's more refined critical sensibilities would allow one to eschew – indeed transcend – those blandishments that produce a certain sort of satisfaction, which is of course a lowly thing. Hoping we can keep it a secret.
Mostly hooky with a 90% chance of sweet and tuneful melodies. The groves are ebullient and some of the crescendos nearly orgiastic – these cats were having a blast it seems and were fearless in charting a new course for jazz or pop music. It's not just a kinder, gentler approach to fusion, but precise and excellent on its own terms, with at times otherworldly playing.
The genuine article – it doesn't get much simpler, direct or better than this. The voice is an instrument in itself – dark, deep and resonant – which he uses to great effect with the incantatory phrasings. One loves the big noise from the small combo, and the free bashing of the drummer. The hideously overused word icon certainly applies here, and to this landmark recording. The mojo was working and continues to work. Biggest issue is that it's not long enough but one is certainly not anxious to begrudge MW a relatively brief workday.
The exuberance, even ebullience, is intact from the first record but this has some darker hues and tones. It’s mutli-layered, nearly baroque. What makes this different from/better than plain ol’ dumb rock, which it again and again approaches, are the many nifty flourishes – blowsy horns, bleeping and whistling synths, striding pianos, the skipping or stately organs, the odd string section, well-timed wah-wah. Net-net — they are more than a little willing to get Beatlesesque-groovy, much to the listener’s benefit. “Going Out” is best of a very strong lot, a wonderfully maximalist banger with tender melodies within. And who doesn’t love a song about “Richard III”?
Not exactly groundbreaking, but groovy. And certainly not a masterclass in variety or consciousness-raising, but slightly more substantive and interesting than disco or other dance music. The beats are fat, accessible, eminently comfortable, though they flirt dangerously with dreaded sameyness (which may be a benefit in if one likes the general vibe [which one does]). Dude's voice is distinct and he does like to go on so about "reality." The use of backing vocals is both extensive and judicious. The whole thing suggests that it's easy to be casually hip, or was in the '90s anyway – hard to say whether that's a feature or a bug. (Is that sax solo on the closer a riff rom Carole King's "It's Too Late"?) Found a niche, didn't they, and a moment in time and this feels just strong enough a record to get them out of one-hit wonder territory (though they seemed a very strong candidate, as evidenced by their rapid disappearance). Rounding up because they exceeded expectations, which were awfully low, but it's a 3-4 toss up.
Quite interesting and evocative musically and very much worth one'e time, though perhaps not as powerful or as biting as it clearly wants to be as social commentary.
One misremembers this as a compilation so finds it excellence half-surprising. One should have known better (or remembered clearer) as this is the Smiths after all. It's outstanding throughout if not the apogee of their work. "Death of a Disco Dancer" is hugely underrated slow burn of pure Marrsian vintage. "Girlfriend in a Coma" classic Morrissey and "Paint a Vulgar Picture" their version of REM's "Voice of Harold." If this had to be the end, it was damn near to going out on top.
Billy C may have wanted to be the meanest, etc. but it's the sweeter songs that work best. He mainly fulfills his grand ambitions here, though the cleanliness of the production plus the catchiness of the hooks lends a vaguely bubble gum feel (presumably the opposite of the intended effect). It has deeper pleasures than one recalls from real time, and his preening self-importance's move into the rearview of time also makes it easier to enjoy.
Really just okay. Likable enough with a few winning moments ("Spunky" would be one's personal faves and "Novocaine" and "Lucky Day" are also solid, if not compelling) and made with an artisinal touch, but also vaguely gimmicky in feel and modest, low-energy to a fault, even by the ironic (and iron-deficient) standards of the mid-'90s. Lyrically, it's okay – "life is hard/and so am I" is meant to be what – edgy? funny? It's not credible either way. Yes, the line would've got a chuckle on "Jackass," but the delivery would have had to have been more raucous or agressive (like a "your Momma" joke). Hard to credit it as anything like profound or even remotely distinguished. The vocals are either talked or half-mumbled, and the voice sounds cough syrupy. The whole effort is neutral – and one's emotional reaction is commensurate – and thus the record never achieves exit velocity or liftoff. And what genres, exactly, does it span? It's unfathomable that Yo La Tengo is overlooked for an act as bland and feckless as this. Comparisons to Brian Wilson and the Beatles are laughable.
One is reminded of the fun and cleverness of these records, especially the rhymes and sampling and name drops, but also how they can be a bit much. At best, this feels like hip-hop's version of London Calling. At worst, like a bad B-boy comedy act (Adam Sandler would be the Beastie Boys of standup comedy, yes, which flatters the latter.) Still, a real milestone and an impressive achievement, that might have bee even more so had it dialed back on the ribald fun and willful cleverness and overly determined attempts to provoke. Has aged somewhat less than gracefully.
Groovy, gritty and legit bluesy psychedelia. The vocals aren't exactly soaring, but the axe explorations are steadily impressive and totally diggable. Dumb ending cut, though. Had to be there, one supposes, and wouldn't that have been fun, at either Fillmore.
Quite surprising how well this has held up. Having loved the record upon its release, which coincided with a time of emotional turublence in one's life, one was waiting for an oversentimental sort of cringefest. But the sad songs ("As You Are," "Luv") are lovely and balanced, neither cloying nor treacly, but rather show a quite affecting and authentic vulnerabilty. "She's So Strange" is compelling, too. The winsomely catchy "Rain on Me?" and "Driftwood" are not as quite as strong but show a band capable of producing in multiple registers (in this case the most basically tuneful pop). "Turn" is quality, too. Callouts to contemporaries (Beck, Oasis, et al) in "Slide Show" add to the fun of the return to one's musical late-early adulthood.
Ingenious and stylish, the perfect bridge between the '70s and '80s and an ideally balanced synthesis of classic rock and new wave. The first three cuts are an all-time trio, and side 2 kicks off with similar impact. Hooks are everywhere and every song is tight. Ocasek was always going to make his mark and this was the start, though they'd never quite achieve this density of quality on one disc again.
An excess of filler and hubristic ambition overweight proceedings here, as the title alone tips off. The quiet-loud dynamic reaches its breaking point here. There is overreaching on both ends of the spectrum – too much rage/fury too quickly contrasted with too much cloying/lullaby-ness leads to unevenness in extremis. When they are well balanced ("Tonight Tonight," "By Starlight") the sweeter/slower/more melodious cuts are vastly superior to the metallic posturings and faux Nine Inch Nonsense. A skilled melodist, Billy C is an overrated lyricist; "despite all my rage/I'm still just a rat in a cage" is high-school literary magazine territory, hooky and rage-y as it is. And the record is overlong, too. Yes, there's a lot to like, but also a lot to overlook -- so much on both sides of that ledger equates to much too much overall.
New turntable in older brother's basement bedroom is one's own personal creation myth for this record, which sounded just huge and powerful then. Seemed impressive that the four dudes on the cover could generate such undeniable energy and work so tightly and loudly. It still sounds big and breakthrough-ish today, even though that quality is both a feature and bug. On the one hand, Van Halen was always clear about who it was and showed real commitment to having a big time; they were not only in synch with, but the actual full manifestation of, a shameless sort of late '70s rock and roll ethos that wanted mainly to say fuck you to disco and Laurel Canyon and anything remotely soft, as well as to promote the virtues of rock's screaming and squalling over punk's sneering and slashing. On the other hand, the insistence on that very bigness (e.g., going big/HUGE on every single hook and lick) does prove a bit exhausting in the end (which is why "Ice Cream Man" at first makes for a welcome respite, before succumbing to yet more expansive and lurid shredding, and thus ultimately sounds better than it actually is). The band's mode and antics also forced one to choose, definitively bifurcating VH and new wave fans. Leaving the music aside, one always preferred the company of the latter group, for their understatement and aesthetic considerations, and considered the brashness and volume (not to mention bad haircuts and bad fashion) of the former to be a major strike against embracing VH musically, of declaring oneself a fan. They were never going to be more than a guilty and secret pleasure, a band one loved to profess hating more than one actually did (despite the 8th-grade reckoning of the debut). On the plus side, there's a likable crispness to the sound and of course no doubting Eddie's otherworldly chops (though one finds them unnecessarily showoffy). DLR was the perfect front man for this lot, unapologetically buffoonish though he was (and largely remains), and pretty effective (certainly not great) as a vocalist. Speaking of, one'd forgotten the many vocal harmonies, though they tend toward barbershop-quartet-y in a few places (rather off-brand those flourishes seem). "Jamie's Crying" is the ideal response to "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow." They took an all-time hook, "You Really Got Me" and blew it out, taking a more-is-more approach that stopped just short of being too much and exceeds the original. The same could be said of "Eruption," fine, but, again masturbatory and showoffy, but thankfully brief. This type of restraint that would've served them well in the future (say by disbanding with some dignity intact rather than reforming with Sammy Hagar, for fuck's sake). "Running with the Devil" is an all-time opener, what with the thumping, booming bass. "Aint Talking About Love," "Feel Your Love" and "Little Dreamer" all have their merits. VH did what they did as well as anyone at the time, but one felt about them in 8th grade as one felt about Kiss in 6th grade and their musical development didn't much keep up with one's own. This list is right to include their debut and one has enjoyed reconsidering them but they were rightly a guilty pleasure then and remain roughly the middle-age equivalent now; one still loves to point out their gaudiness and silliness, and not entirely out of envy for the freedom (and perhaps even courage) they must have felt to be so insistently brash and loud and unapologetic. It's safe to say no one cares anymore which isn't hugely different than where this band ended up.
It remains unclear how ironic this was ever meant to be. In real time, one definitely found it the most direct, extreme and clinical expression of Smithsian disaffectedness. It was as if punk anger slid from posturing to pathology and was delivered acoustically. And it was dangerous in a sense; one wanted to ask one's fellow frat party dancers if they took these cuts (either to the recorded versions or those supplied by up-to-date cover bands) if anyone was taking this seriously or – perish the thought – literally. "Do we hear what they're saying? Do we agree?" is what one wanted to know. But not wanting to seem too dull or obvious to the dark, reticent, pre-goth non-cheerleaders who seemed to dig the record, one decided to keep one's mouth shut. Today, it seems far too cleanly presented, if still quite authentically delivered. The catchiness lapses to kitschiness eventually. And the proceedings even read cute today (see xylophone on "Gone Daddy Gone" which is effective and refreshing, though the solo is probably overkill). It scans nearly as parody, being quite light and bright musically in contrast to the doom and gloom emotionally. Indeed, the notion of VF as black-comedy novelty act (the alt music equivalent of Harold and Maude, say) is borne out by the fact that they came and went in a blink and don't seem to have milked matters on the afters market too gratuitously. Still, as a genuinely fun listen and a richly representative artifact of a time, of a place, this record retains distinct value.
He always tried too hard and here it's obvious from the Beatlesesque opneing notes that he wants to be taken oh so seriously. One's simply not persuaded. There is a synthetic and contrived quality – again, too effortful – on nearly every song. "Freedom! '90" (an oddly puncuated title) is Primal Scream Light Lite, the palest sort of distant imitation and not flattering to anyone. Even on cuts one is inclined to like (e.g., "Waiting for that Day," with it's classic '90s programmed drummy shuffle), there's a whiff of diffidence and derivativeness to the repositionining, which feels entirely inspired by commercial considerations. The whole thing's just sort of tepid, despite its core competence. Still, nobody had a better voice, which comes through strongest on the quieter cuts (the lush and jazzy [but oddly titled] "Cowboys and Angels," say). But he's no Marvin Gaye and doesn't feel committed to the material, and the hodge-podge of styles shows less his versatility than desperate hit-seeking, a pathetic reaching after relevance. And speaking of titles, one feels a little insulted by the imprecation to hear it unbiasedly; on the one hand, yes, of course, always, but on the other, WTF? Does GM lack such faith in his material that it merits such a defensive caveat? Does he think it's not fun or poppy or danceable enough? Too high-minded? And Volume 1? As if he'll remind us again? Wow, thanks for that. One can't take him as seriously as he's always seemed to want to be taken. To get that, he might've simply have lightened up and just, you know, sang. By trying to be more than, say, Hall and Oates, he fell far short for his troubles.
Magnificent in conception and delightful in execution. Totally inventive in renewing and contemporizing classic vibes and sounds and tonalities. Retrogressive (that is, nostalgic and forward-looking) in the best sense. And 25 years on, it sounds both dreamier and edgier than ever. A cultural import of great sophistication, like many other French luxury products. One might slightly prefer Dots and Loops, however.
Groovy, dark and druggy, right up one's alley. One was suspicious about Dr. John's later schtick, its authenticity, but this original article is that and fully vintage trippy. bayou psychedelia, real voodoo vibes and grooves here.
Highly accessible (almost to a fault) but so sharply and powerfully done, to the point of glittering perfection nearly. One found "With or Without You" to be both boring and ubiquitous in real time (a particularly toxic quality for pop music) but has held up well. Like REM's "The One I Love" and U2's later "One" the power is in its directness and simplicity, though "Bad" and "Elvis Presley and America" are better song for complicating matters to rather more aesthetically pleasing effects. Last few cuts dip off noticeably but first 9 tracks put contain nary a wrong note. It feels less politically engaged and the looser cuts ("God's Country," "Tripped Through Your Wires," "One Tree Hill") benefit. It's almost like U2 were having fun. And they were certainly making it look easy. The band would soon start jumping the shark but this was blessedly successful; for all the playing for hits, these are highly engaging songs nearly impossible not to like. One ranks this below War, Boy and Unforgettable Fire, which speaks volumes about U2's depth and breadth in their first decade. This was their last great record – Achtung Baby falls just – and everything else way – short.
Quite light and swingy and sexy-ish in a formalist, absurdist '60s way. More ambient than substantive on its own terms. But the bigger the arrangement and orchestration, the less the impact. "Parade" is just silly and there's too much schmaltz generally. "My Foolish Heart" is good – but there are many, many more compelling versions. This era seemed to think well – almost aim for – the novelty hit, which roughly half of this record sounds like.
That this showed up in one's queue on Xmas day was just a coincidence, right? The only reason for one to hear this before one dies is if one's on one's deathbed during the holidays.
The record drones and echoes and haunts in a gloomy mist that is next dark and squalling, getting to some of the terror of what might be called modern life (such as it was 40ish years ago), by which one means the fucking dread and anxiety of individual consciousness. And yet we know what they mean and should do our best not to think about how much better this could have been, knowing now that it was going to get exactly that. But this one drones edgily with drums sounding now far away distant, then submerged, and then ominous and relentless even at mid tempo. They were slowly advancing outward from the Joy Division template with swirls and filigrees and elaborate sorts of skewed echoings. "Hanging Garden" is best song overall and "The Figurehead" and "A Strange Day" are the most evocative/predictive of Disintegration, this band's far and away masterpiece.
Feisty and interesting and cool, much like the artist himself. And one's reminded of the double-edged sword that is ambition in popular music; in this case, it's a plus, drivingg toward compelling contrasts and nearly-titillating textures (see "Mombasstic"). There are moments of great beauty (e.g., "Light" and, to a lesser extent "Soni") and powerful atmospherics (multiple moments in "Traveler" and the hip and groovy "Butterfly"). But an excess of overly ambitious, globally-inspired noodling and overdetermined vibing – not terribly surprising given the time and place and dramatis personae, plus the well and truly maligned [and often justifiably so] genre] – leaves the record just short of being a full-on classic. It's the merging of modes that makes this cool but one thinks it's music that sounds best in a first-class seat on a very long international flight. TS would no doubt take the point, but disagree. The maximalism generally works but defeats timelessness, as there's simply too much that can date it or anchor it to the time/place of its creation (see "Decca" and "Eclpse"). That's especially true of the spoken-word bits. These moods remain relevant only as long as the Zeitgeist of their creation remains readable and in 21st century time signatures and cultural flux, that's not very long. Plus high-tech instrumentation only remains so for a season or two, given relentless progress, advancement, innovation, etc., etc. But no doubt a fun and interesting listen from a big (and undoubtedly global) mind and one's inspired to listen to more.
Goal achieved and argument won – this the most unlistenable album ever.
The beats are wonderful – lean and pure and thus distinctly powerful. One likes the understatement, too. But simplicity gets to sameyness after a time. There's a very high floor of quality on every track, but a relatively low ceiling in that no cut ever achieves full or sustained breakthrough or liftoff. There are no unforgettable hits, in other words. The directness and purity to keep it real, plus the many winning effects and moments, ultimately win out, however.
Culturally interesting in general but also ragged/rococo round the edges and overstuffed productionwise. Did we need tubas and glockenspiels and xylophones and .. and ... and?. "Without You" into "Coconut" must be one of the more significant segues in all of '70s pop-rock, manifesting two of that lurid decade's worst tendencies – outright mawkishness and excessive belief in its own cleverness, respectively (though the latter shows that HN coulda been a contender as a crooner). Today, "Coconut" is no better than a novelty track, and not a particularly good one. "Moonbeam Song" is just about the best cut – lovely that one (though likening it to Taoist poetry is a bit much, editors). "Let the Good Times Roll" is utterly forgettable. "Jump Into the Fire" is very cool and the only thing that sounds remotely edgy, and not just for the Goodfellas inclusion, but rather the rollicking drummy and hitching guitar close-out. One knows all the right people were present at the creation and no doubt it was a fun ride for many of them – larkiness may be the album's dominant effect. Certainly HN had all the right mates (starting with Lennon), but the sunny-funny quality reads today like an inside joke not all that worth knowing. Nor does one feel particularly compelled to go explore the rest of his catalog. The ultimate 3.5 but rounding down mainly to be contrarian.
Every generation's biggest hooks get wildly overrated and then re-calibrated by future generations. That's definitely the case here; the record's just not as good as it was.
One likes the double Joan of Arc tracks, slightly preferring the first, with its echoes of other tunes (one can't remember exactly what it reminds one of, though one's sure it's something) and anyway it seems always just on the edge of hotting up or even bursting out. "The New Stone Age" is compelling and "She's Leaving" is delightful, but comparisons to Beatles are more than a little reach. The mournful "Sealand" is strong, too. One agrees with editors that there is more warmth than reputation suggests (certainly more than the pioneering kraut rockers), though nothing here reaches the pure Platonic ideal of synth pop warmth and hookiness they reached with the megahit that came courtesy of John Hughes. On the downside, one's tempted to say OMD lacks the dark power of the Cure or the hard, glittery (and vaguely desperate) edge of New Order. One doesn't love the vocal style which seems to have birthed the worst sorts of imitators (the worst of which rhyme with Sick Ghastley [Nick Lowe joke alert] and Met Cop Toys). It largely comes down to how one feels about synth pop and one's just fan enough to elevate one's thumb here. The title is ace, too, in a coolly minimalist way.
What a talent. This is perhaps not JR in his purest form but probably his most powerful and punkiest. "Pablo Picasso" and "Girlfren" (sp?) contain all-time indie one-liners. The songwriting and nasal delivery and oddball content are all delightful and totally original. One recognizes this is not for everyone (just the voice or willful weirdness will put off many), but it's certainly singular and, speaking personally, very much one's thing.
What a voice and what a set of songs. The ultimate quiet storm for a divorce record. Brutal and beautiful in equal measure. One's fully down with belated reckoning of this one as MG's masterpiece.
There's a huge distance between being a one-hit wonder and being a worthy entry into 1,001 records. Deee-Lite deee-finitely does not getting anyway near to crossing it. This is fine dance-club music, a pleasing and inoffensive amalgam of club, funk, disco, etc. Was good fun at the time, and is barely that now. One thinks Deee-Lite should deee-finitely be happy to retain even one-hit wonder status in posterity.
Go listen to Tony Bennett and Bill Evans for what “wee small hours” desperation should sound like. This is seriously overrated and mostly a snoozefest – showing every fatal flaw and weakness of the era (and FS in particular). Unbearably schmaltzy at times and unconvincingly dramatic, the arrangements are overdone and strings syrupy and sentimental. Yes, his voice is strong, but vaguely nasal and highly controlled and structured; there’s zero fluidity to it on this record. Maybe he’s taking the titular concept literally, but on a few cuts (“Can’t We Be Friends” and “I’ll Be Around”), Frank sounds on the verge of nodding off. There's no humor or hipness to this at all, just Frank taking himself too seriously and pandering to the people.
What a performance. The best live album ever made – breathtaking solos, convincing blues, easy-groovin' boogies. And though the firepower is massive, the playing is deft and fluid, even as it chugs. There's even a sweetness to it. Listen on a long drive on an open road. Every cut appeals, but one's personal highlights are "You Don't Love Me," and "HotLanta" and "In Memory" and the closer – they just go on and on, getting more amazing along the way. The band's inner dramas became an embarrassment later on but what a testament to this. No Eat a Peach is a total WTF? Perhaps the most egregious exclusion from this list, Eat a Peach is better than easily half of the other listees and, one reckons, all nine – 9!?!?!?!? – Bowie records and all three Tim Buckley records. One can't imagine editors disqualified it because it included some live cuts from Fillmore East. Anti-Southern bias more likely.
Interesting – perhaps the mid-point between Broken Social Scene (which should really be included on this list) and Aphex Twin (which qualifies, too, one supposes, though only just). One prefers the former overall. This has its moments and its winning/engaging moods, but the net effect feels a little dry and laborotoreal. The title of a cut on a later record applies here (and perhaps to all their work): "Music Is Math." It can be more of course, though it mostly isn't here. No real traction is gained. One is simply not compelled, as inoffensive and mildly interesting as this is as furniture music.
Whoa, dudes, total heavyosity alert. One is a heavy metal hater but they create a more ambient vibe that doesn't seem meant to achieve black-hole darkness or outright scariness. The guitars while driving, are accessible and fuzzy to the point of softness or at least accessibility. The yrics are laughably un-profound -- see "Orgone Accumulator," which the vocalist has and which makes him feel greater and who will see you later; bookier prog-rock types would look seriously down on its intellectual merit. One recognizes and is vaguely intrigued by the subculture – maybe cult – suggested by such an extensive back catalog (the same people must be buying these records, sad and friendless people, one reckons) but not enough to go exploring.
Really good in some ways, troublesome in others. Somewhat downbeat and tempo and a bit softer and less sneering than their other works. Very well produced and polished, spiky – but ultimately sub-transcendent – pop. Kinksesque it very may well be, though not quite the real article, is it? Overall, there's a good bit to enjoy – "Blue Jeans" and "Vlila Rosie" are both strong and likable; "For Tomorrow" and "Turn It Up" bounce along nicely, the former aided by strings that are nice enough but feel slightly surplus to requirements; But there are also the barb-y bits (one is tempted to call them own goals) that are on brand to Blur but seem to denigrate the songs. To wit, the end of "Chemical World" seems purposefully annoying and not very clever, more like taking the piss. They are showing off – what exactly? Their music hall chops, one presumes. Even allowing for the social commentary aspect, one fails to see the point? They do much the same on "Resigned," almost ruining what's otherwise an engaging tune and leaving a bit of a bad taste as the record comes to a close. Boys (and maybe one means Damon), what's the point? The answer might be to ride the finest line between pleasure and provocation. This record – though like a lot of others of this era is longer than it absolutely needs to be – mostly succeeds but too often blur they are more annoyingly provocative than intriguingly so. **Interestingly, not a single cut off this record, crafty though it may be, not one of the cuts is in the Top Tracks on the streamers.
Arty, out there and intense. Definitely gets one's ears to ringing. One likes the all-in oddity and willingness to go both big and weird. Definitely set the stage for Spiritualized. Hard-edged music resonates more richly the more abstractly it's presented, one thinks.
Test-tube music – contrived, synthentic and experimental. It feels often like post-music in that it’s more like assemblages and beats and effects rather than you know playing. Still, one wonders what it would be like live. Not that it's terribly unpleasant. Indeed, it's somewhat dramatic and powerful here and there and intermittently sexy, too. The layering equates to a certain futuristic dreaminess on the best tracks, of which “Kicks” is the most engaging. Overall, however, it's not very memorable or substanive. The sacrifice of flow and melody (if such matter) seems too high a price to pay for these angly and overdetermined formulations. One takes the point that it's not really R&B (save for some vocal echoes on certain cuts) but it's certainly not punk in any menaingful sense and her claims to the contrary suggest she lacks knowledge of what she's after or what she's done, as does her taking umbrage at the accusation that it's trip-hoppy (which it most certainly is). One supposes it most aligned to alt-indie axes (in Bjork or Portishead vein, roughly), but interesting guitar bits that would make it more so get lost under the high drama of the vocals that are always (and sometimes oppressively) front and center. The question is begged: is it really genre-spanning or simprly accreitve and thus muddled as it certainly sounds? One would've thought AI and cyborgs could deliver a stronger product or output than this. In any event, one is not much compelled. More to the point, one struggles to hear what's timeless here, innovative though it may have seemed in its moment. The beats and sound effects seem destined to age poorly, as is ever the case with music manufactured to the standards of a certain time with state-of-the-art production techniques (which change every two weeks after all).
Some cuts are music for a Bond movie, mostly in a good way, while others evoke classic film noir, generally to advantage. Better than Portishead, certainly, and probably on par with Saint Etienne, though not quite as good as St. Germain, and not aiming to be so chill anyway, all of which underscores the originality of this issue. One would perhaps prefer a litte more room for grooves and beats or just instrumental passages, because most are interesting and quite a few are lovely or intriguing or both. The use of strings and harpsichord is well and smoothly integrated with synths and the moderner instrumentation. The vocals, sometimes a bit overwrought, could perhaps be slignhtly de-empahsized to create a bit more space. Don't remember GF being so art song-y – chanson or lieder or whatever – but rather recalled a groovier, clubbier (though still continental vibe), which the other records (especially the notably poppier/rockier and once-included-now-banished Seventh Tree, which also has more fluid and superior vocals) are likely responsible for those misaligned recollections. The other are quite likable, too, and perhaps arguably more so than this, though only marginally. This is definitively worth knowing and listening to.
One only understands so much about cultural appropriation but one knows this is a great record – and knew it from the first time one ever heard it. One's a bit of a Simon skeptic (if not quite a hater), but there is such enthusiasm and appreciation for the music he’s sharing and co-creating that it’s hard not to like. In a more just world, the South African artists would’ve had top billing and enjoyed more of the benefits, but there was at least some upside for them. “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” is an all-time pop song, easily one of the best of the ‘80s. Too good to be just a 4 though maybe not the highest 5.
Most interesting musically. One wishes perhaps there were fewer vocals because one finds the beats and orchestral/instrumental bits considerably more compelling. "The Conference" has too much cowbell, which in this case is Indian percussion. The spoken word passages (even the Gita) don't feel additive (this was a common issue fin-de-siecle and first years of the aughts). Definitely a more expansive dramatic take on the globalization of world music, and a good bit ahead of its time for 1999. One likes the flamenco touches, but confesses to preferring the chiller, earlier efforts, for their subtlety and easier beats.
A bit eclectic, a bit all over the place. A record that can’t seem to decide what to be or that has multiple-personality disorder. The overall effect is pretty cool and feels much more than artifact-y (though it’s certainly that) in blending the myriad trends (down-home rootsy picking, echoey reverbing psychedelia, anger plus peace, man, in the vocals) that fused the flowering of late ‘60s popular music. It’s also fun to track the tendencies and trends backward across the long, subsequent career arcs of the many (probably too many) protagonists – note how Neil Young’s contributions (the dull “Mr. Soul,” the ethereal “Expecting to Fly” and the intriguing “Broken Arrow”) offer predictive hints of later efforts, inclusive of “Tron”and “Harvest” and “On the Beach” respectively. “Everydays” is Stills at his contemplative best and “Hung Upside Down” has lovely proto-CSN(Y) harmonies, contrasted to gritty guitaring in similarly CSN(Y)-esque fashion. It should be acknowledged that, while this is solid (actually solid++) in its own right, it does pale more than a little in comparison to the many excellent works that would grow out of it (The incestual sitcoms of the 1970s present a similar critical conundrum, wherein it’s hard to assess the quality the sources vs. the progeny for the complexity of the relationships and influences.) The more one listens to these “deep-track” records, the more one realizes both the risk of accepting the cliches relative to this era, versus its depth and breadth of the quality. The question is begged: how ever did these bands do it – or the fans manage it – without streaming services? A four but maybe not the strongest one.
One never really got Tricky in real time, and still doesn't, largely. Massive Attack were better, and so too, the Saints (Etienne, Germain) from related sub-genres. It's relatively interesting, but trip-hop's pervasiveness and the industrialization of these beats and silly sound effects (poppy, staticky vinyl noise, anyone?) now seem the very last word in cliched. Martine elevates the few songs she's on. "Aftermath" just goes on too long. One prefers the stylish and more sophisticated end ("You Don't" and "Feed Me") of their (fairly limited) continuum to the bangier/more boisterous/rappier ("Brand New You're Retro"). It's worth asking just how important or innovative first-gen trip-hop has worked out to be. Seems destined for the dustbin, not because it's outright bad or unpleasant, but rather that it all seems so obvious now and it's been rather leapfrogged. This is best conceived as music to listen to while traversing a gritty urban setting or getting stoned therein, with a handful of cuts appropriate for gym or bedroom. What does that say about the identity of this slight, transitory genre?
Very strange indeed, but intermittently sublime, because it's the Beach Boys. "Disney Girls" and "Long Promised Road" and "Feels Flows" are all great and one can scarcely think of a better song about podiatry than "Take a Load Off." "Student Demonstration Time" sounds like a reaching after relevance in competition with angrier protest bands. Interesting the shift to grittier guitar sounds and instrumentation shifts, generally.
What a record, what a voice. A major broadening and deepening from the limiting girlieness and overengineered pop of just five years before, the singing is deeply soulful and ravishingly sexy (“Just A Little Loving”, “Breakfast in Bed”). The longing and anguish in her voice are completely credible – one not only feels her pain (“I Don’t Want to Hear it Anymore,” “Don’t Forget About Me”), but gets it in a near-visceral sense. The lush production is borderline overdone; one would’ve loved to hear an unplugged version of this. But the arrangements are terrific throughout, especially on “No Easy Way Down,” “So Much Love,” and “Can’t Make It Alone.” And check out “The Windmills of Your Mind”– which she pulls off impeccably and intriguingly (the understated, suggestive arrangement helps) when so much could have gone wrong. Indeed, these songs transcend the considerable limits of the late-’60s excess to achieve timelessness.
Soul music as it should be. The Bar-Kays nearly steal the show, right of the gate, with axe work so hot it’s sizzling. (That one doesn’t know the guitarist’s name is an embarrassment to be rectified – Harold Beane and Michael Toler seem to be the guys, but don’t sleep on Charles Pitts’ soloing on “Do Your Thing” on Shaft – these cats can play their asses off and seem all-time underrated.) But IH is so cool he knows he can hold off and do his thing and will still have maximum impact (less being more yet again [except when it comes to wah-wah, where one is very much in the more-is-more camp]). When he talks, when he sings, one listens. “Walk on By” is the very definition of soul singing, and so much besides. The song rocks, truly, and slow burns, too. The nearly unpronounceable second cut certainly is singable, besides being full-on groovy. “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” indeed – easily one of the fattest grooves of this or any other decade (and in fact might have single-handedly pushed across the ‘60s-’70s threshold). “One Woman” drips with ‘70s sentimentalism (in a good way, too, the contrast with the baritone voice working well) and works as a slightly misogynistic morality play. “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” gets points for creativity but it does drag a bit. Still … wonderful record, great ride and experience overall.
Almost too good for its own good. One can make a case that I - III are better records for having a few rough edges, that make them seem the more authentic and relatable for being imperfect (though in quite slight ways). Here the pursuit of perfection is almost eerily effective. “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll” are well-honed and well-targeted products – top-class offerings, mind, but with a market-tested feel, alas. Much depends on one’s ability to listen to “Stairway to Heaven” without irony. The song is perfectly structured – again, almost to a fault. But it builds so powerfully, one section at a time, and the playing, solos and vocals are all top-drawer. Every mega-hit suffers from ubiquity; many become outright unlistenable, others just give up their significance. “Stairway” is like Stonehenge, however, retaining a powerful aura, and a sense of mystery despite its familiarity. The most-played song in US radio history for a reason – for once the market got it absolutely right. All one has to do is listen to it as is, not as the world has come to see it (or one perceives the world has come to see it). There’s much other richness, of course. The transition from the solemn and almost-too-serious ending of “Stairway” to the loose bouncy “Misty Mountain Hop” is ideal – would it have been more pronounced in flipping over a record or is it stronger on streaming, where it’s immediately subsequent? – and reminds us how actually, you know, fun, Zeppelin could be. “Goin’ to California” is a gem, moving and gorgeous and heartfelt, and no more undersold than “Stairway;” Zeppelin of this era could seemingly do it all at the highest level. “Return to Evermore” and “Levee Breaks” are both extremely good songs that seem a little less so by all the excellence around them – they are a comfort for being easy to listen to. If this is filler, there’s never been better. One can call them dinosaurs or cliched or feel embarrassed for liking them – as one often has and does, still – but there are few better records than this (Zeppelin made a few of the candidates, too) and their I - IV remains unparalleled as a run of quality in rock annals. Period.
More interesting as a historical artifact than it is musically, which is above average psychedelia. Indeed, reads as a period piece. To some extent, it suffers from the common psychedelic pitfall of too much and all at once – the calliope and marching band stuff just test the nerves, inclining one to think, "no wonder only one record and maybe not entirely the fault of the label's lack of commitment." The "American Way of Love" succeeds in layering and reprising (vaguely reminds one of The La's efforts on their debut (much different time, much different band and album). Singer is good and has moments – the sharp "Garden of Earthly Delights" notably and "Love Song for the Dead Che" – but overall effort never quite transcends. The social satire not exactly piercing, some of it undoubtedly lost in the flood of maximalism. And the record sounds much less avant-garde, and more zany, than it probably wanted to be. A must-hear? Not really. More like vaguely interesting to know and experience. (Note: the supplements on streaming services – notably "Perry Pier" – excel the album proper, with evocations of later bands, even the sort of then-current-not-retro sound that Stereolab would recreate.)
A near-perfect confection, but tartier and spikier than the surface sweetness and light suggests. “Lovefool” is nearly the Platonic ideal of a pop song, but the “Ironman” cover puts this over the top. Great record, masquerading as a trifle.
The Chameleon Rod is pretty believable in this rootsy/folkie mode. Title cut is fab, has long been one's personal fave. "Maggie May" Is timeless – with nonpareil lyics in every other stanza, "really should be back at school" engendering a million relatable fantasies across generations in just a few syllables, as does "morning sun ...really shows your age" in the opposite direction. "Mandolin Wind" and "Reason to Believe" are high-caliber cuts as well. "Tomorrow is a Long Time" is most credible as Dylan interpretation, one unforgettable voice covering the work of another. That "I Know I'm Losing You" is just about the weakest cut speaks volumes. Solid and gracefully aging, much like the artist himself. Nobody's musical or creative genius, but whoa the lad could sing.
Right up one's alley. Not as good as Style Council, better than Haircut 100, way better than the Blow Monkeys and way, way better than A-ha and other weak-ass soundalike rip-off artists that would come later. This feels both fresh and highly evocative of a time and place. Dynamic and vibrant indeed and subtle, resepectul homages (absolutely the best kinds) to various other genres all over the place. Quite good and quite good to know.
Every bit as intriguing and introspective, lilting and lovely as one expects from B&S but, honestly, a notch below their best (Sinister and Arab Strap). The merits feel as literary or novelistic as they do musical, though light touches of excellent craftsmanship abound. Nobody does wistful young despair or hopelessness as well as Murdoch – see "State I'm In" and "Don't Love Anyone" and "Wandering Days" as exhibits A-C. One admires their hiding out from the media for so long and retaining their mystery, which was additive to the brand.
Impressivley loud and powerful, but mostly just loud. And Lemmy is a epically bad singer, er shouter. The callout the road crew is quaint and clearly the vocal highlights. There's no real reason to include this. Sure, it's loud and the audience noise softens the edges a bit, but it's mainly noise. And we're okay celebrating Nazi insignias? Shouldn't we know better by now?
Epic and awe-inspiring in its way, but errs on the side of speed for speed’s sake. The shifts often seem gratuitous but at least the playing is legible unlike most metal.
The title is somewhat annoying and the heavy-handed arrangements get in the way here and there, but otherwise this is a pleasure to listen to. The masterly interpretations of the standards are the highlights – ”When Your Lover Has Gone” and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” are the highlights. No doubting this man's ability to sing a song up to (and often beyond its value) and satisfy an audience with his considerable talent, and bringing such soul and joy into the bargain. Hard to believe only 20 when delivering this.
Rollicking and fun but sorta one-note and way, way overhyped upon release, one recalls. But good for them for their bootstrapping from Sheffield – biggest cultural export since "The Full Monty" – doing it their way and for leveraging MySpace to take it big time. But one has far less frequent need to rock in this decade so ... one thinks of Arab Strap as AMs' polar opposite (and one's preference). Yes, this is good for laughs ("you sexy swine") and to mack it out at the gym. And one can admire the classic bent to the content ("Bet you look good on the dance floor") and some of the playing (groovy bass licks on "Still Take You Home" and the nifty solo on "Mardy Bum") and of course the silly-perfect name and stellar, squeaky clean production. Their endless hooking and banging reminds one of the ol' "if all you've got is a hammer;" a bit more variety beyond woulda gone a long way (as evidenced by the likable closer, "A Certain Romance"). To wit, one has enjoyed the much mellower recent album, least Arctic Monkeys record ever, of which "Riot Van is a pleasant, though too short, harbinger.
So good. And a great reminder of what the King was capable of, which is particularly useful for those raised on the TV ads for mail-order greatest-hits collections. Elvis is obviously relaxed and comfortable with the material and the arrangements and bands suit his big (but not too big or too forced) style of laying into the songs. There is considerable consistency here and one realizes that a few of one's faves ("Kentucky Rain" and "Suspicious Minds") were post-release add-ons, but "Gentle on My Mind" and "True Love Travels" and "Only the Strong Survive" are all outstanding as full-on Elvis-at-his-most-Elvisish manifestations. Despite the huge – and self-inflicted – risk of massive sentimentality and schmaltziness, it just works, which, one supposes what is meant by "it's good to be the King."
Well-crafted and carefully confected, with lovely, near-sublime harmonies, but it's light to the point of weightlessness – on the substance, it’s just slightly heftier than the Carpenters. It also seems quite contrived and opportunistic in capitalizing on the ethos of hippiedom/grooviness. The strings are the giveaway, cheesing things up quite a bit in ways designed for middle-market appeal. Indeed, the hits are hits for a reason – primarily, the inoffensive enjoyability. In another era, they would've been a barbershop quartet or a variety show act (perfectly at home on the Sonny and Cher show or the Osmonds, but not totally out of place on Lawrence Welk, even). "Do You Want to Dance" sounds so square that it's hip, "The In Crowd" reads less satirical than the group choosing ill-suited material (same is true of "Spanish Harlem"). Overall, too wholesome and milky to be remotely edgy or cool, the feeling is of tame, proto-chamber pop, and their version suffers considerably in comparison to that of the Beach Boys.
File under forgotten for a reason. There is a generic “‘60s pop-rock band” feel here – that makes it destined to be no better – and perhaps even slightly worse – than replacement level. And too many songs have too much going on – the horns and harpsichord are especially excessive. Also, dumb name. Not awful, just not very good or memorable or worth hearing before one dies.The previous covers record should've automatically disqualified them from this list.
One listened to this record so much in his sad, lonely, depressed and mostly intoxicated 20s, that one has taken it for granted, as if one'd worn it out, as if there was nothing left to hear. One was wrong – way wrong. It rings true and beautiful after all this time. "Out on the Weekend" is an excellent starter, gloamy and melancholic, followed by the waltzy-lullaby title cut, which remains massively easy to like. The less said about "A Man Needs a Maid" the better – one only hopes it was written in character or ironically. The orchestral pieces are overdone and belong on another record, though they show how his thin reedy voice can contrast in richly cinematc and lush settings. "Heart of Gold" is inch-perfect (that bell, chiming in the very background, right on cue); one understands why he quit playing it, but that was a silly decision. "Ready for the Country" and "There Is a World" have their moments. "Alabama" is a much stronger song than "Southern Man." And the album closes incredibly strong with "Needle + Damage" and "Words." If this is embarrassing, as an early RS critic said, it's an embarrassment of riches. The absolute worst you can say about is that it's uneven, and the unevenness, which sometimes strays into awkwardness, more often results in authenticity and relatability, and thus, NY's unique power as a most sloppily human sort of artist.
A lot to like here, with huge, huge grooves and real catchy hooks. And it's easy to see why the hits were hits. But the sound maybe gets a bit too big for its own good and the album overall is a cut or two longer than it needs to be.
Just too much, too many layers in the production, too much production and too many effects and collaborators, top much synthetic sound and way, way too much celebrity baggage. Yes, there are plenty of moments, but a real deficiency of soul to one's own ears, the whole thing being just massively artificial. These celebrity records seems to make a huge assumption that non-fans will actually care, or be interested in whatever they do, which leads to indulgence and tone-deafness. Here, there's just no sub-surface substance to engage one who isn't dazzled (and is in fact completely bored by) the surface glitz and glimmer. One vastly prefers Solange, though it may be a temperamental preference. One can't remember if this record invented the cliche of including little kids' voices or merely extended it. Either way, it's lame.
One knows one should like this more for reasons of being on right side of politics ... er, history, but musically it's a struggle, close to a dental appointment at times. Definitely has that '60s consciousness-raising-hootenanny feel, but it's just too droney-bangy to inspire much outrage or admiration, and the zany-wacky factor doesn't land nearly 60 years on. One finds it mostly tiresome, honestly, though recognizing it might be energizing to some.
Just very good all the way around. One disagrees with the editors that “Head Over Heels” is the standout here; it’s good enough but feels too obvious and cloying a singalong (which is to say too many girls liked it back in the day). “Everybody Wants to Rule” is tops among a very accomplished set of songs. “The Working Hour” is wonderful and “Shout” (like “EWTRTW”) somehow stood up to just massive overplaying. “I Believe” is lovely and the closer “Listen” suggests to me how the band wanted to be heard (i.e., serious and thoughtful). T4F have always had a vision and executed it effectively and with meaningful emotional impact across their oeuvre (though occasionally overindulged themselves). Re their other work: don’t sleep on the “The Hurting,” a very strong and under-appreciated record, darker with goth touches and without the maximalist (and psychedelia-adjacent) bent of later records. A case can be made that it’s at least as good as Big Chair and perhaps better (on certain days of week, in certain moods). Seeds of Love is underrated, too (though the charge of being overdone applies more persuasively there). Even the new record (2022) recommends itself. Lingering ‘80s cheese factor and too much success might hurt their reputation a bit, but T4F are a substantive and (one daresays) an important band. Substantively more than a 4 but not just a tick short of a 5.
Sounds about like a lost, unappreciated (but secretly influential) troubadour ought to sound. Some lovely quiet playing. It’s good to know lost gems like this, even if the listening experience is a little underwhelming, with a strong "eat your vegetables" feel. BJ looks a long shot to change one’s life. 2.9 > 3
Lively, engaging and cheeky, this is a fun ride overall. One finds the second record quite a bit better, actually, for being quite a bit richer and more mature and considerably more diverse, sonically and creatively. One also confesses to preferring the genuine article (that being reggae) to hybrids such as this. Still, it's not hard to imagine what a breath of fresh air this must have been in 1979 and it remains quite hard not to like today. "You're Wondering Now" is wonderful.
Charming and delightful throughout, and an easy pleasure to listen to. The NY cover is as good as covers get – odd treatment plays utterly refreshing and is interesting in its own right, especially the breakdowns in latter part of song.
Very strong tonally and in terms of mood, and rich and soulful, with dark shadings to add to the intrigue. A winner all the way around – and about right for a Mercury Prize winner. Will be inspired to check out the earlier work.
Just not all that, at least not anymore, and as far as one’s concerned, they never really were.. Any euphoria that’s felt feels too cheaply earned. One always found PS to be much tamer compared to the edgier, darker, druggier Happy Mondays, nor as expansive as Spiritualized and not as flat-out weird and cultish as, say, Polyphonic Spree. The slower, dreamier cuts (the best of which is “I’m Coming Down”) are not uninteresting, but they do feel a little insubstantial. The record is alternately too silly-happy and too noodly-contemplative. “Come Together” is pretty weak tea as a peace-and-love anthem, but “Loaded” and “Damaged” are decent. The whole thing – the faux gospel choir, the stupid “We wanna get loaded and have a good time” Peter Fonda clip, the arty pretensions, the thin and now hollow-sounding production (which, oddly, hasn’t held up so well, given it’s basically a producers’ record) – reads as unconvincing.Today, this sounds like mid-list commercial pop-rock from an era in transition, with much genre conflict, and anyway isn’t nearly as experimental and lysergic as it wants to be.
Bold and dark, rich and engaging. The odd bits of instrumentation add to the interest. I can’t speak to how original this is – vs. how Ellingtonian (which it seems quite a bit to be, most similar to “Such Sweet Thunder”) – but one has always loved Mingus’ willingness to take risks, follow his muse, and challenge listeners. There's a sweetness lacking here, that would play nicely against the considerable dissonance. Dear editors: why not include records by Kamasi Washington as contemporary bookends to this? 3.7 > 4.
The world needs Stevie’s sweetness more than ever as well as his commitments to love and tunefulness. So much tenderness and funkiness, and such extraordinary quality in such quantity. There’s almost a prog rock level of expertise and excess to it.
Can’t say what’s precisely Welsh about their uninhibited and totally out-there approach, but it’s a both a hoot and a blast. Lots of Bowie, with easily as much glam as psychedelia, which is mostly of the Pink Floydesque variety. One fully digs the ebullience and is inclined to make the case that their sound is every bit as big as Oasis (without the posturing and pomposity) and much cleverer than Blur (without the self-congratulatorily thinking themselves the cleverest). The zany sound effects are additive to the mostly melodious mayhem, rather than being thrown in just to show off. Nice mix of full-on bangers (“Bad Behaviour” being the best) and a plethora mid-tempo thinkers (“Something 4 the Weekend,” “Hometown Unicorn,” “Mario Man,” “Long Gone”). One finds it all quite satisfying, however Welch is it, precisely.
Outstanding, from top to bottom, groovy from the first note, and interesting throughout. One sort of wishes he’d let the underlying grooves play out a bit more instead of adding so many frills (e.g., frou-frou harmonicas and vocalizing as on “Too High”), but then we’d lose some of the fun comparisons to Bach-like complexity and layering. He’s at once fun to listen to and quite serious in intent. One doesn't necessarily love every track (Stevie can get pretty saccharine), but there’s no doubting the intent, commitment and brilliance of nearly all the execution. There's more fluidity and less preachiness than on some of the other albums, but every bit as much social commentary and commitment. Plus, soul ... just lots and lots of soul that comes shining right thru and it's hard to beat Stevie when it comes to soul.
Artier than mere glam, but much rockier than folks who know mainly Roxy’s/Ferry’s later work might expect. There’s lots of late glam chugging and the sax is strong. Nice, loose soloing all over the place (especially “If There Is Something”). "If There is Something" and "Virginia Plain" and “2HB” is a wonderful sequence of songs. “Would You Believe” manages to predict the ‘80s sound to come even as it harkens back to straightforward ‘50s rocking. This feels like a debut record, with a few rough edges and some filler, but its best bits are quite good indeed.
Taking care of the obvious: "Walk This Way" has an all-time rock-and-roll hook (besides being maybe the first contemporary song one ever loved – sixth grade-ish) and "Sweet Emotion" one of the all-time vibes, plus a first-rate hook. And Steven Tyler was something like a Platonic ideal of the second-tier rock-god vocalist (behind Plant and Mercury in terms of sheer pipes; and not as idiosyncratically original as Jagger or as cool/poised as Morrison). The rest of this record is just dripping with mediocrity (which is never more apparent than when they go for the big, syrupy finish with the strings on the closer, which simply does not work. And oh, look, a song about having a big d*ck – how clever, how witty. While this is fine on its own terms, their later high crimes against music – not just rock and roll – simply cannot be forgiven.
Solid and stylish, plus sophisticated-seeming – almost suave – for its time.
The genuine article, the full-on real deal and likely the best-ever farewell album – this is the way to go out on top and full credit to JA for staying out, too, and not sullying their legacy with numerous farewell tours and other indignities. The article is not be topped for energy and dynamism – has there ever been a more kinetic song than "Been Caught Stealing"? – for belief and credibility, and the simple cool factor. Its variety is underrated too. The slow burns of side 2 mixing Stones and Zeppelin vibes in a wholly original blend. PF is the archetypal post-punk singer, not shying away from the big, dramatic gestures of classic rock and fully embracing the "fuck it" attitude of punk. This was a landmark achievement not just for the '90s – perhaps the best record of the decade coming in the first year – but for all of rock history. Just fucking great. And they gave us Lollapalooza besides.
The first big step out of the alt.country or Americana ghetto was a major one indeed. Three stone-cold Wilco classics -- "Sunken Treasure," "Far Far Away" and "Misunderstood" which was epic live for years, and evidence of the sneakily innovative and even radical Tweedy. And "Outta Site..." is sufficiently nice to play twice (though one vastly prefers the more Brian Wilson-y of the two versions) The production trickery and fireworks are used to good and subtle effect, really good. The quieter songs all have their charms, and they're durable charms, too. One sees little reason why Summer Teeth, a.m., A Ghost Is Born and Sky Blue Sky shouldn't be on this list. This is easily one of the best bands of the last few decades.
What a career renaissance and the growling never sounded so good.There are a handful of first-rate songs – "Lovesick," "Doorway," "Get to Heaven," "Not Dark Yet," and (especially) "Cold Irons Bound;" "Highlands" points directly to Rough and Rowdy Ways. But the true genius of the record is in its sense of depth and balance and control and consistent tone – unhurried and rich, a touch sweet but also dark. Kudos to the excellence of the production. Everybody's 29th record (or whatever) should be this good.
The earth's not had many better voices but the heavy-handed arrangements bring her down, it must be said. It's hard not to like "People Get Ready" and "Groovin.'" And soul music's not had many more soulful cuts than "Ain't No Way" and, of course, the much better known "Natural Woman." Never Loved a Man is the better of the two records on this list.
Some good, ol' fashioned, country-fried feminism. One loves the sharp and hard-edged voice, the crisp, straightforward playing, the sad-funny lyrics and overall songrwriting chops – basically everything but the cover photo. Pure country and old-fashioned in the best way.
Pure class, innit. They know how to do well structured clever and satirical pop songs better than anyone. Almost every song features witty wordplay. The sound is vintage British invasion, with just a touch of moddishness ... lots of great flourishes, pianos and harpischord in particularly. "Rainy Day in June" and "Sunny Afternon" are the highlights, and the closer "I'll Remember" is excellent, too. One gets the charge of sameyness ... which is another way of saying they what they did well and the did it, you know, as well as anyone.
If you entered "metal" into a stock music service, you'd get something like this back, which one doesn't consider a compliment. "Hollow" and "This Love" have very brief passages of something that might be vaguely redeemable, but well you know where it ends up .... in "Fucking Hostile" territory. In other words, it's the very essence of awful.
Really cool and vibe-y, sweet and bitter. Lauryn Hill may have a bigger voice, but EB gets a lot out of hers. The arrangements and production and playing are all excellent throughout, lending a high gloss of shine and polish to the bittersweet content.
Irredeemably awful. Putrid and stupid, not to mention silly and sophomoric. Negative numbers should be an option for the likes of this.
Likably eclectic mix of songs. But the Hot Rod + JB feel combo feels a little less than the sum of their parts. One likes the artier-contoured and his more outre explorations of JB's soloing and finds later (but even less commercially successful) records more interesting and enjoyable. The vocals are optional, as far as one's concerned, since this all about the virtuosity. Thus, more noodling is what's wanted here, and less conventional song structures and less RS (of whom one's certainly a fan) distracting attention and clowning (as winsome as that can be occasionally). ere, he does work over the blues convincingly and blistering (though somewhat predictably). The classic (and classical-inflected) cuts are fun enough and one's All for Magritte covers, but it's only a slight boost here. Overall, not just quite as good as one might expect or hope for.
This is fine as it goes, and even quite good in sections ("Where Are We Now?" and "Valentine's Day" and "You Feel So Lonely" are right up one's alley) and sets the stage for of Blackstar, which has genuine power but was also overrated (perhaps somewhat understandably) in the sentimentalist backlash of his death and the overdetermined contrivance of its release. But as ever with Bowie, questions about the reaching for relevance and synthentic-performative and forced feel of things can't be overlooked. What's with the hard rock open on "Set the World on Fire"? Who thought that was a good idea for an artist who otherwise seems to be aiming to age gracefully. And again, 9 Bowie records – which is 4 or 5 too many, when one considers that is more than the Beatles, 50% more than the Stones, 3x more than Elvis, 9 more than Chuck Berry, 4 more than Springsteen, and Zeppelin, and more than Radiohead, U2 and the Replacements combined. It's just laughable. At least the editors had the good sense to drop (-ex) it, but really it should never have been here in the first place. Among 2013's much worthier choices were records from Jason Isbell, The National, Waxahatchee, Neko Case, Vampire Weekend, Janelle Monae, and Bill Callahan, plus probably some hip-hop records one doesn't feel quite qualified to identify. Whichever of the editors is the unabashed fanboy might consider a new title: Roughly 800 Albums That Are Worth Your Time, 192 That Are Definitively Not, and Nine Bowie Records, A Few of Which Are Worthy But Several That Are Not, Really? I mean, why not include Tin Machine? Shouldn't one hear the worst albums of all time before one dies? And, again, to be clear, this is a decent record. The issue is with the editors who do the overrating, not the artist whom they overrate.
Works perfectly on its own terms. Whether the opening note as wake-up call, call to arms or clarion call, it still resonates as a profound statement of the new. The songs are sharp and tight and polished – state-of-the-art and top-of-the-market pop music circa ‘64, a group working at the height of its power, just before significantly expanding its field of play and launch into a new artistic orbit. Fun to think about the film’s role in the intersection of commodity pop (and its commercial significance) and musical/aesthetic ambition. This seems the fulcrum of what was and the possibilities that would soon begin to be realized.
Not their best, and perhaps the least excellent of the late quintet (Amnesiac, In Rainbows King of Limbs and Moon-Shaped Pool, – only the first two of which was included here). This perhaps most similar to Amnesiac in that's uneven and slow starting (which is why they both probably ended up on editors -ex list, though there are way more obvious ex-ing candidates). Indeed, the last part of Hail (starting with "There There") is first rate and just what one wants from what was then the best, most important and artiest band in the world.
So authentic and rawly demo-like that it feels sort of rootsy, but its early genius throughout, with five or six classics in notably different veins. So strong and a harbinger of all the strength and excellence still to come.
All-time flow and funk and grooves, this is pop music at its most enjoyable. It just sounds sweet and good, made with joy and an extremely high degree of craft that makes it seem natual and easy. One gets the feeling that MJ is relaxed and smiling as he sings and oh to think what might have been had it remained thus. Pure good time music – for the players and hearers. One is thrust back to the fresh thrills of middle school (as if in the DH Lawrence poem). What craft in the making, a most impressive feat that still sounds great.
Winsome and charming, just like it was back in day, when one listened to this quite a bit and when it become personally meaningful. Still packs punch through the unique mix of its big, well layered sound and its gentleness of emotion and effect. (Editors are right about FLs' humanity.) While one found the live antics to be a bit much, the record is a delight and first-rate all around. Indeed, one forgot how much soul there is in it. One hopes they enjoyed the critical and commercial recognition they received and – more importantly – deserved.
One admits never having fully got Bjork, despite one being 100% dead in the sweet spot of the target market for this – pop-minded, globally-oriented, sympathetic to aesthetic ambition in general and art songs in particular. Somehow the record just doesn' quite fully land. Or one just can’t seem to like it quite as much as one feels one should, a feeling that started right from her ... well, this record, the title of which is silly. It seems she’s singing songs different from the ones her band is playing or that the track sounds like she should be singing. The records got better as they got artier – Vespertine is wonderful, having aged very well indeed. And while this is by no means an unpleasant or uninteresting listen (the walking out of the club sound effect on \"There's More to This\" is cool, and her interpretation of \"LIke Someone in Love\" works), the overall effect feels just slightly contrived or over-thought, which makes for some gorgeous moments, but also restricts the organic flow one likes in one's pop music (especially of this era).
A clear candidate for best prog rock album of all time, largely by curtailing its proggy tendencies. “In the Cage,” “Hairless Heart / Counting Out Time” and “Carpet Crawlers” (“gotta get in to get out“) are relative standouts in the rich melange of stately moods, outta-nowhere hooks, gratuitous counterpoint, sudden reversals dreamy vibes, and weird thrown-in, odd-lots sounds. The lyrics and storyline is lost on me, but don’t feel any the worse for that. Whatever else prog rock was (and it was a lot), it was often rich and interesting, as this very much was/is.
What a dumb title and the production has held up over time just about as well as sushi does, which is to say not very. The whole thing sounds thin and tinny and like they played the most basic beats on discount-store equipment, and like a lot of other reaching pop/R&B acts of the time (hello Bill Biv Devoe). There's some likable energy here, but this feels like a kids records – made by and made for – with not much heft and one guesses most of these protagonists long since would have outgrown and/or have fett a bit embarrassed by it.
One quite likes the smoky and knowing voice, the sultry delivery, soulfulness, and the respectful attitude toward her R&B forebears, less so the Spectorian densities and the girliness of some of the material (e.g., “Do Re Mi,” “Mockingbird”). Best songs: “My Coloring Book,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” and “Twenty-Four Hours to Tulsa.” No doubting the authenticity of the talent, but doesn’t she seem more American than British? The version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” is very good, though perhaps one’s never heard a bad version of the song, a testament to its quality.
Likable enough, with more texture and depth than one recalls, but not exactly on the cutting edge. Her voice is not great, though the playing and the songs themselves are all decent, with more than a few resolutely above average moments throughout. Because it received more than its due, one feels no need to overpraise for posterity, however easy the listening. Still, it's more than credible and certainly convincing and "No One Said it Would Be Easy" and "We Do What We Can" and "I Shall Believe" all add depth and something like an authentic pathos. The tinge of melancholia around the edges make it worthwhile all these years later. The consistent tone and high quality throughout are to be taken seriously too. The hits are fine – "Leaving Las Vegas" grates a bit vocally and "All I Wanna Do" would be loathsomely earworm-y if the set-up weren't so winning and the day-drinking conceit not so relatable (speaking personally). One might have been suspicious of her posturing back in the day, but one gets the feel now that she was playing and singing what she knew and doing it well, too. It's near perfect on its own terms, which are, admittedly, on the slight side.
"See a Chance" is just instantly likable, and perhaps the decade's most radio-worthy cut. Title cut has always been a semi-secret fave, not bad or well-known enough to be a full-on guilty pleasure – just cool. "Spanish Dancer" sounds vaguely Steely Dan-ish or Nightfly-esque – mildly groovy and decently pleasant. But then there are a few embarrassments of the avert-one's-eyes variety. "Night Train" could have been the theme to Miami Vice and "Second-Hand Woman" works not at all – the artist himself might even support the cancellation of that particular cut for PC reasons. This does feel like the original Dad rock, maybe, or a Boomer transition into the era of Members Only jackets. Still, it's better than it seems it should be or perhaps deserve to be. In transitioning from the '80s, this record has been clearly damaged, but not terminally so. Overall, the feel is that the former wunderkind was ready to sell out but was a little unsure about how to do or perhaps diffident by nature and so sold out in an inoffensive sweet (and not a little cheesy sort of way).
Fun and groovy and (of course) oh so influential (and mostly a positive influence on the right sorts of artists who would feel inspired and emboldened to go big – one's thinking of George Clinton, Miles Davis, Prince). One likes the vibe overall perhaps more than the music itself which can seem a bit muddied (perhaps production defects) and also sloppy in its sprawl. Still. "Everyday People" is easy to like (in spite of the incipient silliness), as is the title cut. "Sex Machine" is full-on epic (and way better than James Brown take on same [and an order of magnitude longer, it seems pertinent to add]). A lot to like here – not least all the positive thinking and "up with people" optimism [quite the contrary to Riot Going on, eh?] and that it did so well commercially and on the charts is something like a hopeful sign [if against the general run of play] about popular tastes (were they so much better in 1969?) – but aging perhaps somewhat less than gracefully.
Massively hooky, though getting dangerously close to bubble gum territory in the middle of record. Opener “Time to Pretend” rocks and hasn't dimmed a nidge in a decade and a half since its release; it's an anthemic banger of the feel-good song-of-the-summer variety. Last three songs – with the Jaggeresque vocals and likable down-trending vibes – make this more than a forgettable aughtie record, though who knows what to make of lyrics allegedly from Mayan prophecies (one certainly doesn’t). Fun to hear again. Glad to hear it's aging well. Seems a poor choice to have been cut.
Even better than the debut, with similar strengths but a bit more range and depth. "Carry On" is a terrific opener, "Helpless" an all-time great of yearning and uncertainty (and everything), "Country Girl" suite rich and compelling. Plus there are two nonpareil pop gyms – "Our House" and "Teach Your Children Well" – of deep melodious sweetness that stays just shy of stickiness or sickliness. "Woodstock" is the worst song of the lot to this one's ear. In toto, this record is a a pure, organic classic that's miles above so much of what it engendered.
A rich and serious record that's also a joy to listen to. One notices the toughness, even jadedness, of the vocals ("yo"), but also the vulnerability and sweetness of the singing which one prefers slightly to the rapping. It's the perfect balance of soul, R&B and hip-hop, with a real (and respectful) historical sense energizing the whole endeavor. Lovely beds of beats and instrumentation. Nice touches all over the place – the Santana guitar solo on "Zion," the Manzarek-y harpsichord on "Superstar" (wonderfully interpretive, too), the Ayers-y keys on "Nothing Even Matters." "Doo Wop (That Thing)" was a totally justifiable smash and there a so many other strong tracks -– "Lost Ones," Every Ghetto," "Nothing Even Matters," "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You"
Classic but worn in a way. The solos seem gratuitous, and the drumming (much as one likes i) a bit dated and the record is overlong (like so many prime CD-era landmarks). Still, "Black," "Alive" and "Jeremy" were monstrous hits for a reason and much of the rest was very well executed smoldering moodiness, the artier side of grunge, say. Vedder an all-time vocalist of course, but the songs still sound as if they were painful for him to sing. Though some of it sounds a bit doofy today and they obviously wanted to be the coolest band in the land, this one has real teeth and merit.
A high-impact, but slightly uneven, work by a singular artist. Moodier and less theatrical than some of his canon. One prefers the sweeter cuts ("Who Are You This Time," "A Little Rain" "Whistle Down the Wind" and "That Feel") to the grittier, more raffish and most discordant cuts, the most effective of which are "The Earth Died Screaming" and "I Don't Want to Grow Up." The husky rough vocals are near heartbreaking when TW goes tender. Though it's emotionally and psychologically stripped down it doesn't seem musically so. Holds up really well for being 30 (!) years old. And well worth a grammy.
One doesn't much get this one, which peaks out only as pretty good, with a distinctly tart sound that feels pretty original, even if it smacks a little of Bowie and a little of Queen. It lands with pretty modest effect, mainly due to the excessively theatrical frills and repetitive filligree (especially in the vocals), that gives off a novely vibe. "Worst Band in the World" is mostly silly, though maybe it was funny at the time. "Hotel" is just okay – not terrible, but overdone. "Old Wild Men" seems like it wants to be epic but doesn't get there. "Silly Love" is well named (and annoying besides). "Somewhere in Hollywood" is best cut (and not just due to the line "Norman Mailer/waits to nail her"). "Baron Samedi" feels overengineerd and overreaching in its confidence of its own cleverness, though the guitaring at the end of the song is decently intricate. The same is true of the vocals on "Sacro-Iliac" – interesting and pleasurable but seeming a little bit more than it needed to be.
Goes from beautiful ("she found now") to bruising ("nothing is") and back again. Abstract enough to avoid the hard-edging annoyance of pure industrial. To be clear: this never quite soars to Loveless-level heights or achieves that ultimate impact, but is awfully good on its own terms, unique as a sculpture of distortion and reverb and fully immersive sonic art and seemingly a minor miracle for ever having been released in the first place.
Fresh and energetic and approachable, upbeat and responsible rap. "Kick, Push" and "Daydreamin'" are both great, likable and fun and different. The "food-liquor" dichotomy isn't exactly metaphysically impactful, though the religious and anti-sexism references suggest LF's heart's in the right place (as does the long list of gratitude shout-outs on the last cut [or remix or whatever]). However, creative and elevating it lacks a certain edge and urgency and feels a bit light overall, leaving one to wonder what he's done since.
Quality through and through, this stands up well in their vast and impressive catalog. The synth and tech, while providing a touch more than the ideal (or necessary) amount of sheen and gloss, freshen up an inimitable sound, which retains its dark and edgy bite. One's been more of a casual fan/approver/passive admirer type and finds this an interesting and wholly distinguished updating of a sound; only "Past Gone Mad" goes too far. "I'm Going to Spain" is just splendid, and "It's a Curse" (or is it "It's a Curse-UNH"?) the perfect follow up, with the barby sharpness one expects from this lot. "Why Are People Grudgeful" walks like a lark and talks like a lark, but what a delightful lark it is. One wonders how this might rate straight up against inferior Britpoppers like Blur, who would seem to owe more than a little to MES. Given the rich canon, staying power and consistent vision, in combination with a willingness to invent authentically, one can make the case for the Fall being the best ever underrated band (not the just most underrated).
Well balanced and accessible (all the piano helps, no doubt), this feels considerably less contrived and thus more substantial than many other Bowie outings. It's almost as if he just wanted to make music and write songs. "Changes" is a great song and "Oh! You Pretty Things" is decent, too, but a bit too theatrical from one's personal tastes. The same is true of "Eight-Line Poem," though is noodles pleasantly (especially the guitar parts). "Quicksand" coheres credibly; its sophistication merits the lavishness (both vocally and in the strings). "Kooks" feels Kinksish, likably so, and illustrates just how more might have been less for Bowie, had it ever occurred to him to do less. (The same could be said of the intriguing closer "Bewlay Brothers"). The last few songs are interesting – if only because of their subject matter (Warhol, Dylan, Lou Reed) – but not much more than that; they might even be interpreted, given the writer, as a sort of trolling or market positioning. "Life on Mars?" largely deserves all the lauding it's received, but as a prequel to Zigggy (along with "Queen Bitch"), one starts to get a bit nervous (or feels an allergic reaction) to the many excesses of the later record and future developments. Indeed, one's always had the operating theory that ambition – which took the form of habitual reinventions – was not necessarily the friend of Ziggy/Aladdin Sane/Thin White Duke/Tin Machine head/etcetcetc. To be clear: this is a strong record and perhaps one's favorite Bowie record, though that affections doesn't preclude one from seeing in it the seeds of all that makes for one's love-hate relationship, which could be more accurately described as ranging from grudging admiration to a somewhat disdainful sense of his being-overrated (especially by the editors of this book).
GN might belong in a book called "1001 One-Hit Wonders You Can Definitely Avoid While You're Alive" but it certainly doesn't belong in one with this particular title.