Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Wooden Finger Five: January 2014 - The Ten Best Semi-Classic Albums Ever (Part One)

For some time, I’ve thought of doing an epic, multi-part series of blog posts talking about my favourite 100 albums ever. However, there have been a few things that have stopped me:

1)      That sounds like a lot of work.
2)      At the rate at which I’m listening to new albums post-Spotify, the list might be changing even as I’m writing it.
3)      And Spotify reminds me how many albums I haven’t listened to, and makes me despair about writing a definitive ‘best 100 albums’ list
4)      Who needs even more words written about ‘Revolver’ or ‘The Stone Roses’ or ‘OK Computer’ or even ‘Marquee Moon’ anyway?

So what I’ve decided to do is write a post (well, two posts) about what I think are the 10 best ‘semi-classic’ albums ever.  These are albums that would definitely make my ‘best 100 albums’ list. However, while all of them have generally been well-rated (though a few have come in for heavy doses of criticism as well) they are not albums that typically make articles about the 100 best albums, or 200 best albums, or 500 best albums, or whatever. This is evidenced by them being ranked down at around number 1000 or lower over at the BestEverAlbums site, which is a site that has ranked albums based on over 12,000 different greatest albums lists. And really, if I was to write a best 100 albums list, these are the albums that I’d most want to talk about anyway.


Best Ever Albums Rank: 1143

If critics liked getting stuck into Oasis for their derivate, retro sound, then they had an absolute field day with Ocean Colour Scene, who did not have the millions of record sales to back them up. The Scenesters’ best known album though, ‘Moseley Shoals’, is an absolute delight, being a grab-bag of catchy, bluesy late-‘60s inspired rock. Opening track ‘The Riverboat Song’ makes little sense, but with its bloody, Led-Zep filching riff (and lyric of ‘why does the river run red’) it could almost function as the soundtrack to a slightly watered-down version of ‘Apocalypse Now’. Next track ‘The Day We Caught The Train’ takes the quality up even a notch further, with a lovely variation of the ‘oh oh la la’ chorus, and an even more singable outro of ‘when you find that things are going wild don’t you need days like these?’ It is the most explicitly nostalgic track, but all the tunes that follow will bring back memories of trips along the ocean road with young girls and boys armed with guitars. The fact that Ocean Colour Scene was not the best and brightest of the Britpop groups should not make you overlook this album.

Best tracks: The Day We Caught The Train, The Circle, Policemen and Pirates, The Riverboat Song, One For The Road.


Best Ever Albums Rank: 2827

Yeasayer may have hailed from Brooklyn (naturally), but their sound on their first album ‘All Hour Cymbals’ was like world music from another planet. Personally, I imagine alien eggs hatching underneath a great red sun on opening track ‘Sunrise’, and rockets departing a waterlogged canyon on the futuristically-named ‘2080’ (when we’ll ‘surely be dead’). There is a sad tinge to it all, however Yeasayer underlay their weird, gaunt sounds with enough boisterous rhythms to keep it from becoming too depressive. Further, any feeling of the album being too ‘hippy dippy’ is blown away by the harsh penultimate track, ‘Wait for the Wintertime’, which effectively burns down the pine trees of the landscape they have created and chars the soil. Yeasayer would change their sound slightly for subsequent albums, but it is the quasi-tribal style on ‘All Hour Cymbals’ that remains their most interesting to date.       

Best tracks: 2080, Sunrise, Wait For The Summer, Wait for the Wintertime, Forgiveness.


Best Ever Albums Rank: 3598

I’ve already written a review of this album on this site, which you can read here (which in turn was a ‘reprint’ of a review I’d posted on the Guardian music website).

Best tracks: Message of Love, Day After Day, Jealous Dogs, Bad Boys Get Spanked.


Best Ever Albums Rank: 4494

The Jesus and Mary Chain are generally thought of as a mid-80s band, but they carried on into the early 1990s, and continued to inspire rock bands that followed them – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in particular almost owe their entire career to this album. Some see their fourth LP, ‘Honey’s Dead’, as marking a departure from their most acclaimed album, the Beach Boys/Velvet Underground melding debut ‘Psychocandy’, but it is not really – that departure came earlier, and the noise and feedback from ‘Psychocandy’ is still very much present here, even if it is not quite as blistering. ‘Teenage Lust’ turns that feedback dirty (‘little skinny girl, she’s doing it for the first time’), while ‘Far Out’ spreads it onto the widescreen, and ‘Sundown’ uses it to paint the biggest, darkest sunset on the horizon you can imagine. ‘Psychocandy’ may be The Jesus and Mary Chain album of choice for those who wished they could be in dark, dingy UK underground indie clubs in the ‘80s, but ‘Honey’s Dead’ is the Reid brothers album you can play for every other situation, once you return back to the natural light.
Best tracks: Teenage Lust, Sugar Ray, Far Out, Almost Gold, Sundown, Reverence.

6. SIREN – ROXY MUSIC (1975)

Best Ever Albums Rank: 2942

Lead-off track ‘Love Is The Drug’ gave Roxy Music their biggest hit to that point, but fortunately its MOR-ness (the car noise at the start aside) does not signal that the band had lost their adventurousness. Each of Roxy Music’s first five albums – the last three sans Brian Eno – has solid claims to being their best. ‘Siren’ though is the most pleasantly consistent of the bunch, with the band at full force throughout once ‘Love Is The Drug’ has crept off. ‘Sentimental Fool’ shows that, beneath the stylish suits, Bryan Ferry’s lyrics and voice could carry some real emotional clout: ‘I’ve seen what love can do,’ Ferry sighs, ‘And I don’t regret it.’ ‘She Sells’ is the greatest Roxy Music track of all – a hyped-up, jingling joint that two-thirds of the way through slows down suddenly but seamlessly into Ferry’s repeated wail of ‘Oh why/she sells/I need’.  ‘Whirlwind’ and ‘Both Ends Burning’ give the band their shots at rocking out without Eno’s abstractions, while the two final tracks – the exquisite ‘Nightingale’ and the afterparty comedown of ‘Just Another High’ – provide a fitting end to Roxy Music’s classic era.

Best tracks: She Sells, Nightingale, Just Another High, Sentimental Fool.

(Next instalment will appear either next month, or whenever I need a WFF slot to fill.)

No comments: