I’ve always hated lists. To me it has always been an obtuse way to categorise something so subjective, so personal, and so very much linked to whatever mood I wake up in. I have a deep seated, yet well hidden, problem with people who have the same favourite album on Monday as they did the previous Friday.
Maybe I’m just reading too much into it. Maybe not.
There seems to be a desire amongst some members of the human race to categorise everything. I am certainly not one of them, yet I always seem to become incensed when I believe they have the order wrong.
“They put whom above so and so? They cannot be serious. This thing’s a fucking joke. How the hell did he even make the list? I’d have Chuck Berry up there any day of the week over that waste of space.”
I may not like them, but they sure do sucker me in. I’m convinced they deliberately create them in a false order to piss off people who claim to know about music. You know, people like me. So, they have me engaged in the process. They got me. Doesn’t stop me wanting to take the system down though. I don’t believe in assigning art or artists a number on a scale. For me, it’s not what it’s about, but hey, they’ve caught me… I’m involved now, so I’ll produce some form of list…
Before I begin, let’s get some things straight; these records are not necessarily ‘the best ever’, possibly not even close, and this list is in no particular order… so I guess that makes it more of a collection or a gathering. This is going to be a top ten comprising of albums I can listen through end to end and rarely feel the need to prematurely raise the needle.
This album still makes hair stand on end. It’s full bodied and immersive. Somehow, Michael Kamen took songs already in the metal canon and completed them. For me, it’s the perfect live album.
NoFX: “So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes”
Sixteen songs that kicked off my obsession with NoFX… and one of them is a French nursery rhyme. Anti-establishment Californian punk at it’s finest.
Queen: “A Night at the Opera”
One of the first albums I can remember playing on the old turntable. Bohemian Rhapsody was never my favourite track on the album (see 1989) but it certainly left an impression. Seaside Rendezvous has a real music hall feel to it that seems to resonate with me to this day.
Mastodon: “The Hunter”
There were one or two tracks that I just didn’t ‘get’ when I first heard the album. That all changed after another glorious evening in the Barrowland Ballroom; Mastodon were touring The Hunter. The music came alive and it just made sense.
Mastodon: “Crack the Skye”
I need to listen to this from start to finish. I don’t know of any other modern albums that can draw me in and make me part of an experience. Massive riffs, layered melodies, and incredible craftsmanship. These guys are my Pink Floyd. Delicate but never fragile, engulfing but never overpowering. Wall to wall prog metal perfection.
Pantera: “Cowboys from Hell”
I read a review of a gig in Metal Hammer on a flight to Florida that waxed lyrical over Pantera. First stop off at a shopping mall I grabbed Cowboys. There was a cold and clinical tone to it, but I found it fascinating. The aspiring guitarist in me was astounded by Dime bag’s speed and clarity. That tone belonged to him. Luckily, this album belonged to me.
Rage Against the Machine: “The Battle of Los Angeles”
This album reminds me of trips to Switzerland in my youth, running up and down mountains and swimming in alpine lakes. It seemed so fresh at the time; the sound was just incredible, so clean and crisp yet full of anger and disdain for the establishment. The whole album had a captivating groove that made the hours melt into days during the long stints trapped behind tinted glass as we travelled across Europe. That and I really liked the matt black finish on the disc.
Green Day: “Nimrod”
You know, I don’t even think this is the best Green Day album, but it is my favourite. It feels the most complete, and it is dripping in humour; it was as if they had discovered the trivial nature of the teenage angst that had written their last 4 albums for them. It was the last great album they produced. Their latter foray into political punk leaves much to be desired.
The Beatles: “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”
It’s kind of like a kaleidoscope. So many different styles of music and song, a testament to the creativity and contributions of each band member. The title track is still the one that does it for me. It was an early introduction to the birth of UK rock and roll.
I’ve always felt that this was a more complete work than Nevermind. It didn’t have the same astonishing opening 5 tracks, but it was less chaotic and seemingly more at home with itself and the direction the band were headed. I almost surprised myself with this pick because it’s less riff oriented than previous Nirvana albums, and I do love a good riff, something displayed by my current infatuation with Red Fang and Orange Goblin.
These albums, which I have admittedly picked off the top of my head (what better way to recognise which ones actually matter than the ones seared into the grey matter), doesn’t necessarily represent the music I return to most often, nor does it form a definitive ‘best of’. Interestingly, my first experience of most of them was between the ages of 12 and 17, the outliers being Sgt Peppers and A Night at the Opera, albums that conjure memories of my childhood, and the two Mastodon albums purchased in my late 20’s.
The adolescent phase seems to govern my overarching taste has defined 7 of the 10 in my little collection; unsurprisingly, it is the part of our life cycle that psychologists have pegged as the period where our palate develops and stabilises (Delsing et al, 2008). What is slightly more surprising is how few contemporary albums made the cut of my mental cull… and both were produced by the same glorious band.
I believe there may be two reasons for the disconnect between my adolescent and more contemporary taste.
Firstly, as an early adopter of iTunes and their online store, the technological changes between the periods allowed me the ability to pick and choose single tracks from albums. By cherry picking songs I had mentally removed them from their contextual habitat. I still loved the songs, but I didn’t experience the album the same way.
Secondly, my athletic life came to an abrupt halt and I picked up my guitar. I had time again. Around 2008 music again took a more active role in my life, and I felt more connected with the Glasgow rock and metal scene. Coincidentally, I returned to buying music in album format around the same time. Is it possible that creative participation in the ‘industry’ gave more value to complete artistic works? At this point, I don’t know, but it may make for an interesting blog article at a later date!
Anyway, I feel like this is beginning to wander off somewhere else, so it’s probably a good time to wind up. In the spirit of getting pissed off by lists and wanting to rearrange or completely remodel them in my own fashion, I’ve left comments open.
Honourable mentions: The War on Errorism (NoFX), Metallica (Metallica), Dookie (Green Day), Appetite for Destruction (Guns ‘n Roses), Led Zeppelin IV (Led Zeppelin), Order of the Black (Black Label Society), Collisions and Castaways (36 Crazyfists), Color and the Shape (Foo Fighters), Nevermind (Nirvana), Rated R (Queens of the Stone Age), Prehistoric Dog (Red Fang), and Permission to Land (The Darkness).