June 17: The Chemical Brothers, CSNY, Earth Wind and Fire, Faith No More, Joni Mitchell, Orbital, The Specials

This week’s 1001 is another Editors’ Choice week as we burn through seven of the albums I’ve been looking forward to hearing. Let’s see whether any of them were worth the wait, shall we?

The Chemical Brothers, ‘Exit Planet Dust’

The former Dust Brothers’ debut album may also be their best. This starts with a sextet of bangers including an unrecognisable ‘Song to the Siren’ (I don’t think it even samples either Buckley or This Mortal Coil) and some punk bass on opener ‘Leave Home’. In the second half, there’s a blissed-out sample from mayfly 4AD band Swallow (on ‘One Too Many Mornings’), their first of many collaborations with an indie singer, this time Tim Burgess on ‘Life is Sweet’, and a song that sounds like Dr Octagon. Good record, this.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, ‘Deja Vu’

I’ve been listening to loads of Young lately so what the heck, let’s check these out. CSN&Y are a supergroup whose warring egos, competing interests and personal disagreements mean they’ve been on and off again for about 40 years. The album itself showcases the distinct personalities in the quartet: Neil Young contributes ‘Helpless’ but isn’t even on ‘Our House’, a bit of corn farmed by Graham Nash. There’s some really good stuff here, although the song title that sums up their entire deal is Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, covered here.

Earth, Wind and Fire, ‘That’s The Way of the World’

The list’s a little low on disco but there’s plenty of funk; I thought EWF were the former but actually they’re more like the latter. On this soundtrack album they’re somewhere in the jazzier end of funk, alongside the Crusaders. The sprawling ‘All About Love’ apparently aims to achieve the goal of its title, propped up by lengthy spoken word sections. The undoing, for me at least, is Phillip Bailey’s falsetto: never my favourite singer, his voice is the most prominent on the B-side to the detriment of the record. Although it’s not on this album, I suppose you might say I should have waited until the 21st night of September to review the band; sorry for letting you down.

Faith No More, ‘The Real Thing’

Surprisingly the only Faith No More album on the list (what, no ‘Angel Dust’?), ‘The Real Thing’ is also the first album to feature Mike Patton. It hurtles out of the gate at breakneck speed with ‘From Out Of Nowhere’, ‘Epic’ and ‘Falling To Pieces’ as the opening trio: as good as any opening trio you’ll hear. It doesn’t sustain the momentum though, as they constantly bog themselves down in overlong metal sprawls (including eight minutes of ‘War Pigs’). At the time this must have seemed like their best album so far, but I think the day-glo weirdness of ‘Angel Dust’ demonstrates the band’s peculiarities and range better.

Joni Mitchell, ‘Court and Spark’

Two of my favourite albums from this project are by Mitchell: ‘Hejira‘, a sprawling road trip, and ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns‘, a cry for help from an artist trapped in the suburbs. Both of those albums flirt with jazz – the former has Jaco Pastorius on bass – but this album showcased Mitchell’s jazz chops first. I actually think it’s the least impressive of the three: ‘The Same Situation’ hints at the sprawl of ‘Hejira’ but otherwise it’s a bit too straightforward for my tastes. I think an album being accomplished and immaculately performed is admirable, but I think my tastes probably lean more towards the loose ends and weirdness, especially with Joni. At least the joke song with Cheech and Chong is at the end.

Orbital, ‘Snivilisation’

The first Orbital album on the list didn’t do a lot for me, receding into the background more than once. While this album is also better experienced as soundtrack than foreground listening, I was more accepting of this, perhaps because it’s better, and perhaps because it occasionally demands your attention more explicitly – for example ‘Quality Seconds’ sounds like Ultraviolence. No hits, but plenty of experimentation and sounded good.

The Specials, ‘More Specials’

The Specials only did two albums, in which they vaulted from the ska punk of the first one to however you’d describe this album, which contains muzak, jazz, disembodied clatterings and general ominous dread. It can’t have thrilled an audience looking for another ‘Too Much, Too Young’, and Jerry Dammers taking over the band divided opinion in the band itself, but listening now it sounds great: you can hear the influence on Blur and on trip-hop among other things. This style did yield the biggest success of the band’s career in non-album single ‘Ghost Town’, but didn’t hold the band together and they were essentially done after this.

Next week: Another visit to the bands with three albums on the list.

Status update: 896 albums listened to (89%), 105 albums remaining.

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June 10: Incubus, Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Pavement, Pixies, Screaming Trees, Violent Femmes

We’re looking over to the States again for a dose of 80s and 90s rock, in a selection spanning 17 years. Some well-liked bands here, some of which I’ve never heard before. Let’s see what’s in the bag…

Incubus, ‘Make Yourself’

The most recent album this week, released in 1999: amazing to think this was nearly 20 years ago. ‘A Certain Shade of Green’, from the band’s ‘S.C.I.E.N.C.E.’ album, is a shoo-in if I ever make a nu-metal playlist, but on ‘Make Yourself’, the band start to make the move towards the kind of Pearl Jam-style music that moved them into the mainstream. The commercial rock parts of the album feel the stalest, at least to my ears, while the freshest-sounding elements are actually the nu-metal trappings (the scratching, the samples) which I thought would sound like museum pieces. Still, I’m sure they’re not too concerned about my take when ‘Pardon Me’ is a familiar song from rock clubs and they went on to have even bigger hits with 2001’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ (and the album ‘Morning View’).

Meat Puppets, ‘II’

The Puppets’ second album is also their most famous due to their subsequent association with Nirvana, who performed three of the band’s songs on ‘Unplugged’ alongside the band’s Cris and Curt Kirkwood. While their previous album was hardcore (apparently, I haven’t heard it), here they buy acoustic guitars and weird 60s pedals and record an album which might be a suburbanite in Arkansas approaching the end of their tether. Pretty listenable, and a breeze at 29 minutes.

Minutemen, ‘Double Nickels on the Dime’

A double album crammed with as many songs as they had, this crams 42 tracks into 70 minutes, including the ‘Jackass’ theme tune. Their trade is scratchy, jazzy meanderings, perhaps an American Gang of Four who’ve listened to Ornette Coleman. However, there’s time for all sorts on here: shambling live recordings, a polka, Henry Rollins contributions and a song scored for a trio of cars. Sadly, the Spotify version omits their version of Van Halen’s ‘Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love’, but 42 tracks is too many to be listening to this band as it is.

Pavement, ‘Slanted and Enchanted’

I know I got into it 15 years after everyone else but ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ is one of the best albums I’ve heard on this project. ‘Slanted and Enchanted’ was one album earlier, two fewer band members (they added the second guitarist and Bob, and changed drummer) and contains fewer familiar hits. This is a very popular album among Pavement fans but I’m not as keen: it’s more dissonant, less melodic, and perhaps still containing some leftover punk trappings from Malkmus’s previous band. Maybe more listens will make it easier to love. Either way, this is our last visit to Pavement.

Pixies, ‘Bossanova’

The third and final appearance of the Pixies on the list, this one does digress from the template established on ‘Doolittle‘ but rather than bossa nova, they try out surf and space rock. It features the faint Talking Heads sound of ‘Dig For Fire’ and the rock song ‘Velouria’, and is probably their most cohesively sequenced and arranged album. However, I think the songwriting on ‘Doolittle’ trumps anything here. The band went on to do ‘Trompe le Monde’ and lately returned for some Kim-free comeback albums, none of which make the list.

Screaming Trees, ‘Dust’

Accomplished but boring, this final album from Mark Lanegan and the band is a fairly late grunge album, released in 1996. It piles on the guitars and vocal harmonies, and sounds very professional in a way that sands off any possible edge that it might have had. Sometimes (like on ‘Make My Mind’) it sounds like U2, sometimes (as on ‘Look At You’) it sounds like Robbie Williams album fodder. The sort of music your big brother would like while he sneered at you for liking Le Tigre.

Violent Femmes, ‘Violent Femmes’ 

The first and biggest selling Femmes record opens with ‘Blister in the Sun’, their most famous song and the only one I’d heard of theirs. The remainder of the album follows along similar lines: like the Meat Puppets, it’s a punkish set-up recorded mostly on acoustic guitars, giving it something of a country feel. There’s also something vaguely Only Ones about Gordon Gano’s unenunciated drawl, and a stop for a xylophone solo on the back end of the album. Pretty good, and suggests the band’s back catalogue deserves exploring beyond the one hit.

Next week: It’s gonna be another week of editors’ choice as we get into the back end of the project.

Status update: 882 listened to (88%), 119 albums remain.

June 3: The Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac, Jane’s Addiction, kd lang, Sepultura, Stephen Stills, Van Halen

Welcome back to 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die! This week, we’re looking at seven artists who appear on the list twice. It’s a rum collection, as you can see by the title: the only thing this septet has in common is their frequency on the list. Many of these we’ve met before: let’s see how they get on this week.

The Bee Gees, ‘Trafalgar’

The Bee Gees are enormously successful and had a career stretching over decades, helped along by regular cover versions of their work by acts like Take That and Boyzone. However, their best-known work is perhaps the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack: in my head the Bee Gees are in those white suits and walking around to that killer ‘Staying Alive’ bassline. At the time of ‘Trafalgar’, though, that career resurgence was years off: this album came out in 1971 and still sounds like a 60s pop album, the sort of orchestra-heavy sound you might hear on, say, ‘Excerpts from a Teenage Opera’. Maybe it’s because the 60s were so long ago now, but it feels like a museum piece, while Robin’s tremulous voice I found hard to take seriously. The best song is the title track: it’s like ‘Abbey Road’ but with a lead guitar out of a Mike Oldfield record.

Fleetwood Mac, ‘Tusk’

Feeling constrained by the MOR hits of ‘Rumours‘, the Mac sprawled out a bit more on this double album. Stevie and Christine contribute much the same as they did on the previous album, but Lindsey’s tracks are where all the weirdness is: there’s clanking harpsichords, punkish bass (‘The Ledge’) and tracks that sound like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (‘Not That Funny’). It’s an unusual combination, more unpredictable than ‘Rumours’ and unsurprisingly less commercially successful. Well worth a listen, though.

Jane’s Addiction, ‘Ritual de lo Habitual’

Jane’s debut album, ‘Nothing’s Shocking‘, was a harrowing brood of a record which I enjoyed more than I was expecting. Listening to the first half of ‘Ritual’, you might think they’ve brightened up: the hard-rock tracks sound vaguely Chili Peppers, while the hit ‘Been Caught Stealing’ opens with dogs but revolves around its Bootsy Collins bassline. The darkness still gnaws at them, though: on the second half, Perry Farrell opens up about the heroin overdose death of his girlfriend Xiola Blue, aged just 19, and his mother, who committed suicide when Perry was just four. (Guitarist Dave Navarro also lost his mother early: she was murdered when he was 15.) The second half is darker and weirder musically, unsurprisingly: ‘Classic Girl’ is an odd combination of folk and raga-ish drone. I’m not sure this grabbed me like ‘Nothing’s Shocking’, but I’ve been caught offguard by how much I’ve enjoyed this act.

kd lang, ‘Ingenue’

“Where is your head, Kathryn?” Widening her scope beyond mere country and into cabaret, jazz and blues, lang was rewarded by the massive hit ‘Constant Craving’ which, unusually for a big breakthrough track, is the last track on the album. There’s something of a Gallic feel to this pleasant album, although I must admit my mind had wandered a few tracks before the finale.

Sepultura, ‘Arise’

Maybe it’s a surprise, maybe not, but there are two Sep albums on the list (I’ve heard ‘Roots’ already, so this is their only blog appearance). They gained a reputation in the 90s for groove metal, which brought them and Max Cavalera follow-up band Soulfly into the spectrum of nu-metal. That was still some years off at the time of ‘Arise’, though, which hints in that direction but which is generally a more familiar thrash sound in the same vibe as Metallica. I usually find thrash a bit of a drag, but at 42 minutes, this held the interest: ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ is very good, while tacked-on European edition closer ‘Orgasmatron’ takes a one-note Black Sabbath track and turns it into something close to Ministry. Not bad.

Stephen Stills, ‘Stephen Stills’

Stills isn’t a complete stranger here on 1001 – in fact this year we’ve met him in Buffalo Springfield and in CS&N – but this is the first time we’ve covered his solo career. There’s a glittering variety of talent on show here: Jimi Hendrix, Ringo Starr, Booker T and Eric Clapton all pop in on session duty, while his other band’s Crosby and Nash make appearances on backing vocals. Yet while the soulful, gospel-flavoured tracks feel like an important early-70s album, I didn’t enjoy it very much. The most famous track here is ‘Love The One You’re With’, odd relationship politics aside, but the best track is ‘We Are Not Helpless’, the closer, with its sudden introduction of organ and tempo change. Stills appears a few more times on the list, with one more solo album and a CSN&Y album to cover before we complete the project.

Van Halen, ‘1984’

Expecting a boring metal album, I was converted immediately to the ridiculous kids-screwing-about fun of ‘Van Halen‘, so I was looking forward to ‘1984’. The biggest song on here is ‘Jump’, the best song is probably ‘I’ll Wait’, and both feature Eddie’s new favourite toy, the Oberheim synthesizer. The rest of the band weren’t too pleased with his burgeoning interest in synth-pop, which means half the album sounds like what Eddie wanted and the other half sounds like what the rest of them wanted. David Lee Roth felt Eddie was more effective on the guitar, and on this evidence I dare say I agree with them, at least artistically. Still, bolstered by ‘Jump’, this album sold zillions, so what do I know? While it kept me guessing in the same way ‘Van Halen’ does, ‘1984’ didn’t hit quite the same spots for me.

Next week: I’ve got a taste for it with that Jane’s album, so let’s listen to some more American rock and see where that gets us.

Status update: 875 listened to (88%), 126 remain.

 

May 27: Billy Bragg and Wilco, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sheryl Crow, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Husker Du, The Stooges, Style Council

Imagine if the 1001 Albums list was a map of a town. What would you see there? Would the main road be ‘Autobahn’ or ‘Highway 61 Revisited’? Would you walk down ‘Abbey Road’ or ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’? What else would be on the map? This week, we try to flesh out the map with some of the edifices, roads and establishments in the area.

Billy Bragg and Wilco, ‘Mermaid Avenue’

In which the folk mainstay and the alt.country gang attempt to put music behind a series of unfinished and unrecorded lyrics by Woody Guthrie: sort of like a 1998 version of ‘Journal for Plague Lovers’. The highlights on this collection are mainly Wilco’s: an attempt to bring the Guthrie sound into the 1990s and generally succeeding, although there are a couple of wrong turns that make it sound like Nizlopi. Okay but not urgent.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, ‘Cosmo’s Factory’

Somewhere between the swampy jams of the first record and the tilted-at-charts ‘Green River‘, this is pretty accessible but starts with a seven-minute bottleneck jam called ‘Ramble Tamble’ and has a wild Fillmore East version of ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ which lasts over eleven minutes. This has a lot of elements I’m not generally keen on, and they had obvious influences on terrible bands I heard first like Reef, but I found this quite listenable. This is the last CCR album, both chronologically and on this blog, to appear on the list.

Sheryl Crow, ‘Tuesday Night Music Club’

I listened to this on Thursday due to inept planning: go me. This is the one with ‘All I Wanna Do’. You’d expect that track to open the album, but it staggers in hungover at track 9 like a libertine late for a party, immediately attracts a crowd and elevates the tempo of the album by about 30BPM. It almost feels glued on, as the rest of the album is a slow-motion alt.country record with some sleepy jazz elements and a disastrous rap-as-in-‘Rapture’-by-Blondie song called ‘The Na-Na Song’. Possibly she would have continued in this direction if not for the hit, which took her down a different path and probably for the best.

The Flying Burrito Brothers, ‘Gilded Palace of Sin’

This week could almost be an alt.country week, couldn’t it? This awfully-named band were another Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons deal (we covered a similar one in ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo‘), and follows a similar template of harmonies and prairie longing. Okay but not especially interesting.

Husker Du, ‘Warehouse: Songs and Stories’

Falling apart due to disagreements between songwriters Grant Hart and Bob Mould, Husker Du put out this double album and split almost immediately afterwards. Hart was going through a tough time: he was trying to kick heroin and he’d been diagnosed with HIV (ultimately, a misdiagnosis), so no wonder the band was disintegrating. Still, whatever conflict they were having isn’t necessarily reflected on the record, as they both play on each other’s songs. In fact the real victim is the child of the divorce, bassist Greg Norton, whose parts are often replaced by Mould or Hart. If Husker Du had been able to keep their shit together, maybe they could have been contenders, as at the time this would have sounded exactly the same as REM, and look what happened to them. As it is, their third and final report is a pleasant but overlong 68 minutes of trebly guitars and vaguely-recorded vocals which is best on the second disc.

The Stooges, ‘Fun House’

Iggy and the Ashetons’ template is scratchy riffs so repetitive that even The Fall would take umbrage. Here there are some concessions to varying the formula: a couple of songs on the second side have saxophone (albeit it sounds like it’s playing a different song), and some even have a clear verse/chorus structure, most notably ‘Loose’, with its riff on loan from ‘Kick out the Jams’. It’s odd that such a seminal band leaves so little impression on me: I can see their influence on The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Sex Pistols, Death in Vegas and many others, but I don’t think it’ll ever be the Stooges albums that I pick up to listen to.

The Style Council, ‘Cafe Bleu’

A sophisti-pop album made by Paul Weller and one of Dexy’s sounds like a curio rather than an essential listen, yet here it is as one of the 1001 albums you must hear before you die. The first half of this is mainly jazzy instrumentals, punctuated by a solo Weller track called ‘The Whole Point of No Return’ and a smokey bar cut sung by Tracey Thorn. The flipside is a bit more palatable, with Weller fronting soulful cuts in a more conventional band set-up. He’s not bad at it: you couldn’t imagine, say, one of The Clash or the Pistols doing the same, but somehow the Jam frontman gets away with it. What he doesn’t get away with, mind, is ‘A Gospel’: a rap track with all the credibility of Duran Duran’s cover of ‘911 Is A Joke’.

Next week: A look at some of the artists who appear on the list twice, including one making their first appearance on the blog!

Status update: 868 listened to (87%), 133 remaining.

May 20: The Beta Band, MJ Cole, Bebel Gilberto, Emmylou Harris, The Hives, Lambchop, Mylo

As the version of the book we’re using only goes up to 2006, the most recent records on the list come from the 2000s. In this age where historical artefacts from the past don’t disappear but just carry on floating around in cyberspace forever, 2000 doesn’t seem as remote from 2018 as, say, 1980 must have seemed from the perspective of 1998. Yet listening to these albums, I feel something which, if not a Proustian rush, certainly triggers memories of a vanished past where New Labour was still a thing, I had to go to the library to use the Internet and people wore really wide trousers. Let’s have a look what’s going on.

The Beta Band, ‘Heroes to Zeros’

This album, with its aesthetics-confounding title, was the last hurrah for the Beta Band, the promise shown by their unbelievable EPs never fully translating (either commercially or critically) on a full album. As the title suggests, this came out to more or less total disinterest and they bitterly split up not long after. It’s a shame, as this feels like the best of their three long-players: as well as the unusual combination of monk drones, folk guitar and electronic skittering that is the band’s usual sound, they add Krautrock jams (on ‘Assessment’), Siouxsie and the Banshees samples and a string section. As ever with them, a wasted opportunity.

MJ Cole, ‘Sincere’

I regret to inform you that two-step garage has made the list, although this is, I believe, the genre’s only contribution to the 1001 (unless you count Dizzee?). Garridge is an odd one: often it’s rough round the edges, harsh and uncompromising, but equally often it’s heavy on the Rhodes, the soul and the palatably smooth. ‘Sincere’ is definitely in the latter camp, occasionally delving into Chic Foundation pastiche and pausing for moody Bonobo-ish instrumentals. Cole’s album would have been greatly improved with better rappers: Nova Casper and Guy S’mone don’t impress, despite multiple opportunities to do so.

Bebel Gilberto, ‘Tanto Tempo’

One of the many Gilbertos on the list, Bebel is the daughter of Joao, who we’ve met before. Like her father, Bebel sings bossa nova, although this is a fair attempt at updating the formula, taking the inherent melancholy of the genre and backing it with William Orbit and Portishead electronica. Already 34 when this came out, Gilberto’s laidback approach also applies to her release schedule: only four more albums have come out in the 18 years since this was released.

Emmylou Harris, ‘Red Dirt Girl’

Harris’s second of two solo appearances on the list (she also appears with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt on a collaborative album, and on almost all tracks on Gram Parsons’ ‘Grievous Angel’), this late-career work notably features the great interpreter in the unusual position of singer/songwriter. Like the ‘Trio’ albums, this is a folky, reflective album given a shimmery, ethereal quality; I guess this must have been the popular style of early-2000s country before Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash defined the restrained austere sound of the American Recordings. Harris and her musicians sound great here, and this reflective album was a soothing late-night listen.

The Hives, ‘Your New Favourite Band’

At the time it felt like there was a lot to dislike about this band: they were a Rolling Stones-ish rock & roll band who looked like Alex and his droogs; they were yet another ‘The’ band; their songs were supposedly authored by ‘Randy Fitzsimmons’; they were on the execrable Poptones; they had that bloody awful NME headline of an album title. From the distance of 17 years, this album sounds better than it did at the time. Despite the nonsense swirling around them, there’s a refreshing lack of it on the record itself, with only the hit lasting more than three minutes. This means no time for solos, but just time for a mid-song ramble by Pelle, a song called ‘Absolute Schmuck’ and a keyboard-y instrumental called ‘The Hives Are Law, You Are Crime’. The list again falls foul of its own rules here: it says no compilations, but guess what this is.

Lambchop, ‘Nixon’

I was thinking this was the electronic band who did ‘Gorecki’ but that’s Lamb, whereas these are an alt.country band whose previous record was called ‘Thriller’ (in ironic reference to their lack of commercial success up to that point). ‘Nixon’ was their breakthrough, and occupies a position in skewed Americana that reminds me, in some ways, of Mercury Rev’s ‘Deserter’s Songs’. It’s confidently delivered and effortless in its inclusion of multiple genres (there’s Curtis Mayfield, gospel, a Richard Hawley-ish cut called ‘The Distance from Her to Me’). As with Wilco, a band I knew nothing about prior to the project, but one I’m looking forward to exploring more.

Mylo, ‘Destroy Rock and Roll’

Along the same lines as Justice or Simian Mobile Disco, this is an early 2000s electronica album that aims to reach out to indie disco kids: fun but not dumb fun, danceable but not mindless. It’s kind of post-big beat, with a similarly magpie approach but without the maximalist vibe of the Skint mob, sampling broadly but not to saturation point like The Avalanches. It reminded me most closely of Girl Talk, the mash-up project, especially when his vocodered ‘Drop The Pressure’ gives way to ‘In Your Arms’ (sampling ‘Waiting For A Star To Fall’). It must have sounded incredible in 2006; it still sounds good now, and is still on the list on its most recent version.

Next week: If you made a map of a town, what albums would be on it? Edifices, roads, palaces? Well, next week, we’ll have a look at the imaginary street map of 1001!

Status update: 861 listened to (86%), 140 remain.

May 13: Girls Against Boys, Baaba Maal, John Martyn, Method Man, Fred Neil, The Only Ones, The Undertones

Today’s 1001 Albums adventure is another collection of albums heard by less than 5% of the listchallenges.com community. While some of these artists are relatively obscure, there’s some pretty big names in there too, so hopefully this isn’t too unfathomable a collection. Let’s roll…

Girls Against Boys, ‘Venus Luxure No 1 Baby’ (link)

I’d not heard of this act before I pressed play on the album, so it could have been anything as far as I knew. What it actually is, however, is a Fugazi offshoot with an unusual guitar-2 basses-drums line-up, adding an aggressive low-end heaviness to the insolent grungy indie style they work with. Released in 1993, you can see echoes of their style in later Deftones, Rival Schools and others, even if the two-bass line-up never caught on.

Baaba Maal, ‘Lam Toro’

Apparently designed as Maal’s crossover – not entirely successful – ‘Lam Toro’ is a mishmash of traditional Senegalese music, bad guitar solos (on ‘Minuit’) and dated Shaggy-ish reggae (on the single ‘Yela’). The unevenness doesn’t make for a satisfying listen, in spite of Maal’s best efforts vocally. This is exasperatingly difficult to find online, despite having been released on an Island Records subsidiary.

John Martyn, ‘One World’ (link)

The mumbly jazz-folk oddity is better known for ‘Solid Air‘, a hard-to-categorise 1972 effort. This is equally difficult to pigeonhole, being a kind of folk that incorporates elements of jazz and funk and then submerges them under a bunch of effects. It’s no surprise to see Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry credited on ‘Big Muff’, a loose dub-like funk in keeping with Martyn’s album title, but completely unlike any of the other folk albums I’ve heard from this time. Martyn, a stranger to me at the start of the project, is an interesting character.

Method Man, ‘Tical’ (link)

One of at least three Wu Tang solo projects on the list (’36 Chambers’ is the only full cast album on the 1001), this one is the one that sounds most like the band’s debut, not least because it too features the song ‘Method Man’. Apparently by design there’s cheap keyboards all over it, Emerson, Lake and Palmer are sampled, while a ridiculous version of ‘Mr Sandman’ sung by a choirboy is the most unusual gamble here. It’s competent but oddly unsatisfying.

Fred Neil, ‘Fred Neil’ (link, see note below)

Available on Spotify rolled into a compilation called ‘The Many Sides of Fred Neil’, this is best known for ‘Everybody’s Talkin”, later a hit for Harry Nilsson (the album was later re-released as ‘Everybody’s Talkin”). It’s a folky record that’s okay but dull, which incongruously ends with an avant-garde attempt at a raga that goes on for eight minutes. It was the 60s, what can I say? The album opens with ‘Dolphins’, which serves as a clue to Neil’s future career: never keen on touring or promoting his work, Neil abandoned music in the 70s and spent the rest of his life working in dolphin conservation.

The Only Ones, ‘The Only Ones’ (link)

Woozy junk anthem ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ is a staple of punk compilations but the band’s three-album career is otherwise mostly forgotten. On this evidence, the band could do with re-appraisal, as this is one of the most dexterous punk albums I’ve heard. Featuring horns and keyboards augmenting the familiar two-guitar/bass/drums line-up, the band can make a three-minute song sound like an epic rock song, and Peter Perrett’s languid voice oddly works over whatever backing it’s given. The band are, apparently, still together following an appearance in a Vodafone advert and a Libertines endorsement, although the three albums are still all we’ve had.

The Undertones, ‘Hypnotised’ (link)

We covered ‘The Undertones’ last year, a just-about-competently-played punk album best known for ‘Teenage Kicks’. On ‘Hypnotised’, the band maintain the helium-Ramones energy of their debut but add a few more musical influences and a bit more musical proficiency that leads to a better album. It starts with ‘More Songs About Chocolate And Girls’ (a Talking Heads joke maybe?) and that pretty much summarises the lyrical thrust, while backing vocals, keyboards and ‘My Perfect Cousin’ all appear.

Next week: Hold onto your MySpace profile, set your MSN Messenger to ‘away’ and pause that DVD of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ as we’re going into the 2000s!

Status update: 854 listened to (85%), 147 remain.

May 6: Black Flag, Buffalo Springfield, The Flaming Lips, Mudhoney, Neu, Pet Shop Boys, T-Rex

Welcome back to 1001 Albums – a bit later than usual this week because I’ve been celebrating my birthday and seeing pals (and catching 60s electronica pioneers White Noise doing an idiosyncratic set in tribute to Delia Derbyshire’s birthday). This week it’s dealer’s choice, as a further celebration of my birthday. What did I choose to listen to? Let’s find out.

Black Flag, ‘Damaged’

I imagined a Black Flag album to be as brief as the Minor Threat one we covered a few months back and, while it’s true that few of the songs here break the three minute mark, the album is actually a relatively normal length: 35 minutes. Containing their two best-known songs in ‘TV Party’ and ‘Six Pack’, it’s a fast, aggressive and often barely audible thrash topped by Henry Rollins’ strangulated vocals (odd that a man with such a big neck would sound strangled). Very palatable despite the intensity, I actually think this album is a few songs too long: there’s 14 tracks here and a few knocked off might have been better.

Buffalo Springfield, ‘Buffalo Springfield Again’

Neil Young and Stephen Stills’ first band were already drifting apart at this point: Young’s ‘Expecting To Fly’ was recorded essentially as a solo song, and members were in and out of the band throughout the nine months the album took to record. It’s a charmingly whimsical psychedelic folk-rock which doesn’t quite hit the heights that Young scaled in his later solo career. There are some notable songs: ‘Good Time Boy’ is a funky soul song so incongruous with the rest of the album that I thought Spotify had started playing the wrong album, and ‘Broken Arrow’ features a jazzy clarinet and tape effects among other things.

The Flaming Lips, ‘The Soft Bulletin’

The Lips are objectively good but, as I’ve probably written before, the only time they captured my heart was on ‘Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz’. Perhaps the injection of a different lyricist willing to open her heart in a relatable manner is what the band needed, at least for me, as I’ve always found them less engaging than contemporaries Super Furry Animals, Mercury Rev or Sparklehorse. While there’s a lot of lysergic filler on this album, there are at least two glorious songs: opener ‘Race For The Prize’ and the heartfelt ‘Waitin’ For A Superman’.

Mudhoney, ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge’

‘Superfuzz Bigmuff’ was an unexpected delight, the fuzzy distortion and dumb genius vaulting the anti-grunge barriers I normally build around me. I was keen to check out the follow-up, but alas it underdelivers by comparison: only when they bring the pedals out and weld on a B52s organ do they come close to replicating the majesty of that album. There are some good songs here (‘Who You Driving Now?’ was I think my favourite) but it doesn’t compete with Superfuzz.

Neu!, ”75′

Very much an album of two halves here: on the first half, Michael Rother plays ambient while Klaus Dinger taps gently on a drum kit, and on the second half, Dinger steps up to the microphone and guitar for a two-guitar, two-drummer set that puts the ROCK in Krautrock. Everyone loves the second half, whose European underground nightclub sound was an influence on ‘Heroes’ and more, but I really liked the first half too. Good album, overall, then.

Pet Shop Boys, ‘Behaviour’

One of three PSB albums on the list, this sounds like the one most vulnerable to ageing: perhaps because of how heavily the style was used as background music in the 1990s, perhaps due to some of the ancient synth sounds used throughout the album. The songwriting occasionally shines through the production, though: ‘So Hard’ is a rumination about adultery and ‘Jealousy’ is a West End-style album closer.

T-Rex, ‘The Slider’

The second and final T-Rex album on the list doesn’t sound too different from ‘Electric Warrior’: in fact dare I say that there’s probably no need for two of their albums on the list when they sound so similar. Not that the Bolan boogie doesn’t sound good: ‘Telegram Sam’ and ‘Metal Guru’ both appear here alongside lesser fare with typically Marc-esque titles like ‘Spaceball Ricochet’, and crude Ronson-like soloing on ‘Rabbit Fighter’ and others.

Next week: We hit some of the obscurities: it’s albums heard by less than 5% of the listchallenges.com community!

Status update: 847 listened to (85%), 151 remain.