July 15: The Byrds, The Electric Prunes, Astrud Gilberto, Grateful Dead, Iron Butterfly, The Kinks, The Mothers of Invention

For the next five installments of the 1001 Albums, we’ll be going by decade, starting from the 1960s (there are plenty of 50s albums on the list, but by this point I’ve listened to them all).

The Byrds, ‘Younger than Yesterday’

The final visit to the Byrds catalogue in the 1001 is also one of their best, with elements of both the psychedelic peculiarities they’d been rolling with on e.g. ‘Fifth Dimension’ (‘C.T.A. – 102’, which sounds like there’s a gremlin on the wing) and the country tinge that completely took over on ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ (e.g. on ‘Time Between’). The most alarming song is the ‘Hamlet’-quoting raga drone ‘Mind Gardens’, but the best song is perhaps the most conventionally Byrds-ian, ‘My Back Pages’.

The Electric Prunes, ‘I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night’

The Prunes had a big hit with the title track, a ‘Nuggets’ staple written by Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz and more famous than the band themselves. Looking to capitalise, the label stuck the Prunes in the studio but retained Tucker and Mantz as songwriters, much to the band’s chagrin. It’s probably unfair to dismiss the band as mere puppets for the songwriters, but the composers’ whimsical taste for cabaret, fairytale whimsy or brassy 40s Hollywood pop means this album is some way removed from contemporaries like 13th Floor Elevators. There are some genuine gems too: ‘Get Me to the World on Time’ is a psych-pop hit in the mode of the title track, while ‘Onie’ has a fragile ‘Femme Fatale’ quality.

Astrud Gilberto, ‘Beach Samba’

The last, I think, of the numerous Gilberto family bossa nova albums on the list. Astrud had sung for the first time on the Getz/Gilberto album,  and made a star of herself with ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. This album, the only one of hers on the list, is her fifth, released in 1967. It’s the sort of groovy lounge music that seems to have been common in hip apartments in the era, with occasional stabs (usually in the intros) of other sounds: nursery rhyme glockenspiel, marching band (‘Parade’) and even a duet with her young son. Slight – nothing here lasts more than 2:48 – but charming.

Grateful Dead, ‘American Beauty’

The impression of the Dead in my head was as Fillmore psych-jam experimenters, compounded by ‘Live/Dead’ doing exactly that. ‘American Beauty’, however, shows a different side to them. Seemingly inspired by hanging out with Crosby, Stills and Nash, the album features a sort of folky country rock, heavy on harmonies, and opening with ‘Box of Rain’, a lovely song. ‘Spanish Dance Troupe’-era Gorky’s certainly heard this record. (Must confess this is a bit of a cheat: only after I’d listened to it this week did I find it actually came out in 1970).

Iron Butterfly, ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’

Like the Electric Prunes album, the album and indeed the band are best known for the title track, a far-out jam which demonstrates how far you can push a song when all you’ve got is a riff. The rest of the album is unnotable: 60s rock with a particularly hymnal quality in the organ and monk vocals on some of the tracks. However, the album is 50% ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’, and that’s one of the crucial songs of the era.

The Kinks, ‘Something Else by the Kinks’

By this point Ray Davies was installed as producer as well as singer/songwriter. The production is hardly as ornate as, say, The Beatles: there’s something almost lo-fi about it. The songwriting is on point though, starting with a (possible) gay love song in ‘David Watts’, ending with ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and featuring harpsichords, piratical rags, Dave getting a single and more. One of their most interesting.

The Mothers of Invention, ‘We’re Only In It for the Money’

One of only two Mothers albums on the list (‘Freak Out!‘ is the other), this album, like Zappa’s later ‘Joe’s Garage’, is so driven by satire, peculiar experiments and viciousness that it’s hard to take any of it at face value. This complicates the attempt to critically appraise it, or even to get it, especially 50 years divorced from its context. Zappa and co seem to be swiping at 50s and 60s pop, left and right wing politics, and especially at ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (the closing track seems to be a spoof of the chaotic crescendos in ‘A Day in the Life’, although it’s completely atonal). At the time, it must have seemed as edgy as, I dunno, Eminem, but the disregard for anything conventional means it’s hard to know whether repeat listens would bring it into focus or dull its edge. I’m glad I heard it, either way.

Next week: We are, of course, looking at seven from the 70s.

Status update: 917 listened to (92%), 84 remaining.

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July 8: Coldcut, Joe Ely, Jeru the Damaja, The Mekons, William Orbit, Astor Piazollo and Gary Burton, Caetano Veloso

Hello and welcome to this week’s installment of 1001 Albums. I’m glad to see you here, your hair looks nice. Today we’re at the stage where there’s less than three months remaining in the project: the expected completion is October 7th. Once again, we’re diving into the remaining obscurities in the pile, as, according to listchallenges.com, these have all been heard by less than 5% of the community there. None of these artists appear on the list more than once, and they have nothing musically in common. So what do we have? Let’s see.

Coldcut, ‘What’s That Noise?’

Somewhere between the early sample montages of Paul Hardcastle or M>A>R>R>S and the celebrity rolecalls of Gorillaz, Coldcut are going for something like a combination of underground hip-hop and house music here. However, with the revolving door of vocalists (as diverse as Lisa Stansfield and Mark E Smith, the latter even more unintelligible than usual) and their eclectic choice of samples, they also unintentionally invent big beat. The colourful sound is pretty good even now.

Joe Ely, ‘Honky Tonk Masquerade’

Released in 1978, Ely’s album sounds like traditional country writing filtered through commercial rock production, with the occasional touch that’s unfamiliar to Nashville (rare is it you hear an accordion or a Moog on a country record, but this has both). For me, country sounds better the rawer it is, so while this assured performance sounds confident, it also sounds a bit corny.

Jeru the Damaja, ‘The Sun Rises in the East’

Damaja was a Gang Starr protegee who was making East Coast hip-hop at the same time as ‘Illmatic‘ dropped. Like that album, it features drum loops off vinyl which still sounds as though it’s got two layers of dust on it. Unlike ‘Illmatic’, this one has jarring piano and organ shudders which could well be played live: either way, they don’t sound pleasant. This kind of feels like it’ll be lost in the passage of time, but Jeru goes hard during the album’s 39 minutes and this was well-regarded at the time.

The Mekons, ‘Fear and Whiskey’

Imagine the Pogues trying to keep the spirits up by playing ‘Fiesta’ in a nuclear bunker where all the booze has already been drunk. Nominally a sort of country rock album played at the speed of a crust-punk record, this crams ideas into every second as if death is imminent and it’s vital that every idea they have is put on record. I knew the Mekons through their unusual Kathy Acker collaboration ‘Pussy, King of the Pirates’, which came out in 1996 at the same time as the novel of the same name. Through that, I was expecting the Mekons to bring something leftfield. This, however, is easier to understand and many times easier to enjoy. A fantastic record.

William Orbit, ‘Strange Cargo III’

Orbit’s biggest commercial success was with Madonna, and his subsequent Ferry Corsten remodelling of Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’, but he’d already put out four of the ‘Strange Cargo’ albums by that point of which this is, duh, the third. The closest to his ‘Ray of Light’ stuff, and the best thing here, is the opener ‘Water from a Vine Leaf’, sprawling over seven minutes with Beth Orton on vocals. This album wears a few hats, not all of which are particularly exciting. Fine as background music.

Astor Piazollo and Gary Burton, ‘The New Tango’

You’d think with that name that this would be some vaguely unsatisfying combination of Latin sounds and dance beats, perhaps like that Suba album. Instead, it’s a legendary tango composer and bandoneon player collaborating with a jazz vibraphonist to run through some of Piazollo’s greatest hits. The smoother meanderings of the opening half were harder for me to digest than the second half, which sounds like incidental music from the ‘Addams Family’ movies of the early 90s. As I love those films, I jived with those tracks better. I don’t know enough about tango to know whether this is the paradigm shift in the genre that the title suggests, but fair enough that they tried to do something with it.

Caetano Veloso, ‘Caetano Veloso’

Speaking of Latin American musicians trying to progress a genre, Veloso here accidentally titled a whole movement when he took a title from an art exhibit to name one of his songs and all of a sudden the nascent movement was also titled Tropicalia. I’ve struggled to get on with the genre’s fusion of Latin rhythms and any-old-shit psychedelia, as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, and ‘Tropicalia’ itself initially feels like it’ll test the patience by starting the album with orchestral violin cacophonies and cowbell clanging. However, eventually it sounds like a Portuguese-language track off ‘Scott 4’. The orchestral accompaniment for Veloso’s whimsical ideas makes it one of the better versions of the style. The album is perhaps easier to appreciate in context: he was upsetting the government with his left-wing stances, but upsetting the left wing because he was making rock and roll; after going to jail for ‘anti-governmental activity’, he lost patience and moved to London.

Next week: We’re going to go by decade for a few installments, starting next week with the 1960s. Who knows what we’ll do after that.

Status update: 910 listened to (91%), 91 remaining.

July 1: Tim Buckley, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, The Fall, Peter Gabriel, Pet Shop Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, The Smiths

In the second of a two-part series, we look at more of the artists who are represented three times on the list. Of course, we’ve met this lot twice already, so we’ll be saying farewell to them here. Let’s roll…

Tim Buckley, ‘Happy Sad’

Buckley had a decent-sized success with ‘Goodbye and Hello‘ but he almost immediately decided to move into murkier, more mysterious waters. This album is mostly a showcase for Buckley’s interests in the jazz sphere, and for his vocal acrobatics, and the songs follow unclear, freeform structures. There is a percussionist, but he’s mostly on xylophone, turning Buckley’s 12-string acoustic into the main rhythmic instrument. It’s a peculiar album that I’m not sure I fully vibed with.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners, ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’

The last Dexys album in their first run, the band had slimmed down to a quartet by this point, although the record is fleshed out with session musicians so you’d hardly notice the difference. It’s a loose, sprawling album with just seven songs in 46 minutes, often involving audible rambling conversations between Kevin Rowland and other band members, and in one case containing a lift from ‘Werewolves from London’ so shameless that they gave Warren Zevon a writing credit on the reissue. Those present report the recording was long and difficult, and there’s a feeling of general exhaustion about it.

The Fall, ‘The Infotainment Scan’

Recorded inbetween Brix Smith spells, but still with a loose eye on making records that might attract a wider audience, ‘The Infotainment Scan’ was their most commercially successful album (Top 10 in the UK!) even with no singles. Released in 1993, it sounds contemporary, with diversions into 808 State-style techno (‘Service’), songs with discernible choruses (‘Ladybird (Green Grass)’) and an abstract cover of ‘Lost in Music’. Maybe this is a reach considering what an autocracy the band was, but it sounds like the band must have felt that if the definitive Fall sound is Mark E Smith’s vocals, then that gives the band carte blanche to do more or less what they want underneath. A lot of this sounds pretty good, rather than having an ephemeral, whining quality.

Peter Gabriel, ‘So’

Gabriel has finally licensed his stuff to go on Spotify, which immediately makes this his best album for me as it meant I haven’t had to go down YouTube rabbit holes to find it. ‘So’ features big hit ‘Sledgehammer’ and small hit ‘Red Rain’ (based on a dream, with a metaphor somewhere between ‘Red Red Wine’ and ‘Raining Blood’). At the time it was seen as quite a big deal as Gabe took unfamiliar elements of world music, like the shakuhachi on ‘Sledgehammer’, and turned them into big 80s pop hits. Nowadays, mind, it feels kind of passe, self-serious doodlings on the Fairlight.

Pet Shop Boys, ‘Very’

While I never owned this album, I remember it being out in the shops in the early 90s, as it had an unusual CD case, ribbed for your pleasure:

very

The album is, it seems, Neil Tennant’s first album since coming out, most emphatically addressed by covering a Village People song in an apparently sincere way (‘Go West’, one of the band’s biggest ever hits). While there are still some sounds that haven’t aged well (the synth patches on ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ for example), I think this is my favourite of the three PSB albums we’ve heard. There’s some dry wit in ‘Dreaming of the Queen’ and ‘The Theatre’, and some great singles in ‘Liberation’ and ‘I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing’.

Simon and Garfunkel, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’

We’ve met Paul Simon three times with Art Garfunkel, and three times solo, but this is his last appearance on the blog. Teaming up with Art for the final time, this opens with the title track, the hymnal qualities of which I’ve always found difficult to take seriously. Beyond that, the duo’s interests appear to include reverb-heavy percussive sounds (‘Cecilia’ and ‘Bye Bye Love’) and unfamiliar elements of world music (‘El Condor Pasa’, a Peruvian song). As with their other albums on the list, they keep me guessing, although I don’t think this is the blowaway triumph that ‘Bookends’ is.

The Smiths, ‘Strangeways Here We Come’

Regarded by the band as their best album, there’s a conscious effort to move away from the jangling of their previous three records, with keyboards, strings, autoharp and harmonica entering the fray and even Morrissey himself tinkling the ivories on ‘Death of a Disco Dancer’. But the famous songs are famous for a reason: both ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’ are close to the Smiths’ usual sound and are both nearly perfect slices of melancholy pop. Fey, wry and literate, the lyrics to this album are really on to something: what a shame we don’t know who wrote them.

Next week: We’ve now reached the point where there are less than 100 albums remaining in the project! We’ll be dealing with some of the more obscure entries next week, as we look at albums that less than 5% of Listchallenges.com fans have heard.

Status update: 903 listened to (90%), 98 remain.

June 24: Kate Bush, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Madonna, Van Morrison, Roxy Music

This week and next week, we’re taking a look at seven of the artists who have three albums on the list. All of these groups have been very influential so let’s get them under the microscope and see how their albums hold up to scrutiny.

Kate Bush, ‘The Sensual World’

Our last visit to Bush’s oeuvre also marks the slowdown of her output, as there were four years before the next album came out and 12 years after that. As much as you can have ‘typical’ Kate Bush, this is it: eclectic strands of world music (uilleann pipes, Dave Gilmour, a Bulgarian choir, her brother playing various unusual instruments) held together with the Fairlight and her otherworldly voice. As influential as Bush is, the synths have aged a bit in the thirty years since the album came out, and ‘This Woman’s Work’, the closer, is probably the strongest piece here.

The Doors, ‘LA Woman’ 

The final album to feature Jim Morrison, who died three months after its release. The early tracks are directly blues-y: pretty uninspiring fare, not helped by Morrison’s over-the-top baritone. It would be unfair, though, to write this off as purely lightweight blues, as there are also some songs that showcase the Doors at their best. I know I’m referring to the band by those who were influenced by them here but the title track has a similar drive and energy to Joy Division, while ‘Hyacinth House’ leaves me with a strong suspicion that Nick Cave has heard this record.

Jimi Hendrix Experience, ‘Electric Ladyland’

The final JHE album, by which time Noel Redding had formed his own band and was becoming less and less available, meaning the bass here is often covered by session players or by Hendrix himself. This double album has two tracks that top 10 minutes, including the 15-minute Fillmore-style blues jam ‘Voodoo Child’, which is weirdly followed by a Noel Redding-sung Carnaby Street number called ‘Little Miss Strange’. Largely blues filtered through a weird variety of effects pedals and psychedelic effects, this album ends with ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’, two of the best songs of the 60s. Worth hearing but judicious skipping needed.

Kraftwerk, ‘Trans-Europe Express’

Our final visit to Kraftwerk’s output is also the most foreboding and ominous of the three albums, mainly due to ‘Trans-Europe Express’/’Metal on Metal’/’Abzug’/’Franz Schubert’, the suite that occupies the second half.  There’s something about the minor-key minimalism that feels cold in a way that their other two albums on the list don’t; deliberate, no doubt, but unattractive. The most pleasant thing here is the arpeggiating drones of ‘Europe Endless’, the ten-minute opener.

Madonna, ‘Like a Prayer’

We’ve already covered ‘Ray of Light‘ and ‘Music‘, so time to go back to the earliest Madonna album on the list. Of course, it’s possible that my attraction to this record is steeped in nostalgia – the singles would have come out when I was 8 or 9, the first time I was aware of music – but I don’t think it’s pure Proustian rush that makes it enjoyable for me. It’s an incredibly dexterous album, capable of trying out gospel, Prince jams, Sgt Pepper psychedelia and piano ballads about her father and getting them all right. Even as late as track 7-9, we get a string of hits (‘Cherish’, ‘Dear Jessie’, ‘Oh Father’), while the closer, ‘Act of Contrition’, mangles the title track in with metal guitars and a Madonna monologue that sounds like Public Enemy or something. Great record.

Van Morrison, ‘Moondance’

I wasn’t convinced by the meandering doodlings of ‘Astral Weeks’, and on the follow-up, Van structured his songs and arrangements in a more conventional manner. Maybe that means that this album is more ordinary but I preferred it: it’s a fine blue-eyed soul album with hints of ethereal mysteriousness. The best track, for me, is ‘Into The Mystic’, but it’s also one of the albums on the list (along with Drake’s ‘Bryter Layter’) where I recognised a song off ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’: that film concludes with the clavinet trills of ‘Everyone’.

Roxy Music, ‘Country Life’

The fourth Roxy Music album is the only one on the list without Brian Eno, who departed after their second album. It feels like the most accomplished from a singing and songwriting perspective, the production bathes everything in dramatic reverb, while the violin, sax, harmonica and keyboards add colour that differentiate them from their peers. The only problem is that gaudy, Playboy offshoot of a cover.

Next week: another set of bands with three albums each, as we get to the point where there’s less than 100 albums remaining!

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

 

 

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.

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.