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.
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.