April 16: If I Must – The Darkness, Def Leppard, Everything But The Girl, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Morrissey, U2

Happy Easter everyone who celebrates it; to everyone who doesn’t, happy Sunday! This week, it’s time for another of everyone’s favourites, the If I Must week. Fortunately for me, but sadly for you, this will probably be the last of these: I’ve pretty much listened to all of the real horrors on the list now, so while there are still some that I’m dreading, there aren’t quite enough for more of these weeks. Luckily, that still leaves me with over 100 albums that I’m looking forwards to hearing, so there’ll be plenty of good stuff as we head towards the second half of the project. Seven of the ones I least wanted to hear first though: let’s get to it.

The Darkness, ‘Permission to Land’

Although their second album ‘One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back’ went platinum, The Darkness’s commercial and critical peak was their debut album. At the time, they were massive, but the fact that their jokey take on 70s and 80s hard rock was going Top 10 at a time when less retro British rock bands were completely absent from the Top 20 was a worrying sign for the genre. Anyway, this is front-loaded, with catchy singles ‘Growing On Me’, ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’ and ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ all in the opening four tracks. The novelty’s worn off by the fifth track though: Justin Hawkins hasn’t got anything in his arsenal other than falsetto, at least one of the songs is nearly six minutes long, and given that the list already contains all the acts that The Darkness are aping (AC/DC, Queen, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi), you don’t need this.

Def Leppard, ‘Hysteria’

And indeed here are one of the bands that The Darkness are likely imitating. ‘Hysteria’ recorded over the course of a year packed with incident, including two of the band being involved in motor accidents: one, of course, cost drummer Rick Allen his arm. Consequently, there’s a fair bit of Fairlight jiggery-pokery involved with the drum tracks here. ‘Gods of War’ and ‘Love and Affection’ are probably the best songs here, but they all sound the same anyway: commercial 80s hard rock with massed backing vocals, helium lead vocals and synths. It seems mean to lambast such good-natured music too much: it’s okay, but this will be my last listen to it.

Everything But The Girl, ‘Idlewild’

Not to be confused with the Scottish band who did ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’, or the 2006 Outkast album, ‘Idlewild’ was the fourth album from EBTG, released in 1988. When we last looked at Tracy ‘n’ Ben, it was in their mid-90s dance incarnation, but before that they were making a sort of light coffee-table take on sophisticated pop, which I guess would have been popular with people who also liked The Beautiful South and Level 42. It starts with the band’s cover of Crazy Horse’s ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’, but it quickly recedes into background music: it’s so tasteful and restrained that it becomes a struggle to resist turning it off and listening to something more interesting. The dated production doesn’t help – tenor saxes and fretless bass everywhere – any more than the lyrics, where “they call you Jimmy, they call you James” is regarded as a good enough lyric for a repeated refrain. ‘The Night I Heard Caruso Sing’ is probably the best song here, vaguely like Slow Club’s last album; as a two-piece who trade vocals, Slow Club should see EBTG as a warning from history.

Iron Maiden, ‘Iron Maiden’

The line-up on the first Maiden album is different to their later ‘classic’ line-up: here we have Paul Di’Anno on vocals, Clive Burr on drums and Dennis Stratton on guitar, so no high-pitched extended notes from Dickinson and not much twin guitar riffing. The band don’t like the production on this (which they mostly did themselves) but I think the raw sound suits them: on ‘Prowler’ and ‘Running Free’, they sound sort of like ‘Destroyer’-era Judas Priest rather than the polished cheese (an Edam wheel?) of their later material. The album only sags at the midway point, with the instrumental ‘Transylvania’ and the waltz-time downer ‘Strange World’ both moves into areas the band don’t sound at home in. It finishes strongly, though, and overall this one is pretty good.

Megadeth, ‘Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying?’

This was Megadeth’s breakthrough album and is one of the big three as far as thrash is concerned (together with ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘Reign in Blood‘). Dave Mustaine, the former Metallica guitarist, focuses here on political and global concerns rather than the Lovecraftian omens of his old band, giving the lyrics a then-topical feel. I’ve always found thrash a bit tedious though: no wonder nu-metal eschewed the multi-section, solo-heavy, five-minute-or-more template for something blunter, punkier and funkier. You can’t fault the instrumental skill, particularly on the guitar lines, but the style seems old hat now.

Morrissey, ‘Vauxhall and I’

Our fourth visit to Moz’s back catalogue, we meet him here in 1994, at a time when he’d stopped wanting to plough the same furrow he did with The Smiths but before he started making off-colour remarks about immigration, the Chinese and so on. I’m starting to think that perhaps his solo career is best regarded as having a great singles catalogue, rather than any crucial albums: here, the best song is the elegaic ‘The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get’, which even Boz Boorer’s mid-90s Noel Gallagher lead guitar can’t spoil. Elsewhere there’s a cinematic closer called ‘Speedway’ and what sounds like a clarinet section, but nothing that quite matches the single.

U2, ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed ‘The Joshua Tree‘ and remember quite liking U2’s mid-90s output, or finding it interesting at least, but the release of the band’s 1980-1990 Best Of seemed to cause them to re-evaluate their output, hence abandoning the My Bloody Valentine and Nine Inch Nails experimentation and reverting to Soaring Anthem U2. Commercially it was a big success, but critically? Early on Bono feels like the weak point, both lyrically and vocally, while sequencing ‘Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’ as track 2 is a mistake, as the song piles on instrument after instrument in a vain attempt to bring a dull melody to life. Elsewhere, ‘Beautiful Day’ borrows its middle eight from A-ha, ‘In A Little While’ sounds like Eels with its arpeggios and drum machine, ‘Wild Honey’ sounds like Van Morrison, and I’m sure you know what the rest of this album sounds like.  Pretty dull.

Next week: a type of album I’ve never generally been hot on – the live album! There are at least a dozen on the list; hit me up in the comments if you have any favourites.

Progress update: 478 listened to (48%), 523 remain. Nearly halfway!

February 12: If I Must – Beck, The Coral, Don McLean, Morrissey, Primal Scream, The Ramones, Scissor Sisters

This week it’s time for another If I Must special, comprising of albums I was not looking forward to hearing at the start of the project. Will any of them surprise me? Let’s find out.

Beck, ‘Sea Change’

The last Beck album we’ll be covering off after I wrote about ‘Odelay‘ and ‘Guero‘ in previous editions. Here, everyone’s favourite Scientologist and ironic eclectist is blighted by heartbreak: he learned that his fiancee, who he’d been with for nine years, was cheating on him with someone from an LA band called Whisky Biscuit. He had to be convinced that writing about his feelings wasn’t self-indulgent, and recorded these songs with his usual band. The circumstances account for the sombre mood and the Nick Drake feel of tracks like ‘Round the Bend’, while the rest combines desert psychedelia, acoustic guitars and Sean O’Hagan-ish string arrangements from Beck’s dad. By dropping the mask and being more directly emotional, Beck’s probably done his best album here or at least my favourite of his.

The Coral, ‘The Coral’

Indie was running on fumes by the time these perky Liverpudlians came along, and mining 60s sounds was getting very close to being passe. The Coral weren’t the last band to do this and still have hits – after all, they brought along mini-mes The Zutons – but they were among the last. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, being as it is full of energy and enthusiasm, and glueing together a whole bunch of influences in the same way that a big beat record might. It’s perhaps a bit light on compelling melodic hooks (except the singles), and aside from a thrillingly Of Montreal-ish funk sample collage at the end of ‘Skeleton Key’ there’s little indication that this was made in the 21st Century. Yes, they’ve listened to a lot of good albums, but the point of a project like this is to listen to those albums, meaning that on its own merits, this one is superfluous.

Don McLean, ‘American Pie’

This album is of course most famous for its opener and title track, a song so big and long that it threatens to swallow the rest of the album. I was reticent to come to this album because of that song, full of good ol’ boys and “wasn’t it better in the old days” sentiments and rambling. The rest of the record, though, doesn’t try and replicate the formula, being instead a mostly pleasant late 60s/early 70s folk-pop album. Surprisingly it does have one other fairly famous song in the gentle solo acoustic track ‘Vincent’, although I prefer the Car Seat Headrest song of the same title and subject.

Morrissey, ‘Viva Hate’

Moz had barely closed the door on The Smiths before this album came out: a mere six months had gone by. Here, he retains Smiths producer Stephen Street and promotes him to co-writer, bassist and rhythm guitarist. Street’s no Johnny Marr though, and the album’s a bit pedestrian in parts. Although this has ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’ and ‘Suedehead’, its best three songs are, unusually, its last three: the uptempo ‘I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me’, the acidic ‘Dial A Cliche’ and the backwards chords and flamenco style of anti-Thatch fantasy ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’. If it makes a difference, I listened to the remastered Spotify version of this, where Moz’s meddling involved a song being removed and another added, and another song being truncated (to Street’s displeasure). Two more Morrissey albums and three more Smiths ones on the list.

Primal Scream, ‘Vanishing Point’

The singles from this album felt weak in isolation but work better in context: ‘Kowalski’ sits in the middle of a mostly instrumental, groove-heavy section of the album and ‘Star’ sounds like an expansive piece of dub (Augustus Pablo even turns up on melodica). The album is probably best understood and appreciated as an experimental big beat album, even if the makers are nominally a guitar band; the album’s strong points are its groove, samples and melting pot of styles, whereas its weak points are the melodies, lyrics and vocals. Less of a boring slog than I was anticipating. I’ve already heard ‘Screamadelica’ so there are no more of the band’s albums left to hear: mysteriously ‘XTRMNTR’, considered an essential Scream cut, is absent from the list.

The Ramones, ‘The Ramones’

Joey and the gang influenced millions of people with their breakneck three-note punk, but I’ve never felt that their stuff was anything I desperately needed to hear. For a start, it all sounds the same (there aren’t any other Ramones albums on this list). This one blasts through 14 tracks in just 28 minutes, features ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and a lot of songs about horror movies (plus a Velvet Underground-ish lyric about a male prostitute turning tricks but then murdering the john to prove he’s not gay). Aside from the Blondie-ish ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ and a hilarious cover of ‘Let’s Dance’, this is very repetitive.

Scissor Sisters, ‘Scissor Sisters’

The Sisters first came to prominence in the UK with their cover of ‘Comfortably Numb’, which they bragged about having modernised. Sounded like it’d be a good idea: yet the cover sounds like it came out in 1977, whereas the original came out in 1979. (If anything, it’s less of an update and more of a recontextualisation: from “prog singer ODs before a stadium show” to “kid has ketamine freakout in a gay bar”.) The album too is something I should like – a male singer and a female singer doing camp songs and occasionally putting the feather boa down to sing from the heart – but which instead bored me pretty quickly. ‘Laura’ is catchy, ‘Tits on the Radio’ at least mixes things up by giving female singer Ana Matronic something to do – she is almost absent from most of the songs – and ‘Return to Oz’ is a bit of fairytale prog, but the rest is pretty uninspiring.

Next week: we’ll be looking at what happened in the 1980s when post-punk gadabouts tried to make sophisticated pop music instead. Yes there’s a lot of New Romantic stuff in the next episode.

Status update: 415 listened to (41%), 586 remain.

November 13: If I Must – The Band, Everything But The Girl, David Gray, The Happy Mondays, Kid Rock, The La’s, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Verve

This week is another of the popular If I Must series, in which I pick out some albums I don’t want to listen to on the 1,001 and put myself through them. I got so excited to do this that I ended up doing eight: here they are.

The Band, ‘The Band’

‘Music From Big Pink’ was a one-pace slog filled with Dylanisms, so it was with some reluctance that I came back to The Band. On ‘The Band’ it seems that the, uh, band remembered that they could play in more than one tempo and, without Dylan around, indulged their interest in Southern US influences, moving into a more country flavour and pushing Levon Helm’s unusual alto voice closer to the foreground. The stop-start of ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and the clavinet wah of ‘Up on Cripple Creek’ add dynamic variety, while ‘Whispering Pines’ is an obvious influence on Mercury Rev. I’m still not totally sold on Americana – a sort of rootsy rock version at invoking ‘Huckleberry Finn’ vibes – but I feel more positively towards The Band.

Everything But The Girl, ‘Walking Wounded’

Ben’n’Tracey were megastars at the time as a result of the omnipresent Todd Terry version of ‘Missing’, which pushed a folksy band on the fringes of the top 30 into a Top 5 presence. I was unenthusiastic to listen to a whole album of their stuff as I always thought their singles were pretty bland lite electro-sad and, for all this album’s interest in jungle and techno, it does little to disabuse me of that notion. Its monochromatic mood and pace are inoffensive at Brand New Heavies frequencies and while it’s not outstandingly bad, there’s nothing on here that would be too aggressive for a Dido album.

David Gray, ‘White Ladder’

Before there was Adele, there was David Gray, whose wobbly-headed singing and flappy-brushed drummer clogged up the charts for what seemed like an eternity with an album that, like ’21’, is bland but mystifyingly mega-selling. If you lived through the dark reign of Gray, you’ll recall the sound of this album: folky acoustic guitar and gently tapped drums in a sphere nominally called folktronica but mostly created with organic instruments. There are no surprises here apart from the forced wackiness of ‘We’re Not Right’, and the overall effect is dullness that even a Soft Cell cover (‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’: sadly no David Gray covers of ‘Sex Dwarf’ exist) fails to redeem.

The Happy Mondays, ‘Pills’n’Thrills And Bellyaches’

This dreadfully-named album contains the Mondays’ biggest hits, ‘Step On’ and ‘Kinky Afro’, add at least one new member (singer Rozalla) and sees Paul Oakenfold on the faders and tape deck. It’s surprisingly eclectic, as the band’s 60s and 70s influences are visible, but not so much that they’re blind to the contemporary scene around them. It’s a plausibly comprehensive snapshot of Manchester in the late 80s/early 90s. It doesn’t entirely hang together, though, at least not for me. Why? Probably the melodies, which are often weak or completely absent when left to Shaun Ryder, who couldn’t be described as a great or good or even average singer.

Kid Rock, ‘Devil Without A Cause’

The cowboy and singer in black was an early proponent of rap-metal, meaning that in some places, this album sounds like a fresh mix of metal riffs and rapping; in some places, however, it sounds about as edgy as 5ive. The main problem with the album, as with most albums, is the personality at the front: whether it’s moaning about his record label, uncharitably referring to his son’s mother as a ‘slut’ or not writing enough ideas for a song (‘Bawitdaba’, just ‘Rappers Delight’ with metal guitars), he’s pretty constantly obnoxious. Still, his interests are rap-metal, being a redneck, and misogyny: probably an insurmountable combination for me.

The La’s, ‘The La’s’

Like ‘Apocalypse Now’, or ‘Loveless’, the mythos surrounding The La’s doomed album has elevated it to almost mythical status: rumour has it that Lee Mavers didn’t want the band to dust their guitars, thought they sounded best recorded on dictaphone and rejected a mixing desk because it didn’t have authentic 60s dust on it, to the point where the exasperated label ended up stealing the master tapes just so they could finally put out the record. To what extent this is all apocryphal is another question, but what is definitely true is that the band disowned the record on its release and Mavers pulled a Neutral Milk Hotel and never released another album. Are we missing much by not having more La’s material? On this evidence, no. The first two songs are as innovative as Jet, the third is literally called ‘Timeless Melody’ and the fourth has whistling. Then the album finishes with a nine-minute song. “But JT, the album celebrates Liverpool’s past while looking forward to later Scouse bands like The Coral and The Zutons.” Well, exactly.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’

‘Californication’ is a strong contender for Most Boring Album I’ve Listened To, but this album isn’t quite as monotonous. John Frusciante is the stand-out performer as he works his way through a variety of styles from John McGeoch to Michael Hampton, while Chad Smith is also louder in the mix. Additional texture is brought by mellotron, celeste and trash-heap percussion. The boisterous performances put Anthony Kiedis lower in the balance, but he still stamps his mark: one of the more interesting songs has the bloody awful title ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’. This would be a pretty good 40-minute album: it runs a near-intolerable 73 minutes.

The Verve, ‘A Northern Soul’.

One of two Verve records on the list, but luckily for me I’d already heard the good singles/crap rest ‘Urban Hymns’. Here we have a lot of cokey guff – the first two tracks sound like one long song (and one is called ‘This Is Music’, presumably unironically knowing Richard Ashcroft). Gentle third song ‘On Your Own’ and the string-drenched ‘History’ poke their heads above the parapet of sprawling, overlong, blustering trudge and if it seems like I’m indicating that only the singles are any good here, then it at least suggests they had good choices of singles. The e-bow and feedback instrumental ‘(Reprise)’ makes for a pleasant closer: I wonder whether Nick McCabe might have been better suited leading a post-rock band like Mogwai rather than spending a decade playing second fiddle to Ashcroft and his ego.

Next week, in tribute to one of the country’s most notable singers, Leonard Cohen, passing away this week, I’ll be listening to some of the best Canadian albums on the list. Obviously Laughing Len will be featured.

Progress update: 338 listened to (34%), 663 remain

August 28: If I Must special – The Bees, Mariah Carey, The Happy Mondays, Jamiroquai, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Simply Red, Paul Weller

As the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die was voted by committee, there will inevitably be albums on the list that aren’t to my taste. Some of them are surprising choices which, on paper, looked like an excruciating listen. This week’s update is a collection of the albums on the 1001 that I was least looking forwards to hearing.

The Bees, ‘Sunshine Hit Me’.

Hearing their irritating Os Mutantes cover ‘A Minha Menina’ made me assume that this group was a novelty version of the post-Beck kitchen-sink style, a particularly aggressive form of the lethal virus that infected fin-de-siecle British indie prior to the Strokes. While ‘A Minha Menina’ appears here, the rest of the album is mostly competent, if go-nowhere, pastiches of the band’s record collection which as often sounds like Zero 7 as The Coral. Hardly essential but not the calamity I was dreading.

Mariah Carey, ‘Butterfly’.

The 1990s footballer’s favourite singer, Mariah Carey was newly-divorced and hanging out with Q-Tip and Puff Daddy during the run-up to this album, which seemed like it could yield some interesting results. No such luck, however. Carey still leans heavily on piano ballads – three of the first five tracks are dull low-tempo workouts co-penned by regular collaborator Walter Afanasieff. Where the collaborators do show up, they’re either invisible (Bone Thugs ‘N’ Harmony negligible) or relegated to the sidelines (Missy Elliott is hired but merely as co-lyricist on one song), while Carey trades in her Whitney-ish showstopper voice for breathy fluttering that’s barely intelligible. David Morales finally injects some energy into the album as late as the tenth track with a remix/reprise of the title track; perhaps he should have produced the whole thing.

The Happy Mondays, ‘Bummed’.

Like Joy Division before them, the Mondays were a Factory band paired with unruly producer Martin Hannett, whose contributions here drench the drums in echo and turn the treble up on the guitar as if he was producing a Slowdive record, while Shaun Ryder stomps belligerently in the middle like Mark E Smith. The results sound very dated now, with the possible exceptions of ‘Lazyitis’ (the most tuneful song here) and perhaps ‘Wrote For Luck’. Skippable.

Jamiroquai, ‘Emergency on Planet Earth’.

Coming into this album I knew I didn’t like Jamiroquai, but beyond the unlikeable antics of their frontman Jay Kay I couldn’t put my finger on why. Listening to this, their debut album, makes me wonder whether the BBC’s co-opting of acid-jazz as tasteful background muzak for its Sunday programming (‘The Clothes Show’ for example) means that the original edge is lost, that the sound is hard to appreciate on its own merits because it immediately brings to mind a certain feeling of bland wallpaper music. But then acid-jazz didn’t become jingle fodder because of its immediacy: there’s something a bit anonymous about this whole album. Weak melodies, lyrics that are swallowed up by Kay’s Stevie Wonder impersonating mumble, solos that are low in the mix, the whole thing feels unintrusive even though it’s a funk album! Given the six-minute jam-band running length of the songs, the musicians must be having fun but, unlike Parliament or the Family Stone, for example, this doesn’t translate onto the record.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Californication’.

The album which turned the Chilis from funky-junkie also-rans into the most overplayed band on the planet, ‘Californication’ also reminds you that RHCP have a hand in nu-metal insofar as they made white men rapping badly over rock riffs into an acceptable thing to hear on the radio; like war criminals they must be held accountable. On the opener, ‘Around the World’, Kiedis couldn’t even be arsed finishing the lyrics: as bad an opening track as you’ll hear this side of ‘Philosophy of the World’ and yet a single which went Top 40. Second track sounds like Muse and, look, you know how the rest of this album sounds. For an album with a song called ‘I Like Dirt’, the adjective I kept coming back to was “clean”: John Frusciante got clean, most of his guitar settings are clean, the Rick Rubin production is clean (too clean I’d say). Not a band I ever want to hear again; unluckily there is another of their albums on this list, but thankfully it is not ‘By The Way’.

Simply Red, ‘Picture Book’.

In which a bunch of musicians from post-punk bands try their hand at adult-oriented soul and the rest is history. As with most of the bands on this week’s update, the obnoxious frontman is the most distinctive thing about the band, but Mick Hucknall is after all a strong singer. He’s helped by the album boasting a then-contemporary sheen which means that the aping of 60s soul doesn’t descend into outright parody. However, the 80s production, no doubt great then, has dated badly, and a lot of the vocal arrangements (particularly the backing vocals) are flat-out terrible. There’s also little personality from any of the musicians other than the keyboardists, and the keyboard contributions are crap. ‘Holding Back The Years’ is, I guess, the best song on here. Nobody who reads this was going to listen to this album anyway. Make sure it stays that way.

Paul Weller, ‘Wild Wood’.

The Modfather appears on the list four times, with two Jam albums and, surprisingly, a Style Council album also appearing, but it was his solo album I was least looking forward to hearing. Weller’s work in this era has always been synonymous in my mind with tracksuit-y lumpen plod-rock, which isn’t entirely unfair given members of Ocean Colour Scene feature on the record and Weller features on ‘Champagne Supernova’, almost the set-text for 90s bloke rock. This album starts more promisingly than you’d expect, with Weller sounding motivated, but the wheels come off by track 5 with a plague of harmonicas and a bunch of pedestrian semi-acoustic slogs. With 16 tracks over 54 minutes, it is too long and boring, but at least there’s a variety of styles and the old git sounds like he’s up for it.

Next week, I’ll be looking at some of the least-heard albums on the list.

Progress report: 259/1001 (26%), 742 remain.

May 25 – ‘If I Must’ List #1: Beck, Morrissey, Royksopp, Travis, ‘The Joshua Tree’

The thing with the 1001 Albums You Must Hear project is that, as well as a lot of albums I’m intrigued to check out, there’s a fair amount of albums I’m reluctant to listen to. Rather than put them off any longer, it’s time I covered some of them.

Beck, ‘Odelay’.

I’m sure my dislike for Beck is a surprise for some, given I like Eels and the Beta Band, both of whom did similar blues-n-sampler kitchen-sink records. Unlike those two, though, Beck always struck me as all-surface-no-feeling: the ironic detachment is at the cost of relatable content or melodic impetus. He couldn’t even get ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ right! As for ‘Odelay’: the musical palette is always varied, but it’s a record to admire rather than love.

Morrissey, ‘You are the Quarry’.

There are four of Stephen Patrick’s solo albums on this list: perhaps more than even Moz fans would consider essential. ‘Quarry’ was preceded by killer single ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, where the most dramatic chord sequence on the record is augmented/completely ruined by Morrissey’s tainted patriotism schtick: lyrics which leave a bitter taste when matched against later “I’m not xenophobic but immigrants” speeches. The most evocative lyrical image on the album is “you have never been in love/until you’ve seen the stars/reflected in the reservoir”, from second single ‘First of the Gang to Die’ (which sounds better here than it did as a single). The other bulbous salutations on this album are bogged down by leaden arrangements or titles like ‘All the Lazy Dykes’.

Royksopp, ‘Melody AM’.

Royksopp are another band who sounded on paper like a band I’d like (I like Air and Bent) but who never impressed me: despite the album title, ‘Eple’ and ‘So Easy’ have no tunes. The album is more palatable than I expected as background muzak, but it’s not exactly an attention-grabber.

Travis, ‘The Man Who’.

It’s hard to understand how this album qualified for this list given its obvious debt to other albums on the list (Jeff Buckley, Radiohead): in fact the album’s producer is ‘OK Computer”s Nigel Godrich, bringing along the same bag of tricks he used for that album. When they aren’t ripping off Thom, they can’t resist pointing out their sources (“what’s a wonderwall anyway?” indeed). The best song is the Ziggy-for-dummies ‘She’s So Strange’ but there is nothing essential here. This was a band whose previous album featured a song called ‘All I Want To Do Is Rock’: on this evidence, clearly not.

U2, ‘The Joshua Tree’.

Later efforts like Apple malware ‘Songs of Innocence’ and ego-driven political campaigns have soured people to U2, but here on ‘The Joshua Tree’, hit after hit are augmented by great Brian Eno production and top drawer musicianship. It’s easy to mock The Edge’s minimalist style, but it sounds refreshingly spacious compared to his five-note-per-second contemporaries. Dare I say it: this is a good album.