Jesus Christ, people, Justin Blackburn, Justin fucking Blackburn.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is ‘Blackburn’ even a surname in America?? It’s such a dour, cold & windy, shovelling-cow-shit-into-a-tractor-just-outside-Durham, depressingly prosaic English name that it really doesn’t fit the glitzy imperialism and Hollywood gunplay of the US. It’s like finding out Shawn Michaels’s real second name is Hickenbottom. Has he ever even been to Blackburn? What are his opinions on Alan Shearer?
Secondly, was there a more arresting, more intentionally obnoxious, more on the nose outraged in 2021 than ‘Unlearning White America’? In the last decade?? You should certainly be able to gauge the general thesis of the record by its splenetic title, but I’m telling you now, you have no fucking idea. It’s important to note that Justin Blackburn is a white American himself, so rather than angrily tearing down the racist power structure that prevents perceived outsiders like himself from even a fair chance, he is on the inside (even more angrily) rejecting the inbuilt privileges that the people who grew up around him receive, refuse to acknowledge and even turn to resentment against the USA’s non white inhabitants. Many of the rage is directed toward Justin’s (diegetic? genuine?) father. All the rage is directed towards white America’s assumptions, inattentiveness and, yes, racism. Justin is so centred on the ridiculous state of race relations in his country that he even goes as far as to manage to make ‘Jesus’ rhyme with ‘racist’.
I’m allowed to still have Kings of Leon, right? You people will still consent to this? This is still OK, yeah? Nobody’s feeling mistreated in any way? I don’t want this to be one of those things where I was almost sure you were OK to me playing with my gross old man testicles while you watched holding back tears.
Remember that Simply Red song Holding Back the Tears? Well that’s what it was about. Mick Hucknall was so ahead of his time. He was trying to teach us, why did we refuse to learn? What’s that? It was actually called Holding Back the Years?? Well, shucks… Ah well, I’ve written it now.
I’ve done well, haven’t I? I’ve, like, mostly irradiated all the bullshit white guy rock that was honestly the entirety of all music I consumed before the age of about 19. I like to think that my end of year lists, while being a no way near exhaustive list of new music, is at least a forward thinking and progressive exercise in highlighting new and exciting progressions in style and presentation and in many different (and often new) genres. What’s your favourite Turmeric Trancotone album of 2021? Gotta be #26, right?
I feel I can’t rank this record any higher. It’s designed to accompany a drug trip and I have been stone cold and continuously, shamelessly sober since its release three weeks ago. Well…kinda… all my prescription medications kind of mean I’m blissfully high as a kite 24 hours a day so as not to acknowledge the overwhelming pain of day to day existence. But that’s my norm, so it doesn’t count. Sometime in January, I’m going to take some psychedelics and then blog about my altogether more valid opinion. That’s not a joke. It’s an excuse to take drugs as a professional study, why on Earth would I turn that down?
Yeah, it’s a bad idea, but name one good idea in my wntire life? And look how succesful I am. Exactly. Expect a potentially life destroying blog entry some weekend in January. You realise that I’m killing myself for your entertainment? Good. Just checking we’re on the same page.
Yes! For the eighth straight year* the highlight of everyone’s festive season is back. And what a year. What a couple of years. Personally, I mean, I’ve no idea what’s been going on in the wider world. I’ve noticed masks have come back into fashion, but that seems to have had its moment and is wearing off, bit of an embarrassing fad it seems, like scrunchies or caring about the environment. Remember when we all did that?? Mega cringe.
(*I am absolutely fucking definitely stopping this after the tenth year, you have no idea how much freaking work this meaningless piece of work takes. Or I might just turn it into a Google Sheet that I release on Christmas eve. Or a TikTok. I’ll just do a TikTok where I take my shirt off and tell you what I thought of the latest Shamir album. I’ll do a dance and shit. It’ll go viral)
So, when I did Necessary Evil 2019 I had never met my my future wife. Then I met my future wife on Bumble while I was doing a series about how much nonsense dating apps were. We really hit it off, but then she realised that I was writing a blog series about it (I didn’t mention her because, y’know, I kinda liked her. I know, mega cringe, right? Epic fail) so she cut off all contact with me, blocking me in ways I never previously knew were digitally possible. Then I wrote a post about the whole mess. She read the post, didn’t hate it, approximately five months later we were married. So, yeah, when I wrote Necessary Evil 2020 I was living with my new wife.
And as I start Necessary Evil 2021, to the excitement and joy of all five or six of the people who read this, I am back to living with my Mum, applying for an annulment of a marriage to a wife who has again blocked me on every digital avenue possible. It’s quite a journey. It’s, like, 92% my fault. I’m sure it’ll come up again. Entry #35 for example, I’ve no idea what I’m going to write for that, so might just do some primal scream therapy. The band Primal Scream, unfortunately, do not feature this year.
But what a year for music, ammi right?? We’ve got a Manics album (click click click click), we’ve got the continuing Prince journey and a ‘new’ Prince album, we’ve got Kanye (as always) and, fair warning, we’ve got a lot of Nick Cave. Three and a half albums. Too much Cave? No such thing. There are six former winners. Or perhaps seven. I think I proved in my stats regarding the Manics top 100 that countingreally isn’t my strong point. I’m more, like, holistic when it comes to numbers, yeah? There’s eighty one albums, because I can’t do anything right. I’m going to try and brush through numbers 81-41 in groups of ten, then give the top forty their own dedicated posts, even though, as amazing as all the albums are, I can’t think of anything to say about most of them. I’ve also reluctantly made my peace with Spotify. I hate it, you hate it, it’s going to be the death of the entire industry, but I understand that it is the industry. I link to each artist’s BandCamp (the light side of the force battling Darth Ek) page but also host the album on Spotify, as I understand most people can’t be arsed to stream it on BandCamp, will never pay for music, and Spotify streams at least mean something.
Yeah, so I’ve sold out, but what have you done this year? That’s right, you’ve just drooled over that paparazzi photo where you can kinda see Billie Eilish’s cleavage again and again, haven’t you? Grow up, she’s young enough to be that woman that your third wife divorced you over!! I have two ex-wives now, so I can make those jokes.
Anyway, we’re gonna have a lot of fun, yeah?? Once again, the reason that album you like isn’t featured is because it’s shit and you’re an idiot.
I honestly love you all. Heart emoji. I don’t know how you do that on WordPress…
So it’s time to say goodbye to my already world renowned list of the greatest Manic Street Preachers songs by providing a statistical breakdown of the scientifically peer reviewed list that literally dozens of people are still buzzing about. Why? I don’t fucking know, I feel like I just have to by this point. Plus Necessary Evil 2021 will be starting in December (put yo hands in the aye-yer!!) and I feel that if I don’t conduct this largely meaningless counting exercise done before then, I might end up never doing it. And you know what will happen then, my friend? That’s right: Arma-fucking-geddon.
Also, with delightful serendipity, unbeknownst to me when I began planning my list the wonderful New Chart Riot blog began compiling votes for their quinquennial (there you go, your new word today) top 50 of the greatest Manics songs, so along with putting the top half of my list forward for suggestion, I have also used data collected by the blog so far to reach some conclusions toward the end of the post. Are those conclusions sweeping? Why, yes. Are they unfair? How could they not be? Are they needlessly offensive? My dear, what would be the point otherwise?
Quick note: this post is unlikely to be 30’000+ words.
The Manic Street Preachers are the greatest rock band ever. That’s not an opinion, it’s a conclusion that I’ve reached and am now saying it loudly and not listening to any dissenting voices, which in 2021 counts as a ‘fact’.
Their greatness is… complicated… and not easy to explain in a simple intro to a blog post… These 100 tracks aren’t necessarily the greatest songs ever. Even as a pathetically dedicated Manics stan*, even I would argue that they’ve only ever released one indisputable, stone cold classic record from front to back (see if you can guess which one after you read the list!). They may have supernatural control over melodies and how best to ensure a chorus hits just there, but at the end of the day they’re just a rock band. They have never really challenged the very boundaries of music, never pushed things forward or necessarily introduced anything new sonically. I would argue that only one of their albums is truly challenging and experimental, rather than just being a break from what the band usually produce (yeah, it’s the same album…). I mean, Jesus, they once shamelessly released a song including the lyric “The world is full of refugees/They’re just like you and just like me“. That’s unforgivably bad, isn’t it? They can’t come back from that, artistically.
(*I may occasionally use cool, groovy, young person lingo like ‘stan’ so you think I’m a hip young gunslinger. Not, y’know, old enough to be a Manics fan)
I’m not able to explain their magic here, but over the next one hundred (!) entries you’ll hopefully all have a better idea. It’s not as dominated by the 90’s as I was worried it might be, and every album is represented (apart from one. Because their tenth album is worse than Hitler). I’ve been wanting to find the time to do this for ages, partially inspired by the great What is Music podcast covering their entire discography and reminding me of how many big veiny stonkers this band had bulging out of their collective musical swimming trunks. They’re talking about Muse on that podcast now, a band for morons, so you only need to listen to the last season. My major blind spot is I don’t think they’ve done a decent b-side since 2001. Now, I’m sure I’m wrong, so please correct my ignorance in the comments. Tell me how wrong I am. Post your top tens. Your top hundreds. The Manic Street Preachers’ fan community is one of the greatest in the world, and no other band are as connected with their fanbase and feed off their adoration as much as The Manics. So let’s celebrate that by calling me a fat slut in the comments because I didn’t choose Little Baby Nothing.
Finally, on the the 31st day of March in the year of our Lord two thousand and twenty one, we can officially put 2020 to bed. I like doing this post every year, as it’s mostly pictures and I don’t have to do much talking. Just to make it clear, I can’t stress enough how much I hate talking to you people. No, not the person reading this, you’re cool, all the other people, yeah? You know what I’m talking about! Fuck them, right?
We start off, innocently enough, by ranking the countries of nationality in a proven failsafe way to find the best country in the world.
Seriously though, USA always wins this by such a margin that it’s actually embarrassing, and I don’t expect different this year…
My tip for inevitable greatness, Dua Saleh, was born in Sudan but was forced to flee the Second Sudanese Civil War in the 90s with her family, eventually being granted asylum in the USA. I have no idea what nationality she considers herself, or even if she bothers to consider it at all, but I’m calling her half Sudanese in a desperate attempt to make this list a little more diverse
Hey! Top forty ! This is a nice, normal, manageable list isn’t it? Should I maybe have just limited 2020’s best songs to this workable and succinct top 40 list? What, and not mention Wock in Stock or I Don’t Know, Burn Stuff? I’m not sure I’d ever be able to forgive myself.
That’s all the introduction you’re getting, parts oneand two were more than enough foreplay, there are some absolute modern classics in this final countdown, and if you’re as half as surprised as me at what comes out on top…
A very ‘Fiona Apple’ Fiona Apple song, but that is obviously entirely a Good Thing. Lyrically, it’s untouchable, with Ms Apple taking issue with dinner party conversation and refusing to be silenced (“Kick me under the table all you want/I won’t shut up…I would beg to disagree/But begging disagrees with me”). Amongst the barbed and often hilarious response to tension, she also manages to squeeze in some absolutely amazing lyrical asides:
I’d like to buy you a pair of pillow-soled hiking boots
To help you with your climb
Or rather, to help the bodies that you step over, along your route
So they won’t hurt like mine
I’m going to be really noncommittal and say that Under the Table is definitely one of the best lyrics of the year. Don’t make me choose. No, seriously, don’t make me choose, you know I’d just give it to a 1993 Manics’ lyric and ruin the legitimacy of the whole operation.#
You want an intro? We you ain’t getting an intro! Unless, of course, you consier this little bit of writing where I explain there isn’t an into to actually be the intro, in which case… Jesus, I can’t help you, friend, just move along… We’ve already had entries #126-#81, now let’s chomp down on part two of the list.
‘Chomp down’? The fuck am I talking about? Not a good start, Alex. Not. A good. Start.
Ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch. It’s one thing to be palmed off with a lie, but to lose out to Tom Cruise using his mysterious Theten powers to somehow convince the watching public to give ‘Dianetics’ another chance by hanging out of aeroplanes and later cackling to Loraine Kelly about how he does all his own stunts, I really think you have to assume this is a problem with you, Banoffee.
Which Mission Impossible was it though?? You know there’s, like, a hundred of them now, right? Was it the best one (Mision Impossible 1-100) or even the worse one (Mission Impossible 1-100)? Don’t pretend you have any idea.
‘Member 2020? Do you really?? I’m not 100% sure 2020 as a year actually took place in any official capacity. I accept that days were marked off and months were filed as ‘complete’ in admin, but it was all just a box ticking exercise to make sure that all the paperwork lined up and we weren’t caught out were the concept of the year twenty twenty be questioned in any future audit. Sure, it happened, just look at that tick of the Excel spreadsheet. Can we move on? Please?
While its existence is obviously a hotly debated issue, what’s undeniable is that we saw a shovel load of amazing songs in 2020. Thirteen more than in 2019, in fact, which means that, despite everything, 2020 was actually 14.56% a better year than 2019…? I know, it didn’t seem that way, but the maths doesn’t lie. In every previous year’s Legit Bosses countdown, I was fully confident what was going to finish top before I started writing it. In 2020, however, there were so many massively different but equally stonking songs that I had no idea where it was going to to land when I ranked them last night, the one that ended up on top really surprised me, and- fuck it- I may well change my mind again whie I write this. It’s my fucking list, piss off.
Some of you might remember me previously explaining that the Legit Bosses will be published a little later in the year because I had a big immigration law exam on the 25th February to study for. Well, despite studying like an appropriately legit boss myself, a week before the exam I was rushed to the hospital with ulcerative colitis, which was serious enough for me to be kept in the hospital for eight days, miss the exam and have to reschedule for May. I could have finished this dumb fucking list before New Year Day. Ah well, not to worry, just know that, no matter how fiendishly provocative and titillatingly obtuse my writing predictably, I resent everything about having to write this list and in all honesty despise you for reading it. More after the jump!!