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.
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.
Oh, so she uses proper capitalisation on the album cover, but not in the official stylisation?? Seriously, Charli, what the WTF?
There is no better artist in recent times at embracing the everything than Charli XCX. Her genius has always been to encompass pretty much every facet of modern pop music and modern sound into bite size chunks and serving them up for the aimed consumption of literally every single person on Earth. She has always liked to do this through bridging as many connections with as many people as possible. She is an insanely public artist, connecting to all of her fans on every social platform and ensuring that they are always explicitly aware of how important they are in whatever success she has, leading to live performances that can feel more like a mass therapy session mixed with the prelude to the greatest mass orgy all thousand people present have ever experienced mixed with the purest exhibition of Arthur Janov‘s treatment of primal screaming. She’d also do this by collaborating with as many other artists as she could, ensuring that so many of her fans were introduced to slightly more challenging acts such as Cupcakke, Dorian Elektra and Tommy Cash. You have to imagine that Charli hugs each and every person she passes on the streets and tells them that she loves them, and to never stop being awesome. It makes every trip to the Post Office last about an hour and 45 minutes. For this most hyper-interactive, hyper-communicative, hyper-compassionate and hyper sharing artist- one who thrives on the maddening stimulation of modern life- to suddenly find that you’re not allowed to meet with anybody and, really, shouldn’t even leave your freaking house might have come as a defeating blow, like if you’re a My Little Pony fan and the government suddenly announced all swastikas were now illegal.
I mean… that kinda works, right? Jarvis Cocker splitting his first name into two words, then adding the title of the album to make it seem that you’re making the statement that “Jarv is beyond the pale”. Like, OK, I get it, but to buy into the pun yo have to accept that Jarvis now goes by the name ‘Jarv’ which, come on, mate, that’s a dumb fucking name that ain’t nobody going to answer to. I’m calling you out, Jarvy Boy! I don’t buy into the conceit that the title of your fourth solo album aims to evoke!! Bring it on, Jarv! Anytime, any pla… Actually, not any place. My choice of place. I worry that he’ll have us both do battle in Sheffield, and according to my beliefs about the Steel City that may well resemble the closing scene of Terminator 2. I worry that wouldn’t play to my strengths as a fighter. It’ll likely to be in the Ippon Judo Club in Cheadle. I got a green belt there about 20 years ago, so watch your fucking back, Jarv!!
Have you ever considered that maybe Princess Nokia has a point? Maybe everything is beautiful? Maybe you don’t agree. Maybe you’re one of those overaged (and- my goodness- way over sized) wannabe teenage edgelords who have developed multiple subconjunctival hemorrhages due to the dangerous amount of times you’ve rolled your eyes at something. Maybe your detachment from positivity and any sort of approving conscientiousness has rendered you completely numb to appreciating any good thing in life. Maybe when the vicar asked you if you take this person to be your lawful wedded spouse you merely shrugged your shoulders and said “Whatever”. Maybe when the doctor handed you your new born baby, you rolled your eyes at how unbelievably mainstream the whole thing was, with the baby crying and wiggling its arms, like that hasn’t been done before. Nothing is beautiful for you, because you refuse to allow it to be.
“By removing art from capitalism while allowing capitalism to thrive elsewhere unfettered we are in danger of removing any benefit of speaking in the first place so the artists may as well remain speechless. From afar, I guess. Yeah, that works”
This Blog, This Post, just now
(it was suggested that these pieces should link to the album at the start rather than the end. So here it is, now please stop sending me those abusive text messages)
I’m old enough (late, late, late late* twenties) to remember a career in arts being at least a quasi viable life choice. Nobody would kid themselves that they would make it to be ‘Goo Goo Dolls Big’, where you would earn enough money to finance a daily trip to Mars to wave stacks of Molybdenums in the seediest strip clubs of Tharsis’s Northern Edge and get yourself some of that sweet, sweet Martian poontang (John Rzeznik really lived the dream in that sense), but you’d be able to comfortably exist composing your Romo paeans to Garry Flitcroft without too many people getting on your case. You’d likely do a handful of Peel Sessions before you even released that song about his fringe. I mean, sure, people would still get on your back about getting a ‘real job’, but that’s just because back then a ‘real job’ meant a job that you absolutely hated and that made you seriously consider taking a sledgehammer to your knees each morning just as an excuse not to subject yourself to one more day to the joyless and soul destroying churn of capitalism. Y’know, the same as today. You created something, there were more options for getting people to experience that thing you created, and if people liked that thing enough they would pay you a bit of money to experience it whenever they want. Maybe they’d never been able to hear it, but it had received such good reviews from the reams of art review magazines (that they’d already paid £2 for) that people decide you’re worth the risk and buy your Flitcroft Fantasies CD single backed with a Groove Armada remix and acoustic cover of Lisa Loeb. Hopefully they’d buy the next thing you created as well, maybe the next thing after that. Maybe not the next thing after that, because let’s face it that was absolute pants, but the next thing after that would be hailed as a return to form so they’d jump back on board.
At the Little Simz entry at number 4, I worried that the ceaseless and heartless explosion of ‘news’ and ‘takes’ and ‘bullshit’ that is modern life only succeeded in confirming rather than challenging our prejudices and turning us against even family members as we’re convinced that political allegiances are the one thing that dictates whether human life is worth even considering.
Then there was Elbow at number 3, throwing their hands up in the air and wailing as they wondered what’s even the point of Elbow anymore?! There’s no sense of togetherness for them to soundtrack! The world hates itself now, and to espouse the sort of optimism and confidence that they used to would risk making them sound ridiculously out of touch! 2019 is grim, it’s paranoid, it hates it’s fellow human because, chances are, the fellow human hates them just as much so it’s best to return a shot! Then there was Sudan Archives making the second best album of the year by essentially mainstreaming her sound and making as many bangers as possible. So yeah, hear that Nick Cave? Make sure your album has as many bangers as possible, yeah?
Surely Nick Cave would be most affected by this new era of mistrust and negative assumptions. Not only has he previously made a career over detailing bad motherfuckers who would “Crawl over fifty good pussies just to get to one fat boy’s asshole“, but he would surely be more angry than most at life’s unfair and brutal nature after his 15 year old son died in 2015. He had already released ‘Skeleton Tree‘ in 2016, a broken and grim album interjected with occasional explosive pulses of agony, over which Cave sounded emotionally bereft and often numb. It was mostly a dark, hopeless reaction to a tragedy that today’s climate demands. Wallow in your misery! You’re all alone! Nobody gives a shit and anyone who does is probably racist, or something!! Mmmmm, yes, Nick Cave, feed me on your despondent tears!!
‘Athena’ is one of my favourite sounds. It’s the sound of an artist who has long been considered worthwhile and interesting deciding that, actually, they don’t just want to be considered ‘worthwhile and interesting’. It’s the sound of someone whose music may once have occupied the ‘You Might Not Have Heard…’ sections of reviews now putting forward that they should be covered in the highlight pieces. It’s the sound of an artist that may have once been cool to namedrop because few other people had heard of then wanting other people to have freaking heard of them!
I was a fan of the weird and discordant afro-futurism of Sudan Archives’ previous EP ‘Sink‘, but even in my praise I seemed to want to ghettoise her music by claiming that the best case scenario for it would be to be overplayed at artisan coffee shops and inspire several NPR beard strokes. It was very, very good, but there was a ceiling on exactly how good such beguiling and esoteric music could be. And also how big it could be- once it gets into those artisan coffee shops, there’s really nowhere else for it to go.
See, Thom? Do you see? Do you see what you can achieve when you stop mucking about?
I didn’t like the last Radiohead album. I thought it was too often lazily and ponderously similar to the rather lazy and ponderous first half of ‘King of Limbs’, their previous album. Oh, that reminds me, I didn’t really like ‘King of Limbs’ either, but I thought that the second half of the record was just about enough to salvage the record. Then there have been his solo records. 2013’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ project was described in some quarters as ‘musical farting about that will have you stroking the nearest beard in appreciation‘, and then there was 2014’s ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes‘- which I honestly completely forgot about until I just Googled his discography because I was certain he’d been responsible for more bullshit recently- which paled ‘next to even his debut solo LP and last year’s patchy Atoms of Peace (sic) release’. What I’m saying, dear reader, is that Thom ‘Fuck Phonetics’ Yorke hasn’t been involved in a consistently great album since 2007’s ‘In Rainbows‘. You’re allowed to have your own opinion, of course, just remember that it’s just an opinion. What I’ve just said is a fact.