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Ten Albums

While clearing out some long-forgotten document folders on my increasingly creaking laptop, I found this written up but never posted but of Facebook memeage:
I was nominated by Iain Allan to post the 10 albums that made the biggest impact on me and are still in rotation, and then nominate a person each day to do the same. I’m too lazy to nominate, but join in if you’d like.

Rather than just condemn these words to the great trash bin in the sky, I thought I’d put them here. I might as well post at least once every four years…

Graceland – Paul Simon

You Can Call Me Al is the first song that I remember liking other than Rupert and the Frog Chorus’s smash hit ‘The Frog Song’, with backing vocals by that McCartney chap. From the one song, I dug into my dad’s CD collection, listened to the whole album and discovered that there was lots of other things out in the world called ‘music’. I also learned a bit about apartheid and realised that people were often shitty.

These days, I have a lot of other Paul Simon songs and albums that I prefer, but this is the one I come back to.

Document – REM

I came to this whole ‘liking music’ thing a bit late, and a lot of it was thanks to my dad’s CD collection. This one is a tangent to that, as while he had Automatic for the People and Out of Time, I dug back through the REM catalogue, hit Reckoning, ricocheted and landed on Document. While I’ve come to appreciate later REM (and still love Monster, REM’s much more successful equivalent of Metallica’s St Anger, which was the first album they released after I realised that they were good), it’s still Document that I think the best.

Strangely, looking back at the track listing, few of the tracks are on my overall favourites list of REM tracks, but as a whole it remains my pick.

Ash – 1977

I used to be a guitarist. I reckon I can say that now, as my various stringed instruments are barely picked up these days, and I wasn’t all that good anyway. However, while it was my brother receiving a guitar that he initially didn’t play for a birthday/Christmas present that kicked me into having a go, it was Ash that made me want to be in a band.

(this gig [or the day before/after] was the first time I saw them live)

Tim Wheeler is a year older than me, and when I was doing my GCSEs he was jetting around the world playing music, meeting the stars and getting pissed. I was insanely jealous at the time and that hasn’t really changed.

I’m 40 today. Tim’s 41 soon. Ash are doing a new tour later this year to accompany a new album. I will inevitably be going.

Megadeth – Countdown to Extinction

Despite occasionally abusing a guitar, it was a long time before I appreciated anything heavier than Queen. Through the mid-1990s I was a lover of jangly indie, but after a few months of sharing a flat with, as he was then, Chud Stultiens (and playing in a band with him) I eventually succumbed to the metals.

Having spent a large amount of the preceding years referring to Metallica as ‘guitar masturbation’, it’s strange that it was Dave Mustaine’s even more obscene fretboard fiddling that finally converted me. There was a Damascene moment, where I put on Chud’s copy of Countdown to Extinction and halfway through Symphony of Destruction realised what I’d been missing.

While I really like the last couple of Megadeth albums, to the point of pushing out all of the earlier work, Countdown to Extinction is still in regular rotation. It’s very good.

Bluetones – Learning to Fly

I suspect this might count as the album that has had most effect on me – it converted me into a jangly indie kid, informed my style of guitar playing and ruined me for music for a lot of my time at university. I even made my band play Slight Return. Sorry.

I heard Bluetonic while sitting in a Tesco’s carpark waiting for my mum to finish the shopping. I needed a pee, so nipped out before the end and got back just in time to hear John Peel saying how great Urusei Yatsura were. For the next couple of years, I claimed Urusei Yatsura as my favourite band, although failed to find anything by them. Eventually, I heard Bluetonic again, realised that I had the band name wrong, heard Slight Return and became hooked. I’ve now seen The Bluetones more than any other band and can still play more of their songs (although badly) than any other band’s, even Metallica.

I did eventually see Urusei Yatsura. They were okay. I have a broken drumstick from the gig in a box somewhere…

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

Another album courtesy of my dad’s CD collection. I knew of Bob Dylan, and had enjoyed Subterranean Homesick Blues, but had no time for any of his other stuff. Then I heard Blood on the Tracks and realised that maybe I was wrong. At one point, I knew all the words to Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, and I’m a guitarist who doesn’t listen to lyrics.

I still don’t get Bob Dylan and own none of his other albums (although I do have the Old Crow Medicine Show Blonde on Blonde anniversary cover album, which is excellent and was even better live), but Blood on the Tracks is still excellent.

Vangelis – Blade Runner

Other than Dune and Star Wars, Blade Runner is the film I’ve been most obsessed with over the years. I’ve had long and rambling conversations about its meaning, have written essays in long-lost notebooks trying to dissect its themes, and own significantly more versions than is useful on shiny plastic disc. It also has the first soundtrack that I ever owned.

Unlike many atmospheric soundtracks, which this definitely is, the tracks stand on their own without visuals. They can be listened to as music in their own right, and I do, regularly.

My only regret about Blade Runner soundtracks is that we didn’t hear Johan Johansson’s music for Blade Runner 2049, and that he died before we could hear more from him. I was waiting for his soundtrack almost as much as the film.

Blur – Modern Life is Rubbish

While I was initially an Oasis kid in the britpop wars, I’ve not stuck Definitely Maybe on for a long time. However, Modern Life is Rubbish is still my favourite Blur album and gets regular outings.

There’s not much to say about it: it’s more raw than Parklife but still shows what the band would become. And while Chemical World is still an excellent song, Villa Rosie puts everything I like about Blur into 3:55:

CJ Bolland – The Analogue Theatre

I blame my university first-year roommate for this. I was a jangly indie kid with no interest in anything vaguely ‘dance’ related, but my goth first-year roommate at university was much more music curious. He transformed from a purple-jumper-wearing lover of the Sisters of Mercy into something much more confusing: a techno fan.

While I still have no idea of how to classify any type of electronic music, CJ Bolland showed that maybe there was something to this ‘dance music’ thing of which Ross was so fond. It sat alone in my CD rack, occasionally played, until the past few years where I’ve explored the things that I missed the first time. Now I’m a fan of everything from (and this is where my limited understanding of genre becomes obvious) the Crystal Method to Autechre and (my new discovery) Tosca. It’s all the fault of a Highlander sample.

Pink Floyd – Meddle

And finally, back to my dad’s CD collection, and his occasional mentions of having seen Pink Floyd back in his youth. While I’ve seen Roger Waters a couple of times now, I never saw the Floyd, or even the Waters-less Floyd, and with Rick Wright now gone, the time has passed.

While I was lured in with The Wall and Wish You Were Here, it was Meddle that grabbed me the most. I didn’t realise that you could have one track take up half an album, yet here Pink Floyd with Echoes taking up the whole of the second side of the vinyl/cassette. It’s a beautiful soundscape, which showed me a whole side of music that I didn’t realise existed. It remains my favourite Pink Floyd track and one of my favourite songs. The rest of the album isn’t bad either…

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