Recently on Facebook I was asked to “List 10 albums that have stayed with you. Then tag 10 people, including me, so I can see the results (I was asked to do this, so now it’s your turn!)”
Normally I ignore these types of request but this one struck, ahem, a chord, and presented a challenge. Of course the resulting list is totally arbitrary and depends greatly upon mood, which today is moderately benign. Here’s what I chose, with notes and some thoughts on the also-rans.
1. Closer – Joy Division
Really this should be 1. Unknown Pleasures; 2. Closer. However, for the sake of variety and because it was my introduction to the band who has had the most influence on my life I have gone for Closer. ‘The Eternal’ is the song I would like played at my funeral. Both Unknown Pleasures and Closer are the benchmark against which I test all other popular music. I have a history with the music of Joy Division that goes back to my truly formative years and which includes the suicide of a key person in my life at that time on the same date as that of Ian Curtis.
2. Children of G-d – Swans
Swans exemplify all that I think is deep and drawing in music. They are elemental, spiritual, liminal, uncomfortable, energising, destructively creative, ground-breaking, cathartic and on the outside of the norm. Again, it was almost impossible to choose an album. Last year’s The Seer, which I saw performed live this year in the best gig I have ever been to, has such a dense and visceral power that I think that in a few years it would be close to the top of this list. Children of G-d comes from their almost conventionally harmonic days, with the eternal feminine of Jarboe sweetening the mix and the CD version now includes some of the best bits of Gira and Jarboe’s side project Skin, which are songs that are forever looped inside my head.
3. London Calling – The Clash
I’ve said many a time only half in jest that if it wasn’t for The Clash I wouldn’t have put myself forward for ordination. The same could perhaps be said for the two bands above them on this list. In the case of The Clash it was the crude but passionate political posturing that attracted me. I was an avid and devoted NME reader in the days when it was soaked in the Marxist dialectic of numerous gifted angry young men and despite all the bluster and the dark romanticism there was something about the support for the miners, the championing of the underdog and the outsider that hit the spot for me. London Calling has an expansive elegiac quality that allows its punk roots a freedom to be fierce, committed and insightful.
4. Sister – Sonic Youth
Sister or Daydream Nation? It was a tough call. Daydream Nation is a masterpiece. It is the more coherent of the two albums. And I have a signed copy. Sister has the edge simply for the song ‘Schizophrenia’. Sonic Youth led me to Swans, Mudhoney, early Nirvana, Sleater Kinney, Yo La Tengo and much, much more. And they gave me my favourite Neil Young album – Arc/Weld. And besides which, I like noise.
5. Psychocandy – Jesus and Mary Chain
Songs so eminently hummable, with such an attitude of skinny legged, leather trousered, sneering arrogance that they have been a soundtrack for much of my writing. Stuck for something to say? Stick on the JAMC and the energy flows from my ears to my fingertips and everything seems possible. This is feedback city; it has some gloriously sweet and dirty songs ramped up in an MC5 wrap that that mixes fury and sensuality in equally messy portions.
6. The Velvet Underground and Nico
I simply couldn’t not include this, the first Velvets album. It is such an obvious choice, it informs most of the rest of the music in this list, but it is just plain brilliant with songs that linger on. I am the poor girl with no costume and from my first listen of the LP I have been transfixed. My second favourite Reed/Cale collaboration is Songs for Drella, their tribute to Andy Warhol. The songs on that album are deeply insightful, mature and honest, a fitting requiem, however it is The Velvet Underground and Nico that has had the most lasting impact on edge-music of any record.
7. Playing with Fire – Spacemen Three
When I saw Spacemen Three play tracks from this album back in 1989 I couldn’t get past the fact that they sat down to perform. When I listened to the album I was firstly blown away by the spaciousness of the sound and secondly realised that once more I had been a buffoon. I like Spiritualized but nothing that Jason Pierce has ever produced has quite beaten the magnificence of Playing with Fire – here there is a gentleness amongst the embers of fading relationships, there is a scarifying revolution coming and there are sparks flecking out across the horizon illuminating the dark cracks of consciousness. Simply a beautiful album.
8. Screamadelica – Primal Scream
It is just so damn catchy. Another obvious album which I couldn’t in all consciousness ignore. So much going on in this – its roots are everywhere, dance, the JAMC, blues, the Stones, etc. and it has been so influential. But at the end of the day it is one of those records that seems to soundtrack life.
9. Wounded Rhymes – Lykke Li
Ach, where to start? It was either this or Grimes Visions. Grimes is dirtier, darker and more entertainingly obscure. But Wounded Rhymes has more personal resonances. In its celebration of the possibility of the young it is an anthem for doomed youth – mine. Listening to this album gave me some intimations that I was no longer young. Even more personally it coincided with my messing up a crucial relationship. Nordic angst is a cliché, but when it is as beautiful as this it is mesmeric.
10. Arular – M.I.A.
M.I.A.’s first and still best album. An explosion of intelligence, invention and piracy that is sexy and intimidating in equal measure, genre busting and pre-conception bursting. Love it.
Some of those that nearly made the cut, not otherwise mentioned above:
1. The entire canon of Joy Division;
2. The entire canon of Swans;
3. No More Shall We Part – Nick Cave;
4. Bleach – Nirvana;
5. Power, Corruption and Lies – New Order;
6. Touch Me I’m Sick – Mudhoney;
7. Hard Again – Muddy Waters;
8. Mr Lucky – John Lee Hooker;
9. Death Letter – Son House;
10. The Complete Recordings – Robert Johnson;
11. Never Mind the Bollocks – The Sex Pistols;
12. Through Low Light and Trees – Smoke Fairies;
13. I’m New Here – Gil Scott Heron;
14. White Blood Cells – The White Stripes;
15. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses;
16. The Repulsion Box – Sons and Daughters;
17. The Woods – Sleater Kinney;
18. Silence Yourself – Savages;
19. As Heard on Radio Soulwax, Pt 2 – 2 many djs;
20. Amnesiac – Radiohead.
And this means I’ve missed out the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Auf der Maur, Blondie, The Fall, The Smiths, Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg, Billy Childish, Chemical Brothers, The Slits, Yo La Tengo, Can and so many more.
Now it is your turn..