Monday, April 18, 2005

Waxing Lyrical about Lyrical Waxings

Radiohead’s OK Computer was voted the best album of all time on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Albums show last night and although it remains a wonderful album, Kid A, for me is the finest Radiohead recording, an electronic masterpiece that certainly repays repeated listening. A theme continues throughout the poll of more popular, mainstream albums being preferred to more critically acclaimed (by me!) alternatives. So R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People features ahead of any of the swaggering, epic first five albums by the Georgians. Blur’s Parklife is a cracking little album but Blur, 13 and Think Tank are far more challenging and intelligent. I think The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa – not on the list – is more relentlessly exhilarating than the lighter and poppier Doolittle and I know that S would claim Come On Pilgrim to be the finest Pixies record. And so on. Naturally I have been chewing over my Top Five favourite albums today. Here goes and in no particular order:

Boards of Canada’s Music the Right to Children (1998) – such a unique sound, a warm and comforting electronic brew evoking a strange but gorgeous Scottish scene. S and I have regular discussions about the genius of the middle three tracks: Kaini Industries, Bocuma and Roygbiv. A trio of belters!

Joy Division’s Closer (1980) – almost a concept album dealing with despair and death I suppose. We all know what happened next. This is beautiful music, utterly compelling from the first manic drum beats of Atrocity Exhibition.

The Fall’s This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985) – a post-punk meisterwerk, jerky and with angles Euclid would be proud of. The lyrics are among Smith’s finest, obtuse, cutting and witty as heck.

Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted (1992) – Challenging stuff this and an album I really had to persevere with. Eventually the tunes start emerging from the ether and like muck, they stay stuck. A lo-fi work of art. A toss-up between this and Brighten the Corners for my favourite Pavement album. Winning me over are the mumbled and oblique Zurich is Stained (what is that about?) and the perfect pop gem Here. Firm yet intensive lobbying by D in the Iguana last Saturday - its all coming back to me slowly - also helped Slanted’s cause. I might go and play this one later.

Radiohead’s Kid A (2000) – I found out on the wireless this week that Thom Yorke and the Greenwoods have a huge Autechre fixation which helps explain the fractured pulses and dense atmosphere that permeate this fascinating piece of art. This is life-affirming stuff and, it has to be said, a lot better than anything by dear, dear Autechre.