Album

No.14 – The Beatles, ‘Abbey Road’

Yeah, no, this is too much Beatles – we’ve talked about this. ‘Abbey Road’ is fine but it’s nowhere near as good or interesting enough to even bother reviewing compared with some of the albums we’ve got coming up.

One thing I do love about this album, however, is one of my personal favourite pieces of Beatles-trivia-slash-conspiracy-theories: the cover art famously proves that Paul McCartney had in fact died and been replaced by an impersonator. We can tell he’s dead because he has bare feet – I guess ghosts don’t need shoes – and because the car on the road is headed right for him. And he’s stepping forward with a different leg from the others, which shows he is different, specifically that they are alive and he is dead.

The best thing about this theory – sorry, I mean fact – is that they obviously managed to replace the old Paul with someone who is talented enough to continue writing music at the same calibre as the old one and have just as successful a career. Well done, guys.

When to listen to it: While writing up a business plan for your new line of shoes for ghosts, which you’ve named Phantom Phootwear.

Verdict: Who cares?

6/10

Album

No.13 – The Velvet Underground & Nico, ‘The Velvet Underground’

Guys! GUYS! It’s a woman! Our first woman of the list!

Sure, it’s a bit disappointing that the first credited female musician is just an add-on, and the album title is the name of the artist who is not her, but hey.

And actually… ‘The Velvet Underground’ is disappointing in a few other ways too.

Given how much of an influence this band have been on a number of my favourite musicians, and given how high up on the list the album is, and given how iconique the album art is, I was expecting a lot more from this. For the most part, nothing really caught my attention besides the songs I already knew. It seemed to just chug along semi-pleasantly.

But then again – it could just be that the format of this challenge doesn’t really lend itself to albums that are growers, which ‘The Velvet Underground’ could well be. All the albums here that I haven’t heard before are only getting one or two listens, for the most part, before I give a verdict. That’s no good for records that you have to get to know, or ones that slowly reveal themselves over time. So, I’m reluctant to write ‘The Velvet Underground’ off, because I get the feeling that it is one such record.

Anyway. I just looked up Nico on Wikipedia and her friends apparently described her as racist and ‘Nazi-esque’ so uh… charming.

When to listen to it: Sitting on a pile of cushions on the floor with a group of friends, passing a joint around, not saying a word, but actually thinking some quite racist words.

Verdict: I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now.

5/10

Album

No.12 – Miles Davis, ‘Kind of Blue’

I’m sorry, Miles, I really am. You know those albums where you can tell the musician is good – and Davis is superb – but it just doesn’t do it for you?

I mean, heck, I even enjoy the sound of jazz… but I was raised on modern pop and rock, and as a result I simply cannot do music that doesn’t have vocals.

I feel like I should return my music snob licence just for writing that.

Miles – forgive me. You’re fantastic. Sadly, I am unappreciative scum, so I’m going to have to politely decline ‘Kind of Blue’.

When to listen to it: Right, give me my music snob licence back so it can be revoked again for the comment I’m about to make. Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue’ primarily reminded me of the music in the Sims 1 expansion pack ‘Hot Date’. You should listen to ‘Kind of Blue’ when you’re building a downtown lot for your first-gen Sims to smooch in. God, Miles, I really can’t apologise enough.

Verdict: It’s not for me.

4/10

Album

No.10 – The Beatles, ‘The White Album’

All right, confession time. For all the shit I talk about The Beatles, I actually love ‘The White Album’. It’s awesome. It feels just as fresh as if it had been released this year. I thought that when I heard it 10 years ago and you know what, I still think it now.

A fun fact about this record: Charles Manson listened to it a lot in prison – pre-Family and pre-murders – and thought the band were trying to communicate the end of the world to him. Helter Skelter was supposedly what the apocalypse would be called; Revolution 9 was what he and his Family would hear going on in the outside world as it ends; and I can’t remember what he thought Piggies was about but I’m pretty sure it was something super racist.

Anyway, even outside of all the grim history of this album that appealed to 16-year-old goth Kim in the first place, it’s brilliant. The tunes are melodic, they’re passionate, and they’re varied. Here the four experiment with folk, baroque pop, heavy rock, and outright experimental stuff – and every time it seems to work and create something worth listening to.

When to listen to it: When you’re a literal murderous sociopath stewing in the clink, apparently.

Verdict. It’s good. Oh man, it’s good. Still a bit tired of listening to Beatles though.

8.5/10

Album

No.8 – The Clash, ‘London Calling’

Oh, I am loving this.

Despite being a hella, ultra punk teenager, ‘London Calling’ has somehow escaped my musical grasp for a really long time – it’s just one of those that I never quite got round to listening to.

Hats off to this challenge for finally getting me there. This album rules.

I don’t need to talk about all the subsequent artists who this has obviously influenced, because it’s quite clear that this was not just a seminal punk album but a seminal mainstream rock one too. Strummer’s disaffected drawl, the band’s uninhibited energy, the whistleable riffs and hooks – it’s doing something special. I love it.

When to listen to it: In the pub after a jolly good protest somewhere outside Downing Street.

Verdict: What can I say? It’s great. It’s worked hard over the years. It’s still exciting after four whole decades.

8/10

Album

No.7 – The Rolling Stones, ‘Exile on Main Street’

The main thing I can say about ‘Exile on Main Street’ is that it’s fun. I found myself havin’ a boogie, often without realising I was doing so and to my utter horror, which is certainly a good sign. ‘Tumbling Dice’ and ‘Sweet Virginia’ provided some standouts that got me inadvertently jivin’.

However, besides a few moments of “ooh, I like this one”, it was ultimately a lot of the same. I can only just about point to those two songs as highlights, and even then I can’t say I’m 100% sure they’re the ones I mean. I certainly couldn’t sing them to you if you asked me to (not that you should, given how much my singing voice sounds like a chainsmoking cat slowly dying).

Ultimately, I liked ‘Exile on Main Street’. But I liked in that way where you just raise your eyebrows slightly and kind of purse your lips and nod, you know?

When to listen to it: When you’re getting ready for a night out, somewhere after choosing an outfit but before the hairspray goes on.

Verdict: Enjoyable from start to finish. Can’t really say much more than that though.

6.5/10

Album

No.6 – Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On’

I’ll warn you right now: I’ve given this album a 5/10, and it does not deserve a 5/10. ‘What’s Going On’ is a good album… it’s just not my sort of thing. Sorry, Marv.

What’s Going On? Not much, really. I feel like, rather than starting a quality album, the question is instead the beginning of one of those bland conversations you used to be forced to have on MSN with someone you see maybe three times a year and whose life isn’t all that fascinating. What’s going on? Nm, u? Nm. Wubu2? Nm, hbu? Nm.

Again, this could just be my personal taste, but none of the tracks on ‘What’s Going On’ particularly stood out. Which isn’t to say I disliked listening to it – I was happy enough with it on in the background. There just wasn’t enough there to keep me interested.

On the plus side, though – look! We’ve broken the straight-white-guys-only pattern!

When to listen to it: When you’re baking, and you don’t normally bake, and you don’t want to bake in silence but you also don’t want anything distracting you. It’s okay. Let Marvin’s caramel tones soothe you. The posset will set. The souffle will rise. Everything will be okay.

Verdict: Like I said, this one didn’t really do it for me, but I can’t bring myself to give it a negative review. It’s fine, you know?

5/10