When I was a teenager I was a fanatic follower of various bands and would have easily been able to tell you what my twelve favourite albums were. I would have been happy if someone asked me. Of course, no-one ever did.
Then I got into playing music and stopped listening so much. When you are spending every day jamming or performing, or listening to your friends’ bands, you don’t listen to recorded music for entertainment. Well, I didn’t, anyway. I needed a break from it. Silent time was good time.
For the last ten years or so I have been getting increasingly into music but something has changed… I’m not a fan any more. For example, I used to love The Buzzcocks to the point where I would have argued heatedly if you pointed out that A Different Kind of Tension is a bad record in a lot of places. Now…I’d probably be the one telling you that.
I don’t want to hear Pete Shelley’s bad songs! Can’t I just listen to the good songs? Isn’t that what compilation albums are for?
I’ve been this way for a while. I remember laughing, years ago, when someone tried to defend London Calling as a “brilliant punk album.” My point was that lots of the second half is bullshit. (I can’t even remember how a lot of those songs go, they are so ordinary. I just want to hear Hateful and Coca Cola). But this guy was prepared to stand there and say that “every song is totally fantastic and that The Clash were the best band ever.”
I kind of miss that. I don’t seem to be able to defend bands any more. And there’s virtually no single album from back then I’d listen to the whole way through.
Consequently when I come to review my list of top twelve albums I have a lot of caveats and a lot of my favourite bands don’t even make it. Here’s an alphabetised list of what I’m talking about…
The B52s: The self-titled debut is easily on the list of favourite albums but Wild Planet suffered incredibly from difficult second album syndrome. I loved the direction they were going on Mesopotamia but let’s face it, they didn’t really have the talent to sustain it. The rest of their stuff is wack. ‘Love Shack’ included.
The Buzzcocks: The first two albums are great punk but eh, I’m not happy with Singles Going Steady as a choice here. I prefer a compilation called I Don’t Mind The Buzzcocks and even that has some shit choices and key songs missing.
The Clash: This band really do not have a single LP that makes the list, let alone a double or a triple. Sandanista is just crap. I love the songs ‘Stay Free’, ‘All the Young Punks’ and ‘Safe European Home’ so much that I can say Give Em Enough Rope is my favourite record by this band but that is about all I can say.
The Cramps: This band had flashes of total genius on every early album but I can’t imagine sitting through a whole record and Off the Bone has all the wrong songs on it. How can you say it is a “best of” without ‘Teenage Werewolf?’
Devo. OK, this is an exception. Duty Now For the Future is amazing, and I could say it is one of my favourite records by a favourite band. Are We Not Men is close behind.
The Gun Club: Fire of Love is one of my favourite records but I actually don’t like much else by this band…so I couldn’t say they are one of my favourite bands.
Hunters and Collectors: The Jaws of Life. This is the best record ever made in Australia, although I don’t listen to much other HanC and find their early stuff a bit too arty (although the Towtruck EP is sublime) and their later stuff too wussy. I think this is almost brilliant by accident: a confluence of a very good band in perfect form with a great producer.
The Jam: I love this band, and Sound Affects is probably in my top twelve, but Dig the New Breed is another option. So, probably an exception, altough once again I’d really rather just make my own compilation…
Joy Division: Lots of Unknown Pleasures is actually kind of boring and maudlin and most of their really good songs are not there. Whoever chose the tracks on Substance has parts of their brain missing. I can say that Closer is may favourite record by this band, and that they are one of my favourite bands. But strangely, this does not translate into saying it is one of my favourite albums.
New Order: ‘Procession’ is my favourite song and I have gotten exquisite pleasure listening to this band on early recordings but would not put either Movement or Power, Corruption and Lies on my list, and actively hate a lot of their new stuff.
The Ramones: End of the Century. I hate a lot of the Ramones later work but the songwriting is good enough on this record to carry it. Only a few tracks stink. I would miss ‘California Sun’ and ‘Sheena‘ but there really is a lot of filler on those early records and I couldn’t listen to a whole one.
Velvet Underground: I’m almost tempted to say Loaded just because the two singles were so good, but really The Banana Album is their best work and if it isn’t in my top twelve, I don’t know what is. I’m not even sure if I like this band the rest of the time.
So, y’see what I’m saying, right? I’m just not a fan any more. A lot of music is just too…bad.