14.2.06

NME -- The Most Maddening Listmakers Ever!

I find it very interesting to compare NME's new list of the "100 Greatest British Albums Ever!" with the British albums on "NME's 100 Best Albums" list from 3 years earlier.

First, here's the new NME list:

100) Derek and Clive - (Live) (1976)
99) Patrick Wolf - Lycanthropy (2004)
98) Roots Manuva - Run Come Save Me (2001)
97) Led Zeppelin - IV (1971)
96) Adam and The Ants - Kings of The Wild Frontier (1980)
95) Julian Cope - Jehovahkill (1992)
94) The Futureheads - S/T (2004)
93) Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets (1974)
92) Oasis (What's The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
91) The Fall - This Nation's Saving Grace (1985)
90) Supergrass - I Should Coco (1995)
89) Blur - Parklife (1994)
88) Underworld - Dubnobasswithmyheadman (1993)
87) The Small Faces - Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (1968)
86) George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (1970)
85) ABC - The Lexicon of Love (1982)
84) Redskins - Neither Washington Nor Moscow... (1974)
83) Wire - Pink Flag (1977)
82) The Happy Mondays - Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches (1990)
81) Antony and The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now (2005)
80) Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1970)
79) Teenage Fanclub - Bandwagonesque (1991)
78) Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)
77) The Beta Band - The 3 E.P.s (1998)
76) Cornershop - When I Was Born For The 7th Time (1997)
75) Tricky - Maxinquaye (1995)
74) Prodigy - Music For The Jilted Generation (1994)
73) Kasier Chiefs - Employment (2005)
72) Joy Divison - Closer (1980)
71) Buzzcocks - Love Bites (1978)
70) Spacemen 3 - The Perfect Prescription (1987)
69) Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure (1972)
68) The Pretty Things - SF Sorrow (1968)
67) Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head (2002)
66) Elvis Costello - This Year's Model (1978)
65) Radiohead - Kid A (2000)
64) Gang Of Four - Entertainment! (1978)
63) David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust... (1972)
62) Saint Etienne - Fox Base Alpha (1991)
61) Echo and The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain (1984)
60) The Human League - Dare! (1981)
59) The Clash - S/T (1977)
58) Suede - Dog Man Star (1994)
57) The Cure - The Head On The Door (1985)
56) Portishead - Dummy (1994)
55) Bloc Party - Silent Alarm [NME bizarrely calls it S/T] (2005)
54) Morrissey - Vauxhall & I (1994)
53) The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed (1969)
52) Madness - One Step Beyond (1979)
51) Billy Bragg - Talking With The Taxman About Poetry (1986)
50) The La's - S/T (1990)
49) The Who - My Generation (1965)
48) Elastica - S/T (1995)
47) The Libertines S/T (2004)
46) Pulp His 'N' Hers (1994)
45) The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free (2004)
44) Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)
43) The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St. (1972)
42) The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy (1985)
41) Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love (1985)
40) Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner (2003)
39) Ride - Nowhere (1990)
38) Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating... (1997)
37) Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible (1994)
36) The Beatles - S/T (1968)
35) Radiohead - OK Computer (1997)
34) The Jam - All Mod Cons (1978)
33) Coldplay - Parachutes (2000)
32) The Zombies - Odessey and Oracle (1968)
31) Massive Attack - Blue Lines (1991)
30) Suede - S/T (1993)
29) Led Zeppelin - II (1969)
28) Nick Drake - Bryter Layter (1970)
27) PJ Harvey - Dry (1992)
26) The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow (1984)
25) The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)
24) Pet Shop Boys - Please (1986)
23) New Order - Technique (1989)
22) Super Furry Animals - Radiator (1997)
21) Muse - Absolution (2003)
20) The Beatles - Rubber Soul (1965)
19) The Smiths - Strangeways Here We Come (1987)
18) Franz Ferdinand - S/T (2004)
17) The Streets - Original Pirate Material (2002)
16) Dexys Midnight Runners - Searching For The Young... (1980)
15) Primal Scream - Screamadelica (1991)
14) David Bowie - Hunky Dory (1971)
13) The Verve - A Northern Soul (1995)
12) The Specials - S/T (1979)
11) Radiohead - The Bends (1995)
10) The Libertines - Up The Bracket (2002)
9) The Beatles - Revolver (1966)
8) The Clash - London Calling (1979)
7) Pulp - Different Class (1995)
6) Blur - Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993)
5) Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am... (2006)
4) Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks (1978)
3) Oasis - Definitely Maybe (1994)
2) The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead (1986)
1) The Stone Roses - S/T (1989)

Second, here are the top British albums from the 2003 NME list. (Note that since the 2003 list had no geographic limitation, I have included only the British albums on the list, in the order they would have appeared had non-British albums been excluded.)

1) The Stone Roses - S/T (also overall #1)
2) The Beatles - Revolver
3) The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
4) Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks
5) My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
6) The Clash - London Calling
7) Oasis - Definitely Maybe
8) Joy Division - Closer
9) Radiohead - OK Computer
10) Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentleman...
11) New Order - Technique
12) Primal Scream - Screamadelica
13) The Beatles - S/T (White Album)
14) The Smiths - Strangeways, Here We Come
15) David Bowie - Low
16) The Verve - A Northern Soul
17) Massive Attack - Blue Lines
18) Oasis - (What's the Story) Morning Glory
19) Scott Walker - Scott 4
20) Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head
21) Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
22) David Bowie - Hunky Dory
23) Radiohead - The Bends
24) Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV
25) The Streets - Original Pirate Material
26) Blur - Parklife
27) The Smiths - Hatful of Hollow
28) The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
29) The Smiths - S/T
30) Aphex Twin - Richard D James Album
31) Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure
32) The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
33) The Specials - S/T
34) Pulp - His 'N' Hers
35) Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis
36) Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left
37) Duran Duran - Rio
38) Underworld - Dubnobasswithmyheadman
39) Dexys Midnight Runners - Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
40) Andrew WK - I Get Wet
41) The Verve - Urban Hymns
42) Pulp - This Is Hardcore
43) The Coral - The Coral
44) Suede - Dog Man Star
45) The Clash - The Clash
46) The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy
47) Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
48) The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed
49) David Bowie - "Heroes"
50) The Slits - Cut
51) Primal Scream - Exterminator
52) Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92
53) Pink Floyd - Piper at the Gates of Dawn
54) PJ Harvey - Stories from the City...

As an initial matter, let's give props where they are due for NME consistently voting The Stone Roses as the best album ever. While it would not be my personal #1, it certainly would be in my Top 10.

Although I believe there is a lot of junk on both lists, ultimately it is very surprising how few of the British albums I really care about are not on one or both of these lists. The big omission that comes to mind is The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. When I was growing up, this album always topped these lists. Now it does not even rate a mention in the Top 100. Is that really possible? Another inexplicable oversight is The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet. Does anyone at NME actually believe that Blur - Modern Life Is Rubbish (#6) is better than that album? If so, please raise your hand so that I may smack you with a white glove. Other (albeit less glaring) omissions that come to mind include The Smiths - Meat Is Murder, New Order - Power, Corruption & Lies, and Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister.

But, as I mentioned above, it is the comparison of the lists I find most fascinating. What albums have fallen out of critical favour during the last three years? What albums have significantly raised their level of critical appreciation during that period?

Before we look at some of the winners and losers, I should note that the methodology used by NME for determining which artists are "British" in the most recent list is unclear. The preface to the list refers to the UK, but Irish artists such as U2 and Van Morrison appear to have been excluded. Ditto My Bloody Valentine, for reasons I do not fully understand (the geographic locus of MBV is certainly open to debate). Thus, when comparing the lists, I will assume that Astral Weeks and Loveless have been excluded from the new list for geographic, not quality, reasons.

Those albums on the rise include:

Blur - Modern Life Is Rubbish (#6 in 2006, not ranked in 2003)
Pulp - Different Class (#7, n/r)
The Libertines - Up the Bracket (#10, n/r)
Super Furry Animals - Radiator (#22, n/r)
Pet Shop Boys - Please (#24, n/r)
The Kinks - The Village Green... (#25, n/r)
PJ Harvey - Dry (#27, n/r)
Nick Drake - Bryter Layter (#28, n/r)
Suede - Suede (#30, n/r)
The Zombies - Odessey and Oracle (#32, n/r)
Coldplay - Parachutes (#33, n/r)
The Jam - All Mod Cons (#34, n/r)
Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible (#37, n/r)
Ride - Nowhere (#39, n/r)
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love (#41, n/r)
Elastica - Elastica (#48, n/r)
The Who - My Generation (#49, n/r)
The La's - S/T (#50, n/r)

On the flip side, those albums on the decline include:

Joy Division - Closer (#8 in 2003, #72 in 2006)
Radiohead - OK Computer (#9, #35)
David Bowie - Low (#15, n/r)
Oasis - (What's the Story) Morning Glory (#18, #92)
Scott Walker - Scott 4 (#19, n/r)
Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head (#20, n/r)
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (#24, #97)
Blur - Parklife (#26, #89)
The Smiths - S/T (#29, n/r)
Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis (#35, n/r)
Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left (#36, n/r)
Duran Duran - Rio (#37, n/r)
Andrew WK - I Get Wet (#40, n/r)
Pulp - This Is Hardcore (#42, n/r)
The Coral - S/T (#43, n/r)

Any other interesting observations?

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting bit of reportage here... You're right too, this list sucks!

Seems crazy that not a single Donovan album would be listed, whilst the Barabajagal-"inspired" Happy Mondays LP "Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches" thrives on the list. Moreover, to choose any Nick Drake album over ol' Dono is just plain pretentious, as no matter how much you might like Nick-- and I do-- his output is just dwarfed by that of Donovan. While that could come down to critical preference, it seems to me that all of Nick Drake's records sound pretty much the same, while by comparison, Donovan is nearly the Miles Davis of English folk-rock! And if you are going to include any English folk-rock, you might think about Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Incredible String Band and my goodness, who else have I left out?

Also, interesting that no German bands made the list-- I know, don't mention the war! Do you think that Faust, Kraftwerk, Cluster or Ash Ra Tempel might just really have it over DEXY'S?! No T. Rex or 'Slanted and Enchanted"? A George Harrison album makes the list but no Lennon solo?? I better stop now... I am thinking of blowing up a certain tiny island former empire and that might get me into trouble with someone.

15/2/06 14:15  
Blogger Marlow said...

Why do you include Andrew W.K.? Is it just because it's funny that he would be included on any "best" list?

16/2/06 15:29  
Blogger Marlow said...

I also don't think that either Scott Walker or Antony and the Johnsons qualify as British, but that's the NME, I guess.

17/2/06 13:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, me again... Disregard some of what I said as I had forgotten in the course of writing my comments that the list was the best BRITISH bands.

Come on Eileen, you can do better next time!!

Sorry to be such a git/prat/sod/wally/wanker/nobber/nugget/hey, make up your own...

BTW, I meant to mention the lovely and mighty Pentangle in my little UK folk-rock pantheon.

I am just relieved to know that there is a widespread consensus, apparently, that the Cornershop are nearly twice as good as Led Zeppelin.

18/2/06 13:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me again... sorry, I will register as soon as I find a name I want that isn't already taken.

I just want to register my surprise and dismay that the Syd Barrett album "The Madcap Laughs" is not included either. I mean not only is it bloody brilliant, pardon the expression, but it is a cool name-dropper like Nick Drake (or, hmmmm, perhaps a passé namedropper?) AND it spawned about a billion other groups and albums and is arguably one of the most oft-studied and influential albums in UK history. For example, there wouldn't even BE a Robyn Hitchcock if it weren't for that album. (Thank goodness he didn't make the list although probably the Soft Boys "Underwater Moonlight" should be on it.)

Bottom line I guess is that it isn't a MOJO list.

I wish it were.

I guess we should just be thankful that there was no late-era Soup Dragons on there.

18/2/06 14:47  
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