50 classic albums to listen to before you die (5/5)

By Daniel Margrain

Dummy (1994) Portishead
Bristol’s Portishead skillfully create spectral soundscapes and desolate laments against a casual backdrop of electronic music that floats over a disorienting flow of syncopated beats – a style clearly inspired by “junk” culture, cocktail lounge and film noir. The atmosphere is disturbed by small dissonances, wailing electronics, turntable scratching and sampling.

 

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Head Over Heels (1983) Cocteau Twins
This ‘Dream Pop’ masterpiece magically blends celestial singalongs, middle-eastern psalms, majestic spirituals, tingling guitars and neoclassical keyboards. What is created is a sound that is both elegant and lush. The songs exhibit the levity and grace of madrigals but also the gloom and pomp of requiems. Liz Fraser’s emotionally powerful vocals act as an original instrument.

 

Fun House (1970) The Stooges
Iggy and The Stooges were the first to push rock and roll to the extremes and they are in a sense the ultimate antithesis of chic respectability. They are, in other words, the epitome of rock and roll in all of its grim degrading depravity and erotic delusions. Continuing on from where they left off with their seminal debut, Fun House takes their visceral rock dynamite to another level. With this album, the Stooges anticipate the wild voodoobilly ‘swamp’ rhythm as well as punk rock. This album flows at dizzying speeds of distortion without a moment’s pause.

 

The Three EPs (1998)  The Beta Band
While The Beta Band had clearly listened to a back-catalogue of artists like The United States Of America, Kevin Ayers, Can and Pink Floyd for inspiration, The Three EPs is nevertheless an inventive work in its own right. A clever combination of electronica, hip-hop, piano-led ballads, Gregorian chanting, folk and musique concrete, have resulted in a modern psychedelic work of outstanding originality. The collection is mainly built around a succession of infectious shuffling beats, experimental sound collages, gentle whimsically-inflected ballads and languid-style grooves. This album is one of the most mesmerizing psychedelic trips ever produced.

 

I Could Live In Hope (1994) Low
Low create hypnotic psalm-like minimalist music that is way ahead of its time. The languid guitar sound, soft harmonies and radiant melodies are modernist variations of the themes first coined by Nick Drake that also hints at the neurosis and tone of Cowboy Junkies, Neil Young and Galaxie 500.

 

Talking Heads: 77 (1977) Talking Heads
77 is the first of the Talking Heads opening trilogy of masterpieces. David Byrne’s eccentric songs and bizarre stories are underpinned by a brilliant rhythm section that is a hybrid of funk and rock and roll. Although the music on the album is ‘catchy’, it is only superficially so. Fundamentally, Byrne hints at an underlying anxiety that is offset by a cool detachment and alienation. 77 is arguably the most significant albums of the new wave and Talking Heads one of the most important bands of all-time.

 

Daydream Nation (1988) Sonic Youth
Arguably the signature for post-punk, Sonic Youth finely balanced an experimental approach with subtle harmonies to produce a unity of style and arrangement that is detached and cold yet beautiful and hypnotic. The noise is stretched to the limit as the obsessive repetition of chords and insistent percussion create an atmosphere of suspense similar to Neu. The bands best work is contained in this album and, with Eric’s Trip, they produced one of rock music’s all-time classic cuts.

 

The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (1968) The Incredible String Band
The Incredible String Band’s most imaginative and accomplished record, Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, is a psychedelic-folk classic that integrates a wide variety of traditional music forms and instruments and was one of the key recordings that helped nurture the development of world music.

 

From Her To Eternity (1984) Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Located at the intersection where art and life appear to coexist, Nick Cave’s psychotic neurosis expressed with this album is almost like an extension of his own funeral requiem. More to the point, Cave’s masterpiece is a highly original sounding expressionistic odyssey akin to a descent into the depths of hell. At the edge of dissonance, the albums pounding drums, sledgehammer noise and Cave’s grotesque fables are an awesome combination. The images of toiling labour, pirates aboard creaking ships and invocations of US ‘Deep South’ literary traditions, is illustrative of Cave at his visceral best. Sadly, though, many of his subsequent works lack the allegorical story-telling, dramatic brilliance and consistency of this album, and instead tended to slip into the realms of over-indulgence.

 

Yerself Is Steam (1991) Mercury Rev
Yerself Is Steam is a pyrotechnical and extravagant synthesis of anarchic freakouts in the tradition of Red Crayola which collide with contemplative new age music. What emerges is an imaginative modern psychedelic take on the 1960s acid-rock of West coast America. The vision of the album is one of chaos, decadence and neurosis.

3 thoughts on “50 classic albums to listen to before you die (5/5)

  1. ‘The Hangmans Beautiful Daughter ‘ – ( thank god ) but please surely either ‘ Victorialand or ‘ The Moon and the Melodies ‘ over the jeujeune ‘ Head over Heels ? Ditto ‘ Fear of Music ‘ or ‘ Naked ‘ over ‘ 77 ‘ , and ‘ Tender Prey ‘, ‘ Let Love In ‘ or even ‘ Murder Ballads’ over ‘ From Her to Eternity ‘ . Now for your list of Classical , Jazz , and International Folk top 50’s please ….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re a man with a great music taste. The albums you listed could have pushed for a place in the 50. So many great albums.

      Like

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