New York City, baby.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Musings On The 100 Best British Albums

Stone Roses? The Best British album of all time? According to a poll conducted by the UK Observer, you bet your bloody ass.

You would never see such a – what’s the word? — eclectic selection on an American list. That would be like Rolling Stone putting at #1 the Velvet Underground & Nico’s Banana Album.

If America picked the best British Albums, no doubt that at the top of the list would be Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (true to form, the British critics put the more understated, overlooked Revolver above it). Perhaps that’s the point: The British want to see themselves as understated and overlooked; that's their place in the modern world and they cherish it.

While this desire is clearly reflected in the Observer list, America has a different wish, and that’s to be seen as heroic and important. Thus, the most heroic and important album would also be the best American album; and that would be U2’s Joshua Tree.

Wait, you say. How can U2 be the best American band? They're from Ireland. True, but somehow they still managed to create the quintessential American album with their powerful 1987 release. But suppose we adhere to conventional rules. In that case, we're sure America would go with the next best thing: Bruce Springsteen. You don't get any more heroic and important than that.

The only problem is that his biggest selling album Born In The USA, is a searing critique of the American Dream and how idealistic youth must fight like hell not to be swallowed up in a vacuum of hypocrisy. Thank God for us a perfect alternative exists; the much less angry, but still epic Born To Run.

The American lack of understanding of the British music fan's mentality is actually encapsulated by this Chi town critic:

In general, you Brits really fall (and hard) for certain inexplicable cons! I mean, come on, now - is the Stone Roses' one brief, shining, but exceedingly overrated moment in the sun really the one disc you'd choose to put in a time capsule to introduce alien cultures to all that is great about British rock? You're going to champion that lame retread disco beat, that whiny singer, those oh-so-dated chiming guitars and all the lifted Simon and Garfunkelisms (it's OK with us, you can have 'em!)?

It’s interesting to see who the Observer panel members (Emma Bunton qualifies?) put on their personal top ten list. Actually, Baby Spice's list is shockingly sophisticated (Regatta de Blanc??) although there's a few scary moments (Wham!). Panelist Ozzy Osbourne votes Peter Gabriel's So as the 4th best British album; after all, who can't see Ozzy singing along with Kate Bush on "Don't Give Up"? Mr. Streets, God bless him, puts his own Original Pirates Material at #6 -- some might say picking your own album is slightly bad form. The best top ten list goes to Morrissey:

1. For Your Pleasure Roxy Music*
(*Morrissey claims he can only think of one truly great British album and that this is it)

What's your list? Off the top of my head, here’s ours. (Can I somehow avoid Exile on Main St. and still keep my cred, that is the question).

1. Hunky Dory David Bowie
2. Revolver The Beatles
3. Madman Across The Water Elton John
4. Moondance Van Morrison
5. Definitely Maybe Oasis
6. Louder Than Bombs The Smiths
7. Imperial Bedroom Elvis Costello
8. Parklife Blur
9. Houses of The Holy Led Zeppelin
10. OK Computer Radiohead/Rush Of Blood To The Head Coldplay

Rush Of Blood is just one of the albums that we can’t believe didn’t make The Observer’s top 100 list. For instance, Pulp’s Different Class got snubbed for the likes of Human League. Unbelievable. We also noticed that Sting gets no love from his fellow countrymen, and while we fully understand the urge to ignore him, he probably deserves to have atleast one of his album in the top 100. Our choice would be the ethereal, melancholy Soul Cages.

In the Observer special, Miranda Sawyer postulates why there aren't more women on the list:

"Why aren't there any more women in this list? Because mostly it's voted for by men who like lists, and voting, and spoddy men are traditionalists. They want their bands to have four male members, preferably singer/guitarist, guitarist, bass and drums, and they want nice tunes, a bit of a wig-out and some anger and wit, but not too much. Thus they like the Beatles and the Stone Roses and Oasis."

She can't be talking about us?


  • At October 14, 2004 at 1:52 AM, Blogger that girl said…

    Louder Than Bombs is fantastic, I'm glad to see it in the top 10.

    I have one Van Morrison CD, and love it... especially Spanish Rose, have you heard that track?


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