Whenever I see one of those “All-time top 100 albums” polls, the kind favoured by Channel 4 or Q Magazine, where the Beatles and Radiohead always come out on top, I think it’s a great shame that the people voting don’t show a bit more imagination. While most of the albums that appear in these lists also feature in my all-encompassing record collection, there are far more interesting releases that never get a look-in. So in a special one-off, here are the five albums you would all own if only you knew they existed.
Cult underground hero and cat-lover David Michael Tibet has been making music for nearly 25 years. Aided and abetted by Nurse With Wound’s Steve Stapleton, his career has steadily progressed from near-unlistenable industrial soundscapes (I would advise readers to approach his early ‘80s work with caution) to the most delicate of acoustic folk. On this, one of his most moving releases, Tibet ponders such tricky subjects as lost love and what happens to his cats when they die.
As always, Bob Pollard tries to cram as many songs into 40 minutes as possible. Several of the tracks clock in at under a minute but these guitar-driven American pop tunes are so catchy they have you reaching for the repeat button. However, it’s Pollard’s eccentric lyrics that make GBV one of the leaders in their field – sample lines: “I’ve lost all my money to a 300 pound ghost”; “A necklace of 50 eyes is yours to keep”. Those of you familiar with my campaign against bad grammar will realise just how good this album must be when I say I’m prepared to overlook the fact that two of the songs contain a split infinitive.
WIRE – CHAIRS MISSING (EMI, 1978)
Wire’s debut “Pink Flag” often turns up in lists of essential albums but their second album offers a much more varied listen, as they start to move away from the 100mph punk thrash and experiment with more atmospheric pieces. Just like the Guided By Voices album, ‘Chairs Missing’ features a host of very short songs, each one with a totally different sound from the preceding one and inventive/meaningless (depending on your mood!) lyrics. This is a very British record though, and was a big influence on the Britpop scene of the mid-90s. However, Blur and Elastica never turned out anything this creative.
PROLAPSE – THE ITALIAN FLAG (Radar, 1997)
Prolapse are not easy to categorise. The Fall and Sonic Youth are obvious reference points but the dual vocal attack sets them apart from their contemporaries. A woman with a vaguely posh-sounding voice tells us about claustrophobia and the contents of her bedroom floor, while a drunken Scotsman rants incoherently over the top of her. The album comes with two lyric sheets, one for each of the singers, and Scottish Mick’s words are printed phonetically, just like in the books of Irvine Welsh.
Perhaps the most mainstream album in this list, but how many people actually own it? Worth owning for the opening track “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” alone (possibly THE greatest single of the 1970s?), the Mael brothers’ blend of glam rock, synth pop and operatic vocals is years ahead of its time. As with the other albums on my list, a good album is turned into a great one by the imaginative lyrics. The humour displayed on each of the tracks makes it obvious why Morrissey is a fan. A true classic, marred only by the fact that Ron Mael looks like Hitler.