15th Jan 2012
At last! Someone's decided to take the time to list their nine favourite unsuccessful albums. Well here it is folks...
1. Captain Beefheart - Shiny beast (Bat Chain Puller)
Supposedly part of his less interesting period, Shiny beast actually represents Beefheart at his peak. All of his albums live in the shadow of the impenetrable Trout Mask Replica, which Beefheart himself admitted went too far. This penultimate album shows him at his most accesible, and arguably displays the perfect balance of pop and avant garde weirdness.
2. Bob Dylan - Shot of Love
The 80s meet Bob Dylan’s critically reviled Christian era. Chronologically, Shot of Love suffers from coming after some real stinkers (ie Saved) and has been subjected to the same vitriol. But in fact Shot is a fine album, signalling a return to form for His Bobness, including as it does such gems as Every Grain of Sand, In the Summertime and the anthemic Property of Jesus.
3. Cat Stevens - Teaser and the Firecat
Proof that good songwriting can transcend twee production. Cat Stevens will never be regarded in such high regard as earnest songwriters such as Leonard Cohen or Kurt Cobain but his songs are simple, sweet and consistently good.
4. Adam Green - Friends of Mine
Disappointed a lot of Green’s fans as it was a bit of a tangent from the Anti-folk sound he’d helped to pioneer. Gone were the hissing Lo-fi recordings and in with lush, though simple, strings and crystal clear guitars and vocals swathed in reverb. Some argued that he’d sold out, I just feel that he’d identified a different problem with modern music, that of the gushingly ernest sickly indie anthems by the likes of Coldplay, Snow Patrol and The Killers, and decided to make a very restrained, almost twee, sounding album.
5. Blackalicious - Blazing Arrow
A personal favourite, this is Blackalicious’ finest hour. They pulled out all the stops to create an album that gives hiphop’s boundaries a final push, just before the genre began its decent into irrelevance. On the wrong side of 2000, it did not acheive the fame it deserves. Featuring Gil Scott Heron and Ben Harper and introducing Lyrics Born to a wider audience. Just when you think it can’t get any better, Saul Williams pops up!
Its a very musical record for a hip hop LP and all the interludes are well integrated so they don’t get annoying.
6. Bran Van 300 - Glee
Everyone knows their song Drinkin in LA. It became quite a big hit after it was used on an advert for Rolling Rock beer in the late 90s. Its a crying shame that most people’s knowledge of this band does not extend beyond that point. The album it came from, Glee, is wildly experimental, varied and colourful. This album has probably influenced the sounds of Waler more than anything else.
7. The Beatles - Magical Mystery tour.
Not as well-regarded as say Sgt Peppers or Abbey Road but this one’s got all the best songs: I Am The Walrus, Blue Jay Way, Hello Goodbye... I could go on. I also toyed with listing Yellow Submarine. Far from just a novelty album, it contains some moments of genuine progressive psychedlia that, as usual, were decades ahead of their time. Just listen to It’s All Too Much.
8. Public Enemy - Apocalypse ’91
Perhaps they were repeating themselves by this point. It is a very similar sounding album to its predecessor - Fear Of A Black Planet - but tunes like Nighttrain and the alternative version of Bring The Noize with metal band Anthrax are just completely explosive.
9. Material - Temporary Music
This debut album by ZE Records (Kid Creole & The Coconuts, Was (Not Was) and John Cale) group, Material, sounds a bit weird when you first hear it but its one of the best creepy no wave disco albums I can think of (and there were quite a few!). I think perhaps their lack of popularity, even today, could be attributed to their roving palette of sounds. To me this is a bonus, but it does make them harder to define. Bands like ESG and Was (Not Was) fair much better because, although they’re just as avant-garde, their aesthetic is fairly consistent.