Bills, that moustachioed little capuchin monkey, tagged me in what I assume is some kind of facebook meme – 20 albums that changed your life. Sadly I was too busy, like, being awesome and fracturing my ribs to write anything at the time, but realised I wanted to do it. Also I wanted to tag more people in it, because that’s how memes work right? Kind of like syphilis.
It came with a lame introductory paragraph before which I haven’t bothered including, 20 albums that changed your life, it’s pretty clear. I don’t think these are the 20 best albums, and they aren’t my favourite 20 albums either, but these are the ones that, y’know, changed my life.
Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein
Listening to this album always makes me want to make art that could come from the future. It’s got such a shamelessly futurist sonic-palette, and on top of that sci-fi ass kicking there’s Vast Aire’s godly flow. And then, when you’ve listened to it like… a hundred times you realise that Vordul is just as good, you just weren’t paying attention because Vast was stealing the show. Then you enjoy it all over again.
Frank Black & The Catholics - Pistolero
Man, in a churlish, knee-jerk way this album made me stop wanting to write about music for a living. It was given a universally lukewarm reception, while I, and it turns out many other people, were just blown away. I love a lot of music criticism, but I realised that when it comes to something you really love… you probably can’t do it any justice describing it. That’s why so many of these entries come down to – “It’s really good!” Pistolero is straight rock music as good as it gets. It kicks seven kinds of ass.
The Young Fresh Fellows - Somos Los Mejores
This is pretty much it, the reason I wanted to play music and be in a band and all the rest of it. It’s just a sloppy best of, released for the Spanish market by the Seattle power-pop legends The Young Fresh Fellows, but the songs, the energy, the sheer joy leaking out of it, are incredible. The only song I didn’t like back when I was running around the house playing air-guitar to this, is now my favourite.
Jackson Browne - Lives in the Balance
My parents always liked Jackson Browne and his 1980s albums, specifically this one and World In Motion, had a huge influence on my… melodic tendencies or whatever.
Queen - The Miracle
I haven’t listened to this album in… maybe more than ten years. I bet I could still sing every word, even the yelps.
Frank Zappa – Strictly Commercial
A best of that I played to death. Does humour belong in music? Hell yes it does.
Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
Sounds like nothing else, like a cheap recording studio that you want to be in.
The Beatles - Abbey Road
These are the records that changed my life, so I thought a lot of this should come from my formative years. I don’t know which Beatles album would be the best one to choose, but I’m pretty sure that singing along with this in the car on family holidays had a scary amount of influence on my life.
The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I
So I read a review of this on Pitchfork that sounded interesting and thought, hmmm, I bet Tempest have a copy of that. They did, and I got it and brought it back to my tiny, ridiculous bedroom that I lived in the year after I graduated. My bedroom then was the cheapest one in the house, and I crammed a double bed in there somehow, leaving me about 4ft of floor space. So I lived on the bed, and I remember sitting on it and doing nothing but listening to this album. Oh, it starts well, but when you get to that first transcendent kick in “A Life of Possibilities”… I don’t think I could move. One of the best albums ever.
The Pixies - Come On Pilgrim / Surfer Rosa
I rented this from Solihull Library, with many other things and renewed it and renewed it so many times that when I finally bought it, I was disappointed that the new CD didn’t feel like the eroded library copy I used to listen to. Now I prefer Frank Black’s solo stuff to the Pixies, and I’ve heard Angst, who were a huge influence on this sound, but this is still unique, and when I first heard it I couldn’t believe how much sense it made.
The Dillinger Escape Plan & Mike Patton - Irony Is A Dead Scene
This is a four track EP, and the last track is a fairly throw-away cover of Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy, but in the first three tracks it becomes one of the greatest rock records ever. That’s it, it’s incredible.
Soundgarden - Superunknown
Pretty sure this was the first CD I bought for myself? And again, I listened to it more than a lot. To be honest I’m not sure what I’d think of it now, but it has to be one of the most important albums of my life.
After Dinner - Paradise of Replica
I went, on my own, all the way from Birmingham to Oxford to see some kind of avant-garde Japanese music showcase, and after the show I grabbed two or three CDs almost at random from the hundreds that the performers had brought. One of them was this, it’s from the 80s but it sounds like it was recorded another 20 years in the future and broadcast back in time for us to get a taste of what we might one day become if we’re lucky.
The Nation of Ulysses - "Plays Pretty For Baby"
Andy put this on a tape for me and about half-way through the second song I had one of those moments when the back of your head opens up and you sort of reel a little and you think – how did someone manage to make something so perfect hidden in something which is such a fucking mess? And then I realised that the fucking mess is part of why it’s so perfect. I still remember the moment he gave me this and asked me if I knew who they were, and I still remember going for walks with my walkman just to listen to it.
Oingo Boingo - Farewell (Live)
Again, I used to listen to this album so goddamn much when I was first playing in a band that I’m sure it had an abnormally large influence on the music I ended up making.
Richard Thompson - Mock Tudor
I can remember lying on the sofa in my parents’ living room with the final scores scrolling on the TV when my dad put this on. I was always aware of Richard Thompson from him already, but I lay there thinking – surely this album can’t be as good as it sounds. Which is just crazy, it is just that good and turned me on to one of the best songwriters ever.
Sugar - Beaster
Oh come on, like Tilted isn’t one of the most exhilarating rides in music history. Please. And the other four big songs on this record are just insanely bombastic, ass-kicking rock. I listened to it so much that first I wore out the tape, then the CD wouldn’t play in my computer when I wanted to rip it.
Tom Waits - Rain Dogs
Well, it was the first Tom Waits album that I got, so for a while there I had no idea where I was.
The Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen
There a moments on this album when Greg Dulli sounds like he’s been gargling with evil, he’s so completely nihilistic about love and the horrible things he’s done. Individually there are better songs and production on Black Love, but Gentlemen is a fucking one-way train to hell.
Elliott Smith - Elliott Smith
Well, for a start if I hadn't been listening to this album I probably wouldn't have met one of my best friends. But also listening to this shows you how there's no need to be loud to be heavy. It’s one of the heaviest records I can think of and it’s pretty much just acoustic guitar and voice.