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Tori Amos
The Beach Boys
Beastie Boys
The Beatles
The B52's
Elvin Bishop
Frank Black
The Black Crowes
Bloodhound Gang
Bow Wow Wow
David Bowie
The Brainchilds
James Brown
Kate Bush
The Buzzcocks
David Byrne
Eliza Carthy
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
The Chemical Brothers
The Clash
Deborah Conway
Elvis Costello
Graham Coxon
The Cranberries
Julee Cruise
The Cure
The Dandy Warhols
Miles Davies
Nick Drake
Duran Duran
Brian Eno
The Factory
Fine Young Cannibals
Neil Finn
The Flaming Lips
Neil Finn
The Front Lawn
Fur Patrol
Nelly Furtado
Macy Gray
Groove Armada
P.J. Harvey
Headless Chickens
Helicopter Girl
Billie Holiday
The Jam
Jane's Addiction
Janis Joplin
Elton John
Kaiser Chiefs
The Kinks
Chris Knox
k.d. lang
Led Zeppelin
The Lightning Seeds
The Manic Street Preachers
Massive Attack
Alanis Morissette
No Doubt
Sinead O'Connor
Pet Shop Boys
Pink Floyd
The Pogues
The Police
Iggy Pop
Elvis Presley
The Prodigy
Otis Redding
The Rolling Stones
Roxy Music
Bic Runga
The Rutles
Secret Machines
The Selecter
Skunk Anansie
Paul Simon
Six Volts
Smashing Pumpkins
The Smiths
Sonic Youth
The Stone Roses
Talking Heads
Tall Dwarfs
The Velvet Underground
The Verve
The Vines
Tom Waits
The Wannadies
The Willowz
Frank Zappa
The Zutons

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Everyday I Love You Less And Less –Kaiser Chiefs
Slightly shambolic but sincere Generation Y Britpop from a band whose appeal is dangerously close to being blasted away by their rather desperate anointment as the Next Big Thing in Britain right now. Touted as being the next Blur, they actually sound a lot like Menswe@r. Their 2005 album ‘Employment’ is good fun, though.

Sunshine –Keane
Now, I like Keane, personally, and 2004’s ‘Hopes And Fears’ is a very good album. People complain about –well, their lack of guitars, as if that was a necessary testosteronical requisite for bandom. I don’t understand the Coldplay comparisons –to me, Coldplay have achieved the U2 level of fame where their songs have to address such a general audience that they can never write anything too specific ever again –but Keane have neater arrangements and their fans aren’t quite so punchable.

Do You Remember Walter –The Kinks
It must have been hell to be a contemporary of the Beatles and the Stones. No matter how good you were, there was always the shadow of the Big Two. No wonder all the second-stringers such as the Kinks and the Who felt compelled to explore such bizarre cul-de-sacs in order to break new ground. ‘Walter’ belongs to the same group of prematurely nostalgic songs as the Beatles’ ‘Your Mother Should Know’, and is from 1968 ‘The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society’, their first concept album.

Uncoupled –Chris Knox
A New Zealand pioneer of lo-fi and a major influence on bands such as Pavement, Chris Knox has achieved cult status overseas with his wilfully uncommercial yet beautiful songs. This one features guitar, his customary drum machine and something called a crowtheremin. From 1997’s ‘Yes!!’ (the exclamation marks are ironic).

Empty Skies –Kosheen
More big beats from Bristol, with vocalist Evans sounding uncannily like an energised Kate Bush. Similar to a very fast Portishead. From 2001’s ‘Resist’.top of page

Wash Me Clean –k.d. lang
Not one of the most dynamic songs from 1992’s ‘Ingenue’, but very elegant and atmospheric. She seems to have gone a bit soft on recent recordings (duets with Tony Bennet, anyone?) but on ‘Live By Request’, like Tori Amos’ ‘Venus Live. Still Orbiting’, it’s gratifying to hear how much her audience loves her.

Your Time Is Gonna Come –Led Zeppelin
Reviled by the punks but embraced in the past few years by a new generation of Jimmy Page wannabies. Whevever I hear something that’s getting everyone excited because it sounds “just like Led Zep” I’d much rather listen to Led Zep. This song features a gorgeous organ (no, not Robert Plant’s) and a worryingly sexist lyric. From their 1969 eponymous debut album.

Led Zeppelin are one of those worrying bands who did everything right but are still haunted by thirty years' worth of prejudice –yes, they can be held responsible for heavy metal, yes, they were the kind of band your dad liked, and yes, they were one of main targets of Punk. But on the other hand… they’re rather good. They had the integrity to split straight after their drummer died, their first four albums are perfect rock, and although some of the tracks on their later albums are a bit dodgy, they never hung round long enough to become a cynical money-making joke (*cough* Stones, *cough* U2). Their first two albums were released within a year of each other, and although The Lemon Song from 1969’s ‘Led Zeppelin II’ (they reserved their creativity for the music and record sleeves, not the album titles) transparently rips off Howlin’ Wolf, that does not detract from its excellence. Since I’ve Been Loving You is from 1970’s ‘acoustic’ ‘Led Zeppelin III’ (again with those titles) and is one of those protracted band workouts which still communicates all the rich effectiveness of this extraordinary group: the hooks, the guitar solos, the sheer atmosphere of a very, very good four-piece band. Four Sticks from their untitled fourth album (usually referred to as ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ or ‘Zoso’ due to the runes on the cover) is a simple riff repeated over five minutes –that’s the same simplicity and genius that the White Stripes tap into. Dancing Days is another ‘riff’ song from their 1973 album ‘House of the Holy’, the first album where their quality control begins to let them down, but who cares when you have tunes like these? In The Light is from 1975’s ‘Physical Graffiti’, one of those troublesome classic double albums which could have benefited from a ruthless editing, but it also has ‘Kashmir’ on it, so who am I to criticise? On reflection this is the sort of track that could get a nascent punk frothing (and in 1975 all punks were nascent except for Iggy Pop and the Ramones), as it is neither concise or to the point. It’s nearly nine minutes long and takes a while to get going, but at about seven minutes in it becomes brilliant. Who else can do that now except for Radiohead? Fool In The Rain is yet another brilliant ‘riff’ song from 1978’s ‘In Through The Out Door’, by which stage they were unsure what direction to take. This problem was sadly solved by the demise of John Bonham in 1980. The Who should have taken note –loose the mad genius (Brian Jones, Richey Edwards, Peter Gabriel) and you can carry on. Loose the guitarist (Bernard Butler, Graham Coxon) and you can still struggle on. Loose the drummer and you’re screwed.

Perfect –The Lightning Seeds
More wistful British pop, like a less butch Madness or happier Smiths. So much British popular music charts a melancholic landscape, not revelling in pain or misery, but just concerned with the problems of being alive. Each to their own. From 1994’s ‘Jollification’.

Bad Things –L7
“ *braap*… I s’pose I should say a few words here” Ladies and gentlemen, it’s L7. Most widely known outside fan circles for Prodigy’s cover of their ‘Fuel My Fire'. The demented squawking in the background here is what I imagine Fitz to sound like when she sings. From the 1997 album 'The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum'.top of page

All Alone Or -Love
Breezy mariarchi tune from the 1967 album ‘Forever Changes’, one of those Classic® albums that are well worth checking out.

The Manic Street Preachers began as a punk-influenced Welsh quartet with a line in angry metallic numbers like Born To End from 1992’s ‘Generation Terrorists’. This is a typical early Manics song, indignant and punchy, like a cleaner, more politically aware Nirvana. Next year’s follow-up ‘Gold Against The Soul’ was more polished, but songs like Yourself display the indiscriminate hostility that makes this group so risible –despite all the words and targets, who are they angry at and what are they angry about? Sometimes the world of the Manics is like being shouted at by someone from a student union. After issuing the splendidly bleak ‘The Holy Bible’ in 1994, they misplaced founder member Richey Edwards, and, like post-Barrett Pink Floyd, changed tack. 1996’s ‘Everything Must Go’ was comparatively opulent, with widescreen tunes and a much sunnier sound. Songs like The Girl Who Wanted To Be God have a buoyant spirit, but depressing subject matter. 1998’s ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ is even more anthemic, but on Nobody Loved You the driving energy of anger is being replaced by depression. 2001’s ‘Know Your Enemy ‘ was wretched and lost them a lot of their popular following, but their 2003 collection ‘Lipstick Traces’ contained some interesting material, including 2001’s Blur-ish Close My Eyes. 2004’s largely slammed ‘Lifeblood’ was a bit lightweight, but the mature Manics can still produce excellent, clear songs, such as I Live To Fall Asleep.

Lately -Massive Attack
This is much jauntier than the average Massive Attack song, and I think it’s the one with the banned stripper video. From their influential (and Tricky-launching) 1991 debut ‘Blue Lines’.

Surrendering –Alanis Morissette
I would not wish to be trapped in an enclosed space for any great length of time with Alanis Morissette. She might just begin talking about her life. 2002’s ‘Under Rug Swept’ is a definite improvement on ‘Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie’s horror-diary-rama, but it is doubtful many people were still listening. ‘Jagged Little Pill’ spoke to so many millions of people, not just women, because it had the right balance of distance and detail which allowed its listeners to deeply identify with it. Its sequel was relevant only to Alanis, and a good twenty minutes too long, to boot. ‘Surrendering’ has a typically strong melody, and I am no longer listening to the lyrics, so it’s all good, then.

Try explaining Morrissey to someone who’s never heard of him. Imagine if Michael Stipe had left R.E.M. in 1988 before all that ‘Biggest Band In The World’ palaver and continued making albums mining the same alt-country strain using the same producer. Or if Bono had dissolved U2 before ‘The Joshua Tree’ and made gospel albums with Eno. This is exactly what Morrissey did, continuing the themes of his Smiths songs with producer Stephen Street, and his low-profile success without turning into a nostalgia act makes him rare amongst lead singers of famous bands who go solo. It seems the biggest drawback of loosing the input of Smiths guitarist and composer Johnny Marr was sacrificing the extraordinary quality control The Smiths had –the average Smiths song is better than the average Morrissey song, but the best of both compare well. The first solo album (before the Smiths had even cooled) was 1988’s ‘Viva Hate’, which offered the incandescent Everyday Is like Sunday, surely the title track of the most depressing film about Britain imaginable. 1989 single The Last Of The Famous International Playboys is a jaunty fan-letter to gangster Ronnie Kray. I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday from 1992’s ‘Your Arsenal’ channels the emotion (and coda) of David Bowie’s ‘Five Years’. Bowie’s cover was dreadful. The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get from 1994’s ‘Vauxhall And I’ is a typical celebration of small and dysfunctional relationships, the elevation of angst to art. The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils is an unusual 11 minute track from 1995’s ‘Southpaw Grammer’, building up to a Cure-esque crescendo. You Know I Couldn’t Last from 2004’s excellent and unexpected ‘You Are The Quarry’ follows the grunge template of soft verse/loud chorus –except it has a string section and pianos and includes the lyric “So don’t let the blue eyes fool you / They’re just gelignite / loaded and aiming right between your eyes”. The word ‘gelignite’ is underused in modern songs, I feel.

Underneath It All –No Doubt
This song is from their 2001 album ‘Rock Steady’, the kind of ‘three great songs + ten tracks of filler’ deals that have made iPods so damn popular and nearly crippled the stupendously thick, greedy and ponderous mainstream music industry. The best thing about CDs is that we could program out the filler, and the best thing about mp3s is that we don’t have to buy it in the first place just to get those three songs we actually wanted. Er –anyway, No Doubt’s recent greatest hits album was faultless and showed there was much more to this surprisingly enduring band than ‘Just a Girl’. This is a lovely song with a great bridge and a strange, druggy of page

Cast No Shadow –Oasis
Oh dear…if only they’d stopped in 1996. They fired their drummer recently and he turned out to be the one they’d had since 1994 –I thought the Gallaghers got rid of everyone else when they fired Boner and Pugsley and whoever the hell the other blurry face standing behind Liam with a guitar was. They were once the greatest band in Britain, now they’re the greatest pub covers band in the world. This song (apparently about Richard Ashcroft from The Verve) is from 1995's ‘(What's the Story) Morning Glory’ when they still had potential. I’ve listened to ‘Heathen Chemistry’ about four times now and I swear I can’t recollect a single tune.

Mandinka -Sinead O’Connor
The Michael Jackson of Glengeary, another musician whose music has suffered from the media attention paid to her extracurricular activities (priesthood, lesbianism, shopping Shane McGowan to the police, retirement). This 1987 song from her first album ‘The Lion and the Cobra’ was her first hit, and now seems unusually simple and direct.

Unhappy –Outkast
Despite ‘Hey Ya!” I prefer 2003’s ‘Speakerboxxx’ to ‘The Love Below’ –less sleazy, not as original but of a consistently high quality, where ‘Love’ is all over the place and has some dreadful skits which people are skipping over even as you read this. ‘Unhappy’ is a minor song but elegant and concise.

Give Up The Funk –Parliament
Although the technology on these songs is dated, Parliament are still a lot of fun. It’s rare to hear modern music which sounds as genuinely happy and confident as this. From 1975’s ‘Mothership Connection’.

You Choose –Pet Shop Boys
The Pet Shop Boys have been operating for nearly 20 years, and their fanbase has shrunk from mainstream to select, but their material is still consistently strong. Curiously their packaging is always excellent, too. Once the songs became gender-specific they seemed to go underground…by choice? Because of record label prejudice? Or just because they became unfashionable? ‘You Choose’ is a relatively minor song from 2002’s excellent ‘Release’.

The Pet Shop Boys are nowhere near as popular as they used to be, but it doesn’t matter because they’ve shown their core fanbase respect by producing quality albums over twenty years, no matter how many people are listening. Derided for the simplicity of their synthesiser lines but applauded for the wryness of their lyrics, for their first three years they were as popular as any boy band (bet those girls feel pretty stupid now!) and their only notable Eighties excess was releasing an impenetrable ‘concept’ film –but that’s okay, because so did Led Zeppelin and Kate Bush. I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too) is a b-side from 1988 which was collected on the excellent compilation ‘Alternative’, one of those rare b-sides albums which are just as good as the ‘proper’ albums (see Suede’s ‘Sci Fi Lullabies’ and Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Pisces Iscariot’). Nervously is from 1990’s ‘Behaviour’, kind of their coming-out album with several songs about AIDs and mortality, the antique analogue synths giving it a wonderful autumn feel. If ‘Behaviour’ is their ‘Revolver’ (this must have been pointed out a million times, but it’s just occurred to me and this is my vanity project, goddammit) then 1993’s ‘Very’ must be their ‘Sgt Pepper’, a wonderful pop album where each track could be a single (and nearly was, ka-ching!) except for A Different Point Of View. This album was their last big chart success. Lyrically they were now specifically addressing the dynamics of gay male relationships, but there is still lots to learn there about the human condition, specifically themes of non-conformity and hedonism. The bigots don’t know what they’re missing. The only thing really wrong with 1996’s ‘Biingual’ is that it wasn’t as good as ‘Very’. Up Against It has the line ‘Such a cold winter / With scenes as slow as Pinter”. 1999’s ‘Nightlife’ was excellent, but I’ve already mined all the best songs for previous soundtracks. 2002’s ‘Release’ was low-key (in fact it wasn’t available in New Zealand except as an import for a while) but is another sincere album about relationships (and a truly evil satire about Eminem). Here is a song of forgiveness with a slightly disturbing use of a vocoder. From the beginning many of their albums have been accompanied by a remix album. 2003’s ‘Disco 3’ contains a few new tracks as well, including the perversely dancey Somebody Else’s Business. They may never produce a truly popular album again, but they’ve yet to release a bad one, and how many long-running bands can you say that about?top of page

A decade after their last studio album, Pink Floyd have a mixed legacy. Most fans of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘The Wall’ wouldn’t recognise the band’s origins as English psychedelic pioneers led by the fast-disintegrating Syd Barrett. Jugband Blues, his sole contribution to their second album, 1968’s ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ provides both a ghostly coda and a chilling warning of the effects of drug overindulgence on fragile psyches. The studio half of 1969’s ‘Ummagumma’ (from 1969) is their first awful album, but Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict is still a laugh. It sounds like Looney Tunes meets early Billy Connelly. 1970’s underrated ‘Atom Heart Mother’ features Summer ’68, a dispassionate song about groupies. Although written by Richard Wright, the song seems an early indicator of the themes Roger Waters perfected over their rest of their ‘70s albums, culminating in the unpleasant nihilism of 1979’s ‘The Wall’. Water’s last album before his petulant dissolution of the band was 1983’s ‘The Final Cut’ which is mostly really,really bad, except for the song Not Now John which has a splendidly rude chorus. The clever David Gilmour resurrected a kind of Pink Floyd Lite in 1987, chiefly notable for the astonishing amount of ire this raised in Waters, whose solo career was not exactly setting the charts on fire, and the invention of a new musical genre: the Platinum Nostalgia Echo Album. These are mega-selling albums released by once-great bands which sell bucketloads despite the quality of the songs being negligible to the quality of the sound recording. They are the audio equivalent of Hollywood blockbusters where the special effects are faultless and somebody forgot to employ a script. Think Sting, and, frankly, U2. Anyway, Learning To Fly was a sterling Pink Floyd Lite single from 1987, and What Do You Want From Me a ripper from 1994’s ‘The Division Bell’, despite its rather self-conscious attempt to sound like a Pink Floyd song.

Ana –Pixies
Four brilliant albums (although I thought ‘Trompe Le Monde’ was pretty awful) in four years, and then they’re gone. The perfect rock trajectory. The Pixies had a great combination of shoutiness and sensitivity –they could come up with great big belters like ‘Debaser’ and then something quite small and elegant like this song from 1990’s spacey ‘Bossanova’. Their bassist was namechecked by The Dandy Warhols on ‘Cool As Kim Deal’, and they don’t write songs like that about George Harrison, do they?

Slave to The Wage –Placebo
Poor Placebo. Scorned in Britain for their sexual outrageousness and the obvious ‘outsider’ appeal of their music (the same quality which makes The Cure and The Smiths appeal to alienated teenagers), they came up with ‘You Don’t Care About Us’ from ‘Cruel Intentions’ and suddenly were Big In America. Which just gave the British more reason to hate them. This song is from 2000’s ‘Black Market Music’, which saw their appeal scaled back to a niche of page

A Rainy Night In Soho –The Pogues
The power of the sound of the Pogues depended on the contrast between their sparkling musical backing and the shambolic vocals of Shane McGowan. Once his self-destructive lifestyle compromised the quality of the songs it was time for the Pogues to find a new singer. This song comes just before that break, from 1991’s ‘Best of The Pogues’.

Invisible Sun –The Police
I think Sting’s first solo album was okay, and The Police have several brilliant moments, but oh dear… even after 25 years you can still tell this the work of a Very Serious Band. From 1981’s ‘Ghost In The Machine’.

Shades –Iggy Pop
Written in 1986 with David Bowie (unfortunately just as he was slipping into the ‘pants’ period of his impressive discography) ‘Blah Blah Blah’ suffers from big ambient snare drums and other signs of ‘80s production which obscure the actual quality of the songs. After a grinding metallist dip two years later with ‘Instinct’, Pop would regain his Punk Godfather cajones to a certain extent with ‘Brick By Brick’. But this song is excellent. And so is his latest album.

Iggy Pop has had a wildly variable solo career covering nearly thirty years. When The Stooges dissolved after 1973’s ‘Raw Power’ it was four years before he emerged with ‘Tonight’ and ‘Lust For Life’, the results of a period spent detoxing in Berlin with David Bowie. These two albums contain nearly all of Pop’s famous songs, including Tonight which was disastrously covered by Bowie on his career-blotting follow up to ‘Let’s Dance’. Pop weathered punk with a flurry of albums, the best of which was 1979’s ‘New Values’, containing the entertaining Five Foot One, with its honking, stabbing rhythmic section. Unfortunately his next few releases showcased his increasing drug habit, and by 1982’s ‘Zombie Birdhouse’ his band (which included members of Blondie) appears to have taken over entirely. In 1986 it was Bowie to the rescue again with ‘Blah-Blah-Blah’, a good collection marred only by the dated production and featuring Fire Girl, co-written with the Sex Pistol’s Steve Jones. After the thudding ‘Instinct’, 1990’s ‘Brick By Brick’ was seen as a return to form with some sincere and powerful songs, but my favourite is 1993’s ‘American Caesar’, a brooding, socially observant set informed by life experience and a great cover of ‘Louie Louie’ as well as songs like Perforation Problems with its cyclic guitarists and evil harmonica. Pop’s earlier songs had been about being young and stupid with a creeping obsession with the military-industrial complex –now he was writing songs about being famous and aging. Soon after this Trainspotting made Pop more famous than he’d ever been by prominently featuring ‘Lust For Life’, but unfortunately the rest of his ‘90s albums weren’t particularly strong - ‘Avenue B’ had some interesting spoken interludes and the grinding Facade, but it wasn’t until 2003’s ‘Skull Ring’ that Pop again exceeded expectations with an album containing collaborations with The Stooges, Peaches, Sum 41 and Green Day. Whatever is a throwaway song apparently written and recorded in under an hour, but sounds spookily like prime Blur. His next album might be a disappointment, but we know there’ll be a good one along eventually.

Don’t Be Cruel –Elvis Presley
I only really like about a dozen Elvis songs, very few of them his later ones. This song is a perfect length at only two minutes. Why don’t backup singers sing ‘bop bop bop-bop’ anymore? There was once a New Zealand music programme which ended every week with an impersonator swaggering through the deserted TV studio to this tune.

Let’s Go Crazy –Prince
The evil little Minneapolis gnome is back, the Michael Jackson who didn’t screw up, the Madonna who didn’t change, and after 20 years now resembles a one-man Rolling Stones of funk, gnawing away at the same juicy sex peach, nummy-nummy. Unfortunately, as he never went away and most of his ‘90s albums were kind of pants, no one seems to have missed him very much –but my flatmate was singing ‘Purple Rain’ just tonight, so what do I know? From ‘Purple Rain’, 1984, when it really was just him and of page

No Good (Start the Dance) –The Prodigy
A lot of fun, like Darth Vader on amyl nitrate. The really scary stuff came later. From 1994’s ‘Music For The Jilted Generation’.

Party Hard –Pulp
The Sheffield Six (or Five, by this stage) go all hardcore for a second with a pricey video featuring Jarvis and a lot of women with those big feather fan things. Pulp do not suit choreography –the robot voices are cool, though. From 1998’s ‘This Is Hardcore’.

Pulp are great, like music for Goths who actually go out and dance. At the height of Britpop they were the slightly disapproving older siblings at the back of the dance hall, watching Oasis pour lager all over themselves and ruining Blur’s shoes. The extraordinary thing about Pulp is that not only did it take them over ten years of hopeless slogging before they were noticed –they actually released four albums during that time which went nowhere, yet they kept on going. For someone like me who is fairly devoted to a hopeless cause (this cartoon has been going since 1993) I find that determination immensely heartening. My Legendary Girlfriend is a 1990 single from before they were very good, but Jarvis Cocker’s schtick is already fully formed –sexual desperation, strained communication, big synths. Lipgloss is from 1994’s ‘His ‘N’ Hers’, their first major label album. The sound is huge, the emotion raw, the perception acute. Like the rest of the mighty 1995 album ‘Different Class’, the observation and topical references of Sorted For E’s & Whizz mean that it’s timelocked, but still worthy as one of the wryest songs ever written about drugs. Ansaphone is a B-side from the same period which I had on my machine for ages: “Oh, it just kills me / when all you gotta do is call / Oh, do it anytime / ‘cos there’s never no-one home / Never no-one home / Leave your message on the ansaphone”. And that’s the chorus. Most Pulp B-sides are interesting if you can track them down, often more introspective and Pulp-y than the album tracks, like with the Pet Shop Boys. Sylvia is from 1998’s ‘This Is Hardcore’, a dark and adult album with a glossy CD booklet it’s impossible not to leave fingerprints on. If this is your favourite breakup album you are not a healthy person. The Night That Minnie Timperley Died is from their 2001 swansong ‘We Love Life’, a Smiths-esque song of tragedy and regret. And that was it for Pulp. Cocker went out with Chloe Sevigny for a while –what a strange world.

Now I’m Here –Queen
A statement of intent with some nice stereo separation from one of the ultimate love-them-or-hate-them bands. From 1974’s ‘Sheer Heart Attack’, which is pompous, absurd and brilliant.

Queen are, of course, absurd, but 14 years after the death of Freddie Mercury and ten years after their last studio album the pomposity and excess of their music still has a sense of fun which is missing in many other long-running bands. Starting in the early ‘70s as a kind of glam Led Zeppelin, early Queen contains many sub-Tolkien moments, but 1974’s ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ is their first brilliant album, containing a wide variety of styles of music, including the bleak In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited, including a sing-along coda and ending with a big explosion. They were first noticed properly in 1975 with ‘A Night At The Opera’, which included several prominent contributions from poodle-haired guitarist Brian May, notably ’39, a kind of operatic rockabilly with drummer Roger Taylor’s falsetto providing a one-man chorus of Valkyries. The rest of their ‘70s albums are inconsistent but with many moments of brilliance, including My Melancholy Blues from 1977’s ‘News Of The World’, a 3am piano-based song that ignores punk completely. 1980’s ‘The Game’ was the last of their ‘classic’ albums, just before a sticky patch of soundtracks and disco-dabbling, and includes the Roger Taylor (always a boy racer at heart) stomper Coming Soon. Queen’s ‘80s albums were both less numerous and less weighty than their ‘70s output, but their singles continued to be excellent, enhanced by opulent videos. I Want To Break Free from 1984’s ‘The Works’ is a hilarious example of this, including a ballet company, a Coronation St pastiche (which the Americans didn’t really get, having little history of transvestite panto) and Mercury dressed as Nijinsky. The last album released in Mercury’s lifetime, 1991’s ‘Innuendo’ is rich, stark, glorious and silly, and includes the melancholy instrumental Bijou. Although there was nothing badly wrong with 1995’s ‘Made In Heaven’, this is where they should have stopped.

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