Monday, October 23, 2006

The One Album Mojo

You know, CD's aren’t cheap. No matter what currency you’re paying in they are almost never worth the money. This is why the Ipod generation is among us and I am proudly among their number. The Rolling Stones albums I’ve made for my Ipod way outclasses anything they’ve ever released, ditto for Bob Marley, Eurythmics and even (gasp) Rod Stewart.

Pitchfork, the only website I check daily did something last week that I didn’t think possible, a positive review that might do more damage to a band’s career than all negative reviews put together. Near the end of their review for Clinic’s new album the writer delivered this nasty piece of viciousness: “Clinic are threatening to become the sort of rock band of which you only really need to own one album.”

I haven’t been so struck by something said by a rock critic since somebody I forgot mentioned that Prince is giving us albums we might need but do not want. (Hold on, it was Prince who said that).

But the statement had me looking at my CD collection and Ipod like never before. Even now, years since I’ve written a music review, my shelves are littered with pop detritus, records that I barely listened to once and certainly never will again from artists that I expected more from. Artists of which you really only need one album. I was about to have a requiem and needed more than black calvins to carry it out. I began to scan for artists that have failed me time and again with crappy records. I rifled through bands like The Doors, where the definitive album was a greatest hits. I realized nothing of the Eagles was worth saving but much of Fleetwood Mac was. On the other hand I realized that repetition was not necessarily the enemy. The Ramones and ACDC’s albums were all as interchangeable as they were essential. So who made my list?

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Yeah, whatever, spare me the Under the Bridge nonsense. If you were a true Peppers fan, your masterpiece was Mother’s Milk and your life would have changed the first time you figured out the chorus to Knock Me Down. You also (admit it) never listened to Hendrix until you heard Chili Pepper’s version of Fire. But alas, if the trajectory of the artist is INNOVATE, RECREATE, MASTURBATE, then the Chili’s have been wanking off since the One Hot Minute Album. I knew something was horribly wrong when the only thing I like about their new album was the artwork. Not sure whether to be the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac, the Chilies have settled on being Three Dog Night.

Keeper: Mother’s Milk, not Blood Sugar Sex Magik, you sellouts.

Wasn’t Load the most aptly named record ever? Metallica blew it when they turn against their own fans with the Napster debacle but maybe those fans were just stupid enough to believe that a band of millionaires could ever gave a damn about the “little guy.” Metallica’s fall to crap has been so catastrophic that they took once thought great albums with them, leaving only: Master of Puppets.

Badly Drawn Boy
The tantalizing thing about Damon Gough when he first appeared was that of all the Beck Clones, he was the only one who posed a serious threat to his dominance. But sometimes, and this is nobody’s fault, all that a writer needs to say he says the first time out. BDB’s new album proves he is clearly bored with himself and has no problem boring us too, but more than that we are witnessing what happens when talent leaves the talented. In its place come vindictiveness (him dissing James Blunt of all people), defensiveness and the stupidest miscalculation of Bruce Springsteen since the Killers. Like that unfortunate band he mistakes simplicity for silence, confession for revelation and regular characters for boring ones.
Keeper: Hour of Bewilderbeest

All Debuts Rappers from 1991 (and Wutang too)
1991 was the end of hip-hop golden age, but what is not being said is that it was the rappers of 1991 that killed it. More than any other genre hip-hop has been the music of the one album, and even those with long careers simply figured out how to give product a longer shelf life, not how to grow as an artist. None of these bands made better albums that their debuts, so debuts we shall stick with:
Brand Nubian: One for All
Cypress Hill: Cypress Hill
Main Source: Breaking Atoms
Black Sheep: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
WuTang Clan: Enter the Wutang-36 Chambers (not 1991, but still)

Morgan Heritage
I’m sick of people lionizing this band for what they are not instead of paying attention to what they are. And that is nothing much. In Reggae's era of diminished expectations it takes nothing to be a roots reggae star. There are a few requirements of course, mastery of the one drop, a song for Selassie, one for mama, and one for you to eat your greens people. We Jamaicans love the safety of mediocrity and have been living in that shadow for so long we don’t even remember what excellence sounds like. This one is easy. Just go over to the CD rack, close your eyes and grab one. Anyone will do.

In all my life, there has only been one rock and roll record that has caused every single person I have ever ran into from reggae deejays, to gunmen, to writers, to intellectuals to stop and ask, “who is that?” The magic of Gomez’s Liquid Skin was that you could easily make it your own masterpiece no matter who, what and where you were. The band didn’t rock so much as roll, an indefinable sound that seemed equal parts magic, rock action and the best weed in the UK. The record sounded like it took a major effort to make and by the end of it the band was spent. Now five albums later, Gomez still haven’t found back their mojo. It sucks when a major band goes to the toilet and stays there, but worse trying to sell their record on E-bay where even online one can smell the stink.
Keeper: Liquid Skin.

The rest because it’s getting late and you’re probably tired of reading:
Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey
Eric B & Rakim: Follow the Leader
Yellowman: Zuguzunzugguzunguzeng
Seal: First Album
Sting: Nothing Like the Sun (Russians and Moon Over Bourbon street are profound, if you still write your poems in a trapper keeper)
Queen Latifah: All Hail the Queen
Cream: Gold
Kiss: Gold (in fact most albums in the Gold series trump the original records from the artists)
Stevie Nicks: Belladonna
White Stripes: White Blood Cells
Placebo: Once More with Feeling
Slayer: Reign in Blood
Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral
Eminem: The Marshal Mathers LP
Janet Jackson: Control
Moby: Play

Rest assured, this list will be updated.