Seems as though I've got the bug again, although as I get further into this list it appears the bug is in fact Ebola, and now I'm going to die in a particularly horrible way. Possibly in some way that involves a Janet Jackson album. Anyway, let's crack on.
275 Eminem – The Slim Shady LP: It’s amazing to think back to just how revolutionary this sounded, back at the tail end of the 90’s. It was shocking and fun and creative and just plain different. Nowadays it sounds a bit dated, schlocky and just plain stupid in places (especially in its misogyny and homophobia), but there are still moments of inventiveness and Eminem himself is such a dextrous rhymer and talented lyricist that it remains an entertaining listen.
274 Labelle – Nightbirds: Mixing pop, funk and rock, Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash have some serious vocal range to add into the mix on this, and I can see why it’s influential enough to be included on this list. You can practically hear the entire blueprint for disco contained within, but this is where the problem lies for me. I fucking hate disco, it’s the absolute opposite of everything I like about music, just bland rhythms that are made to make dancing possible and nothing more; and this is too damn close to shitty disco to be anything other than dull.
273 Smokey Robinson and The Miracles – Going to a Go-Go: This album kicks off with Tracks of my tears which is as close to soul perfection as you can get, and doesn’t really ease off from there. An absolutely brilliant soul album.
272 Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out: For all my supposed (in my head) 90’s alt credentials, Sleater Kinney never really ended up on my radar, which means I have missed out on knowing about this album for seventeen now-entirely-wasted years. Absolutely brilliant riot grrl grungey punk loaded with brilliant songs and a ferocious energy. I’ve already set up a playlist of their entire back catalogue to listen to after this leg of the challenge, I like this so much.
271 The Beach Boys – Today!: I swear to the benevolent zombie deity that as soon as this started playing the sun came out. And why wouldn’t it? It’s just so gosh darned happy. I love the Beach Boys on good form and this is them in full on pop genius mode. Help me Rhonda, I’ve a bad case of the happys.
270 The Rolling Stones – Some Girls: I grew up in an exclusively Beatles household, so I’ve never really got the Stones, even though they should really be far more my cup of tea, what with the meatier riffs, dirty rock and roll and anti-establishment spirit. But somehow they just don’t click with me. This is ok, although the lyrics are dumb and Jagger sounds less like the soul singer he thinks he is and more the posh junkie he actually is. Maybe one of their albums on this list (and there are plenty of them) will click with me, but this ain’t it.
269 The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy: This is a bit of an oddity to be finding halfway up the list, a tinny droning noise with some bloke half mumbling over the top of it and guitars that sound less like they’re being played and more like they are being fed through a wood chipper. I can’t say there’s much to enjoy about it, but that makes it oddly enjoyable.
268 Paul Simon – Paul Simon: This is delightful. I could do without the cod-reggae opener, but other than that it’s Simon showing his songwriting chops to full extent. Although that said, I still can’t hear Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard without hearing the cover version by the brilliant UK punk band Snuff in my head.
267 The Who – Quadrophenia: Now we’re really starting to get into the albums that are my real reason for doing this. I’ve always meant to get around the The Who. Most of the bands I love rank them as a number one influence, but I’ve never got past the odd song. The main reason to do this was to put the time aside to listen to all those albums I always meant to get round to, and this definitely falls into that category. It doesn’t disappoint, although neither is it the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s grand and silly and full of pomp, perhaps a little too much so for its own good.
266 Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child Is Father to the Man: Well this is just awful. It’s so bad it’s actually making me feel sad. It’s supposedly a mix of jazz, rock, psychedelia , blues and pop, it somehow extracts all the worth out all those genres and tries to mould something out of what’s left. It’s just so utterly dull. And now I’m sad.
265 Ray Charles – The Genius of Ray Charles: There’s not many people who can truly change genres on the turn of a dime but Ray could. I grew up in a house where Mr Charles was worshipped and with good reason. This marked his sudden gear change from R’n’B into the Swing scene dominated by the Rat Pack at the time, and it’s absolutely flawless. Never in possession of the greatest voice, there’s still something magical about it. Fantastic stuff.
264 Grateful Dead – Workingman's Dead: Previous to this list my only experience of ‘The Dead’ was from the odd episode of Freaks and Geeks, so this was a very pleasant surprise. Bluegrass tinged psychedelia, it’s got me very intrigued to hear more. Thankfully there’s another album of theirs just a few steps up the list.
263 Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman: Let’s get one thing clear; if you like this album then you are the problem with everything wrong in this world. You are the danger, but not in a cool Heisenberg kind of way. This is the musical equivalent of a kitchen stocked with Jamie Oliver utensils, replete with a display full of unopened Jamie Oliver cookbooks in hardback. Ladies, if you go home with a chap and he has this album then you’ve just gone home with a Patrick Bateman.
262 Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash: At first I might die from a sudden overabundance of twee, but once you get used to it this is a pleasant, if vaguely unsatisfying album. Folk mixed in with a tinge of hippie psychedelia. I can see why they felt the need to bolster their sound with the wailing hurricane of Neil Young at times though.
261 Grateful Dead – American Beauty: I was slightly disappointed by this, given how much I liked the last ‘Dead’ album on the list, but that’s not to say it’s bad, not by any means. It’s just a bit more overtly hippyish. I can see myself getting fairly into them though, basically at least twenty years too late. Well done me.
260 Willie Nelson – Stardust: Well slit my wrists and call me a goner. This is bowel evacuatingly boring. Willie Nelson sings nine pop standards. That pretty much sums things up. The only good thing I can say is that it’s quite short. On this challenge, that’s always a blessing. It’s not short enough though, and by the time his somehow-blander-than-the-original version of Someone To Watch Over Me rolls around I’m about two minutes from drilling into my own cranium out of despair.
259 Janet Jackson – The Velvet Rope: Right off the bat this annoys the piss out of me. The first track is called Interlude – Twisted Elegance. How the fuck can it be an interlude if it’s the first fucking song? An interlude takes you from one piece to another. YOU CAN’T START WITH AN INTERLUDE. Look: “Interlude (noun) 1. an intervening episode, period, space, etc,” INTERVENING! The rest of the album is dreadful, in case you were wondering. Not as bad as the last one, admittedly; there’s a vaguely trip-hop vibe to it that makes it slightly less objectionable, but I’d still rather eat bees.
258 The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society: This is actually great fun, eschewing the whispy folky bits on the last album of theirs that was on the list. It’s all very summery and jolly and entertaining, which is desperately needed given what it’s sandwiched between.
257 Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston: Well then. How to sum up my feelings for this? I think if I had to sick up all my own internal organs, set them on fire and then swallow them all again, that’s a physical anguish roughly akin to the mental one I’ve endured by listening to this album all the way through. I’m actually now so depressed that people would actually consider this to be worthy of inclusion on this list that I’m questioning the very notion of reality itself. It’s just so, so bland. The production is the most hideously eighties middle of the road bullshit, Whitney is utterly incapable of conveying emotion with her voice. And it has The Greatest Love of All on it. I think that sums it up.
256 Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express: One of the side effects of growing up above nightclubs as I did is that repetitive beats tend to send me a little bit loopy; hence my distaste for all generic dance music. Once I hear a house beat I’m done. Kraftwerk’s music is much more interesting and laid back than your average coke’n’hookers-setlist-on-a-usb-stick club dj, but the repetition just slams into my head after about thirty seconds and I can’t really get past it. When it’s not there and they’re just brooding and dark I quite like it, but overall not really my cup of tea.
255 Metallica – Metallica: It must be at least fifteen years since I last listened to this album properly, and I still remember every lyric, every solo, every *ahem* drum fill. Thanks teenage self. It seemed so utterly vital to my thirteen year old self; the heaviest thing I’d ever heard. Nowadays it sounds about as exciting as having a colostomy bag fitted, and the world of metal has moved so thoroughly on from it that it sounds ridiculously tame, but given that it’s one of only two ‘actual’ metal albums on the list (guess who the other one is) I can’t be too hard on it, even if this is probably the last time in my life I’ll ever listen to it. Goodbye old friend.
254 Otis Redding – Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul: This provides a nice counterpoint to the Whitney album. Close your eyes listening to her and you picture her in a studio, trying to attain a perfection of tone and pitch. Listen to this and you imagine Redding stood in a club, sweat pouring down his face, feeling every emotion like an open nerve, feeding back from the audience as they too feel every single moment of it. That’s where soul truly lies, and over the course of this album it’s almost perfectly distilled. Absolutely incredible.
253 Bruce Springsteen – The River: At times this is so full of earnest Yankee working class spirit that it threatens to topple into self-parody, but for the most part this is rousing American protest rock, recorded smack bang in the middle of a recession that saw blue collar America savaged and the lunatic right swept into a power they wouldn’t relinquish for another decade. Springsteen manages to balance the anguish of the time and the joys of a simple and honest life lived, then peppers it all liberally with some rousing choruses. At the very least it has honesty to it, which is probably a lot more than can be said for most other rock albums of the time.
252 Jay-Z – The Blueprint: This is mildly infuriating. The music itself is largely fantastic, the production is slick but retains enough oomph about it; it’s a great blend between the more mainstream and hardcore ends of the hip-hop spectrum. Mr Zed’s particular style isn’t as grating as it can be, in fact I can finally see why he gets the hype he does. The problem is that just when you’re starting to like it, he busts out a sadly predicable burst of misogynistic or homophobic bullshit and I’m back to thinking he’s a douche.
251 David Bowie – Low: Not at all what I was expecting. The first half of the album is fairly trademark Bowie stuff, interesting enough but lacking any particularly amazing songs to grab you, but then it morphs into an amazing soundscape of proto-post-rock that’s utterly mindblowing.
So there you go. I've finally reached the halfway point in this challenge, which surely warrents some form of celebration. I think I'm going to celebrate by listening to albums I actually want to hear and not doing this again for a while.