In case you missed it, I’m challenging myself to listen to 50 albums in ten genres of alternative music that I don’t know enough about, in an attempt to make myself some kind of alt-music Voltron. Last time I listened to 25 post-punk albums, so it only makes sense that I listen to 25 more. Well, it makes sense if you’re me. Enjoy!
26. The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms: Well this is delightful, like a post-punk summer breeze, it’s got actual tunes and melodies and songs and that. Somewhere between the angular Talking Heads and the Beach Boys, this is actually really rather splendid. Let’s get this show on the road!
27. Cocteau Twins – Treasure: A real oddball of an album, this is ethereal and wispy, like a spiky Enya. I really like lots of it, but then the world’s most annoying electro-snare sound completely torpedoes it and I can’t wait for it to end.
28. Throwing Muses – S/T: Another oddball, mainly insofar as it’s very odd to hear an album on this list where the production isn’t utterly horrific. I suppose that’s not surprising given it was recorded after the 80’s era of hate crimes against production. This is patently excellent, with a throbbing menace that’s underlined by some great howling, spitting, snarling vocals.
29. Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance: Starting with high-pitch atonal feedback noise, this doesn’t get much easier to listen to. The songs, when they do appear, are bristly punk pop, and there’s some great tunes dotted around. It’s maddening, but vaguely brilliant.
30. Romeo Void – It’s a Condition: This has the throbbing urgency of the rest of the post-punk scene, but there’s a deeper level of song craft here, and the vocals are fantastic. Not only that, there’s saxophone all over it, in a really good way. Part punk, part jazz, part poetry slam, this might be the best thing I’ve heard so far.
31. Public Image, Ltd – The Flowers of Romance: When putting this list together I did my best to avoid Metal Box, which I had endured during the Rolling Stone Challenge and absolutely hated. This was another PiL album on one of the lists I used for this, so I figured it couldn’t be any worse. Having sat, teeth itching, skin crawling, I can see that I was completely and utterly wrong. I think Public Image Ltd. have taken over from U2 and Stone Roses as my least favourite band of all time. I really, really hate them. Atonal anti-music. I just don't get it, at all.
32. ESG – Come Away with ESG: From the ridiculous to the sublime. Post punk mixed with proto-hip-hop, funk and barrels of unrestrained joy, this is fantastic, even managing to save the utterly foul mood the PiL album left me in. Praise Jeebus for that.
33. The Comsat Angels – Waiting for a Miracle: As a long-time devotee of the Wittertainment podcast, I’ve heard of this band countless times through the flappy-handed enthusiasm of Mark Kermode, so I’m pleased to find that this is, indeed, worth enthusing over. Post-punk with a gothic lean, great tunes and a laconic mood. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
34. Television Personalities - ...And Don’t the Kids Just Love It: What a weird album. Punk meets The Kinks with a drunk cockney rambling on over the top. I have no idea if I liked it but I don’t suspect it’s something I’ll be returning to.
35. The Raincoats – S/T: I’ll admit here that between these two albums sat a good month of ennui, self-loathing, hatred for any kind of challenge, and a general distaste for this whole endeavour. But then I thought, ah, well, might as well finish it. I had hoped my return would be a stonking, rip-roaring tour de force, but instead I got this. It’s all perfectly pleasant, and there’s a nice cover of Lola, but it’s nothing to write home about. Or, indeed, on a blog about.
36. Orange Juice – Rip It Up: Having more in common with the New Romantic 80’s pop than punk to these ears, this is nonetheless rather an enjoyable listen, even with its synths and terrible production and chirpiness. Dear God, what the hell is happening to me? I mean, I hate the eighties. That hatred is the bedrock of my very being. This challenge is breaking one of the core tenets of how I define me. I only wanted to hear some new music. It’s all getting a bit much. I think I need to lie down.
37. The Chameleons – Script of the Bridge: This is exceptionally gothy, right down to the drawing of a sad boy on the front cover who apparently hates rainbows. I’m right with you, mate, they’re stupid. Bloody rainbows, coming over here, refracting light through our moisture. Anyway, this is delightful, in a desperately mopey way.
38. The Durutti Column – LC: Of all the jingle jangles in all the world, this might be both the jangliest and the jingliest. This is quite unlike anything else on the list, and yet somehow still in keeping. It’s very low key, mostly consisting of gently rolling riffs. The never-changing tone gets a bit much after a while, but I can’t say I hated it.
39. Josef K – The Only Fun in Town: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how something can be generically of a genre when that genre has such a disparate and diverse sound, but somehow this manages to blend together everything else on this list and come out with… well, something never more than okay.
40. Girls at Our Best! – Pleasure: This is glorious, all cherubic pop vocals over jagged guitars, you can totally see this being played to a bemused Top of the Pops audience who are really only there to see Shakin’ Stevens. Fun fact: I actually typed Top of the Poops there the first time, and made myself chuckle like an imbecile.
41. Mission of Burma – Signals, Calls and Marches: Now, this is properly good, up there with the Gang of Four album in the last leg. Bristling, urgent, brilliant.
42. Rip Rig & Panic – God: For a few minutes I was convinced this would be the final, avant garde nail in my coffin, with its screeching atonality and saxophone grimness. But then I started actually listening to it, because, well, that’s what I’m supposed to do, and it completely won me over. Mixing punk, jazz, electronica and soul, this is so many things at once, and all of them sound bloody brilliant. Oh, and Neneh Cherry is in them, which definitely counts in their favour, because Neneh Cherry is excellent.
43. Au Pairs – Playing with a Different Sex: I have to admit, one of the things that annoys me most about old-school punk is the weird accent put on by Lydon and the likes. You know, that weird middle-class-attempting-cockney-with-a-sneer thing? Anyway, the music on this great, but the vocals really did my head in. Which is a shame, because the lyrics themselves are brilliantly caustic and the production kicks the arse of most of the albums on this list.
44. The Birthday Party – Junkyard: I’m a recent enough convert to the genius of Nick Cave that I’ve not even really made my way through all of his solo stuff, let alone this, the band where he made his somewhat twisted name. On the one hand, it’s all there, the lunatic howl, the belligerent genius, the downright sexy swagger. On the other, it sounds like you’re listening to all that through the bath plug and pipes connecting you three houses down to where the music is actually playing.
45. 23 Skidoo – Seven Songs: Oddly, for a genre that defines itself as looking back, there are bands like 23 Skidoo, which are incredibly forward looking. Almost entirely instrumental, mixing together electronica, laid back vibes and nascent hip-hop beats, this lays down so much of the groundwork for the dance music of the 90’s that I’m amazed I’ve never heard of it. Then again, I detest dance music, so that might account for that, and why I never found this more than passingly interesting.
46. Iggy Pop – The Idiot: What separates this from the rest of the list is the fact that Iggy is a bone-fide great songwriter, with a greater melodic range than anyone else here. This is, as you’d expect, utterly brilliant, mixing the Stooges snarl with electro sounds and some fantastic songs. Nightclubbing is probably the best song I’ve heard on this whole challenge.
47. The Sound – Jeopardy: Another excellent album, this feels like a halfway house between the dystopian grimness Joy Division and the gothy pop of Echo and the Bunnymen, and I can hear a lot of NIN in there too, albeit well ahead of Reznor himself. Really enjoyed this.
48. James Chance & The Contortions – Buy: Sometimes you have to wonder how much of my half-baked opinionising comes down to how I feel in the moment. If I’d listened to this on any other day, I might have really enjoyed its quirky, off-note jazzy punk. But I didn’t, I listened to it on a day when it made me want to take a collapsible chair to my speaker system. Jesus suffering fuck, this was irritating.
49. KUKL – The Eye: At first I thought I was due another sonic apocalypse that would render me a useless basket of shredded nerves, and then Bjork started singing, and the other guy shut the hell up, and it became a lot better. It flits between avant-garde bullshit and compelling post punk, but stays enough in the latter camp to be worth a listen. And, God, that woman’s voice.
50. Flipper – Generic: What better way to end this, or indeed any other challenge, than by having someone shout at you for seven minutes about being a sex bomb? I certainly can’t think of one. This is shambolic as all hell, but fairly relentlessly entertaining, too, even if the vocals grate a bit at times.
So there we go. 50 post-punk albums, and the trip wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I feared it might be. I’ve heard a lot of new music, found a clutch of albums I’d definitely listen to again, and reaffirmed my commitment to a distaste of atonal avant-garde nonsense, especially when it’s in the hands of someone punk enough to advertise butter. I’m liking this whole 50-albums idea. It’s enough to really get into a scene, but not so much that I want to drown puppies. Which is a good thing, because… puppies.
Next time – alternative hip-hop.
Welcome to Discovery Park – the chronicle of my increasingly frustrated attempt to listen to every album on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of all-time list, is available now on Amazon Uk, Amazon.com, iBooks, Kobo, and many more.