One of my biggest bugbears, in terms of music, is poor production. That is not to say that some of the unrefined production styles of lo-fi, or the very rough at the edges production styles of punk would count as poor. It may help if I exemplified what I mean by ‘poor production’. First off there is the Elephant’s Ear production, where everything is flat and grey and there is no distinguishing in timbre or tone (the Smiths’ debut album). Then there is inappropriate production, where the style does not fit the music (“Give ‘em Enough Rope” by the Clash) and then there is over-production (the worst in my view) where every irregularity, every rough edge, every bit of character has been eliminated to produce a sound which is so obviously manufactured it really detracts from the listening experience (the White Lies debut album). I can forgive any aspiring artist amateurish self-production, but I cannot tolerate a supposed expert producer making a hash of his job by filing off every rough edge rendering the recording totally devoid of character, spark or individuality.
On we go then with the next twenty.
Charles Martel’s 360-341
360. The Milltown Brothers – “Wide Open” (Rubberband)
The Milltown Brothers make a welcome return after a long absence. It resulted in an album which contained this great track about someone shot to stardom and then dumped when fashion changed and she became yesterday’s news.
359. The Decemberists – “Hazards of Love IV” (The Hazards of Love)
The mournful climax of the Decemberists’ story of Margaret and the rake, this takes the musical motif and makes subtle changes to it, turning it into an affirmation of love amid the swelling waters of the Annan Water where the bodies lie.
358. Carlton, Vanessa – “A Thousand Miles” (Be Not Nobody)
Vanessa Carlton puts in a great performance on this pop song which is made by her wonderful piano line. It is a real pity that she has often been judged on the basis of her looks rather than her ability as a songwriter and musician.
357. O’Connor, Sinead – “Nothing Compares 2 U” (I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got)
The video for this, where O’Connor cries in memory of her mother, is often rated as one of the best videos of all time. Yet even without that, this song is a classic sorrowful expression of the loneliness of lost love. Originally written for a Prince side project, O’Connor has made this her own.
356. Kitchens of Distinction – “Mad as Snow” (The Death of Cool)
A melodic and slow-burning number which expresses the madness of love and then breaks out into an extended guitar ending. Kitchens of Distinction never got the recognition among the shoegazers they deserved.
355. Fogelberg, Dan – “As the Raven Flies” (Souvenirs)
A song which brings back wonderful memories of sitting around a fire on a beach in the Sinai desert one evening drinking beers listening to one of the assembled crowd sing this on an acoustic guitar. I bought the entire album for that one song
354. The The – “Good Morning Beautiful” (The Mind Bomb)
From the opening of the song with the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer, the The launch into a familiar attack on the destructive and negative impact religion has on progress, human rights and the general well-being and safety of humanity.
353. The Avons – “Everything’s Going Right” (7” Single)
Happy and cheerful jangle pop number form a band which is not the same as the thirties girl group despite the same name. As with that group, the cosmetics company tried to sue for breach of copyright.
352. Catherine Wheel – “Pain” (Chrome)
Dense and truly painful shoegaze song with a characteristic quiet bridge, this is a fine track off the band’s second album. The band’s lead vocalist and chief songwriter Rob Dickinson is also the cousin of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.
351. Devo – “Gut Feeling” (Are We Not Men? We Are Devo)
Devo’s most jangly guitar intro leads into this song full of nonsense lyrics inspired by a variety of disconnected images. The song is superbly underpinned by a rhythm section which adds pace and a sense of acceleration to the track.
350. U2 – “Where the Streets Have No Name” (The Joshua Tree)
A repetitive arpeggio played on the Edge’s guitar with a slight delay is the signature riff to this track by U2. With two time signature shifts and repeated chord changes it is an unusually complex song for U2.
349. Costello, Elvis – “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding” (Armed Forces)
Exactly. What is so funny about them? Elvis Costello’s plea for tolerance and harmony is as true today as it was when he released it. Trouble is that nobody ever listens and the intolerant and bigoted still force their views on everyone else.
348. Gaye, Marvin – “Sexual Healing” (Midnight Love)
Marvin Gaye sails close to the wind with this song about his desire for sex to soothe his troubled body and soul. By the seventies, Gaye had become the undisputed master of soul and this was probably his best number from that period.
347. The Jesus & Mary Chain – “Happy When It Rains” (Darklands)
At heart, the Jesus and Mary Chain were always a pop band and they managed to reach the peak of their pop credentials with this number. That stalled riff as the song progresses into the refrain is what makes this song so catchy.
346. Easter Monday – “Independence Day” (7” Single)
Easter Monday were a British jangle pop band who, like so many, never made it much beyond a couple of single releases. This song, about breaking free from a relationship, was the best song they released.
345. The Chameleons – “Swamp Thing” (Strange Times)
The opening chords are classic Chameleons. I remember putting this song on the jukebox in a bar in Gallup, New Mexico full of what we Europeans would regard as American biker stereotypes – bushy beards, red bandanas and cut off denim waistcoats. In a bar normally blasting out Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, the opening chords of this song prompted a rather portly gentleman standing behind me to utter “what the f**k is this shit?”
344. Home and Abroad – “Wipe Those Tears Away” (Kennedy EP)
Another British jangle pop band which arose in the wake of the C-86 tape and followed the path trodden by the Smiths. They released a couple of EP’s and a single and then faded away, though a compilation of their unreleased material was released after their demise.
343. The Gigolo Aunts – “Cope” (Flippin’ Out)
The Gigolo Aunts slowed it down somewhat for this number which is one of their best. It was originally released as the B-Side to “Bloom” but its popularity caused it to be re-released as a single in its own right a year later.
342. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Proud Mary” (Bayou Country)
Swampy rock song about life aboard an old Mississippi paddle wheel steamer known as the Proud Mary. Creedence Clearwater Revival provide what is probably their signature tune with a really catchy refrain which is often mistakenly cited as the song’s title.
341. Enigma – “Sadeness” (MCMXC. AD)
Combining pan pipes; sultry, female French vocals; and Gregorian chant, Enigma made a bold statement with this almost-ambient number showing how disparate forms of music could be combined. And this track, indeed the whole album, is great seduction music.