Top Ten Albums (Part 1)
*The Queen Is Dead*
One: The third of the Manchester quartet’s four studio albums, The Queen Is Dead captures the Smiths at the crest of their wave, scaling Everest-like heights. Morrissey and Marr capture everything about the unique cocktail that made the Smiths probably the best band ever, especially the depressing resignation of ‘I Know Its Over’, morbidly voted the second best song to commit suicide to in a recent 6 Music poll, curiously behind Bowling For Soup’s “classic” Girl All The Bad Guys Want. ‘Never Had Know Ever’ is similarly maudlin with the lyric “I had a really bad dream/It lasted 20 years, 7 months, and 27 days/I never, I’m alone, and I never, ever oh … had no one ever” clearly setting a challenge for some listeners to beat.
But the Smiths were never just Morrissey’s unique snapshot of isolation and, indeed, there’s always a whimsical song like ‘Frankly, Mr. Shankly’ and ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ round the corner, while Morrissey’s moves from the ridiculous to the sublime by demonstrating his literary talent in the beautful ‘Cemetry Gates’ encompassing its references to Wilde and the inferior Keates and Yates. Perhaps the standout song, however, is the penultimate of ten tracks of unsurpassable quality. ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand as Morrissey sings “And if a double-decker bus crashes into us/To die by your side/Is such a heavenly way to die.” Or maybe a little over the top.
Two: The Clash, especially their highlight album London Calling, executed the ideal plan for a punk rock band. Influences: anything that sounded good. Lyrics: Laced with disaffection and rebellion. Thus, behind London Calling’s aesthetic cover lies music containing spoonfuls of punk, reggae, R&B, pop, jazz and hard rock baked in the late Joe Strummer’s and Mick Jones’ positioning of the band as, constrasting with the fleeting Sex Pistols, rebels with a cause. ‘Spanish Bombs’ and ‘The Guns of Brixton’ are political without limits – “When they kick at your front door/How you gonna come?/With your hands on your head/Or on the trigger of your gun.”
The leaders of Rock Against Racism, The Clash infused London Calling with working class rebellion. In essence, The Clash were punk rock at its best and ‘Clampdown’ is a wonderful stadium classic, relentlessly driven by Jones’ guitar. Most of London Calling enjoys an universal theme. Pure defiance. “But I know, there’ll be some way/When I can swing everything back my way/Like skyscrapers, rising up/Floor by floor, I’m not giving up” to quote ‘I’m Not Down.’ No-one could accuse London Calling of being one-dimensional and their sensitive side is encapsulated in ‘Lost In The Supermarket,’ a personal favourite, which details a zombie existence alone in the city. It’s all the fault of Seventies supermarkets though, if only they’d put informative signs up – “I’m all lost in the supermarket/I can no longer shop happily/I came in here for that special offer/A guaranteed personality.”
The Manic Street Preachers
*The Holy Bible*
Three: How can you capture the myriad of horrors of this world of ours on a single album?
Four perceptive Welshmen harrowingly disect the suffering and hopelessness of humanity. The journal of anorexia, 4st 7lb, makes a listen that’s more sickening an open wound than a suicide note. The lyrics insert contains a black and white picture of a gate marked ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ with a snowed concentration camp in the background next to the words to ‘The Intense Humming Of Evil.’ The image may speak for itself but Richey James and Nicky Wire hammer home the thoughts that are too hurtful for you to think – “6 million screaming souls/maybe misery – maybe nothing at all/lives that wouldn’t have changed a thing.” Wire never skips a chance for a political rant but “Churchill no different/wished the workers bled to a machine” offers the most devastating finale to the most chilling song.
‘Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart’ is a tirade against society and politicans, while ‘PCP’ is the clinially blunt dissection of politically correct appearance over substance – “systemised atrocity ignored as long as bilingual signs on view.” Along with the ‘Revol’s ‘celebration’ of various dictators and ‘Faster,’ PCP enjoys spiky music in contrast to the atmospheric claustrophobia that dominates most of this album.
Or some may say another example of musicians trying to be overly deep. Who’d want to listen to that?