The Observer is trying to stir it up again, this time with a feature on the “50 albums that changed music.”
Fifty years old this month, the album chart has tracked the history of pop. But only a select few records have actually altered the course of music. To mark the anniversary, Kitty Empire pays tribute to a sublime art form, and our panel of critics argues for 50 albums that caused a revolution.
We can all find things to quibble about on the list and I can certainly think of things I’d fix on it (I mean, you’re all the way to 47 before you get to Nirvana?; this is just critics trying to show off and nothing more). But honestly, I was to #13 (Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers) before they got their first “bitch, PLEASE” out of me. And as these lists go, that’s pretty damned good.
That said, let me offer some specific guidance for the critics who pulled this list together.
- At 21, the Spice Girls did change things. For the worse. But the list doesn’t specify that the change has to be for the better.
- 31 – Stone Roses. I guess. This is a band that was pretty overrated, but it nonetheless had a major influence. And that’s often the way of things. There are bands out there whose greatest legacy stems not from their own work as it does from the work of those they inspired. I’d put Velvet Underground in this category, in fact.
- 41 – Chic. We shall not acknowledge that a thing called (d!$<%) existed. All critics who pander to it shall be smitten down.
- 46 – Human League? I agree about the need for a technopop marker, but I’m not sure this is it. I might substitute Devo’s Freedom of Choice here, you know?
Some painful omissions:
- REM – Chronic Town or Murmur, depending on your criteria. Seriously, this is the moment where alternative really caught traction, and ignoring it is purest silliness.
- U2 – Uh, War? Hellloooo? Anybody home?
- Police, Elvis, or Graham Parker – if you’re not noting the incept of New Wave, which gave us three or four years of the most compelling music of our generation, you’re just not trying and you should go sit down and be quiet. And if you think New Wave was watered down Punk (and that the Ramones entry therefore covers this) you need to do a bit of homework while you’re sitting quietly.