Tuesday, 17 November 2009

On...The NME

A confession: I don’t think I’ve read an issue of the NME for about two years now. However, between the ages of twelve and sixteen I got the local newsagent to deliver me a copy. It was, shamefully, a sort of Bible for me. I’d take the majority of their word as gospel, buy the albums they fawned over and, to extend the slightly tortuous biblical metaphor, placed a great deal of faith in their writers. You have to remember that this was before broadband became the norm; I wasn’t able to check eighty-seven blogs a day for Hudson Mohawke remixes or whatever. Despite not having read a physical copy of the magazine for a while I still look at the (spectacularly badly designed) website from time to time and await their end of year lists with a modicum of excitement because, basically, I’m a sucker for a list.

But this one, their Top 50 Albums of the Decade is about as exciting as the Uncut list (which you can read here).

1. The Strokes – Is This It
2. The Libertines – Up The Bracket
3. Primal Scream – xtrmntr
4. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
6. PJ Harvey – Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
7. Arcade Fire – Funeral
8. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
9. The Streets – Original Pirate Material
10. Radiohead – In Rainbows
11. At The Drive In – Relationship Of Command
12. LCD Soundsystem – The Sound Of Silver
13. The Shins – Wincing The Night Away
14. Radiohead – Kid A
15. Queens Of The Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf
16. The Streets – A Grand Don't Come For Free
17. Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
18. The White Stripes – Elephant
19. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
20. Blur – Think Tank
21. The Coral – The Coral
22. Jay-Z – The Blueprint
23. Klaxons – Myths Of The Near Future
24. The Libertines – The Libertines
25. Rapture – Echoes
26. Dizzee Rascal – Boy in Da Corner
27. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
28. Johnny Cash – Man Comes Around
29. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around The World
30. Elbow – Asleep In The Back
31. Bright Eyes – I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
32. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones
33. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
34. Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
35. Babyshambles – Down In Albion
36. Spirtualized – Let it Come Down
37. The Knife – Silent Shout
38. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
39. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
40. Ryan Adams – Gold
41. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
42. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
43. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
44. Outkast – Loveboxxx/The Love Below
45. Avalanches – Since I Left You
46. Delgados – The Great Eastern
47. Brendan Benson – Lapalco
48. Walkmen – Bows and Arrows
49. Muse – Absolution
50. MIA – Arular.

Now, I'm not going to argue with the number one choice, it's nearly my favourite of the decade and the best thing in the top 10 by some distance. The rest of that 10 though, Christ. I sort of want to praise the NME for sticking to their guns and not filling it entirely with 'token' choices (the first of which comes in at number 22, with The Blueprint which seems to be every indie publications fave hip-hop album of the 00s) but at the same time their stance infuriates me; yes, I can understand the 'cultural relevance' of the first Arctic Monkeys album, with the whole 'MYSPACE MADE THIS BAND' angle that is genuinely, whether rightly or wrongly, important to the decade as a whole, but come on, it's not a great record by any stretch of the imagination. The Libertines were huge in NME land and probably sold them a lot of papers, but a few tracks aside they were largely sounded like second rate pub rockers who'd once read an Oscar Wilde book and thought it lent them a 'poetic' air. It didn't. And that whole military jacket look was dire. Funeral and Original Pirate Material (and two albums by The Streets in the list is somewhat excessive) have about four good songs each, Primal Scream are an irrelevant joke, PJ Harvey could be seen as the token woman and the Interpol album is actually kinda great. I don't even have a pithy one line opinion about Radiohead.

The rest of the list throws the odd, but not in a good way, curveball: The Coral at number 21? I'll repeat that: The Coral at number 21. Let's think about that for a second; dreadful, Beefheart aping Scouse TWATS, The Coral have apparently released the twenty-first best album of the last ten years. Sorry but the band themselves don't believe that. Throwing the, pretty good but not spectacular, Wild Beasts album from this year into the mix feels odd. I'm not saying that no record that recent deserves a slot on the list (there have been a few releases this year that I love as much as anything else from the decade) but placing it above Since I Left You, for example, is madness. Muse seem to have become one of the biggest bands in the world, along with Kings of Leon, recently and are regularly touted as a fantastic live band, and teenage girls love 'em, their brand of Queen-inspired fret wankery actually offends me. Babyshambles managed to be worse than The Libertines, somehow. Crystal Castles might have put out nice t-shirts but their musical worth is nil.

My biggest concern with the list is what it leaves out. The NME is a magazine aimed, predominately, at a youngish audience 'getting into' indie music so obviously I'm not expecting them to cram their list with Merzbow or Black Devil Disco Club stuff, but to not include anything (apart from LCD Soundsystem's record) from the 'dance' sphere, i.e. house/techno/disco/garage etc, is criminal. I distinctly remember wanting to buy International Deejay Gigolo compilations, Miss Kittin albums and David Caretta singles because the NME were all over electroclash for a while. They're probably all over Dubstep now I guess ("OMG HAVE YOU HEARD NIGHT BY BENGA? IT SOUNDS LIKE PIGEONS...ON DRUGS!"). And Dizzee apart, who's inclusion in the list is probably due to him being the first legitimate black British superstar more than anything else, and Jay-Z, they've chosen to ignore 'urban' music. No room for 'Supreme Clientele' but they can fit in a Brendon Benson album? Errrrr, what?

In summary, the list probably does reflect the stuff the average NME reader likes. But it's nowhere near being a decent overview of the decade as a whole


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