“It’s not that I don’t wanna work,
I just hate filling out all the applications.
And nobody wants a middle-aged man,
On six different kinds of medication.”
Greg Cartwright (Medication Blues, 2005)
As a somewhat wonky minor cog in the multifarious RBP thang, I’ve been asked to pick my Top 20 albums of the noughties, and was duly sent a long list of titles as a brain-jogger. But I really am being honest when I say that the whole concept of these kinda lists is so 20th Century (baby). Bit rich, I know, coming from a self-confessed git like me, but personally-speaking the rating of stuff has simply never worked – from Christagu-esque ‘marks’ to ‘you must hear/see/do before you…’ lists – it just leaves me, as a consumer/fan/etc, dead f-ing cold.
Some of my favourite records of the noughties were made 90-odd-years-ago, others are entirely contemporary. If I was a digitally-based music kinda guy, I could look up the most-played stuff in my iTunes, but I mainly use it to store rips of old band/live tapes/burn comp CDs for the car, so it’s “no use nor ornament” (old family saying) as far as that’s concerned.
I guess that, overall, in terms of strict spindle time, my most-played music of the noughties would actually be something random, mebbe Mose Allison’s “Sings” LP or one of the 45s that I DJ with, but I have no way (or desire) to quantify it to the nth degree. Some of the albums I must’ve played-and-played over the past decade would be Daryll-Ann’s “Weeps”, Love’s “Forever Changes” (tour DJ-ing with Arthur was an honour and well weird), The Only Ones’ “Even Serpents Shine”, Sparklehorse’s first ‘un, Bobby Bland’s “Two Steps From The Blues”, and Reigning Sound’s “Home For Orphans”, which features the lyrics at the start of this post…
Yeah, whether you’re talking foot-long wax, shiny biscuits, 45s, live escapades or them downloadables, Greg Cartwright is probably my favourite ‘contemporary’ songwriter. I often get a big kick off’a Greg’s lyrics, the way that I suspect Dylan freaks must do from his (I prefer Bob’s dancing), and I rilly loves them riffs and melodies. But do I hold Greg up as some kinda Godhead? Nah, he just writes great – inspiring, truth be told – songs and sings ‘em. I also think a helluva lot of the work of Jack Yarber and Tim ‘Jolly’ Rogers, but there aren’t really any other ‘current’ songwriters who float my personal (pea green) boat… I did think that Paul Westerberg’s mash-up LP was pretty funny, tho’, so it’s a “Hats Off To Larry” for him!
True, I have supplied musical lists for things over the years, and am allus pleased to read one featuring the jumble of stuff that any one person’s been digging (self-editing or consciously ‘cool’ picks aside), but as for ‘end of an era’-style summations, nah.
In any case, due to impending geezerdom (and the progressively telescopic nature of time perception that goes with it), around half of the records I thought about when I did briefly consider (hypo-pathetically, like) what noughties-created stuff I’d purchased did actually turn out to have been from the nineties. Given that, in general, you can’t confuse records made in the fifties for ones from a decade later, nor seventies output with that of the newly-fetishised eighties (yuk), what does that say about the nineties-noughties? Mebbe Richard Dawkins would know, or the Pope, or Bernie Clifton? I bet Alan Vega does, but he don’t seem to be talkin’!
I s’pose that this great RBP ‘noughties albums’ thing is some kinda sayonara to the format, given the imminent death of the pre-recorded CD (huzzah!) and the gloriously fractured nature of the download market (releases serving primarily as calling cards for live gigs rather than as revenue-generators – is this the 1930s?). Music isn’t defined by albums, the same as ‘film’ isn’t all about Blu-ray (or a 90-minute running time), nor ‘art’ picture frames (and large price tags).
The death of the album is really a good thing, as it’s a 20th Century musical marketing tool that went horribly wrong (on a plethora of self-indulgent and/or banal levels) in many more cases than it did right. The album is a format that’s been mistakenly enshrined as a totem of cultural gravitas when, although it can be more than a collection of musical snapshots (as originally intended), it’s largely the preserve of marketing men and ‘artists’ who are so up themselves that they’d need a colonic endoscopy to scratch their nose.
So the next time you catch yourself joyfully humming a tune but can’t remember what record it’s on, or if you ever feel a lack of musical relevance to the current age, don’t go feeling all inadequate and reach for the nearest ‘top albums of whatever’ list, just tell the critic sitting on your shoulder to piss off, and carry on…
In the format wars, music will always come out on top.