It’s a weird one because like Kek, I don’t really feel ashamed about music any more – I’ve almost always been into pop stuff and… other stuff. Anyone who checked the office party mix will know that, right?
So this is more of a “ten records I have trouble justifying to other people”.
10. Rachel Stevens – Come And Get It (2005)
When you’ve seen the rest of the list, it might surprise you that this humble album has been the item which has caused the most vehement disagreements in our house.
I have no fear of owning up to liking Rachel’s earlier stuff like “Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex-“, and the singles off this album are wicked as well. “Some Girls”, “Negotiate With Love” and “So Good” are extraordinarily well-produced slices of sci-fi pop in which the vocalist is almost incidental.
We also have CDs in the flat by the Sugababes, Girls Aloud and Goldfrapp, which I have mentally filed in the same slot. For me, this is just an update to my Soft Cell and Human League records of yesteryear.
Regrettably the better half doesn’t agree and thinks it’s symptomatic of my mid-life crisis looming large in the form of lustful urges towards Ms Stevens. Which would be fine if I was constantly jerking off to her videos on youtube or had bedecked the bedroom with posters of her, but (as I never tire of saying) she isn’t my type and it isn’t about her.
Unfortunately my argument is slightly undermined by the fact that the non-single tunes on the album are rubbish, apart from the one which samples The Cure.
9. Anything by Vagina Dentata Organ
Probably the best example of industrial culture’s overloading of theory at the expense of tunes, Vagina Dentata Organ are more akin to conceptual art (with a nod to Dali) than music. Essentially the work of one man – Jordi Valls, the “group” focussed on releasing limited edition picture discs featuring unnerving field recordings.
Jordi managed to be one of the few people to exist in both of the notoriously antagonistic Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse camps, possibly because he doesn’t seem to give a fuck about politicking. I met him briefly at some TG art opening and he was completely pissed – staggering about and spilling wine everywhere. Admirable.
So anyway, I don’t have any of the picture discs, just one album of wolf noises, one album of motorbike noises and one album featuring the last 40 minutes of 900 members of the People’s Temple committing suicide in Guyana at the behest of Reverend Jim Jones.
It’s not uplifting party music that’s for sure… but I still respect VDO’s sheer bloody-mindedness.
8. Howard Jones – Pearl In The Shell (shaped picture disc, 1984)
So, talking of vinyl fetishism – this was the first vinyl I ever handed over my pocket money for (having previously bought cassettes for me walkman). I actually have a big post about luscious pouting synth-pop sensation Howard saved in ‘draft’ that I should pluck up the courage to unleash on the world.
Suffice to say that the disc is slightly yellowing these days and the music hasn’t aged that well either. Furthermore, my teenage dreams of owning really rare artifacts that future generations would look at with awe lie in tatters and prove that I am a rubbish capitalist.
7. Two Muppet Show albums (1977, 1978)
These are pop culture genius! It’s fair to say that Jim Henson has had more influence on me than punk. The aesthetic of the puppets (notably their garish fur and googly eyes) is still brilliant and the arrangements of the songs on this are perfect – not least because they are delivered with crazed muppet voices. Me and my sister must have played these a thousand times as kids as well as making my parents suffer them recorded onto cassette on interminable pre-M25 car journeys to see in-laws.
My love of huge horn sections (fnarr fnarr) in reggae might come from here too. It’s more playfully surreal than Vagina Dentata Organ could ever hope – songs about the sound of worms, chicken love, the Great Gonzo eating a rubber tyre to the sound of ‘the Flight of the Bumblebee’, it is all here.
So I probably shouldn’t own this, but make no excuses for it. And anyway I’m now able to enjoy it with my daughter…
6. Five ‘christian pop’ albums
Pop music was one of my main vehicles out of believing in all the Church of England stuff I grew up with, so I have a weird fascination with xtian pop and keep meaning to write something about it. (Seriously – I’d love to do a documentary or book.)
For example, there is something quite compelling about this christian response to Crass. What I like about the genre is that it’s obviously all ideologically driven, like anarchopunk and to a lesser extent industrial music, but always manages to get it a bit wrong.
What is also hugely entertaining is that for every xtian rocker there will be some fusty old vicar going on about how they are either great for “the youth” or actually crypto-satanists who are trying to lure kids into a vortex of evil with their primitive carnal rhythms.
Anyway, these records are all great in their own way, but not the sort of thing to play in front of relatives or children.
5. Sheena Easton – 9 To 5 (1980)
Yes yes, she was the first “reality” pop star and went on to get all pervy with Prince. That’s not the whole story for me, really.
I think I must have bought this at some point in the 90s when I was pissed. It cost 70p and was well worth it just for conjuring up all those images of yesteryear. It has that quasi-Nolans trebly singalonga vocal style but it’s the lyrics which drew me in, I think. There is a drudgery about commuting (which is what my Dad did every day) but also this weird hedonistic frisson running underneath it “he works all day, to earn his pay, so we can play all night”. This comes to the fore towards the end:
“I’m crazy, mad for him,
and he’s crazy, mad for me,
When he steps off the train
Amazingly full of fight”
Which I always misheard and thought was Sheena getting all orgasmic at the prospect of commuters engaging in hand to hand combat. I think it just reminds me of St Pancras and London in the old days, a bit grim but full of possibility…
Several years later I was living in a dive in Haringey and saw Sheena on some daytime TV programme with an L.A. accent talking about how she didn’t understand how people could take drugs because it was all about altering your reality and her reality was pretty amazing. As I looked around our living room I decided that going to get some drugs might not be such a bad idea.
4. Twenty Psychic TV live albums (and twelve other ones… er, and a load of singles)
There’s really no excuse for this at all, and I can only apologise profusely to everyone who has ever helped me to move house.
3. Matt Bianco – Get Out of Your Lazy Bed (1983)
Possibly another pissed charity shop purchase, I don’t actually know if I like this or not. It has a weird skank to it and the daaaaaaaa-dooooooooo-da female vocals probably relate in some distorted way to my love for fifties and sixties (and 00’s – see 10 above) girl groups.
It is unforgiveably jaunty, though, and I have to confess to having used it as a weapon of torture one hungover morning fairly early on in my relationship with my better half.
2. Trio – Da Da Da (1982)
This is just genius, proper minimal synthpop with a casiotone and boom-tish drummng. It even eclipses Laurie Anderson’s “Oh Superman” in the pop art states by having hardly any lyrics in it and then having those lyrics in German on the b-side.
I have this on loud right now and it reminds me of Kraftwerk and the Art of Noise and Suicide and a whole heap of totally credible stuff that isn’t nearly as fucking POP as this. It seems to annoy the shit out of everyone else in the world though – fellow bloggers aside, no doubt 😉
1. A golden 7″ flexi disc by Jonathan King (1978)
Nobody, of any age or gender, should own this record.
Which is probably why I’ve kept the thing. Did you know Jonathan King once stood as an MP? Neither did I until I found this in yet another (probably sober this time) 90s charity shop trawl.
The record is titled “Vote For Yourself For A Change” and seems google-proof. It features the man himself, talking animatedly, accompanied by the music from the Hamlet cigar adverts (which is of course called something, which eludes me now).
He was basically a populist Tory (“what do you think? Let me represent your views in parliament”), but had “liberal moral views”. Exactly how liberal certainly became clearer later.
On a more positive note, I would like to keep this thing going by nominating:
I’m fairly sure they are men…