Brace yourselves, this is a long one…
Last week, Ally sent me a text message asking me what I thought was the greatest album ever written. Well, that’s a pretty tricky question, I replied, can I have a think about it? And Ally, being the kind girl that she is, said I could.
The trouble is, I have favourite albums but that doesn’t necessarily make them inherently great. Take for example the following:
”Seamonsters” by The Wedding Present – I love this album so much, it is very possibly my favourite of all time. It is dirty and sexy and grungy and it tells of unrequited love, infidelity, heartbreak, yearning… And the production (in the loosest sense of the word) is perfectly grungy and muffled to match. I have to have my volume up to full just to hear the words but I love it like that. And the last minute or so of “Octopussy” gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. I wouldn’t be the same person if this album wasn’t in my life.
Sample lyric (it’s all about the lyrics): “I didn’t have to search for you, I knew where you’d be hiding, You astound me, There’s nothing I won’t do to feel your body sliding, All around me, No, no, no, don’t stop, I think I must be dreaming, I’ll just hold you, I’m just about to drop, you thrill me with your screaming, I adore you” (“Suck”).
”Surfer Rosa” by Pixies – It’s noisy and chaotic, a lot of it is in Spanish and much of the subject matter deals with incest but it is, without doubt, my favourite album by my favourite band (although that doesn’t make it my all time favourite album – weird, huh?). Plus, this wonderful song from this wonderful scene is on it.
Sample lyric: Well, I couldn’t find any that weren’t a) in Spanish, b) slightly too offensive for polite company or c) complete nonsense. Sorry.
”The Wall” by Pink Floyd – I was brought up on a diet of Pink Floyd (not entirely healthy, I’ll accept) and could have picked any one of their later albums (I’m not a fan of the early, psychedelic stuff). But “The Wall” just evokes so many things for me – it reminds me of my dad, mostly, and the many, many journeys in his car when I visited him at weekends, when he had “Comfortably Numb” booming out and I used to cover my ears until it had finished. And years later I saw The Squid & the Whale, which chronicles the breakdown of a family in the 80s to the soundtrack of “Hey You” from this album and it evoked all that stuff for me again. Even today and even now that I can appreciate the musical genius of Pink Floyd, I’m still really scared of their music. It really is the stuff of nightmares for me.
Sample lyric: “When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse, Out of the corner of my eye, I turned to look but it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now, The child is grown, the dream is gone, I have become comfortably numb” (“Comfortably Numb”).
”Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” by PJ Harvey – PJ Harvey is without doubt my all time favourite vocalist. This album is largely regarded as being PJ Harvey-Lite but that’s why I like it. It’s positive and hopeful and romantic. And it contains one of my favourite songs in the world, “Good Fortune”, which makes me dance around the room and dream of jacking it all in and doing a Bonnie & Clyde. And it has Thom Yorke on it too. What more could you want from an album?
Sample lyric: “Threw my bad fortune, Of the top of, A tall building, I’d rather have done it with you…Everybody’s got something good to say” (“Good Fortune”).
But do I think any of those are the greatest album ever written? Well, no, I don’t. I probably wouldn’t like the greatest album ever written, in all honesty.
Sorry, Ally. Can I have a bit longer please?