This list is taken from the End Of The Decade issue of NME magazine (on sale November 18th) where each album included is reviewed again from a 2009 perspective, alongside brand new interviews and a look back at the defining musical moments of the past 10 years.
Read the original NME review from 2008:
First, a question: what is the point of rock’n’roll? There are as many answers as there are people to ask, but surely one essential tenet is that great rock affirms life. Which brings us to ‘Stabbed’, one of the most unsettling moments on Glasvegas’ astounding debut. In it, James Allan recounts a flight from a tooled-up gang in a half-dead monotone, muttering, “No cavalry could ever save me/I’m gonna get stabbed”, over reverb-ghostly piano. How many people are hunched knit-browed over notebooks right now, trying to write songs about ‘broken Britain and knife culture and that’? Well, they’ve all been rendered pointless by this, which knowingly echoes The Shangri-Las’ ‘Past, Present And Future’ in its borrowing of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’. A piece written by the world’s most famous composer while he was slowly going deaf, appropriated by a bunch of rough-edged dreamgirls to make a teenage melodrama of crushed hearts, reappropriated by a 20-something Glaswegian for a topical-yet-timeless evocation of terror that, in its humanisation of a social problem, somehow offers hope. That, my friends, is pop music at work.
And that’s nowhere near the best song on the album. From the off, ‘Flowers & Football Tops’ grabs you by the throat: huge space and reverb lend power to spare instrumentation, stock “wooah wooah”s and “baby”s twisted to fit the raw and real pain of a mother deprived of her son by violence. Then there’s ‘Go Square Go’, the artery-pumping surge of guitar perfectly conjuring the adrenaline rush of an imminent childhood kicking. ‘Perfect’ is a word that keeps springing to mind, yet one of Glasvegas’ great strengths is that they’re forged from imperfection. Rather than seek out the tightest drummer on the Glasgow scene and the most seasoned guitarist, James Allan chose a girl he met in a shop and his cousin.
As a result, they have the do-or-die gang mentality of all great bands. That knack of using the near-to-hand and commonplace to fashion a watertight aesthetic also feeds into Allan’s lyrics. At first, his repeated use of nursery-rhyme motifs jars, but on further listening you realise each is tightly woven into its context. Most heartbreakingly so in ‘Flowers & Football Tops’, where the refrain from ‘You Are My Sunshine’ lingers, subtly wrenching, on the “sun” syllable. ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’, meanwhile, deftly threads in a lyric from fellow working-class romantics Oasis as the narrator goes about his conquests. “It’s all about going out and getting pissed with eagle eyes/And sincerity bottom on my list/What’s the story morning glory?/I feel so low and worthless”, howls Allan, before the torrential finale cleanses his self-disgust. But unlike Oasis, Glasvegas are a social band: they sing about their city’s troubles, tour prisons and dedicate their first award to the murdered local teen who inspired ‘Flowers…’.
Their most socially aware songs, ‘Geraldine’ and ‘Daddy’s Gone’, remain as astounding as at first listen. The former rips through a classic indie-rock template to the raw guts underneath by the sheer force of Allan’s retching-up-his-soul delivery and its genius subject matter: who else could write a song about a social worker and make it sound like your soul ascending to heaven? ‘Daddy’s Gone’ similarly still stuns with its frank but never mawkish sense of abandonment. That Allan keeps it out of the melodramatic mire it could be (at risk of a hack-lynching, compare it with Lennon’s ‘Mother’) is to his credit.
What makes the album so sonically perfect is the contrast between the grandeur of Rich Costey’s big New York production, the simplicity of the songs and the immediacy of their Dion & The Belmonts-via-Dalmarnock inflections. Of course, they’re hardly the first to take doo-wop and girl-group sounds and add a bit of noise and echo. What sets them apart from bands ploughing similar furrows (like The Raveonettes) is their resistance to stylised retro references in favour of something much more human.
So believe it: this is the real thing, no-one’s crying wolf, not even Alan McGee. There’s not enough hype in the world for Glasvegas. They are an important, amazing, real band that won’t let you down. Not because they play real instruments and sing real songs about real people (they’d be just as genuine if they wrote noise collages about interstellar seahorses on MacBooks); they’re real because they put their entire hearts and souls and brains into it. And that is rock’n’roll.
Read the original NME review from 2007:
Anyone who’s loved Biffy Clyro over the last few years will be no stranger to heartbreak. We valiantly cheered them on as they released album after album to the growing adulation of their small army of militant fans, but, unfortunately, the indifference of the wider public. They had great songs, sure, but true greatness always escaped their grasp. However, four albums into their career as rock’s best-kept secret, and it looks as if the underdogs have cracked it.
The foundations have been there all along: they did ‘emo’ – at least, its modern interpretation – before anybody else did, and before the word itself became loaded with images of crying boys, songs about cancer, and Pete Wentz’s penis. Were it not for Simon Neil’s slight Scottish lilt, any layman unfamiliar with Biffy’s lunatic Nirvana-meets-Weezer-meets-QOTSA melange would wrongly assume they made their home in America. Were that the case, ‘Puzzle’ would make a lot more sense – so different is it from any other British-born rock record of the past five years, owing more to the windswept limbo of the Big Country than any provincial town centre. Biffy’s world is a strange one, where tales of jaggy snakes and old men selling bones on the street are the norm, where choruses are monumental and song structures devious.
The long road Biffy have taken to get to the point of the world-exploding album they’ve always threatened to make is littered with the tombstones of early-noughties Britrawk bands that didn’t make it: Hell Is for Heroes, Hundred Reasons, Jetplane Landing. But Biffy have survived, long smouldering in the background, building up a steady cult of devotees that would happily travel for hours to watch Simon Neil and the Johnston brothers play a single song.
So what’s changed now? There’s no shame in it – for Biffy to achieve their full potential, they needed to think outside the rock box and take the plunge into instrumental diversity. If ever there was a band crying out for label cash to splash out on fancy, rented musicians, it was Biffy Clyro. The Ayrshire trio may have always pumped out a decibel count that belied their number, but they have also always sounded like three scraggy dudes. However, care of some major-label recording lucre, they’ve developed, and, as if by magic, suddenly find themselves serious contenders for the title of Greatest Band In Britain.
The difference is immediately apparent on opener ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’. You may have heard the radio version, but you’ve certainly not heard the cataclysmic firebomb of guitar and violin gut-punches that precedes it on the album version. It’s something that doesn’t so much introduce the listener to the giddying new direction Biffy have taken, as it does repeatedly clout them over the head with ‘Puzzle’’s sheer promise.
And before you’ve even had time to recover, it’s straight into ‘Saturday Superhouse’ and the Biffy-go-pop of ‘Who’s Got A Match’. Suddenly, ‘Puzzle’ starts to unravel itself – with the money in place, the band have found their breathing space, and the result is pure melody. The songs now feel worked-through as opposed to worked-over – a criticism readily applied to some of the more obtuse filler found on previous albums.
So, while second effort ‘The Vertigo Of Bliss’, was recorded in one sweaty day, and sounded like it – the product of that fatal mistake when bands consciously attempt to commit their live sound to record – and last record ‘Infinity Land’ showcased just how mad Biffy could sound when they put their minds to it, resulting in an exclusive record that pandered to the diehards, the band have learnt their lesson here. The result: Puzzle’ is strewn with thrilling musical asides that cannot be fully or faithfully reproduced live, and that don’t close the door on any potential new recruits to the Biffy cause. And this is no crime. From
‘Now I’m Everyone’’s saxophone parps to the wounded splendour of ‘Love Has A Diameter’ to the gritty pop-punk of ‘A Whole Child Ago’, ‘Puzzle’ is as breathtaking and hook-driven a record as you’re likely to hear this year. Then there’s the intensely unnerving ‘9/15ths’ – eluded to in earlier interludes – which begins with Simon Neil warning “We’re on a hell-slide/Help us/Help us”, before he’s joined by a choir of mourning mezzo-sopranos and doleful baritones, and a string section that stabs its icy fingers into your heart. As beautiful as it is harrowing, it’s the key to unlocking ‘Puzzle’; a song wholly unlike what has come before, yet still determinably Biffy. It’s not fashionable, it doesn’t have a haircut, it doesn’t strut about all cocksure in fancy matching military wear. No, ‘Puzzle’ is substance over style, as vivid and otherworldly as the Storm Thorgerson artwork that adorns the cover. Essential.
Read the original NME review from 2009:
At first sight, you could easily have dismissed [a]The Horrors[/a] as haircuts, scenesters, talentless art-school chancers. Sure, after listening to the brilliant, bilious racket of their debut ‘Strange House’, you might have struggled a bit more. But you’d still have managed it.
Then a mysterious, online countdown appears. As it ticks to a close, an ominous, seductive, gothic, motorik thrum begins. Red, green and blue lights flash across skinny, mop-haired figures on a bare stage. A voice intones “Some say, we walk alone…”. And just like that, the eldritch enfants terribles are born again as something new, strange and quite wonderful.
But shocking as their metamorphosis has been, uniting longtime fans and former sworn haters across the NME office, it’s not as revolutionary as might first appear. The Horrors’ transition, Wizard Of Oz-style, from grim monochrome into scintillating rainbows of sound is rooted in their love of psychedelia, in the original, old-school sense of the word. As an expression of the LSD experience, the unsettling music and art that emerged in the ’60s reflected the nightmarish ego destructions as well as the delirious highs of having your mind poisoned. The Horrors’ well-schooled, deliberate evolution into psychedelia feels so very right, not a hokey ‘new direction’ but more of a growth of their black tendrils into an expansive genre where they can darkly flower. And boy have they flourished under the tutelage of the master of soul-scaring sonics, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow.
Their second blooming begins with a pulsing beat and neon synth patterns, out of which, awesome in its size, comes a screaming wash of guitars. ‘Mirror’s Image’ is essentially My Bloody Valentine in sharper focus, a wall of heavy distortion cut through with melody, into which Faris wails “Is it the way… is it the way she looks at you?”
The cartoony affectations of ‘Strange House’ are replaced by atmospherics, the changed rhythm section of Rhys Webb and Joe Spurgeon brooding beneath Josh Third’s aching guitar and Tom Furse’s melancholic keyboard hooks. It’s a captivating new sound, which shifts into overdrive for the following ‘Three Decades’, an exhilarating krautrock ride across The Cure’s doomy landscape.
It’s not, as the brave decision to release the epic motorik thrum of ‘Sea Within A Sea’ as the lead single might have suggested, all widescreen and soundscape, though. There’s also breathtaking thrills, as with ‘Who Can Say’’s almighty buzz raving up The Jesus And Mary Chain. When the instruments drop away, and Faris states the Shangri-Las referencing line “When I told her I didn’t love her any more… she cried” it also marks the first time that emotion has made it into The Horrors’ work. Even this early on in the album it’s apparent this is a band who’ve found themselves, and to whom everything is now coming effortlessly. Sure, their influences are there for all to see, but whereas on ‘Strange House’ the fanboy references verged on pastiche, here it all feels natural, real, fresh. ‘Do You Remember’ is a pure rush reminiscent of MBV’s ‘Soon’ and benefits, like much of the album, from Faris having dropped his often goonish sub-Birthday Party lyrics, in favour of lovelorn, dream-logic imagery like “I will be with you soon,
I will cross the ocean blue”. ‘Scarlet Fields’ glides like Neu!, with Third’s shimmering guitar counterpointing Furse’s keyboard hooks to spellbinding effect. They go even slower with the drone ballad ‘I Only Think Of You’, which in Spacemen 3’s hands would’ve been about a junk fix but here is simply, sweetly, about a girl. Restraint and maturity covered, we’re drawn inexorably back to sensual racket with ‘I Can’t Control Myself’. Its blatant steal from Spiritualized’s superior ‘Come Together’ makes it the most unsatisfactory thing here, but it’s followed by perhaps the most perfect; ‘Primary Colours’ is a powerful pop song in which Faris reveals a surprisingly rich baritone for a beautifully mysterious lyric which takes it into the realm of the masters, Echo And The Bunnymen. The album ends with the song that first signified The Horrors’ reinvention, ‘Sea Within A Sea’. Here it works as ‘I Am The Resurrection’ does on ‘The Stone Roses’, allowing the acid house elements to come to the fore in a bravado demonstration of what the band are capable of.
For us listeners, it’s a relief to hear a band growing so impressively at a time when most others have neither the talent nor the opportunity to do so. Time will tell how ‘Primary Colours’ stands up to the likes of ‘Loveless’ or ‘Psychocandy’, but right now, this feels like the British art-rock album we’ve all been waiting for.
More on this artist:
The Horrors NME Artist Page
The Horrors MySpace
67We Are The Romans
Read a biography of Botch:
Botch was a mathcore band from Tacoma, Washington, that formed in 1993 and disbanded in 2002. From Wikipedia
66The Hawk Is Howling
Read the original NME review from 2008:
After over a decade of making music to construct dreams to, a phoned-in Mogwai album would be surprising, given their ever-unsquashed laurels. A pleasure to report, then, that their sixth approaches their best, such is the stately symphony of opener ‘I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead’ and all eight glorious minutes of the squalling ‘Scotland’s Shame’. The twinkling ‘I Love You, I’m Going To Blow Up Your School’, ‘Kings Meadow’’s glitches and twitches and ‘The Precipice’’s menacing, eddying organo-synthetic tornados alight on and inspect ideas with childlike enthusiasm, before discarding them gleefully. It’s an ode to emotion; it’s hard to imagine a more evocative, beautiful LP. < br/> Ben Patashnik
65Black Holes And Revelations
Read the original NME review from 2006:
So, just how bombastic, overblown, wilfully obscure, magnificent, portentous, histrionic, eccentric and mental is Muse’s new record? Well, there’s a moment, as ‘Hoodoo’ morphs into epic finale ‘Knights Of Cydonia’, when a piano that sounds like it’s heralding the destruction of the universe gives way to the sound of galloping horses. Horses! It’s as if the Four Horsemen themselves have come from the underworld by the closing seconds of track 10. Then there’s laser guns, explosions and sirens before a choir of deathly damned begin a dreadful, unearthly wail. It’s The Book Of Revelations gone rock, and it’s the most overblown thing in the world. Except it’s not this world: Cydonia is the region of Mars where evidence of pyramids and oceans are the best clue to prove there was life there once. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Albion anymore…
Barking stuff, obviously, but why does music have to be so serious, so authentic? Rock is the only artform where authenticity is held supreme – more important than moving or provoking you. It’s as if the whole rock canon has been assembled by a committee of sociologists rather than hedonists, madmen and geniuses. When did using the imagination become a crime?
Muse are classic whipping boys for the Keeping It Real campaigners, having never written songs about bouncers, waiting for taxis or fancying girls on dancefloors. Why bother with, say, the shonky bits of Sheffield when you’ve got the entire cosmos to sing about? Take the first single. It’s the one with a daring electro shuffle, like Kylie grooving with a goth Prince. It’s called ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ and its the most serious and hilarious musical moment of the year. Muse may have been inspired to write this by dancing to Franz in New York clubs, but they’ve made a classic of their own; the sort that Marilyn Manson would make if he were half as subversive as he thought he was. It has, suffice to say, scared some of the fanboys who can happily talk about the multiple ways the world may end, but can’t quite stomach talk of singular lust. They do, however, grasp the, er, gravity, of this Supermassive Black Hole: Muse have changed.
The sexy shimmy-fuck-yeah sound of ‘SMBH’ is unique. Elsewhere they’re evolving in other ways. There’s the sound of ‘Enjoy The Silence’-era Depeche Mode electro (‘Map Of The Problematique’) and a smoky Frank Sinatra croon that quotes the opera song ‘Ave Maria’. And this time not all the pianos sound like they’re falling into hell. Some, in fact, could grace a Keane album. ‘Starlight’ has that tinkly piano melody and could – whisper it – be a love song. A love song about black holes, revelations, the end of the world and that sort of thing. Meanwhile, ‘Invincible’’s military drumroll rhythm is topped by Matt Bellamy’s best Tom-from-Keane impression until, at three minutes 51, there’s the familiar shrill guitar histrionics, as the slumbering Muse juggernaut wakes and advances like it’s rolling over Chaplin’s podgy face. You can practically hear his head burst like a watermelon.
Elsewhere, it’s business as (un)usual. There’s the raybeam guitar arpeggios, the doomy pianos and the multi-tracked, Queen-like vocals that all bring to mind a thousand 100ft Matt Bellamies stomping down your street, turning buildings to dust with a single sonic blast. It all hurtles towards the aforementioned ‘Knights Of Cydonia’, the first US single; as huge as ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ or anything they did before. Its galloping rhythm has the same headlong exhilarating thrills of great metal epics like Led Zeppelin’s ‘Achilles Last Stand’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘Run To The Hills’.
Muse have made a ridiculous, overblown, ambitious and utterly brilliant album, with more thrills than their previous three put together, which, in an alternative universe, would leave them at the end of an epic lineage connecting the greatest bands of all time: Queen, Roxy Music, Ziggy (not his mere human form of Bowie), ABC, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Adam And The Ants and Queens Of The Stone Age. In this universe of Dadrock authenticity, they’ve made a record with enough power and ambition that it might just rewrite that particular rulebook. Whichever way, ‘Black Holes & Revelations’ will slay you.
Read the original NME review from 2003:
Some records wear the moniker 'Critic's Choice' like a pungent, hastily-applied cologne. These records can usually be identified within seconds of pressing play (giveaways include gloomy synth intros, discernible melody, wispy vocals singing lyrics about nothing very much at all, the general 1983 'vibe') and are almost universally of very little interest to anyone else at all.
Not so with The Radio Dept. True, the Swedish quartet's debut album raids everyone from The Jesus And Mary Chain (witness sublime former NME Single Of The Week 'Why Won't You Talk About It?') to the [a]Cocteau Twins[/a] (witness the spooky'Strange Things Will Happen') and [a]My Bloody Valentine[/a] (witness pretty much the whole album) but it's done with such loving respect it can't help but delight.
When it comes to immediacy, they're hardly Busted, but perseverance reaps great rewards. A little awkward at first it may be, but repeated listens unfurl things of true beauty such as lazily euphoric mini-anthem'1995', or the quietest garage rock song you'll ever hear,'Where Damage Isn't Already Done'. This album is a miniature classic - here's hoping indie snobbery doesn't condemn it to the mists of time.
63Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven
Read a biography of Godspeed You! Black Emperor:
Godspeed You! Black Emperor (formerly punctuated Godspeed You Black Emperor! and commonly abbreviated to GYBE) are a Canadian post-rock band which originated from Montreal, Quebec in 1994. They were the first outside act to release their recordings through Constellation, an influential independent record label also located in Montreal. The band is perhaps best known for their lengthy instrumental songs and large membership. Comprised of nine semi-permanent members, they create prolonged tracks which utilize short movements, wide volume changes, and numerous recorded and sampled sounds. Studio albums typically contain no more than five songs, and often omit the band's name and track titles from the cover and artwork. From Wikipedia
Read the original NME review from 2000:
[a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a] frontman Josh Homme was the genius behind one of the '90s most unheard and influential bands, Californian 'desert-rockers' Kyuss. They famously rehearsed in the Palm Springs desert, made sprawling, drug-addled, psychedelic sex rock and spawned a whole genre - 'stoner rock' - without even meaning to.
After Kyuss split in '95, mid-20s Homme quickly formed QOTSA with his friend Nick Oliveri. A certified lunatic, Nick was in Seattle's evil porno punks the Dwarves until he got thrown out for bad behaviour and was arrested at last year's Big Day Out for attacking Terrorvision. It was to be a fruitful partnership. United with Homme's long-time producer/collaborator, Masters Of Reality frontman Chris Goss, the Queens recorded their debut album in less time than it takes Korn to soundcheck, and quickly became America's coolest underground rock band. During this time, Homme toured with Screaming Trees, making friends with frontman Mark Lanegan who guests on this record. He also produced and wrote six albums of experimental, psychedelic hard rock as The Desert Sessions in his spare time.
Homme's reputation as a mad, virtuoso genius quickly grew, gaining QOTSA celebrity fans in Courtney Love, Melissa Auf Der Maur and Dave Grohl, who've all cited the Queens as the best American band living today. As a result, this album is perhaps the most anticipated underground rock album since 'Nevermind'. No really. In a world of woeful rap-metal, cyber-goth pap and sanitised skate punk, QOTSA are the band you've been waiting for.
'Rated R' is, as Homme has promised, "a dark, cocaine, pop record"; a heady mix of speed-addled punk rock, huge, sky-filling psychedelic majesty and sex-crazed black humour. For fans of Kyuss, this is his best album since 'Welcome To Sky Valley', for everyone else, it's just the best, most important rock album for years.
Like a lot of the songs on 'Rated R', album opener 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' is an anthem to getting loaded on drugs. It has two notes and one lyric - [I]"Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol/ C-c-c-c-cocaine"[/I]. Among modern American rock moments, it stands alongside 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' or RATM's 'Killing In The Name', such is its irresistible, instant impact.
From straight-ahead punk rock to twisted and sinister pop tunes like 'The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret' and 'Monsters In The Parasol', 'Rated R' is nothing but eclectic. There's the blissed-out sex-and-drugs ballad 'Auto Pilot', sung by Goatsnake's Pete Stahl, sitting next to the weird, sprawling rush of 'Better Living Through Chemistry' (no relation) - the closest the Queens come to the old Kyuss sound.
Mark Lanegan takes the mic to superb effect on the LSD R&B metal of 'In The Fade' while the two Oliveri-howled tunes 'Quick And To The Pointless' and 'Tension Head' are arguably the album's finest moments - the latter being one of the most perfectly realised rock songs ever written. A sick and twisted paean to class-A drug abuse, it sounds like AC/DC and Black Flag partying at Lemmy's pad, smoking crack. What more do you want?
No gimmicks, no postmodern guilt-trip bullshit, just punk rock space-cadet genius, [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a]'s major label debut compromises nothing but still has mass appeal. The new rock royalty have come to claim their throne. Do not miss out on this.
Read the original NME review from 2005:
In a barn somewhere on the outskirts of Assfeich, Ohio, the louche hicks of alt.country have been battery farming bands like The National into a life of modest-selling critical adoration since then mumbly old days of Lambchop. You know the drill- vocals like Tindersticks with corn stalks stuck in their teeth, red house painter-y guitar twangles, tunes not so much ‘played’ as soaked through charcoal and aged through oak caskets until they develop that hazy, whisky-drenched flavour perfected by the like of The Scud Mountain Boys, Will Oldham or Modest Mouse before they made their big wonky pop album. It’s music for downhearted cattle rustlers to mournfully skin steers to, although ‘Alligator’ is wrenched out of its hay-bail snooze on the Grant Lee Phillips rabble howls of ‘Abel’ and ‘Mr November’ and the Death Cab For Cutie shimmer of ‘The Geese Of Beverly Road’, featuring the prophetic proclamation: “We’re the heirs to the glimmering world”. Give it a couple of years and the odd dead horse…