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.
30Asleep In The Back
Read the original NME review from 2001:
Hooray! Manchester has delivered its first great album of the millennium. Others will doubtless follow, but few will conjure up magic as brooding as [a]Elbow[/a] have here.
Peering back through the musical mists of time one can see a thread of majestic melancholia that links Talk Talk to [a]Doves[/a], and that passes through [a]Radiohead[/a] and The Blue Nile along the way. At the end of the thread lies [a]Elbow[/a]. 'Asleep In The Back' is more than merely the sum of its influences, however: it delivers beautifully woven songs with a tender, insightful panache far beyond many.
Inaccurately belittled elsewhere as a prog group, [a]Elbow[/a] have instead done what so many groups struggle to achieve. They’ve made an album that works as one solid body. From the murmured Nowheresville desperation of 'Any Day Now' and its hypnotic organ grind through to the piano-rich nostalgia of the final 'Scattered Black And Whites', [a]Elbow[/a] create an atmosphere of universal intensity.
To do this they use a lot of different techniques and a lot of different sounds, but this doesn’t make them prog. It’s simply that rarest of gifts: originality. You can hear this creativity at work as 'Bitten By The Tailfly'’s soft-focus atmospherics are blown apart by guitarist Mark Potter’s scratchy new wave hook. Or when singer Guy Garvey hails the gift of life on 'Presuming Ed (Rest Easy)' over the most regal and dreamlike of keyboard riffs, or when a saxophone suddenly joins 'Powder Blue'’s mournful procession of melody towards the song’s climax.
But if [a]Elbow[/a]’s music soars in many directions to reach its conclusions, Garvey’s lyrics remain grounded. These are not songs that try to disguise their meaning with imagery. Every word is relayed plainly by Garvey’s monochrome delivery, each one an integral player in its own gritty drama: there are songs about watching someone being swallowed by substance abuse ('Red'); about the fear of love growing old ('New Born'); about drunken mating rituals ('Bitten By The Tailfly'); about the rage of the spurned ('Coming Second'); and about ambition and self-loathing ('Don’t Mix Your Drinks').
This may make ‘Asleep In The Back’ sound an overly melancholic and heavy album, but one leaves its company feeling strangely enriched – a sensation familiar from another source. Seems that after all the pale imitators, [a]Radiohead[/a] finally have a competitor worthy of healthy comparison.
29Rings Around The World
Read the original NME review from 2001:
'Rings Around The World' wafts in on the kind of heavy duty industry hype normally reserved for underwhelming Oasis albums. However, it pains this reviewer greatly to report that it's not, as has been signalled, Super Furries' best album. It's their worst.
That's still aeons better than most other left-of-centre alternative British pop bands, but it's nonetheless a disappointment. After all those relatively frugal years on Creation, SFA signed up with moneybags major Epic to make the album they always felt Creation's budget outlawed. They wanted an epic sound for an Epic era, an expensive, glossy production that would make them sound lush and widescreen. Mission accomplished. But along the way they extinguished a spark in the band's belly.
Ironically, in attempting their most ambitious record they've delivered their blandest. Last year's 'Mwng' may've been recorded on the cheap but it was raw, powerful and mysterious; qualities missing from 'Rings...'. 'Mwng' sounded unique and timeless. This reaches for an effect so modern that at times it sounds like it could've been made in the '80s. One suspects that the smooth finish even disguises the band repeating old ideas in places - such as on 'No Sympathy''s pale rehash of 'Mountain People' - resorting almost to parody, the last thing you'd ever expect from SFA.
It would've been improved greatly by pruning a handful of the songs (in particular 'No Sympathy', the Status Quo-ish title track, the so-cheesy-I-can't-believe-it's-not-The Beautiful South 'Presidential Suite'), and at 53 minutes long it could've easily handled the trim. Because there's a core of brilliant songs struggling for air on 'Rings Around The World'.
'Run! Christian, Run!' is the [I]true[/I] heir to 'Mountain People''s folktronic crown, a beautiful Neil-Young-buys-Pro-Tools torch song built by Cian and sung elegaically by Gruff. 'Alternate Route To Vulcan Street' is another mournful but delightful Cian (and Bunf) synth and sampler design, and 'It's Not The End Of The World?' is Armageddon as imagined by Dennis Wilson (fans of The Beach Boys may recognise the melody from 'Forever'). Even as a tribute to the Wilsons it works neatly.
So, there are some great songs here but some duff ones, too; you'll be able to edit a top mini album out of it. Hopefully SFA now realise that in order to make a Premier League album, they don't have to pay Premier League prices.
28The Man Comes Around
Read the original review from 2002 Johnny Cash could sing a pizza menu, or perhaps that Busted single, and make it sound like a chapter of revelations. Seldom has a voice been blessed with such resonance and doom. And seldom has a musical elder statesman made so many wise decisions in the twilight of his career. ‘The Man Comes Around’ is Cash’s fourth apocalyptic karaoke session produced by Rick Rubin. Predictably, the band is superb, including loads of Beck’s mates and Nick Cave. But more remarkable is the choice of tunes, so that Nine Inch Nails’ industrial grinder ‘Hurt’ is transformed into yet another classic Cash song about death, tragedy and everyday despair. All the Alt.country dorks obsessed with ‘authenticity’ have, once again, plenty to learn here.
27Back To Black
Read a biography of Amy Winehouse:
Amy Jade Winehouse (born 14 September 1983) is an English singer and songwriter, known for her eclectic mix of various musical genres including R&B, soul, jazz, rock & roll, and ska. Winehouse is best known for her soulful, powerful contralto vocals. Winehouse's 2003 debut album Frank was commercially and critically successful in her native Britain. It was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Her 2006 follow-up album Back to Black led to six Grammy Award nominations and five wins, tying the record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night, and made Winehouse the first British singer to win five Grammys, including three of the "Big Four": Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. On 14 February 2007, she won a BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist; she had also been nominated for Best British Album. She has won the Ivor Novello Award three times, one in 2004 for Best Contemporary Song (musically and lyrically) for "Stronger Than Me", one in 2007 for Best Contemporary Song for "Rehab", and one in 2008 for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for "Love Is a Losing Game", among other prestigious distinctions. Winehouse has been credited as being an influence in the rise in popularity of female musicians and soul music. Winehouse has received media attention apart from her singing. Her distinctive style has been the muse for fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld. The singer's problems with drug and alcohol addiction, as well as self-destructive behaviour, have become regular tabloid news since 2007. She and her former husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, were plagued by legal troubles that left him serving prison time. In 2008, Winehouse faced a series of health complications that threatened both her career and her life. From Wikipedia
26Boy in Da Corner
Read the original NME review from 2003:
In 2002, UK Garage's bid for popularity crashed and burned. Acts like More Fire Crew turned out bullish garage-rap LPs with barrels of braggadocio but precious little substance. The likes of Romeo and Lisa Maffia learnt to assimilate or die, stealing into the Top 20 under the guise of nu-R&B. And the talent clung to the scene's underside, hidden, like cockroaches terrified to skitter into the light.
This is where Dizzee Rascal comes in. Dizzee thinks his music sounds "like the end of the world". He's right. It sounds like balaclava-clad gangs of teenagers wiring London's tenement blocks with dynamite and razing them to the ground. The Streets' Mike Skinner says Dizzee Rascal is the future, but Dizzee screams "no future!". Where 'Original Pirate Material' revelled in the wonderment of modern geezerdom, 'Boy In Da Corner' is primed for impending apocalypse.
Dizzee is Dylan Mills, an eighteen-year old rapper-producer from East London. He rose to prominence as a member of UK Garage collective Roll Deep, cites his favourite album as Nirvana's 'In Utero', and claims his music isn't even UK Garage at all. And indeed it isn't: throughout, the tempo sits around 90 BPM, meaning 'Boy In Da Corner' has far more in common with hip-hop than two-step's high-octane rush. But you never heard hip-hop sound this brutal, this alien, this foreign. No, scratch that. This English.
This 'Boy In Da Corner' is trapped like a rat. On 'Sitting Here', Dizzee's an observer, watching ruefully as gunshots rattle and police sirens tear out of the fog. There is terrible violence here - at one point, Dizzee threatens to smash your head in with a metal bar - but there is startling wisdom too. "We used to fight with kids from other estates/ Now eight millimetres settle debates," Dizzee notes, sadly, on 'Brand New Day' - an old head on young shoulders. This freakish mix of frenzy and ennui is a constant through 'Boy In Da Corner'.
'I Luv U' is Dizzee's bloody valentine. It finds him spliffed into a state of hypertension, voice exploding like a bag of firecrackers as he picks over the dire ramifications of a one-night stand: "Pregnant what you talkin' bout this for?/ Fifteen she's under age that's raw". The production here, like much of the album, is truly foreboding: piledriver kickdrum ripped from some head-stoving Dutch gabba white-label; dispassionate female voice intoning the title until it rings hollow, devotion spoke by rote. This jaundiced view of modern relationships is a running theme - 'Round We Go' describes a merry-go-round of loveless sex, charted by a narrator who's had his fingers burnt one time too many.
So many excellent moments left to chart: the staggering 'Fix Up, Look Sharp', riding a stadium rock drum loop so savagely sliced that the silence between the loop yawns like a vacuum, or the truly bizarre 'Jus A Rascal', insane Fiddler On The Roof operatics splashed over every chorus. Suffice to say this: 'Boy In The Corner' is one of the most assured debut albums of the last five years. It's anyone's guess where this one goes next.
Read the original NME review from 2003:
In many ways, the beauty of music is its sheer unpredictability. That is, the reassuring unknown that no matter how uptight and Stereophonics things get, no matter how hard the mainstream media try to water down our musical experience, someone, somewhere will be writing weird songs, discovering lost albums and cross-breeding genres in, seemingly, nonsensical ways.
It's gloriously unmappable chaos out there. Take The Rapture. How, in 2003, did four 20 something DC lads end up in New York, vibing off early Warp, Chicago house and Happy Mondays tunes, and revitalise punk-funk?
Well, in part it was happy luck: a homeless Luke Jenner being taken in by a house music DJ, a friend of the DFA's seeing them play live, and falling in love with the Mondays through the handfuls of cheap secondhand cassettes they bought to take on tour. But then, nature's adventurers make their own luck too. Luke Jenner discovered dance music after drummer Vito Roccoforte bought him Ricky Vincent's book Funk. When Mattie Safer joined the band he was on his was to jazz school. In other words, individually and collectively, The Rapture have never followed the rules. Instead, they've explored music on their own terms, taking inspiration from what they heard, rather than being intimidated by it.
Cue 'Echoes' - postmodernism in action, the sound of The Rapture, with significant help from DFA production duo James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy. They remix and filter the past (through new technology, ideas and personalities) to create, if not something atom-splittingly new, then certainly something fresh of their own. NME could reel off reference points - Gang Of Four, Marshall Jefferson, Bowie, Carl Craig, The Cure- but, ultimately, The Rapture sound like nothing so much as The Rapture.
As Cowbell-tastic anthem 'House Of Jealous Lovers' illustrated, The Rapture mix house/disco beats'n'pulsating bleeps with rock guitars to create something groovy in the spirit of the Mondays. But really, any comparison ends there. When they last played in Manchester, Hacienda veterans could be heard arguing about whether The Rapture sounded like "Friday night in the Hac" or "fucking student music". In fact they sound like both. That's the genius. You should dance to 'The Coming Of Spring', but it's fierce, hysterical post-punk funk, while 'I Need Your Love' (metallic electronics, treated guitars, filtered sax) is avant disco.
Further afield, 'Sister Saviour', like opener 'Olio', employs pulsing electronic chassis in a moment of keen angst. Of which there are many. Love is Jenner's drug, highs, like 'Love Is All', often giving way to a kind of cold turkey of the heart. Wherein his passionate, bewildered, distressed voice flowers beautifully.
The Rapture are funky, then, but they're also New York art-punks working to their own leftfield agenda, as the keynote ballads 'Open Up Your Heart' and the brooding 'Infatuation' reaffirm. Find this place where dim rock/dance tribalism is an irrelevance, and all that matters is edgy, imaginative, emotionally resonant music.
Read the original NME review from 2004:
In the summer of 2004, as the greatest British renaissance of music for over a decade gathers pace, two upstart bands have reached the attention of the broader public. There’s the slick tunefulness of [a]Franz Ferdinand[/a] and the intoxicating grimy anthems of [a]The Libertines[/a], stripy shirts versus military jackets, ‘Take Me Out’ versus ‘Take Pete Out Of The Band’. It was [a]The Libertines[/a] who first rode to the rescue of British music in 2002, but it’s [a]Franz Ferdinand[/a] who’ve sold the most records.
While [a]Franz Ferdinand[/a] have the sharp dress sense, precise tunes and broadsheet endorsement of an early Beatles, [a]Libertines[/a] have all the passion and unpredictability of young Rolling Stones. And, like The Beatles and Stones in the ’60s, it is the very fact that these bands exist at the same time that is so exciting. When push comes to shove, these are bands which seize the imagination and change lives.
It’s two years since ‘Up The Bracket’ launched Peter, Carl, John and Gary, spewing crazy tales of Albion and Arcadia to a bemused and baffled public. NME put them on the cover before their first single had even been released (and [a]The Libertines[/a] have returned the compliment, using one of our shots on the sleeve of ‘The Libertines’). Excuse us for gloating but it’s important to note how many other people didn’t get it. Some critics worried that it might be a scam, rather than recognising a band who were the rough and ready offspring of [a]The Smiths[/a] (the lyrical genius), [a]The Clash[/a] (the anthemic punk) and the [a]The Small Faces[/a] (the chaotic charm).
Of course, two years on, the ‘scam’ accusation is totally irrelevant. From split to burglary, prison to reconciliation, facial injuries to estrangement, even the most ardent doubters could see they were for real. The only problem was the danger the drama would overshadow the music, but, for a band like the [a]The Libertines[/a], the two are bound together inextricably.
With more dirty linen than [a]Morrissey[/a] after Glastonbury, you’d expect the [a]The Libertines[/a] to do the British thing and bury their feelings. But ‘The Libertines’ has an honesty more in common with the confrontational/confessional traits of hip-hop than rock. Even when there are obvious porkies, you get the feeling they’re told more for Pete’n’ Carl’s own sake than ours. Soundwise, former [a]The Libertines[/a] man Mick Jones has produced a more polished and satisfying album. There’s a spontaneity to ‘The Libertines’ other bands spend years trying to craft. Comments, mumbles, ad hoc exclamations and the occasional bum note are all left on tape, from the mumbled [I]"I’m so so alone"[/I] on ‘Last Post On The Bugle’ to the yells of [I]"Mugs!"[/I] and [I]"Oh my god!"[/I] on ‘Campaign Of Hate’.
So what you have here is the most agonisingly voyeuristic listening experience in rock, ever. It’s also some of the most exhilarating and brilliant rock’n’roll of the past 20 years, destined to be glued to discerning CD-players everywhere from council estates to country estates.
It starts with a premature ending: the fading seconds of a previous take. It’s a deliciously appropriate metaphor for a band who’ve packed in more false endings than a bad horror movie. Then the nagging morse code riff of ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ introduces their finest single to date, Carl intoning: [I]"An ending fitting for a start/You twist and tore our love apart"[/I]. As exciting a start as ‘London Calling’ or ‘The Queen Is Dead’, it immediately puts them on the same level as their heroes. For a band that’s busy breaking apart, they’re vocally closer on this album than ever before. Phrases are tossed between the two frontmen like Premiership footballers playing keepie-up.
Like its predecessor, this album is obsessed with dreams and fantasy. But where ‘Up The Bracket’ was English lawns, gin in teacups and the Beano, this time round the real world keeps intruding in all its gory glory. During the brittle and honest‘The Saga’, the careering new-wave clatter pauses and Pete mutters, with a junkie’s sly self-delusion: [I]"No, no, I ain’t got a problem. It’s you with a problem"[/I]. In the rest of the song he appears to grasp the gravity of the situation ([I]"When you lie to your friends/And you lie to your people/And you lie to yourself/And the truth’s too harsh to comprehend/You just pretend there isn’t a problem"[/I]). It’s suddenly obvious why bandmate Carl wouldn’t talk about this song for NME recently. Although you only have to wait a moment for Carl’s acerbic reply as the song segues straight into 'Road To Ruin': [I]"How can we/Make you understand/All you can be/Is written in your hand?"[/I]
'Last Post On The Bugle' started as a hymn to preserving love while miles apart. Now it dwells on Pete's time in prison for the burglary of Carl's flat. The irony is there’s more than a little light-fingeredness in the writing of this desperate classic. The verse's infectious melody and most of its lyrics are lifted from an obscure psychedelic classic, Masters Apprentices' 'War Or Hands Of Time'. A fact Pete felt the need to get it off his chest – "a simple act of theft" as he put it on www.thelibertines.org.
Closing track 'What Became Of The Likely Lads' is equally stunning. A companion piece to 'Can't Stand Me Now', it's a plea for the old days when it was [a]The Libertines[/a] against the world. It's Carl, Pete, John and Gary, being upbeat in the face of doom. If the upper lips were any stiffer you could balance commemorative Chas and Di royal wedding plates on them.
Despite conflict being writ large over the album, the only actual fight occurred during the recording of 'Music When The Lights Go Out', a beautiful acoustic strum. Elsewhere, the songs not explicitly dealing with Pete'n' Carl's relationship are even better. 'Campaign Of Hate', 'The Ha Ha Wall' and 'Narcissist' are La's-inspired Libland anthems superior to anything on the debut. Meanwhile ‘What Katie Did’ and ‘Don’t Be Shy’ display a new-found tenderness.
But it’s 'The Man Who Would Be King' that’s perhaps the album’s greatest achievement. Displaying the best [I]"la la la[/I]"s since [a]Morrissey[/a] first flexed his larynx for 'This Charming Man', it then dissolves through a haze of trumpets into a waltz as deliciously hazy as [a]The Stranglers[/a] 'Golden Brown'.
'The Libertines' even manages a little social commentary. The 73-second punk thrash 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (translation: 'Work Liberates') takes its title from the sign above the gates of the Auschwitz camp where millions of Jews were gassed. Ladling it on thickly, its payoff comes from a British soldier who fought the Nazis but doesn't like "blacks or queers".
Finally, there's 'France', a fragile lament sung by a weezing Carl to a former French girlfriend. After the fighting, it's a moment of beauty, like sunshine after a storm: a reminder of what [a]The Libertines[/a] are. And what they could still be.
Whatever happens, this an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime album, proving [a]The Libertines[/a] are both the stuff of revolution and aesthetic princelings among the (very) lumpen indie proletariat. We won’t see their like again.
23Myths Of The Near Future
Read the original NME review from 2007:
New rave: the plaything of a group of east London art kids; a multi-tentacled neon revolution; a rebirth of punk flying alongside the soul of dance music and under the influence of lost weekends on interstellar ketamine terror-cruises. And you know what else? It’s a fucking albatross around the neck of the most thrilling and visionary band Britain’s had in more than a decade. Klaxons? They’re just a bunch of new rave scenesters, right? Wrong. When new rave’s legacy has become little more than a serotonin drought in the brains of its disciples, ‘Myths Of The Near Future’ will remain one of the most dynamic, intense and totally lunatic pop records of the early 21st century.
Back in early 2006, Klaxons announced themselves with a series of parties which, in a sea of hyper-coloured sweat, washed the standardised hand-stamp-and-plastic-pint-pot gig from the agenda of thousands of excited kids. Their first taste of a new kind of rave transformed them into genre-bending zealots screaming for attention. Little did the band know what a beast they’d created in new rave: it soon galloped ahead of them, threatening to leave them watching from the recording studio as it tore across the land in a psychotropic blur of all-night madness and chemical breakfasts. But, where a thousand lesser party bands were swallowed in a psychedelic paint job of fluoro, MDMA and glowsticks, Klaxons’ dark hearts would burn holes through a million smiley-print windsheeters.
Reaching far deeper into the dark than your average raver could ever witness at the bottom of his weekend K-hole, ‘Myths Of The Near Future’ is charged with the same spirit which fuelled legendary rave pranksters The KLF’s period of pop subversion. Like those predecessors, these boys are bigger than the gimmicky fashions which people seek to define them by; they’re here to fuck around with pop music, and no faddish formulae, not even the ones they helped create, are going to constrain them.
Nearly a decade ago, rave died as the bloated bastard was kicked from its nightclub residency by a generation of indie kids with an urge to pull the dancefloor from beneath the feet of twats with baggy trousers. Klaxons have resurrected not rave’s shoe-gazing trance sound (which, let’s face it, was always just prog with a beat), but its manic spirit (something betrayed long ago by the dope-chuffing trustafarian psychedelic-trance twits, who until recently were the last of the ravers). Capturing this errant phantom in a pincer movement of both pop music’s self-control and punk rock’s roaring passion, Klaxons have achieved both brevity and breadth. Fuck genres, fuck trends, fuck history, this band are only concerned with reshaping guitar music... forever.
In just over 35 minutes, ‘Myths...’ tears apart not only the blueprints studied by a scene over the last 12 months in order to build a glowing overpass from Glasgow’s art house tenements to London squats, but also the flesh of the Earth’s landscape, leaping from heaven-scratching mountain peaks to dark city backstreets in a flash. One moment Klaxons are lending their blood-boiling guitars and serotonin-chugging sirens to Grace’s pure pop ’90s dance smash ‘Not Over Yet’, the next drawing a burning line in the sky between Nostradamus, Dizzee Rascal and Sex Pistols on the psycho-apocalyptic ‘Four Horsemen Of 2012’. Taking us on a paranormal journey through the hypnotised mantra of ‘Magick’, via the timelord booze-cruise terrace-chant of ‘Totem On The Timeline’ and the volatile genius of gonzo riot-rave classic ‘Atlantis To Interzone’, they’re rewriting popular music as they go along.
Jamie, Simon and James aren’t the first group of guitar kids to dive into dance culture. Where 20 years ago The Stone Roses’ ecstasy-fuelled rave grandstanding was supplemented by their history as a Johnny Marr-inflected indie rock band, Klaxons cast a glance at the past, grounding ‘Myths Of The Near Future’’s vanguard tendencies within a grand history of British pop eccentricity.
Never daring to stand still, this record dances alongside the strange landscapes of melody, dirge and oddity which were built into the pop lexicon by Damon Albarn’s ceaseless 15-year writing career. Where once harmonious melody and grimy fuzzcore existed only at polar points of the musical spectrum, both Blur and Gorillaz have seen them learn to sit side by side – and the shadows of Albarn’s idiosyncratic touch are all over Klaxons’ debut. ‘Modern Life Is Ravish’ apparently – the godly ‘Golden Skans’ is ‘London Loves’ worshipping at a tin-foil altar, while ‘As Above So Below’ may well have escaped from ‘Think Tank’’s colourful off-cuts. Still, although they may be picking up Damon’s baton of pop alchemy – a desire to pull melodious nuggets from thick swathes of dark noise – Klaxons are charging towards an apocalyptic finishing line which is all their creation.
Today this country is blessed with many poets of the mundane, from Arctic Monkeys to The View to The Twang, but Klaxons are different – self-styled prophets of the insane. Magic, the Cyclops, ecstasy, Buzz Aldrin, sunken cities, hypnosis, Aleister Crowley, unicorns and time-travel... These are the things which concern this record. “There’s a half-man, half-horse who still runs through my thoughts as he rides on a flame in the sky”, they wail on ‘Four Horsemen Of 2012’. ‘The View From The Afternoon’? Fuck that. This is the view from the afterlife. From the devil’s shoulder swoops a brutish big-beat drum-loop to announce ‘Two Receivers’, a half-paced, yearning song led by an eerie chorus of Druids. ‘Isle Of Her’ is a Gregorian cyberman funeral march, while the glorious ‘Forgotten Works’ may be Brian Eno’s lost Apocalypto soundtrack. No matter how weird or intense things get, however, Klaxons’ twisted pop sensibility is never forgotten. And on ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ it reaches its maniac apex, as Sparks rip into Donna Summer with hollow guitars, melting synths and a laser bow and arrow.
In 2001, a thrillingly brief record, largely built around previously-heard songs was released by a gang of young men who shared a common vision and an iconic aesthetic which clobbered through the ceiling of the underground and crawled out onto the high streets of the mainstream. Whether Klaxons will reshape our world into a fluorescent myth-tropolis as successfully as The Strokes turned the mono-tune remains to be seen, but their debut has the anatomy necessary to change the course of a generation.
Unlike ‘Is This It’, the roots of ‘Myths…’ do not stem from the polluted grace of the 21st century city. Nor are they in the Day-Glo bedsits, designer drugs and guestlist raves of Shoreditch. They’re in the pages of pop’s eccentric history, from which it both burns and borrows. This is no blitzkrieg dance record, but a debut album of astonishing variety and focus; a Technicolor car crash of the mythological and the space-aged. It’s a unique, disorientating manifesto for the future of music – rammed with a millennia’s-worth of ideas. But, whether it’s being blared across a sweat-stacked inner city rave or accompanying the setting sun over Glastonbury’s Green Fields, when ‘Atlantis To Interzone’’s sirens begin to blare – this remarkable record will make perfect, beautiful sense.
Read the original NME review from 2001:
The ruler's back. You don't have to take [a]Jay-Z[/a]'s word for it (although listening to 'The Blueprint' makes that tough). Check this week's American chart for confirmation of the unique hat-trick he nets courtesy of 'The Blueprint'. Three albums in three years: three Number Ones. There isn't an artist in the world - rap or otherwise - who can match Shawn Carter's profitable prolificacy.
Nor is there a rapper who can stand toe-to-toe with him in the actual rapping department, either. Jay-Z thinks Notorious B.I.G had a better flow, and Tupac was definitely cuter, but nobody has better lines. Not Woody Allen, not Chris Rock, not even Eminem who cuts 'The Blueprint''s only guest spot on the bleak 'Renegade' (a track Marshall Mathers also produces - Timbaland and Kayne West handle most of 'Blueprint's' other productions).
[a]Jay-Z[/a] is the don of the one-liner, the couplet, the verse and the chorus too. "These are just my thoughts, ladies and gentlemen", explains the Jigga on opener 'The Ruler's Back' (of course), as he's wafted into the rap arena after a mere ten-month absence on the crest of a horn-parping, soul-a-delic wave. It's no big deal for him, he's saying, but it is for all his competitors. "Your reign was shorter than leprechauns", he snorts in their direction. In fact, he gets all his disses out of the way nice and early on track two, 'Takeover'. Rapping over The Doors ' 'Five To One' he steamrollers fellow New Yorkers Mobb Deep ("Mobb Deep, you little creeps/I got money stacked bigger than you") and one-time protege Nas. The message is clear: You will learn to respect the king.
Once that lesson's absorbed, we get down to the meat of the affair. Like all his albums there's a concept revealed in the title and here, on album number six, it's the blueprint for the Jigga's life and career. That's sex - the brilliantly vaudeville 'Girls, Girls, Girls' makes that clear - drugs ("so much coke on me you could run a slalom," he admits on 'U Don't Know'), hustling, and....yes, pain. Because Jay 's tough enough to cry sometimes. On the soft-focus funk of 'Song Cry' he's so cut-up over his true, teenage love that he even makes the song weep. On 'Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)' he takes us on a backseat ride through his traumatic teens in the projects of Brooklyn, introducing us to his life's cast over a stolen Al Green riff. And on the album's strident soul-stew centre piece, 'Heart Of The City (Ain't No Love)', he hilariously mourns the fate of his many foes.
By its close, 'The Blueprint' has eloquently mapped out life's foundations: laughter, tears, joy and pain, and has marked the Jigga as the complete rapper. Jay, of course, knows it: "I'm the Sinatra of my day, compadre," he chuckles on 'Hola Hovita'. Nobody could disagree.
Read the original NME review from 2002:
Dunno how it happened. But thanks to a glitch in the time-space continuum, [a]The Coral[/a]'s brilliant, bizarre debut album arrives with us in mid-2002, fresh from the British beat boom of 1964. En route they've navigated their way via Country Joe & The Fish, Leadbelly, Motown, The Doors, Russian Cossack music, the (early) [a]The Coral[/a], The Action, Hawaiian instrumentals, WWF wrestling, Scouse luminaries The Stairs and Shack (former drummer Alan Wills, fittingly, is their manager) and, most probably, Captain Birdseye. It's so nautically-inclined you can almost smell the fishing nets. And all the work of six straggly youths from Hoylake, Merseyside - where else? - the eldest of whom, leather-lunged singer James Skelly, weighs in at a wizened 21. Too much.
In [a]The Coral[/a]'s company, the usual critical shorthand isn't so much made redundant as turned into hieroglyphics. Take 'Goodbye'. Stomping rhythm 'n' blues for two minutes, then suddenly the guitars flip into gonzo-punk overload and then [I]whoooosh[/I], it's turned into that dream sequence bit in 'Wayne's World 2' where Wayne meets Jim Morrison in the desert, before wriggling to a triumphant conclusion in four minutes flat.
Tunes so joyous you thought they only existed on dusty 45s in ancient pub jukeboxes appear regularly through the mist. 'Dreaming Of You' is two minutes and 19 seconds of yearning pop confusion ([I]'I still need you but/I don't want you'[/I]) to rival both [a]Madness[/a]' 'When I Dream' and [a]Frank Zappa[/a]' 'My Girl' (told you it was weird); 'Skeleton Key' is a deranged [a]Coral[/a] tribute that morphs into a gothic mariachi shuffle and finally, sublime, slippery Grace Jones disco and 'Shadows Fall', as you know, features the first ever marriage of ragtime, Egyptian reggae and barbershop on record. All orchestrated by Joe Meek (sombrero's off, incidentally, to Ian Broudie for an impeccable production).
But [a]The Coral[/a] display not the slightest trace of Gomez-ian worthiness, just an insane joy at being able to make an album that, as James has gone on record as saying, sounds 'timeless'. Only the Super Furriesand [a][/a] would dare show such disrespect for the rulebook, but even they, you suspect, would draw the line at skiffle-driven Gregorian sea shanties.
As a final 'Calendars & Clocks' suggests ([I]'Descendants of joy/ return the father to the boy'[/I]), [a]The Coral[/a] have ventured into rock's pre-history in their quest for fresh musical plunder and the outcome is the funniest, most refreshing British debut in years.