NME rarely gives 10/10 reviews but here’s the 21st century LPs we deemed perfect, starting with Arctic Monkey’s ‘AM’ (2013). “It’s the work of a band still growing, still fine-tuning, still learning and still experimenting; a band who will not look back on this record as a career high, but as the moment they stopped being defined by genre and became artists,” said NME Editor Mike Williams.
The second 10/10 album in 2013 was Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’. “It’s rare to hear a record that doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard, and rarer still to hear one that also puts a smile on your face,” wrote Kevin EG Perry.
With no 10/10 albums in 2012, the only album that reached the top in 2011 was PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’. “Francis Ford Coppola can lay claim to the war movie. Ernest Hemingway the war novel. Polly Jean Harvey, a 41-year-old from Dorset, has claimed the war album,” we said at the time.
Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Promise’ was given 10/10 in 2010. “It’s a riveting portrait of a musician at the height of his powers…Essential as cornflakes, and more spiritually nourishing,” we wrote.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their mighty ‘rockumentary’, Spinal Tap return in glorious style with ‘Back From The Dead’, a collection of new tracks and reworkings of their standards. “Certainly not a ‘Shit Sandwich’ by any means; so, of course, the mark has to go ‘one louder’, wrote our reviewer, who gave the album 11/10.
Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’, originally released in 1979, was reissued in 2007. “It’s simply one of the best records ever made, and is still powerful enough to floor you 28 years on,” we wrote. No 10/10s were awards by NME in 2008.
The other 10/10 in 2007 was a reissue. About Led Zeppelin’s ‘Mothership’, our review said, “There’s a drum roll on ‘Achilles Last Stand’ which sounds inhuman. I swear to god, I have no idea how it’s possible for anyone to do that and ‘Good Times Bad Times’ has the kick drum break that changed the world.”
The second 10/10 in 2006 was Oasis’ ‘Stop The Clocks’. “‘Stop The Clocks’ is a faultless record compiled by a band riddled with faults….This is an album of celebration – a toast to the band that embodied everything you ever believed rock’n’roll ever could be. And moreover, the band who embodied everything you ever believed life could be,” wrote our reviewer.
In 2006 we deemed Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ perfect. “Essentially this is a stripped-down, punk rock record with every touchstone of Great British Music covered: The Britishness of The Kinks, the melodic nous of The Beatles, the sneer of Sex Pistols, the wit of The Smiths, the groove of The Stone Roses, the anthems of Oasis, the clatter of The Libertines.”
“It’s the best kind of New York story. One which mixes impossible glamour with brief excursions to the wild side. Which starts in a basement, and ends in huge acclaim,” we wrote about The Strokes’ debut ‘Is This It’, which got top marks in 2001.
The second 10/10 in 2005 was Various Artists: ‘Help: A Day In The Life’. “On a musical level at the very least, ‘Help: A Day In The Life’ succeeds where Live8 and Band Aid 20 failed. In attempting to repeat history, War Child have bettered it. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Geldof,” we wrote. The collection featured loads of artists including Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead and Elbow.
In 2004 NME gave Bob Dylan’s ‘The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964’ (concert at the Philharmonic Hall
March 26, 2004) a 10. “This unbelievable voice bursts from his larynx and New York’s Philharmonic Hall vibrates like an over-filled balloon. Listen closely and you can hear people’s minds opening. Every person in the room wishes they were even a fraction as cool.”
Supergrass’ ‘Supergrass Is… The Best Of 94-04’ was awarded full marks in 2004. “This isn’t an album of new songs. It’s a collection of singles. And, bloody hell, what a belting singles band Supergrass are. There is not one band in the last 15 years with a collection of singles as fresh, sparky and consistent as the 18 (and three bonus) songs here,” we wrote.
“The astonishing deconstructions and desecrations that Danger Mouse visits upon both the Fab Four and Jigga make ‘The Grey Album’, at the very least, one of THE great avant-garde pop records of the millennium,” we wrote about Danger Mouse’s ‘The Grey Album’, a mash-up of Jay Z and The Beatles.
A compilation of the legendary gospel and soul singer Candi Staton was released in 2004 and pretty much given 10/10 across the board.
“On it’s release in 1976, John Carpenter’s bleak siege movie Assault on Precinct 13 became a cult classic. But it’s Carpenter’s minimalist synthesizer score that creates much of the film’s tense and menacing atmosphere, and is recognised as a touchstone in electronic music,” we wrote about John Carpenter’s ‘Assault On Precinct 13’ Soundtrack released in 2004.
So 2004 was a pretty busy year for the perfect score. “This is a record. This, friends, is THE record,” we wrote about Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘Legend Of The Wu-Tang: Wu-Tang Clan’s Greatest Hits’.
About Pet Shop Boys’ ‘PopArt: The Hits’ released in 2003, we wrote “One listen to the defiantly named ‘Pop Art’, which collects 33 Top 20 hits and two new tracks, proves that they’re one of British Pop’s true crown jewels.”
In 2003 Domino Records released a compilation called Declaration Of Independence. We said: “Domino has spent the last 11 years fighting the war against safe, radio-friendly chart-tat. It’s been responsible for bringing underground American rock to our shores in the ’90s and giving British art-rock the lighter fuel it needed in the ’00s.”
“This is a beautiful collection to savour and cherish. Not so much a collection as a testament as to why Johnny Cash stands beside Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley as the most influential voices in rock and roll,” we wrote about Johnny Cash’s ‘Unearthed’ in 2003.
“Def Leppard improve with age: they lost their guitarist through drugs, their drummer had his arm amputated and, even though they’re all in their 40s, they’ve just made the best rock album since Andrew WK’s ‘I Get Wet’,” we wrote about Def Leppard’s ‘X’ in 2002.
The Clangers’ ‘Original Television Music’ By Vernon Elliot got a 10/10 in 2001. Why? “Sure, there’s cute little oboe flourishes and sweet, clinky clanky noises, but underneath all that, there’s a definite sense of being lost and alone in a vast, awesome universe, with only pink mice and a flying metal chicken for company.”
Eve’s ‘Scorpion’, released in 2001, “is the strongest, sexiest, most determined, focused, joyful and inspirational album you’ll hear this year,” we said.
A compilation of Various Artists on Trance Nation Three was given an 11/10 in 2000. “Dutch master Ferry Corsten (of System F ‘fame’) spanks the golden trance monkey thoroughly and repeatedly. Sneer all you like, but as the sleevenotes observe, fairly accurately, “this is the trance, the whole trance and nothing but the trance.”
“The magnificent sound of a power struggle being won by the underestimated, of the dhol beating the dollar, this is an important record. It confirms there’s a fourth way for British music. It identifies the enemy with unprecedented articulacy. It reclaims the power of merger for the human in the street,” we said about Asian Dub Foundation’s ‘Community Music’ in 2000.