What’s the best album of the year? ‘Let England Shake’? ‘Bon Iver’? ‘Strange Mercy’?
Or is it ‘Nevermind’? ‘Screamadelica’? Hmm, ‘Achtung Baby’?
Few of 2011’s new releases have totted up as many column inches as Nirvana’s tortured classic, nor been presented as fancily as Primal Scream’s always-been-a-dance-element game-changer. As for ‘Achtung Baby’, expect its deluxe reissue to haul us out of recession in the next few days.
We’re prisoners of the past, leeches on the rotting flesh of history, scientists of death dragging cryogenically suspended albums screaming into an alien future. Yeah, exactly that.
Either everyone’s atrophied by nostalgia or the current crop just isn’t measuring up. Think of it this way: which of today’s standout records will come with a commemorative t-shirt and extensive Simon Reynolds liner notes in 20 years (assuming we still live in a material world)? ‘The King Of Limbs’? ‘Skying’? ‘w h o k i l l’? Smother’? Come on now.
The 20th anniversary fixation is stifling our culture, distracting us with its gaudy hindsight. And isn’t it brilliant? So while we’re distracted, let’s see which albums are entering their 20s next year, ripe for remastering, reevaluation and entirely useless vinyl editions.
Manic Street Preachers – ‘Generation Terrorists’
It’s been almost exactly 0 days since the Manics repackaged some old material, so high time they treated us to a spangly reissue of the album that would be their first and last. Oh.
Sonic Youth – ‘Dirty’
Just think what you could do with limited edition orange sock puppets. Fill an X Factor judges’ panel for a start. Now that Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore have broken up they can stay on the road for a really uncomfortable 20th anniversary tour.
Spiritualized – ‘Lazer Guided Melodies’
No one’s certain which is the landmark Spiritualized album. The one that sounds like The Velvet Underground going Hawkwind or the one that sounds like The Velvet Underground going Hawkwind with an orchestra? Still, this was the first. Can it really be 20 years since Jason Pierce sang all those songs about drugs?
R.E.M. – ‘Automatic For The People’
Reckoned by many to be the best album of 1992, R.E.M.’s finest achievement if you don’t claim to prefer ‘Murmur’ deserves the bells and whistles treatment. And you just know they split up so they could immediately reform to tour it. It’ll be emotional. Like The Stone Roses with a singer.
Stereo MCs – ‘Connected’
The most 1992 album of all time. Who can forget Catweazle in his double denim telling us to step it up, to the left, step it up, to the right, it’s all right? It was like the Green Cross Code for pie-eyed ravers destined for traction. Spring this one from rehab and show Professor Green how it’s done.
Denim – ‘Back In Denim’
Lawrence from Felt’s all over the place at the moment as the Twitterati goes mad for new documentary Lawrence of Belgravia, but in 1992 he was dressing like Mud and flogging an amazing concept album about the 70s. O cyclical culture, how ironic are thee? In the twenty-tens let’s celebrate a 90s album about the 70s. Then basically give up.
Madonna – ‘Erotica’
Ah, the good old days, when Madge could come on all saucy without putting her back out or us off our lunch. What with the simultaneous release of the Sex book, this was supposed to signal the start of a downward spiral from the imperial heights of the 80s, but hey – ‘Rain’, ‘Erotica’, ‘Bad Girl’, ‘Deeper & Deeper’ – she still had enough of it.
The Pharcyde – ‘Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde’
“Your mama’s so fat you can’t even see her legs/It just looks like she’s gliiiiiiding across the floor” is reason enough by itself.
Sugar – ‘Copper Blue’
Wasn’t it great when spiky rock bands like Sugar and Pixies were fronted by fellows who looked like they’d be happier sucking their teeth at your boiler and charging you 180 quid for a new fan? There was a vinyl reissue of ‘Copper Blue’ this year but it’d be nice for Sugar to get some proper mainstream reappraisal, if only so we can try and pin Blink-182 on them.
The Black Crowes – ‘The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion’
The outstanding rock’n’roll album of the last 25 years, it says here. In my handwriting. ‘Remedy’, ‘Sting Me’, ‘Hotel Illness’ – no one’s quite been able to do the rawk thing with such conviction since. Maybe they didn’t want to.
Right Said Fred – ‘Up’
Rumour has it NME gave this a thousand out of 10 on its release, and fair enough. There’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’, ‘Don’t Talk Just Kiss’, ‘Deeply Dippy’, ‘I’m Too Sexy’, erm, ‘Deeply Dippy’. Perhaps just a 2012 megamix, lads.
PJ Harvey – ‘Dry’
Well, she’s just made the album of the year, hasn’t she?
OK, I’m having my cake and eating it then regurgitating it 20 years later and eating it again, but it seems as if it’s not so much thirty-somethings reliving their youth as never having left it in the first place. And then refusing to accept it’s been two decades anyway. Still, it’s not all doom, gloom and stasis – also turning 20 next year are Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. The future’s in safe hands.