Sure, it’s dominated by white men playing guitars, t’was always thus in lists compiled by writers for rock’n’roll magazines. But in piecing together this week’s Top 500 Albums Ever list for NME, I came across some interesting micro-trends, popular culture slowly shape-shifting and hype dust settling. If you want to know how the list itself was compiled, have a look our blog from earlier this week. Here’s five trends I’ve spotted within NME’s 500 greatest albums of all time.
1. Britpop Nostalgia
After many years of being seen as a cheesy, chirpy, ow’s-yer-farver pop diversion in rock’s righteous path, Britpop now appears to have found its place alongside punk and psychedelia as amongst the UK’s most pivotal cultural movements, with Pulp’s ‘Different Class’ and Oasis’ ‘Definitely Maybe’ shoring up the Top Ten and Blur’s ‘Parklife’ and Suede’s ‘Dog Man Star’ making fine showings. Sleeper’s long-awaited critical re-evaluation may not be far off, you never know.
2. The Fall Of The 80s
Besides some obvious exceptions – ‘The Queen Is Dead’, ‘Doolittle’, ‘The Stone Roses’, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions…’ – as the 90s has risen in our list-based estimation, the mid-80s, that cradle of all things fundamentally indie, has declined. The Cure, Depeche Mode and Echo & The Bunnymen chart relatively low, while our Top 100 skirts around the edges of the neon decade; a Prince album here, a Kate Bush record there, a smattering of Smiths and nods to ‘Paul’s Boutique’ and ‘Closer’ despite both having more to do with the decades they nudge up to. Are the 80s becoming The Decade We’d Rather Forget?
3. The Emergence Of 21st Century Classics
It takes time to become timeless. Pop culture requires a few years to get its books in order and for a consensus to form, for albums to stop being just great new albums and settle into the annals of the classics. For the first time we’re now seeing important 21st Century albums come to the fore: the influential stature of The Strokes’ ‘Is This It’ is stamped firmly across the top of our 500, and with PJ Harvey’s ‘Let England Shake’, ‘Funeral’ by Arcade Fire, Kanye’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ and the first Arctic Monkeys album now nudging into the Top 20, it’ll be fascinating to see which of these become top-end mainstays in the next ten years or so.
4. Sense Prevails
To a certain degree. There’ll be much gnashing of teeth amongst the orchestral surfing community that ‘Pet Sounds’, a one-time list-topper, only makes Number 26, but it’s just and reassuring to see ‘OK Computer’ lose a little of its over-rated luster to come in at Number 20 (and ‘Kid A’ at 114) and all this trendy nonsense about ‘Rubber Soul’ being the best Beatles album get well and truly quashed. ‘Sgt Pepper’ at only 87 though? Are we communally mad?
5. 1971 – The Forgotten Golden Year
1976 we knew about. 1967 too. ’86, ’92 and ’01 went without saying. But until I had to personally type in the year and label of every one of the Top 500 albums ever made, I had no idea how great 1971 was. I’d always thought it a black hole between The Beatles and glam, when everyone cool was whacked out on smack and hiding from Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd. But it turns out ’71 was a prime year: ‘Hunky Dory’, ‘Electric Warrior’, ‘Tapestry’, ‘Blue’, ‘Sticky Fingers’, ‘Pearls’, ‘What’s Going On’ – totems of dark politics, earthy creativity and devastating song-craft. What a year.