Riverwise's Top 100 Albums Of All Time!

100% this. My two favourite tracks on the album too. The transition at the end of Blue Lines when Tricky goes “Take my piece of mind and sign my name across your heart” to the drum fill that kicks of Be Thankful For What You’ve Got is one of the most perfect moments in music for me

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I almost highlighted this very bit myself!

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6. The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace With God

A wonderful cocktail of excitement, adrenalin, romance and grimy beauty. This was one of, if not the first, “proper” albums I bought, on cassette when I was fifteen or so. I vividly remember sitting in my bedroom listening to it on my little mono tape player and turning the volume down really low with my finger hovering over the pause button in case my mum heard the swearing. I was a sheltered lad from a quiet part of the country, and my word, did I learn things from this record. There is so much in it, berserk punk bursts, sweeping epic melancholia, weird hybrids of Irish music with Spanish and Middle Eastern sounds, ragged romance, republican politics, gothic horror, and an all consuming lust for life. This is the Pogues at their height, building on the (also excellent) Rum, Sodomy And The Lash and before the wobbles of the next couple of albums, Shane not yet tipped over the edge, still writing sharp and beautiful lyrics and delivering them in that rich lived in voice. And it wasn’t just Shane of course - Philip Chevron’s Thousands Are Sailing would be the best song written by almost any other band, a brilliant account of the immigrant’s life and it’s triumphs and sorrows.

I never got to see them at this time, probably just as well as I suspect frail young me might well have died at a Pogues show in their prime. I did catch them a couple of times on the reunion tours, notably a Cardiff show where Cerys Matthews sang the Kirsty parts in Fairytale, and a midsummer gig in Tokyo where, calendar notwithstanding, they played Fairytale anyway and my Japanese friend got so excited he lost pretty much all his English and just bounced up and down shouting “Christmas song! Christmas song!”

Ultimately, it’s a really exciting record from the minute it starts to the moment it ends, and what more can you ask for?

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Honestly getting excited for the top 5.

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+1 :+1:

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+2, the writing, when the passion comes out is top, top TOP.

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Never heard this. Will check it out!

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5. Emmylou Harris - Wrecking Ball

If 80s 4AD had put out country albums they might sound a little like this. With Daniel Lanois at the controls, the trad Nashville sound of Emmylou’s previous album, the underwhelming Cowgirl’s Prayer, is swapped for spooky and rattly late night ambience as country twang gives way to endless reverb and delay. It sounds fantastic, a deep warm shimmering cocoon of sound to lose yourself in. It’s a perfect marriage of a beautiful ethereal voice, a distinctively atmospheric sound and some impeccable song selection (songwriters here include Neil Young, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan (the beauty and tenderness of this Every Grain Of Sand is enough to make you think for a moment that perhaps his Christian rock period is perhaps unfairly maligned), Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle as well as Harris and Lanois themselves). An awful lot of these songs deal with grief and loss, but they are not raw or painful, more filled with a gentle balm that soothes and offers hope, a promise that’s realised in the vision of old and lasting romance across the final two tracks.
It’s an astonishing record, a melancholy, haunting masterpiece, one that exists in its own time and space, the sound of gossamer and gauze, with just enough grit to keep it from cloying.

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4. The Afghan Whigs - Black Love

This is an album I missed at the time. It came out in 1996, but I didn’t hear it until the early 2000s, thanks to someone I worked with championing the band in the pub one long night. Big thanks to Ryan, wherever you are now, because it’s become an all time favourite of mine, and the Whigs have turned out to be one of my favourite bands.

The one line pitch is 90s alt rock, but made by men who were really into vintage soul and funk. It’s influenced by Norman Whitfield as much as it is the usual rock canon suspects, giving us a blend of caustic rock and lush soul. Frontman Greg Dulli wrote the whole record, and his constant subject matter is those entwined perennials, love and crime. His vision of love isn’t all hearts and roses, but a twisted destructive thing, powered by jealousy and revenge. It’s a great vocal performance throughout, a tortured howl of vengeance, self loathing and remorse. The sleeve notes are all couched as if this were a film (“Shot on location at…” instead of “recorded at”, etc) and fittingly so, for this is classic noir, drawing on the same vein of crime movie iconography that inspired so much hip hop around this time (lyrically at least this could be a hip hop record, full as it is of street level storytelling around the grimier seams of life).

It kicks off with the absolutely perfect opening 1-2 of the scene setting slow burn of “Crime Scene, Part One”, which is a strong contender for best track one side one ever, into the howling rage of “My Enemy”, but in truth there isn’t one bad song here. The music deepens the straight ahead rock band format of the Whigs’ previous albums with keyboards and strings, allowing Dulli to indulge his symphonic soul leanings - check the intro to “Blame, Etc”. It’s all powerful, punchy and emotive, culminating in the epic “Faded”, which is a song that to this day should be closing stadium gigs in front of a lighter waving crowd, half of whom weren’t even born when it came out.

But that was not to be. ‘Black Love’ is an fantastic record but one that wasn’t the hit it should have been (to be fair, when your lead single opens with the line “got you where I want you, motherfucker” you can’t really expect a whole heap of radio play). The band broke up after one more album (the also excellent ‘1965’). Dulli has reactivated the name in recent years and put out some records that are really good on their own terms, but not reaching these heights. I fear this album is now largely forgotten, but if you know, you know.

and here’s a bonus clip of a live Faded from their first reunion tour (where to be fair they do seem to be playing to a pretty big crowd). The musical quote at the end is typical behaviour - I have recordings where they’ve incorporated bits of Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Housequake, Superstition, even songs from Jesus Christ Superstar into their own material. Fantastic band.

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Amazing album, depending on the day it’s this or Gentlemen for my favourite Whigs album. It took a while for 1965 to click but when it did, oh boy, even sleazier and sultry sounding than Black Love but not quite as good. As you correctly say, their post reunion albums are good but not a patch on these three classics!

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They do a cover of The Temple from JCS on the 1992 album Congregation

Think this may be my favourite AW album, then 1965, then Black Love, then Gentleman, then Up In It (and the rest of their Sub Pop stuff). That is a pretty, pretty solid run of albums though. One of the great 90s discographies

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ah yeah, that slipped my mind for a moment. Thinking of a bootleg I had where they segue 39 Lashes into Honky’s Ladder

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Currently going through Dulli’s discography from the start, looking forward to Afghan Whigs finally clicking with me which I feel like they probably will, but at the moment I prefer Twilight Singers

3. Culture Shock - Onwards And Upwards

Another band that I discovered through the alternative clubs of Plymouth in the very early 90s. On those nights out, I was always hearing this one brief track, full of punky energy but with a bouncy danceable vibe. I loved it, and somehow discovered it was Civilization Street by a band called Culture Shock. And so Rival Records wanders once more into this story, where I bought a copy of this album, complete with “pay no more than £4.50” branding on the sleeve, so I could get hold of that song, and found so much more.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. This is ska-punk. There’s no avoiding it, but please be assured it couldn’t be further from preppy Yanks with trombones. It’s altogether more ramshackle and ground level take on those ideas, and predates that US sound by a decade or so. Frontman Dick Lucas had previously been in Wessex anarcho legends Subhumans, and the other members had been in various Wiltshire punk outfits. Culture Shock had a brief life, only three years or so, and they’d already split up by the time I discovered them, but in that time they played hundreds of gigs, became stalwarts of the free festival and DIY scenes and recorded this full length plus a couple of mini-LPs.

So much anarchopunk, and protest music in general, is just pointing at things and saying they’re shit. Culture Shock were the antithesis of that, relentlessly upbeat and positive, celebrating the joy that can come from swimming against the tide. Dick’s lyrics have a level of observation and creativity that is miles ahead of simplistic sloganeering. They’re never preachy, but prefer to make you ask questions and join dots, forever striving for inclusivity and peace. The words are thought provoking, and the music is pure fun, full of playful bouncing reggae basslines, punchy phased guitars, even some dubwise experiments. It’ll make you dance and put a smile on your face at the same time.

I’m reluctant to say a record changed my life. We’re all the sum of our experiences, and so many different things go into shaping an individual human…but this album and its underlying philosophy have been a colossal influence on my outlook. Perhaps I would have got there anyway, but discovering this at an impressionable age pushed me towards vegetarianism, the idea of constructive protest, an affinity with subcultures and alternative lifestyles, and did more to make me ask questions than my teachers ever did.

As I said above, they’d broken up before I even discovered them, and so for decades I only experienced them as an artefact, three records and some lyric sheets. Then out of the blue they got back together about ten years ago. Being from Wiltshire they’d always had a decent following in Bristol, and I finally got to see them with 700 other people in a disused church. A gig I’d been waiting literally twenty years for. They came out and opened with the song that’s track one side one here. I would have been crying happy tears if I hadn’t been jumping around like a lunatic. I wrecked a perfectly good pair of trainers that night and I have no regrets.

It’s not something I expect loads of other people to like. Something that has such an impact almost by definition has to be so keyed into to you that most other listeners won’t make that connection. It’s not in any way a credible album, or probably one that will be making anyone else’s lists, but it means the world to me.

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2. New Model Army - Thunder And Consolation

Another walkman on the school bus classic. New Model Army have been my favourite band for years, and this is where the love affair started. It’s their masterpiece, a perfect collision of folk, punk and rock. Four albums into their career, this is the sound of a band making a quantum leap forwards in sound and songwriting. The breadth of material here is tremendous, from the half-terrified, half welcoming invocation of apocalypse in opener I Love The World to the spitting fury and anger at Britain in the 80s of the final track Archway Towers. In between there’s compassion for broken homes and broken lives, anger at those who left a small town for the big city, ruminations on family and bloodline, and celebrations of getting away and living a better kind of life.

Justin Sullivan’s lyrics could easily fall into dogmatic preaching, but he leavens them with enough poetry and sensitivity to avoid stereotyped punk ranting. The music is urgent driving post punk, that also knows when to take the throttle off and indulge in some folky reflection. It’s not difficult or challenging music, there are strong melodies and catchy choruses throughout (the backing vocals on Stupid Questions are a masterclass). It’s an album where the rhythm section shines, fitting for a band who always claimed to be influenced by Northern Soul as much as the Ramones, with excellent melodic bass throughout, and one the best drummers around in the late Rob Heaton. This may be the high point of 80s alternative and post-punk. It’s a fabulous articulation of the discomfort some people felt with the Thatcherite ethos of the time, told with fire and passion, and enough hope and optimism to soften the darkness.

Like I said at the beginning, they’re my favourite band. I’ve seen them north of a hundred times now, if you count Justin solo shows and other permutations of the main band. (That is over a thirty plus year period though, so only averages out at about three gigs a year. That’s not mad, is it?). They’re a brilliant live experience but a difficult band to pigeonhole - I’ve seen them at a metal festival, a goth festival, a folk festival and a hippy festival and they haven’t seemed out of place at any of them - and they’ve never been fashionable (but then neither have I), but they have continued making great records. Love them.

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Green and Grey is one of the best songs ever written.

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I only know (and love) 51st State by them, so this definitely makes me want to check the album out

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they played Plymouth the other day!

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My early 90s dream!