80. The Prodigy – The Fat of the Land
While The Sex Pistols got the kids all fired up and scared their parents, The Prodigy scared pretty much everyone. Led by Keith Flint who did little more than dance like the girl from The Exorcist’s eccentric cousin, snarling, while his hair contorted like some psychopathic Pippi Longstocking. The music in their greatest statement ‘The Fat of the Land’ was as ripe with creativity as it was with firepower. One of the rave scene’s greatest moments, what makes ‘The Fat of the Land’ so different from their latest offerings is the constant shifting dynamics; they know that colossal noise after murderous silence works far better than just colossal noise.
79. Primal Scream – Vanishing Point
This is by far their most atmospheric record and it sounds cooler than James Dean’s sunglasses in an industrial sperm freezer. This is the sound of driving down a brightly lit town, half nervous, half confident, with just enough money clinking cheerfully in your pockets to see you through another night. Seemingly taking Massive Attack’s urban soundscaping to heart as well as The Stone Roses’ dance rock grooves, all without leaving their ambitious add-ons behind (check out the weird novelty space noises and gloriously ritzy horn section on ‘If They Move Kill Em’). At times it’s brilliantly cinematic such as on the murky swagger of ‘Trainspotting’ but it’s when they combine that with their standard rock-song prowess that they really soar (‘Burning Wheel’).
78. Fiona Apple – When The Pawn
For a respectable(?) amount of time, this held the record the longest album title ever: a shameless 80-word poem which attracted more attention than the album itself. This doesn’t do the record justice since it’s far better than the title. Apple’s jazz-piano inflected and defiantly robust pop music succeeds in shattering the female-singer-songwriter clichés that were rife at the time. She never used her image or profile to shift records (and admittedly, that title didn’t help), but ‘When The Pawn’ doesn’t need any help since it gets by just fine on ambition and strength of ideas alone.
77. Manic Street Preachers – Generation Terrorists
The Manics’ initial intention was to make one classic debut (this) and then split up and never be heard from again. For better or for worse, they chose to continue, but they would have gone out (and in) with a bang if they had just left it at ‘Generation Terrorists’, a sprawling 18-track debut of Clash-y political punk-by-numbers, heart-on-sleeve punk-by-numbers, arrogant smarmy fuck-off punk-by-numbers and a bizarre remix by Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad. While the sentiments may largely be… by numbers, the music and lyrics is top drawer and crammed to breaking point with explosive crowd pleasers. The music, on the other hand, wins hands down above the lyrics and establishes James Dean Bradfield as one of the best British guitarists of his generation. Plus he can shout like a Welsh Viking.
76. Pulp – This Is Hardcore
The inescapable dirge of modern life makes for surprisingly exciting music. Instead of casting a wry over the subject and saying “well aint that a kick in the face”, ‘This Is Hardcore’ immerses itself in despair, essentially spouting “the sound of someone losing the plot, making out that they’re ok when they’re not.” Jarvis Cocker, who still stacks up as one of the best British lyricists ever, compiles a pathological report of henpecked husbands, unemployed couch potatoes and people who have had sex so much it now feels like watching the news.
75. Leftfield – Leftism
Leftfield sounded different because they sounded human. ‘Leftism’ is humans visiting space, not space visiting us, and for this reason alone, it’s one of the most original pieces of techno of the decade and ever while dabbling in soul, funk, ragga, hip-hop and most other things, with a John Lydon collaboration thrown in with the menacingly euphoric ‘Open Up’.
74. David Holmes – Let’s Get Killed
No confused tourist in New York should be without a copy of ‘Let’s Get Killed’: a record that perfectly distils the paranoia and excitement of New York down to one brilliantly cinematic disc. Irish musician David Holmes skulked the city that never sleeps armed with a Dictaphone recording casual conversations between everyone from pimps and hookers to street astrologers; drunk millionaires to drug dealers; tramps to table dancers. He took these tapes and wove their speech into a nerve-jangling roadmap of NYC’s flea-bitten underbelly. The music itself reaches across techno, movie soundtracks, funk, swanky lounge and street-performed hip-hop. Even though it feels like a place you can’t wait to get out alive from, you still won’t be able to turn it off.
73. PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
‘To Bring You My Love’ crawls into focus like a wounded spider across a desert heat haze. After a pair of grunge-ish sexually charged records which saw promiscuous men running for the hills, PJ Harvey put out an eerily romantic and captivating record that is undeniably dramatic, but scarily convincing. Harvey totally inhabits ever character, be it desperate lover, religious serial killer or murdering mother. The music itself is desolate blues-rock affair which is alternately fuzzy and driven, slow and sinister or -at its best – agonisingly grief stricken. The height comes in the middle: ‘Teclo’ is a declaration of love by a grieving widow, desperately howling “Let me ride on his grace for a while”, every syllable twisted in a resoundingly human anguish.
72. Eels – Beautiful Freak
Mark “E” Everett has had one of the most miserable lives of any musician; his alcoholic father devised the theory of parallel universes, then died of a heart attack. Everett discovered the body. And that of his schizophrenic sister’s from suicide. Then his mother died. You’ll find the tissues under your seat. While brooding on his encroaching mortality and the ruined lives of so many, however, he wraps them up in twisted and bleached fractured indie-pop sunshine melodies. Amongst the uncomfortable commentaries though, there’s always a slight glimmer of hope. Slight.
71. Budd/Lentz/Garcia – Music For 3 Pianos
I’ve always thought music was the most powerful art form, but it’s surprising how effective the lack of it can be. These six pieces by Harold Budd for 3 pianos are all masterclasses in the use of silence. The fact that these seem to drift in and out of consciousness only adds to their effect. Clocking in at just under 22 minutes, it’s a short album, but every second sounds chewed over and carefully engineered. Quietly powerful and effortlessly hypnotic, this is the music truly great films are made of; actually, it’s the stuff that truly great films aren’t quite good enough for. If it soundtracked ‘Dude Where’s My Car?’ it would make it seem like a culturally significant work of art.