60. music + science lovers

“The 1987 album known Time Boom X De Devil Dead (yeah, it’s a mouthful, but why shouldn’t it be?) is one of the greatest three way musical collisions that ever happened, and further evidence that you just can’t trust the Music Biz when it comes to getting superlative noise from creators to appreciators. In fact, it may just be the whole reason for this list (the best stuff you’ve probably never heard). The music and science lovers in question here being i) Lee “Scratch” Perry (having recently split Jamaica for the UK), ii) the Dub Syndicate (absolute truth in advertising), and iii) Adrian Sherwood (mix magician extraordinaire) all taking the night train together, feeling no pain, even as the Cold War reality of the moment kept burning hotter and hotter, almost as if the only conceivable constructive action was to keep moving, keep grooving, keep smoking the ganja and cranking the echo, and spilling the mad truth in hopes it might someday one day, by whatever improbable means, finally find the sort of ears that need it, want it, maybe even deserve it. Time Boom X De Devil Dead. Seriously, seek it out — possibly the greatest album ever that hardly anyone’s heard.” (Philip Random)

61. desolation row

“It must’ve been early 1973 because I was still thirteen, working through the bullshit of Grade Eight, and everything else for that matter, including life itself, a big fat WHY BOTHER at the heart of pretty much all my musings. Because the Christian-God-based reality I’d had foisted on me from day one was too ridiculous to be taken remotely seriously. But what did that leave then other than meaninglessness, which was proving to be no fun at all. Meanwhile in the background, this Bob Dylan song was playing on the cool FM radio station of the moment (nobody else sounded like him, I had that much figured out) and it just kept going on and on, about postcards sent from hangings, and Cain and Abel, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Insurance Men, the Titanic, Einstein disguised as Robin Hood, the Phantom of the Opera, Ezra Pound and T.S. Elliot … like the singer-poet-whatever in question had a damned serious message for me and he wasn’t going stop until I got it. Which I did finally. Except it wasn’t really a message. More of a feeling that I’d be wise to stop sweating the meaning stuff, and rather just get on with it, live, learn, encounter crazy shit, go to the hangings and bear witness, maybe drink cheap red wine, mix it up with marijuana, get serious about all that confusion out there (and within for that matter) not as an end but maybe as an indication that some higher wisdom-insight-glory might be waiting a little further down the line. And take notes, maybe send a few postcards of my own. Maybe this is one of them.” (Philip Random)

62. the golden void

“The first time I ever heard mention of Hawkwind, it was some punk rock loudmouth dismissing them as metal heads who’d fried their brains on too much brown acid. Which instantly sounded like something worth investigating. What they are, or certainly were (because it’s the deep weird 1970s, I’m thinking about here), was proper anarcho-hippie-revolutionaires who made the very best of their fabulously fried brains. Because it’s f***ing true, what the guy’s singing about in The Golden Void — the corridor of flame and the psychedelic warriors who commit to it, find themselves way the f*** out at the edge of time. Because I’ve seen them in my psychedelic journeys. Hell, I’ve been one, doing my infinitesimal bit to keep the universe expanding as it must, riding that big and glorious and infinite boom to its ever blooming edge. It’s all true. Trust me. I wouldn’t lie about something like that, and neither would Hawkwind. You can hear it in the passion of the performance, every means utilized to evoke what they’ve encountered: ever spiraling, never ending, indescribable, and the thing is, they’re still there, down the golden void, and so am I, surfing fractal edges of … eternity, I guess. Time and space are like that if you’re moving fast enough. I think. I wish I could somehow prove any of this. Which I suppose I can. But not if you won’t listen to stuff like The Golden Void at proper atom splitting volume … with the right kind of ears.” (Philip Random)

63. sweat loaf

“I’ve said it before. I’m sure I’ll say it again. If the Butthole Surfers hadn’t existed, it would’ve been necessary to invent them. Because somebody had to do it, finally deliver a noise that was the manifestation of everything any decent, god-fearing parent or businessman or teacher or priest or shopkeeper or hockey coach had ever feared about so-called rock and roll, and worse.

Like that family of three that went missing in the vicinity of the Butthole Surfers’ compound in rural Texas, the young son butchered by the band, barbecued and force-fed to the dad who went mad and was later found naked at the side of the road, babbling, claiming he knew the truth about who killed JFK and the Jonestown massacres and how the Trilateral Commission figured into it all. Meanwhile, the mom just joined band, danced with them on stage, naked, and helped sell merchandise afterward. Such was the ugly and evil infamy of the Butthole Surfers circa 1987 … but only if you didn’t get the joke. Like their ‘cover’ of Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf, the title adjusted, everything else turned up and on its head. Better than the original by orders of magnitude, and Satan.” (Philip Random)

64. song to the siren

This Mortal Coil were a project, not a band, brainchild of 4AD Records’ Ivo Watts-Russell. The idea being to dissolve the boundaries between the various groups and artists on the label, get everybody mixing it up together, with an accent on the ethereal, the mysterious yet easy to listen to. Which certainly worked for me, the first album in particular, It’ll End In Tears, which got a pile of play in the middle 80s, evoking as it did an apocalypse that was neither fire nor brimstone, but rather deep and spacious, mournful even. Ideal for the coming down phase of any number of psychedelic ventures – the part where you’re still too wired to sleep, too spent to do anything else but lie flat. The forty plus minutes of It’ll End In Tears being all somber relaxation and release, a whole definitely more than the sum of its parts, except maybe the cover of Tim Buckley’s Song To The Siren, the Cocteau Twins Elizabeth Fraser taking it places where gravity remains unknown, and you with it. Or did I dream that part?” (Philip Random)

65. debaser

Debaser was the first Pixies track to properly grab me, give me a proper smacking around, as all world class, eschaton immanetizing rock must do. The eyeball slicing helps, of course. A Salvador Dali reference. Actually, it came from Luis Bunuel’s dream, but Dali liked the sound of it and the rest is history. Surrealism with a capital S. Debaser, that is. Which makes it as much about Paris 1929 as the Americas of 1989, or Zurich 1916, for that matter. Meaning being entirely beside the point. Because seriously: what did happen in the Cabaret Voltaire? What strange and vital energies were released from its bowels even as all of Europe was tearing itself to pieces in the so-called Great War? What conjured them? What nurtured them? And how did they somehow inspire and ignite a sort of surf punk outfit operating out of Boston, Massachusetts seventy plus years later? I’m clear on one thing. Meaning had nothing to do with it, or a dog, Andalusian or otherwise. And I’m pretty sure Marie Osmond would back me up.” (Philip Random)

66. sweet thing – candidate – sweet thing

“If the house was on fire and I could only grab one David Bowie album, I’d die for sure because I’d be stuck there trying to make up my mind. Or maybe I’d just be f***ing honest with myself and grab Diamond Dogs, because I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the one I’ve listened to the most over the years, the one that doesn’t even begin to have a weak or misguided moment, the one I’ve never seemed to grow even slightly allergic to, perhaps because it’s so witheringly uninterested in being pleasant. And Sweet-Thing-Candidate-Sweet-Thing (the mini-epic that takes up most of side one) is the high water mark.

The Ziggy alien is long gone by now. This new Bowie creature is very much earthbound – half human, half dog, and rolling in the muck and mire of an apocalyptic hellscape that’s equal parts Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dali, and George Orwell. And he’s running for political office,. He wants to be Big Brother. Which is sort of the concept here. Diamond Dogs being the album that was originally intended to be an adaptation of Orwell’s 1984, but Mr. Bowie couldn’t secure the rights, so it ended up being its own uniquely dark and harrowing thing. And yet there’s a sweetness at the heart of it, a sorrow even, a sliver of soul and humanity that suggests maybe all is not lost. Not yet anyway. Welcome to the early-middle part of the 1970s, the outlook may be grim, but damn, if the noise isn’t superlative.” (Philip Random)

(Guy Peelaert)

67. ambulance blues

“Given my age at the time (barely fifteen), Neil Young’s On The Beach is definitely one of my earliest (and oddest) album length crushes. And being cool had nothing to do with it. It was just one of those difficult teen summers, stuck visiting relatives, no friends within three thousand miles, too old for little kids stuff, too young to care about adult bullshit. And yet for some reason, there was this Neil Young album kicking around my uncle’s place. I think he won it in a raffle, probably listened to the whole thing once, if at all. And to be honest, that’s probably all I would’ve given it if there’d been any other options. But there weren’t, so I dove in, with side two, the mellow side, the rich and deeply somber, dark and melancholic side, being the one that truly grabbed me over time. Though grab’s the wrong word. More of an embrace, albeit a cool one. Particularly Ambulance Blues, which really felt like the album cover: a California beach on a grey and disappointing day, patio furniture spread around, and the tail fin of a buried car, with Mr. Young way out at the water’s edge looking like he might be about to jump in, never come back. You’re all just pissing in the wind.” (Philip Random)

68. halo of flies

“The fourth Alice Cooper album, the one known as Killer, is as fine a slice of epic rock spectacle as the early 1970s delivered, and they delivered a lot. I distinctly remember the first time I heard it, at my friend Malcolm’s, who immediately went out and bought it when the news hit about a kid a few suburbs over who’d hung himself trying to imitate the ‘hanging trick’ pictured on the calendar found inside. The newspapers were all over it for a while. Fourteen year old boy kills himself because of Alice Cooper. Which, of course, is as deep as any adult ever went when it came to Alice. The pictures. Their loss, because there was nothing shallow about the music. Creepy, dynamic, erupting with grotesque passion and cool … particularly Halo of Flies. Apparently, it’s about espionage. Halo of Flies being an evil outfit working deep networks of counter-intelligence-terrorism-revenge-extortion-perversion, and thus they must be smashed. And our man Alice and his crowd of weirdoes are up to the task, whatever it takes, even a little Rogers + Hammerstein if needs be. Would’ve made a helluva movie.” (Philip Random)