27. final solution

Final Solution equates unrequited lust and thermonuclear holocaust, then binds them with a title that can’t help but force reflection on the worst damned thing human beings have ever done. How punk is that? And all this from Cleveland, Ohio before punk rock had even officially arrived in the Americas. The Pere Ubu crowd in full mad annihilation mode, simultaneously demolishing and inventing the future we all had coming, ready or not. Also, it’s basically a cover of Summertime Blues, one of rock and roll’s seminal protest songs, except these weirdos have exploded it into something far bigger and hungrier, ravenous even. In my idea of a perfect world, it would replace Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl at all weddings. And hell, play it at funerals too. Because who ever dies with all their problems solved?” (Philip Random)

41. some velvet morning

“In which Frank’s little girl Nancy (Sinatra, that is) and a shady older gent named Lee (Hazelwood) deliver the heaviest, most beautiful easy listening track I know — guy so wasted he can’t even open his girl’s gate, but some velvet morning all dragonflies and daffodils, he’ll be up to it. Maybe he’ll even tell her about Phaedra. Which I always figured was heroin, yet suburban somehow. Because nothing feels more desperate than a junkie in a bungalow with a fine trim lawn, the utilities paid, the appearances kept, the muzak on the radio morphing into something luxuriously caustic — the split level dream corroding into a void the size of a solar system, feeling no pain, but burning up regardless. Or something like that. Anyway, great song. Great album. Great sense of time and zeitgeist, a whole world gone static yet doomed to implode. What was it about America, 1968?” (Philip Random)

45. young man blues

“Second of two in a row from the Who’s 1970 eruption Live At Leeds, because in case there’s any doubt, props must go to possibly/probably the greatest single slab of live ROCK vinyl ever unleashed. With the take on Mose Allison’s Young Man Blues manifesting as a powerhouse of such magnitude that it’s hard to imagine they didn’t just invent it on the spot, torn from the gods’ own hearts. For here is a genuinely classic band captured at absolute peak relevance, no excuses offered, none required (though captured is probably the wrong word for something as wild as this). And unlike that previous selection, My Generation, which ricochets and rambles its young man’s confusion for better of a quarter-hour, Young Man Blues focuses the superlative noise to just five-minutes-fifty-two seconds of glory that’s as relevant now as it’s ever been, probably even more so. Because nowadays, the young men, they got sweeeeet f*** all.” (Philip Random)

46. my generation

“You can do a lot worse than calling The Who’s My Generation the first proper punk rock song. Because it really does have it all — teenage rage, power, angst, frustration, horniness, confusion, all erupting as a sustained declaration of … something that’s impossible to really put into words without f***ing stuttering off into guitar, bass, drums, distortion, explosions and sustained thunder from there out to the edges of the nine known universes, which is what happens in the best version, the 1970 Live At Leeds version that just keeps mutating and erupting for almost fifteen minutes, the band having grown over the years into a monstrous garage apocalypse of noise and negation that was nevertheless playing the biggest festivals, topping the highest charts, like the answer to the question: what happens if you cross a Mod with a supernova?

Such that maybe eight years later, an eternally frustrating late teenage night, nothing to do, nowhere to go, just me and my friend Doug, a 26er of Tequila, his dad’s Camaro and an 8-Track of Live At Leeds. It’s snowed recently, so we take it down to an empty mall parking lot and cut loose with power slides, fishtails, spinouts. True heavy metal thunder. Although it would’ve been truer if the Camaro didn’t have an automatic transmission. Which we fried. So we ditched the car, hiked home and let his dad report it stolen the next morning. We never did get caught.  Although maybe fifteen years later Doug got busted for some kind of insider trading, then split the country while out on bail. One of these days, I guess I’ll get the full story, but I doubt I’ll be any less confused.” (Philip Random)

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)

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)

83. ball of confusion

“The Temptations had the big hit with Ball of Confusion but the Undisputed Truth (also signed to Motown, and working with the song’s co-writer Norman Whitfield in the producer’s chair) took it way further, bigger, louder. Seriously, did any Motown record before or since rock harder than this? So yeah, take a bow, Mr. Whitfield, and Undisputed Truth for being up to that groove. And then there’s that band I saw at a school dance, maybe Grade ten, doing their own long and sloppy rock take, all jammed out and obviously memorable, because here I am remembering it. I had no idea it was a Motown cover at the time, just caught some of the lyrics and couldn’t help relating. Because that’s what the world was (even fifteen year old me had that much figured out) – a ball of confusion indeed. Just turn on the six o’clock news – everything pumping with paranoia, unease, threat. And the band played on.” (Philip Random)

84. Doctorin’ the Tardis

“Take the Doctor Who theme, jam it up with Rock and Roll Part 2, add some big beats and incidental noise, and voila! the whole world shall move. And it did, sort of, Doctorin’ The Tardis being one of those records that hit like a monster all over the world, excepting the Americas where it never bothered to crack pop radio – the KLF being almost as committed to sabotaging themselves as they were to world domination. For instance, Doctorin’ The Tardis was originally credited to the Timelords, a moniker that got dropped after only one more release, which wasn’t even a record. It was a book called The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way). Future shenanigans would include hooking up with Tammy Wynette for another almost monster hit, and later (now operating under the banner of the K Foundation) burning a million pounds (about three million dollars at the time) in the name of art, which confused a lot of people and forever earned misters Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty mythical status in my book.  And they also (sort of) invented the notion of the extended ambient chillout mix. Call them true and justified heroes of this ongoing apocalypse and you won’t hear me arguing the point.” (Philip Random)

87. if music could talk

“Second of two in a row from the Clash‘s absurdly abundant 1979-80 phase which culminated in the six sided monster known as Sandinista – If Music Could Talk being (for me anyway) probably that album’s key track. Not for any grand power or standalone attainment, but simply for its inclusion — that a band as righteously raw and committed as The Only Band That Mattered™ could deliver such an oddly sweet and beatific ode to not rebellion-revolution-insurrection, but music itself. Which gets us back to that suburban house fire, 1981 sometime, the mixtape I had playing on the walkman care of my good friend Simon Lamb. If Armagideon Time was more fuel for the fire that was our whole broken and corrupt Cold War western culture, then If Music Could Talk, which came after, was some kind of next chapter, an odd little path leading wherever it is that only music can go, not even poetry can keep up with it, though there is a pile of poetry in If Music Could Talk, the words spilling like rain down both channels of the stereo mix, not making sense so much as easing beyond it, because we already knew it way back then even if we couldn’t quite find the words: the revolution, or evolution, or whatever it was going to take to somehow NOT annihilate ourselves in some kind of forever war – it could not be rational.” (Philip Random)