“The First Roxy Music Album is still mostly ahead of its time even now decades after the fact (and the next four or five are pretty amazing as well). But it’s the first one that lays it all out – the glamour, the romance, the noise, the pop, the rock, The Future. And the single track that delivers it all in less than four and a half minutes, the one Roxy artifact I’d grab if the world was burning down (and it probably is), is Ladytron. Which (it occurs to me as I jot this down), I don’t even know what it’s about. It’s about a lady, of course, and beautiful at that, though I guess she may be a robot. But maybe Bryan Ferry‘s kiss can make her human. Or something like that. Equal parts fairy tale and science fiction and pure fun modernity, circa 1972.” (Philip Random)
“Call Kraftwerk’s Radio-Activity the theme song for maybe the best thing I’ve ever done with my time – radio, that is. The creative exploitation of those airwaves I’ve had access to – the chances taken and the activities pursued, all the while never trying to sell anybody anything except perhaps the notion that freedom is real … at least for an hour or four every now and then, late at night, after the normals have gone to bed and the bureaucratic restrictions have been mostly lifted. Not that Radioactivity’s only about that kind of radio. It also concerns the other kind, discovered by Madame Curie (I actually learned this from Kraftwerk). But the one, of course, informs the other, all those mysterious and invisible waves permeating our various spheres and personalities, touching our souls, beaming off into space, alerting who knows what alien entities of our existence … perhaps a hundred million light years from now, when they finally get the message. And the amusing thing would be if the first song they ever heard was title track of Kraftwerk’s 1975 masterpiece – the geniuses from Dusseldorf doing their damnedest to sound like machines, releasing great depths of humanity in the process.” (Philip Random)
Neu! being German for New! Hero being the closest Neu! ever came to a proper song with lyrics and singing and everything. Meanwhile, at pretty much the same moment in time, somewhere across town, their former band mates Kraftwerk were perfecting what would come to be known as techno-music. So maybe call Hero a proto-form of punk. Beat simple and four-to-the-floor, everything else snarling melodically along until screaming to noise at the end. And the world would hear it one way or another, the times would change. And seriously, who better than some malcontent German hippies to call bullshit on the whole notion of heroism? Or whatever it’s about.
Wire’s 154, released in 1979, has been hard to ignore with this list, being one of those albums that helped invent the future, gave birth to all manner of sounds and textures that would come to define the decade known as the 1980s, which is now ancient history, of course. But 154 continues to stand up, songs usually as sharp and short as they are lyrically obtuse. Though A Touching Display goes the other way with a vengeance – an epic and passionate display of song as weapon, particularly as things erupt past the midpoint, like a bomber the size of a football stadium off to deliver a payload that would destroy the known world. And it did.
Zoom is about the future apparently (the 1973 album in question being called 1990), a trip to the moon to be specific, though men had already been walking the moon for four years by 1973, smacking golf balls around even. Either way, this is the Temptations (arguably the greatest all male vocal group ever) together with their producer Norman Whitfield boldly and beautifully going as far (and as long) as they ever would, indeed as far as man ever has, a thirteen minute trip, which if taken at the speed of light would actually get you past Mars. Not bad for a bunch of guys from the wrong side of the tracks, Detroit.
“I guess you could say this strange age we still find ourselves in officially landed with Kraftwerk in 1981 — everyday people owning artificial brains, keeping them in their homes next to the TV maybe, playing games on them, writing with them, making music. Not that I was paying it all much attention in 1981. I was mostly confused in 1981, or more to the point I was fighting confusion, because I’m still confused. I just gave up the fight a long, long time ago. Which gets us back to Kraftwerk, Computer World. What an album! Sounded exactly like the future that we all had coming, ready or not. And I guess I was. Ready, that is. In spite of all the confusion.” (Philip Random)
(photo: Kevin Komoda)
“The first song from the first Roxy Music album makes it abundantly clear. This band is not concerned with the past. This is not a rock ‘n’ roll soaked in blues and authenticity. This is dissonance, angularity and cool high fashion, which no doubt must have felt like a hostile alien invasion if you were a certain kind of hippie in 1972. Hell, I didn’t even hear Remake/Remodel until at least 1979 and I just assumed it was some up and coming New Wave outfit, except they were way better than most. And I suspect the same would be true today. Still more about what’s to come than what has been.” (Philip Random)
“The first thing I ever consciously heard of My Bloody Valentine was Andy Weatherall‘s 12-inch remix of Soon. And it was good, immediately figuring in all the mixtapes I was making at the time, 1991 being a serious watershed year for me. I’d taken the baleful rage and angst of the 1980s further than most, and loved it often as not. But now it was time for a change, and here it was, often as not lyrically vague as it was musically expansive, like 1960s psychedelia all over again, only bigger, richer, pumping cool light and amazing colours. And then the album Loveless showed at the year’s end, and I finally heard the actual original version of Soon, and holy shit, it was everything I could’ve imagined, only more so, the future having arrived.” (Philip Random)
“It’s true. Can saved us all at least a decade before most of humanity even knew of their existence (my corner of it anyway). Because while everybody else was reeling from the meltdown of the Beatles, the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, the end of 1960s in general, backtracking deeper and deeper into so-called authentic blues, or going all progressive, singing of castles, strange kingdoms, lost dimensions (not that there was anything particularly wrong with it) … the Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist combo known as Can (operating out of their own schloss in Koln, West Germany) were still fiercely working the now, deep into the pretty much infinite groove of Halleuwah, the Lord be praised indeed! Howls and riffs and passing rips of melody and noise and the best f***ing drummer ever — the whole mad stew still sounding fresh and dangerous and profoundly ahead of its time even now, decades later. Why is it not way higher on this list then? Good question. I guess I must’ve been just post a phase of listening to it too much when I was compiling things.” (Philip Random)