My Real Favourite Albums of 2009

Remasters

Not that the list I posted yesterday was a lie, or anything, but if I’m being brutally honest, then the albums I enjoyed most this year, listened to most this year, and… well, got the most excited about in the run-up-to-release-of this year, were all albums I’ve owned for 15+ years. Which seems like an admission of defeat almost.

And maybe it is; maybe the fact that I took the afternoon off on September the 9th in order to go home and listen to The Beatles very, VERY loud while my other half (a Beatles-disliking Mancunian, lest we forget) wasn’t in is a sign of the fact that I am now 30, and a classic rock fan, and admitting that, well, four-piece guitar-pop bands can never be quite as good as The Beatles were. Because they probably can’t.

The thing is that I’m still not a classic rock fan. I still vastly prefer Orbital, say, to Led Zeppelin, and I still don’t like The Who or The Rolling Stones outside of maybe, if I’m being generous, half-a-dozen songs each. I don’t read Mojo or Uncut, I don’t proclaim Ray Charles as the greatest artist of all time, I don’t, and this is crucial, think that good music ended with The Beatles and their contemporaries, and I haven’t yet, as I hope yesterday’s post proves, finished with now, even if, lacking in a professional interest in keeping up with what’s happening, I’m not as in-touch as I once was, nor as likely to expand my pop music horizons beyond what I accept are often pretty “safe” value judgements in terms of my own taste.

I just get really, really, REALLY fucking excited by the bassline in “Taxman”.

And by the guitar riff in “Day Tripper”.

And by the shift into waltz time in “We Can Work It Out”.

And by the drums in “A Day In The Life”.

And by the weird structural swings in “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”.

And by the tempo and the harmonies and the CLANG of “A Hard Day’s Night”.

It’s a really adolescent excitement, too, as was the act of taking the afternoon off (and a full day the following week), and rushing into town on the day of release to pick up a couple of them that I hadn’t pre-ordered from the jungle, and then impulse-buying another couple more in a supermarket, of all places, and the early ones too, that I always professed not to care about (my favourite period being that astonishing run from late 1964 to mid 1966 that takes in Rubber Soul, Revolver, and that raft of amazing singles from “Ticket To Ride” onwards). Good grief, I even went out and bought, and then read not-quite cover-to-cover but still pretty comprehensively, Revolution In The Head.

I listened to, and thought about, barely any other music for a month. I can’t really remember the last time that happened to me; I’m pretty sure it just didn’t while I was still writing regularly. Who has the time to get obsessed with one artist’s work for so long when reviews have to be written every week? You just can’t.

I loved The Beatles intensely when I was about 14; the first CDs I owned were copies of Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour that I nicked from my dad, a singularly un-psychedelic individual. It’s fair to say that The Beatles, and particularly MMT, were massively formative in my love of music. I’ve said elsewhere that the codas, the arrangements, the atmosphere of MMT are all threads I can see running through almost everything I’ve loved since, whether that might be Tricky or Caribou or Miles Davis or any other seemingly unconnected artist. I simply didn’t listen to The Beatles much from being about 17, when I discovered what one might call techno and started to really calcify my obsession with sound. The Beatles, on CD at least, simply didn’t sound good enough for me to bother with very often, even though I loved the tunes and the arrangements to death. Loved them so much that, in many ways, I didn’t need to listen to them because I knew them. I haven’t just been waiting for Beatles remasters for 3 years, I’ve been waiting for them since I was a teenager. The weight and clarity of the rhythm section (proving all the Ringo-naysayers are idiots), the studio-centric strangeness now rendered in perfect psychedelic scale, the thrilling room ambience of the early years… For the first time in my lifetime, The Beatles sound good enough to listen to. Maybe, hopefully, the success of these remasters, one last hurrah for the compact disc though they may be, will trigger a bout of sonic self-esteem in the legion of artists I love but who keep squashing their records into mush.

There are, obviously, a couple of other key records in that pile up top, both of them released in the year I turned 10 and then rereleased in the year I turned 30. I didn’t go quite as nuts over either remaster, and in fact approached both with a certain amount of trepidation lest they ruined records I loved by modernising them without a careful hand. I had no reason for doubt, though; both are done justice, even if neither, like The Beatles remasters, are perfect in the kind of absolutist audiophile terms that I am actually just as disdainful of as you. One wish, though; that The Stone Roses’ b-sides and non-album tracks get released on CD in an edition that doesn’t cost £100. There are a handful of those songs, “Standing Here”, “Something’s Burning”, “Where Angels Play”, that number amongst my absolute favourite songs ever.

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7 responses to “My Real Favourite Albums of 2009

  1. Fantastic, Nick. Really…

    Replace “The Beatles” with “AC/DC” and you are me. Replace “AC/DC” with “The Beatles” and I am you.

    That getting obsessed with a single artist and listening to nothing but said artist for a month or more is the stuff of formative years, no?

  2. You know, you’d think so, wouldn’t you, George.

    And yet, here’s you and me and Nick doing the same thing. I’ve been playing Nick Cave for the last three weeks solid. Before that it was the Stones. Before that it was the early Cult albums.

    Perhaps it’s of the formative years and of the midlife crisis years as well? You know, because that’s all about reliving you formative years…

  3. Why are other tastes “cultivated” whereas music preferences remain static? I used to hate peaty scotch; now I bathe in it.

    Stones binge coming on.

  4. I don’t know, I can think of some musical tastes I’ve cultivated over the years.

  5. First time visitor here, and really enjoyed this post. It’s an almost exact echo of my love affair with the Beatles and, in particular, the sonic possibilities of modern music.
    I’ll post a link on my little blog, if that’s ok with you…

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