Seems a little crass to use RIP in the header for this post the day after Teddy Pendergrass and Jay Reatard died, and two days after the earthquake in Haiti felled tens of thousands of lives, but… The Stylus Decade is finished with now, bar a little copy-editing to tidy up the loose bits that got missed or lost or confused in the hectic, pan-Atlantic flurry of emails that was our effort to get everything published on time. Not that we had any deadline except the one we imposed on ourselves; though sometimes those are the most important ones.
Simon Reynolds, who graciously both contributed a ballot and bigged us up in The Guardian but who wasn’t able to do us any blurbs, has bemoaned the predictability of the top 20 albums when compared with the P2K list. And I have to say I agree; there is a large amount of crossover with the P2K list, which was always a potential issue given the amount of Stylus alumni who now write for P4K. It’s also, sadly, the major side-effect of any consensus; compiling lists simply does bring out the commonly-liked things as opposed to the uncommonly-loved. Which is something that I complained about regarding other lists, and was trying to avoid with the Stylus list; it was kind of the reason for doing it.
But, knowing everyone who was involved, having seen all the ballots and watched the tallies add up, having organised the endeavour… I feel very accepting of the final content and order of the list. It is what it is, and if there’s consensus between P4K and Stylus it’s not only because of the staff crossover but because those are all good records that people like a lot, even if they may not all excite me that greatly. The 2000/2001/2002 bias, I think, is purely down to the time those records have had to bed into the collective conscience; couple this with the changing modes of production and consumption that are splitting the music world into a thousand splinters, and which writers and record companies and consumers alike have yet to get to grips with, and the early-decade bias is predictable.
These minor concerns aside, though, the exercise of putting The Stylus Decade together was worth it for the writing in the lists, the essays, the artwork, and the camaraderie. And, y’know, just because those of us who make lists like this may find the results predictable doesn’t mean that the people who read it won’t find lots of hidden and unexplored gems in its confines.
Original Pirate Material is an odd omission though, and I also consider it vastly superior to A Grand Don’t Come For Free. Simon’s probably right that Mike Skinner has done an amazing job of erasing himself from the critical mind; such was the fall-off I experienced with Grand (all impact lost after the first trip through the narrative, essentially, which is due to the poor nature of individual songs; maybe the rumours about him nicking all the backing tracks on his debut have some foundation – they’re certainly better than his later material) that I never heard a subsequent album all the way through.
I was also surprised that Fugazi’s The Argument didn’t make the list; it didn’t seem like a final statement for the band at the time, so perhaps the way the group simply seemed to cease to be over the course of the decade made people forget just how fine it was.
Probably my only regret about the whole venture is that this didn’t get into the top 100; it placed at about 140/150ish if memory serves. I thought about doing some gerrymandering to squeeze it in, but it was too big a leap to be conscionable. Oh well; it remains one of my very favourite, and most played, records of the last decade.