28 October, 2006

Pete's sake

In the current edition of Word magazine, there is an attempt to come up with a list of definitive "man's" and "woman's" albums; in other words, those recordings most likely to be in the collections of your average male and female.

Of the 25 listed as must-have "man's" LPs, I had half a dozen or so (while only owning one of the "woman's" records: 'Little Earthquakes' by Tori Amos). One of those six, however, was actually the first album I ever bought on CD: 'Selling England By The Pound' by Genesis.

I'm not ashamed to confess I spent a couple of years in my mid-teens developing an obsession with 1970s-era Genesis, time I know I should have spent properly embracing slightly more contemporary sounds, but which nonetheless broadened my tastes to the extent that I still listen to and cherish the band's shameless prog-orientated output today.

'Selling England By The Pound' hails from 1973 and in my opinion was - is - the best the group ever recorded. It was the penultimate album to be made with founding member Peter Gabriel, but the first (and maybe only) time the band successfully tempered tendencies towards pretension and self-indulgence with thoughtful, melodic, carefully-constructed songs.

It also boasts a profoundly affecting and universal theme: nostalgia for a lost past. Such a topic probably sounds old hat now, indeed it is old hat, but there's a freshness and imagination to the way it is tackled on this particular album which surmounts what has become musical cliche.

In addition there's something singularly Albion about the album's sound, something I think I picked up on, albeit subconsciously, from a very early stage: this was the album I chose to take with me, copied onto cassette, when I (somewhat reluctantly) took part in a UK-Germany school exchange when I was 14.

At night, lying alone and uneasy in my bed in this unknown country surrounded by people who spoke a totally incomprehensible language, I would play myself a couple of songs from the album before going to sleep. They were my connection with home, not just literally but somehow metaphorically as well. It certainly helped me through the ordeal of not just being so far away from everything I knew, but also of being in such an alien, uncompromising place. Painful, if evocative, times.

Anyway, in case you're interested, here's the full list of what Word magazine officially dubs 'Ultimate Boys' Albums' for your own consultation. The ones I own are marked with an asterisk. To be honest, I haven't heard of half of them.

'The Wall', PINK FLOYD*
'Trout Mask Replica', CAPTAIN BEEFHEART
'Live At The Witch Trials', THE FALL
'Slanted And Enchanted', PAVEMENT
'Endtroducing', DJ SHADOW
'Feast Of Wire', CALEXICO
'Maxinquaye', TRICKY
'In The Court Of The Crimson King', KING CRIMSON
'Black Sea', XTC
'Entertainment', GANG OF FOUR
'A Love Supreme', JOHN COLTRANE*
'The Marble Index', NICO
'Surfer Rosa', PIXIES
'White Light/White Heat', THE VELVET UNDERGROUND*
'Trans-Europe Express', KRAFTWERK*
'Swordfishtrombones', TOM WAITS
'Fear Of A Black Planet', PUBLIC ENEMY
'Selling England By The Pound', GENESIS*
'Eliminator', ZZ TOP
'Ambient Works Volume II', APHEX TWIN
'Radio City', BIG STAR


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