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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

‘Not another Top 100 albums list,’ we hear you cry. Well, yes it is. But we hope that this one will be different from the rest. Granted, there are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities as well with the aim of bringing some different music for you to seek out.

First, let us explain our ground rules. We are an indie and alternative music website so while Pet Sounds and Revolver are among our favourites you won’t find them here on this list. We’ve gone for mainly independent label artists but those on the majors with an independent and alternative slant are also included. We’ve gone for one album per artist, which has been tough for us. We have set no timeline as well, which has meant we have been able to plunder our record collections, our Classic Albums section as well as our recent reviews to bring you music from the 60s through to the last few years.

Everyone has their own list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. We will be releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. Hope you enjoy this first instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

100. Half man Half Biscuit – Back in the DHSS

John Peel favourites, Half Man Half Biscuit, famously missed a TV recording to go to a Tranmere Rovers game and later in their career took a lengthy break to go back on the dole. This lack of professionalism didn’t stop this, their debut album, from being the best selling independent record of 1986. They are one of the few bands who have managed to do comic songs and make them work. Songs about 1970s TV stars, children’s television and The Velvet Underground make this album a pretty unique experience.

99. Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Broadcasting From Home

Classically trained multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes, who tragically died of cancer in 1997, left behind one of the most diverse legacies in music. He added Burundi drumming to Adam and The Ants, the strings for Sid Vicious’ My Way and some wonderful albums with his experimental-folk-classical  band The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. There were five PCO studio albums but Broadcasting From Home from 1984 is the pick of the bunch, especially as it features the, often used by movie producers and advertisers, track Music For a Found Harmonium. Simon’s son Arthur has since revived the PCO, which continues to tour. More details here.

98. Neko Case – Blacklisted

Neko Case - Blacklisted

Part-time New Pornographer Neko Case has been producing great music on her own terms for several years, and Blacklisted is a high water mark. Backed by members of Calexico, The Sadies and Giant Sand she combines the smokey allure of a bar room singer with the old-time country vibe of Patsy Cline. The songs are dark and beautiful and Case sings them with power and style.

97. The Monks – Black Monk Time

Formed in the mid 1960s in Germany by a group of former American GIs The Monks were punks before their time, experimented in feedback and even  had haircuts of actual monks.  Recorded in 1966 in the early hours of the morning during a hectic performing schedule Black Monk Time was their only album and offers a mid 60s slice of one of the greatest punk pioneer acts. For a full review of the 2009 re-release of Black Monk Time click here.

96. The dB’s – Repercussion

The dB’s are the forgotten men of the 1980s jangle pop scene, their albums received a lot of attention from the critics, but little interest from the buying public. Lead by songwriters Peter Holsapple (who would later work with REM) and Chris Stamey (who would leave the band after this release) The dB’s understood how to write quirky melodic songs as well as any of their contemporaries.  The songs are just as catchy as their debut album, but the production is better and the instrumentation more interesting. Put simply, this is a great pop album and it deserved a much bigger audience.

95. Tar Babies – No Contest

This 1980s act from Wisconson started life as a hardcore punk outfit before drifting more into funk. Here on this little known 1988 album No Contest, released on the legendary SST label,  they blend the two perfectly. Quite simply its a great punk album and an even better funk album.

94. Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird started out playing a twisted variant on swing jazz with his band Bowl of Fire. By 2005, when this album was released, most of the jazz stylings had been dropped in place of a left-field take on folk, pop and alternative rock & roll. Live Bird plays several instruments at once and his musical virtuosity and deadpan vocals are a delight on this album.  His lyrics are oblique and the song structures are as impressive as anything you’ll hear. Few artists have managed to pull off an album this ambitious, and Bird does it with ease.

93. The Walkmen – You & Me

This 2008 album from Brooklyn band The Walkmen  is among our most recent entries and topped our Albums of 2008 list.  ‘In the New Year’ is a highlight, but the album’s true quality is its consistency throughout. Almost mariachi in places, punk in others, Velvet Underground at times all held together with lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s fierce vocals. Last year’s excellent album Lisbon took the style and mood of You & Me further, but for us You & Me is the better of the two. It’s a tough choice though. Our tip, buy both.

92. No Means No – Wrong

No Means No - Wrong

No Means No’s brand of jazz-hardcore is like nothing else on the varied Alternative Tentacles label. The Wright brothers, along with guitarist Andy Kerr, are more skillful players than your average hardcore punks. Opener ‘It’s Catching Up’ sets the scene, charging in at 100 miles an hour of raucous abuse, and the pace deviates and varies dizzily from there on in. The bass and drums are heavy and the guitars loud throughout, it is intelligent music but never stops being a lot of fun.

91. The Dukes of Stratosphear – Psonic Psunspot

This is the second album by XTC’s mid 1980s pyschedelic alter ego band The Dukes of Stratosphear. It coincided with XTC stopping touring and shows a band throwing themselves into studio work. With producer John Leckie on board each track is a loving, beautiful recreation of the 1960s music they love. Small Faces, Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys are just some of the influences on this remarkable album. The Stone Roses were reportedly so impressed with it they hired Leckie to produce their self titled debut. Read our full Classic Albums review of Psonic Psunspot here.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.


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Dirty Water: The Birth Of Punk Attitude

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Dirty Water: The Birth Of Punk Attitude

Posted on 25 November 2010 by Joe

Speaking on BBC 6Music recently former Sex Pistol John Lydon listed his many influences. This included German band Can, but then he surprised the interviewer by fixing a piercing stare, pausing then adding, “don’t you dare leave out Abba.”

In compiling ‘Dirty Water: The Birth Of Punk Attitude’ journalist and DJ Kris Needs has thankfully chosen to leave out Abba but has provided us with no shortage of other surprises.

Can are included, so too are other more obvious influences on punk Dr Feelgood, New York Dolls and The Monks. But in mining music from the 1950s to the mid 1970s he has looked for punk roots in all sorts of other places.

For every obvious choice such as MC5, represented here with a live version of ‘Rocket Reducer No. 62’, there’s an off the wall selection like the DIY doowap sound of ‘Get A Job’ by The Silhouettes or ‘Elemental Child’ by T Rex.

There’s also some real discoveries on here for us at Neon Filler. I feel cheated to have lived so many years on earth without hearing the fantastic mid 70s metal sound of Detroit black punk trio Death, whose ‘Politicians in My Eyes’ is featured here. This is one of a number of standout discoveries, as is The Pink Fairies’ track ‘Do It’, from their 1971 debut album Never Never Land.

The Standells ‘Dirty Water’ is a downright dirty slice of mod influenced rhythm and blues as is The Hollywood Brats’ version of The Kinks’ ‘I Need You’, which appears here on CD for the first time.

For Needs, who is a former editor of the fanzine ZigZag, punk pioneering is about both musical influence and attitude. This explains the appearance of Gene Vincent, whose punk attitude and love of a good riff shaped The Cramps and much of Jon Spencer’s output. It also explains the appearance of  1960s counter culture  band  The Deviants, whose track ‘Garbage’ is featured here.

Mick Jones from The Clash’s favourite Mott the Hoople gets a place as does reggae act Culture’s ‘Two Sevens Clash,’ which influenced much of The Clash’s work.

Across the mammoth 33 tracks  all show a glimmer of the punk music to emerge in the late 1970s and indicate this wasn’t a music revolution at all – punks had been around for years.

This is now the third compilation to be sent to us through the Future Noise Music’s punk label Year Zero.  The previous two, under the ‘Bustin’ Out’ tag and focusing  at punk’s influence on electronic music, were also excellent collections but this latest is by far the pick of the bunch. Even the curmudgeonly Lydon would be hard pressed to find room for Abba on such a collection.


by Joe Lepper


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The Monks – Black Monk Time

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The Monks – Black Monk Time

Posted on 23 September 2010 by Joe

The Monks were among the most curious of bands. Formed in the mid 1960s they were completely out of their time, had haircuts of actual monks, dressed like The Beatles, sang like Iggy and the Stooges and punk bands of the late 1970s, dabbled in feedback and influenced a diverse group of artists from Jimi Hendrix to Henry Rollins.

Created in 1964 by five American Gis stationed in Germany they were originally called the Torquays before being taken under the wing of two aspiring music managers, design students Walther Niemann and Karl-H.-Remy.

Remy and Niemann spotted a difference in the band to other so called beat combos of the time. Put simply it was an edge, which they drew out with marked effect.

The Monks

Musically it was punk before its time all wrapped up with tribal drumming and screaming vocals.  Melody went out the window. Feedback, meandering organ solos, distorted bass and even an electric banjo. It was the most unusual of sounds.

As if that wasn’t enough to mark out The Monks Remy and Niemann’s bizarre sense of design saw the band ruthlessly remodelled. Ordered to dress entirely in black on and off stage at all times, they also convinced the band to even shave the tops of their heads into real monk cuts.

After leaving the army the band stayed and played relentlessly around Germany and picked up enough of a following to interest Polydor, who signed them up.

Within three years of touring and beset with in-fighting they were left exhausted and called it quits. What they left behind was some early demos, some average later singles and just the one album, the fantastic Black Monk Time, the only time the sheer insanity and trail blazing qualities of the band were captured on disc.

Recorded in the early hours after they had played in venues in Germany Black Monk Time successfully recreates the energy of their live shows.

It can sound niaive in places lyrically and now almost 50 years on a little old fashioned, but remember this was 1966. What is perhaps most striking is how basic it is. The break up song ‘I Hate You ‘offers no thoughts of melancholy and confused angst just in your face lyrics such as  “I hate you baby with a passion.”

Check out the lyrics to ‘Complication’, “people cry, complication, people die for you, complication, people kill, complication.” This was pure punk, 10 years before the Ramones, Pistols and others.

Black Monk Time is one of the oddest record you will here. Of its time, with its Vietnam lyrics and 60s sound, yet so ahead of its time with its do-it yourself garage band punk ethos. The album was re-released in 2009 on Light in the Attic Records in a pretty good package that features a booklet about the band and a bunch of extra tracks that show the toned down direction Polydor wanted them to take through the singles ‘Cuckoo’ and the lame ‘Love  Can Tame The Wild’.

Perhaps Black Monk Time was the best the band could ever manage. It’s hard to tell, as the band were left shattered by touring leaving little energy for further creativity. The Monks singer and guitarist Gary Burger said of the break up. “All of us were skin and bones. Worn out physically and mentally, It was hard business and The Monks really took everything that we had.” They certainly gave it all on Black Monk Time, one we recommend for the most bizarre slice of medieval 60s punk you will ever hear.

By Joe Lepper

For more information about The Monks visit here


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