michael's top 40 albums of all time
posted 01/20/2005

(ok, so I completely lost it trying to put these in order... thus minus some exceptions... they really aren't in any concrete one. Wish I could've squeezed The Housemartins, Jackson Browne, Galaxie 500, Everything But The Girl, Elvis Costello, The Pet Shop Boys... and I refused to put The Sex Pistols on because I wasn't in the mood even though if it did go one it probably would've gone first... oh and so many more... NO ONE EVER ASK ME THIS QUESTION AGAIN!)

1 David Bowie The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars
Ok, so picking the best record of all time is really hard. And if David Bowie sat in his room listening to Morrissey's voice as a teenager, I might have reversed the order of the top two... but I might as well start with the template for reinvention. Every doomed, small town poet who put on a little eyeliner and changed his name... starts here. (Five Years)

2 The Smiths Hatful of Hollow
This was the most transformative record of my youth... and basically indescribable... the smell of the vinyl, the smoothness of the gatefold, the SOUND OF THE VOICE... it's all still with me. Every doomed, small town poet who put down his diary and looks for the kid in town who played guitar... starts here. (Reel Around The Fountain)

3 New Order Power, Corruption & Lies
They invented Our Disco, putting depression and ecstasy together on the dance floor, and then every kid in the club was inside his own movie...with lights and sounds and desperate bodies all around...and it was one worth being in. Every doomed, small town poet who gets drunk and dances with his friends on his birthday... starts here. (Your Silent Face)

4 The Velvet Underground & Nico
This record invented rock n' roll for me, and started an obsession with Andy Warhol's Factory and a New York City that was a million miles from my teenage suburb... and made me want to bring a guitar to art school. Every doomed small town poet who moves to the city and find the ghost of a girl to sing his songs... starts here. (I'll be your mirror)

5 Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde
I came to love Dylan slowly over the last three years, thanks to being close to someone who could help me hear the things I had missed before, and now I'm stunned into silence driving on dark roads with his voice and words all around me. Every small town poet, who puts on a pair of sunglasses and stands alone... starts here. (Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

6 Felt Forever Breathes The Lonely Word
Each Felt record is really just a dark, difficult fragment of a notion... but there is so much contained in each failed pop song, something pure and beautiful... and somehow better than if they had succeeded. Every small town poet, who stumbles into something beautiful that nobody pays any attention to... starts here. (Hours of Darkness Have Changed My Mind)

7 Johnny Cash Live From Fulsome Prison
Songs of sin and redemption performed in front of those they were written for and about... contained here in their purest form, with a twanging guitar and a voice an octave beneath god's. Every doomed small town poet who leaves town on a train... starts here. (I miss someone)

8 OMD Architecture & Morality
This was the sound of men and machines and a music that did not belong to either of them... one of those dreamlike albums that disassociates itself from both its past and its future... the promise of the early 80s. Every doomed small town poet, who placed a small picture of a saint on top his synthesizer... starts here. (Joan of Arc)

9 Billy Bragg Back To Basics
The socialist agitator with love songs galore... the solitary folksinger who best made the case that Marxism is an emotional issue, and love a political one. Every doomed small town poet who sings for doomed small towns... starts here. (A New England)

10 The Style Council Our Favorite Shop
The reinvention of the mod as internationalist, taking elements from American soul, French folk, British pop, and Italian disco and creating an optimistic manifesto for a brotherhood of well dressed, working class double agents Every doomed small town poet, who dreams his local café into Le Duex Magot... starts here. (A Man of Great Promise)

11 The Pyschedelic Furs Talk, Talk, Talk
The sound of thrift store punk, and the opening credits of the new wave dream...which like many impossible things... ends in a car crash. Every doomed small town poet who had a voice older than his heart... starts here. (She is mine)

12 Prefab Sprout Swoon
This is an experiment in a kind of socialist, intellectual jazz that should have been fucking horrible, but instead was fucking brilliant... A strange logic of 7th chords matched with a strange logic of sullen phrases which came together to form a strange string of soulful hits from a better a world. Every doomed small town poet who walks out of his jazz class and into the rain... starts here. (Elegance)

13 Belle & Sebastian If You're Feeling Sinister
There is a sense of fighting in a war that you already know is lost in this record... a gorgeous, shambling defense of a defenseless aesthetic, which makes this a kind of sensitive lad's gospel music. Every doomed, small time poet who rounds up his friends at a café and proposes doing something pretty... starts here. (Fox in the snow)

14 The Pogues If I Should Fall from Grace with God
The radical unification of Irish folk and British punk... the radical unification of a past and future which are separated by oppression and alienation... a celebration of the mobility of the human spirit in all directions Every doomed small town poet who destroys himself with the dutch courage... starts here. (Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six)

15 Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Upsetters Super Ape
A dub reggae record as strange and sprawling as the mind of Perry himself... music for skinheads with taste and soul...dancing to the sounds of their own footsteps echoing back at them. Every doomed small town poet who stays up all night turning knobs and pushing faders... started here. (Black Vest)

16 Depeche Mode Black Celebration
This record was unabashedly adolescent, sinisterly sentimental...lusty, plastic and vulgar, like all great pop music and philosophy should be. Every small town poet who spent a melancholy hour doing his hair... starts here. (But Not Tonight)

17 The Magnetic Fields The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees
Steven Merritt once said he was only interested in bubblegum pop and experimental music, and this compilation of his early recordings with Susan Anway come closest to forming a true manifesto for this combination... which is ultimately redeemed by the begrudging presence of love. Every doomed small town poet who truly believed he was better than Burt Bacharach starts here. (100,000 Fireflies)

18 Dionne Warwick A Decade of Gold
The pop scientist and the soulful Agony Aunt together in a live album recorded in Las Vegas... thus inventing the first glamorous gloom. Every doomed small town singer with a voice seeking the words to explain itself... starts here. (Anyone who ever had a heart)

19 Saint Etienne So Tough
The sound of nostalgia and futurism like a warm bath of perfumed lager... the sound of small happinesses in big cities... and a place to dance. Every doomed small town poet who creates music for films which only exist in her dreams ... starts here. (Hobart Paving)

20 The Specials The Specials
The reclamation of the Fifties' London bi-racial hipster... through the marriage of punk and ska and kitchen sink realism... party music for people who hate to party. Every doomed small town poet who plays dance music in a ghost town... starts here. (It Doesn't Make it Alright)

21 Pulp His & Hers
The revenge of the overlooked pop star and his best chums through the glittering weariness of memory... and the sticky weariness of lip gloss. Every doomed small town poet who persists in turmoil and finishes in style... starts here. (Babies)

22 Mott The Hoople Mott
The glam rock band about being a glam rock band... the fantasy of escaping yourself by plugging in an electric guitar... and the sound of the emptiness that remains after the last chord. Every doomed small town poet who accidentally becomes a rock n' roll star... starts here. (Honaloochie Boogalu)

23 The Beat Special Beat Service
A kind of angsty, cocktail party soul... mixing ska with new romanticism into the perfect cocktail to sip at ... while leaning against the wall dreaming. Every doomed small town poet who could croon and boogie at the same time... starts here. (I confess)

24 Huggy Bear Weaponry Listens To Love
An uncompromised declaration of independence, and the transmutation of identity through razor slashed verse and shattered hardcore... and never used in a Volkwagon commercial. Every doomed small town poet who created an audience out of fanzines and ideas... starts here. (Warning Rails)

25 The Orchids Epicurean - A Soundtrack
The most obscure record in the list... the sound of Sarah records and crackling vinyl with pictures of rainy British train stations on them... music for the world that never was. Every doomed small town poet who sung songs only for his friends... starts here. (Isn't Always)

26 Bruce Springsteen Darkness on The Edge of Town
The least obscure record on this list... well close at least... the sound of a gasoline drenched American alienation too artless to be chic, but to powerful to be artless. Every doomed small town poet who rolls up his sleeves to play guitar... starts here. (Candy's Room)

27 Kraftwerk Trans Euro Express
The end of rock n' roll... but the beginning of nothing... a future which never arrives but seduces us none the less. Every doomed small town poet who'd rather be an architecht... starts here (Europe Endless)

28 Siouxsie & The Banshees Hyena
In recognition of the fact that two of my favorite people in universe can barely get through a sentence about Siouxsie without weeping... I choose this startlingly good record for them. Every doomed small town poet who seems to belong to another world... starts here. (Dazzle)

29 The Go-Betweens Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
I always wanted to be like the Go-Betweens, which is different than liking The Go-Betweens, which I also quite do... I wish more bands wanted to be like The Go-Betweens. Every doomed small town poet who starts a band about being a doomed small town poet... starts here. (The Wrong Road)

30 Nick Drake Five Leaves Left
There's not a lot more to say about Nick Drake that hasn't been said over the last three or four years, so all I'll say is that the best chapters of my book were the ones I wrote after the waitress put on Nick Drake for me. Every doomed small town poet who makes folk music sound this sad... starts here. (Way To Blue)

31 Cocteau Twins The Pink Opaque
A record by a band so original that they are probably doomed to be forgotten... but the queasy, dreamy sensation of listening to this while staring at my bedroom ceiling... won't be by me. Every doomed small town poet who seems to belong to another time... starts here. (From The Flagstones)

32 Roxy Music Roxy Music
The first and ultimate art school band... filled with every plastic pretense of glamour, and the beating of a telltale heart. . Every doomed small town poet who figured out that he looked great in a tuxedo... starts here. (Virginia Plain)

33 Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Easy Pieces
A record as luxurious as The Paris Review... smart, and soulful in the Whit Stillman sense... like the boy in the horn-rims who could still get laid. Every doomed small town poet who sets out to be a writer, but ends up a pop star... starts here. (Why I Love Country Music)

34 The Railway Children Reunion Wilderness
A swooning, melancholy guitar pop band of the first order... who were meant to be Factory Records answer to the Smiths... they weren't, but they were The Railway Children and that is nothing to live down. Every doomed small town poet who looked great in a raincoat... starts here. (Brighter)

35 The Wedding Present Tommy
The pre Belle & Sebastian keepers of the Anorak torch who eventually snuffed it out under the weight of their guitars... the best lonely hearts club band ever. Every doomed small town poet who gets revenge on their ex girlfriends with a guitar... starts here. (The moment before everything's spoiled again)

36 Bauhaus Press Eject and Give Me The Tape
Ok... yes... I was a goth for three and a half hours, but the kind of goth who is fierce and unsettling... like Ophelia... floating in death and love and madness... See! Typing sentences like that is why I gave it up! Every doomed small town poet who concentrates on the doomed part... starts here. (Hollow Hills)

37 Suede Dog Man Star
Aside from Pulp, the best of the mid 90s brit pop records because it's the only one to accurately convey the emptiness and bareness of decade through it's kind of herionized mediation on glam rock and depression... another in the glorious failures category that I aspire to. Every doomed small town poet who becomes a doomed big city superstar... starts here. (The 2 of Us)

38 Angelic Upstarts 2,000,000 Voices
The best of the first wave of skinhead bands, and one who's Marxist anti-racist message was often drowned out by the chants of football hooligans, but a band whose intensity and clarity still represents the best of why there are 200 pages of Maximum Rock N' Roll each month that you are not reading. Every doomed small town thug with a poem lodged in his throat... starts here. (Ghost Town)

39 The Pretenders Learning To Crawl
The record they made after the death of their brilliant guitarist feels like a eulogy and a declaration of life... very uneven, but containing three of the most beautiful songs ever sung by just about my favorite voice. Every doomed small town poet who survives losing another and keeps singing... starts here. (Back On The Chain Gang)

40 Blue Oyster Cult Agents of Fortune
A band from my old Long Island college town which remind me a lot of it... occasionally brilliant, stupid, stoned, depressed... a basement apartment with a stack of comic books and the reading list from a freshman literature survey. Every doomed small town poet who sniffs glue while writing doomed small town poetry... starts here. (Don't Fear The Reaper)

Michael