According to Spin magazine's list of the top 125 albums of the last 25 years, the most influential album since 1986/1987 is U2's Achtung Baby. The editors sat around a table and decided that. The list serves the purpose that most lists of that nature serve: to create debate. The goal is not agreement but incredulity. And discussion. So you didn't find Achtung Baby the correct choice? Well what did you think should top the poll? Or maybe you agreed completely - Achtung for the win. Well how come? Why?
I take these lists with a grain of salt - and I expect you to as well. A glance at the list (I linked to it above) shows plenty of worthy albums in the top 25. But there's some rubbish too. Good to see Husker Du way up there. And Outkast. Positive to see PJ Harvey in the top 10 - and fair I think. But maybe you don't think so. And of course there are albums that just have to be in this list even if you don't like them. I doubt few would argue that Appetite for Destruction and Nevermind and The Queen Is Dead and Sign O' the Times and Daydream Nation are all worthy of their high placing. Same with Jay-Z's The Blueprint and Nas' Illmatic and De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising. Even if you don't like hip-hop at all it would be absurd to not acknowledge it when talking about music from the last 25 years. I'd argue that it's been the most innovative and influential genre across the last 25 years.
It was also nice to see The Chills feature on the list. A little pang of national pride seeing that; The Chills are a great band, one of our best, and here they are (and deservedly I think) with an album on this list. Good stuff.
Even seeing Moby on the list didn't bother me - it's a fact that his Play album did big business and created a mini-fad. It was, briefly, a revelation.
But I was baffled that Achtung Baby was number one on this list. I'd be happy enough with it to be included but I doubt it deserves to be in the top 50.
I was a U2 fan. We all make mistakes. I can look past that now. I can rest easy, enjoying The Unforgettable Fire and (once a year) The Joshua Tree. But I don't believe that Achtung Baby is the most influential album of the last quarter-century. I can't condone that. I don't want to live in a world where that's the case. We live in that sort of world and next thing we'll have albums like the new one from Coldplay. Wait a second...
I know it's ridiculously hard for us to all agree on, well, anything let alone something like this.
So here's what I want us to do today. We each state the album that we hold as personally responsible for being the most influential on our own listening tastes across the last 25 years. The album has to have been released in the last 25 years. And it has to be the single album you consider the most influential on you, the album that helped shape your listening tastes, that maybe informed your own songwriting, or certainly pointed you to other great music.
What is your number one in your list of most influential albums from the past 25 years?
I expect to see plenty of artists that are not in the top positions on Spin's list. The Stone Roses for one. Maybe LCD Soundsystem also. Come to think of it where's Portishead?
As for me, well here goes.
Previously I have raved about Appetite for Destruction - and it would feature in the top 10 albums for me, probably in my top five. It had a huge impression on me. As did several of the albums on that Spin list.
But I want to pick something that is not on Spin's list - at least not in the top spots (I haven't scanned the whole list to see if this album figured in some place. I'm going to guess that it didn't).
My pick is Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby, the debut album by Terence Trent D'Arby.
His second album was so bad that it didn't matter that albums three and four were really quite good. He was done. Finished. His giant ego didn't help. And now he records and tours under the name Sananda Maitreya. None of that matters - because that first album blew me away. And it sent me all over the place - back to Sam Cooke and Smokey Robinson, I was already a Prince fan but it had me contemplating the comparisons and relistening to Prince. But, most important, it was the first time I really connected with something on my own terms and got inside the album.
My mum bought the record and I just fell for it instantly - here's my memory of the record (I still have the copy of the LP my mum bought back when it was released).
I copied the lyrics, handwrote them. I memorised the credits, I had to know everything about this. I was obsessed with the sound of the album. I loved his voice. The playing. The writing. I could hear old soul and funk; I could hear blues and gospel. I could hear the pop sounds of the day.
This album made me inquisitive. It made me want to explore more music - and not just music from the person who created it.
But, most important, this album made me happy. So exquisitely filled with joy. I know that there's no way this album deserves to be in the top spot of a list of albums from the last 25 years. Because I know not everyone (and maybe not anyone) had the experience I had with it.
But this album deserves to be number one on my list. This album was so crucial to me as part of my journey with music. One that continues to this day and every day. And on for many years I hope.
So what would be number one on your list and why?
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