And so, a little later than I might have originally hoped, I’ve completed 10 of the albums from the Q250 – ‘The Best 250 Albums of our Lifetime’. The list was a celebration of the lifetime of Q Magazine, which launched in 1986. Reading through the list of albums, which was voted for by Q readers, I realised that 1986 to 2011 was a pretty good period for me to look at too as it broadly concided with the time I left school right up to where I’m at now – and that somehow I might find the soundtrack to my life in the list. Of course it won’t quite work out that way as there are albums I have loved that will never find a place in any one elses top 10, and there are also plenty that have reached the near top positions which I have no relationship to at all.
But if nothing else, it gives me the reason, the motivation and opportunity to write regularly. I don’t really intend that this blog will only cover the Q250, but if that’s how it turns out that will be ok. I hope to have this finished by the end of the year of course – in fact I have an idea that the last one of these will coincide with Q’s list of the best in 2011 and that I can then look at those, perhaps in comparison to my favourites of the year (Radiohead and Elbow on that list so far if you’re curious).
I’ve worked out that I will need to average 6 albums a week if I want to make the target. So far I’ve covered 10 in a month. I will indeed soldier on, and the first job is to complete the last of the first 10.
STORIES FROM THE CITY, STORIES FROM THE SEA – PJ HARVEY (2000)
I’m very surprised to find that this album is over 10 years old. I would have guessed at around 5 or 6, time seems to be passing by at a hell of a lick. This is often described as Polly Harvey’s mainstream album, although my memory is of an earlier crossover, or maybe breakthrough is a better word, as I loved (and still do) ‘C’mon Billy’ and ‘Down by the Water’ which are from the 1995 album ‘To Bring You my Love’. I’d heard of PJ Harvey prior to that even, I was given a copy of ‘Rid of Me’ in about 1993, but more of that later as I’ve noticed it pops up later in the list.
Now I have since discovered that the Songs from the City… album is one of those very highly lauded ones – you know, all the critics just love it. The album won the 2001 Mercury Music Prize (actually on September 11th 2001; she was in Washington DC at the time and said, while accepting the award by telephone, ‘it’s been a very surreal day’. Understatement) along with being named ‘The Greatest Album of all Time by a Female Artist’ in 2002 by Q Magazine and appearing at No.8 on Rolling Stone magazine’s top 50 Essential ‘Women in Rock’ Albums. There are others too, but you get the picture. I investigated all this because that’s kind of the feeling I got, getting ready to listen to this album. I expected to be pretty good, and honestly, I really wantedto like it.
Wanted to like it you see. Because after giving it a few listens, I do think it’s pretty good but given the rousing chorus of approval that greeted the release I’ve been left a bit ‘meh’ with the whole thing. Maybe it’s just out of context. Maybe over time it will grow more dear to my heart and I will recall with a knowing smile that I really just didn’t know nowt and that all classics need breathing space to truly endear themselves. However, definitely give this one a go if you’ve not heard it before, Thom Yorke duets on one track here (The Mess We’re In) and personally I would happily describe this as a bit female Radiohead (Amnesiac period). That’s not a bad thing.
And the last track ‘We Float’ is just lovely.
Ooh, by the way – remember that Seinfield episode with the concept of a “two-face”: someone who looks attractive sometimes and looks bad at other times, depending on exterior conditions, such as lighting?
Why would I want to mention that here?