Rolling Stone Top 500 Challenge I
As I get older, more haggard and increasingly bored by the ‘heavy metal’ that is created for an ever younger and stupider audience than me, I become increasingly curious about all that music I have never heard, and probably never will. Even if I decided, right now, to get into jazz, I could never hope to hear more than a fraction of all the jazz there is before I die, possibly as a result of some jazz-induced (jazzisted?) suicide bid.
Even ‘da metulz,’ to which I’ve spent most of my life listening, is so piled with bands and records as to be an unconquerable mountain. There are roughly 1,700 new progressive black metal bands being formed even as you read this sentence, and not a single one of them will be any good. Imagine if you had to listen to all the generic metalcore in the world, just to see if any of it is any good. You’d die of boredom halfway through the third Unearth album.
I’m sure you—the erudite and cultured reader of the world’s greatest heavy metal blog—listen to other stuff besides metal. You’re not an idiot, are you? I don’t think you are. Unless you actually are, of course. I imagine you’re a bit like me: Every now and again I go on a little skinny dip into the deep ocean of musical history; but formulating a plan of attack for tackling Every Record You’ve Never Heard is a bit like looking at the vast expanse of space and thinking ‘I’ll get a ladder’.
So I was thinking, wouldn’t it be lovely to actually have someone hand you a list and say, ‘Here you go, these are all the best albums ever recorded, go and spend the rest of your life trying to wade through them’? I know there is great joy to be found in discovering something for yourself but I’m old now, and much like I plan to train my children to bring me my slippers, I can’t really be bothered to go looking. I’m tired. I’ve been looking for new music for all my life, it’s someone else’s turn now. What I want is someone to do the legwork for me.
Thankfully, the internet is full of people who will climb up inside your trouser leg for the chance to do exactly that. Even we tried it, in our more naive days, although the endeavour was then ruined by the victory of Andrew WK.
But scratch the foetid surface of the internet, and you’ll find an endless tide of people telling you what you really should be listening to. They’re ten-a-penny. That’s why we gave up on writing lists. Enter the grandiosely titled Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Perfect.
I remember this coming out last year. It was actually an update of an old list, but it received quite widespread press attention, and widespread nerd derision from the charming people who live in the internet. They must have spent hours looking for all their favourite albums that hadn’t made the cut so they could complain about the albums they didn’t like that had.
Full disclosure: I may have done exactly that. And now, I’m about to do it again, only in public this time. After all, the list is not exactly awash with metal; though it is top heavy with exactly the kind of bilge you’d expect to be on this list. It was put together by a magazine that long since lost its credibility as a voice of the underground, and contains more than one U2 album, which should be a disqualifier in and of itself. Not only that, there’s not a single Pig Destroyer album on it.
But there’s bound to be a lot of really good stuff on there. Right? It got me wondering how long it would take to listen to them all. That’s the kind of challenge I like. So I started.
I’m listening to them. All of them. Even the ones I know I will hate. Even George Michael. I might even like some of them. Or I might go completely potty somewhere around the 300 album mark, ending up institutionalised and weeping catatonically as the bass line of I am the Resurrection loops around my head on infinite repeat.
I’ve no idea how long it will take, or how far I’ll get through the list before I get bored and move onto something else. But at the very least, I’ll hear a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t have heard otherwise, a bunch of stuff I’ve been meaning to listen to for years, a shed load of albums I‘ve not listened to in ages and some properly awful stuff I will know not to listen to again. And George Michael.
And, furthermore, in order to justify this stupid idea to myself, I’ve decided to inflict my opinions of every single one of these albums upon you, dear reader.
Sorry about that.