Not One Wasted Second; The Pursuit of the Perfect Album

karlsushi

Active Member
I liked Bring it On plenty at the time, but it would be surprising to find it high on any retrospective of even the most impactful and relevant works of the late 90s/early 00s.
Well, it did win the Mercury Music Prize and notably in the same year that Mezzanine was shortlisted!

Personally, I find it so much more than a straight-up indie album. Classy songwriting, great production, soulful, bluesy, excellent integration of synthesised sounds with the traditional rock set-up and well-conceived conceptually as an album. Both a great AND a perfect album.

But there we are back to the subjectivity argument.

(Sorry, couldn't hold back on defending my choice there. Such a wonderful album - for me).
 

sebbykin

Distinguished Member
Hunky Dory
Been with me throughout lifes ch ch changes
Dark Side of the Moon
Wish You Were Here

Even more perfect in the quad and 5.1 mixes
Dexys Don't Stand Me Down
Close run thing with Too Rye Ay but "This is what she's like" wins it for me
Roxy Music Siren
Loved all Roxy up until Manifesto and would probably not skip any track on any of the first five albums
Genesis A Trick of the Tail
A classic and another that excels in MC
 

Makemebad1978

Active Member
I found thinking about this to be quite a bit more difficult than i thought at first it would be, but finally i came up with the following.

Jonathan Davis - Black Labyrinth.
Sevendust - Time Travelers & Bonfires.
Metallica - S&M.
Vangelis - China.
 

Sandyb01

Active Member
Well, it did win the Mercury Music Prize and notably in the same year that Mezzanine was shortlisted!

Personally, I find it so much more than a straight-up indie album. Classy songwriting, great production, soulful, bluesy, excellent integration of synthesised sounds with the traditional rock set-up and well-conceived conceptually as an album. Both a great AND a perfect album.

But there we are back to the subjectivity argument.

(Sorry, couldn't hold back on defending my choice there. Such a wonderful album - for me).
It’s not really a subjectivity thing.
You’d find few if no retrospective lists of the greatest albums of the 90s that would place it with any prominence at all. And bear in mind, i listened to it a lot at the time, and really liked it.

People get very passionate about lists of greatest this or that in music and film, and they’re produced with some regularity because they are popular with readers. If art was 100% subjective, then these lists / retrospectives would be utterly meaningless. If art was 100% subjective, then it would be nonsensical for anyone to describe a work of film / music as bad or good.

But most of us do though have some interest and respect for how well films and music are regarded historically, and most of us do frequently describe work as “bad” or “good”. In other words, we do implicitly accept some things are objectively better than others.

But personal favourites are not always greats. I have plenty of examples of my own likes, but while they suit me for whatever reason, many of them are far from truly great.

Great or classic pieces of work stand out because the passage of time has highlighted how resonant and influential they were. No one really doubts that objectively The Godfather is one of the greatest films of all time, nor would anyone argue that Keith Lemon is as great.
 

karlsushi

Active Member
It’s not really a subjectivity thing.
You’d find few if no retrospective lists of the greatest albums of the 90s that would place it with any prominence at all. And bear in mind, i listened to it a lot at the time, and really liked it.

People get very passionate about lists of greatest this or that in music and film, and they’re produced with some regularity because they are popular with readers. If art was 100% subjective, then these lists / retrospectives would be utterly meaningless. If art was 100% subjective, then it would be nonsensical for anyone to describe a work of film / music as bad or good.

But most of us do though have some interest and respect for how well films and music are regarded historically, and most of us do frequently describe work as “bad” or “good”. In other words, we do implicitly accept some things are objectively better than others.

But personal favourites are not always greats. I have plenty of examples of my own likes, but while they suit me for whatever reason, many of them are far from truly great.

Great or classic pieces of work stand out because the passage of time has highlighted how resonant and influential they were. No one really doubts that objectively The Godfather is one of the greatest films of all time, nor would anyone argue that Keith Lemon is as great.
I think we may be arguing almost the same point here.

I'm not suggesting that choices presented here will be anything near 100% subjective. All I'm saying is that any selection process for 'greatest' or 'perfect' music (or any piece of art for that matter) surely has to contain some degree of subjectivity.

But even if subjectivity makes-up only a small proportion of the selection process, surely that doesn't make the exercise worthless does it?

I do agree that some balance is needed, but I don't believe you can remove subjectivity from the selection process entirely. A list made up entirely of objectively perfect music, might have nothing enjoyable on it whatsoever. Well that sounds pretty counter-intuitive to me.

But maybe that is what you're suggesting, that this exercise should be aimed at trying to produce a 100% objectively selected list and as that's not really possible, the list is worthless?
 

Sandyb01

Active Member
I think we may be arguing almost the same point here.

I'm not suggesting that choices presented here will be anything near 100% subjective. All I'm saying is that any selection process for 'greatest' or 'perfect' music (or any piece of art for that matter) surely has to contain some degree of subjectivity.

But even if subjectivity makes-up only a small proportion of the selection process, surely that doesn't make the exercise worthless does it?

I do agree that some balance is needed, but I don't believe you can remove subjectivity from the selection process entirely. A list made up entirely of objectively perfect music, might have nothing enjoyable on it whatsoever. Well that sounds pretty counter-intuitive to me.

But maybe that is what you're suggesting, that this exercise should be aimed at trying to produce a 100% objectively selected list and as that's not really possible, the list is worthless?
Of course, yes, and thanks for the sensibly worded response.

And I'm with you, there is both a subjective and objective element. My diatribe was a general broadside perhaps against those who quickly assert "well its all subjective anyway", which is both a bit wrong and also at odds (often) with the exercise being discussed, namely isolating a group of the greatest albums (or films etc).

As for this particular exercise, my issue is more that its one thing trying to isolate some of the more notable albums which work as a piece (no filler, no obviously skippable, incongruous passages etc). But in reality most of those will be common regarded greats / classics / landmark albums. And to the extent that there are works not regarded as above, but fulfil the no second wasted criteria above, then I (me, personally) wouldn't describe them as perfect albums. But those would get conflated as great albums, when they dont really belong there.

But I'm a bit protective of the overuse and cheapening of the "great" descriptor.
I have my issues / foibles !!
 

Ed Selley

AVF Reviewer
The perfect is a subset of the great.
It is but the purification of the process from 'great' to 'perfect' is what fascinates me. Of course it is subjective but the comments have thrown both some intriguing discussion points- and some great music.

What's been interesting for me is that I suspect that the threshold for perfection is definitely variable. I've seen album after album on this list and mentally gone "yeah but track x" (Case in point, Wish you were here; I know why Have a Cigar is there and, taken on its own merits, it's not a bad track but- for me- it doesn't add to the album. It was an idea that Rogers better exploited in Animals). The idea of the piece was quite distinct from ideas of commercial success and objective ideas of 'worth'- nor is it thematic consistency- War Stories is certainly not that- to find a list of albums where there's no dip or lull; nothing you'd skip in this age of easy skipping. It seems that some people are more tolerant than I.
 

Sandyb01

Active Member
It is but the purification of the process from 'great' to 'perfect' is what fascinates me. Of course it is subjective but the comments have thrown both some intriguing discussion points- and some great music.

What's been interesting for me is that I suspect that the threshold for perfection is definitely variable. I've seen album after album on this list and mentally gone "yeah but track x" (Case in point, Wish you were here; I know why Have a Cigar is there and, taken on its own merits, it's not a bad track but- for me- it doesn't add to the album. It was an idea that Rogers better exploited in Animals). The idea of the piece was quite distinct from ideas of commercial success and objective ideas of 'worth'- nor is it thematic consistency- War Stories is certainly not that- to find a list of albums where there's no dip or lull; nothing you'd skip in this age of easy skipping. It seems that some people are more tolerant than I.
Thanks for the response Ed.

I think many of us / me / we need to be comfortable with the idea that some of our favourite artists may have made great music, even great albums, but never made a perfect one.

Thriller will be commonly regarded as a great album, but I dont think meets your perfect criteria. Sign O' the Times also generally regarded as great piece of work, but even here is it quite perfect? Has too much of the chocolate box selection quality to me, and a perfect shorter album may have been contained therein. (huge Prince fan here). Against those, Ok Computer (forgive the obvious choice) strikes me as perfect - more would have risked bloat and would have appeared pretentious, while removing Fitter Happier seems unthinkable, given its thematic contribution and break in pace and tonality that it represents. The Bends on the other hand may be one of the notable works of the 90s, but its not perfect (huge Radiohead fan here).

So I'm generally of the view that the large majority of the perfect reside amongst the truly great, although I accept of course that there will be works not really regarded as truly great who do use the album format as a strength, telling their message efficiently, consistently and coherently. I'd be uneasy describing the latter as perfect, as many would conflate that with greatness. But then I'm a linguistic pedant I guess!
 

J-Alex

Active Member
Certainly another interesting article, reading through other reader’s choices I agree with Air Moon Safari, Portishead Dummy and Paul Simon Graceland.

l am a fan of Jean Michel Jarre having seen him live a number of times, I don’t agree on Oxygene, I would probably choose Equinoxe.

I would like to add:

Leftfield - Leftism
Underworld - Beaucoup Fish
Tangerine Dream - Ricochet
Zero 7 - Simple Things

As Ed has said there are many albums that are let down by one track that I would still consider great albums but not perfect.
 

webby54

Active Member
Simple Minds - New Gold Dream
Crowded House - Together Alone
U2 - Achtung Baby
U2 - The Joshua Tree
Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring
Radiohead - The Bends
 

KiLLiNG-TiME

Distinguished Member
Jellyfish Spilt Milk second and last studio album released February 9, 1993.

220px-Spilt_Milk_albumcover.jpg


Of course it was a very close call between this & Bellybutton...
 
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rudman

Standard Member
Original Soundtrack - 10CC. "Blackmail" is hilarious, "The Second Sitting for the Last Supper" is a poignant atheists' anthem. Oh, and a couple of decent singles.
Strike that - I've just remembered - a phrase involving the word "woodpile" that was acceptable in the 1970s but definitely not now; there goes the 100%
 

kevthegreenman

Standard Member
Not one wasted second on "Every picture tells a story" Rod Stewart essentially backed by the Jeff Beck group apart from the killer cover of the Four Tops' "(I know) I'm losing you" which was The Faces, though uncredited. All killer, no filler - he wasn't always sh*te. I still love this album after nearly fifty years. Just saying as no one else has.
 

injidup

Active Member
Certainly another interesting article, reading through other reader’s choices I agree with Air Moon Safari, Portishead Dummy and Paul Simon Graceland.

l am a fan of Jean Michel Jarre having seen him live a number of times, I don’t agree on Oxygene, I would probably choose Equinoxe.

I would like to add:

Leftfield - Leftism
Underworld - Beaucoup Fish
Tangerine Dream - Ricochet
Zero 7 - Simple Things

As Ed has said there are many albums that are let down by one track that I would still consider great albums but not perfect.
But Equinoxe (which I prefer over Oxygene) has “Band in the rain” which is not that great.
 

Glostarz

Active Member
Can't believe no one's mention Muse's The Resistance. I had this on continuous play in my car for about a year and love every track.
A great album, but not flawless. It trips over its own laces with I Belong To You.

I don’t need clarinet solos with my Muse.
 

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