I have a confession to make: I have got to that stage where I look at my parents’ record collection and I think you know what, they’ve actually got some taste. The (now occasional) family car journey no longer throws up so many bitter musical conflicts, usually resolved which clever negotiations trade-offs, dad fuming that me and my brother need some ‘musical education’, and the inevitable compromise of Coldplay, or something similarly mediocre. And I can buy well-chosen albums at birthdays and Christmases for my family now, even if I don’t always fully approve. I feel I am not alone in this. But I will leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide, and to judge whether my taste is developing like a fine wine or becoming as stale as old cheese…
Fleetwood Mac When I was younger, Fleetwood Mac were the IKEA, the Tesco ready meal, the Wigan Athletic of music – safe, bland and, most importantly, listened to by my mum. Gradually, though, I came to the love the Mac’s perfectly crafted drivetime pop/rock. And I came to think this was acceptable, due the rock ‘n’ roll way in which their music was made (shitloads of drugs, nearly as many in-house break-ups), and the fact The Chain, which includes one of the greatest riffs ever, soundtracks the resolutely un-mummish F1. A good few friends agree too, along with a girl I know who carries off a Fleetwood Mac t-shirt with the sense of style normally associated with a Ramones t-shirt.
Beach Boys When I was younger I had only really heard Beach Boys classics Surfin’ USA and I Get Around – well-written pop songs, but a bit naff and annoying to mind (still are now). But – if you will permit me a bit of pretensiousness – I was first introduced to Pet Sounds on a road trip on my Gap Yah in South Africa (South Afrikaaahhh) and loved it instantly – its lush summer vibes perfectly soundtracking the trip. I bought it as soon as I was back and I still haven’t heard anything quite like its blend of symphony and pop sensibility. I now count it as probably my favourite album, and I mark the start of British summer as the day when Pet Sounds can be played without it seeming ironic considering the weather and setting.
Jeff Buckley At first it’s just another name in your folks’ record collection (it’s an old person-sounding name). Then you hear Hallelujah on Shrek – albeit John Cale’s version, which inspired Buckley’s – and think it’s a good song. Then you fall in and out of love for the first time and properly listen to this album after seeing some muso eulogising about the late Jeff Buckley (sadly he drowned during an evening swim aged just 30), and it all suddenly hits a chord, and Grace is one of your all-time favourite albums. Well, that was pretty much the case for me anyway.
The National In a not dissimilar manner, a bunch of bookish Americans droning on about love and loss didn’t really appeal to my teenage self, who was far more interested in 50 Cent, Limp Bizkit, Craig David, Shaggy, and Blink 182. But now that I’ve experienced a bit of life and read a few (a few) books and done a humanities degree, I’ve got a bit of time for these earnest indie rockers. In small doses, mind.
Joanna Newsom I’m still pretty divided on Joanna Newsom – she of the harp and the voice which sounds, variously, like a teething infant, a screechy cat and a weird Monty Python character (I couldn’t think how to describe it so I resorted to Google). Part of me thinks it’s beautifully emotive, inventive music, but part of me think it’s just a mess – often within individuals songs, as they are so long and complex. What I can be sure of, though, is that my 15-year-old self would have heard Newsom’s….’unique’ music and said: “daaaafuq is THIS?!”
Plan B As hinted at, I used to like any old rap, the popular stuff and even the stuff which soon seen languishing in the bargain bins (Chingy, anyone?). And most of my friends were too. Ironic really, as I’m white, from Oxford, and have Guardian-reading parents. Over time, I’ve got tired of this, and grown to like more intelligent rap like Plan B, who has the anger and lyricism of American chart rappers, but more introspection, social conscience and pleasingly Anglo-centric reference points like Arsenal, giros, and the Isle of Wight.
Sigur Ros I remember my mum played me these when I was about 14 and thinking what ‘dull rubbish’ it was, and that them singing in their own language was weird. I still find some of their songs are very navel-gazing, but some songs, including Gobbledigook, Saeglopur and the infamous Hoppipola, I absolutely love. It helped that that, at a time, Hoppipola seemed to soundtrack every other sports montage going. I don’t really care what people think about my musical taste now, but then seeing it soundtracking some England win, kind of made it alright to like that ‘poncy Icelandic’ band (a bit like Harry and Paul’s reluctant philosopher sketch)
Hercules and the Love Affair These are, with the possible exception of the Scissor Sisters, probably the gayest band in the world, comprising as they do a transsexual, a lesbian DJ and a gay man who started his career at a leather bar run by someone called Chocolate Thuder Pussy. There was when pettiness would have turned me off their brand of high-camp disco-house, as a bloke who likes football, Top Gear, beer and women. But, again, now I don’t care – I’ve come out about my affair with the band. And, to be honest, I don’t know why I was in the closet for so long.
Rolling Stones As I said, I didn’t have much taste when I was 15. That said, I’m still a ‘Beatles man’, as the music world basically insists on people choosing.
Damien Rice My reaction to Damien Rice – and people of his ilk – used to resolutely be ‘oh folk off’. But now I think there’s a time and place for this earnest, heart-on-his-sleeve Irishman. Not for a good mood or a sunny day, though. Originally published on Come In To Land