Not so much the Top 200 Albums of All Time, as the Most Depressing Music List of All Time

Uncut cover

Some observations on the latest attempt by a group of given-up music critics to reinforce the rock canon. 

  • First, why? Where is the pressing need for such a list in 2016? The rock canon was established long ago, by close to the same group of critics. This does not add anything to the dialogue. You could argue that it is worth doing because it generates discussion, or because it is entertaining. Well no. No, it does not. Not, it is not. Discussion is generated by intelligent, insightful commentary not near-mindless reinforcement of the status quo. Discussion is not complaining about how a group of people with different tastes to your own have different tastes to your own. Discussion is not the generation of more lists. This is not entertainment. This is stamp collecting (and frankly, stamp collecting would be a lot more fun).
  • Any list formed by consensus will be dull, will exclude idiosyncracies and personal taste. Uh… no personal taste? But is that not the point of these lists?
  • Such lists should not attempt to pay lip service to other genres beyond rock (there are just THREE non-rock albums in the top 30). It is embarrassing and merely serves to highlight the enormous prejudice of the individual writers voting to one genre, and one genre alone. It does not aid establishment of authority (presumably, one of the prime reasons for such a list to exist) because the omissions are so glaring. The knowledge of these writers clearly does not extend far into any field beyond that of rock. Or perhaps it does, but is streamed out by consensus?
  • Such lists should not attempt to pay lip service to other races or genders. This is beyond embarrassing. This is institutionalised racism and institutionalised sexism (if you want to take the list on face value as the “top 200 albums of all time”, which it is not). Kate Bush is only in there because Kate Bush is always in there. (Van Morrison at number three? Really? How old are these critics?)
  • Such lists should not attempt to pay lip service to music beyond 1980, as that is when most of its contributors clearly stopped caring about music. (LCD Soundsystem as the token ‘dance’ record? Fuck off. And that is only because the voters can understand it because they are reminded of New Order.)
  • What’s Going On is only there so high because the NME made a concerted effort to upset the consensus in the mid-1980s.
  • Why the one French album, and one French album alone? Are we to believe that ONLY American and British artists have released albums good enough to be considered Top 200 material? And if not then why allow the one French album? It undermines the entire project.
  • Why include a Miles Davis album from 1959 and nothing else from that decade (or any of the decades before)?
  • Why the gender bias? Do these critics sit down at the beginning of each day and decide they are only going to listen to music made by male artists once more, for the 30,000th time?
  • This list seeks to reinforce the status quo, and it does that very well. All praise the white male playing rock guitar. Beyond that, it overwhelmingly highlights the paucity of critical imagination on the part of its participants – one strongly suspects the main reason these 200 albums feature in the list is that few participants have listened to more than a few hundred albums.
  • 200? Really? Why not 500 or 1,000 or 10,000 or 311?
  • Of all time? Really? That is bad news indeed for any artist making music before 1963 and after 1980 (just three albums in the Top 44 feature from outside that period). And indeed for anyone who is not white or Afro-American.
  • Who would have thought it? Three Beatles albums, three Bob Dylan albums and three David Bowie albums in the top 20. Bad luck if you do not like any of those artists, really.
  • Who would have thought it? No women in the top 20.
  • Who would have thought it? No ‘pop’ music beyond the 1960s (excepting for the blindingly obvious examples of Blondie and Prince).
  • Also “greatest album”? Really? What is that supposed to mean?

Uncut Top 200 Albums of all time
1. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds – 1966
2. The Beatles – Revolver – 1966
3. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks – 1968
4. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico – 1967
5. The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album) – 1968
6. Love – Forever Changes – 1967
7. Bob Dylan – Blond On Blond – 1966
8. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead – 1986
9. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited – 1965
10. Television – Marquee Moon – 1977
11. David Bowie – Hunky Dory – 1971
12. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust – 1972
13. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On – 1971
14. Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue – 1959
15. The Beatles – Rubber Soul – 1965
16. The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street – 1972
17. The Band – The Band – 1969
18. Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks – 1975
19. David Bowie – Low – 1977
20. Kraftwerk – Trans Europe Express – 1977
21. The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band – 1967
22. Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back – 1988
23. The Clash – London Calling – 1979
24. The Beatles – Abbey Road – 1969
25. Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love – 1985
26. The Clash – The Clash – 1977
27. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – 1971
28. The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed – 1969
29. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced – 1967
30. David Bowie – Stationtostation – 1976
31. Lou Reed – Transformer – 1972
32. Neil Young – After The Goldrush – 1970
33. Joni Mitchell – Blue – 1971
34. Neil Young – On The Beach – 1974
35. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme – 1965
36. Joy Division – Closer – 1980
37. The Kinks – The Kinks Are The Village Green Society – 1968
38. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless – 1991
39. Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home – 1965
40. Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom – 1974
41. Otis Redding – Otis Blue – 1965
42. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland – 1968
43. The Stooges – Fun House – 1970
44. Sly And The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Going On – 1971
45. R.E.M. – Murmer – 1983
46. Michael Jackson – Off The Wall – 1979
47. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (Iv) – 1971
48. Fairport Convention – Liege & Lief – 1969
49. Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life – 1976
50. Nick Drake – Bryter Later – 1971
51. Carole King – Tapestry – 1971
52. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground – 1969
53. Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers – 1978
54. The Velvet Underground – Loaded – 1970
55. Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks… – 1977
56. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses – 1989
57. Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates Of Dawn – 1967
58. Blondie – Parallel Lines – 1978
59. Prince – Sign O The Times – 1987
60. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures – 1979
61. Primal Scream – Screamadalica – 1991
62. The Byrds – The Notorious Byrd Brothers – 1968
63. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – 1977
64. David Crosby – If Only I Could Remember My Name – 1971
65. Orange Juice – You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever – 1982
66. The Band – Music From Big Pink – 1968
67. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions – 1973
68. James Brown – Live At The Apollo – 1963
69. New Order – Technique – 1989
70. Patti Smith – Horses – 1975
71. Joni Mitchell – Hejira – 1976
72. LCD Sound System – Sound Of Silver – 2007
73. The Cure – Disintergration – 1989
74. Public Image Limited – Metal Box – 1979
75. Can – Ege Bamyasi – 1972
76. John Martyn – Solid Air – 1973
77. Steely Dan – Countdown To Ecstasy – 1973
78. The Byrds – Younger Than Yesterday – 1967
79. Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) – 2001
80. The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat – 1968
81. Radiohead – In Rainbows – 2007
82. The Who – Who’s Next – 1971
83. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – 1963
84. Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon – 1973
85. Jimi Hendrix – Axix: Bold As Love – 1967
86. Todd Rundgren – A Wizard, A True Star – 1973
87. Joni Mitchell – The Hissing Of Summer Lawns – 1975
88. Can – Tago Mago – 1971
89. Big Star – No1 Record – 1972
90. The Cure – Head On The Door – 1985
91. Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere – 1969
92. Dusty Springfield – Dusty In Memphis – 1969
93. Radiohead – Ok Computer – 1997
94. U2 – Achtung Baby – 1991
95. The Flying Burrito Brothers – The Guided Palace Of Sin – 1969
96. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run – 1975
97. The Cure – Pornography – 1982
98. The Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter – 1968
99. John Cale – Paris 1919 – 1973
100. Laura Nyro – Eli & The Thirteenth Confession – 1968
101. Radiohead – Kid A – 2000
102. Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire De Melody Nelson – 1971
103. Pulp – This Is Hardcore – 1998
104. Johnny Cash – At Falsom Prison – 1968
105. David Bowie – Diamond Dogs – 1974
106. Talking Heads – Remain In Light – 1980
107. Spiritualized – Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space – 1997
108. Talk Talk – Sprit Of Eden – 1988
109. The Only Ones – The Only Ones – 1978
110. The Congos – Heart Of The Congo’s – 1977
111. Joni Mitchell – Court & Spark – 1974
112. New Order – Power Corruption & Lies – 1983
113. The Slits – Cut – 1979
114. David Bowie – “Heroes” – 1977
115. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs – 1985
116. The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet – 1968
117. The Specials – The Specials – 1979
118. Suicide – Suicide – 1977
119. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew – 1970
120. Big Star – Radio City – 1974
121. Can – Future Days – 1973
122. Prince – Parade – 1986
123. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill – 1972
124. Nirvana – In Utero – 1993
125. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True – 1977
126. Nick Drake – Pink Moon – 1972
127. Chic – C’est Chic – 1978
128. The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo – 1968
129. Curtis Mayfield – Curtis – 1970
130. Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs – 1970
131. The Isley Brothers – 3+3 – 1973
132. The Human League – Dare! – 1981
133. The Who – Live At Leeds – 1970
134. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town – 1978
135. The Beach Boys – Surfs Up – 1971
136. Ramones – Ramones – 1976
137. Ac/Dc – Back In Black – 1980
138. Van Morrison – Moondance – 1970
139. Gang Of Four – Entertainment! – 1979
140. The Beastie Boys – Check Your Head – 1992
141. Portishead – Dummy – 1994
142. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation – 1988
143. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Safe As Milk – 1967
144. Cocteau Twins – Heaven Or Las Vegas – 1990
145. Blur – Modern Life Is Rubbish – 1993
146. Pixies – Doolittle – 1989
147. Jeff Buckley – Grace – 1994
148. Miles Davis – In A Silent Way – 1969
149. The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night – 1964
150. Massive Attack – Blue Lines – 1991
151. Daft Punk – Discovery – 2001
152. Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul – 1968
153. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti – 1975
154. The Associates – Sulk – 1982
155. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call – 1997
156. Tricky – Maxinquaye – 1995
157. Bjork – Debut – 1993
158. The Fall – The Nation’s Saving Grace – 1984
159. Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate – 1971
160. The Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers – 1993
161. Tom Waits – Swardfishtrumbone – 1983
162. PJ Harvey – Rid Of Me – 1993
163. Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night – 1975
164. The Cure – Seventeen Seconds – 1980
165. Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets – 1974
166. GZA – Liquid Swords – 1995
167. Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92 – 1992
168. The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come – 1987
169. T.Rex – Electric Warrior – 1971
170. Laura Nyro – New York Tendaberry – 1969
171. Prince – Purple Rain – 1984
172. Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? – 1995
173. John Lennon – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – 1970
174. Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure – 1973
175. My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything – 1988
176. Neil Young – Harvest – 1972
177. Super Furry Animals – Radiator – 1997
178. Black Sabbath – Paranoid – 1970
179. The Who – Tommy – 1969
180. Michael Jackson – Thriller – 1982
181. The Replacements – Tim – 1985
182. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black – 2006
183. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left – 1969
184. Kraftwerk – The Man-Machine – 1978
185. David Bowie – The Man Who Saved The World – 1970
186. Charles Mingus – The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady – 1963
187. Donald Fagen – The Nightfly – 1982
188. Talking Heads – Fear Of Music – 1979
189. The Smiths – The Smiths – 1984
190. Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen – 1985
191. The Who – The Who Sell Out – 1967
192. Gene Clarke – No Other – 1974
193. Johnny Cash – American Iv: The Man Comes Around – 2002
194. Joanna Newsom – Ys – 2006
195. T.Rex – The Slider – 1972
196. The Fall – Hex Enducation Hour – 1982
197. Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything? – 1972
198. Mercury Rev – Deserters Songs – 1998
199. Dr John: The Night Tripper – Gris-Gris – 1968
200. Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom – 1982

5 Responses to Not so much the Top 200 Albums of All Time, as the Most Depressing Music List of All Time

  1. riponia says:

    It’s Uncut!!!. It’s for people who like this sort of stuff!!!. If you asked writers of Straight No Chaser for a list of 200 – or 311 – “greatest albums” you’d get a different list. I actually agree it’s not a particularly meaningful thing to do but all you seem to be doing is having a go at people for liking the music that they like. And any magazine editor will tell you people love arguing over lists – they’ll have more response over this – such of course as your own – than anything else they write this year.

    • Lucy Cage says:

      I think the point is that this list isn’t contextualising itself as a list of records that middle-aged, middle-class white men in 2015 like to listen to (nor does it delve into the reasons why that might be so). No, it’s claiming explicitly that these are the greatest albums of all time. ALL TIME. The best music ever made. Why would any magazine with pretensions towards authority or objectivity claim that for themselves and their (relatively, in comparison to listening habits across the world and through the ages) niche tastes unless their entitlement was so deeply engrained in them that they didn’t notice that their list is totally dependent on their own social, cultural, racial and sexual hegemony, to the extent that they can erase other people’s musical endeavours or tastes entirely?
      Yes, it’s a list of (mostly) decent records but it’s ridiculously monocultural: if you’re going to publish such a list, you need to do it with a bit more self-awareness and qualification, otherwise you appear egotistical, disrespectful and chauvinist, as well as predictably yawnsome.

  2. readnothing says:

    countered with equally depressing predictable riposte. let the old fuckers flog their dead horse.

  3. Calvin says:

    “No women in the Top 20”? The Velvet Underground and NICO?

    (Nitpicking of course. Irrelevant, beyond the point, but still.)

  4. Pat Donnelly says:

    Tv on the Radio was more deserving then some others.

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