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Welcome to Discovery Park: Musical Waffle, #1

Welcome to Discovery Park: Musical Waffle, #1

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Welcome to Discovery Park: Musical Waffle, #1

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2 horas
Lançado em:
Jul 1, 2016


The chronicle of one man's increasingly frustrated attempt to listen to every one of Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums.

"An excellent read. I feel the author took a bullet for everyone, so we don't have to be tempted to do such an act of self-harm." - Reader Review

This comic and acerbic book looks at why we feel the need to quantify and rank our art, revels in the complex musical world we live in, and wonders why anyone would voluntarily listen to Bono.

"Here's a lesson for all aspiring singers. Bono can hit lots of those 'notes' that you hear about. Tom Waits, by contrast, can't hit any of them; nor can he sound like anything other than a drunken vacuum cleaner. But I would rather listen to Tom than Bono from now until the end of time."

"Disco sucks. It's a vile and wretched pox on the landscape of musical history, a music designed to be stripped of all merit save for its ability to make people shuffle around in darkened rooms, trying desperately to blot out the tedium of their existence, literally dancing to the beat of their own repression. That's even before you take into account the squeaky voices."

Lançado em:
Jul 1, 2016

Sobre o autor

Paul Stephenson writes pulp fiction for the digital age. His first series - the apocalyptic Blood on the Motorway trilogy - has been an Amazon bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, and his work has been featured on the chart-topping horror podcast, The Other Stories. His new series, The Sunset Chronicles, is a dystopian sci-fi thriller that will delight and terrify fans of science fiction and horror alike. He lives in England with his wife, two children, and one hellhound.

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Welcome to Discovery Park - Paul Stephenson



As I initially stared at the somewhat daunting prospect of listening to 500 albums, or what would have to be in the ballpark of 30,000 hours of music, I decided to break it down into legs of 25 albums. This seemed sensible, an achievable slog, between which I would take time off, and meaning that I could have an ongoing Spotify playlist for the current leg, delete as I went, and then add the next leg onto the playlist. I also set myself some rules. Well, one rule really.

The Rule: Listen to all the albums on the Rolling Stone top 500 albums of all time, in order. No vetoes. I’m not even allowed to veto things on the grounds that they contain Ian Brown, even though he’s the most wretched musician in the history of everything.

I think that summed it up quite well.

What follows is my review of each album, written at the time. This first leg was published in May 2013, and shows just how much trouble I was in for. It also marked what would become a two year long gripe about compilation albums and retrospectives.

500 OutKast – Aquemini: Okay, so let’s start things off with some underwhelming hip-hop. That sounds like a good idea. This is much more 'gangster’ than I’d expected from that band what did that song about apologising too much, but otherwise, it's pretty bland. An inauspicious start.

499 B.B. King – Live In Cook County Jail: Delightful blues from the age when every blues song had to have ‘blues’ in the title to qualify. Blues.

498 The Stone Roses – S/T: Already I’m sensing this whole adventure might be a terrible, terrible idea. On some level, I understand that there must be something to redeem this hideously bland indie tripe because so many people regard it so highly. But I cannot lie, it makes me want to douse myself in paraffin and walk towards an open flame so that I don’t have to listen to Ian Brown and his stupid face-sounds any more. This is less a listening experience and more a battle of wills.

497 The White Stripes – White Blood Cells: I’ve got a lot of time for the White Stripes, partly because I’ve always been slightly fixated on Meg White. So... yeah. I like this.

496 Boz Scaggs – S/T: Soul. I’m actually listening to it, right now, as I type this and I’ve already forgotten it. Tedious.

495 Bonnie Raitt – Give It Up: Ah, now this is rather lovely! Or at least it is in places. As with (sweeping generalisation alert) all country music there’s a slightly inherent awfulness when the tempo drops and it gets all maudlin, but the upbeat stuff is rather tremendous; whisky-soaked bluesy country-rock with some lovely jazz flourishes. When it is good, it is very good. Also I accidentally hit shuffle about halfway through and then listened to it for another hour without realising so it can’t be bad.

494 MGMT – Oracular Spectacular: If I was feeling uncharitable I’d say this is The Scissor Sisters for hipsters. I’m feeling uncharitable.

493 Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: Nice enough lo-fi indie that has instantly exited my brain as soon as I’ve heard it.

492 Eurythmics – Touch: I hate the 1980s so much. Why did everything sound like that, so tinny and awful? Was there some kind of general strike called by the Union of Sound Engineers? Did Margaret Thatcher ruin music too?

491 Albert King – Born Under A Bad Sign: Now this is more like what I was looking for, an excellent slab of blues with some lovely guitar licks. First album on the list to have me reaching for Wikipedia to find out more.

490 ZZ Top – Tres Hombres: My main memory of ZZ Top is of those dreadful videos they made in the 1980s with their accompanying dreadful generic 1980s rock. This, however, is amazing 1970s blues-rock. Who knew?

489 Kiss – Destroyer: I've often wondered whether I could get into Kiss. They look fun, and they’ve got a few good tunes. After listening to this, however, I’ve decided I’d rather drink turps and piss on a fire. Awful, awful music.

488 Husker Du – New Day Rising: If this was 1985 and I was 17, this would likely be the most incendiary thing I’d ever heard. Unfortunately it’s 2013, I’m in my 30s, and I’ve spent twenty years listening to bands who were influenced by Husker Du. This isn’t their fault of course, but it doesn’t really hold up to fresh ears.

487 Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual: Jesus wept. Why the hell am I doing this? This is just stupid. The stupidest challenge ever. This list is awful. All the albums that could have gone on this list and I’m listening to this.

486 Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s The Way of the World: Sure, I could go on about the godawful cringe-worthy lyrics, but I’m too busy dancing. Oh god, I’m somehow actually enjoying myself. I don’t like it.

485 Pearl Jam – Vitalogy: One of my favourite albums of all time, by one of my favourite bands. 'Nuff said, really. Fifteen albums in and the best album so far is one I already know. Does this mean I have better taste than Rolling Stone Magazine? I’m going to go with 'almost certainly'.

484 Mott the Hoople – All The Young Dudes: I went in expecting Bowie-lite, and that’s pretty much what this is, with a bit of Stones thrown in for good measure.

483 Gang of Four – Entertainment!: Well this is a delight. It's like someone took The Jam and knocked all the dreadful out of them and then added a whole dollop of feisty funk. So that’s 2 good ‘new’ albums so far, balancing out all the dreadful ones.

482 Steve Earle – Guitar Town: From the sublime back to the dreadful. Bland, awful country music that makes me want to punch everyone from Nashville square in the face. I haven’t been this angry about an album since that Kiss one a few albums back.

481 D’Angelo – Voodoo: This is apparently the blueprint for modern R&B, so should probably be viewed as a dreadful thing, but after the crushing hideousness of that Steve Earle album, this sounds halfway okay, like a really stoned Prince album, replete with vaguely annoying nasal falsetto.

480 Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx: I always meant to get round to listening to some of the Wu-Tang solo stuff, but whenever I looked, it seemed there were about 700 albums and I had no idea where to start. So it’s nice to get a prompt. This doesn’t really add anything to the Wu-Tang template. It’s essentially an off-cut of Forever except with just one of the voices. Except, in places, some of the others do turn up: So it’s basically a very Raekwon heavy Wu-Tang album. Not really a bad thing, but it doesn’t exactly set my world afire.

479 Funkadelic – Maggot Brain: Quite understandably, I went into this one expecting funk. Instead, this is a brilliant slice of psychedelic rock. Absolutely brilliant.

478 Loretta Lynn – All Time Greatest Hits: Okay. So firstly, I’m a bit narked off that there are massive Greatest Hits albums allowed on this list. It’s supposed to be a 'best album' list, and I don’t think stocking-stuffer compilation records best suited for your mum's Christmas present should count. Secondly, every time I come across a country album on this list it makes me want to give up the whole bloody thing. This is yet more dreadful old school country, replete with gender politics so utterly horrible they make my skin crawl. If anyone wants to hear what the opposite of feminism is, listen to this. If not, avoid like the plague.

477 Merle Haggard Down Every Road 1962-1994: What the fuck, Rolling Stone? What in the living fuck? A four-CD career retrospective? That’s an album now, is it? Rules are rules, and the rules say no skipping. Four CDs. Just shy of 100 songs.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it was actually good music, but this is just about the worst thing I’ve ever heard. Redneck country with all the personality of a concrete load-bearing beam in a mid-60s office block. By the end of disc one, the will to live is gone. Halfway through the second disc I think I might actually be enjoying myself, but it turns out I’ve developed Stockholm Syndrome. Somewhere around the third time Merle refers to hippies and longhairs or the fifth time he says men cheating is the fault of women, I start to weep openly. By the end of the fourth disc I’ve decided that this is not actually a list of best albums but actually, it's a personal slight against me; a vendetta from people I’ve never met, probably because I don't music journalise by their rules.

Maybe the next album will be better...

476 The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death: Or maybe not. I’ve always, in my own know-nothing white boy way, credited Biggie and Tupac with ushering in the death of decent hip-hop (I’m sure they’re devastated to hear that), with their over-produced, bland R&B-inflected awfulness. I did this without really giving either of them a proper listen, because why should I let facts get in the way of a good stance. It turns out my ignorance was the correct stance —this is every bit as dreadful as I anticipated.

I have to stop now, or something regrettable is going to happen. As if this wasn't already regrettable enough.


The first leg of the challenge, had, it’s fair to say, drained all of my enthusiasm for the endeavour straight from my giving-a-toss gland. Once the first part of my odyssey went live on the site, I was pretty sure the tumbleweed that limped lazily down our deserted main street in response meant I was off the hook for listening to the remaining 474 nuggets of musical excrement. But then a couple of people asked about it, in terms that seemed to merit my continuing with this pointless endeavour. So, I loaded up the next leg, plastered on a fake smile, and ploughed through this shit one more time.

July 2013

475 Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Armed Forces: The entire length of this album had me thinking about secret lemonade drinkers. Costello is quite the creator of pop ditties, but it lasts about as long as a glass of R White's Lemona-a-hade. Note: You will not get this joke if you are under the age of 30, or possibly American. Sorry.

474 Manu Chao – Próxima Estación: Esperanza: I seem to be settling into a bit of a pattern with this now; I get a few albums that test my patience to breaking point with their unremitting awfulness, and then just when I’m about to give up, I find a little lovely gem that restores my faith in this, an endeavour entirely of my own design. This Spanish mix of laid-back surf music, acoustic guitar and electronica has healed my heart and filled it up with joy. Finally, I know what my life is for, and now I'm ready to begin again and AW HELL NAW IT’S THE SMITHS NEXT WHY AM I FUCKING DOING THIS

473 The Smiths – S/T: I’m never going to be a fan of Morrissey. His whole oeuvre is like being stroked to death by someone wearing circular glasses and a Dr Who scarf while they explain in detail why they have their favourite tones of beige, before crying about how their Mum doesn’t love them. All of it, everything he has ever done. I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.

472 George Michael – Faith: Maybe it’s because I’ve just sat through Morrissey’s stupid whinging nonsense; maybe it’s because this was one of my Mum’s favourite albums when I was growing up, but I really don’t mind Faith. I mean, it’s bobbins, but it’s inoffensive bobbins. Apparently this series has forced me to drastically reassess my scale of awfulness.

471 Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight: Jingle jangle folky bollocks. I am starting to actually crave breakdowns and blastbeats now. Hang on. Wait a minute. Hold the phone. Actually, on second thought, maybe this is rather pleasant. I mean, it's not downright awful. Am I enjoying myself again? I don’t know. Can someone please send gin?

470 LL Cool J – Radio: Hey ho, it’s old school hip-hop time! This sounds so innocent now, all cute and fluffy and pre-gangster. The production has held up better than you might imagine, and LL Cool J is a better rapper than I remember. I can think of a hundred hip-hop albums I’d rather see on here (no, I can’t), but this isn’t bad.

469 Fugees – The Score: Slightly less old school. I remember during the 90s when this came out, my Dad asked for it for Christmas on the back of Killing Me Softly, despite my protestations that it would be too hardcore for him. He hated it, and not for the first time was I proven correct in such matters. Again, it may be because hip-hop seems so devoid of merit these days, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this. Aside from ‘that’ single, it’s a pretty damn good album.

468 The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – S/T: I only just finished listening to this but I’ve already cleansed it from my memory. I think it was a blues album. It was perfectly fine. Don’t make me listen to it again.

467 Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love: From the Cadillac to the Road House font; from the haircut, to the weird skinny tie thing, the cover just screams 1980’s!!! There are times when that storied decade’s cocaine-dusted production values threaten to overwhelm the songs, but for the most part this is a pretty decent slice of the Boss’ particular brand of American Proletariat Rock.

466 Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head: You could sit me down and try and explain Coldplay’s appeal to me from now until the end of time and I wouldn’t have a clue what you were talking about. Mainly because I’ll be too focused on trying to reduce you to a heap of smouldering ashes using the power of my own mind. A rush of dull to the boring.

465 The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs: This is 69 songs long. That’s quite a lot of songs about love. I imagine there’s a really, really good album in here amongst all the not quite so great stuff. Why don't you imagine it too?

464 Def Leppard – Hysteria: Oh there’s my childhood. I remember every line of this album, every lick, every mullet, every cheesy chorus. Brilliant.

463 Echo & The Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here: Well this is bleak. I always thought Ian McCulloch's Echo were a jingly jangly cagoule band, and there’s bits of that here, but this is mostly grim gothic depression about the 1980s. So naturally, I rather enjoyed it.

462 R.E.M. – Document: Ground zero for the American flavour of grating indie pop beloved of students. This wouldn’t

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