Perfection in Imperfect Times

Isolation Britain is a place where “challenges” have replaced human interaction.

One that has intrigued me has been to name five “perfect” albums. The best definition I can come up with to meet this criteria is…an album where I wouldn’t skip a single track. All killer, no filler. With that in mind and with an acknowledgement that this list could change by the time I publish it here are five perfect albums;

Ecce Homo by The Hidden Cameras

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“Behold the man” in case you were wondering.

A band in the same way that The Divine Comedy are a band…that is to say, not really a band but a vehicle for the musical genius of one person. In this case that musical genius is Joel Gibb who uses The Hidden Cameras to bring what he has described as “gay church folk music” to the world of indie pop.

I first heard them after the release of their single “Ban Marriage” in 2003 thanks to a post from flaneur, dandy and diarist Dickon Edwards. It simply thrilled me honey. That led me back to the beginning…the genesis and “Ecce Homo”.

The name of this site comes from the second track on the album “The International M.M.A The Mild Mannered Army” and that is also where my online “persona” of Mild Mannered Max came from.

“The mild mannered army, combats the bitterness inside of me” seemed like the best possible mantra for my own personal and emotional development. I started this place as a means of combating the bitterness inside of me…it has worked, to some extent and “branding”myself as mild mannered has helped me to not say a lot things I would ordinarily have screamed on social media.

This is also a wildly personal and political album with lyrics that are frank and open about sex and sexuality in ways that, genuinely, changed my own opinions and behaviours in several areas.

A life changer.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back by Public Enemy

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There are hundreds of books about how revolutionary punk was, how it created a DIY ethos that changed the industry forever, about how important the Sex Pistols were…blah, blah, blah. That may all have been true, I have my doubts, but the most revolutionary moment in my lifetime was the arrival of hip-hop/rap. Here were the voices of genuinely working class kids saying things that were more honest, more brutal and more angry than anything The Clash could ever have dared to.

This was the sound of the streets. A glorious, violent, mash up of poetry, dance, invention, black politics and a universal call to arms for oppressed people everywhere. People who didn’t get it were lucky, that meant that struggle and poverty had never visited their life. That doesn’t mean that you had to enjoy it if you had experienced those things or that you couldn’t enjoy it if you hadn’t, it just means that the voices raised loudest against it are often people who live in new build houses with a double-garage and who went on holidays to France with their parents (both of them) when they were kids.

Class snobbery?

Reverse snobbery?

Maybe.

I apologise for nothing.

P.E brought me to an understanding of civil rights, black nationalism, the racism that was still a clear and present danger and with “It Takes a Nation of Millions…” they changed my life.

Disintegration by The Cure

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A beautiful thing.

From the first half-gasp of “Plainsong” to the peculiar delights of “Untitled” this is what it sounds like when a band arrives at perfection. Nothing here is out of place. Nothing is anything less than brilliant. It sweeps and soars to heights unimaginable and delves and dives to the darkest depths of your soul…sometimes all at the same time.

I had bought a copy of “Standing on a Beach” on cassette because The Cure seemed like the sort of band a boy like me should like. I liked it but I didn’t fall head over heels in love. Who knows why. But then I saw the video for “Lullaby” and my whole world flipped upside down. I didn’t know what I was looking at. It may well have been the first time I had seen a horror film…a four minute long horror film. I already hated spiders…a fear and revulsion that ran deep to my core and then there was the pale face, the terror etched on Robert Smiths face despite the fact his face wasn’t really moving, a towering wardrobe looming in the corner with God only knows what lurking inside of it. I could go on…you get the general idea.

Gothic grandeur, pop splendour and stadium filling anti-anthems fill every second of this album and the idea of it not being close enough at hand to be played whenever I need it is too awful to think about for very long.

Roadrunner: The Beserkley Years by Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers

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I know, this is like choosing “The Best of The Beatles” like Partridge.

It’s a cheat.

But it’s my list so if you don’t like it you can go and do your own list.

The truth is I could have chosen anything by Jonathan Richman with, or without, the Lovers but this collection of his songs from the Beserkley years is the most accurate look inside the mind of one of the greatest songwriters of all time that their is.

People get very excited about Lennon & McCartney (inexplicably) and Bob Dylan (less inexplicable) and yet don’t know who Jonathan Richman is (a crime). This collection is possibly the greatest collection of songs in the history of recorded music.

Yes it is.

Yes it’s better than that one by The Beatles and, yes, it’s definitely better than that one by Radiohead.

I know, it’s very difficult to accept that a (not really) greatest hits (none of them were hits) album by a man you have never heard, or head of, can be as good as I am saying…but that’s not my fault, that’s your fault.

It starts with “Roadrunner” which, undoubtedly, was the greatest record of the punk era and, in all probability, gave birth to the idea of “indie” music. A frantic, garage rock, furious, nonsensical, burst of pure pop.

Lovely.

But it is on the more reflective, soulful, heart bearing and heart breaking moments like “The Morning of Our Lives” and “Back in Your Life” that the real beauty of Richman is discovered. Songs from the heart of a man who lives somewhere purer, better and sweeter than this world.

Anyone who can listen to “Ice Cream Man” and not accept the truth of what I am arguing here isn’t the sort of person you want to be friends with…they are cynics, prisoners to toxic notions of what “real” music should be and totally detached from their inner child.

Leave them behind, jump in your dodge veg-o-matic and come dance with me and the Martian Martians.

Real Life by Joan As Police Woman

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I have arrived late at this particular party.

In truth I have arrived late to every party.

That’s not entirely accurate.

When I say “arrived late” I mean “wasn’t invited”.

Then Tim Burgess invited me to the Joan As Police Woman party on Twitter and I thought, why not?

What I have discovered while being in attendance at a party hosted by Joan Wasser is that she is a wonderful host; full of charm, humour, wit, grace, style, love and magic. I don’t ever want to leave.

“Real Life” sounds just like real life; flashes of excitement that one can barely stand, crushing lows, unexpected thrills, hidden delights, fear, wonder and marvel. I’m not sure what else one would want from a record.

This is the most recent “perfect” album and, already, I cannot imagine a time where it ever falls from this list.

Beautiful.