Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Fear of Music: The Greatest 261 Albums Since Punk and Disco

‘A thrilling call to go thumbing through your old CDs and vinyl… enthralling. *****’ — Caspar Llewellyn Smith – Observer Music Monthly OBSERVER ‘An infectious enthusiasm that will leave you listening afresh to those Mojo-approved apres-Punk staples… and a long overdue privileging of pop that is black, gay or female.’ TIME OUT ‘Full of short, excitable essays about the records Mulholland still dribbles over… this book’s full of wide-eyed love, as a fan’s testimonies should be.’ THE WORD ‘The brilliantly written work of an enthusiastic and savvy music fan. It’s sexy to look at too. And chunky enough to chuck in those heated arguments about music.’ TIME OUT – Christmas Presents ‘Crisp, witty and insightful reviews… the choices are thought-provoking throughout in a fascinating book and an ideal companion to its predecessor.’ EVENING HERALD ‘Brilliant dip-in/dip-out material, it offers fresh reviews of the elpees that Mulholland would trample over his wife and kids to rescue from a burning house.’

Buy “Fear of Music” on Amazon

11 Responses to “Fear of Music: The Greatest 261 Albums Since Punk and Disco”

Scott Says:

Just picked up “Fear of Music,” and I wished I’d leafed through it before purchasing. Now it might be a very good book, and I may find I enjoy it, but there are certain signpost albums from the era that I should have looked for first. Because without them, I have zero trust in the author’s critical sensibilities.

And, unfortunately, the first three signpost albums are missing. We can argue where in the Top 261 the Minutemen’s “Double Nickels on the Dime” (I’d say Top 10), Husker Du’s “Zen Arcade” (Top 50) and Sonic Youth’s “Daydream Nation” (Top 10) belong, but to leave out ll three is unconscionable. Especially when mediocrity such as Prince’s “Around the World In A Day” (some good stuff within, but hardly a strong album) or Husker Du’s “Candy Apple Gray” (worst of all HD albums) are included.

This is far from a reasonable list.

Chris Says:

Just read this and loved it. Like the above poster, I didn’t agree with all the album selections, but when there are 261 listed, that’s not all that surprising.

Mulholland writes superbly and puts a compelling case for each album. In fact, this is some of the best music writing that I’ve read. I now have at least 50 albums I want to track down and listen to. And I can’t wait to read ‘This is Uncool’. Keep up the good work.

Paul Ebbs Says:

I have both books and have really enjoyed them both. I agree with a lot, and I disagree with a lot too – there are certainly some I’d leave out, and some I’d put in too.

Where I really have an issue is with Mulholland’s tired dismissal of hard and heavy rock as *cock rock*. I think the po-faced geeks (and Mulholland certainly sounds like one when he talks about Rawk) who speak this nonsense about the harder edged music fail to see the irony, humour and hilarious self-deprecation contained in some of these bands. The sly winking lyrics of someone like Bon Scott are a match for almost anything else contained in these volumes especially one that includes the vomit fest of Boston’s “More than a Feeling” LOL

To deny sexual confidence as valid an artistic weight as sexual insecurity (as Mulholland does time and time again) is to sound like a bitter jealous geek who never got laid 🙂 Some of us liked the Smiths *and* got laid at the same time.

Not all Rock (without the ‘n’roll) is misogynistic , not all of it is about musical wanking or swagger. A Fear of Music without UFO’s “The Wild, The Willing and the Innocent”, ACDC’s “If You Want Blood” or Judas Priest’s “Screaming for Vengeance” is a little poorer because of it. I understand Mulholland’s sensibility in wanting to eschew the influence of Beatles, Dylan et all and I applaud it, but I don’t hear much Beatles in “Whole Lotta Rosie.” Stuff my parents hated me listening to as much as Television.

As a rock fan, I can love the Buzzcocks as much as I love the Cockrocks. Get over your failure with girls Garry 😉

Neil Miller Says:

I’ll keep this brief: LOVE the book. You’ve rekindled my love of Roxy Music. I’ve added about 50 albums to my shopping list. Your writing is absolutely inspiring. Was delighted to see New Gold Dream in there. The jibes about The Stranglers and prog were uncalled for though :-(. Keep up the good work!

Paul Says:

I enjoyed Garry’s book to the extent I could not put it down even though it infuriated me ! I recognise that all “selection” books will contain inclusions and omissions that baffle us. My problem with Garry’s book is, unfortunately, Garry.

Garry literally rams his favourite subjects down our throat during the course of many of his reviews. Race, sexuality and gender are harped on about ad nauseum when I know I personally would rather continue reading about Talking Heads or Television. We know you’re proud to be a “New Man” Garry, but you only need to tell us once ! I don’t care if Fela Kuti was a sexist, I still love his music. Just as I enjoy Buju Banton. Doesn’t mean I’d enjoy ten minutes in his company. I don’t care if Sting (such an easy target) is a tosser. I enjoy some of his music. Hell, I even enjoy some Phil Collins, and I don’t give a damn. Five minutes later I could be listening to Steel Pulse (another criminal ommission from this book). This book should be more about the music and less about Garry’s personal prejudices, and that is what they are – prejudices dressed up as tolerance.

Back to the selections – unfortunately it seems that albums only qualify for this book if they sold hardly any copies (comparatively). Bands only make it in if they are perceived to be “non mainstream”, “cool” and “credible”. Gang Of Four good/Sting bad. Van Morrison bad/XTC good. Thus, artists such as Dire Straits, Elton John, UB40, The Rolling Stones etc etc are perceived to be too commercial and mercenary to be mentioned. Similarly, Sade and Kid Creole do not make the cut, despite having been extremely popular in the early/mid 1980s. Bizarrely, Michael Jackson makes it in though, and Earth Wind and Fire and Chic are considered credible and “danceworthy” yet Millie Jackson is not.

Different strokes I suppose, and faor all this I still enjoyed the book.

Paul Says:

Sorry for using the word “tolerance” earlier. I’ve just read how much you hate it !!

By the way, how is it you seem to justify the excesses of Public Ememy, NWA and Cypress Hill as “saying stupid things” because that is what singers do, yet condemn Mick Jagger on “Some Girls” for leery old sterotyping ? I know which one I’d rather have inflicted upon me.

Karl Says:

Hey Garry

Love your book!

Just wondering mate, why 261, why not 260 or 250 even?
A nice round even number? I mean there’s 500 singles, so why not 260 or 250 albums like I said…
Anyway! I Love the Book!
I love how you write. And I also love your politically left-wing, anti-sexist, anti-racist and anti-homophobic views. Your politics is just like mine. Great minds think alike, Garry! Cheers! 🙂

nigel greaves Says:

hi gary I read fear of music and your choice of albums is superb BUT I didn’t like your comments about the stranglers and jean Jacques burnel, we all know that jj is an intelligent psychopath and that the band didn’t do them selves many favours by loving women so much in there 1st two albums but there still seems to be this anti stranglers stance by music journalists, is it a secrect sect hell bent on damning this excellent band from true recognition, is it that some jouralists don’t even know the band yet seem compelled to jump on the bandwagon to hate them just because they roughed up a few reporters back in the day, the stranglers may not be to your taste but you did admit the bass was a big part of there sound as was greenfields swelling organ and cornwells snarl and guitar solos. this band were and still are a massive part of modern british culture and have done many many good songs and things since there misogynistic days, so please don’t step on them with words like little and morbid some say you may just bump into mr burnel at the wrong time and he may just re-quote you again, lots of love nigelinblack

Chris Says:

I’ve just finished Fear of Music, which to be honest I missed on publication. I’d read This Is Uncool a long time ago and then again fairly recently, and the age gap I traversed since first and second reading convinced me that you probably do have to let your music tastes go through a transition before you can appreciate the breadth of the works Gary chose.

So I was looking forward to the album version, as it were, and was massively impressed. I went into it thinking I’d be reading about all those great albums I’d already got, but I’m pretty pleased to say I had about ten percent! I can see why people are taking Gary to task about his choices but isn’t that the point of music criticism? It’s one thing to give you the stories behind an album and another to offer an interpretation, and I for one would rather have thoughts about an album or genre I’d never considered before than the same content rehashed. Garry’s subtitle is a challenge, but I think he gives enough of his own personality to show that your opinions will colour any ‘list’ of this type.

I’ll be trying to pick up his books on film, because FOM is going straight on my display bookshelf rather than somewhere I can just forget about it.

peewee Says:

We got this book years ago, we started collecting records along time ago, everytime we find a record from this book, we always get it and say “hey this one is on The List”. Your book was our List for along time. We almost have all of them now. It was a good way of navigating when we weren’t finding anything in the record racks we wanted. Most of em are great finds.

Antony Bates Says:

To Paul: I think the Stones were lucky to get even one album in the book, considering the era it covers. Same goes for Van Morrison, and I love both these artists (or at least the work they produced in their heyday). In fact, GM must have a sentimental attachment to Jagger and co. for including the half great/half awful Some Girls.

Leave a Reply