What lays at the heart at the truly great, start-to-finish iconic album? If compelled to compare the two could you really say that Queen were better than Phoenix? Has Kanye lost his way? Questions all and at that, ones sitting heavily upon our minds. But fortunately reader you need not worry. Neon Tetra’s Josh Allen is here to break these queries down and make it all okay. He’s even given us a playlist.
Rabbit Radio: If I’m thinking anything looking through these songs it’s ‘bands that think big’. But in your own words is there a common thread tying this music together?
Josh Allen: To be honest there isn’t really any theme, it’s a pretty varied list. I guess to make a great record you must ‘think big’. I don’t think any band has been genre-defining by taking a small, simple or easy idea and running with it. All these records are really great records because they’re well thought out and constructed, which in turn makes them all the more emotive and impactful.
RR: Part of the reason you’ve selected these songs is that each has come from one of your top 20 albums of all time. What is it that makes a truly great album? What makes something more than just the proverbial ‘bucket of songs’?
JA: Great songs first and foremost. If you have even one weak track on a record it really does ruin the whole experience. For an album to be considered good I believe you have to get through it without skipping a track once, everytime. For an album to be truly great you have to get through the record without even considering skipping a track!
There also needs to be some kind of common thread linking the songs together, which is generally the emotion or tone of the album. That is produced sonically or lyrically, either exclusively or a through combination of the two. One artist that I think did this really well, if not better than anyone, was Bowie. The moment you put one of his records on you know you’re strapped in for 45 minutes and are going for a ride.
RR: Who’s your biggest influence here and why?
JA: For me personally it would have to be The Strokes. They were probably the first band I wanted to be just like. A lot of my earliest songwriting came out sounding like really, really poor Strokes b-sides. I used to get a lot of comments that my phrasing had some strong similarities to The Strokes, which wasn’t something I was conscious of. It was something my brain naturally absorbed through repeated listens and can still pop out every now-and-again today.
RR: Kanye’s here too. Did you rate ye and has he still got it?
JA: That’s a tough question. For me ye is undoubtedly Kanye’s weakest record, but it’s still a reasonably solid record. Obviously, Kanye’s had a monumental impact upon pop culture history and pop music in particular. Dan [Clohesy] and I often talk about how underrated 808’s and Heartbreaks was at the time and how it really is the foundation for what most pop and R&B music sounds like today. So obviously when you look at that record - which even to this day a lot of people think is just “ok” - and think about the impact it had, a bad record for him is both shocking and also not that bad a record. Short answer of did I enjoy it? For a couple of listens, yes.
In answer to “Has he still got it?” I mean sure! Kids See Ghosts was actually a really cool record, and Pusha T’s Daytona, which he produced, was excellent! So I see no reason why he can’t bounce back and make something brilliant again, although I do have my doubts.
I feel like Kanye did play it safe with ye and with Life of Pablo. It seemed like he started to tread old ground sonically for the first time. But if anyone’s going to come back with a bang and release some crazy psychedelic, sci-fi, Afro-beat monster, it’ll be Kanye.
RR: Okay and so while our readers are here listening through this collection of songs is there anything else you’d like to throw out there?
JA: Firstly, thank you for lending your ears for an hour and a half. Sorry if it’s a bit too mid-tempo (I love a nice, chill tempo). If you don’t dig any of the songs, check out something from a different record of theirs.
These are all incredible artists who were brilliant because they offered so much variation over their respective careers and all knew how to write killer tunes. Also, don’t get angry if you think Queen are better than Phoenix (yes, they are), but I put this together as the records that are the best from all the albums that have inspired me so far in life. Because of this, there are quite a few that wouldn’t come close to Top 20 ever but have played a bigger role in my life than the purists’ Top 20 have. Anyway, enough reading is what I have to say. Go make yourself a Cup Of Joe and enjoy!
Words by Riley Fitzgerald