Pages

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Worst to Best: The Beatles

Worst to Best: The Beatles

One of my biggest fears is to be ordinary. Typical. Unoriginal. Predictable. Normal just like you. My parents always said I was special, and goddamnit, I had better start acting like it.

These are the reasons as to why I’ve always struggled with the depths of my Beatles adoration. It's because every publication in existence will mention them by name as one of the most important artistic contributions to modern music. They are already a permanent signature in all of the musical history books, more often than not on the first page. Hence why it seems like such a tasteless place to lay your eggs. There is nothing exciting about loving The Beatles. Go ahead, and tell people about your interest. Watch as you receive nothing more than a mere pat on the head from those who smile at your safe selection. Or, at very best, you may even witness an eager scream from your mate’s mom as she experiences a Beatlemania flashback, fainting and then convulsing upon the floor. You love The Beatles? Omg, me too! As does eveyone.

That said, over the years, I have occasionally come across members of the anti-Beatles movement. At first, I was always impressed by their bold opposition. How big does your ego have to be in order to claim your opinion is greater than a force which literally influenced all of the music you enjoy today? How much attention are you seeking right now, exactly? Were you neglected as a child? But eventually I realised, nobody dislikes The Beatles. That's impossible. Rather, what people are rejecting is the sheer popularity of the band. They cannot stomach the myth. The folklore has outgrown the product. This band are not as great as the monumental reputation they hold, because how could anything possibly be that size? And to be fair, this makes sense! I get it! Ok, I'm in! Let's fight against the norm! Let's go on an anti-Beatles rally! Off I march! But then before I know it, I've walked in circles, gravitating towards the core center where The Beatles reside. They're always waiting for me there. And then we dance in the middle of this story like nobody is watching. Because nobody is watching. I am alone all of the time.

It’s a tired claim when a subject is said to require “no introduction”. In the case of The Beatles, however, any introduction is beyond redundant, and that includes this one. I don’t need to justify my decision to dedicate this space to these heroes. It's none of your goddamn business what I do with my blog anyway. It's not even like it matters, my list is nothing more than an insignificant speck of fluff floating down into the ether of similarly existing articles, forever lost so deep within The Beatles cosmos that no search engine will be able to find it. And this is for good reason. But I still feel compelled to tell you one thing: it was an absolute joy to write this piece. It felt like I was eating a healthy meal, like I was happy again, and I fell in love these guys deeper now than ever before. I'm just sorry it took me so long. Here is my Worst to Best of the Greatest Band That Ever Lived.


Worst to Best: The Beatles: 15. With The Beatles

15. With The Beatles (1963)

Merseybeat Pop Rock & Roll
Spotify

The Beatles were on a roll in their early days, although when weren’t The Beatles on a roll? Rather, what made this era so particularly unique was a certain pre-fame hunger which existed before the group outgrew Jesus and were shrouded in the security blanket of Beatlemania validation. They had been standing on the cusp of world domination for a while now, and it was here, on With The Beatles, when they fell in. Their debut was a mere eight months old, and they were still charging forward, unstoppable and armed with these joyous clap-along rockers, edging away from the pop naivety and still jumping around just because they loved the thrill of it all. But with this blind rush, came a slight taint of an understandable fatigue. The six cover songs featured on this album should have been the first warning flag, as they were shoved between disorganised cracks of an otherwise undercooked inspiration, the biggest crime of this sophomore being an obvious lack of any wow factor whatsoever. It may have sold well (the second album to ever sell a million copies in the UK, in fact) and the artwork may be as iconic as they come, but nothing can distract this as the most boring collection the band ever threw together in their entire career, and my personal choice for their worst batch of material. Most people don't have a problem with me saying this.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 14. Past Masters, Volume One

14. Past Masters, Volume One (1988)

Merseybeat Pop Rock & Roll
Spotify

Early Beatles discography is an utter mess to follow thanks to the practice of reordering and repackaging the exact same collections of songs under different album titles for the British, American, and Canadian audiences. Thankfully, at some point in the 80s, somebody realised how ridiculous this was, and a core catalogue was established, otherwise known at the “correct catalogue” or the “UK catalogue“, exactly how The Beatles had always intended. However, said unification left a stack of homeless non-album tracks floating away, some of Fab Four’s most revered works clinging onto their b-sides, gone and lost forever. Just kidding. Money could be made, and the Past Masters duo were the clever solution, working as erratic dumping grounds for #1 monster hits, vinyl underbellies, German translations, and Long Tall Sally EP cover tunes, wrapped up neatly in one sellable product. Due to these characteristics, the Past Masters inclusions within the stricter Beatles discography is debatable—more a completist bag if anything—but thank God for their existence all the same. Volume One specifically suffered from the scrappy jumbles dripped out from those sugary pop days (most of which could be located elsewhere anyway) hence why this compilation feels a teesntie bit pointless to me. But still... how massive were those singles??

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 13. Beatles for Sale

13. Beatles for Sale (1964)

Merseybeat Pop Folk Rock & Roll
Spotify

Peak Beatlemania came with some serious demand, and nothing could reflect the band's waning interest more than this title itself. Beatles for Sale. A product. Their fourth album, 21 months after their first. The pop curtain was getting thin, the cynicism was settling in, the lethargy showed on their artwork. Historically speaking, no one could shit out decent music quite as fast as these guys could, and that’s pretty much all they did here. They sat down and pushed out a rushed dump, risk-free and exhausted, just take what you are given. What’s worse is that The Beatles had already proven themselves as the best songwriters on the planet by the end of 1964, hence why the six cover song filler fluff really stank the place up, 42.86% of the ingredients may contain less Beatle. To be kind, this record’s hindsight charm was recognised as an in-between release, the band unsure of where they wanted to go but certain of where they didn’t want to be, ending up in some Lennon-heavy country-folk phase, not lost in the artiness just yet but way past the bouncy yeah yeahs—just some Liverpool lads having a rock ‘n’ roll jam really. And let's not forget about those vocal harmonies! On point. Perhaps better found here than anywhere else, hence why I'd happily buy some of that Beatles stuff everyone is banging on about, pass it here.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 12. Yellow Submarine

12. Yellow Submarine (1969)

Psychedelic Pop Rock, Orchestral
Spotify

Does Yellow Submarine possess the genuine Beatles membership card as an essential block in their fundamental discography? That’s a controversial conversation. Due to contractual obligations, the boys were forced to provide some new compositions for a (now classic!) animated film simply because it wore their likeness and sported their brand logo. The Beatles had no choice, and they reluctantly threw aside four tracks they didn’t care much for, packaged with two previously released hit singles, and that’s side one, done. Side two was eagerly seized by producer George Martin, who filled it up with his orchestral score for the film, and with that, the messy soundtrack was folded up and handed over. In defense of this sloppy execution, The Beatles had just released their monumental Beatles [White Album] two months previous. And as Yellow Submarine was such a happier collection glinting off the peaks of surreal LSD rejects, its trippy love and colourful characteristics did provide an interesting antithesis of the otherwise tedious indulgence found on the aforementioned self-titled affiar. The primary criticism against this record stood loudest against those Martin contributions (even the band were heard to dismiss them), but I personally appreciate those tracks too, as a welcome intermission in the overall Beatles catalogue if nothing else. Honestly, for something so utterly inconsequential, the Yellow Submarine soundtrack sure knows how to bring about a smile.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 11. Let It Be

11. Let It Be (1970)

Pop Blues Rock
Spotify

The Beatles’ catalogue ends in tragedy. Let It Be (released a month after their dissolution) is oft-mistakenly considered as their final album, when this project was actually recorded before Abbey Road. The project had been abandoned for good reason and was only resurrected as a shameless cash-in on their recent demise (or at least that's what I tell people). Consequently, this “swan song” is an incomplete mess shoved together without merit, dirtying up the group's perfect score after the finish line, even if we need to take a moment to admire the initial idea. Story tells that the concept was proposed by McCartney’s dictatorship enthusiasm as an attempt to recapture their former back-to-basics magic, bluesy one-take style, no overdubbed psychedelic doodling or another effort to etch their names into the wheel. And that was totally worth the shot, right? It may have even worked too if The Beatles themselves weren’t so sick of one another by this point, the disintegration of the world’s biggest band taking place right here and conveniently captured by the documentary of the same name. What followed was hours upon hours of disorganised tape dumped upon eccentric genius madman Phil Spector’s desk, featuring some of McCartney’s most realised work spread thin by worthless chips of filler and sarcastic Lennon chatter. Spector did his best, bless him, and his best was actually incredible, coating on his orchestral wall of sound until The Beatles’ mistakes were densely covered up, a sneaky move which McCartney has publicly despised a billion times over. And yet, annoyingly, it's still better than your best work.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 10. Please Please Me

10. Please Please Me (1963)

Merseybeat Pop Rock & Roll
Spotify

I may have been four decades too late, but I find it rather fitting that the band's debut was the first Beatles record I'd ever bought and listened to in full. Consequently, my affection may be slightly tainted by bias, but nobody can deny that a certain exciting charm still remains on Please Please Me above any of their subsequent records. There was no drool of global audiences as of yet, and this absence has blessed the record with an amusing power in hindsight. Just listen to it now and remember: nobody involved had the slightest clue about the atomic bomb which sat beneath them. This was nothing more than a hungry little Liverpudlian band, rushing to capitalise on one successful single by building an entire album around it, consisting of nothing more than their cover-heavy stage shows, so well rehearsed that the project itself took a mere 10 hours to record. Critics argue against its cautious commercial calculations and lack of creative innovation, but these fools overlook the playful naivety and youthful energy of four guys simply having a blast and loving music for music’s sake. This was the first Beatles album, man! And they came out swinging with smart attire and wide smiles, capturing a tight magic with a stickiness so immediate that it initiated one of the most important artistic stories of all time. And that's just perfect.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 9. A Hard Day's Night

9. A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Merseybeat Pop Rock & Roll
Spotify

The Beatles were working hard. Running around, getting things done. Beatlemania was currently burning the world down, and the only logical solution was to milk public pockets for every dime they held. How about a full-length feature film then? And a soundtrack to go with it? Why not the first album to be 100% penned by the boys themselves? Oh no, these artists were becoming self-aware! They were taking control and getting cocky within their role. They were actually thinking about their musical direction now. The brains were overpowering the guts because they knew that the whole empire would come crashing down without them. Place all of these observations in one lunchbox, shake it around, and that's what makes A Hard Day's Night such an important record. It may have kept both feet firmly fixed inside of the classic Beatle sugar bowl, swooning from silly romantic simplifications and juvenile optimism, but they were consciously evolving towards a tighter overall consistency. Every song needed to be a memorable inclusion. A thread of cover fillers connecting the odd hit singles together would no longer suffice. This is exactly what peak early Beatles sounds like. That special sweet spot where the world was infected and the band were still loving it, while slyly contemplating where their creative boundaries ended, quietly rebelling against the advice of those in charge. Needless to say, everybody loved it and the film itself was a landmark cinematic masterpiece too. Of course it was! Fucking Beatles, man!

Read This Next Maybe

Worst to Best: Radiohead
Worst to Best: Radiohead

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 8. Rubber Soul

8. Rubber Soul (1965)

Folk Pop Rock
Spotify

In terms of Beatles folklore and global importance, this is a landmark album. The band were experimenting with marijuana while hanging out with Bob Dylan, and that kinda sloooooowed everythiiiiing dooooown. Their stoned third-eye was struggling to open as they decided now was the time. They needed to take complete creative control of this adventure. The cheesy crowd pleasers were smoked out by a more unified aura of folk rock, somewhat drifting towards space but ripening into an artistic wokeness within their core until it hardened as a Rubber Soul. It was the earliest indication of the band’s restlessness and their refusal to stand still, finally breaking free from any predictable former commercial ties. And (like various Beatles albums following) it changed the entire music industry. Historians are quick to point towards this direction as the first “true album” ever made, a full package presented as one cohesive piece of art, not just some formality product intended to support the radio singles. And this approach shook other musicians from their slumber, until proper albums became the priority, a practice which has benefitted us all greatly still to this very day. Thank you! The initial public reaction may have been one of confusion, and admittedly I find this record to be a smidgen overrated, but retrospectively, it has been lauded as the earliest bonafide Beatles classic for justifiable reasons.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 7. Help!

7. Help! (1965)

Pop Rock
Spotify

Help! is essential Beatles splendour which has been criminally overlooked by latter-day fanatics. I guess it was too quickly overshadowed by what followed, and then unfairly lost within the lump of early easy-stick pop Beatles (not to mention that the US version opted to replace many of the central tracks with instrumentals from the associated film, and that didn’t “help” in the slightest). But for those of us who were paying attention, here are the first hints that this band were progressing towards The Beatles that we know and adore today. The songwriting was maturing, the reliance on cover songs were slowly being phased out, and this was the crouch before the leap, leaving their mop-top days behind for good, the final traces of Merseybeat shaved off into the ground as seedlings for future compost. Sadly, Help! may have had the right ingredients to be another classic, but it fell slightly short due to a top-heavy song sequencing and a continued fixation on love love love. But at the same time, the winning hits were fucking knockouts! Most notably was McCartney’s confidence which truly expanded here, point proven with his song Yesterday, the most covered piece of music ever written in history, fact.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 6. Past Masters, Volume Two

6. Past Masters, Volume Two (1988)

Psychedelic Pop Rock
Spotify

The two piece Past Masters compilations may have been sold as one idea but they could not be any more contrasting in terms of quality. Volume One leaned closer towards the written concept: a safe haven for those homeless scraps and prime cuts to live in harmony, allowing the completists to round off their collections, no longer cluttering up their precious vinyl shelves with the endless single releases otherwise required. Volume Two, however, was a different spread altogether, as an almost perfect run of non-album hits and their associated b-sides, gathering up lost children along The Beatles’ most compelling psychedelic period right until their crash-landing. Consequently, it’s easy to forget that this is not a greatest hits assemblage, but rather, nothing more than a convenient nesting point, a fact alone which proves the unparalleled supernatural genius that is The Beatles. Make no mistake, if this second Past Masters was an official Beatles album, it would undeniably be considered their most consistently impressive work and perhaps even the pinnacle of pop music itself.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 5. Magical Mystery Tour

5. Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Psychedelic Sunshine Pop Art Rock
Spotify

Magical Mystery Tour was never intended to be a real album. Rather, a double EP soundtrack was the plan, fixed to the (critically despised) film of the same name. The US market, however, had other ideas, wrapping the rushed somewhat forgettable EP tracks up with a collection of previously released A-side singles to create a full LP, and you know what? Those Americans actually got it right this time. The second half outshines the first half dramatically, featuring a solid run of unimaginably impressive work without toppling over the cohesiveness of this overall kaleidoscopic vibe. Every song danced though a surrealistic hippie-coloured world, playing in the sunshine, singing like children, nth degree cooked and undoubtedly their quirkiest record ever. The band had truly eaten too many lysergic doses at this point, and the acid ran thick as their hallucinatory exploration concluded right here with what can only be described as Sgt. Pepper’s reject brother. And that is exactly the type of Beatles I prefer anyway. Rest assured that this is a band at their peak creativity carrying some of the most extraordinary psychedelic songs ever written, totally underrated and deserving of much more love from you.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 4. Revolver

4. Revolver (1966)

Psychedelic Pop Rock
Spotify

Revolver is the audible equivalent of the stars aligning. It was a special period for art itself, where the trippy drugs and lovey-dovey counterculture were conspiring together, breaking into new territories with The Beatles at the forefront of the creative explosion, fueling their indulgences with as much money as they felt necessary. Due to their mental expansion and touring exhaustion, this album marked an important global musical activation when the studio itself became an instrument, smashing boundaries and innovating unprecedented techniques which have since influenced all future recording practices if you’re willing to research it. Consequently, this does feel like some sort of an apex in The Beatles universe, at the top of their game without trying to be anything but themselves, gradually sinking deeper into ego artiness and contemplative metaphysical lyrical matters while still remaining somewhat safe within commercial boundaries. Truthfully, it’s impossible to grasp what this utterly flawless record meant back in 1966, as even today the untouchable masterpiece sounds ahead of our time. Its reputation has fairly reflected this significance though, as it's often considered The Beatles’ finest half hour to many, especially in latter-day arguments. In fact, any dispute over the greatest Beatles record from this point onwards is nothing more than an unresolvable debate at best.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 3. The Beatles [White Album]

3. The Beatles [White Album] (1968)

Hard Rock Art Blues Pop
Spotify

Meet the ugly duckling of this tale. As if a loud opposition against their recent psychedelic vibrancy, all flashy frills were torn down just like the minimal artwork told you so, hiding a dark disturbance beneath the whiteness of nothing. Listen to a band falling to pieces. A four-way solo album with far too much ego to make the necessary trimmings. Unrestrained creativity at war with highly tense interpersonal bitterness. Look no further than the once inseparable productivity of the Lennon/McCartney partnership, now not even featuring on one another's creations. See Paul’s sweet vanilla storytelling as it clashes with junkie John’s harsh and thought-provoking shouts intended to make Yoko happy. Notice all of this and be astounded that the turmoil birthed The Beatles’ most fascinating work, as a rushed, sloppy disconnection of brilliance and filler, unstable and uncomfortable even when it was just trying to play nice. What an eclectic mess of stress, a raw experiment lost within atmospheres of confused conflict, unfulfilled spirituality, and a political upset, delivered so effortlessly that none of this makes sense whatsoever. People often (rightfully) observe that The White Album could have easily been cut down into another flawless Beatles gemstone, but that would hack away at its essential character, and it would no longer be the monster it has come to be feared. Do not entertain such thoughts. Rather, enjoy this imperfect masterpiece as truly one of the most remarkable albums ever made.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 2. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

2. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Psychedelic Sunshine Baroque Pop Rock
Spotify

Sgt. Pepper has become so synonymous with “The Greatest Album Ever Made” that we’ve grown jaded, nauseous as we witness this record drowning within its own pretensions and overblown reputation, dying beneath layers of blinding sparkles and swirly rainbow colouring without losing that goddamn cartoon smile upon its face. The LSD had dominated their common sense! The flower power naivety was bad for our teeth! Take off those rose-tinted glasses and see this for the 60s novelty album which it truly is! Of course, these fatigued critiques would work much better if each song on Sgt. Pepper wasn’t such an explosively magnificent landmark of inventiveness, surging so far forward into the gaping abyss of blinding imagination that The Beatles themselves were forced to retreat shortly following. Furthermore, this ingenuity extends a billion years beyond just some pretty compositions, as a full art piece without a single corner left unexplored, featuring unprecedented studio wizardry (including the first ever hidden track), packaging unlike the world had ever comprehended (including the printed song lyrics, which had never been done before), and the (incorrectly) praised “earliest concept album in history”. Opinions will outlive us all, but if Sgt. Pepper is not the greatest, then it is undeniably the most important and innovative album ever created, as well as the purest musical masterpiece above every other musical masterpiece ever, done.

Worst to Best: The Beatles: 1. Abbey Road

1. Abbey Road (1969)

Art Pop Rock
Spotify

Abbey Road opens the door with a cheerful smile and welcomes you into its tidy home, so apologetic that they couldn’t quite fully fumigate all of the demonic tensions. Still, I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s very clean and tidy in here. So airtight and polished to reflection. Hey, would you like a biscuit? It’s very digestible. Void of any artificial colouring. Nobody is trying to push the boundaries anymore. Baking on LSD was so ‘67. Try one of Harrison's treats, by all accounts they rival even the most satisfying of Lennon/McCartney desserts. Why don't you take a seat? There’s something else you must know. Unfortunately, we have some bad news. Despite what the released chronology may tell you, Abbey Road is the final amalgamation of the Fab Four’s creative spunk. The inner workings may sound like a band functioning at their absolute unified peak, but in reality, things have been crumbling for a while now, and sadly, this is to be the curtain call. Oh no, please don’t cry! Here, take this box of cookies home with you and treasure it forever. Remember The Beatles for this bittersweet finale, as it is their absolute best work really. Oh, and would you look at that? We're sorry but it's time to go. We hope you have enjoyed the show. The love you take is equal to the love you make. The End.





Saturday, 30 June 2018

Suicide on the Underground

On the 28th of June 2018, I was in the presence of a train jumper. I had just arrived at the Bow Road Westbound platform and casually strolled to the far end where there were less people to cramp my superior style. The train was pulling into the station, and then with its nose protruding only few meters out of the tunnel, it abruptly stopped. I thought nothing of it. We’ve all seen this type of thing happen before. I have enough interesting thoughts to entertain me in the meantime.

Pretty soon, however, the atmosphere began to change. It wasn’t one of blind panic or terrified screams, which I guess is what I would have expected. Instead, it was a quiet hum of concern, people cautiously approaching the train, exchanging wide-eyed glances, some of them covering their mouths. In hindsight, this was the eeriest part of my whole story. The train driver got out of his special compartment and spent a few minutes apprehensively peering beneath the vehicle. It was in that moment that I first thought, “Oh my, is this a suicide scene?” but I also thought, “Perhaps the train just broke,” and I also thought, “There is a bomb here and we are all about to die”. Is it wrong to admit that I felt a glimmer of excitement?

Following shortly after was the announcement that we all had to evacuate the station immediately. The small crowd made their way to the exit and I stretched my lobes out, hoping to catch some juicy information from the passersby. I heard a lady talking about blood. Someone else mentioned they could see a hand beneath the wheels. Ok, so suicide confirmed then. I tapped out at the barrier, and shamefully my brain mumbled to me, “I bet they are still going to charge us for that”.

Leaving the station and walking the journey to the next one, I did feel a bit spooked. But more than that, I was acutely aware that I'd just experienced something I had never experienced before. It blew my mind that a man (or perhaps a woman? I don’t know) who I may have even made eye contact with, had just snuffed their existence away. By choice. There was an energy which powered a human body in that station, and then it wasn't there anymore, set free not far from where I stood. I did not know how I was supposed to feel about that, so instead, I just took the most logical next step I could think of and promptly updated my Facebook status, informing the world that my brain had been through something new.

90% of my friends responded by asking me if I was ok. This amused and confused me. Of course I was ok! I didn’t jump in front of a train, did I? If anything, whatever problems I may have been going through at that time, were swiftly slapped into place, sit the fuck down. All things considered, I was fantastic, really. The thought of jumping in front of a train hadn’t even crossed my mind that day, and yet there was this poor evaporated soul, so tortured that he had committed his afternoon schedule entirely to getting rid of himself. How ridiculous would it be for me to not be ok? What's more, I got drunk not long after this, and then I was really ok.

The next day when I awoke, I felt different. One part of this was certainly the hangover. Another part was the realisation that a life had been flattened by a giant machine, spread across the tracks like butter. But there was yet another part which was far worse than all of this. It was the inevitable British trademark where individuals felt the need to express their opinion to me that any train jumper was a selfish person, and that this is where our primary focus should lie.

There would be an element of hypocrisy in my words if I pretended to not understand this stance. Reportedly, around 100–150 suicides take place on the London Underground network every year. As a Londoner, it becomes a part of your life. “Sorry for the delay, ladies and gentleman, but there’s been a person on the track". Oh God, not now! I’m running late as it is! And here I am stuck on this packed carriage with my nose in somebody’s armpit, plus a baby is crying. I’m uncomfortable and this is very inconvenient for me. How am I expected to rise towards some moral podium while I'm stewing in an emotional pit of frustration? It seems like a bit much to ask, really.

In times like these, it is simpler to label this victim as a “selfish” person, not only because they may have potentially interrupted thousands of people’s day, but also because there are witnesses we need to consider too. People who have now seen something which will remain tattooed on their mind for the rest of their days. And then there's the driver who was accidentally responsible for a final breath, now carrying that demon on the back of their conscience until they pass themselves. Hell, I didn’t even see the incident take place, and I am still shook by it.

However, in my heart, I knew this was the wrong way to look at it, and now more than ever, I feel an absolute disgust by such a nonchalant disregard. Here is a human who was so lost within our world that they truly felt the need to end it all. It's a turmoil so complex that you can’t simply write it off with one meager word. And then if you take this tragedy and turn it around, focusing on the ordeal until it becomes about you, whining over how the death of a person slowed your day down, then I struggle to see how the “selfish” brand doesn’t fit your size perfectly. This is the epitome of a self-centered attitude, is it not?

Said misdirected “selfish” argument, of course, is not one against suicidal people. I doubt anyone who utters the word does so from a hostile position, intentionally undermining the agony which surrounds such a terrible event. Rather, it is an animosity towards this individual's chosen method of self-destruction. With so many wonderful suicide options available, why would someone select this specific angle? Why don’t they perform the act quietly at home, by hanging themselves, overdosing on pills, slitting their wrists, or dropping a toaster into the bathtub? At least this way, these disturbed characters get their happy little death wish, while we can arrive at wherever we’re going on time, none the wiser. Why do this to us? Why do it this way?

I know why. You see, I used to have this friend named Amy. About 10 years ago, she jumped in front of a train, and she killed herself. Perhaps it's because I can put a face to the episode, but it did help me to understand the plan from a unique perspective. People who jump in front of a train are not pussies. These are men and women who are wholeheartedly dedicated to their cause. They don’t want to live, they don’t want to fuck around, they don’t want a chance to change their mind. It’s a one-step maneuver which requires minimal preparation, all for the price of a one-way train ticket. You can make this decision and you can carry out the action within a very short timeframe. The complete process from point A to B doesn’t even have to be premeditated, you can hand in your notice and leave the building in less than a second. The thought of whether you make someone late for work was probably not your underlying concern here. Your concern was that you wanted to die, and this little procedure should get the job done nicely.

It’s the insensitivity towards these people that bothers me. If your friend is perpetually haunted by the compulsion to jump in front of a train, and yet you stigmatize the operation as one of “selfishness”, then they are not going to ask you for help. If you call yourself the victim when there are families left behind to pick up the pieces, then you have truly lost the connection to your fellow species. And if you pretend to understand what was going through a person’s mind before they dive face-first into the steel wheels of a moving train without having done it yourself, then perhaps you should take a moment to ask yourself how many people know what is going on in your life right now.

I was going to end this piece by telling you how I've been feeling since I witnessed this incident. But as I emphasised before, how selfish would that be of me?


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2)


My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2)
SO WHAT’S THIS ABOUT THEN?
Glad you asked! Basically, I have become embarrassingly one-dimensional and I now measure my self-worth via the potency of my vinyl collection. Which isn’t a great, because while my current accumulation features some of the greatest albums ever made according to EVERYONE, this achieveiment is still not as impressive or as substantial as many people's collections of which I have seen with my own eyes. These shortcomings are owed in part to my late registration for the vinyl game, only actively seeking out the phonograph record medium for roughly two years now. These shortcomings are also owed in part to my drug problem.

Taking my procrastinated vinyl puberty into account, I was forced to think quick and think smart, developing a system which not only ensured that I hit the ground running, but also that I allowed the public eye to get involved, potentially encouraging outside pockets to purchase vinyl for me if they were feeling nice (and some have!). Hello, this is where Juice Nothing comes in.

Flashback, March 2016. I initiated a five-part blog series called The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s through to The 00s, carefully considering my favourite records within these designated decade time gaps. I even reviewed each one, a seemingly innocent exercise in creative writing when, in truth, I was actually underhandedly compiling a checklist of 50 albums I needed in order to have a modest yet powerful army of essential masterpieces within my stockpile. Surely this would prove my worth to the musical community in the most streamlined manner possible. And I’m proud to say that I am almost there. I now own 38 of the original stated 50, which is such a thrill, yet also clearly not good enough.

Last year I released a somewhat b-side extension of this idea, called My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 1). You see, over the years I have reviewed many many albums, and yet some of the most imperative releases known to man have somehow slipped under my typewriter and never received the props they deserved. The idea of that article was to give love where love was due while expanding on my vinyl requests in front of everyone, please buy me these things oh please please please. I had so much fun with the concept and delivery, that I decided right then and there that this was going to be a yearly post, and here we are again. Once more around the sun. Let's write some words down, I'm so excited.

But before that, it’s important to note that I lied to you before we even began. These are not necessarily my favourite albums that I’ve never reviewed. Who could accurately honour such a specific title? Instead, these are kinda the first 10 that came to my mind (which means a lot in itself), ordered by the level of how badly I wish to hold them in my hands.

Oh, and one more thing. Here are all the album reviews I’ve already ever written on this site, so feel free to buy me any of these on vinyl. For additional safety, you can select from the following two Amazon wish lists here and here. I will legit love you forever, as I have been known to trade bits of my heart for records before.

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s
The Top 10 Albums Of The 70s
The Top 10 Albums Of The 80s
The Top 10 Albums Of The 90s
The Top 10 Albums Of The 00s
The Top 50 Greatest Albums Ever (even if a bit outdated)
My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 1)
Worst to Best: David Bowie
Worst to Best: Sonic Youth
Worst to Best: Nick Cave
Worst to Best: Aerosmith
Worst to Best: Radiohead
Worst to Best: Red Hot Chili Peppers
As well as a Top 50 from every year this decade: 2010, 2011 (short stories ugh), 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.


My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 10. Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album

10. Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album (1997)

IDM
Spotify


Having constructed his authoritative reputation within a more ambient space, the acceleration of Aphex Twin’s somewhat self-titled fourth album wasn’t exactly greeted by open arms. The frantic turbulence of technical drill ‘n’ bass drum patterns were too full-on and messy for some, while others had a difficult time taking the cutesy kiddie elements seriously, uncertain whether the uplifting synthetic strings were intended as a joke or not. Of course, only Aphex Twin could answer that (and what's more, he won't), but while the Richard D. James Album has never been dubbed his most coherently proficient, critically revered, or commercially successful record, there was something mischievously special about this particular product. Between the over-caffeinated beats and artificial strangeness, Richard was pushing for the future by hammering a warped and troubling naivety into the computers until the machines themselves wanted to play. And play, they did, very quickly for 32 minutes until they died with pixelated smiles upon their faces and sporadic seizures within their final breaths. Personally, this album was one of my very first adventures into the electronic world which actually made sense to me, and I was surprised to find that, two decades later, it still hasn’t dated whatsoever. This is a feat almost unheard of from the '90s electro scene.

Selected Accolades:
Among The Wire’s list of The Top 50 Albums of 1996
#20 on NME’s list of The Best Albums of 1996
#91 on Slant Magazine's list of The Top 100 Albums of 1990s
#40 on Pitchfork’s list of The Top Albums of 1990s
#71 on Spin’s list of The Best Albums of the Past 30 Years



My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 09. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain

09. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (2006)

Indie Art Rock
Spotify


If you’re lucky enough, you can sometimes spot an album just as it dances along the very outskirts of contemporary trends. Perhaps it wields a modest spotlight which shines towards the next most logical step. Perhaps it guides the indie scene out from the crowded slump everyone else had sunk into. Either which way, Return to Cookie Mountain provided that exact meeting point, an accumulation of what it was like to be an art kid of the mid-2000s, full of spirited spunk yet not ignorant to the troublesome darkness of reality. By all means, enjoy your distractions of electronic tinkerings and pop ideals, but keep your soul tightly squeezed behind the ribs of accessibility, refusing to get comfortable, forever aware that you don’t entirely belong here and something is very wrong with this place. The particulars of said weird energy is not immediately apparent, but if you stay present for long enough, you’ll learn how to wash away a layer of this mess. And there you may find yourself holding one unconventional experiment indeed, maybe not coagulating in the neatest of manners but still a delightfully colourful pinnacle for a band who have continued to be a consistently compelling asset throughout their career. This album also comes with the Bowie vocal stamp of approval, so just show me where to sign already.

Selected Accolades:
#5 on Metacritic’s list of The Best Albums of 2006
#4 on Stylus Magazine’s list of The Best Albums of 2006
#4 on Slant Magazine’s list of The Best Albums of 2006
#4 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of The Best Albums of 2006
#2 on Pitchfork’s list of Top 50 Albums of 2006
#1 on Spin’s list of The Best Albums of 2006
#8 on Rhapsody’s list of The Best Albums of the 2000s



My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 08. Television - Marquee Moon

08. Television - Marquee Moon (1977)

Art Post-Punk
Spotify


New York City in the late ‘70s was the place to be, man. A magical time in a magical scene, where the primitives of punk music were evolving towards a new wave direction, and Marquee Moon was painting the flag while making the most sensible suggestions. Why this debut’s importance was so unique is because it captured an arty intellectual attitude which was so of-its-time yet had never been captured before. Its rock fundamentals manipulated that laid-back Velvet Underground aesthetic by leaning into a cleaner melody, pushing the guitar out as their primary weaponry, effortlessly intertwining graceful solos between monotone poetics, uniting a coherent mood without ever interrupting its cryptic smile, the very epitome of a relaxed cool demeanor. Perhaps even more interesting, was that the mountains of critical acclaim stacked beneath this classic record were unable to break it into mass audience awareness, and it is still overlooked in so many ways like some strange little secret which was only monumentally transformative if you knew where to find it. But in the indie alternative rock world itself, its influence was unparalleled. Just ask Sonic Youth, Pixies, U2, R.E.M, Joy Division, John Frusciante, and all those Arctic Monkeys/The Strokes copies you lot seems to be so infatuated with.

Selected Accolades:
#5 in NME's list of The Best Albums of 1977
#10 in NME's list of The Greatest Albums of the 1970s
#3 in Pitchfork’s list of The Greatest Albums of the 1970s
#128 in Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
#33 in The Guardian's list of The Greatest Albums of All Time
#25 in Melody Maker's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
#4 in NME's list of The Greatest Albums of All Time



My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 07. Sublime - Sublime

07. Sublime - Sublime (1996)

Alternative Third Wave Ska Punk Rock
Spotify


On May 25, 1996, Bradley Nowell was found dead in his motel bed with his Dalmatian, Lou Dog, whimpering beside his uninhabited body. Heroin overdose. Classic end to the rockstar story, save for the following three additional tragic details: Bradley had been married for only one week before his passing; he’d turned 28 three months earlier (just missing the ever romanticised 27 Club criteria); and his death came two months before the release of this self-titled Sublime record, now remembered as their most revered collection of songs yet. Interestingly enough, the reasons for said accolade could not be further from the darkness which clogged Bradley’s veins, as this album was overflowing with theme tunes which drifted through a playful summery day. Everyone was smoking pot here. We were happy to be lazy and wanted to take it easy. Just jam it out, man. Ride this therapeutic third wave of ska. Bounce your head to those hip hop samples. We’ll go smash shit up at the punk rock show later. Of course, the debate of some “death sells” scenario is a fair discussion, especially when considering how this album’s warmth was suddenly embraced beyond the band's standard surfer/skater/stoner crowd, ultimately shipping over five million copies by the decade’s end, a suspicious outcome when any touring promotion was not even an option. But it's still sad though, right? Always a cultural disaster when we lose someone at their peak. Then again, artistically, perhaps this is the greatest way to go? Who's to say. And either way, God bless you, Bradley Nowell. Thanks for the good vibes, brother.

Selected Accolades:
#8 in Spin's list of The 20 Best Albums of '96
#48 in Spin's list of The 90 Greatest Albums of the '90s
Included in Rolling Stone's list of The Essential Recordings of the 90's
#25 in Rolling Stone's list of The 100 Best Albums of the Nineties



My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 06. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - F♯A♯∞

06. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - F♯A♯∞ (1997)

Post-Rock
Spotify


If you’ve ever wondered what the end of the world would sound like, here is the post-apocalyptic soundtrack you ordered. The chaos is over, the dirt has settled, and now all that is left is you and an ambient hum, slowly stretching across miles of desolate debris, the drone of our expiration trembling against your eardrums. And you’re sad. You’re scared. You’ve been abandoned. Occasionally, a spoken word mumble or poetic daydream will punctuate the point, but this foreboding emptiness of pure loneliness is carried here by the smarts of accomplished instrumentation exclusively, using fearful symphonics and a forlorn western twang to carve out an isolated path of travel just for you. Considering the 10 core members of Godspeed on this album (with 10 additional guests credited), it’s disconcerting at how sparse this debut sounds, featuring many lengthy gaps where one solitary player stands in the middle of this space, the surrounding orchestrated restraint perhaps F♯A♯∞ most impressive attribute. In an overall analysis of their catalogue, this debut is not always the go-to choice for Godspeed’s magnum opus (that honour usually falls towards this album’s follow up, 2000’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven), but there is a certain dark wisdom embedded into this release found nowhere else. A wandering dejection, one which is so timeless and terrifying that I personally consider this to be their unequivocal masterpiece.

Selected Accolades:
#56 in Chart Attack magazine’s list of The Top 50 Canadian Albums of All Time
#38 in The Magnet’s list of The Best Albums from 1993 to 2003
#45 in Pitchfork’s list of The Top 100 Albums of the 1990s

Read This Next Maybe

The Top 10 Albums Of The 00s
The Top 10 Albums Of The 00s
My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 05. Slipknot - Slipknot

05. Slipknot - Slipknot (1999)

Nu Metal
Spotify


Only members of the embarrassing late-90s nu metal army will ever fully comprehend the significance of this album. I mean, to even slap Slipknot’s debut beneath the nu metal label hardly seems like a fair analysis. We were listening to Korn and Limp Bizkit at the time! Do you know what happened when we heard this record?? Slipknot crawled out of nowhere and aggressively tore our barely teenage stomachs open, shoving pictures of dead animals inside of our wounds. They suggested that we cut Satanic symbology into our adolescent arms. I swear I heard them insinuate that I should murder my parents once. My God, if this was indeed nu metal, then it had been coated in so much dirt and shouted at with such hatred that it sunk to the bottom of this genre's gene pool. Nine full-grown men. Each wearing identical boiler suits. Disguising their identities with creepy masks and ID numbers instead of names. It was intimidating, and what's more, they were starving, absolutely hellbent on destroying everything while building a wall of chaotic noise behind their cause, drowning out their talent with antagonistic clamours, which always left their skillset gravely undervalued. That drumming? Wildly inventive. The backing percussion? Overwhelmingly forceful. And Corey’s vocals? Versatile and instantaneously gratifying, still to this very day. Eventually, the masks did come off to reveal nothing more than normal human heads beneath, and the spooky charade fell to pieces shortly following. It quickly became uncool to send any accolades Slipknot's way, and I take a risk by writing this very review. But do you remember this back then? Slipknot were the closest to the devil we had come thus far.

Selected Accolades:
Included in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book by Robert Dimery
Included in Q magazine’s list of the 50 Heaviest Albums of All Time
Fastest-selling metal debut in Soundscan's history
#1 in Metal Hammer’s list of The Best Debut Albums of the Last 25 Years



My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 04. Jay-Z - The Black Album

04. Jay-Z - The Black Album (2003)

East Coast Hip Hop

There’s not enough space on this page to detail Jay-Z's successes. His critical accolades, his money made, and his myriad of entrepreneurial ventures are far too vast to summarise except to bow down and recognise this as the man who married BeyoncĂ©. He is also the oft-documented "biggest male artist in the modern world" and this is a fair statement, as there is no one bigger, really. If the ever-bragged crown of rap actually existed, then it’s done its rounds on his head plenty, that much is for sure. So what more can we say? Evidently nothing, as by 2003, even Jay figured he’d said enough and announced his retirement with this very release, The Black Album. Said proclamation may have eventually proven to be somewhat dishonest, but whether a publicity stunt or not, his retreat was inescapably the theme of this record, certainly in a lyrical regard, but even more so in Jay-Z’s sheer determination to manufacture a classic hip hop exit, armed with a precise concentration and an infallible plan to align the stars by force. And by stars, I mean the harvesting of the creamiest producers available, including Rubin, West, Timbaland, Neptunes, and Eminem, each of these fellas polishing a gleaming shell around the place where gangster beats and pop sensibilities copulated to birth insanely attractive children with a whole load of words in their mouths. Naturally, Jay raps exclusively about his own greatness, but this boasting technique is a defining characteristic of the entire genre, so what you gonna do about it? At least Jay’s self-fellatio has some genuine merit, right? This isn’t even the guy's only classic album.

Selected Accolades:
Nominated for Best Rap Album Grammy in 2005
#90 in Pitchfork's list of The Top 200 Albums from the 2000s
#7 in Slant Magazine's list of The Top 200 Albums from the 2000s
#349 in Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time



My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 03. ABBA - The Visitors

03. ABBA - The Visitors (1981)

Pop
Spotify


ABBA have an inaccurate reputation as an overplayed set of disco stars who orbit around their Mama Mia hits, and this misconception is a minor musical tragedy. All too often these mistruths fester in people's minds before they reach The Visitors part of their exploration, and as a result, many never get to hear ABBA say goodbye. Goodbye to us (this being their final album), but more importantly, goodbye to one another, divorce papers signed, the two ABBA couples already split down the middle, no longer interested in the monuments they had built together. Due to this hostile atmosphere surrounding an understandably interpersonal tension, you can hear that this was not an easy album to make. However, the darker liquid they managed to painfully squeezed from their creativity ducts was of a much higher concentration, more arty and progressive this time, a humourless sophistication within the melancholic complications, long past the process of flicking bubblegum at your face in hopes that something would stick. This is the sound of fatigued talent trying to dance with a brave smile, but unable to remember exactly how to do so, eventually giving up completely. It was a somber flash of resignation and, predictably, this direction didn't fill fans with confidence, meaning that ABBA's masterpiece has never been as commercially nor critically acclaimed as it damn well should have been. However, those of us who understand, recognise a much wider ache in these abandonment issues, the sour center of a sugarcoated catalog leaving a lasting linger of a loud, bitter taste between our frowns.

Selected Accolades:
none, impossibly.



My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 02. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction

02. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction (1987)

Hard Rock
Spotify


If there ever was a band who came out running with scissors, it would be Guns N' Roses. The unadulterated arrogance of this debut was not only far too excessive for such a fresh outfit, but annoyingly, they also had the talent to back their loud mouths up. The poster partnership between Slash’s recognisable hard metal riffs and Axl’s unprecedented vocal power exploded this album as an instant hard rock classic, single-handedly altering the entire genre itself. They were the aggressive injection of fire that the scene was craving, a rebellious party attitude fixated on utter carnage, scaring those glam hair bands far away when the energy got a little too dangerous for their glittered platform shoes. Make no mistake, Guns N' Roses were the real deal. They were the cool kids from the trash pile, sharing needles, forgetting to use condoms, full of disease and excited to bite you, please roll up your sleeve. And while the hit songs on Appetite for Destruction are so monumental that the radio has fucked them dry while the surrounding tracks suffering in their shadows, it’s difficult not to appreciate how far up its own ass this audacious package was before anyone even cared. Because that’s exactly where rock ‘n roll belongs. Up someone's ass, preferably a blonde.

Selected Accolades:
Included in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book by Robert Dimery
#59 in Pitchfork’s list of The Top 100 Albums of the 1980s
#37 in Slant Magazine’s list of The Best Albums of the 1980s
#27 in Rolling Stone's list of The Best Albums of the 1980s
#10 in Q magazine’s list of The 40 Best Albums of the '80s
#2 in Guitar World magazine's list of The 100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time
#62 in Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
#42 in VH1’s list of The Greatest Albums of All Time



My Favourite Albums That I've Never Reviewed (Part 2): 01. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica

01. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica (1969)

Experimental Rock

Written in eight hours. Mismatched ideas of avant-garde blues and free folk jazzies were intentionally stuck together at the wrong angles. Unhinged and out of sync. Challenging the entire audio art form with a comical clutter. Outlandish surrealism. Eccentric Tom Waits snarls which predated Tom Waits himself. Relentlessly rehearsed 14+ hours a day for 8 months, often without food. Dictated by Beefheart's strict cult leadership fist until members had mental breakdowns. Refined sloppiness was achieved. Over an hour of instrumentals recorded in six hours. Fittingly produced by Frank Zappa’s fingers as the very extremities of his philosophical whack. Polarising results followed. Insufferable to many. The pinnacle of influential music craft to others. Throwing the bar so far out of the window that people still hardly dare to venture out that distance. Imagine all of this back in ‘69. Do you feel that? Is the folklore allure tugging at your curiosity? Then brace yourself for a very difficult first few listens. You have to put the time in for this one here. You have to want it. But with a bit of perseverance, you'll eventually latch onto some specific childlike moment obscured deep within the disjointed chaos, and that’s your in. Soon after, you’ll become desensitised, and suddenly, Trout Mask Replica won’t sound disorganised anymore. Congratulations, you’ve just leveled up.

Selected Accolades:
Included in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book by Robert Dimery
#60 in Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
#51 in Mojo's list of The 100 Records That Changed the World
#28 in Mojo's list of The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made
Added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2010



Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan

Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan, eh. I really like the guy. Consistent filmography. Hardly a hiccup in sight. One of the most dependable directors on the planet. Seems like a chill dude.

What it is that Chris (may I call him Chris?) has managed to achieve so well, is locating the ever-elusive clitoris situated between a mainstream formulated cinema appeal, and an intellectual tangle which prefers to ask the questions rather than answer them. More often than not, this complex technique of trickery guarantees a house full of smiling faces. Are you one of those people who enjoys spending their time alone, developing theories about inconspicuous details and then connecting them to some hypothetical Reddit argument you upvoted? Then you should find more than enough open-ended sources from Nolan’s endeavours to keep your fingers busy. On the other side, if you simply enjoy munching your popcorn at high speeds whilst dribbling your soda upon your lap and making remarks such as “woaaaah, look at those special effects, maaan!”, well, there’s something in there for you too.

It's no surprise to me that Nolan has made so much money over his career, because the guy totally deserves it. He’s worked hard and I’m proud of him. 10 films later, and he is one of the most acclaimed directors on the planet, grossing over $4.7 billion worldwide with 34 Oscar nominations and ten wins. That’s an average of $470 million, 3.4 Oscar nominations, and one Oscar win per every single film. Every single film! And here I am, getting excited when my Facebook status gets 10 Likes.

Your own love for Christopher Nolan will depend on your taste for the whole movie medium itself. If you prioritise well-written personalities over rich storytelling, then this director may not be for you, because in all honesty, his notable character developments are sporadic at best (in fact, the large majority of fictional individuals in Nolan's world are indecipherable from one another). However, if you enjoy a little confusion in your life, delivered via non-linear narratives and troubling flashbacks, forever lost within themes of obsession and psychological disorders and identity turmoil, then do yourself a favour, and watch all of his films. Again if needs be. That’s what I did, and look at me now. I’m writing a whole article on Christopher Nolan like I’m some fucking expert or something.

Ready? Here’s my worst to best of the man's directed features. And no matter what this list says, each and every piece of work on offer here was a pure inspiration to me. I just want to go outside and write movies with my brother Jonathan. Let’s ask that boy Hans Zimmer to sort out the score. That guy really knows what he is doing.


Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 10. The Dark Knight Rises

10. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Watch the Trailer
Welcome back to Gotham City! Eight years after Batman’s former glory! And never has the absence of the Joker been so sorely evident as it is in this dismal curtain call. In all fairness, the city’s latest supervillain (the monstrous Bane) was the perfect character choice due to his vast differences from those who came before, but his distressingly humourless outlook on political themes weighed on the somewhat boring side, which caused me to mourn for the comedic relief of Ledger’s iconic role, more here than ever. Certainly, Hardy does an okay job. As does Bale within the very uncomplicated Batman role. As does Hathaway playing the much adored Catwoman. But these badly-written performances were not the movie’s primary dilemmas. Rather, the true difficulties came during the disorganised plot which tried to do too much too slowly, somehow not getting its act together in a whopping 165 minutes, all the while overwhelming us with an often deafening music score and indecipherable dialogue. Of course, fanboys have vigorously defended the flick to this very day, and they did have some points. Don't look at this as a film. Look at it as the final piece to DC’s greatest film run ever, and then you can't be too disappointed, right? Because, even at his worst, Nolan's foray into superherodom was still up there with the best.


Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 09. Interstellar

09. Interstellar (2014)

Watch the Trailer
What's that you say? A dystopian science fiction epic? Where Earth is dying? A group of space explorers have to go where no man has gone before? All to save humanity? What an original story! Regardless, this tired plot decorated with Kubrick fellatio quickly proves its worth, by singeing your retina and expanding the spaces between your cerebral lobes as one absolute technical masterpiece. The big budget special effects are monumental feats of visual stimulation while the conceptual designs and complexities of wormhole theories were evidently heavily researched, spinning in the infinity of space without losing its human touch. Remarkable! Awe-inspiring! Tremendous! Woweee! Unfortunately, repeated viewings of Interstellar were far less inspiring. The dominant problem came with this flick dressing itself up like some scholarly think-piece, which works until you actually think about it (in particular, the bootstrap paradox building a barrier around any worthwhile debate, but let's ignore that for now). What's more, those desperate heart-tugs poking at some mushy dynamic between unmemorable characters also fell short to me, as I found it impossible to emotionally invest in these individuals who were all utterly void of any defining personalities whatsoever. Like everyone, I admire Nolan for ambitiously stretching this film to its very limits (and the grandiose effort is undeniably yet another essential display of cinematic artistry), but it was far too big for its own fabric, and it tore, errors glaring through, blinding anyone who looked directly at it.


Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 08. Insomnia

08. Insomnia (2002)

Watch the Trailer
Insomnia was Nolan’s first studio feature, and after the immense success of Momento, it was a vital intersection in the director’s career. Was he going to validate his previous victory as a non-fluke? Or would the additional pressure topple the man over? Aware of the wager, Christopher took the safest route possible and opted to remake a 1997 Norwegian psychological thriller (same title) in a typical Hollywood crime style, complete with murder, cover-ups, sleep-deprivation, and guilt. To further secure a healthy box office stockpile, two of the most renowned actors that money could buy were hired to execute this cat-and-mouse device, namely Al Pacino being his usual enthralling self, and Robin Williams in one of his most subtly impressive (and underrated!) roles to date. In fact, this is some of the greatest acting you are ever likely to witness in any Nolan film, and the praise which followed was quick to state nothing less. However, there was still a problem: the plot itself. The story had a promising start by accomplishing a hefty dose of anxiety without relying on the director’s usual overblown intellectualism, but in the end, it was this very cautious lack of challenge which ultimately spiraled the piece into lower realms of predictability, now regarded as perhaps the most formulated flick in Christopher’s entire filmography. That said, I was not disappointed in the slightest, it's a very cool film, and I would watch it again maybe.


Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 07. Batman Begins

07. Batman Begins (2005)

Watch the Trailer
After the cartoonesque absurdity of Clooney’s syndicate threatened to capsize the entire Batman franchise forever, one may say Nolan’s job was a comparatively easy affair. Wisely opting to uproot the narrative and start from the very beginning, Batman Begins was just as the title promised: an origins story, completely standalone yet preparing us for a much more complex hero to come. This incarnation was perfectly suited for Bale’s quietly unsettling demeanor, and I was happy to revisit this classic protagonist as he trained himself up to protect Gotham against that scary Scarecrow villain. Nolan’s first ruling order was to throttle all excessive explosions, witty one-liners, flashy sparkles, goofy action sequences, and ludicrous gadgets right out of his baby, gone. He then restrained those stereotypical superhero elements into a much more down-to-earth neo-noir crime thriller, governed by darker storytelling, human characters, and a concentration on minute details rather than any of the overwhelming special effects from previous sequences. What happens next may surprise you: a groundbreaking delivery of comic book adaptations, influencing a fresh breed of more realistic, adult cinematic experiences which favoured a gloomy sincerity over any humorous cheap shots. And for that, I thank you, Chris. Almost instantaneously, people dubbed this effort as one of the greatest superhero flicks ever put together, without any idea of what was coming next.


Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 06. The Prestige

06. The Prestige (2006)

Watch the Trailer
Based on Christopher Priest's 1995 novel of the same name, the most notable achievement of this mystery thriller is that it delivers itself exactly like any magic trick would. The Prestige as a film is secretly the star of the whole performance, while the magician rivalry (adequately portrayed by Bale and Jackman) are merely props in their own show. Nolan has confirmed that the separate acts of this story were specifically ordered to mimic an illusionary device, of which this clever idea conned an elaborate aura of wizardry into every scene, distracting us with mind puzzles and magnificent reveals, oblivious to the two lead characters as they battle it out for magic dominance. Also, David Bowie is Nikola Tesla for today, just for your records. Moving on, and much like any worthwhile sleight of hand trick, it’s impossible to dissect the contents without spoiling the surprises for those using fresh eyes. However, I will say this: The Prestige is a good movie, but not a great movie. It's a spectacle of imaginative entertainment which tangles itself up in its own complex web of deception, and more often than not, yells the word “surprise!” a touch too enthusiastically. No one would call this Nolan’s most disappointing offering, of that I’m sure, but I certainly would understand the argument of it being one of his most forgettable.

Read This Next Maybe

Worst to Best: Quentin Tarantino
Worst to Best: Quentin Tarantino
Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 05. Following

05. Following (1998)

Watch the Trailer
And here we have Nolan’s debut feature, a non-linear neo-noir crime thriller about a struggling writer who gets mixed up in the arts (and obsessions) of thievery. By all means, it’s a conventional story in comparison to the director’s latter-day explosions, but with a mere $6,000 budget to its name, the true exhilaration came from Christopher Nolan himself, as he desperately attempted to unleash his intensely ambitious prowess against such suffocating restrictions. Without the crutch of an expensive Hollywood gleam, this film was oiled up with a heavy black and white slick, lubricating the mysterious smarts to speed along at a nimble pace, cramming the quick ride with sharp objects until it reached a maximum capacity, and then pouring everything directly into your belly until you were satisfied despite the meal's overall modesty. Additional admiration must also be handed to the convincing performances offered by the actors themselves, who were not only all unknowns back then, but are still unknown to this very day somehow. Regardless (and according to various respected sources), Following is one of the greatest no-budget movies ever made, and its neglected position in Nolan’s remarkable filmography is an unforgivable injustice. If you take nothing else from this review, know that the man’s genius is, at times, more evident here than on any other project, because it’s almost inconceivable that he achieved what he did with what he had.


Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 04. Memento

04. Memento (2000)

Watch the Trailer
When analysing the ingenuity of Memento, one needs to highlight a few things. Like how this is only Nolan’s second feature film. Or how excellent the choice was to cast Guy Pearce, as his lack of high profile celebrity would be unable to dominate any of the hyperactive chatter. Or how the neo-noir psychological thriller was not only overly-smart but also profoundly tragic without losing an element of subtle humour throughout. I mean, just as a written summary, a feat of daring inventiveness is revealed, by introducing a vengeful man hunting for his wife’s killers, running its narrative flat-out by using two connected storylines: one proceeding forwards, while the other worked in reverse, accentuating the main character’s severe case of anterograde amnesia. After a description like that, your sphincter is already preparing itself for the insertion of puzzle pieces, while the doctor politely asks, "Would you mind sorting this out for me?". And sort it out, you will. Long after the film has ended. And that, above all else, is what you’ve got to respect Nolan for. It's the fact that most men would have tripped themselves up during the very first stages of developing dual timelines which would speak the same adventure coming from opposite directions, why would anyone do that to themselves? And yet, somehow, this director holds our attention and rewards our persistence so delightfully that the end result was an instantaneous success from all corners, often lauded as Christopher's crowning achievement. It has even been preserved by the National Film Registry in 2017, which they tell me is a good thing.


Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 03. Dunkirk

03. Dunkirk (2017)

Watch the Trailer
Take a War World II script about allied soldiers struggling to survive the frustrating death trap of a beach surrounded by Nazis. Then hand this true story to a man notorious for birthing psychologically complexities and unresolved narratives out of thin air. Stir well, and what do you get? Nothing less than an over-the-top war film of epic proportions with high budget bombs bursting your brain open and soldiers with uncontrollable mental disorders snapping at a moment's notice, of course! Except, Dunkirk was nothing like that. Rather, it was a backstory-less, Hollywood-less, (almost) dialogue-less, (basically) CGI-less masterpiece, which boasted subtleties and reservations without ever choking on the boring bullet. And how did it achieved such a unique feat? By dropping you in the middle of an intensely streamlined documentary atmosphere, intended to accurately portray war as an honest character itself, not some celebration of high-speed adrenaline explosions nor an immoral praise for so-called historic heroes whose actions deserve anything but. Truthfully, Dunkirk is an indescribable piece (it would be difficult to even spoil it), other than agreeing with those critics who called it one of the greatest war films ever made. Yes, Hans Zimmer outdid himself. Yes, Harry Styles was just fine. But it was our director, now functioning at maximum confidence, who surprisingly shone through as the least Nolany version of Nolan yet.

Click here to witness Ammr and Jared’s live-action review of Dunkirk (filmed while drunk)!


Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 02. The Dark Knight

02. The Dark Knight (2008)

Watch the Trailer
I’m just going to talk about the Joker for a minute, do you mind? For here we have arguably the most complex character in all of the comic book universes, with so many ways to interpret the intricate madness that the vastly diverse cinematic variations of the supervillain are only tied together by name alone. And yet, from Nicholson’s creepy blueprint right until Leto’s dismal miscarriage, none corrupted the maniacal psychopathy quite as troubling as Heath Ledger did. Delivering his chaotic anarchy beneath a grungy demeanor, the on-screen deterioration of this Joker’s sanity was so realistic, that it ultimately killed the actor himself, haunting the film with a deeper core of tragic sadness. However, from an artistic perspective, it was the perfect way to go, undeniably Ledger’s peak performance, while he leads the pack as the deepest character Nolan has ever told (even winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, the first comic-book movie actor to ever do so). That said, while Joker dominates all conversation, the film itself was deserving of the performance, as a superhero movie except with all of the superhero trademarks furiously blackened out, redefining the formula of good vs. evil vs. everything in-between (hey, Two-Face). And then, there it was. The greatest flick in the superhero genre, period. It still makes anything that Marvel has done look like a children's candy store surrounded by protective guardians just in case someone chokes.


Worst to Best: Christopher Nolan: 01. Inception

01. Inception (2010)

Watch the Trailer
Inception as a concept is enough to evoke a restless enthusiasm in your little vibrating knees, with Leo and his team exploring the possibilities of extracting information from the human mind during their dream states. And yet, it’s the balance within this neo-noir science fiction heist film which truly lifts it as Nolan’s absolute crowning work. The action is intense, the visuals are unrivaled, and the human dynamic between this all-star cast successfully glues the complicated premise together, stacking layers upon layers of intellect on top of your mind, demanding that your full attention is invested otherwise you will surely be buried beneath its surrealistic abstractions forever, wake up. Not even the most extreme Nolan antagonists (Nolantagonists?) could ever accuse him of any ambition deficiency, but Inception is three levels up, so meticulously detailed that it took the man around ten years to develop, cautiously explaining his perplexing plans adequately without spoon-feeding anyone, requiring you to do some of the work, let’s meet halfway. And then like a dream, it weaved through your head long after the credits had rolled, rewarding repeated visits, and giving hope to modern cinema as effortlessly one of the best movies of the decade. Maybe even the best. It’s the perfect film within the perfect film within. And there is nothing else like it.