My theory is this; a musician has but 12 years to carve out a career and produce their best work. I am not talking 12 years from the day they pick up a guitar or a microphone, I mean 12 years from when they release their first album which clearly shows that they have promise and are worthy of watching.
We got there.
By the time you get to this point in your career you should be either a household name or absolutely revered in your genre, something I would argue for all seven nominees below.
|Artist||Career Albums||1st in peak||Last in peak||Years in peak||Albums in peak|
|The Church||20||1988 – Starfish||2006 – Uninvited, Like the Clouds||18||13|
|Crowded House||6||1986 – Crowded House||2010 – Intriguer||24||5|
|The Cult||9||1985 – Love||2001 – Beyond Good and Evil||16||6|
|Living Colour||5||1988 – Vivid||2009 – The Chair in the Doorway||21||5|
|Prince||35 ish||1982 – 1999||2004 – Musicology||22||27|
|The Roots||10||1996 – Illadelph Halflife||2011 – Undun||15||8|
|Wu-Tang Clan||5||1993 – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)||2007 – 8 Diagrams||14||5|
The Church – Most well know thanks to ‘Under the Milky Way’ from the universally adored ‘Starfish’, The Church have been quietly releasing nothing but technically excellent albums since. Sure the occasional dalliance with Eastern tinged influences and moments of pretentiousness can’t be overlooked entirely, but when you are so low key that you have multiple albums of incredibly listenable songs that no-one but your hard core fans have heard of something else is sooooo wrong with the music industry. Especially an industry when the latest talentless hack getting a piercing and tweeting a photo guarantees a thousand sales of their latest shitfest. Just know that every now and then I find a cheap The Church album in a bargain bin – they have 20 something you know – regardless of song titles or pretty pics I will normally grab it as even their so called ‘duds’ are better than the masterworks of most bands.
Crowded House – Borne of the excellent 80s New Zealand group Split Enz, the Crowdies are so good that Australian ignored their NZ origins and adopted them as our own, whether they wanted it or not. Blessed with superior instrumentation, the smooth voice of Neil Finn (and occasionally brother Tim) and some of the most tuneful songs in modern history, nothing could stop Crowded House except themselves. Their ‘retirement’ concert at the Sydney Opera House was one of the biggest in Australian music history. But you can’t keep a good Finn down, and after a couple of good but ‘not the same’ solo albums Neil reformed the boys and released an album that is very nearly the equal of their early classics in ‘Intriguer’. Time will tell if they can add another few years to Greatness by banging out another one, if not they will have to settle for being at the pinnacle of pure pop for a quarter century.
The Cult – There are likely many out there who write The Cult off as a novelty band, a bunch of hairy over-serious pretenders with a pompous lead singer and song titles as inane as their frilly stage outfits. ‘Spirit Walker’, ‘Fire Woman’, ‘Wild Hearted Son’? Puhleeze. But you’re missing the point, for anyone who can take all of those admittedly ridiculous elements and rise above to create rock classics that have lasted generations while your Guns ‘n’ Roses and Soundgardens have come and gone in a third of the time warrants respect. Amazingly enough after a couple of misguided moments The Cult burst back with 2001’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, an album that is blessed with all the aforementioned elements, but most importantly is chock full of superior rockin’. ‘Born into This’ couldn’t maintain the momentum but was blessed with the awesome title track. (And the less said about this year’s unfortunate mistake ‘Choice of Weapon’ the better.)
Living Colour – Like Fishbone and Smashing Pumpkins Living Colour burst onto the scene with the pop-metal gem ‘Vivid’ then maximised their potential in a short period of time before seemingly fizzling out. Unlike Fishbone and Smashing Pumpkins, Living Colour managed to regain their mojo in a big and unexpected way – albeit with the spectacular misstep ‘Collideoscope’ in between. ‘Chair in the Doorway’ might not rival ‘Time’s Up’s immortality and impact, but it was great to be able to buy an album some 15 years since Living Colour faded from public consciousness and be pleasantly surprised by a balls to the wall rock album with some genuine fire, despite the Bodyglove wetsuits probably no longer fitting frontman Corey Glover and the fact that the long matted dreads have been grey for a while now.
Prince – Ummm, because he’s Prince. Because the King of Pop (RIP) will forever be remembered after a career spanning five decades or so, and Prince started at about the same time and is still powering along. Because few fifty something rock-pop Gods could fit into a matchbox while wearing assless bodysuits and platform shoes – and still be super-fucking-cool. Sure it’s a while since he banged out a ‘1999’ or a ‘Sign o’ the Times’, but ‘Musicology’ was a great song and the album was full of tasty nuggets. The Purple one has more albums than most artists have songs and allegedly just as many unreleased in his studio vaults, and name someone else who can ring any musician on the planet and make them salivate at the thought of a jam session. K$sha? Michael Buble? Give me a break. Prince rocks. Did in the 80s. Does now.
The Roots – I have a feeling that as long as Questlove can hold a drumstick and Black Thought a mic that The Roots are a lock to prolong their position in this category. I could listen to ‘Illadelph Halflife’ all day, and still ‘Things Fall Apart’ makes it sound amateurish (by comparison). ‘Rising Down’ shows they very much still have it, even ‘Undun’ a (too short) concept album about a drug dealer’s demise told in reverse contained half a dozen great songs. The Roots greatest achievement was realising that Black Thought and Questlove couldn’t do it all alone regardless of how solid the backing members were, perhaps their best skill is in selecting the guest artists and ‘hook’ singers well. Mos Def and Erykah Badu are the famous ones, but numerous faceless divas and aspiring rappers have managed to separate and elevate some of The Roots modern tracks beyond mere album filler. Again ‘Undun’ has more than a few prime examples. Hell, The Roots are so good I watched Jimmy Fallon for a while. (Even I have my limits though…)
Wu-Tang Clan – Anyone who thinks the Wu fell off after the double album ‘Forever’ or even when ODB passed away hasn’t listened to ‘8 Diagrams’, even ‘Legendary Weapons’ is actually very good, despite apparently not being an official Wu-Tang release for some reason (I think they have classified it a compilation of sorts – even though it seems to contain every Wu member on most of the excellent tracks.) My continued knock over the years has been that as a rapper the RZA is an excellent producer (seriously did ANYONE like the shitty Bobby Digital CDs?), but even his verbal mediocrity and the occasional sloppy profanity for profanity’s sake can’t hide the fact that Wu-Tang Clan have stood the test of time and still hold up their middle fingers to the mainstream (and white teen males) who have embraced them for so long.
I have loosely split these All-Timers into three sub-sections.
Prince is so prolific that he already has over 35 albums released, and allegedly a vault of just as many if not more songs that have never seen the light of day. With so many songs you are bound to hate some of them, however the reverse is also true, and the fact is that Prince is such a musical genius that there are far more cracking tracks than duds.
Prince took over music for a time, helping guide it through several distinct phases including synth drenched pop, funk infused rock – and it must be said – sex soaked R&B. All with his usual take no prisoners like it or lump it approach. Prince makes music for two people: Prince, and whichever chick that he has most recently affixed his sights on.
The Roots were a rap, scat combo with a live backing band in their early days. An amalgum of the organic and the experimental in one impossible to pigeonhole package. Then in the mid 90s they dabbled with samples and a more traditional feel, before finally recognising their two undeniable stregths, the rock solid rhythms of QuestLove and the backing band, and the incredible verbal dexterity of Black Thought, one of the best in the game. After the concept album ‘undun’ it’s fair to say you can’t be sure what The Roots will try next, you just know it will be good.
Crowded House proved that perfect pop needn’t be just for kids, and they have continued churning out gorgeous songs for over two decades now, with Intriguer being a deliciously unexpected gem. A lot of artists describe their sound as being reminiscent of Crowded House, it’s almost always wishful thinking.
Living Colour took back white boy rock, gave it an edge and a snarl, and thanks to brilliant musicianship and career longevity, have managed to reinsert themselves back to relevance. Not into the Top 10 mind you (though who would really want to be in that company these days), but to a place where you can buy a Living Colour album for something other than nostalgia value. Hard Rock changed after Time’s Up.
Wu-Tang Clan made the ‘dangerous’ world of hip-hop darker, grittier and grimier. With so many MCs operating at high level and the groundbreaking production of RZA, they have a sound that is often imitated but never bettered. It’s amazing to me that these 40 somethings still manage to sound so angry and aggressive, even more that they sound good while doing so.
The Church have been around forever, and all anyone knows is Under the Milky Way. While creating one of the best pop songs of all time is an admirable achievement, the fact is that The Church have been banging out great pop albums for three decades, it’s just that no-one has bought them (which is criminal by the way when untalented gits are driving Bentleys).
The Cult are just as hairy and perhaps even more
pretentious, pompous… earnest. But unlike so many others The Cult took a hiatus and re-emerged in just as good nic. They don’t care that the hair-bands of the 80s are as relevant as dinosaurs or CD Walkmans, and it doesn’t matter when they somehow manage to make punchy and catchy hard rock tracks.
Next most likely to be granted elevation into this exalted company? I hope De La Soul and/or The Hives, but probably David Gray or People under the Stairs.