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Those aren't the best albums of the decade

Andy Gill takes issue with the pick of the Noughties pop selected by NME

Published 18/11/2009

50. MIA - Arular
50. MIA - Arular
49. Muse - Absolution
48. Walkmen - Bows and Arrows
47. Brendan Benson - Lapalco
46. Delgados - The Great Eastern
45. Avalanches - Since I Left You
44. Outkast - Loveboxxx/The Love Below
43. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
42. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
41. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
40. Ryan Adams - Gold
39. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
38. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
37. The Knife - Silent Shout
36. Spirtualized - Let it Come Down
35. Babyshambles - Down In Albion
34. Grandaddy - The Sophtware Slump
33. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
32. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
31. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
30. Elbow - Asleep In The Back
29. Super Furry Animals - Rings Around The World
28. Johnny Cash - Man Comes Around
27. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
26. Dizzee Rascal - Boy in Da Corner
25. Rapture - Echoes
24. The Libertines - The Libertines
23. Klaxons - Myths Of The Near Future
22. Jay-Z - The Blueprint
21. The Coral - The Coral
20. Blur - Think Tank
19. The White Stripes - White Blood Cells
18. The White Stripes - Elephant
17. Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise
16. The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free
15. Queens Of The Stone Age - Songs For The Deaf
14. Radiohead - Kid A
13. The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
12. LCD Soundsystem - The Sound Of Silver
11. At The Drive In - Relationship Of Command
10. Radiohead - In Rainbows
9. The Streets - Original Pirate Material
8. Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights
7. Arcade Fire - Funeral
6. PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell
4. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
3. Primal Scream - xtrmntr
2. The Libertines - Up The Bracket
1. The Strokes - Is This It

In principle, the notion of the NME compiling a Greatest Albums of the Decade is one that should be welcomed, not least as a much-needed corrective to the overwhelmingly sales-and industry-led nature of most such lists.

>>Click More Pictures for NME's Top 50

After all, if there were no such place remaining to proclaim the greatness of, say, The Shins and Arcade Fire, the world would be a much more regimented marketplace. But it's hard to be particularly enthusiastic about the top 50 placings which the magazine has published, for a number of glaring reasons.

Most notable is the overwhelmingly white, male constitution of the list, with only four specifically black acts (and a sprinkling of about the same number of black musicians amongst the other bands), and an equivalent situation pertaining for female musicians – and this following what by any standard has been an unusually prolific creative period for female acts.

This is hardly a surprise – after all, it has always been a source of great frustration to NME writers that its readership is so resistant to black music styles. In the 1980s, I know from personal experience that if a black artist was put on the cover – even a high-profile artist such as Michael Jackson or Prince – there would be a slump in sales. Which is not to suggest that NME readers were in any way racist, simply that their tastes in music were strictly circumscribed in a way that the writers', on the whole, were not. Fair dos: not everybody likes classical music, either. But this list, we're told, was not a readership poll, but compiled by a panel of "musicians, producers, writers and record label bosses" – which does suggest that the voting panel itself was chosen from a very narrow cross-section of the music industry, presumably to closely reflect the magazine's readership. Which raises a further point as to the value of a periodical which so closely mirrors its readers' tastes as to render it virtually stagnant. But that's another matter.

I've no quibble with the choice of The Strokes' debut album as the NME's Greatest Album of the Decade: by their criteria, it kick-started the indie revival which is the magazine's core interest (even if subsequent releases witnessed such a sharp drop in quality they're nowhere to be seen here). Likewise for The Libertines at No 2 – although three entries for Pete Doherty is rather overstating the poor chap's artistic value. Primal Scream's Xtrmntr at three is more of a surprise – a decent album, certainly, but that good? – while the really interesting absence is Britpop, with only Blur of the major players from a few years before making it to the list – and with their least Britpoppy album, at that. Nice to see The Coral hanging in there, though I'm surprised that Radiohead haven't featured higher.

Perhaps more shocking is that, with The Strokes at the top, there is no place for Kings Of Leon, who were initially regarded as a sort of "Southern" Strokes, but have since effortlessly eclipsed their compatriots' achievements – perhaps demolishing their "cool" quotient in the process. And what of The White Stripes, who might have been expected to dominate such a list not too many years ago, but can now only just scrape into the Top 20?

Interestingly, while British and American acts seem equally well represented – though shamefully, there is not one world-music performer on the entire list – heavy metal is as poorly represented as hip-hop, with only the marginally metal Muse and Queens Of The Stone Age qualifying. And while Dizzee, Jay-Z and MIA are grudgingly granted places, there's nowhere for Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP, perhaps the single most influential rap album of them all.

Musical differences: NME vs Andy Gill

The NME top 10

1 The Strokes, Is This It

2 The Libertines, Up The Bracket

3 Primal Scream, XTRMNTR

4 Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

5 Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever To Tell

6 PJ Harvey, Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea

7 Arcade, Fire Funeral

8 Interpol, Turn On The Bright Lights

9 The Streets, Original Pirate Material

10 Radiohead, In Rainbows

...and Andy Gill's

1 Sufjan Stevens, Illinoise

2 The Necks, Drive By

3 Ry Cooder, Chavez Ravine

4 OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

5 Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)

6 Bob Dylan, Modern Times

7 Tinariwen, Amassakoul

8 Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP

9 Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand

10. Laura Veirs, Carbon Glacier

Belfast Telegraph

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