Monday, 11 July 2011

Triple J's Hottest 100 Australian Albums...

Here we go again, yet another list of albums to inspire debate and arguments. This time, compiled from listener votes from Australia's youth radio station (or, if you like, antipodean equivalent to the BBC's Radio 1) Triple J.

I'll be honest here - lists like this both amuse and infuriate the hell out of me, and this one is no different.

One of my main complaints is with this article from the Sydney Morning Herald. It is claiming that listeners are showing their age in their choices of albums, and how a great deal of "old" albums are showing up next to recent favourites, reducing the "hipness" of the countdown. I totally disagree. And I disagree on the count of the fact that most of the records in this list date from between 1994 and 2011, with only a handful of real "classics" from the 1970s and 1980s. The immediately recent 15 or so years does NOT class as "all time", and most of those that feature here from this period are not really all that great.

Some albums in the list should come as no surprise for anyone with an ounce of knowledge of Triple J's 30+ year history. The writer of the article above cites a record like Skyhooks' "Living In The 70s" as "Zimmer frame music". The writer, however, neglected the fact that this record is almost synonymous with Triple J. It was, after all, the first record played on air when it began in 1975, playing one of the 6 banned songs from the LP in the form of "You Just Like Me 'Cos I'm Good In Bed".

It's no surprise that there was quite a few Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel LPs, plus The Go-Betweens, AC/DC and the immortal "(I'm) Stranded" by The Saints: all these bands were championed by the Js back in the day long before the mainstream radio stations caught on. It's also no surprise that this music is also what is regarded as "classic" by mainstream media, and that it would be something that the 20-something listeners of JJJ would be highly familiar with from their parents.

What WAS a real shock was that John Farnham's "Whispering Jack" made it into the top 50. This was a record that Triple J wouldn't touch with a barge pole back then, and usually wouldn't go near now.

This list is also filled with records that are also so fresh that they haven't really been out long enough to be time-tested for greatness. I mean Washington's "I Believe You, Liar" may be a good record, but will it still have legs in 10 years time?

One record that certainly has not stood up well, in my opinion, is "Frogstomp" by Silverchair. I still think this record sucked when it came out and it still hasn't gotten any better, and yet it turns up at #2 on the list? Youthful enthusiasm and energy counts for a lot on a good record, but the songs contained within are forced and naive at best, even cringe-worthy. Frogstomp? More like Frog shit. For a few years around the time this came out I was embarrassed to refer to myself as a "Newcastle" person, even though I am, simply because of the fact that most people would associate "Newcastle" with this crap band, but I digress...

One cannot blame the voters for this list and what's here, nor the compilers. You can blame the media and the crap they push on the voters, who are simply regurgitating it back at the providers. Media outlets create a demand for stuff simply by keeping it firmly in the mind's eye of the audience. If it's out of sight, it's out of mind. So play it repeatedly until they never forget it, such is what the Js have done with all the music here on this list. Silverchair were never very good, but constant airplay has created an audience, and that's how we get things like this.

I've said for a long time we need an outlet for Triple J to play music that they used to play, so that music fans can get the best of both worlds - if the hipness gets too much, flip over to J classic and hear the cool stuff we grew up with. Triple J have access to a monster music library, but they only play about 1% of it regularly, at most. Their audience is not getting a wide-ranging coverage of Australian music, and that's what is being reflected in this countdown. Compare this list to the list put together by industry professionals on the same site, and even the list in John O'Donnell's book 100 Greatest Australian Albums. Even they cross broader boundaries and present a more broader perspective on what Australian music "of all time" is, flawed as they are.

There will be no "definitive" list of Australian albums. No-one is ever going to be completely satisfied with any list that is produced. But there sure could be some more coverage of it in the airwaves.

Now, if I could just get my own commercial radio show...

Oh, and for the record, the number one on the list was "Odyssey Number 5" by Powderfinger. Not a great record by any stretch, but if a Powderfinger record had to top the chart, I'm kinda glad it was that one. "Internationalist" and "Vulture Street" were much more successful and popular, but the former suffered from some poor production choices and some questionable arrangements throughout (plus it has the worst ever opening track on an album in the gawd-awful "Hindley Street") while the latter was filled with mundane and uninspired songs, played very, very loudly. "Odyssey..." also contained pointless filler (the title track), crap guitar sounds ("My Happiness"), and a poor remake of a brilliant, previously released track ("These Days"). But it also had it's share of strong songs like "Up and Down and Back Again", and "Waiting for the Sun".

My apologies to the boys from Powderfinger. I just really liked "Double Allergic" better. I'm really glad you beat "Nirvana In Pyjamas" to the top spot though...

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