Plastic (eh) recently asked about “perfect albums” —
An album in which every track is great, each one worthy of being a hit. An album with not a single song I would skip past and nothing mediocre or even average — and the result of the tally was: the most perfect album is Radiohead’s “OK Computer.” There is no argument from me about the merits of OK Computer, but I agree with some of the comments there: “Fitter Happier” is very skippable. This makes it less “perfect” by that strict definition even if, in the context of the album, it works.
By these interpretations, any little intermissions or connecting moments or little musical detours on an album rule out perfection, even if they do serve in making an album more complete. When not part of the whole, like in a random playlist, they feel out of place. They are often skipped. Looking at some of my favourite albums, it seems that a lot of them have these sort of fragments. So, many of those are immediately ruled out.
“Hit” is a little dubious too. If
Each one worthy of being a hit means “radio hit”, then half of my picks shouldn’t be included. They would not ever get any regular radio play, and would never be mainstream enough to be popular hits. But, if “hit” means in the context of its peers and its genre and its niche, then they are more than worthy. Thus, here are my perfect albums:
Haujobb’s Solutions for a Small Planet, 1996. It is probably the most overlooked album of the 90s, likely due to its “industrial” classification (and the pidgeonholing that brings with it.) It transcends that label to something distinctly its own. Textured, complex, varied, and consistent.
Blur’s The Great Escape, 1995. Some would argue for Parklife instead, but not I. This is the pinnacle of britpop and, indeed, the end of it. After The Great Escape, there was no where to go but down. Every song is a winner and unlike OK Computer’s “Fitter Happier”, which just drones on, “Ernold Same” is quite listenable and does actually become a song.
Portishead’s Portishead, 1997. The hard part of listing this was deciding between Portishead’s Dummy and Portishead. In fact, both are equally worthy of being listed here. But if I could pick one, I’d go with this. While it has fewer individual stand-out tracks than Dummy (though that can be debated), it is, in my opinion, far more consistently solid throughout.
Blondie’s Parallel Lines, 1978. Yeah, Blondie. I was negative two years old when this came out so, obviously, I didn’t discover it until after birth — but it still remains a great, great album. It has the massive “Heart of Glass” and the popular “One Way or Another”, but every other track is equally good, if not better.
Front Line Assembly’s Tactical Neural Implant, 1992. This album basically redefined the industrial sound for the 90s, inspite of the “pop industrial” that was gaining popularity at the time. It’s only eight tracks, but there’s no fluff, no excess, no imperfection.
Tarmvred’s Subfusc, 2001. The dark horse entry; it was hard justifying its inclusion. The album is basically six tracks, most of them spanning well more than ten minutes in length, and an eight minute long remix track. The whole thing could just very well be one, extended track. It is an awesome industrial soundscape, going from dark ambient moments to pounding aggro to very short catchy respites with female vocals and C64 SID synths. It’s amazing, start to finish, but not even close to something that could be called hit worthy.