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on 6 July 2007
A semi-sequel to 'This Is Uncool', Mulholland's rather ace list of the greatest singles since punk and disco, `Fear of Music' is not quite as good as its predecessor but still an entertaining read.

Mulholland's selection (an arbitrary 261 albums) are interesting - a mix of the canon and the off-beat - as is his writing; even when he's discussing music you don't know or don't particularly care about, he can make it exciting. He says with passion exactly WHY he loves these albums. The chronological format once again works in Mulholland's favour: he catalogues the shifts of genre and subject matter across the decades with ease but with enthusiasm. However, it is where Mulholland attempts to describe the albums' responses to the changing societies and cultures they were made within that the book falls somewhat flat.

Mulholland's strategy in 'This Is Uncool' was to have a couple of pages at the start of each year detailing the events that had gone on - politics, economics, personal change - and in broad strokes paint how they effected the singles made and they way he listened to them. All very interesting; it coloured your reading of that year's songs, making Mulholland's discussion of his favourite singles more mutli-faceted and prfound.

However, Mulholland does away with this format in 'Fear of Music', instead choosing to flag up each album's politics within its own, small passage. The way music responds to society and politics can be highly interesting, but 'Fear of Music' is not academic or detailed enough to achieve this level. Instead, Mulholland seems to use any excuse he can to flag up his own personal problems with Western culture; racism, homophobia, sexism. You can't fault his ideals, but Mulholland isn't a political writer, and, even if he was, the list-making, sound-bite, pop-light format he has chosen isn't the right place to be repeatedly talking about his personal politics. Over the course of the book it becomes grating. In 'Fear Of Music' Mulholland his shifted the focus, in part, from the music to himself - he's not giving us his personal response to these albums, some of the time. He's just giving us him. 'Fear of Music' indeed.

It doesn't have 'This Is Uncool's' lovely, full page pictures, either... But enough comparison with its predecessor. 'Fear of Music' has its faults, but it is still full of enthusiastic, enlightening prose about a bunch of fantastic albums. It also has, in spades, the two best things about any list-making book; it makes you dig out records, rediscovering things you'd forgotten, discovering albums for the first time, and it's highly interactive. 'I've got that, you know,' says Dad. And you say, 'he picked "Hallowed Ground", over "Violent Femmes"?! Preposterous!'
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on 11 January 2007
I'm generally pretty scathing of these books that "list" the albums/books/artworks/films/clothes that you must hear/read/see/wear etc etc, but this little book has two things in its favour: first, the style of writing is of the "pitchforkmedia" variety- it's very passionate, "poetic" criticism which tells you lots about the formative nature of each record in terms of the writer's tormented adolescence, but very little about what the music actually sounds like. Whether you think that's a good or a bad thing is up to you- but at the very least it marks the collection out as different from similar anthologies.

Secondly, this is a post-punk anthology- that means no Beatles, no Dylan, no Led Zep, no Pink Floyd and no Van Morrison, and thank God for that! There's no need to recommend albums like Dark Side of the Moon, because there isn't a single person left on the face of the earth who isn't aware of its canonical status. Instead, the likes of Talking Heads, Public Enemy, Echo & the Bunnymen, De La Soul, and New Order are well-represented here (the latter are generally not considered an "albums" band, a view which this collection shows to be nonsense).

Of course, eventually we will groan at the canonical status of these albums in the same way that we now feel about Dylan et al, but at least this book offers temporary respite- the author deserves credit for highlighting some new "classics" to breath life into the hoary old canon of 60s rock. So, (to paraphrase Frank Black) we should all sing (one-two-three) "Ole, Ole, Ole for Mulholland"!!!
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on 31 January 2009
The quest being to find the definitive book that compiles ALL the greatest albums. This of course is impossible. We would have to write our own individual books. Just a quick flick though Garry Mulholland's book reveals glaring omissions. No "Leftism", no "Nevermind" or "In Utero". Only one Sonics album included but room for 3 Pet Sop Boys albums. I'm thinking this could be a list of 1261 great albums and I would still be left unsatisfied. That said this book is well written and just like other "Best Albums Ever" books I have discovered new music in my never ending quest to build a fabulous cd collection. Worth a read.
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on 29 May 2007
This book is refreshing as it does not include bands such as Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, preferring to analyse stuff that has musical quality and relevance - such as the genius of (agreeing with prevoius reviewer) De la soul, Talking Heads, Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest. I have to admit some of the albums included may be debatable... but isn't that almost the point.
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on 11 April 2009
In "1984" Orwell said: Whoever controls the past controls the future; whoever controls the present, controls the past. Nowhere is that more true than in 'rock criticism', where a canon of 'greats' has been established over the last quarter century, which is practically 'thought crime' to challenge. Garry Mulholland, first in his celebration of the single "This Is Uncool", and now in its companion volume dedicated to the album, is our own musical Winston Smith, daring to question the rockist Big Brother. Citizen Mulholland dares to think the unthinkable. He is an equal opportunities music lover; pop is as valid as rock, women as lauded as men, gay artists are welcome and 'greatest hits' collections are rightly prized as essential. Mercifully the book starts in 1976, neatly avoiding the need to engage with hoary rock dinosaurs of that decade or the all too familiar 'classics' of the Sixties. As with his singles book the author falls under the spell of rap and hip hop as the 80s end, which, along with the increasing underground and obscure albums chosen for the last ten years of 'Fear of Music', gives the impression of a degree of scraping the bottom of the barrell...either that or an apparent dearth of quality music to be found in the mainstream. Or, whisper it, maybe standards in popular music were just higher in the 70s and 80s.
"Fear of Music" is a great read but also a useful catch-up guide for those who missed out on these albums first time round. With his generous, open-minded tastes Mulholland is the best guide you could wish for. No, there's no Radiohead's "OK Computer" or "Kid A", no "Loveless" by My Bloody Valentine", no Guns & Roses or Metallica. And, yes, he picks three Pet Shop Boys albums and no Nirvana. That is precisely the point he is making. And it sounds good to me. Double plus good, in fact.
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on 3 September 2013
Excellent book, precise and fun. Well worth your money. He hits 70% of the right albums with only Few turkeys
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on 18 June 2015
Fantastic--great pictures.
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on 27 January 2011
This is recommended for anyone who can connect with someone who can skip over Simple Minds "Real to Reel Cacophony" or "Empires and Dance" in favour of "New Gold Dream", ignore Radiohead's "OK Computer" or anything by the Blue Nile while eulogising every life-energy-sapping piece of product issued by any and every rap/hip-hop collective. Fear of Music just about sums it up.
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on 10 May 2013
I got this for a trade with my mate and decided to read it first.
Its the usual self opinonated codswallop by an author who can hardly write a paragraph without some kind of foul language.Apparantly this plonker is some sort of Born Again Police/Sting fan by his own admission-after 25 years of hating them he suddenly had a conversion.Big deal-I'd have kept quiet over that one
After glancing though the book I didn't somehow think this person is going to nominate anything by an ex Beatle or anything by Loreena McKennit.I think I may have less than 10 of his nominations not that my collecting bears any resemblance to what these rock critic people say you should own
What we have here is basically his tastes and they are nothing to do with folk music or tweepop.
And nothing to do with mine either-this is a book of self indulgency enough to put you off music
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