Fear of Music: The Greatest 261 Albums Since Punk and Disco Hardcover – 9 Nov 2006
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A thrilling call to go thumbing through your old CDs and vinyl... enthralling. ***** (Caspar Llewellyn Smith - Observer Music Monthly OBSERVER)
An infectious enthusiasm that will leave you listening afresh to those Mojo-approved apres-Punk staples... and a long overdue privileging of pop that is black, gay or female. (TIME OUT)
Full of short, excitable essays about the records Mulholland still dribbles over... this book's full of wide-eyed love, as a fan's testimonies should be. (THE WORD)
The brilliantly written work of an enthusiastic and savvy music fan. It's sexy to look at too. And chunky enough to chuck in those heated arguments about music. (TIME OUT - Christmas Presents)
Crisp, witty and insightful reviews... the choices are thought-provoking throughout in a fascinating book and an ideal companion to its predecessor. (EVENING HERALD)
Brilliant dip-in/dip-out material, it offers fresh reviews of the elpees that Mulholland would trample over his wife and kids to rescue from a burning house. (HOT PRESS)
Companion volume to the hugely popular This is Uncool in which Garry Mulholland moves from singles to albumsSee all Product description
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"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.
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"!!!
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!'