Brothers In Erm...


Between 1967 and 1971, The Move released four albums - five, if you count the live mini-album Something Else - crammed full of some of the most inventive pop music of the late sixties. And, erm, early seventies. Alongside the hit singles, you'll find an eclectic mix of longer and more experimental tracks, spoken word pieces, orchestral arrangements, guitar freakouts, judiciously chosen cover versions, acoustic ballads, lost classics, irritating throwaways and just plain silliness for silliness' sake; indeed, 1970's Looking On ends with them heckling The Duke Of Edinburgh. No, really. All of the band's members contribute to both the songwriting and the lead vocals, and from the flashy pop-art pop thrills of Walk Upon The Water through to the proggy proto-ELO classical pretensions of It Wasn't My Idea To Dance, you'd be hard pushed to find a more concise snapshot of just how much and how quickly everything changed in those musically and culturally turbulent years. They may not be quite as good as The Beatles' albums from the corresponding timeframe, but there's certainly a case for claiming they're more interesting.

Yet you'll struggle ever to find Looking On, or for that matter Move, Shazam, Message From The Country or even Something Else if we're counting it, on any list of 'classic' albums. This is largely because - like Herman's Hermits, Julie Felix, Level 42, The Mock Turtles, Daphne & Celeste and so many others from so many eras and genres - they had the temerity to make good albums that were perfectly tailored to their audience at the time, but which now just don't fit the 'rules' of what makes a 'classic' album as set out by a seemingly endless procession of bombastic broadsheet rock critic bores. Quite why anyone would need quite so many rundowns of 'classic' albums is another question, but they keep on churning them out regardless, always with the same earnest and reverential yet box-ticking dependence on an accepted 'canon' that everyone agrees on. Anything that doesn't fit in to it, apparently, just isn't worth paying any attention to.

Sometimes this is even applied within an artist's own discography; The Kinks and The Small Faces both have one 'allowed' album apiece while the only slightly less defined and coherent but no less listenable ones either side of them are generally ignored, whereas earlier Beach Boys efforts cannot possibly be listened to for pleasure but instead have to be scoured for 'stepping stones' 'towards' Pet Sounds, and David Bowie's first two albums don't even get that level of flippant analysis, with an infuriatingly prevalent tendency to dismiss them as 'not a proper part of his discography'. Sometimes it's even applied within the same album, with The Queen Is Dead only allowed to hang on to its inevitable position in the top ten 'classics' on the condition that the critic is permitted to moan that it would be better served by the absence of Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others. The fact that it was deliberately included as an annoying closing track, and that the fade-in-out intro was intended to represent the sound of a humourless listener 'leaving' the album and closing the door behind them, is a joke that is apparently lost on them.

And that was where this half-finished sitting-around-for-a-while bit of musing originally ended. Short on coherency, unconvincing in concept, and lacking an effective ending, it would doubtless have met with the disapproval of those selfsame 'classic album'-obsessed rock critics. If it actually was, erm, an album. But it's worth revisiting now, considering that several of said 'quality' rock journalism droners have recently taken to penning bewildering pieces announcing that, in this age of downloading and random play, the 'album' is now officially finished as an artform forever no arguments, while others have countered this by - you guessed it - referring back to that same sodding predictable set of albums all over again. They're both wrong, of course, and the truth of the matter is that the 'album' is hardly likely to disappear from history while there are so many out there that nobody's blathering on for way too many column inches demanding that you listen to on their terms. So put down that copy of Different Class and try something you've not really thought about before. You never know, there might even be something as good as The Ben Crawley Steel Co. on it.

Mind you, it's still worth avoiding Tarantula by Ride, though.