Lists are helpful. The Wire put out this list before the turn of the millennium, so there was bound to be some stuff too recent to get an accurate appraisal on. Some of the stuff they recommended on here ends up being pretty good, with maybe a bias or lean towards jazzier stuff. Thankfully they avoided the fate of Nurse with Wound list; their selection includes a fairly diverse group of artists and genres.
Browsing quickly through the list, there are some great picks. Charles Ives would be one of them, even a century later he’s yet to receive the attention he deserves for his groundbreaking work, in the early 20th century no less! Part of my adoration for Ives has to do with how he balanced a professional career with his more artistic inclinations. Maybe that’s a bit of an inspiration of how I could do the same thing.
Unfortunately, like many of these “Look at our Great Taste” lists, there are a few expected mentions and some dullards. Faust gets mentioned on virtually any music snob’s taste, as does Captain Beefheart and a few others. Though these lists ostensibly are a reaction against the monotony of having the Beatles and the Beach Boys plastered everywhere, they fall into similar habits. Jazz gets a huge amount of attention. Some of the selections of the artists seems accurate, but their precise recordings a bit questionable. For the Residents, they pick an EP of theirs rather than one of their full-length weird-outs, like “Fingerprince” or “Not Available” which are more easily available. A few other artists suffer from this, the “we listened to their whole discography and picked the most obscure release” syndrome. Sometimes this is a good idea, since it attracts attention to something which normally gets overlooked, but in some of these cases that’s just not the case.
The dullards are quite dull. Esquivel isn’t a great innovator by any means; even his most experimental stuff probably gets played in your local elevator. Choosing a William S. Burroughs audio tape from the 60s seems a bit silly too, especially considering how he did more interesting stuff later in life with bands. Oh, he’s dryly reading. How exciting. I’m a fan of his work too, but I can’t see myself being wowed by his voice alone. This might be more of a personal preference of mine.
A great deal of these I haven’t heard. What I will be doing for these will be tagging whichever ones relate to the list with the phrase: “100 Records that set the world on Fire” for easier navigation. I hope by going through these I’ll stumble upon some excellent material and edit out the dross for you, the listener. Despite some of my reservations about this list, I feel this is probably one of the more diverse ones I’ve seen. Their emphasis on a wide range geographically and time wise gives it a broader, better perspective, and they at least try to avoid the obscure of the sake of being obscure, though they fall into that pit a few times.
Finally, I do enjoy these lists and if you have any others I should pay attention to, let me know. Wire has the added bonus of including other sites’ reviews of the albums. Of particular note was Q Magazine calling “Metal Machine Music” one of the 50 worst albums of all time, thus confirming their status as old fogies who don’t “get it”.