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Baker's Dozen

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Albums: Alex Kapranos' Baker's Dozen
Ian Wade , August 19th, 2013 09:04

The Franz Ferdinand frontman distils his record collection into a top 13 favourite albums

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Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
I got to love this album when I was 18, working in a second hand clothes shop in Glasgow, where one of the guys I worked with played it constantly. It was the first time I had heard music that felt like genuine contemporary protest music. The combination of Chuck D’s informed eloquence and unashamed confrontational stance was so potent. Here was a guy name-checking Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in the same breath as Coltrane and Anthrax. It was revolutionary in every sense. It felt dangerous. These guys had the FBI tapping their phones and were taking on the behemoth of the US establishment. While in retrospect the S1Ws may be the campest paramilitaries in history, the imagery of guerrilla conflict intensified the sense of resisting persecution. Like the best groups, it felt like a gang, too. Flav the joker, Chuck the boss, Terminator-X voiceless, but ever-present. Tight.

Then there was the music. That fragmented repetition. Those bursts of brass and breakbeats, squealing like sirens against stolen guitars. Amazing. It didn’t sound like anything else. While Chuck D and his cartoon foil Flavor Flav had the lyrical articulacy, Terminator-X, Professor Griff and the Bomb Squad matched it musically. Their imagination was in context – how to take something from its original context, place it against something else out of context to create something way more powerful than either in isolation.

In many ways, I still see this LP as the pinnacle of rap. Of course it is of its time and sonic trends advanced, but for sheer inventiveness and lyricism it has never been matched. It felt like rap was violently booting the world into a better direction – a brief flash of genius before it became mired in the vocabulary of egoism, misogyny and avarice. There have been great pinnacles since, but nothing matches this moment.


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