Britpop’s most underrated album – and why iPod culture is killing the album as we know it

Those nice people over at the free, legal music sharing site www.We7.com are conducting a poll on the most underrated albums of all time.

And they’ve asked us to come up with some suggestions.

Well, it just so happens that here at PopJunkie, we’re experts on great ‘lost’ pop albums. You can read all about ‘em here.

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Victoria has also got involved and you can see her entry here.

We like We7.com, because you can play whole albums online, on-demand at anytime. And that’s the key – you can listen to whole albums – not just previews of songs.

One of the arguments against some other music sites is that they don’t encourage people to listen to or buy whole albums. Is the MP3/iPod culture killing the album as we know it? I think it is.

I have friends who no longer buy, or listen to albums – they simply download the odd song. OK, so I know that does have its advantages – you can miss out those dodgy filler tracks that blight some releases (Hello The Killers and Coldplay),but it also means that you’re missing out on hearing classic albums as the artist intended them to be heard. You wouldn’t want to just download some tunes off The Beatles’ Revolver, would you? Yes, I know you could miss out Yellow Submarine and replace it with Rain or Paperback Writer by using your iTunes playlist, but that’s a whole different pub argument.

Anyway, what’s my most underrated album of all time? Well, it’s by one of the most underrated bands of all time – the mighty Gene.

When I’m asked about great ‘lost’ albums, I always go back to their 1997 masterpiece, Drawn To The Deep End.

For those of us in the know, Gene were one of the finest bands to emerge from the Britpop scene – suave, sophisticated, moody and with a neat line in intelligent lyrics , poignant ballads, and ballsy indie rock anthems. And singer Martin Rossiter looked great in a suit, smoking a cigarette – as all good bands should.

To those fools who ignored them or completely misunderstood them, Gene were simply Smiths copyists.

Hmmm. Sure, they sounded like The Smiths at times, (where’s the harm in that?), but they also reminded me of some of my other favourite acts, like The Jam, REM and The Faces.

And on Drawn To The Deep End, they even embraced country, trip-hop, glam-rock, folk music, orchestral pop and Depeche Mode-style industrial rock.

From its lavish sleeve design, to the way its track-listing runs, like a film or a concept album, with a powerful intro and a dramatic finale, Drawn To The Deep End was, arguably, one of the finest – and darkest – Britpop releases ever – a proper record, from start to finish. It also addressed issues including shagging, depression, sexuality and suicide.

It was Gene’s finest hour. At the risk of sounding like my dad, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

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