No great album just fizzles out. Key to penning a classic is a powerful closing rhyme that gives your listener chills and ensures you leave on a high, as these 25 brilliant, timeless records prove…
“Send me the pillow/ The one that you dream on/ And I’ll send you mine” – The Smiths, ‘The Queen Is Dead’: If sullying Johnny Marr’s gorgeous, glistening riff with one of his cheekiest song titles seems a tad ungrateful of Morrissey, then he goes some way to righting the wrong with the melancholic romance of this parting shot on ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’.
“No matter what happens now, you shouldn’t be afraid/Because I know today has been the most perfect day I’ve ever seen” – Radiohead, ‘In Rainbows’: ‘Videotape’ comes on like Thom Yorke’s final farewell: a sad last transmission as he contemplates death over gentle piano, wondering what he’ll do at “the pearly gates.” The pay-off though shrugs off misery for a blissful moment of contentment.
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – The Beatles, ‘Abbey Road’: Paul McCartney sums up the karmic philosophy, love and compassion of history’s greatest band in one natty rhyme on their final ever album. Nothing less than perfect.
“All in all is all we are” – Nirvana, ‘In Utero’: Nirvana’s abrasive, raw and angry final album ends with Kurt Cobain embracing his philosophical side. The singer later revealed that the song’s peaceful, comforting atmosphere was inspired by his relationship with wife Courtney Love and daughter Frances Bean.
“Oh what became of forever? We’ll never know” – The Libertines, ‘The Libertines’: Pete and Carl sign off glancing into the future, asking if nothing is timeless anymore. 11 years on, we’re about the find out whatever happened to these likely lads this summer.
“Power to the people no delay / to make everybody see / in order to fight the powers that be” – Public Enemy, ‘Fear of a Black Planet’: Just in case its brilliant civil rights defiance wasn’t clear, the last lyric on the 25-year-old rap blockbuster hammers home Public Enemy’s message with might.
“We were strangers for way too long/for way too long” – Joy Division, ‘Unknown Pleasures’: The most unnerving thing about the closer to this JD classic is its percussive smashing of glass. Otherwise, it depends on the way you look at it: either we should take comfort in the basic common ground we share with other human beings or we should be sad we often don’t realise it till too late.
“227 Lears, and I can’t remember the first line” – Manics, ‘The Holy Bible’: Not actually a lyric but a sample heard as the song crashes to a halt from ’83 film the Dresser. As with many of their samples, its meaning in juxtaposition to the song, a bitterly sarcastic rejection of mealy-mouthed political correctness, is unknown. But it’s a wonderfully oblique ending to a strident LP.
“So for once in my life, let me get what I want/Lord knows it would be the first time” – The Smiths, ‘Hatful of Hollow’: “To me, it’s like a very brief punch in the face,” Moz once said of this Smiths classic. To everyone else, it’s more of a caress, that ends on an iconic and longing slice of Morrissey melancholia that leaves you wanting more.
“With your head in your hands and her kiss on the lips of another, your eyes to the ground and the world spinning round forever, asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over” – Jeff Buckley, ‘Grace’: ‘Dream Brother’ was written for Buckley’s friend, Fishbone’s Chris Dowd, urging him not to leave his pregnant girlfriend. Its haunting pay-off brings a heartbreaking album to a cinematic end.
“For we’re like creatures in the wind, and wild is the wind/wild is the wind” – David Bowie, ‘Station To Station’: Prefiguring the krautrock of Bowie’s later releases, ‘Station to Station’ saw Bowie expand his influences, especially on this cover of a popular 1950s tune written for the film of the same name: ‘Wild is the Wind’. Its final line never sounded so poetic.
“See you in your next life when we’ll fly away for good” – Suede, ‘Suede’: This smooth piano ballad becomes theatrical and noisy, just before dying back on itself and repeating its enigmatic opening words. It’s a line with the kind of broad horizons that make you feel a sense of limitless possibility – just before you head, inevitably, straight back to the album’s opening track.
“I’m taking pride in telling you to fuck off and die. Good night.” – Green Day, ‘Dookie’: Green Day might want to rethink how they treat their listeners – telling us to fuck off and die at the end of their album is a bit rich, really. Then again, at track 14, that attitude is probably what we’ve stuck around for: a bratty end to a commendably bratty album.
“But if you try sometimes you might just find, you might just find, you get what you need” – The Rolling Stones, ‘Let It Bleed’: There’s no two ways about it: you can’t always get what you want. The Rolling Stones know it, the London Bach Choir knows it, and after hearing this 7-minute extended jam, you’ll sure as hell know it too.
“My whole life / I’ve been learning” – Arcade Fire, ‘Funeral’: The Canadian heroes’ first album was inspired by a series of family deaths. It was an education, they intone with bittersweet emotion in its final, moving line.
“I’ll tell my mother, I’ll tell my father, I’ll tell my loved one, I’ll tell my brothers/How much I love them” – Kate Bush, ‘The Morning Fog’: Bringing ‘The Ninth Wave’, about a lost soul drifting alone in the sea at night, to a close after the terror and trauma of that storm, Bush focuses on the hope of being rescued, and the chance to be reunited with the people she loves again.
“Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away/only a phase, these dark café days” – Joni Mitchell, ‘Blue’: Describing her vulnerability at the time of ‘Blue’, Joni has said, “I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn’t pretend in my life to be strong.”
“I’ll forget to breathe someday/I’ve never stopped to think why” – Blur, ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’: Reflecting the spirit of the album title, ‘Resigned’ takes a flatly pessimistic look at pretty much everything. The final lines, though, are a sucker-punch that make you sit up, look at yourself and ask what exactly we’re all doing here. And that is the power of Blur, friends.
“My headphones, they saved my life/Your tape, it lulled me to sleep” – Bjork, ‘Post’: ‘Headphones’ was written about getting comfort from a friend’s mixtape. Much of the LP relates to the Icelandic’s homesickness, having upped sticks to London, and is given an extra romantic frisson by production from trip-hopper Tricky, then Bjork’s boyfriend. As a final line, it’s sublimely soothing.
“Immerse your soul in love” – Radiohead, ‘The Bends’: Thom Yorke’s described this song as “our purest, saddest song”, and melodically at least, it is. Shifting away from the stark images elsewhere of “cracked eggs” and “dead birds”, the song’s closing line is a message of hope – not something Radiohead normally deal with in spades.
“Your soul have just been taken through the 36 chambers of death, kid / word to mother, Method Man signing off, peace” – Wu-Tang Clan, ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’: After a brilliant storm of breathlessly spat, yet to be matched Staten Island hip-hop, Method Man makes a powerful statement of farewell.
“And my skin emits a ray, but I think it’s sad, it’s too bad/that our friends can’t be with us today” – Patti Smith, ‘Horses’: Got shivers? Us too. An arresting life lesson, put succinctly and poetically.
“That’s what it is, black excellence, baby / we the elite, we the greatest in the world” – Kanye West, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’: Ye used the powerful last line of his 2010 album to hint at the black power themes explored on his next opus, the thrillingly raw ‘Yeezus’.
“Mother, mother / everybody thinks we’re wrong / who are they to judge us / simply cause we wear our hair long” – Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On’: Marvin’s soulful protest comes full circle, summing up the free-spirited vibe of the album in one closing lyric.
“The colour of the earth that day / it was dull and browny red / the colour of blood, I’d say” – PJ Harvey, ‘Let England Shake’: A vivid image of the horrors of war caps Polly’s 2010 Mercury winner with gorgeous, heartbreaking colour.