Poor ‘Bleach. Nirvana’s debut record has always been overshadowed by ‘Nevermind’, the release that changed music forever in 1991. But ‘Bleach’ deserves way more celebration. It’s personal, primitive and raw and, like the following 32 records, unfairly eclipsed by its older, more successful siblings.
‘Dookie’ is, of course, Green Day’s ‘Nevermind’. The band’s 1994 breakout was an enormous success and took away attention from the following records ‘Insomniac’ and the experimental ‘Nimrod’. Release a top-class record and whatever comes next is always going to be judged against even more harshly.
Post-hardcore Texans At The Drive In hit the big-time with ‘Relationship Of Command’. The band split up really soon after but the other collateral damage in this story is the album that preceded it: ‘In/Casino/Out’. It’s dirtier, murkier and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Were you into ‘The English Riviera’? Did you love ‘Love Letters’? Don’t brush over Metronomy’s second album ‘Nights Out’! The Mercury-nominated ‘English Riviera’ sent Metronomy into the public consciousness but this “half-arsed concept album about going out and having a crap time”, in Joe Mount’s words, deserves a spotlight.
For a man who’s written almost 40 albums (!), the Godfather of Grunge has an intimidating discography for many fans. By dint of its position just before ‘Harvest’ and ‘After The Gold Rush’, ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ is one such runt that demands resuscitation.
Vampire Weekend played a blinder with their debut, eponymous album, released in 2008. It still sounds super fresh (despite its afrobeat roots) and if you’re reaching for an VW record at a BBQ you’ll probably go for that one. But ‘Contra’ released in 2010, was just as clever and well-crafted.
It was always going to be difficult to follow The Stone Roses’ debut but ‘Second Coming’ has been unfairly maligned since its release in 1994, as well as overshadowed. Released among disputes, court cases and a band falling apart, it marked a sonic departure into groovier blues-rock. But any album with ‘Ten Story Love Song’ on it deserves its rightful place in the canon.
‘Desire’, Bob Dylan’s seventeenth studio album, followed hot on the heels of ‘Blood On The Tracks’. Though named NME album of the year in 1976 it’s always suffered from its position in the Dylan discography. ‘My First Dylan Album’ would inevitably be that which eclipsed ‘Desire’, but ‘Desire’ is brim full of Dylan’s matchless story-telling.
Jon Hopkins broke through his dance music coterie in 2013 with ‘Immunity’, which was heard by loads more people after its Mercury nomination. Hopkins has been making music for years though, don’t you know? Collaborating with Coldplay and Eno and ‘Immunity’ is actually his fourth album. ‘Insides’ is well worth checking out, especially ‘Wire’.
Another victim of the second sibling syndrome: it’s never going to be quite as exciting as the first (unless the first is shit). Even a couple of years after ‘Is This It’ people still had their Converse shoelaces in a right twist and ‘Room On Fire’ blazed, yes, brilliantly, in its shadow.
Do you remember the days before Coldplay wrote flatulent anthems and depressing mope-ballads? Yes, once upon a time they were actually pretty good. ‘Parachutes’ is a solid album but it’s been forgotten in all the French Revolution outfits, Goop and stadium rock.
In just five songs Yeah Yeah Yeahs crammed more attitude, rawness and spunk than any most other albums released in 2001, on their own label Shifty. They’ve gone on to have a pretty solid career with four great albums that causes their first EP to be slung by the way side.
Ask the average music fan on the streets to name a Manics album. It’s going to be ‘The Holy Bible’ isn’t it? Seen as quite rightly one of the greatest albums ever made, it overshadows the glorious mess of ‘Generation Terrorists’, the band’s debut.
Yup, that’s right, Fugees did have an album before ‘The Score’. Yes, the 1996 album is flawless but ‘Blunted On Reality’ has so many jewels on it. Check Lauryn Hill’s verse on ‘Nappy Heads’.
‘Forever Changes’ is regarded as Love’s masterpiece but don’t forget ‘Four Sail’. Arthur Lee was the only remaining member of the group by 1969 but a Love vibe is still very much present. From ‘August’ to ‘Singing Cowboy’ there isn’t a weak chink. Don’t miss.
‘Last Splash’ was undoubtedly one of the greatest albums released in 1993 but what about The Breeders’ third album released almost a decade later? ‘Title TK’ is a different beast. It’s a looser record, and more simple, with beautiful moments such as ‘Off You’ that stand with their finest moments.
‘Think Tank’ saw Damon Albarn exploring the different sonics he would go on to make his home in his later solo and collaborative projects. It’s overshadowed by commercial behemoths ‘Parklife’ and ’13’ – and you could say the same for ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’.
Outkast’s ‘Stankonia’ is their greatest work, no doubt about it. But double album ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’ has some of their best singles. Who can resist the sunny sugar rush that is Andre’s ‘Hey Ya!’? Who wouldn’t dart to the nearest dancefloor to get down to ‘I Like The Way You Move’? Our point exactly.
It’s tempting to forget the interim between Arctic Monkeys’ emergence as scruffy Sheffield teens on ‘Whatever People Say…’ and their reinvention as brooding rock pin-ups on last year’s ‘AM’. ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ deserves more than that though, heralding some massive tunes: 8 years later, ‘Brianstorm’ is still one of Turner’s most unhinged moments as a songwriter.
‘Strangeways’ is the only Smiths LP that made Morrissey’s list of top 10 “albums of which I’m most proud” a few years ago – and for good reason. ‘The Queen Is Dead’ is one of, if not the greatest album of all time but this record saw them dabble with saxophones (‘I Started Something…’), autoharps (‘I Won’t Share You’) and huge orchestration (‘Last Night I Dreamt…’).
‘Rubber Soul’ may have been the Greatest Album Ever Made if it hadn’t been superseded by the massively transformative and enormously successful ‘Revolver’ just a year later.
As Brian Eno said about The Velvet Underground’s prophetic, earth-shattering debut, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” And thus the band’s 1969 release, The Velvet Underground (without Nico), could never have the same impact. But it’s softer, folkier, more mellow vibe is unmissable.
It’s no ‘Parallel Lines’, but Blondie’s ‘Plastic Letters’ remains an enthralling snapshot of Debbie Harry’s band as they entered a creative purple patch that turbocharged American new wave. ‘Denis’ proved the New Yorkers’ international breakthrough – setting the stage for Blondie to become worldbeaters months later.
‘OK Computer’, ‘Kid A’, ‘In Rainbows’, take your pick – there’s plenty of Radiohead albums more commercially and critically successful than 1995’s ‘The Bends’. It’s still well worthwhile, though. Featuring breakout songs ‘Just’ and ‘Street Spirit’, it captures Yorke and co at a tipping point – having mastered the art of the indie singalong, Radiohead were now on the brink of growing beyond it.
Were Public Enemy to split tomorrow, ‘It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back’ would be remembered as their masterpiece. Let’s hope 2012’s ‘Most Of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp’ isn’t entirely overshadowed, though. Full of visceral, knockout rhymes, the record proved Chuck D and co are every bit as potent today as they were when they first clattered into view 25 years ago.
So what if ‘Screamadelica’ is the rosetta stone of acid house, the ultimate indie/dance crossover record? Primal Scream’s ‘XTRMNTR’, arriving nine years later, is another iron-clad classic, even if its impact wasn’t quite that of its earth-shaking predecessor. As NME’s Mark Beaumont once put it: “Unspeakable, immense, and still the only word you’d get from the unluckiest ever Countdown selection.”
‘Dogman Star’ is the Suede record talked about as a classic, but spare a thought for their lean, poppier ‘Coming Up’. Well received on release but since slightly forgotten, it’s got some serious bangers: ‘Trash’ and ‘Filmstar’ for starters.
Bjork’s ‘Homogenic’ confirmed her anarcho-pop megastar status in 1997 and is maybe her most critically acclaimed album. Don’t forget ‘Debut’ though – a trip-hop tinted curio that isn’t spoken about with quite the same breathless reverence reserved for ‘Homogenic’ and ‘Vespertine’ but remains a brilliant, brilliant listen.
The Horrors were seen as a bit of a gothy novelty in 2007 with their debut ‘Strange House’. Their transformation into technicolour pysch specialists has made them one of Britain’s biggest bands and their early days are rarely discussed, but the hyper-stylised gloom guitar assault of ‘Strange House’ has actually held up pretty well over the years.
‘Rumours’ had the real life drama and the hits, but Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’ is a subtler listen full of winsome charm – even if band and their label deemed the project a failure. To us, its faults make the album only more admirable: though it feels loose and discombobulated, this is the Mac at a fascinating breaking point, as Nicks, McVie and Buckingham blossomed into great standalone songwriters.
Though everyone acknowledges Polly’s seventh is brilliant, it didn’t get anywhere near as much acclaim as ‘Let England Shake’, probably the greatest album of 2011. Fans who came to PJ through the Mercury-winning masterpiece shouldn’t jump over the devastatingly brilliant ‘White Chalk’.
Pulp’s ‘Different Class’ captured a moment in time for Generation x misfits caught in the undertow of a changing Britain. ‘This Is Hardcore’, released three years later, meanwhile was arguably Britpop’s swansong. Its horror-soundtrack sounds (‘The Fear’) were eons apart from sentimental vignettes like ‘Disco 2000’ and ‘Sorted For E’s And Wizz’ that launched them. A darker, brave effort.
‘Planet Of Sound’, ‘Alec Eiffel’, ‘Head On’…. ‘Trompe Le Monde’ is a stone-cold classic. But it always comes low down on Pixies Rank The Albums lists by dint of the existence of ‘Doolittle’ and ‘Come On Pilgrim’. Any new Pixies fans would do well to make a beeline for this 1991 masterpiece.