Green Day – ‘Dookie’. Released: February 1994. Some sneering types would claim that pop-punk isn’t the type of genre to grow old gracefully. So stick a copy of Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ under their noses: the trio’s mainstream breakthrough, buoyed by the snotty ‘Basket Case’ and disarmingly deft ‘When I Come Around’, still stands-up 20 years after its release.
Kanye West – ‘The College Dropout’. Released: February 2004. Even 10 years ago, Kanye West already had deity-like status in his sights: the sublime ‘Jesus Walks’ is one of many standouts from his debut studio album, as the self-proclaimed Messianic one made the transition from production guru to rap megastar.
The Smiths – ‘The Smiths’. Released: February 1984. Morrissey claimed it wasn’t good enough to be released. The production has been decried as flat and tinny. Yet the sheer quality of songs on The Smiths’ debut – ‘What Difference Does It Make?’, ‘Still Ill’, ‘This Charming Man’ and tons more – means its brilliance remains undimmed 30 years on.
Nine Inch Nails – ‘Downward Spiral’. Released: March 1994. Arguably Trent Reznor’s finest 65 minutes, ‘Downward Spiral’ celebrates its 20th birthday this year. The LP draws upon the abrasive and melodramatic gloom of Nine Inch Nails and marries them with Reznor’s peerless ear for sonic textures and layered soundscapes. A dark-hearted tour-de-force.
Credit: Nine Inch Nails
Hole – ‘Live Through This’. Released: April 1994. Uncharitable sorts have often claimed that Kurt Cobain helped pen the lion’s share of ‘Live Through This’. Which is total rubbish: even at 20-years-old, the album remains a timeless testament to Courtney Love’s skill as a lyricist and singer, from the larynx-tearing opening of ‘Violet’ to the bereft strum of ‘Doll Parts’.
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – ‘Let Love In’. Released: April 1994. A richly-deserved Happy 20th Birthday for ‘Let Love In’, the Bad Seeds’ seventh studio album and one of the most bruised and beguiling in their canon. Cave’s High-Priest of Gloom gaze is cast over sex, love and violence while the masterful ‘Red Right Hand’ remains one of their best-loved songs.
Beastie Boys – ‘Ill Communication’. Released: May 1994. Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, who passed away in 2012, is still sorely missed. ‘Ill Communication’, which turns 20 in May, serves as a timely reminder of the Beasties’ brilliance: an album chockfull of great tunes and still hailed as one of the finest rap LPs of the 90s.
Oasis – ‘Definitely Maybe’. Released: August 1994. “Few other debut albums have captured a band at such a fully-realised aspect, or are capable of scorching the soul with so many jaw-jarringly great pop moments,” declared NME’s Keith Cameron in his original 9/10 review of ‘Definitely Maybe’. 20 years later, every word he wrote still rings true.
Portishead – ‘Dummy’. Released: August 1994. Portishead’s glorious trip-hop debut ‘Dummy’ nabbed the Mercury Music Prize in 1995, and it’s not hard to see why: the combination of Geoff Barrow’s musical nous and innovation with Beth Gibbons’ languid, dreamy vocals ensures it’s still a favourite 20 years later.
Jeff Buckley – ‘Grace’. Released: August 1994. One can only imagine what Jeff Buckley would have gone onto achieve if it weren’t for his untimely death in 1997. But we’ll always have ‘Grace’, which turns 20 in August: the singer-songwriter’s only studio album, and a rich, swirling and all-encompassing masterpiece.
The Stone Roses – ‘The Stone Roses’. Released: April 1989. Recently voted Number 7 on NME’s list of the Greatest Albums Of All Time, ‘The Stone Roses’ is now a quarter-of-a-century old. “Here was an album that would continue to influence bands – from Oasis to Jagwar Ma to Peace – to this day,” said NME’s Lisa Wright in her retrospective review.
The Fall – ‘The Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall’. Released: October 1984. The Fall have had more seminal album than you lot have had hot dinners. ‘The Wonderful And Frightening World…’, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, is a typically baffling-yet-brilliant insight into the brain of Mark E Smith.
Kraftwerk – ‘Autobahn’. Released: November 1974. Kraftwerk had long been innovators before ‘Autobahn’, but their fourth studio album was their most groundbreaking and innovative work yet. It’s still a benchmark for electronic music, and it beggars belief that it was released 40 years ago.
Britney Spears – ‘…Baby One More Time’. Released: January 1999. Let us be frank: nothing on ‘…Baby One More Time’ comes close to the title track. But, 15 years later, it scarcely matters: it’s the LP which served as Britney’s coronation as pop’s newest princess, equally adept with a catchy pop hook as she was at garnering controversy.
Suede Dog Man Star
Suede – ‘Dog Man Star’. Released: October 1994. 20-years-old but still immaculate, ‘Dog Man Star’ thumbed its nose at the cartoonish caricature of Britpop and favoured seedy glamour and swirling, grandiose ambition instead: an album stained with sex, lust and drugs that’s romantic, tragic and downright brilliant.
The White Stripes – ‘The White Stripes’. Released: June 1999. The world’s first introduction to the strange, myth-heavy world of Jack and Meg White celebrates its 15th birthday in June of this year. Highlights include a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘One More Cup Of Coffee’ and the car manufacturer-baiting ‘The Big Three Killed My Baby’.
The Flaming Lips – ‘The Soft Bulletin’. Released: May 1999. The Lips’ previous LP, ‘Zaireeka’, was an oddball concept project: an experimental quadruple album designed to be played on four different stereos simultaneously. For ‘The Soft Bulletin’, they focused on writing lush and layered pop songs instead. It was released 15 years ago.
Muse – ‘Showbiz’. Released: October 1999. Blimey: who’d have predicted, 15 years ago, that Muse would go on to become one of the biggest rock bands on the planet? But if ‘Showbiz’ didn’t suggest a future of pyro-filled stadiums, it still didn’t scrimp on the tunes – witness the likes of ‘Sunburn’, ‘Unintended’ and ‘Muscle Museum’.
David Bowie – ‘Space Oddity’. Released: November 1969. Originally released as ‘David Bowie’ and later rechristened ‘Space Oddity’, the singer’s strange prog-and-folk hybrid of a second album was released 40 years ago and was the birth of his singer’s doomed spaceman character Major Tom.
Dr Dre – ‘2001’. Released: November 1999. The pessimists, of course, could moan that it’s been 15 years and the tardy Dr still hasn’t delivered the much-delayed ‘Detox’. But let’s be positive and celebrate the 15-year-anniversary of ‘2001’ instead, as Dre continued to explore new ground as a producer and roped in the likes of Eminem and Snoop Dogg for collaborations
Echo & The Bunnymen – ‘Ocean Rain’. Released: May 1984. Three decades on, Chief Bunny Ian McCulloch would still tell you that ‘Ocean Rain’ is “the greatest album ever made” and ‘The Killing Moon’ the greatest song. Once you’ve weathered the rich, string-lashed tempests of ‘Thorn Of Crowns’ and ‘Nocturnal Me’, you’d have little in the way of comeback.
Public Image Ltd – ‘Metal Box’. Released: November 1979. The masses may know him best for as Johnny Rotten, frontman of The Sex Pistols and face of Country Life butter. But John Lydon’s finest work came with PiL, and ‘Metal Box’ is an avant-garde masterwork, mining gold from influences including Can, Captain Beefheart and dub rhythms. Join us in celebrating its 35th birthday.
U2 – ‘The Unforgettable Fire’. Released: October 1984. For their fourth studio album, U2 decided to recruit production duo Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to help them pursue an artier, more expansive direction – and the pair came up trumps. ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ was released 30 years ago.
Gary Numan – ‘The Pleasure Principle’. Released: September 1979. Numan’s first solo release following his fronting of the Tubeway Army is a synth-pop belter. The past 35 years certainly haven’t taken any of the metallic and sci-fi sheen away from bangers like ‘Metal’, ‘M.E’ and ‘Cars’.
Gang Of Four – ‘Entertainment!’. Released: September 1979. A classic post-punk debut from the London group, released 35 years ago this September. It’s full of energy and righteous fury. Sadly, it’s a shame that ‘I Found That Essence Rare’, with its scornful attack on politicians and the media, remains just as relevant today.
Fleetwood Mac – ‘Tusk’. Released: October 1979. Long mockingly dismissed as the Mac’s fractured, over-reaching white elephant, 35 years have tolled kindly on this hugely expensive (the most expensive ever made at the time), personally fraught album, which holds sparkling surprises beyond the obvious big-hitters.
The Clash – ‘London Calling’. Released: December 1979. Punk is often derided for its brute, boneheaded simplicity, but ‘London Calling’ is as eclectic as they come: a fierce and frenetic double-album that draws upon punk, ska, reggae and rockabilly to deliver its kick-against-the-pricks mission statement.
Throbbing Gristle – ’20 Jazz Funk Greats’. Released: December 1979. The sleeve said it all: the mighty Throbbing Gristle posing like none-more-cheery holidaymakers at the notorious suicide spot Beachy Head. And the music within was equally discombobulating, too: a mixture of industrial synths and electronics with snatches of disco, jazz and funk. An insidious treat.
Brian Eno – ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’. Released: January 1974. Producer and Roxy Music member Brian Eno began his solo recording career 40 years ago this month with the release of ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’. King Crimson’s Robert Fripp and members of Hawkwind and Roxy Music all contributed to the LP.
Queen – ‘Sheer Heart Attack’. Released: November 1974. A Freddie Mercury biopic is in the works, and Brian May’s been claiming there’s a bevy of unreleased Queen songs still in the vaults. Time to journey 40 years into the past, then, and re-discover one of their earliest gems: a no-filler, all-killer blast of riotous camp rock.
The Velvet Underground – ‘The Velvet Underground’. Released: March 1969. The New York band’s first album without John Cale was a more straightforward affair than their previous work. “I really didn’t think we should make another ‘White Light/White Heat,'” said Lou Reed of the LP, which is now 45 years old. “I thought it would be a terrible mistake, and I really believed that.”
The Who – ‘Tommy’. Released: March 1969. Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and co released ‘Tommy’, a rock opera telling the tale of a deaf, dumb and blind child who turns out to be a pinball wizard, 45 years ago. It was later adopted as a film which starred Daltrey in the title role as well as Oliver Reed, Jack Nicholson, Eric Clapton and Elton John.
Leonard Cohen – ‘Songs From A Room’. Released: April 1969. The second album from poet and novelist turned singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was a slightly less self-assured effort than his first LP, ‘Songs Of Leonard Cohen’, but still features the masterful ‘Bird On The Wire’ and ‘Seems So Long Ago, Nancy’.
The Rolling Stones – ‘England’s Newest Hit Makers’. Released: April 1964. Another lot celebrating a 50-year-old album, here: The Rolling Stones’ debut disc was released five decades ago. The album contains covers a-plent, including renditions of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly tracks, but the Mick-and-Keith composition ‘Tell Me’ points to just how special they’d become.
The Kinks –’Kinks’. Released: October 1964. Recently, Kinks man Ray Davies said a potential reunion for the band was “as close as its ever been to happening”. Here’s hoping he and his brother Dave can bury the hatchet: their debut album was released way back in 1964 and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.