100. The Smiths, ‘Hatful Of Hollow’ (1984) Rough Trade.
Nicky Wire: “That was the album when The Smiths really nailed it for me. The rest of their albums are not brilliantly produced and even ‘The Queen Is Dead’ doesn’t have the depth of ‘Hatful of Hollow’.”
99. The Libertines, ‘The Libertines’ (2004) Rough Trade.
A ramshackle mess of a record with Pete’s vocals cobbled together from the few coherent sessions of his rare visits to the studio, the songwriting panache of ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ and ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ shining through the druggy drawls to create a brilliantly haggard portrait of a great talent tipped over the edge.
98. Neutral Milk Hotel, ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ (1998) Merge/Domino.
Ecstatic suicides, carrot-flower kings and semen-stained mountaintops. At first glance it read like a particularly morbid edition of Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, but ‘Aeroplane…’ crystallizes the no-fi psych-folk ethos of the Elephant 6 collective that Mangum emerged from.
97. The Smiths, ‘The Smiths’ (1984) Rough Trade.
Often overlooked due to the pedigree of the likes of ‘The Queen Is Dead’, The Smiths’ debut is still among the greats. Songs such as ‘Reel Around The Fountain’ and debut single ‘Hand In Glove’ shine through the slightly tinny production (hey, it was the ’80s), setting the first marker of a generation-defining career.
96. Public Enemy, ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’ (1990) Def Jam.
Dave Maclean, Django Django: “I remember going into Our Price with my mum and asking the guy for some Public Enemy; I was used to ’60s music in my folks’ LP collection, and that was mind-expanding enough, but this felt like my music, speaking for my generation, and it blew my tiny, Scottish head.”
95. Talk Talk, ‘Spirit Of Eden’ (1988) Parlophone.
Depending on who you believe, either a monument to the pretension of a pop band overreaching itself, or a beguiling if flawed experiment that reveals itself in a thousand lush layers. Now credited with inventing post-rock, its hushed-tones cognoscenti-led reputation seems to grow every single year.
94. The Rolling Stones, ‘Beggars Banquet’ (1968) Decca.
Thus began the most fruitful musical period in The Stones’ long history. Jagger puts himself in Beelzebub’s shoes on the simply staggering album opener ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, blazing a trail through history while Richards comes on like the soundtrack to the apocalypse. Dazzling.
93. Queens Of The Stone Age ‘Songs For The Deaf’ (2002) Interscope.
The album that exposed the QOTSA as a gargantuan rock force. On this follow-up their creativity peaked, full of powerful blasts of paranoid, drug-fuelled mayhem. Having Dave Grohl on drums helped, but ‘Songs For The Deaf’ is all about Josh Homme working his mojo on hip-shaking wonders ‘No One Knows’ and ‘Go With The Flow’.
92. Super Furry Animals, ‘Radiator’ (1997) Creation.
Jason Lytle: “They’re a great band so it’s really hard to pick out any one of their records because they’re all great, but this one is terrific. In fact, one of their songs, ‘Ohio Heat’, was named after the time when one of our road crew got a text message from… well, let’s call it a young lady.”
91. Prince And The Revolution, ‘Purple Rain’ (1984) Warner Bros.
Prince was big before ‘Purple Rain’, but his sixth studio album (and soundtrack to the film of the same name) made him massive by mixing first-rate songwriting with his dazzling ability to master genres from funk to hard rock to psychedelic pop. As the Purple One himself might put it, it’s close 2 genius.
90. The Streets ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’ (2004) Locked On/679.
”He’s the PlayStation generation’s William Blake!” they shouted after Mike’s Skinner’s zeitgeist capturing 2002 debut ‘Original Pirate Material’. Then, he went one better. Few artists ever capture a moment like this, hooked around the story of a stoner losing a wedge down the back of the TV. He made the mundane seem epic.
89. Lauryn Hill, ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’ (1998) Ruffhouse/Columbia.
Janelle Monáe: “She was speaking from so many angles – she tied in love, she tied in her love for hip-hop, and it was the first time I saw a black woman who was absolutely cheering to listen to, putting an album together that was a classic, and that every young girl should listen to.”
88. Roxy Music, ‘For Your Pleasure’ (1973) Island.
Roxy Music’s second album is the pinnacle of English art rock, mixing pop sensibilities with a brash experimental spirit, its songs about new dance crazes and inflatable doll lust attracting attention from devotees such as Morrissey. Dominated by Brian Eno’s warped genius – his departure shortly afterwards pushed them into the mainstream.
87. The Beatles, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967) Parlophone.
Considered the ultimate achievement of recorded music at the time, the gleam has dulled on ‘Pepper’s…’ medals over time, its psychedelic visuals and flower power sentiments turned corny at the edges. Today the likes of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ and ‘A Day In The Life’ endure for their melodic brilliance.
86. Jeff Buckley, ‘Grace’ (1994) Columbia.
The cult success of this sole album released by Tim Buckley’s son during his short life is intrinsically linked to his mysterious premature death. The longing of ‘Last Goodbye’, the lump-in-the-throat heartache of ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’ and the haunting ‘Dream Brother’ are all the more eerie from beyond the grave.
85. Bruce Springsteen, ‘Born To Run’ (1975) CBS.
Eight flawless tracks make up Springsteen’s triumphant third album. Its romantic depiction of small-town America – all fresh faced girls next door, drinking beers in parking lots, classic cars and broken hearts – has never been bettered. From ‘Thunder Road’ to ‘Jungleland’ its Motown influences make for particularly emotive rock’n’roll.
84. Hole, ‘Live Through This’ (1994) City Slang.
Lyrically examining Courtney Love’s new place in motherhood, Hole’s second album showed a sweeter side to the band. Shedding the distortion of their debut, ‘Live Through This’ ventured into unexpectedly gentle territory with acoustic track ‘Softer, Softest’. Their new sound spurred on their breakthrough, inspiring women across the world.
83. The Band, ‘The Band’ (1969) Capitol.
Bob Dylan’s infamous acolytes really came into their own in 1969 when they cemented their invention of country-rock, predated lo-fi by three decades, and introduced a rustic, ironically reactionary take on Southern mores that would later fire many an imagination.
82. Carole King, ‘Tapestry’ (1971) Ode.
You know who wrote ‘The Loco-Motion’? It was Carole King. ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ might have initially been performed by The Shirelles, but it was the brainchild of one Carole King. ‘Tapestry’ is the mother of the reflective records; so comforting, beautifully woven and wise, it would be easy but foolish to forget to thank it for its guidance.
81. Kraftwerk, ‘Trans-Europe Express’ (1977) Kling Klang.
Just as the blues musicians derived their rhythms from the rattle of the railroad, so Kraftwerk looked to trains as the carrier for this paean to Mitteleuropean modernity. Minimal and melodic, the songs of ‘Trans-Europe Express’ tackle topics from stardom (‘Hall Of Mirrors’) and on the title track, “Iggy Pop and David Bowie”.
80. Iggy & The Stooges, ‘Raw Power’ (1973) Columbia.
Cee Lo Green: “Iggy Pop is the ultimate American icon, like the anti-working class hero, this drugged-up rebel kid with too much energy who’s thumbing his nose at the world. ‘Raw Power’ is probably the best Stooges album, because it’s so loud. It’s been mastered very high in the mix, so it leaps out of the speakers at you.”
79. Miles Davis, ‘Kind Of Blue’ (1959) Columbia.
In 1959, twenty years before hip-hop provided a real voice for voiceless African-Americans, Miles Davis stood proud. Taking the blues as a starting point, he extrapolated horn-led jazz towards infinity. John Coltrane and Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley are his wistful trumpet’s perfect foils here on saxophone.
78. Suede, ‘Suede’ (1993) Nude.
Exuding Bowie’s androgy-trash glamour and oozing bad drugs and weirdie sex from every pore, the suave and sultry Suede debut brought over-arching pop sleaze (‘Animal Nitrate’) and all-consuming doomed romance (‘The Drowners’, ‘Pantomime Horse’, ‘Sleeping Pills’) to a UK scene previously obsessed with Es and shoes, and kick-strated the Britpop revolution.
77. The White Stripes, ‘De Stijl’ (2000) Sympathy For The Record Industry.
The garage rock sound that made follow-up album ‘White Blood Cells’ famous was absent on ‘De Stijl’, which instead operated as a giant leap forward from the band’s self-titled debut, an opportunity for Jack to prove he plays the blues better than anyone since Jimmy Page.
76. Daft Punk, ‘Discovery’ (2001) Virgin.
Before ‘Get Lucky’ there was this: a house masterpiece that became to dance music what Romeo and Juliet is to tragic love stories. It may have inspired legions of rubbish EDM imitators, but classics like ‘One More Time’, ‘Digital Love’ and ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ make ‘Discovery’ the real deal.
75. Green Day, ‘Dookie’ (1994) Reprise.
In 1994 anti-government concept albums and Broadway musicals seemed a long way off for Green Day, but they did manage to release the definitive punk-pop album of the decade. Its centerpiece ‘Basket Case’ remains one of the greatest singles in modern rock – not bad for a band named after a slang term for a day spent smoking weed.
74. Nas, ‘Illmatic’ (1994) Columbia.
Nas was young when he wrote his debut album, just 19, but wise and world-weary, spinning vividly imagined stories of life on the streets. Eschewing the trends of commercial rap in the early 90s, Nas and DJ Premier combined minimalist production with funk, soul and jazz samples to create an album against which any future rap release would be judged.
73. Bob Dylan, ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ (1965) Columbia.
The record on which Dylan morphed from quaint singer-songwriter into proper rock star. His fifth album caused shockwaves that were to be felt long after it’s 1965 release, with rowdy tracks like ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ and ‘Maggie’s Farm’ a major influence on the folk-rock scene that exploded for the rest of the decade.
72. Lou Reed, ‘Transformer’ (1972) RCA.
Carl Barât: “Lou Reed is a hero because he wasn’t very good looking and dressed like a girl but it didn’t matter. I fast-forward that bit, “Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday…”. Any song that lists the days of the week pisses me off.”
71. Neil Young ‘Harvest’ (1972) Reprise.
Young admits to having a love/hate relationship this album – it’s huge sales gave him the freedom to do what he wanted, in spite of that he’s never been able to shake off the ‘country rocker’ mantle. But it’s on a harrowing tale of heroin abuse, the acoustic ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’, that we hear the real Young –raw and unflinchingly honest.
70. The Libertines ‘Up The Bracket’ (2002) Rough Trade.
The Libertines’ debut sounds lapel-grabbingly urgent rather than lo-fi and unfinished. From the crunchy opener ‘Vertigo’ to the pure punk blast of ‘I Get Along’, the songs sound like they were pulled out of Pete Doherty and Carl Barât’s hearts and straight onto tape. The Libertines’ graceful romanticism has never shone brighter.
69. REM, ‘Murmur’ (1983) IRS.
In 1983, ‘Murmur’ placed REM at the vanguard of American indie, a position they only relinquished when they finally called it a day in 2011. ‘Radio Free Europe’ was their fuzzed up rallying cry and ‘Perfect Circle’ a sign of bounteous alt.balladry to come as ‘Murmur’ slowly became a cultural bellow.
68. Van Morrison, ‘Astral Weeks’ (1968) Warner Bros.
‘Astral Weeks’ is so sharp that it takes one breath between sanity and madness. Van Morrison sounds possessed and driven, his voice another Celtic-soul instrument, as the multiplicity of supporting players cajole their instruments to speak in tongues. Eventually bordering on the divine, as well as something cracked and broken.
67. Oasis, ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ (1995) Creation.
Oasis’ breakthrough album claimed Britpop for the lads and primed the band for Knebworth with such timeless anthems as ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. The seven-minute ‘Champagne Supernova’ hinted at the cocaine sprawls of ‘Be Here Now’, but nonetheless trapped the early-Oasis lightning in a Bolly bottle.
66. Radiohead, ‘The Bends’ (1995) Parlophone.
There was a time when Radiohead listeners didn’t need to train their ear in order to appreciate their work. There was a time when Radiohead just wrote brilliant tunes. From the opening ‘Planet Telex’ through the blistering ‘My Iron Lung’, the neurotic ‘Just’ and the world-weary ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, ‘The Bends’ is the gateway Radiohead record.
65. REM, ‘Automatic For The People’ (1992) Warner Bros.
REM’s creative pinnacle was a delectably mournful affair approaching the ennui of loss and aging with a comforting hand. The global group-hug of ‘Everybody Hurts’ offset the gorgeous skinny-dipping piano snapshot ‘Nightswimming’ and somber funeral paean ‘Sweetness Follows’. REM at their most balletic.
64. Bob Dylan, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (1965) Columbia.
Dylan’s sixth LP saw him trading stripped-back protest balladry and Woody Guthrie worship for full-band ballsiness. Solidifying his status as the greatest songwriter of the 20th century™, it kicked off with the monumental ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and ended with him harking back to his acoustic roots with the epic ‘Desolation Row’.
63. Joni Mitchell, ‘Blue’ (1971) Reprise.
“Songs are like tattoos”, sings Joni Mitchell on the title track of her fourth album. If that’s true, ‘Blue’ is the equivalent of flesh inked with the names of ex-lovers, minus the stomach-churning regret. Extremely personal but invitingly intimate, it opens a window on Mitchell’s loves and losses with a poetic eloquence.
62. Bob Dylan, ‘Blonde On Blonde’ (1966) Columbia.
Hot on the heels of two of the greatest albums ever made, this sprawling double-LP confirmed Dylan’s status as his generation’s superlative songsmith. Not everything here works, but when it does – the ramshackle, last-take-of-20 ‘Stuck Inside Of Mobile…’; the mesmeric, magical, magnificent ‘Visions Of Johanna’ – it’s incomparable.
61. The Clash, The Clash (1977)
Brian Fallon: “I went to high school in Hackettstown, New Jersey. It was horrible, but Sound Effected Records was its crown jewel. I was getting into punk and the owner of the store was like, ‘You’re trying to get into punk and you don’t know The Clash?’ So he bought the record for me. I went back and gave him the money because I was like, ‘This is awesome’”
60. Massive Attack, ‘Blue Lines’ (1991) Virgin.
It hasn’t stood the test of time like 1998’s ‘Mezzanine’ but it’s this debut record that marked the invention of trip-hop and the birth of the Bristol movement. Taking in dub, soul, breakbeat and reggae, the trio forged a new type of electronica. And in ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, they dreamt up its unsurpassable blueprint.
59. Radiohead, ‘In Rainbows’ (2007) Self released.
The merits of Radiohead’s pay-what-you-thinkit’s-worth release plan are still being debated now, but what’s not is the quality of the music, unquestionably Radiohead’s finest, most coherent record since ‘OK Computer’ – in fact, many fans now hold it in higher esteem.
58. Pixies, ‘Surfer Rosa’ (1988) 4AD.
Freddie Cowan, The Vaccines: “When I was growing up I used to like skate videos and there was this one where they used ‘Where Is My Mind?’ and it just got me. So I bought ‘Surfer Rosa’ because of that. I reckon I’d have been about 11, so I never realised it was a seminal record or anything. But I remember thinking it was great.”
57. Kraftwerk, ‘The Man Machine’ (1978) EMI/Kling Klang/Capitol.
‘Robots’. ‘The Model’. ‘Neon Lights’. ‘Metropolis’. Their seventh record is the one that saw Kraftwerk deliver their definitive text, and fire the starting gun of the synth pop revolution. So ahead of its time it took another four years for ‘The Model’ to reach the UK number one spot.
56. Neil Young, ‘After The Gold Rush’ (1970) Reprise.
Young was in his mid 20s, but wrote and sang like a man who’d already seen too much. It’s an album that teeters between rage (‘Southern Man’), resignation (‘Birds’) and resolve (‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’), yet its weary mood never tires, instead creating a sense of warm euphoria.
55. The Rolling Stones, ‘Sticky Fingers’ (1971) Rolling Stones.
A more joyous, winsome listen than the downbeat ‘Let It Bleed’ from the get-go, ‘Brown Sugar’ collided Jagger’s libidinous swagger with the controversial story of a slave trade worker to a din of honky tonk pianos. An album that, rather than heavy-hearted, was irrepressible in its youthful spirit.
54. Talking Heads, ‘Remain In Light’ (1980) Sire.
For ‘Remain In Light’, Talking Heads wanted to be more than a rock band. Experimenting with stream-of-consciousness writing, inspired by American baptist preachers. With the help Brian Eno, he wound this into an album of driving polyrhythms fired with an ecstatic fervour, nowhere better than on the modern spiritual ‘Once In A Lifetime’.
53. David Bowie, Station To Station (1976) RCA.
Emerging from a period of druggy reclusiveness and readings into occultism, Grail myths and the Third Reich, the triple-whammy of glam, funk and futurism would hold equal sway over Bowie’s Thin White Duke album. A move that would send dank Teutonic chills down the spines of those soon to form new wave pioneers Talking Heads and Joy Division
52. The Rolling Stones, ‘Let It Bleed’ (1969) Decca.
A record that followed the surprise gloomy shades of 1968’s ‘Beggars Banquet’ with even stormier hues, ‘Let it Bleed’ was to be the Swinging Sixties’ sinister swan song – an album that, beneath its bristling bass lines, bluesy licks of guitar and clatter of drums, lamented the crumbling of a counterculture uprising.
51. Fleetwood Mac, ‘Rumours’ (1977) Warner Bros.
The album that has inspired the rise of new artists such as Florence & The Machine and Haim. It’s because ‘Rumours’ travels the entire breadth of human emotion and at the heart of the record lies all the elements of an addictive rock’n’roll soap opera that never ceases to fascinate its fans.
50. Dusty Springfield, ‘Dusty In Memphis’ (1969) Atlantic.
Utterly bewitching, ‘Dusty…’ stands up as perhaps the ultimate piece of A&R, a perfect match of evergreen songs (Wexler originally put as many as 80 to Dusty), a great singer and crack players. Playful and seductive.
49. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, Sound Of Silver (2007)Capitol.
The sleeve said it all: space-age technology turned on its side. Seamlessly gelling the coldness of machines with the hot thrum of rock’n’roll, James Murphy’s finest hour finds him squealing and wailing like a crazed party animal given access to the control room of electronic music. ‘Sound Of Silver’ is humanism made to sound superhuman.
48. Kate Bush ‘Hounds Of Love’ (1985) EMI.
Hayden Thorpe, Wild Beasts: “It’s a real time-and-a-place album. It’s so uninhibited it’s almost grotesque. There’s this strange dilemma going on in that some of the songs are frankly quite horrible. But she seems to need those bits to vault up to the high points. She makes herself fall so she can pick herself up again and propel herself forward.”
47. The Smiths, ‘Strangeways Here We Come’ (1987) Rough Trade.
The band’s own favourite Smiths record, ‘Strangeways…’ was a fittingly explosive swansong for a Morrissey/Marr partnership approaching critical mass. Everything was bigger, brighter and more resigned to the grave.
46. Bjork, ‘Debut’ (1993) One Little Indian.
‘Debut’ achieved the remarkable feat of turning an idiosyncratic vocalist from a feted cult band into a significant global pop star, without losing one iota of the experimental mindset and creative cool that made her so special.
45. Blondie, ‘Parallel Lines’ (1978) Chrysallis.
Blondie’s third LP ‘Parallel Lines’ is one of the finest pop albums ever made: five of its 12 tracks are deathless classics. It’s also the sound of a punk band that knocked shoulders with the Ramones at New York’s legendary CBGB’s venue becoming massive global superstars.
44. Manic Street Preachers, ‘The Holy Bible’ (1994) Epic.
For their visceral third album, the Manics went back to their Wire, Gang Of Four and Joy Division albums for songs which touched on anorexia, the Holocaust and imperialism, unleashing their most brutal scream from the depths of social and psychological depravity.
43. The Beatles, ‘Rubber Soul’ (1965) Parlophone.
Sitting midway between The Beatles’ fresh-faced beginnings and their druggier experimental indulgences, ‘Rubber Soul’ subtly shed the group’s old, squeaky clean skin on an exciting stepping stone to wilder innovations.
42. Stevie Wonder, ‘Innervisions’ (1973) Tamla.
Having wrestled creative control of his career from Motown, Wonder was at the peak of his powers as both a performer and songwriter; his transition from child hitmaker to experimental adult artist was complete.
41.Sonic Youth ‘Daydream Nation’ (1988) Enigma.
Signing to a major label didn’t cost Sonic Youth their soul, ‘Goo’ and ‘Dirty’ are both loftily-ranked in the alt.rock pantheon -but their last album before signing to Geffen is still their most revered. Epic in every sense of the word, ‘Daydream Nation’ was hailed as a work of undiluted genius upon its release, age has not withered it a jot.
40. Joy Division, ‘Unknown Pleasures’ (1979) Factory.
A benchmark of claustrophobia and creeping unease, it feels like there’s hardly any room to breathe on Joy Division’s 1979 debut – as though the austere machinery that propels the album along is sucking all the oxygen out of your lungs. More than thirty years on, there’s still something unknowable and otherworldly about it.
39. The Clash, ‘London Calling’ (1979) CBS/Epic/Legacy.
Stephen Street: “The Clash proved you didn’t have to be just a one-trick pony – you could do a little bit of rockabilly, some reggae, or something straightforward, punky and rocky. The underlying thing that tied it all together was their commitment. The Clash managed to transcend all kinds of music.”
38. The Sex Pistols, ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ (1977) Virgin.
In the middle of the 1970s, this album was the Molotov cocktail that ignited a cultural revolution. Matlock, Jones and Cook were always better than the “turn up, plug in and play” punk rubric would imply, but Rotten’s performances of some scabrous songs left everyone else playing catch-up.
36. Love, ‘Forever Changes’ (1967) Elektra.
Love’s third and best album replaced garage rock snarl with baroque strings and acoustic guitars, but the resulting sweetness did little to mask the air of menace within. It’s beautiful (the stirring ‘Alone Again, Or’), threatening (‘A House Is Not A Motel’), paranoid and, most of all, magnificent.
36. Bob Dylan, ‘Blood On The Tracks’ (1975) CBS.
Those who view this record as being about the dissolution of a love affair certainly aren’t wrong, but to see ‘Blood On The Tracks’ simply as “Dylan’s break-up album” is to do the record and its maker a huge disservice. Worse, it reduces the listener’s ability to feel the full range of a tremendous record’s complicated and expansive power.
35. Nirvana, ‘In Utero’ (1993) DGC.
Nirvana’s final album was Kurt Cobain’s response to the Seattle band becoming uncontrollably enormous after ‘Nevermind’. Producer Steve Albini was brought in, and with him the trio created a stunningly ferocious and spiteful set of songs that reconnected Kurt, Dave and Krist with their punk rock roots.
34. The Beatles, ‘Abbey Road’ (1969) Apple.
From George Harrison’s crying riff on ‘Something’ to the deliriously uplifting ‘Here Comes The Sun’, The Beatles’ 11th album still sounds compelling. Just over a year after its release the band was over – the closing suite of merged songs dominating side two was a fittingly staggering swansong for this most peerless of bands.
33. Blur, ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ (1993) Food.
In the run-up to the release of Blur’s second album Damon Albarn declared “If punk was about getting rid of hippies then I’m getting rid of grunge.” He may not have succeeded but ‘Modern Life’ did signal an exhilarating new chapter for British music in a period where America dominated.
32. Beastie Boys, ‘Paul’s Boutique’ (1989) Capitol/EMI.
Their debut made them brat-rap anti-heroes, but this follow-up was a rare record – iconoclastic without an ounce of calculation, startlingly innovative because its makers were just pleasing themselves.
31. Suede, ‘Dog Man Star’ (1994) Nude.
Suede had created the Britpop scene in the image of Bowie at his most stylish, only to watch it go mod, chug a load of cheap lager, pretend it didn’t have a degree and fight itself over ‘birds’. So with their second album they disowned their yobbish tearaway offspring and crafted something classier; an epic of grit and grandeur, a cathedral of trash.
30. Wu-Tang Clam, ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chamblers)’ (1993) Loud.
RZA’s dirt-encrusted production took hip-hop back to its grimy New York basics after LA’s sun-blasted melodiousness had turned the genre into pop, and the Babel of lyrical styles from the then masked emcees returned some mystique to a music that was lacking those essential qualities.
29. Television, ‘Marquee Moon’ (1977) Elektra.
Where the Velvet Underground revolutionized the ’60s with their gutteral blues-meets-avant-garde jams, Television performed their own silent coup in ’70s New York by stripping that all away. Without a doubt the most pivotal record of the post-punk era.
28. Amy Winehouse, ‘Back To Black’ (2006) Island.
The catalyst for her then rapidly increasing fame, and therefore increasing media scrutiny, ‘Back To Black’ ensured Winehouse’s legacy would be more than just unpalatable column inches.
27. Primal Scream, ‘Screamadelica’ (1991) Creation.
The band never got higher than the summer of 1991, which they spent holed up in a studio with a mountain of drugs and heads full of music that would combine acid house and rave culture with good ol’ fashioned gospel, blues and the sort of guitar licks that would put a smile across Keith Richards’ craggy face.
26. The Beach Boys, ‘Pet Sounds’ (1966) Capitol.
In every sense, ‘Pet Sounds’ was a bar-raising record, something which was more complex and sophisticated than anything the Beach Boys – or any of their peers – had previously attempted, an album which represented rock music moving on from adolescent whimsies and into a rich new maturity.
25. Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On’ (1971) Tamla.
Hayden Thorpe, Wild Beasts “He’s a hero to me because he’s such an antihero. He was a smooth lothario in a pop band who then went on to make an album about Vietnam and oppression. To follow through on that sort of transformation so convincingly is just amazing.”
24. The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main St.(1972) Rolling Stones.
The Stones’ dark high-point is so wrapped in mythology and cult enigma it’s as if the Devil himself was on the desk. The loose, narcotic roll of chateau Nellcote’s sweltering cellar infected ‘Exile…’ and gave it its arcane, subterranean voodoo; the double set splurge of an assured band at its peak, coasting on a creative high.
23. David Bowie, ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ (1972) RCA.
Bowie created Ziggy to be the perfect rock star, a cocaine-skinny humanoid alien, charisma down to his bones and suitably adored by the fan armies depicted in the timeless ‘Ziggy Stardust’ song. ‘Ziggy Stardust…’ demands to be engaged with from start to finish.
22. Blur, ‘Parklife’ (1994) Food.
If the preceding ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ had seen Blur declare war on grunge and meathead American rock, ‘Parklife’ saw them perfect the sound that would put Britain back in the middle of the mid-‘90s cultural map.
24. Kanye West, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ (2010) Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam.
Capturing Kanye as his ego went supernova, the whole album is layered thick with bold megalomaniac statements, but ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ is not just West’s most accomplished and well rounded album to date but also the perfect balance between his pop brilliance and boundary pushing tendencies.
20. Radiohead, ‘OK Computer’ (1997) Parlophone.
Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ crystallized in song a specific mood, in this case the fragile pre-millennial atmosphere of late 90s Britain with lyrics about yuppie culture, political malaise, paranoia and emotional isolation. A startling expression of human existence, bringing form to chaos and raising the bar.
19. Arctic Monkeys, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ (2006) Domino.
It’s the fastest-selling debut album by a British band ever (it shifted over 360,000 copies in its first week) and it’s now gone quadruple-platinum in the UK alone. No sales figures can convey the gut-punch excitement of ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. A hormone-drenched racket.
18. My Bloody Valentine, ‘Loveless’ (1991) Creation.
Shields’ magnum opus sounds like an authentic field recording from its author’s – or should that be architect’s? – sleeping subconscious: immersive and impressionistic, ‘Come In Alone’ and ‘To Here Knows When’ sounded as if they were being beamed in from another plane of consciousness. ‘Loveless’ was the genre’s music of the spheres.
17. Public Enemy, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’ (1988) Def Jam.
The most striking aspect of Public Enemy’s second LP is how it still sounds like the future. Noisier than punk, funk only in the most technical sense and with Chuck’s righteous sloganeering spliced between Flavor’s manic cackles and declamations, it redefined the possibilities for rap, rock, soul and beyond.
16. Joy Division, ‘Closer’ (1980) Factory.
Released two months after singer Ian Curtis’ suicide, it’s almost impossible to untangle ‘Closer’ from the events that surrounded it. Joy Division produced a record that perversely thrived because of the weight of its own burden, a record that writhed with an all-encompassing internal atmosphere that would go on to influence artists to this day.
15. PJ Harvey, ‘Let England Shake’ (2011) Island.
PJ Harvey had always wanted to make an album about war. But she knew that to fully convey the horror of that bloody string that ties history together required a level of strength and depth as a writer that would take years to accomplish. It was a masterstroke of lyrical poetry, a piece of work that will continue to live through the ages.
14. David Bowie, Low (1977) RCA.
‘Low’ is still the most powerful and influential of Bowie’s late-70s records; it opened unimagined doors of possibility as to what a rock album, and even a rock song, could be, while the fusion of pain and joy in the process of healing beamed bright.
13.Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004)Rough Trade.
The Montreal collective’s debut saw them contemplating nothing smaller than life and death itself. ‘Funeral’ captured a broad, mature and considered philosophical spirit rarely found in popular music. The whole package sparked a shift in music, putting intensity, grandiosity and scale of ambition back on the agenda, and introducing nu-folk boom.
12. Patti Smith, ‘Horses’ (1975) Arista.
A scrawny girl from New Jersey with a truckers’ accent, Patti Smith was a punk poet like no other. ‘Horses’ roared with hunger. Never for commercial success, but a hunger for art, for honesty, for beauty. Screeching and visceral, raw with fury and full of desire, it’s chaotic poetry. Rapturous rock n’ roll.
11. Nirvana, ‘Nevermind’ (1991) Geffen.
Tackling subjects such as suicide, abduction and Kurt Cobain’s disintegrating relationship with his then-girlfriend, Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail, Nirvana’s second album ‘Nevermind’ would sell over 30 million copies worldwide and define the grunge era.
10. Oasis, ‘Definitely Maybe’ (1994) Creation.
Oasis’ debut album came from a background of grit and graft, lager-splashed hedonism and domestic battles far more troubling than any French festival guitar-smashing that would estrange the Gallagher brothers later in life. But rather than wallowing in it all, they soared above the squalor.
9. The Beatles, ‘The Beatles’ (1968)Apple.
While it’s easy to feel like you know every beat of ‘Revolver’ or ‘Abbey Road’, ‘The White Album’ remains The Beatles’ dark continent, vast enough to retain some mystery, varied enough to still surprise. ‘The Beatles’ proved that the group were just as brilliant while unravelling as they were when everything was fab.
‘Doolittle’ saw Pixies perfect their slasher pop aesthetic, creating an artifact that drew you into their clutches with the fascination of horror flick teenagers checking out the thumps in the basement. More than any schlocky death metal gorefest, ‘Doolittle’ was the most evil album ever made. But the devil clearly still had a monopoly on all the best tunes.
7. The Stone Roses, ‘The Stone Roses’ (1989)Silvertone.
The Stone Roses were a band for all seasons, pulling influences from dance music and psychedelia, indie and rock and fusing them into one effortless whole. And here was an album that managed to utterly encapsulate the baggy Madchester scene of the moment and that would continue to influence bands to this day.
6. Pulp, Different Class (1995) Island.
On one level it’s a brilliant pop record, full of songs custom-built for the indie disco. On another it’s full of Cocker’s idiosyncratic takes on song-writers fancying people and taking lots of lovely drugs. It’s also much more than that. ‘Different Class’ is the sound of Pulp smuggling some deeply subversive truths into our record players.
5. The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) Verve.
The Velvet Underground & Nico has been worn smooth by the years. Nowadays, it is just the baptismal font of hipness. It’s the one unbroken link that takes you from Richard Hell to The Ramones to Joy Division to The Jesus & Mary Chain to OMD to Pulp to The Strokes to whatever’s happening a week next Tuesday.
4. The Strokes, Is This It (2001) Rough Trade.
Albert Hammond Jnr: ”That was just the set list we had been playing, it was underneath our fingers and the feeling was one of extreme excitement. I felt like it would succeed to the point where we would be able to make another record. I felt like we were a really cool band playing really cool songs, like we were awesome…”
3. David Bowie, Hunky Dory (1971) RCA.
If the message of ‘Changes’ was that nothing lasts forever, it’s ironic how that song has gone on to become his most enduring hit, and ‘Hunky Dory’ his most time-tested album. Forget the glitter, the Spiders, the weird eyes, it was Bowie’s incredible song-writing gifts on ‘Hunky Dory’ that convinced us he was beamed from the stars.
2. The Beatles, Revolver (1966). Parlophone.
Far and away the best album of rock’s Phase One, virtually every one of these 35 minutes brought a fresh revelation, featuring more stylistic and cultural innovation in its first ten minutes than most other bands achieve in their lifespan. Slacker pop, psychedelia, new wave, dance: ‘Revolver’ is the fountainhead, and we’re still drinking deep.
1.The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead (1986). Rough Trade.
What distinguishes it as the greatest ever made? For one thing, timelessness. It is a state-of-the-nation address which seems impervious to the passage of years. Morrissey and Marr compliment each other perfectly. It is one of those select few albums which seem to transcend its influences, working them into something singular and new.