10 of 2002’s best debut albums

Celebrate a vintage year

The year 2002 saw some of the world’s best bands taking their first steps. Many of the year’s finest debuts are being peddled to this day, referenced by countless new acts and cited as game-changers worth celebrating. Some drew heaps of acclaim at the time. Others were panned, only to become instant commercial smashes or cult favourites years later.

As Interpol announce an anniversary tour for the classic ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, we look back on the greatest debut albums turning 15 in 2017.


Interpol – ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’

Release Date: 19 August 2002
What we said at the time: “It could be as warm and emotionally satisfying as a hug from a piece of industrial cutting machinery but Interpol temper this album with real atmospheric sadness.”
What they’re doing now: They’ve just announced huge anniversary shows, cementing the seminal status of this unforgettable debut, while working on a new album set for release in 2018.

The Libertines – ‘Up the Bracket’

Release Date: 14 October 2002
What we said at the time: “the funniest, most twisted London rock band since Campag.”
What they’re doing now: Up the Bracket’ nearly topped NME’s best albums of the 2000s, coming second only to The Strokes’ ‘Is This It’. Post-reunion shows and comeback album ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’, their next venture is to start their own hotel. Pete Doherty claimed bandmate Carl Barât was spending his advance on the official Libertines Hotel, “open to anyone who’ll pay the bills”.

The Streets – ‘Original Pirate Material’

Release Date: 25 March 2002
What we said at the time: “As UK garage takes on more and more of the lifestyle accessories of the US hop-hop scene, Mike Skinner, the 21-year-old who’s the man behind The Streets, represents a brilliant break with cliché.”
What they’re doing now: Skinner recently said he wouldn’t know how to make another album as The Streets. Right now, he’s focused on instrumental work, collaborations with artists including London rapper Oscar World Peace, and filming the odd music video, like for Formation’s ‘Powerful People’.


Hot Hot Heat – ‘Make Up the Breakdown’

Release Date: 08 October 2002
What we said at the time: “What distances this modern day classic from skinny-tie bandwagon hoppers is the sheer weight of clever ideas and the ripeness of their stock in trade.”
What they’re doing now: Their art-punk heyday fizzled out fairly quickly — 2016 saw Hot Hot Heat returning with a self-titled, back-to-basics fifth studio album, which would be their last.

Justin Timberlake – ‘Justified’

Release Date: 04 November 2002
What we said at the time: “Though NME has only heard the album once (Jive won’t let it out of their office for fear of bootleggers), Timberlake, having failed to imprint his personality on ‘Justified’, simply stands or falls on the strength of the songs.”
What they’re doing now: Perhaps a few more listens would have changed NME’s mind at the time. ‘Justified’ put Timberlake top of the pop pile, outselling former band NSYNC and becoming one of the biggest stars in the world. Last year’s one-off ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ single cemented this, topping the charts in 17 countries. He’s working on a fifth studio album with Timbaland, Pharrell and super-producer Max Martin.

Ms. Dynamite – ‘A Little Deeper’

Release Date: 10 June 2002
What we said at the time: “‘A Little Deeper’ promises everything. The opening anti-drugs rant finds Daley growling “Fuck coke, fuck Ecstasy/My music get me as high as I need”. The fantastic reggae shuffle of ‘Dy-Na-Mi-Tee’ follows, and you have to agree with her.”
What they’re doing now: It’s over ten years since Ms. Dynamite released a studio album, but she’s appeared here and there through collaborations with Katy B and Swedish pop star Elliphant. Save for that, she finished fourth on ITV1’s Hell’s Kitchen in 2009 — nothing tops that.

The Coral – ‘The Coral’

Release Date: 29 July 2002
What we said at the time: “Tunes so joyous you thought they only existed on dusty 45s in ancient pub jukeboxes appear regularly through the mist.”
What they’re doing now: 2016 saw the release of eighth studio album ‘Distance Inbetween’. And former member Bill Ryder-Jones continues to make his trade as a successful solo artist and producer, working with the likes of The Last Shadow Puppets and The Wytches.


The Vines – Highly Evolved

Release Date: 14 July 2002
What we said at the time: “Fun as the current colour-coded garage band revival is, ‘Highly Evolved’ makes it look at best inconsequential, and at worst, foolhardy. It’s that sort of album.”
What they’re doing now: ‘Highly Evolved’ marks the Aussie group’s musical peak so far, but they’re currently at work on a seventh album called ‘In Miracle Land’.

The Polyphonic Spree – ‘The Beginning Stages of…’

Release Date: 23 September 2002
What we said at the time: “If positive vibes have you reaching for your Kalashnikov, here they’re enhanced by moments of profound melancholy.”
What they’re doing now: Music is on the backburner for the mammoth choral outfit, and their last studio album came out in 2013. One member, however, has fared pretty well — St. Vincent began her career as a member of the Polyphonic Spree, before starting a stratospheric solo career.

The Cooper Temple Clause – See This Through and Leave

Release Date: 11 February 2002
What we said at the time: “Their appeal may be difficult to define, but they’ve definitely got it.”
What they’re doing now: After the departure of Daniel Fisher, the group called it quits in 2007. They released two more albums — 2003’s ’Kick Up the Fire, and Let the Flames Break Loose’ and 2007’s ’Make This Your Own’ — before the split.