Sunday, 21 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.22 "Germ Free Adolescents" X-Ray Spex (1978)

Germ free adolescents!

X-Ray Spex are rapidly becoming one of my favourite punk bands, I suspect it's partly that weakness for brass again but they did as much as any other punk band to break down the walls of the established music industry. I also like the way Poly Styrene often sings the name of the song title before launching into the lyrics.

Both Sex Pistols & X-Ray Spex albums made my seventies list too and are effectively standalone albums that nailed everything the band's wanted to say first time out. Poly Styrene was a true individual who had trained as in opera and turned that into one of the most recognisable voices in contemporary music.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.23 "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols" Sex Pistols (1977)

Next the first entry in a UK Punk double header ...

Even growing up in sleepy suburb in Surrey the Pistols were big news, though I knew more about them from bits in the newspaper than anything on music radio or television.

I remember walking into class in my final year at middle school and finding a bunch of boys crammed round one of those portable record decks that everyone seemed to have, listening to Friggin' In The Riggin' from The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle soundtrack. This would have been early in 1979, by which time the Pistols were all but over, but even a ropey cover of a traditional bawdy drinking song was enough to light a spark in my head.

When I eventually picked up a copy of the Pistols debut album I was amazed at how musical it sounded. The raw energy is key, and Johnny Rotten's ferocious lyrics stand the test of time, but they were a pretty fine rock band too. Whilst their fire burned bright and briefly their impact on the British music scene was immense.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.24 "Down By The Jetty" Dr. Feelgood (1975)

Bit of pre-punk rhythm & blues?

I spent way too long dismissing the Feelgood's based on only really knowing their later hit single Milk & Alcohol (thanks Shuft!) but as I discovered Roxette and She Does It Right I began to realise the error of my ways.

I saw the brilliant Julien Temple film about the early days of the band, Oil City Confidential. The soundtrack to that film is an excellent compilation of the bands best early tunes too, and that led me to pick up a copy of the magnificent Down By The Jetty.

Wilko is a wonderfully unique and brilliant guitarist. I was very grateful to see him live this year and, following the news he is recovering from a possibly life-saving operation, I hope to see him again soon.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.25 "Fire Of Love" The Gun Club (1981)

Garage Punk trailblazers in at 25.

I spent a long time confusing The Gun Club with The Tom Tom Club, and Jeffrey Lee Pierce with Jeffrey Lewis for some inexplicable reason (actually it was because I'm an idiot). Not that I have anything against either of those other artists, it's just the confusion meant I didn't realise what I was missing out on.

I was put right by the inimitable Mr Marc Riley on 6music and then really got hooked after seeing Japandroids play a superlative cover of the amazing For The Love Of Ivy.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.26 "3/5" Les Savy Fav (1997)

Next, as Jetplane Landing once sang, "Why do they never play Les Savy Fav on the radio? The only punk band left in America!"

It took me until 2007, ten years after this blistering debut, to properly discover Les Savy Fav but having made the break through with the Let's Stay Friends album it didn't take me long to realise they've been brilliant throughout their career. I think 3/5 is probably their best album but they've been so consistent picking one album is really an exercise in semantics.

They're amazing live too, Tim Harrington (incidently not the same Tim Harrington mentioned in the Master's of Reality post) is a fantastic presence on stage and absolutely one of the great front-men I've seen.


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.27 "Script For A Jester's Tear" Marillion (1983)

I was never the trendiest of kids at school so it's somewhat typical that I got into a style of music that was as far from fashionable as it was possible to be in 1983.

Marillion were the first band that I really became obsessed with and also kick started my addiction to live music. I'd overheard some older boys talking about them on a school athletics outing and wrongly assumed Marillion were a really cool band. I picked up a live album (Real to Reel) on tape from Boots and quickly fell in love with it. I was getting into Genesis around the same time but only new their newer material so wasn't aware of the influence at all.

I got my first copy of Script on cassette from the Britannia Music Club. It came in a rather pleasing cream coloured box, and took me a while to get to grips with but eventually became my gateway for a really serious Prog exploration.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.28 "Iron Maiden" Iron Maiden (1980)

The next two albums date back to the early eighties which were ground zero for my serious music obsession ...

This album was the punky explosive debut of a band that would go on to become giants of the Heavy Metal scene. I have a soft spot for this line up of the band, preferring Paul Di'anno's vocal tone to Bruce's powerful scream and Clive Burr's punkier drumming style.

Running Free was released as the band's first single and saw them become the first group to perform live on Top Of The Pops since The Who in 1972. The 7-minute epic Phantom of the Opera is still a big live favourite and probably marks Steve Harris' first move towards the more "proggy" feel of Iron Maiden's later work.

Iron Maiden, Prowler & Invasion are re-recordings of songs that appeared on their debut release, The Soundhouse Tapes E.P., while the cover sees the first appearance of the Derek Riggs designed band mascot Eddie the Head.


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.29 "Pod" The Breeders (1990)

The album at 29 is epic by comparison to the previous entry but still only just squeaks past the 30 minute mark.

Pod is a brilliant album that gave Kim Deal her first bit of freedom outside of the Pixies. Seen as something of a super group at the time with Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses and Josephine Wiggs of The Perfect Disaster forming the core of the band. The songs are mainly Deal's though and show exactly why she must have been frustrated within the confines of the Pixies.

Also, Pod is produced, or more accurately engineered, by Steve Albini. I'm a big fan of Albini recordings, he's a fascinating character who is the antithesis of big money mainstream music business folk and whose involvement in an album is a good sign it will be worth a listen. There will be further Albini entries before this list is done.

Thrillingly, last year, I got to see The Breeders play Pod and second album, Last Splash, in full and in order at The Forum in Kentish Town. It was the first time I'd seen the band live and was a wonderful night that will live long in the memory. The video below is from that show, I was standing a little to the left of whoever took it.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.30 "Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy" Billy Bragg (1983)

Yet another album that makes me regret making such a big fuss about the full length album thing.

Seven songs in less than 16 minutes but it officially qualified for the UK Album chart on release so fits my slightly erratic internal rule set. I first encountered Billy Bragg thanks to an Andy Kershaw report on the mid-eighties relaunch of Whistle. Kershaw had been roadie come tour manager for Billy Bragg early on and was an enthusiastic promoter of the Bard of Barking. That TV piece certainly captured my imagination and I soon picked up a copy of Life’s a Riot ... on tape from the library.

I loved the raw guitar sound and passionate tone of Billy's vocals. He's a great songwriter too and Kirsty MacColl's version of A New England became a proper hit the year after Life’s a Riot ... came out reaching number seven in the UK Singles chart.


Friday, 12 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.31 "Read Music / Speak Spanish" Desaparecidos (2002)

Now the debut and (so far) only album by a band that included a musician who has been very prolific in a number of guises.

Desaparecidos are, for want of a better word, an Emo band put together by Conor Oberst to kill time between the folk and Americana work of Bright Eyes and his solo albums. It was the first Oberst album of any style I got and I bought it entirely on the basis of a printed press review. Just like the good old days.

I thought it was pretty good on first listen but this was one of those albums that grew on me over time. By the end of the year I realised I'd played it more than anything else released that year and it's stayed a firm favourite ever since.

The band then vanished from the face of the Planet for a good 10 years.

Brilliantly they got back together to tour in 2012, largely thanks to a campaign by Songkick Detour, and in 2013 I got to see Desaparecidos play the album live at an amazing gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.