Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.13 "F♯ A♯ ∞" Godspeed You Black Emperor! (1997)

The car is on fire and there's no driver at the wheel ... and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides ... and a dark wind blows.

That spoken word intro to Dead Flag Blues always brings a smile to my lips despite being as desolate a piece of prose as you're likely to find in contemporary rock. Godspeed have a sound to match, the soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic world (a fact not lost on film director Danny Boyle).

1997 was a year that re-ignited my passion for music after a mid-90s slump when I lost interest in new bands. Godspeed where thrillingly elusive, it took me ages to even find out the names of the band, and unlike anything I'd heard at that point. They have gone on to become one of my absolute favourite bands.


Monday, 29 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.14 "Horses" Patti Smith (1975)

More late seventies pre-UK Punk excellence ...

An album I love more every time I play it. Patti Smith is a wonderfully unique artist and Horses is simply brilliant.

I think I've been using brilliant quite a lot in these posts but frankly I'm running out of superlatives and, to be honest, words of any sort.


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.15 "Searching for the Young Soul Rebels" Dexys Midnight Runners (1980)

Is that the sound of brass I hear .... ?

This one must have been on 90% of the lists so far (there's been a few of us doing these for those of you not on Twitter).

If suggested listening to Dexy's to early 80s me I'd have laughed in your face. Well metaphorically, I'm too nice to actually do that but I'd probably have coughed awkwardly and tried to change the conversation. I was, as you'll already know if you've been keeping up, into Heavy Metal back then. I liked "proper" music, with loud guitars and even louder drums. I still do to some extent but there's now room in the chaos of noise for a bit of variety too.

I was also put off Dexy's by the constant radio play that Come On Eileen (from their second album) got. The dungarees and pencil moustaches didn't help much either. However, as you are no doubt tired of hearing, there's always a chance I'll work my way back to something eventually ...

... and I do have a HUGE weakness for brass.

Searching for the Young Soul Rebels is a wonderful record; great lyrics, amazing production, brilliant song-writing & bucket loads of brass.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.16 "Pink Flag" Wire (1977)

Next a late 70s band that I only got into recently ... Deja vu?

I first heard about Wire after Elastica massively ripped them off on their 1995 debut album. This eventually led to me buying a Wire best of, which I liked at the time but didn't result in any further exploration.

Marc Riley has played Wire a lot on his 6music show and that eventually convinced me to buy Change Becomes Us in 2013. That album made my Top 5 of 2013 and finally spurred me into getting the band's first three albums which are all utterly superb.

Second album, Chairs Missing, made my seventies list but hindsight has proved Pink Flag should have done as well. Pink Flag was released at the height of punk but is more arty than it's contemporaries, trailblazing a path for New Wave and Post Punk bands to follow.

By the way, I still love that Elastica album too, where would pop music be if you couldn't rip someone off every now and again?!


Friday, 26 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.17 "The Stone Roses" The Stone Roses (1989)

Next a album that defined a scene, even if the band didn't really consider themselves part of it.

1989 was the year I stopped reading Kerrang! and started reading the NME. Baggy was the first scene to hit and The Stone Roses were a huge part of that, whether they liked it or not. I wasn't completely convinced by the whole Madchester thing, but I liked a few of the bands and, once I'd got over the fact Ian Brown couldn't sing, was soon won over by the Roses too.

Their debut absolutely nailed the Baggy sound and I don't think the band ever got near those heights again. I never saw them live, which I regret a little now, but that record didn't leave my turntable for at least a year.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.18 "Dry" P J Harvey (1992)

Next a lady I first saw live at Wembley not long after this album came out ...

She was supporting U2 in the early afternoon at Wembley Stadium which wasn't the ideal environment for anyone to do well. I was only vaguely aware of her and my music tastes weren't as broad back then (I was at a U2 gig for a start!). However, I do remember enjoying the fact so many U2 fans didn't like her and that began to make me think she'd be worth pursuing.

There's a bit of a recurring theme in these picks that it takes me around 10 years to appreciate the best artists and bands. In keeping with that it was her fifth album, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, that finally won me over. I've been working my way though her back catalogue since then and love all the ones I've got.

After something of a false start, Polly Jean is also very near the top of my list of artists I REALLY need to see live.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.19 "Damned, Damned, Damned" The Damned (1977)

I gotta a feelin' inside of me, it's kinda strange like a stormy sea ...

Having grown up with, and largely ignored, Eighties Goth Damned it was only fairly recently that I really heard their first two albums. Machine Gun Etiquette is great but their debut Damned, Damned, Damned is my favourite and did well in my Seventies list too.

Having already beaten everyone to the punch by releasing New Rose (which opens side two) as the first single by a British punk group, The Damned proved their organisational skills were second to none by making Damned Damned Damned the first full-length album released by a British punk group. The album begins with the frenetic Neat, Neat, Neat and the energy levels rarely let up from that point on. Guitarist Brian James wrote all the songs on the album with the exception of Rat Scabies' succinct and spikey Stab Your Back and a great cover of The Stooges' I Feel Alright.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.20 "Murmur" R.E.M. (1983)

At number 20 the first full length offering from Atlanta, Georgia's finest.

I didn't get into REM until their major label years. In particular Out Of Time caught my attention and became the soundtrack to the summer of '91. I played that album a lot but, as is my wont, I soon worked my way through their back catalogue. Murmur couldn't be more different to Out Of Time but has become my favourite REM LP.

Michael Stipe's cryptic lyrics and occasionally impenetrable vocals are often remarked upon but I've always thought the suggestion of mumbled words were over stated. Mike Mills melodic basslines and harmonious backing vocals lighten the feel of the album and Peter Buck's trademark jangly Rickenbacker guitar shines throughout. Murmur also includes two of my favourite songs; Talk About The Passion and the heartbreakingly beautiful Perfect Circle.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No. 21 "High Voltage" AC/DC (1976)

It's a long way to the top, if you wanna Rock'n'Roll.

AC/DC had already released two albums in Australia before this compilation, combining the best of those two Oz LPs, came out, however, it was their official international debut so definitely counts for the purposes of this list. I love all the Bon Scott releases but this is my current favourite AC/DC album.


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.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.32. "The Smiths" The Smiths (1984)

Next one of the bands who loved the New York Dolls (the singer at least) even if their sound was totally different.

At The Smiths' peak I was a confirmed Metal Head, they were very much "the enemy" and I wouldn't have been seen dead with a Smiths album in my hand. A turning point in this attitude came after I saw the band on Top Of The Pops round at my Gran's. Morrissey was swanning about with foliage sticking out of his pocket and the audience were throwing daffodils at him. My Gran was completely bemused by the whole thing but I began to think there might be something to them.

Inevitably my tastes began to change as I got older, an event largely influenced by girls. In fact the breakthrough moment for me followed an encounter with an older girl at a party, who clearly felt that if I didn't like The Smiths I wasn't mature enough to be involved with. I went out and bought a Smiths album after that.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.33. "New York Dolls" New York Dolls (1973)

A band that were a big influence on at least two other artists on this list ...

The New York Dolls made my 70s list too. Their debut is a fabulous blast of trashy punk that never fails to put me in a good mood.

During my teen metal years I wasn't a fan of the hair metal glam inspire bands and ignored the Dolls for looking much the same. Of course the Dolls were the inspiration for most of those bands look but their music was light years ahead. I read the Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain book Please Kill Me and discovered the Dolls influence on the burgeoning New York punk scene that begat the Ramones, Television and many other great bands.

New York Dolls is a blast from start to finish. Taking their lead from the Rolling Stones and adding a glam-punk sheen to match their in-your-face cross dressing image. Personality Crisis & Trash are two of my all time favourite tunes.


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.34. "Field Music" Field Music (2005)

Next a band I got to love thanks to former Fall guitarist Marc Riley. I'd actually seen them live in 2006 and wasn't blown away but Riley's constant radio plays eventually wore me down and I'm very glad of that.

Field Music have since become one of my favourite bands, they're ridiculously talented and have ideas spilling out of them. They mine a seam that brings together elements of Indie Rock, Pop and Prog, which might not sound like it should work but absolutely does. They're well worth catching live where their instrument swapping antics are spellbinding.

The band are fundamentally the project of brothers David and Peter Brewis, though for the first two albums pianist Andrew Moore was also a core member of the band. They've always collaborated with other friends & musicians from the vibrant Sunderland music scene and many past Field Music collaborators have gone on to success with bands such as Maxïmo Park and The Futureheads.


Monday, 8 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.35. "Live At The Witch Trials" The Fall (1979)

An album from 1979 that would be the first in a very long list of releases ... and band line-ups.

It took me a long time to get to grips with The Fall and I'm still only a beginner but the albums I have Witch Trials and Hex Enduction Hour are both fantastic. I also have the mega-compilation 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong which I highly recommend as the prefect introduction to the band.

Despite the title, this isn't a live album, but it was recorded in a day and has the sort of energy that comes from not having to mess about with repeatedly playing the same tunes.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.36 "Funeral" Arcade Fire (2004)

Something more recent now from a band I've recently lost a bit of love for. They were a breath of fresh air when they first appeared and this album was a revelation.

I was looking for a new exciting band and was tipped off by a friend maybe a year before Funeral came out. I was a little slow on the uptake, and remember missing a gig at the University of London Union which is a massive regret now. The band already had a reputation for great live shows with loads of energy and instrument swapping and when I did eventually catch them, on the Neon Bible tour, they blew me away.

It only took me one listen to fall back in love with Funeral as I prepared this list and it did make me think I should give latest album Reflector a go. I didn't hugely enjoy The Suburbs though oddly that seems to be the album that sent them stratospheric. Mainstream music fans! Who knows what makes them tick?


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.37 "Black Sabbath" Black Sabbath (1970)

Now something from the dawn of Heavy Metal ...

The first six Sabbath albums are all brilliant and amazingly consistent. The self titled isn't my favourite (that's Paranoid) but it's very close and introduced the world to a whole new sound. Tony Iommi's finger chopping factory accident led to a unique style of playing that helped create the heavy throbbing riff that Sabbath became famous for and launched an entire genre of like minded bands.

Somehow I left Black Sabbath off my Top 50 Seventies albums, another mistake though partly motivated by not wanting to have too many albums by one band in the list.


Friday, 5 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.38 "The Punch Line" Minutemen (1981)

Remember how I said only FULL LENGTH albums count, then included Superfuzz Bigmuff? This next pick might be a bit contentious too ...

The total playing time for all 18 songs is a mere 15 minutes but it is OFFICIALLY their full length debut. So it counts and it's in. Of those 18 songs only two break the 1 minute mark and longest track Tension is 1 minute 18 seconds.

Did I mention I have a weakness for short songs?

I first discovered Minutemen when the two surviving members supported Shellac at the Scala in 2004. Minutemen formed in San Pedro, California in 1980 and were an integral part of the American Hardcore scene that also spawned Black Flag. Composed of guitarist/vocalist D. Boon, bassist/vocalist Mike Watt, and drummer George Hurley, Minutemen recorded four albums and eight EPs before Boon's death in December 1985. At the Scala show Mike and George played a set of Minutemen songs with no Guitar and Mike handling all the vocals. I didn't know any of the tunes but it was intense and captivating. Watt is an incredible bass player, my absolute favourite, and has played with a load of bands including a thrilling spell on tour with Iggy & The Stooges.

Their masterpiece is 1984's double album Double Nickels on the Dime, but the debut is the perfect introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the band. Seeing as the whole thing is about the length of a decent tea break I've included the full album in the video clip below.


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Top 50 Debut Albums - No.39 "Post Nothing" Japandroids (2009)

Japandroids are one of my favourite live bands and this album is a corker.

I absolutely love Post Nothing but it sounds 10 times better once you've seen them live. Japandroids are a ridiculously great live band. Loud punk, Indie-Rock, garage-blues, whatever genre floats your boat the bottom line is it's good, clean, sweaty fun. They're only a duo, Brian King on guitar & vocals and David Prowse on drums & vocals, but they'll blow your socks off.