Entering the scene with a solid debut album is important in the music industry – it sets the precedent for an artist’s career along with being the first, and in some cases, the most significant steps they take. These albums have been selected for their decision to break away from the norm, as well as their contributions to their respective genre.
10. The Clash – The Clash
An unlikely combination of frantic guitars and laid-back reggae beats come together in this shockwave of an album. Despite its very much contemporary topics, ranging from race (‘White Riot’) to the music industry itself (‘Garageland’ and ‘Remote Control’), even now, The Clash still howls with anger.
9. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True
Too self-aware for punk, but too acerbic for new wave; Elvis Costello created his own idiosyncratic and oxymoronic image – an impossibly trendy nerd – as well as emerging as one of the best songwriters and lyricists. His efforts peak with ‘Alison’, a sharply-penned lament about watching something beautiful die.
8. The Strokes – Is This It?
While Radiohead, Beck and others were shifting over to the more electronic side of things, these New York rockers didn’t dare ditch their guitars. Instead they embraced the grittiness and gave modern rock skinny jeans and a different, much cooler name. The Strokes managed to revamp New York punk with Julian Casablancas’ descriptions of young urban life – regret in ‘Someday’ and all out apologies in ‘Hard To Explain’.
7. Patti Smith – Horses
The godmother of punk rock in all her glory: Horses is the definitive statement that rock poetry wasn’t dead. Opening boldly with ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine’, it becomes immediate that this is one of many more unforgettable lines to come.
6. De La Soul – 3 Feet High And Rising
De La Soul arrived at the forefront of the jazz-rap revolution, and rightly so. Who cares if they lack the pure aggression or confrontational lyrics of Public Enemy? Rap may have taken a few steps back from that, but they were the first truly reflective and meticulous ones. You’ll be singing along with ‘The Magic Number’ not because of its authority-defying nature, but its playful and easygoing attitude.
5. Arcade Fire – Funeral
Macabre, morbid, and melancholy are the three M’s that sum up this unbelievably original debut. Tales of familial and neighbourhood disputes, ebbing love, and death are illustrated beautifully, with the help of near symphonic orchestration. Yet all the while, Arcade Fire have their roots set in some unprecedented kind of theatrical punk/dance hybrid that any sane person wouldn’t have touched – and it all works faultlessly.
4. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
The Velvet Underground & Nico is the alternative rock album before alternative rock. Every element within this album clashes – John Cale’s minimalistic approach to production, Nico’s harsh, cold vocals, and Lou Reed’s nonchalantly told stories of drug addiction and male prostitution – yet overall, there is no dissonance. Although not fully realised at the time, this album has made much of what we now know rock music to be today.
3. The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols
‘A cheap holiday in other people’s misery’ sings Johnny Rotten shamelessly, simultaneously deeming everything that came before it irrelevant in doing so. It might have been the only studio album to be completed by The Sex Pistols, but that doesn’t undermine the terrifying effect it had – the hateful remains of Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols can be heard everywhere.
2. The Ramones – Ramones
Fuelled by feelings of alienation and teenage angst, this album delineates perfectly what punk rock is and should be. Johnny Ramone’s exhilarating power chords and refusal to do solos stripped rock back to the bone: bleating vocals, raucous guitar, and drums with a simple bass line to follow it. Practically all the songs are less than two and a half minutes long, which makes this album the quintessential testimony to punk rock’s short but action-packed lifespan.
1. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced
Jimi Hendrix extended the vocabulary of the electric guitar so much, it might as well have been another language altogether. His flash-of-lightning instrumentalism, married to the otherworldly rhythm section (Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums), birthed the beautiful psychedelic child that was Are You Experienced. Throughout the album, one simple fact begins to dawn: guitar feedback will never sound as melodic ever again.