As I said last week, I have suddenly had a short flush of inspiration for these Tuesday Tens at the moment. This one has taken me weeks to collate, gave me lots of ideas, and perhaps even more music to re-evaluate. This week it's about debut albums, and in particular ones I really like or left a lasting impression.
There are many debut albums I really don't like, though – and this even applies to bands I otherwise adore. I can't stand the first albums from (to pick a few examples in my collection) The Afghan Whigs, In Strict Confidence, Spahn Ranch, Type O Negative, to name four. Maybe it's just because I got into all four bands a little further down the line. Maybe they simply weren't that great to start with. Other debuts captivated me for numerous reasons, either when they were released, or when I got to listen to them at a later point, and these are the ten that made this list. And when creating the shortlist for it, I came to the scary realisation that I had created a subject that was far too broad. So, a way of whittling it down – each act in the list had to have released two (full, as opposed to remix or compilation) albums to make the list. In other words, they had to have followed-up the debut with another album release. So that knocked out some of my favourite albums, but still left me with a "shortlist" of 24!
Post-industrial, barely as industrial got started. Or at least, something like that – I'd love to know exactly how this was received when it was released – and how fucking otherworldly this must have sounded. Wardance's primal call-to-arms – the brutal, pounding beat, that pulsing bassline, and Jaz Coleman's alien-sounding verse vocals, coupled with the roared chorus – is simply fucking magic, even now. The whole album sounds like the strange hybrid that it still is, too – the near-mechanical rhythms coupled with the raw emotion and scratchy guitars, and a testament, perhaps, of how fucking fantastic this album is, is shown in the enormous list of bands, across countless genres in metal, industrial, grunge, and perhaps even in electronics that owe this a debt in some way or another.
From around about the same timeframe as Killing Joke, but it could really sound much more different. One of the truly great hardcore albums, while this was the band's debut album it was already with their umpteenth singer – a certain Henry Rollins. It bristles with rage, power and a feeling of reality, in that the band had clearly experienced everything they were writing/singing about. So we have songs covering making your own mark in the world (Rise Above), drinking problems (Six Pack), the police (Police Story), oh and the goofy chaos of TV Party, where the idea of getting wasted and watching TV instead of something more positive is skewered. Another album with incalculable influence, this…
While this album got tangled up in the "trip-hop" boom during the mid-90s, this was a far more exciting, interesting and downright strange beast than it's nominal "trip-hop" tag could ever let on. From the wildly inventive electro-punk cover of Black Steel, to the Michael Jackson-sampling of Brand New You're Retro, the claustrophobic, pitch-dark lover's tryst of Suffocated Love, not to mention the slew of classic singles. Tricky never came close to topping this since, as he sank for a good few years into ever-dark weed-infused paranoia, but even fourteen years on this album remains a unique and endlessly rewarding listen.
Not perhaps something you'd expect me to include, but then I've always been a sucker for certain female singer songwriters. This album kinda crept up on me, and rather than hearing Criminal [Myspace video link] first, it was the sultry, dreamy opener Sleep To Dream that got me hooked. The whole album is a mellow, stately trip underpinned by Apple's deep, husky voice that holds the whole thing together. Not to everyone's taste, I'm sure, but I loved this – although I wasn't bothered by either of the two albums that followed.
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
While they've become perhaps a little more mainstream since, their debut was anything but. A chaotic, multi-instrumental album with a heavily punk attitude, all-but-indecipherable lyrics and songs about, well, I have no idea whatsoever. It may not be their best album, but as a statement of intent it was (and is) extraordinary, and the initial rush of opener Richter Scale Madness is pretty much worth it alone.
Pretentious? Yes. Wierd? Yes. But good? Most certainly. Raw, abrasive art-rock with a strikingly delicate flipside, this band were (and still are) a mass of contradictions that strongly divide opinion but have always been a fascinating listen. And this first album was where things all started, with the short-sharp-shock of Cold Fish to introduce things, countered by the pretty, sparse arrangements of Pretty Polly and Yesterday's Hymn amongst others. Oddly, though (and uniquely to me in terms of this list), this album only really grew on me once I'd seen their fearsomely intense live shows…
This was an album of straight-up hero worship that needs to be understood in the context of the time of release, perhaps. This album, when released, sounded for all the world like a Front Line Assembly album from the early nineties, updated using new technology. Which was, for us long-suffering FLA fans, great. FLA at the time were not good, seemingly devoid of ideas and with little future. It may be accidental timing, but this album got us all hooked, FLA returned a couple of years later with one of the best albums of their career (Artificial Soldier), and Dismantled chose to head down a more "pop" orientated path, which while gaining many new fans seemed to lose just as many "old" fans at the same time.
Both Deftones and SoaD first appeared in the midst of the "nu-metal" boom, but they were a league apart from many of their supposed contemporaries. While much has been made of Deftones' vocalist Chino Moreno's love of bands like the Smiths and the Cure, their influence is not immediately obvious on their savage first album – the production is raw, spiky and buries the vocals beneath layers of dry guitar riffs and harsh rhythms, and even when the vocals can be heard in the mix they are almost unintelligable – and as you listen you get the impression that Chino would rather it remained that way. The dynamics of the album are such, too, that the heavier moments are like punches to the gut – particularly the mid-album section involving Root, Seven Words and Engine #9.
System of a Down
SoaD took a different approach – vocalist Serj Tankian looking and sounding like the ringmaster of one insane, heavily-political musical circus. Nothing is done straight, with bizarre, unexpected rhythms, lightning-fast changes of tempo and vocal style, and surreal lyrical images mixed up with the politics, drawing heavily on their Armenian heritage. Never mind the perennial mosh-pit staple of Sugar, it's the brutal power of War? and the quick paced Ddevil that stick long in the mind for me.
Serenity Is The Devil
The sleek electro-thrills of this album took a while to register for many, I think – but before long IoC became one of the biggest bands in the industrial/electro/EBM scene, although Andy La Plegua seemingly became bored with the band and regrouped as Combichrist. Ironically as Combichrist have, er, evolved, in some respects they have become more like IoC than ever. Full of cold, pulsing rhythms, big choruses and even effective ballads, big swathes of this album have remained dancefloor staples, and I don't think Andy La Plegua ever got it as right as this again.