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Twenty-Five Great Debut Albums

List Of The Day

Obviously, there are more than 25 great debut albums. (Y! Music's disclaimer department is getting testy with me for using up this year's allotment so soon.) There are tons more I could've thrown on here, but for some reason I didn't.

Do keep in mind, I'm saving some bands for my lists of Best Second Album, Best Third Album, Best 14th Album and other beating-a-dead-horse-even-deader blogs. Figure, I'm like the guy at the TV Networks who sees that a show with competing fashion designers is popular and so decides to run four of them at the same time until you're so sick of the idea that you almost prefer going back to those other programs where they still offer you the "most dramatic rose ceremony yet!"

Anyhow, here are 25 debut albums that were either a band's best work, something that changed the "game" in some way, or through time have become albums that an imaginary consensus sees as important. (Bands with stupid EPs or import-only albums make the counting of this kind of stuff more annoying. When that occurred, I decided to hell with them.)

25) The Dead Boys--Young, Loud And Snotty: Sure, every Hot Topic kid knows The Ramones or the Sex Pistols or the Clash, and deservedly so, but to leave out Cleveland's finest is to act like NYC and London matter more than other geographies and that isn't so. However, I must admit, maybe it's a cultural bias, but I don't think the first Gorky Park album changed the world the way it might have for some.

24) Them--Them: Of all those bands from across the Atlantic, only Them with Van Morrison managed to make a debut album that didn't sound like someone rushed them into the studio with a handful of blues tunes they learned six months previous. Morrison was already a better singer than Mick Jagger and his band was tougher than the Beatles. The Kinks and Who needed to learn what a producer was for. Even whatever might be called filler here sounds pretty damn serious and determined.

23) Metallica--Kill 'Em All: Others may have done it first. But we can't count every kid with a guitar in his garage here. Metallica took heavy metal and turned it into thrash metal, speeding it up and turning the chaos of hardcore punk into the logical order of metal's unholy reign. (Can I get a job at Kerrang yet?) Obviously, I'm picking them because they've gone on to sell millions of records and even people who hate metal say they like these guys. Besides, who doesn't love a band with a $40,000 a month therapist trying to teach them how to get along? I bet the Sex Pistols could've had a long, productive career if only someone had taken the time to understand them.

22) Wire--Pink Flag: Concept-rock doesn't get much better than this. Short, punctual tunes that read like French poetry translated through the morse-code system. (Cottage?)

21) Television--Marquee Moon: Big shocker here, but I've never cared for Television. I think it's because no one in the band can sing. Other people I like a whole lot tell me they're great and I have no heart to disagree. Personally, I prefer the Cars' first album where Roy Thomas Baker turned a New Wave band into Queen. But I have more important things to get onto here.

20) The Pretenders--The Pretenders: This is where I look at these stupid number ratings and think about how silly they are. There are days when this could be in the top ten. But then Belle and Sebastian's Tigermilk could also be on this list and it's only not here because I didn't hear the damned thing until years later and it, therefore, sounds out of order to me. I'm penalizing bands for my problems. I think we should rename this blog, List Of MY Day and let my bi-polar tendencies work themselves out in real time, instead of this bizarre "objectivity" I occasionally and erratically adhere to.

19) The Sex Pistols--Never Mind The Bollocks: Somebody once accused me of being a "rockist," which I guess is better than constantly being picked on for being short and unattractive. I don't go around liking music because it will make me seem cool to others. Since "others" are rarely in my car or in my room where I do most of my listening. I enjoyed the Sex Pistols first album. I also bought several of their other "products," including Sid Vicious' solo album, Sid Sings, which is completely lousy in an interesting way, which is preferable to those albums that are likable in a boring way.

18) Patti Smith--Horses: I'm not the world's biggest Patti Smith fan. I like her. I like what she stands for. But when it comes to her music, I get pretty bored right around the time of Easter. Only select tracks from there on out. But this debut album, like the "Piss Factory / Hey Joe" single that preceded it, is pretty awesome. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I played "Birdland" really loud the night of my father's wake and it freaked my aunt out. It made me feel better.

17) Ramones--Ramones: I once traded this album for the cassette of Wings' Venus and Mars. Thankfully, that was the only dumb trade I can recall. I rescinded my trade of Led Zeppelin albums for Ted Nugent LPs once I realized I liked Ted Nugent far less than Led Zeppelin. Since then, I mostly give albums away, so I can feel like a superior, kind person and not someone who always gets the crappy end of the deal.

16) Black Sabbath--Black Sabbath: History has decided these guys are more important the Jeff Beck Group, Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly and Deep Purple. Then again, in a hundred years, who knows what people will think or care about? Will they argue this album over Sabbath's second, more popular album, Paranoid? Or will they shovel dirt on the whole thing and decide Moby was the Mozart of our time? You can't trust the future.

15) Richard Hell And The Voidoids--Blank Generation: I'm not one to buy albums for the guitar playing, per se. I'm definitely a singer-first kind of guy, but the crazy relationship here between Robert Quine and Ivan Julian is enough to make me bend my rules. After all, a nervous breakdown is always great fun to listen to. To hear it brought to you in squeaks and solos makes you think you can pick up a guitar and do it. Except you can't.

14) The Modern Lovers--The Modern Lovers: The story here is too convoluted to fit in this neat little space, but this album, which is really a set of demos, mostly produced by John Cale, and eventually released by Matthew King Kaufman, is one of my all-time favorites releases because it's everything I ever wanted in a band. Great lyrics, a singer who can't really "sing" and a stripped down sound that allows you to hear every piece of the puzzle at once without losing its cohesion.

13) Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention--Freak Out: Who releases a debut double LP? (Am I forgetting someone?) But few deserved the chance to do so more than crazy ol' Uncle Frank. While his career eventually turned into one of the most difficult to follow, due to his incredibly prolific nature and his love for recording everything and giving it funny names, Freak Out remains one of the greatest places to start your learning.

12) Pink Floyd--The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn: I'm not one of those people who thinks Pink Floyd went downhill after Syd Barrett. I think David Gilmour was a worthy replacement and I like much of ol' cranky Roger Waters, too. But there was an intriguing quality to this debut album that is missing from their later work. Makes you wonder what would've become of the band if someone else in the band had gone crazy instead.

11) Can--Monster Movie: Only a handful of people would've picked this album back when it was released or even several years after. Am I some guy jumping on the bandwagon? Probably. I haven't dedicated my life to sorting out the different strains of Krautrock and I pretty much enjoy this album the way I enjoy many pieces of music that make me scratch my head, go "huh" and then chuckle. The fact that so many bands sound like they listened to this album could be real or an unnerving coincidence.

10) The Velvet Underground And Nico: The biggest mistake made by bands that followed in the Velvets' wake is that they believed the Velvets were a blueprint for something special. When, in fact, it was the Velvets who were special. They weren't supposed to be endlessly copied by bands that liked (needed?) to use feedback in order to cover up their material defects. The Velvets were by design an "underground" band. At least as long as John Cale was with the group. You're supposed to find your own subculture, not wax nostalgic for someone else's. It's right there in the Bible: Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Underground Status.

9) Jimi Hendrix Experience--Are You Experienced?: This blog has spent a lot of time discussing the greatness of Jimi Hendrix and this debut album is pretty much an explosion from left-field or wherever surprising new sounds come from. I mean, I could've chosen the first Moby Grape album instead, but then more people would've complained! And I'm all about peace, love and getting the stalkers off my lawn.

8) Mark Lanegan--The Winding Sheet: I remember when I got a promotional poster for this album. It seemed surreal. "The First Solo Album From The Singer of The Screaming Trees." Was there a market for this kind of thing? What next? Alternative-rock singer-songwriter solo albums? Then I heard the thing and stopped laughing. Better than anything the Trees ever pulled off. It also kickstarted an actual solo career that's proven worth checking out if you're into that sort of thing. Just so happens, I am.

7) Talking Heads--'77: Here's a case where I realize that nearly everything I love about this band was done best on their debut album. Not that the following three didn't light up my life, but this album gave me hope to carry on. Besides, I liked the idea of rock n' roll with a dose of politeness. It sounded rebellious and perverse.

6) Leonard Cohen--Songs Of Leonard Cohen: Bob Dylan's first album was interesting. But Cohen had the advantage of starting up his music career with age and wisdom and a path already partially paved. That said, he still had to write the songs. Personally, I never need to hear "Suzanne" ever again. But "The Stranger Song" still makes me want to slamdance in a library. How many tunes have that effect on anyone?

5) Nick Drake--Five Leaves Left: Whereas I might be someone who is jumping on the "Can" bandwagon, I am not one jumping on the Nick Drake turtle race. First time I heard him, I was knocked out. (Thankfully, long before he sold cars for a posthumous living.) I asked a friend if it was all as good. He said yes. I bought the Fruit Tree box and I have sold so many copies of his complete works to people who have become diehard fans that I deserve a finder's fee from the Drake family.

4) The Smiths--The Smiths: The Smiths were actually a better singles band. They knew the power of the 45. This debut album, however, is pretty amazing (you want a better description, listen to the thing and realize how pointless words often are when describing music). To think a grown man could whine like this and make me like it. It's probably because I think he's being funny--on purpose.

3) Joy Division--Unknown Pleasures: To think I hated this album the first time I heard it. Then, one night the tape cued up to "New Dawn Fades" and it all made sense. From there, I've never lost my grip. I've also found that many other people share my enthusiasm--and many others do not. Ah, the humanity!

2) X--Los Angeles: Someone once suggested to me that X were nothing more than a bunch of b-movie actors trying to channel a rock n' roll band with warmed-over Chuck Berry riffs and "poetry." As if there existed a purity test for all potential rock n' rollers. I really don't care if they're the sons and daughters of royalty. I couldn't stop playing this album when I first bought it. Maybe these days I'm too jaded to ever feel that excitement ever again. I hope not. Because I really like feeling that way.

1) The Doors--The Doors: Loved, hated. Ruined by a PR campaign that made them look like an insufferably pretentious group. The Doors are many things to many people. How could I leave so many deserving folks off the list and then put these guys at number one? Because I knew if I put the Blues Magoos' Psychedelic Lollipop at number one (or even Procol Harum's debut), you people would really complain. As it is, admit it, you're only moderately annoyed. "The End" is still one of my favorite wastes of ten-plus minutes and "Twentieth Century Fox" insists on "No Clocks." As Ten Years After once explained, "It's about time."

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