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The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Ten Great Debut Albums

Okay. Picture this. There you are, a fresh young band struggling like mad to somehow stick your music in other people's ears. Then one day it happens. You land yourself a dirty big grubby record deal. You probably proceed to keel over but you've no sooner picked yourself up off the ground that you find, among the bus tickets and chewing gum wrappers of your pocket, an advance from those friendly suit-toting record company boys and girls. A big fat wad of an advance it does be. What to do? Blow it on some admirable rock and roll excess? Or hole yourself up for a few weeks in a studio in an earnest attempt to deliver an incredible career kick-starting debut album? Or, if you have the tooth of the devil, might you attempt to do both? Anyway, humble reader, let us for the moment put to the side such dilemmas of the freshly-signed because here do come 10 great smokin', screaming, killer debut albums - as nominated and written by various visitors to CLUAS.

REM - 'Murmur'

Gomez - 'Bring it On'

REM - 'Murmur'Released in '83 Murmur' shot R.E.M. to success in the US college scene, winning Rolling Stone's 'Album of the year' while selling around a million copies. Largely a muffled and low-key album, it has none of the bombastic guitars and poppy tunes you might associate with later day R.E.M. It's a subtle - almost depressing - album distinguished by a particularly organic sound. Obscured lyrics, out of tune pianos and a touch of early 80's disco wound together by Peter's Rickenbacker pluckings and Mike's piano and 'lead' bass playing. Still one of my favourite R.E.M. albums, I've only been listening to it for 9 years. (submitted by Brian Scanlan) Gomez - 'Bring it On'Step back for a second to 1998. The year Gomez won the Mercury Music Award for their debut, probably the most justified decision in many years for that particular jury - and since then too. An album with a great mix of jazz, blues, rock and some pop thrown in here and there for good measure - a record that caters for so many tastes. Instrumentally, they pull it off with great ease - they may not necessarily be the slickest of musicians, but they succeed without doubt in creating a catching, seducing sound. Vocally it's just superb, with Ben Ottewell's bluesy, gravelly vocals playing lead most of the time, a perfect compliment to the warm feel of the surrounding instruments. (Submitted by Philip Dunlop)

The Band - 'Music from the Big Pink'

Joy Division - 'Unknown Pleasures'

The Band - 'Music from the Big Pink'The Band's groundbreaking debut album "Music from the Big Pink" created a music revolution all of its own on its release in 1968. It went on to influence some of the top musicians and songwriters of the time and gave a whole new direction as to how popular music would sound. The Band were of a rare breed in that they possessed not just one, but three great singers and songwriters in Danko, Robertson and Manuel. The end result was an album of eleven beautifully diverse, pure, superbly crafted songs. It's very simple - all you have to do is to listen to tracks such "Tears of Rage" (co-written by one Bob Dylan), "Wheels on Fire" and the closing "I Shall be Released" to see straight away why this is unarguably one of the great debut albums.
(submitted by Declan Power)
Joy Division - 'Unknown Pleasures'It's rare for the beginning of an album to still sound exciting 21 years after its original release but 'Unknown Pleasures' can justifiably claim this. One only has to witness the first few seconds of 'Disorder' where Peter Hook's doomy bass gives way to Bernard Sumner's screaming guitar. And then, the voice of God-like Ian Curtis makes its presence felt. It would be churlish to cherry-pick records when quality control is maintained throughout but 'She's Lost Control' deserves special mention; it tells the story of Curtis's struggle with his epilepsy. Like the rest of the Unknown Pleasures it is a magnificently intense moment. This seminal band proved that all the energy of the punk movement could be formed into something totally original and memorable. The follow-up 'Closer' was perhaps even better but this is where it all started. (Submitted by Jonathon Leonard)

Belle & Sebastian - 'Tiger Milk'

JJ72 - 'JJ72'

Belle & Sebastian - 'Tiger Milk'What more can be said about "Tigermilk"? Released as a college final year project by these Scottish hopefuls, only 1000 vinyl copies were pressed. Brimming with energy, great tunes and sweetly innocent (or are they?) lyrics, word of mouth made sure this band went on to a peculiar sort of stardom. Re-released in 1999 (what with so many bootlegs and floating around) to great acclaim (again). If you don't have it already, add it to your collection. And that's an order. (Submitted by R Lawton) JJ72 - 'JJ72'Recently only this year, this album is a stunning debut from the Dublin trio. Its songs explore the height and depth of human emotions. Lead singer Mark Greany's choir boy voice is a powerful instrument and a standout feature of JJ72's music. Singles such as 'October Swimmer' and 'Oxygen' have the ability to make their audience feel things that they've never felt before. This album also hints that the group has massive potential to do greater things in the years to come.
(Submitted by James Healy)

Jeff Buckley - 'Grace'

Tindersticks - 'Tindersticks'

Jeff Buckley - 'Grace'Measured. Soaring. Cathartic. Moving. Soaking.  Frightening. Engaging. Tragic. Prophetic. One could go on. And on. It has all been written before. The beauty, the voice, the potential, the tragedy, the loss. No one, I repeat - no one - should be denied this. It is beyond 'great'. Truly.
(Submitted by Martin Devine)
Released in 1993, the first Tindersticks' album managed to eclipse anything released that year. Despite accusations (that have continued to this day) that they manage to sound alike on every single song, this is an album of striking differences - try and compare "The Not Knowing", "Marbles" and "Jism" (by far the best song here). All in all the perfect experience to draw you into the warped but melodious mind of the wonderful Tindersticks. (submitted by B Whelan)

Sinead O'Connor
'The Lion and the Cobra'

Power of Dreams
'Immigrants, emigrants and me'

Sinead O'Connor 'Lion and the Cobra'Now this was quite something. It was 1987 and Ms. O'Connor took her musical destiny by the scruff of its emerging neck. Not just satisfied at being blessed with a voice from some heavenly, but haunting, place she insisted on this, her debut album, that she write, arrange AND produce the whole she-bang. What's more she was but a mere whipper-snapping 19 years old at the time. And pregnant. The result was a compelling and on occasion astonishing work. From the brash confidence of the single 'Mandika' to the almost unbearable anguish of 'Troy' it was clear that here was a singer who was set on hanging around for quite a while. (Submitted by Eoghan O'Neill) This came out when the rest of the world was convinced that shoegazing was the way to change the face of rock'n'roll. Maaaaaaan. Suddenly 'Immigrants, emigrants and me' appeared, delivered by 3 teenagers from Walkinstown, Dublin. Songs about what songs are supposed to be about. Music how music started. Filled with the angst and joy of being seventeen, this album comes off as an energetic, bouncy thing that just screams "WE'RE 17! WE'RE SIGNED TO POLYDOR! OH.MY. GOD!". The Power of Dreams went on to produce some unfortunate attempts at re-creating this, and some very unfortunate attempts at trend-setting hair-cuts, but never succeeded. God bless the acoustic guitar. (Submitted by Ray Heffernan)


Also make sure you check out the other ten lists:
(bullet) ten great film soundtracks
(bullet) ten great one-hit wonders
(bullet) ten great hidden album tracks
(bullet) ten great b-sides
(bullet) ten great rock & pop instrumentals
(bullet) ten great naff songs of the eighties
(bullet) ten great cover versions
(bullet) ten great album openers
(bullet) ten great Irish singles that time forgot