15 ALBUMS

This 15 Albums that have changed one's life meme is floating around all of the social networking sites and I've decided to have a go at it. Having hundreds – hell, maybe thousands – of albums that I listen to, I was curious to see if I could narrow it down to fifteen and to think about which albums really affected me as opposed to just naming my favorite ones. The surprising thing as I look back over the list is how many of these albums were legitimately popular. Several actually went Platinum and beyond. Being someone who listens almost exclusively to unpopular and somewhat obscure music this was unexpected. But I suppose that it took exposure to an important handful of popular albums to start me down the path toward the obscure ones. That has always been my personality, to find something that appeals to me and then to start doing research to see where else it leads. Thus NIN led to Brainiac led to Trenchmouth led to Nomeansno. Nirvana begat the Jesus Lizard begat Shellac.

This is the result, not that it really matters to you. Feel free to add your own in the comments. Or don't. For the record, it pains me to exclude some albums I really love (i.e., Exile in Guyvilleor Trenchmouth v. the Light of the Sun) because I couldn't call them influential. Sorry, no butt-rock. The 80s had almost no effect on me. I am a child of grunge and I retain an extensive collection of flannels.

15. Rage Against the Machine, Evil Empire: It's easy as an adult to consider their politics sophomoric, but this album hit me pretty hard when I was 16 and thought Ayn Rand was cool. I think they deserve a hat-tip for exposing younger audiences to messages that, at least in the pre-Internet days, were not widely disseminated.

14. Mindless Self Indulgence, Alienating our Audience: These guys/girls are just so unhinged and bizarre that I can't help but like them. They are my Captain Beefheart. Pure insanity. Falsetto, screaming, distorted guitar, odd time signatures, techno beats, lyrics mostly about hookers and blow…it's the perfect "We do not give a shit if you like this, this is what we do" album. Which, you know, kinda sums up TremFu.

13. Local H, Pack up the Cats: I still insist that this is the most underrated album of the last 20 years. It's their Dark Side of the Moon. "500,000 Scovilles" into "What Can I Tell You" is probably this band's high water mark.

12. Weezer, Pinkerton: Not going to lie, this album pretty much carried me through my first break-up and all of 1999.

11. Tool, Ænima: Ditto. I still can't believe this album was popular. I still can't believe that a band got radio airplay for a single based on the theories of Carl Jung. I still can't believe how many high school football players and fratboys have headbanged to songs about gay sex without realizing it.

10. Pixies, Surfer Rosa/Doolittle: Not everyone listened to the Pixies, but everyone who did joined a band.

9. Shellac, At Action Park: Shellac and Brainiac successfully weaned me from popular music. Everything else here is a result of that. I also loved the idea that someone's guitar would intentionally sound like a food processor.

8. McLusky, McLusky Do Dallas: Best album of the 00's, hands down. So simple, so inimitable. This is the kind of songwriting I wish I could do.

7. Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral: This band was essentially all I listened to in high school. The release of this album occupied the better part of 18 months of my life.

6. PJ Harvey, Rid of Me: Such a great start-to-finish piece of music. Made me realize the importance of listening to albums as a whole, not picking out tracks like links of sausage.

5. nomeansno, Wrong: 1989! So far ahead of its time, it isn't even funny. Miles Davis meets the Descendents, plus Canada.

4. The Jesus Lizard, Goat: Hadn't heard anything like it before, haven't heard anything like it since. It's harsh, it's incomprehensible, and I loved it at first listen.

3. Brainiac, Bonsai Superstar: Given the kind of crap I was listening to when this album came out, it sounded like it came from another planet. I was hooked and, for the first time, aware of the fact that there was good music that wasn't on the radio. Still in my all-time Top 5. RIP, Timmy.

2. Nirvana, In Utero: Introduced me to Steve Albini, caused me to pick up a guitar and start writing songs, and I've stolen just about everything I've ever done with drums from Dave Grohl. Yeah, this album was pretty influential. I listened to it daily for about 4 years. It was a great Eureka! moment when I played this through headphones and thought, "Wow, the drums sound like drums! Instruments sound like instruments without 75 layers of compression!"

1. Bill Hicks, Arizona Bay / Relentless: Not music, but album(s) nonetheless. Everything I hadn't been able to understand for 18 years suddenly made sense when I heard it. I can honestly say it changed me. I've always sucked at fitting in and acting like a normal person; after I heard this, I didn't feel like I had to.

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13 Responses to “15 ALBUMS”

  1. ignatov Says:

    I love Bill Hicks. The great ones always go too soon.

  2. Rob Says:

    MSI recorded that AoA record at a show i attended at CBGB. you can see me in a crowd photo inside the sleeve.

    also, great summation of the pixies stuff. reminds me of that pitchfork "25 greatest touch and go releases" list where they were talking about spiderland and all they said was: "you try saying something new about spiderland"

  3. Chris Says:

    There are individual songs that have been equally or more influential to me, but I'll stick to albums, in no particular order:

    Alice in Chains – Dirt
    Pearl Jam – Ten
    Blues Traveler – Blues Traveler
    Live- Throwing Copper
    Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery, Trilogy
    Frank Zappa – Various Albums (One Size Fits All, Joe's Garage)
    The Beatles – Various Albums (Abbey Road, Revolver)
    Our Lady Peace – Naveed
    My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
    Jesus & Mary Chain – Honey's Dead, Automatic
    Mad Season – Above
    Neil Young – Harvest
    REM – Automatic for the People
    Soundgarden – Superunknown
    Boston – Boston

    I agree that Rage, NIN, Nirvana, and Tool are awesome

  4. dbsmall Says:

    Until I read your list, I thought I was a pretty 'fringe-listener'. Gosh, I guess I'm actually mainstream.

    (If I find the time, I'll do a list on my website…)

  5. Michael Says:

    Wow, I'm 15 for 15… not a single one I've heard of…

  6. Brandon Says:

    Rid of Me effin' rocks, nice call. Love that title track. My list would probably be more mainstream and more 80's-friendly. I'll try to think something up.

  7. Brandon Says:

    All right, here we go, in no particular order:

    Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run
    Metallica, Ride the Lightning
    Guns ‘n Roses, Appetite for Destruction
    Skid Row, Skid Row
    Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street
    Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
    John Coltrane, Impressions
    Bringing Out the Dead soundtrack
    Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
    Van Morrison, Astral Weeks
    Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
    The White Stripes, White Blood Cells
    Credence Clearwater Revival, Chronicle, Vol. 1
    Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
    Alice in Chains, Dirt

  8. kreggg Says:

    all of what ed sed sans brainiacs and nomeansno, cuz i never heard of em.

    Only because I'm not a drummer, can I say I might choose bleach over in utero for awesome raw power and grunge-y-ness. However I know a few drummers, and I know I'd get shouted down. (bleach!)

    then add:

    At the Gates
    Dillinger Escape Plan

  9. Dustin Says:

    Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
    Oasis – What's the Story Morning Glory
    REM – Murmur
    Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience
    Brand New – Deja Entendu
    Taking Back Sunday – Tell All Your Friends
    Weezer – Pinkerton
    Decemberists – The Crane Wife
    Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica
    Tom Petty – Wildflowers
    Northstar – Pollyanna
    U2 – Joshua Tree
    Margot and the Nuclear So-So's – The Dust of Retreat
    The Wallflowers- Breach
    Silversun Pickups – Carnavas

  10. boski Says:

    Excellent as always.

    Here is my palrty list, and as someone mentioned above I have had more songs that have affected me and my life. So I present and I am willing accept the scorn and ridicule of my list.

    Joshua Tree – U2
    Blue Sky Mining, Red Sails In the Sunset, 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 -Midnight Oil
    Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me – the Cure
    Kid A- Radiohead
    El Oso – Soul Coughing
    Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches – Happy Mondays
    Title of Record – Filter
    Ill Communication – Beastie Boys
    Clash on Broadway CD1 & 2 – The Clash
    Endtroducing . . . DJ Shadow
    A Man and His Music Frank Sinatra
    Appetite For Destruction – GNR
    Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine

  11. beau Says:

    IV – led zeppelin
    head on the door – the cure
    number of the beast – iron maiden
    blood sugar sex magic – red hot chili peppers
    bleach – nirvana
    betty – helmet
    how to clean everything – propagandhi
    the shape of punk to come – refused
    today's empires, tomorrows ashes – propagandhi
    relationship of command – at the drive-in
    de-loused in the comatorium – the mars volta
    sunset studies – augie march
    medulla – bjork
    hail to the thief – radiohead
    …and then nothing turned itself inside out – yo la tengo

  12. pmayo Says:

    1.) Beastie Boys– Paul's Boutique
    2.) A Tribe Called Quest– Midnight Marauders
    3.) Pearl Jam– Ten
    4.) Pixies– Surfer Rosa
    5.) NOFX– Punk In Drublic
    6.) Nirvana– In Utero
    7.) Bon Iver– For Emma, Forever Ago
    8.) Johnny Cash– Live at San Quentin '69
    9.) Alice In Chains– Dirt
    10.) Thelonious Monk– Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane
    11.) Wu-Tang Clan– Enter the 36 Chambers
    12.) Interpol– Turn On the Bright Lights
    13.) Unicorns– Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone
    15.) Nick Cave and Warren Ellis– The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford

  13. The Pretty Things Videos Says:

    I have to say, enjoyed the read, thanks.