By CandleJakk 4 Comments
**Long read ahead.**
People, by their very nature are defined in a very intimate way buy the music they allow themselves to be engulfed in, and is, for the vast majority of people, the strongest cultural connection they have, as it is readily available, for a relatively (sometimes) reasonable price, and free on the radio. I am a great believer that whilst you can know a person for years, unless you discuss music in depth, without it resorting to "Your favourite band 'X' sucks because....", you can become firm friends with strangers in fifteen minutes as opposed to fifteen days, months or years. It's almost unspoken though, this deep connection we have to complete strangers through a group of four or so people, who we will likely never meet.
This aside, for the moment, I will tell you the albums that have defined my life, and made me who I am, if I can remember, I will tell you where or who from, I found out about the band, and why these albums have changed my life, for better or worse.
This album came along at the right time for me, not long after my Grandfather died, I must have been about ten or eleven at the time, and it had hit me pretty damn hard, it was almost completely unexpected. I mean, we knew he wasn't well, but he was a tough old guy, even at 84. He used to fascinate me as a young whippersnapper with his war stories, going through Ethiopia in WW2, and being in one of the first squads to advance into Rome to end Mussolini's tyrannous regime.
The album itself deals a lot with depression, which I was convinced I had at the time. (I didn't, I was upset, but didn't fully understand it). Nevertheless, I always felt I could relate to the sentiments in the music and the lyrics, but the whole album holds a fantastic silver lining quality, gently reassuring you that it's all going to be okay in the end. It may not have worked for their drummer at the time, but it helped me through a lot. This was the second album I ever bought. Incidentally, Feeder are amazing live, despite me not liking anything they did after Echo Park.
Most Influential Track - Under The Weather (even if the most famous track is 'Buck Rogers').
(In case you're wondering, Slade's Greatest Hits was the first album I ever bought).
2. The Clash - Combat Rock (1982)
It wasn't until I was in year 8 or 9, so I would have been about 12 maybe 13 at the time, that I began to take an active interest in music, and exploring what felt right for me. I sat on a table in French Language classes with some left-wing people, who I found shared the same political ideals as me, and got recommended The Clash as being a band I should listen to. After a shift at my Saturday job (which didn't last long, I was fired for being too short), I picked this up in HMV for about £7.
The album completely blew my mind, it was nothing like anything I had heard on the radio, and it wasn't until I looked closer that I found the reason. It was from 1982! This blew my mind. I owe a lot to this album. If it wasn't for this album, I would never have been introduced to Joe Strummer's brilliant lyrical powers, his passion was nothing I'd noticed in any other bands that were being touted as amazing at the time. (Stereophonics, Travis, Maroon5 to name a few lackluster examples doing the rounds). I would never have discovered just how much I love modern political history, and the resulting impacts it had. Paul Simonon's fretwork inspired me to pick up and learn to play Bass, even though I'd never own one until 6 years later. It's fair to say, that this album completely changed my life, and I don't think any album will ever have an impact that holds such gravity on me again.
The most amazing thing about this album? Just how much of it is still relevant today, save a few minor details.
Most Influential Track - Just listen to the whole damn album. (Spotify link, will hopefully work, if I'm not a total klutz).
3. The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy & The Lash (1986)
This is a brilliant album about death, thinly disguised as a jolly old jaunt through a mix of traditional and more modern Irish folk songs, with a wonderful punk twist. The Pogues helped form the genre 'Paddy Punk', with this being arguably the genre's most defining album.
I find it hard to say what makes this album so special in shaping me, perhaps because it's possibly the first album I turn to when I'm feeling down, or if someone I know dies, this will always be wheeled out.
This is invariably because it never fails to keep things in perspective. It reminds me that there's always an upside, even if you have to search for it, and no matter how bad things can seem, there are people out there, willing to have a good time, and lift your spirits, and even in death, there's a party to be had. Without The Pogues, and this album specifically, I wouldn't have been exposed to the wonderful fusion of Celtic Folk and UK Punk. Shane McGowan is undoubtedly one of the greatest poets of this generation.
A fantastic album that makes you feel for the characters involved, from the abused rent boy, to the wounded soldier. I should also point out I loved this album before one of it's tracks was featured in cop drama The Wire.
Most Influential Track - Body Of An American.
4. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Streetcore (2003)
This pretty much affirms my love for Joe Strummer's lyrical prowess, and skill as a musician all round. From the guitar arrangements melding with his superbly crafted lyrics in 'Coma Girl' to the chapel-esque nature of 'Arms Aloft' and the greatest tribute to Bob Marley, with a sublime cover of 'Redemption Song'. This album has been key in decided my last year of my life. (As in, last 12 months I've lived, past not future tense. I'm not going to top myself). It has divine beauty in it's subtlety, and is a fantastic album for getting you in the mood for festival season. This is a brilliantly uplifting album, which retains just the right amount of seriousness. I have smoked my fair share of marijuana to this album, and I love it just as much as I do sober, which is a testament. This album seemed to teach me the pleasure of moderation, and if anything prevented me from going off the rails, which I was on the verge of doing recently.
Most Influential Tracks - Coma Girl, & Redemption Song.
5 - Streetlight Manifesto - Everything Goes Numb (2003)
A few of you may have noticed, I seem to mention Streetlight Manifesto a fair bit, if too much on the main forums, so it's only natural for them to appear in this list somewhere.
I have my friend from college, Tommy to thank for introducing me to this band in 2007/8. Without this sudden refresh of ska in my ears, I'm not sure how many gigs I'd have been to by now, or if I'd even be studying at Leeds Metropolitan University right now. I have been a fan of ska for a long time now, but only really known 'two-tone' bands like Madness and The Specials. This album was transferred to my laptop, and I listened to it, within two days I was introduced to Capdown's 'Civil Disobedients' album, and in less than a week, I was going to their penultimate gig. Ever. It should stand to reason then, that that album holds this place, rather than Streetlight, but no. EGN was the album that completely opened my ears up to third-wave ska-punk, and without it, I wouldn't have bothered with Capdown. This album is probably the most defining of my college years before university, and without it, I would not own Sonic Boom Six, Capdown, Random Hand albums now.
Everything Goes Numb is one of my most listened to albums to date, falling behind only London Calling and Rum, Sodomy & The Lash.
Most Influential Track - Point/Counterpoint.
There are naturally, going to be a few honourable mentions on this list so here they are.
Metallica - Ride The Lightning (My favourite Metallica album yet).
The Clash - London Calling (My favourite album, ever, but not as influential as Combat Rock was).
Capdown - Civil Disobedients
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde, Blood On The Tracks
Johnny Cash - The Essential. (I know it doesn't count as an album, technically, but hey, all of Cash is gold).
Well, if you made it this far, you must have more time on your hands than I do, but thanks for reading. I've probably bored you now with my sentimental, drunk, self-absorbed bullshit, so I'll leave it with this.
Definitely check these bands out, if you haven't already. And if you only check one song on this list, make it Redemption Song.
Oh, and if any links are broken, leave a shout.