Today, Saturday, 12th October 2019, National Album Day returns to the UK for the second year. To mark the occasion, music fans, artists, DJs, labels, record shops and the wider music community are coming together to host a series of special events. This year’s National Album Day is themed ‘Don’t Skip’ – both to encourage fans to discover albums – new and classic – in full, as a complete body of work that tells a story. It’s all a part of a mission to get the nation to enjoy the album from beginning to end, without hitting that skip button. We've enjoyed over 70 years of albums; classic, life-changing, first, influential and even the ones we couldn't live without. Albums mean different things to different people – but there is no denying the huge impact they’ve not only had on our lives but on British pop-culture as we know it. Here at the British Music Experience, we asked some of our crew to write a few words about their favourite British albums and we’re celebrating by listening to a handful from start to finish throughout the day. Whilst for most there are a whole host of albums that could stake such a claim, our crew were able to whittle down their favourite to one particular album each that stands above the rest for one reason or another. Their selections are varied and eclectic, some of the biggest British albums of all time and a few more obscure – see for yourself below, and hopefully you’ll feel inspired to pore over your own collection and have a listen from start to finish too.
Oasis - Definitely Maybe (1994)
Oasis in a list about great British albums? No shock there then! I remember when I first heard this as a 12-year-old and it’s been a love affair ever since. With anthemic songs such as Supersonic, Live Forever and Slide Away, this has been the soundtrack to much of my life; from holidays and family occasions to moments where I needed picking up. This has everything and shaped me into who I am today. I could have easily pick any of their first three albums, but this is by far my favourite and their best. I went mad fer it!
By Adam Blaney
Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight (2008)
The Midnight Organ Fight 2008 by Frightened Rabbit is the most beautiful, brutally honest collection of songs. It’s brilliance for me is that it finds a way to balance sadness and light. It’s all about coming to terms with life and all its surprises. The album starts off with The Modern Leper. ‘’I’ve got this disease I can’t shake and I’m just rattling through life’’ My favourite tunes? Acoustic driven Poke. ‘’I might never catch a mouse and present it in my mouth’’ or Head Rolls Off with the lyric ‘’while I’m alive I’ll make tiny changes to earth’’.
Sadly the singer Scott Hutchison is no longer with us and I guess that makes the album even more poignant.
By Richey Featherstone
Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
As a lifelong Depeche Mode fan, it was just a case of which album to pick. With Music for the Masses, DM really were playing to the masses across America, culminating in the now famous concert in front of 70,000 at the Rosebowl. Quite a challenge to top that, but they certainly did with Violator, released in 1990. This is the album that I feel sees DM at the peak of their creativity. Less pop and industrial than its predecessors, lighter that what followed; more rounded, more mature and enduring. The singles, namely Personal Jesus, Enjoy the Silence, World in My Eyes and Policy of Truth complemented beautifully by the serenity of tracks such as Halo and Waiting for the Night. The best albums stand the test of time, and Violator sounds as beautiful today as it did when released.
By Jo Cester
Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)
An album released just a couple of days before I was born, I was a bit late getting into metal music, but I’ll never forget the day I decided to give this album a full listen. One day as a student with time on my hands I lay in bed, put in my earphones and selected track one, Battery. Wow! Spanish guitars open this supposed seminal trash metal album, but it isn’t long until you’re a couple of minutes into a brutal onslaught, and what is possibly Metallica’s heaviest song. I once heard someone say that they listened to Battery and was afraid to listen further, as the rest would surely be a let-down. It isn’t! The next song is the title track Master of Puppets, which is an undeniable classic amongst the metal fraternity, an 8-minute opera of beautiful brutality that rings out in every metal club night to this day. Yes, all of them. The album is only 8 tracks long, but each track is over 5 minutes and tells tales of madness, war and fear. These are cautionary tales told by a thrash band, who hold nothing back, and displayed that heavy music shouldn’t be afraid of using melody. It’s possibly the most influential metal album ever released and every time I hear it, I’m taken back to lying on my bed as a student thinking “Wow”! Check it out.
By Craig Middlehurst
Jamie T – Panic Prevention (2007)
Up until Panic Prevention was released in early 2007, I was mostly listening to music I had read about in NME sitting at a computer on the social networking site Myspace, where you could find two or three songs to stream on a band or artists page – I was yet to discover the joy in listening to an album from start to finish. It was on Jamie T’s Myspace page that I first listened to album singles Calm Down Dearest and Sheila and a couple of B sides that inspired me to go out and buy a physical copy of the album, and it is one that I have found myself listening to regularly ever since. From raw album opener Brand New Bass Guitar to the freestyle rap on epic closing track Alicia Quays, and everything in between, I soon realised I had found a complete set of tunes that I really resonated with and loved listening to. Panic Prevention was a snapshot of teenage confidence and confusion with brilliant lyrics and samples, and different songs seemed to fall under punk, hardcore, indie, rap and jungle which opened up totally new genres to me when looking for new music to listen to. I remember reading a review at the time that labelled Jamie T “the lovechild of Billy Bragg and Mike Skinner doing his best Joe Strummer impression”, which I think sums him up perfectly. A razor-sharp storyteller with an acoustic bass guitar and an old Casio keyboard that keeps me coming back over a decade later and will take me back to 2007 for decades to come.
By Ben Heywood
Cradle of Filth – Cruelty and the Beast (1998)
Released on the 5th of May 1998, Cradle of Filth released (to many of us fans their magnum opus) Cruelty and The Beast, a concept album based on the life and crimes of the infamous Hungarian "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Bathory (History sometimes refers to her as "Countess Dracula"....heavy indeed).
This album was universally lauded upon release and to this day holds up strong as a sprawling Black Metal masterpiece of epic proportions, not only for the genre as a whole but especially for UK black metal scene (usually cast aside in favour of Norwegian BM bands), as it's symphonic, Gothic overtones lent a creepy and sinister and bloody atmosphere to the music that was previously lacking to such a degree, outside of Norwegian Black Metal bands such as Dimmu Borgir and Emperor.
These elements, as well as the narrative that runs through the album as a whole, heightens the drama with each track to the point where you can almost smell and taste the stale, irony tang of blood in the air whilst listening through.
Starting with the atmospheric instrumental "Once Upon Atrocity" and heading straight into the mercilessly crushing " Thirteen Autumns and a Widow" (to this day my favorite CoF song), through to "The Twisted Nails of Faith" and album closer "Lustmord and Wargasm (The Lick of Carnivorous Winds)", this album outright refuses to loosen its grip in its unremitting heaviness (both musically and in terms of often graphic lyrical matter) and it's sheer, unapologetic, sprawling ambition.
This album provides an almost unmatched darkness, production as blood soaked as it's subject matter and is as utterly brutal in its heaviness as it is beautiful in its symphonic grandeur and all of this combined to produce one of the finest UK metal albums ever, regardless of sub-genre, and established Cradle of Filth as pretty much the only serious, legit UK competition to our Norwegian neighbours in the Black Metal scene.
An album easily worth 666/10 indeed!
By Joe O’Sullivan