The 100 Best Debut Albums Ever

80. Wolfmother - Wolfmother

Whether it was ever a masterpiece is a moot point but it was close enough and a game changer at that. Dimension and the absurd White Unicorn (Moody Blues on dangerous steroids) don’t exactly hold back with the latter’s cheeky Riders On The Storm keyboards rip-off creating a stunning impact. Turns out mainman Andrew Stockdale was a bit of yer actual gonzo visionary. And it has that great Frank Frazetta album cover. 

Wolfmother contained no less than six hit singles, and the band’s music appeared in numerous video games, films and adverts. The landmark debut also won Best Breakthrough Album and Best Rock Album, while the band took home Best Group at the 2006 Australian ARIA Music Awards, and the hit single Womanwon the prize for Best Hard Rock performance at the Grammy Awards in 2007, by which point the album was certified five times platinum. Ripper.

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79. MC5 – Kick Out The Jams

Punk was ripped from the womb at The MC5’s two-night-stand in Detroit, even if the resulting live album was doomed to micro-sales after Rob Tyner’s battle cry “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” meant major US chains refused point-blank to stock it.

The album finally got its dues when everyone finally caught up. The album opens with that sermon, delivered with that signature conviction Rob Tyner had on every recording he ever put his voice to: a battle cry for everyone who was kicked around and is still relevant to this day. Name checked by pretty much any popular band of the last 50 years, this album was cathartic enough for Lemmy to start Motorhead.

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78. New York Dolls - New York Dolls

The album that straddled glam, rock’n’roll and punk, this debut was produced by none other than Todd Rundgren, who said of the record: “I’m not too sure it was possible to capture in the studio what this band were really all about. But maybe we ended up with something different to what you saw on stage yet equally as valid.”

The album was recorded in just eight days. Underpinned by themes of sex, drugs, alienation and dysfunction, New York Dolls had the balls to pick up where the Stones left off. And whatever the band lacked in proficiency and sophistication they more than made up for with an attitude that spiced their bare-to-the-bones rock’n’roll with a rawness that spoke the same language as disenchanted youth everywhere.

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77. The Who – My Generation

My Generation wouldn’t even be in the top three albums by The Who. Hell, it probably wouldn’t even make the top five. In terms of sonic experimentation and narrative exploration, the band would develop and progress into a much more accomplished act than the group of young mods featured on the cover of their debut record. But - and it is a big but - as far as debut records go, My Generation was the most explosive arrival any rock ‘n’ roll band had made back in 1965, and as a statement of intent it was leaps and bounds ahead of the first couple of albums by the forefathers of the British Invasion, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The Who tried to put it down, feeling that it didn’t capture the visceral smash-and-grab of their shows. But a generation fell for this whip-cracking debut, which tears from cockney-inflected soul like Out In The Street to the proto-punk clatter of the title track with more energy than the Duracell bunny.

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76. The Mars Volta - De-loused in the Comatorium

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s heads were exploding with ideas after walking out on At The Drive-In, but few expected their next step would be as mind-blowing as this. In an industry where musicians buckle and compromise all the time, They never stopped doing whatever they wanted to do.

"Someone played me De-loused in the Comatorium in 2003." says Turbowolf's Chris Georgiadis. "I was blown away and it captured my imagination immediately. The playing was really frenetic, and songs like Inertiatic ESP were really atmospheric and trippy, with some really far out sounds, and incredibly intense drumming. When that song kicks in, it’s spectacular.

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75. Michael Schenker Group – Michael Schenker Group

The first Michael Schenker Group line-up had all the big names you could ask for: ex-Montrose drummer Denny Carmassi, future Mr Big bassist Billy Sheehan, drummer Simon Phillips (from Jeff Beck’s band) and legendary session bassist Mo Foster plus current Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey. The album itself was produced by Rainbow’s Roger Glover, after Schenker turned down Mutt Lange. Tough yet anthemic rock songs like Armed & Ready, Victim Of Illusion and the epic Lost Horizons made the album a Top 20 success in the UK. 

During the making of it, Michael buckled under problems with alcohol and drugs. “I hospitalised myself,” Michael explained. “I’d been taking tablets for stage fright – the same ones that killed Keith Moon – and they were highly addictive. It was a tough withdrawal.” Myriad personnel changes and self-inflicted damage would ensure meant that they never bettered this debut calling card, and MSG had already reached their commercial peak in Britain.

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74. Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine

Nine Inch Nails’ debut didn’t start the industrial revolution, but it pushed metal machine music into the mainstream. Recorded on a computer and a keyboard sampler, with drum sounds imported from Public Enemy, Scritti Politti and Prince records, Reznor’s studio project arrived fully formed and reeking of sex, violence and chemically enhanced debauchery. Though it failed to breach the Top 40, singles Sin, Down In It and, most notably, the thrillingly propulsive Head Like A Hole became club and college radio staples, nudging its creator into the spotlight as the underground’s latest sullen anti-hero.

“I grew up listening to Kiss and all the other classic hard rock bands of that period,” NIN mainman Trent Reznor admitted. In reality, Pretty Hate Machine was a fascinating mix of classic 80s rock plus touches of industrial sounds. It wasn’t the full-on electronic explosion of later years, but it was far more accessible.

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73. Alice In Chains – Facelift

Facelift was released in August 1992, and it sounded like nothing else at the time. Black Sabbath were seen as an over-the-hill joke by the turn of the 1990s, and few bands wore their influences as openly as Alice In Chains. Even more unique were Layne Staley's and Jerry Cantrell’s intertwined harmonies, either heavenly or hellish depending on the song. But with grunge yet to take root in the broader public consciousness, it was a tough sell, as the band found out first hand.

At first, radio wouldn’t touch it because they said that Layne’s voice was wrong,” says producer Dave Jerden. “It was just a station in Texas that put it on syndication and the reaction was wild, so everyone followed suit.”

MTV eventually picked up on the Man In The Box, and Facelift started to rapidly gain traction. Having sold just 40,000 copies in its first few months, it shifted more than 400,000 copies in six weeks on the back of that one song. Before Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Soundgarden, Alice In Chains had become the first of Seattle’s grunge bands to crack the mainstream.

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72. Santana - Santana

With Woodstock providing the mother of all springboards, the San Franciscans’ debut ushered a black-and-white world into a groovy West Coast utopia where Tijuana rhythms tumbled with blues licks, and vocals were superfluous to the eloquent voice of Carlos Santana’s guitar.

"His playing was, and is, extraordinary," says The Strawbs' Dave Cousins. "I don’t know how he gets that liquid guitar style, which has so defined him. There’s a loping rhythmic feel to what he does, and when you combine that with his ability to solo like nobody else, you have the magic of Carlos Santana. Perhaps his greatest asset is the warmth of his performances. Listen to what he does on record, and this clearly comes through. 

"He created a market, really. He must have been the first guitarist to bring the Latino rhythm and approach into rock and make it work on such a scale. He began something all those years ago, and perhaps it’s the greatest compliment you can pay him that the Latin sound has become such a feature of rock."

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71. Wrathchild – Stakk Attack!

A teetering platform heel of an album, Stakk Attakk is a low-rent sleaze-fest full of tacky posturing and barking-mad bubbleglam anthems. Misspelling the titles (Law Abuzer, Alrite With The Boyz) only added to the songs’ absurdly infectious charms.

“The surprise of the season - if not the century!", wrote Classic Rock's Geoff Barton in a glowing review. Not only have “Worcestershire Glam wallies” Wrathchild come up with an excellent album; they’ve also made one of the records of ’84. 

"In the simplest terms, Stakk Attakk is a pure pop-metal delight. Producer Robin George has tarted up the band (if such a thing were possible!) by concocting a chintzy Chinnichap sound and adding wacky studio FX, inventive backing vocal arrangements, guitar synthesisers and the like. The band seem to have been inspired and motivated by George’s studio expertise; they grit their teeth and go for it on every one of the ten trax, singing and playing with astounding enthusiasm and maturity."

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