Everyone loves a big, round number. They feel momentous. It didn’t matter to anyone except the most joyless pedants that, technically, the ushering in of the new millennium should have been celebrated at the beginning of 2001. A number has to end with a zero to feel special, and a row of zeroes only becomes more special.
I’ve put together this little article to mark the arrival of two personal milestones: firstly, this is the 300th article to be published under my name since joining The Monolith in 2013. I’ve also contributed sections to a host of other composite articles, but they’re a lot harder to count. Either way, four years in this is still an awful lot of fun, and I’m unspeakably glad that I answered the call for fresh writers when it was made. Writing here has exposed me to a frankly indecent amount of brilliant music, and made me a whole bunch of new friends. Thanks, guys.
Secondly, this year I celebrated my 40th birthday. I am told that I look somewhat younger than my years but, especially after watching an energetic band, I increasingly feel them in my aching bones. I should think about going to the gym.
So, taking this double opportunity to indulge myself, I’ve compiled a list of my forty favourite albums of all-time. As I’ve never really been known for brevity, I imposed a limit of forty words on my description of each album. Otherwise, you’d probably still be reading this when I hit fifty. These types of lists can only ever be a snapshot in time, and whilst my top ten is relatively set in stone, anything beneath that is liable to flex depending on my mood. Hell, were I to start from a blank sheet again right now, the list would probably come out slightly differently. Oh, I’ve also limited myself to one album per band for the sake of variety.
I’ve included Spotify links, should you want to explore the albums that both shaped and reflect my tastes. There are two bands, Earthtone9 and Tool, who have resisted the pull of Spotify, so there’s no links there. Sorry. But chances are you’re reading this on a device that can also be used to hunt that music down if you are so minded. And you should be, because they are incredible.
So here we go. I hope you discover something amazing, either through this list or my other extended ramblings on The Monolith. It’s why I do what I do. Here’s to the next 300.
Mr. Bungle – California
Mr Bungle did more than any band to shape my taste in music, showing that all musical rules can be broken. The eponymous debut is crazier, Disco Volante is darker, but California is the most mature, most complete. Essential madness.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Killer
For the last few years, Dillinger have been my favourite active band. Sadly, that must now change. Picking one album was very hard, but this one has all the mathcore chaos and anthemic choruses. Damn, I’m going to miss them.
ISIS – Panopticon
The post-metal godfathers at the very height of their creative powers. Panopticon is in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ of Isis’ career; everything before is heavier, everything after is softer, Panopticon is grandiose, beautiful, always enthralling and, occasionally, utterly crushing.
Fishbone – Give A Monkey A Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe
Coming out of the same scene that birthed the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone smashed punk, metal, ska, funk and soul into a particularly infectious, dance-able and socially conscious stew, and helped lay the groundwork for the early nineties funk metal movement.
Senser – Stacked Up
This album is the best summary of my teenage years: political rapping, heavy riffing and a garnish of electronica, it was the soundtrack to my flailing and futile attempts to stick it to The Man. Whatever ‘it’ was. Happy days.
*shels – Seas of the Dying Dhow
Like Devil Sold His Soul, *shels were born from the ashes of Mahumodo. Like the very best post-metal, they combine moments of delicate, aching beauty and crushingly heavy riffing. Life, as a great man once said, is all dynamics.
Agent Fresco – Destrier
One of the more recent inclusions on the list, Agent Fresco have been my most important musical discovery of the last five years. Quirky, interesting, anthemic art rock, and one the very few bands who have actually made me cry.
Faith No More – King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime
Of Faith No More’s four main pre-split releases, this is the one I return to most often. A raw and spiky kick against the mainstream attention that Angel Dust generated, it contains a beautiful ballad and an ode to shit.
Strapping Young Lad – City
For a very long time, City was the heaviest album in my collection. “Oh My Fucking God” indeed. It also kicked off an infatuation with Devin Townsend that is still going strong some twenty years later.
Earthtone9 – Off Kilter Enhancement
Earthtone9 never quite earned the commercial success they deserved, and this is basically a crime. The obvious go-to is ArcTanGent, which gave its name to the festival, but the heavier, rawer edge to these songs wins it for me.