I couldn’t help but feel referring to albums as ‘life-changing’ is a bit overdramatic. Waking from a coma to the sound of some religious gospel, which compelled you to follow your selected deity since you suspect that they saved your life, then maybe. However, after giving this a little more though, I realised that it might not be the overstatement that it first seemed.
NME recently compiled a list of albums, submitted by readers as their ‘life-changing’ albums. I’m not sure of a single album, as so many come to mind. For this reason, here are five, pretty much giving you all a quick skip through my musical childhood.
THE ‘PARENT ALBUM’
Meat Loaf – Hits Out of Hell
Yes, really. Having heard Dad playing it, I was intrigued and borrowed his Meat Loaf CD. He never got it back.
I think that this ‘best of’ is a breakthrough moment for me, as aged 6, I already knew that the ridiculous length of tracks were something special, to the point that I got a stopwatch to time ‘Bat Out of Hell’. This was the very first album to really draw me in, and played it a heck of a lot, enough that I would have happily played the aforementioned nine-minute-and-forty-three-second behemoth twice in a row.
At the time, I didn’t understand what Mr Loaf’s plea for sex in his car ‘Paradise By the Dashboard Light’ was about, and young enough that I was grossed out by ‘You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth’. Kissing? Ew.
This sentimentality led to me not being able to resist seeing him live at the O2 last year, which was great fun.
Favourite track: Bat Out of Hell
THE FIRST ALBUM
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory
2000. I was 10. This year saw a massive rise of sales of band hoodies. My friend mentioned to me this awesome hoodie that had the cover of this amazing band called Linkin Park’s new album, on the back AND the front! I needed it, but was irritated by the monstrous £28 that it cost. Mum bought it for me, and the friend was very impressed. This all happened before I had heard a single track by Linkin Park, something that I discussed on Steve Lamacq’s show (listen to me on Lamacq’s BBC Radio 6 Music show here).
It’s just as well that I liked the album. I asked for Hybrid Theory for Christmas, and loved it. This was my first album, and I think I chose well. Those screams of “shut up when I’m talking to you!” in ‘One Stop Closer’ were, as far as I was aware, the most awesome thing ever. Tied with those screams of “GO AWAY!” during ‘A Place For My Head’ anyway. This was the dawn of someone who wished he had the guts to be rebellious. However, I felt slightly short changed with the longest track being 3:36. I guess that Meat Loaf had his negative effects too.
This friend circle lead me to also be hooked on System of a Down’s Toxicity and Marilyn Manson’s Holy Wood. However, what came next was perhaps the most important of all.
Favourite track: Forgotten
THE FANBOY ALBUM
Muse – Origin of Symmetry
2002. I was being driven to a birthday party, and the birthday boy played me Muse’s Origin of Symmetry. I was blown away in particular by the sheer speed of Matt Bellamy’s fingers, and intense coda of ‘Space Dementia’. And what the hell was there a church organ doing in ‘Megalomania’? Linkin Park had been a rocking twist on the rap that dominated the charts, with Eminem taking centre stage, but this was plain bizarre. I had to hear the rest of this album. It’s no surprise that this was on my Christmas list.
At this age, I wasn’t following music news at all. However, with the release of Absolution, I had to get it as soon as possible. After Kerrang’s 5K review of their Earls Court shows in 2004, I was enticed by Muselive.com, signing up just to download the bootleg recording of that show, that a cruel friend went to without me. Eight years and 12,000 forum posts later, despite hating their last two album, I’m still there.
Favourite track: Citizen Erased
Outkast – Stankonia
2002. It was around this time that I listened to local station Power FM, avidly in the evenings to hear the Online Hitline show. Outkast’s ‘Ms Jackson’ was a mainstay on the countdown for weeks, but I still headed to Woolworths to buy the single. I was chuffed to bits when my cousin visited with a copy of Stankonia. It was then recorded to cassette for me to treasure for years. I have a photographic memory of forgetting that it was recording, and rewinding during ‘Humble Mumble’ to hear our favourite lyric (“Too democratic, republic fuck it, we chicken nugget, we dip into sauce like mop and bucket”) meaning that we had to play the song over again, but we didn’t care. It was awesome. After all, aged 12, this was the age where quality was gauged by the quantity of profanity.
This was the first departure that I had had from the genre that I followed for the entire time that I had followed music. I lost some ‘cred’ at school, for quoting an Outkast lyric in my MSN name (“What could make a nigga wanna take another nigga life…?”, from the infuriatingly titled ‘?’) and then making poor attempts to say that I didn’t, although everyone saw it. In the long run, it was a small price to pay. Over the years, more unusual albums would provide steps in being more adventurous, most notably Radiohead’s Kid A and Sigur Ros’s ( ), but this was where that transition began.
Favourite track: B.O.B.
THE TEENAGE LIFE CHANGER
HIM – Love Metal
2003. Rock was well and truly cemented in my taste, but this would be the album to shape a chunk of my teenage life, lasting several years. While without the others I wouldn’t be where I am today, this had the most profound instant effect. This was my real Jackass phase, thinking that Bam Margera was God incarnate and that the whole CKY ‘franchise’ was amazing. I was basically a skater boy… who never skated. Myself and friends made our own CKY style film around this time (entitled Random TV), consisting heavily of us jumping into bushes and sitting on all-terrain boards, luging, because we didn’t have the guts to stand up.
I fell in love with Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild by CKY, released in 2002, but it was HIM’s Love Metal that began this phase for me. As Margera gushed over them regularly, it was part of the whole community that we so wished that we could be a part of. I can also recall being really peeved that a friend’s copy of the album had a bonus track (‘Love’s Requiem’) and mine didn’t. It is all as corny as a cornfield, but it’s still fun to listen to.
Favourite track: Sweet Pandemonium