Britain’s music factories have been manufacturing a globally distinctive and established sound that has shaped music around the world. Despite aspects such as genre, texture and concept, British music has always had a certain refined production quality that signifies it as a part of our union flag. In celebration of our national sound, I’ve been asking Sparksite listeners the ultimate question in regards to the massive legacy our humble island has created throughout the decades. What is the greatest British album ever made?
Andrew Garforth: Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon. “Sublime, perfectly formed sound and moving words. Recorded 40 years ago, and it’s not dated one bit”. One of the vintage ornaments that rest on the shelf, Pink Floyd’s mystic flood of progressive-rock kaleidoscopic triumph from 1973 has passed through the smoke of rock and roll fame. Recorded at Abbey Road studio’s in London, Pink Floyd’s signature LP brought such lunar singles as “Money” and “Time” that helped define the British prog-rock era. A fine candidate, to say the least.
Charlotte Fuller: The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead. “It’s kind of light, with tracks like ‘Vicar In A Tutu’ but dark at the same time, like ‘I Know It’s Over’”. It’s really hard to pinpoint why Profoundly poetic, subtely heartbreaking and typcially sombre, fitting one of Britains most defining sounds of the 1980’s. The Manchester based indie pioneers peaked at number 2 in the charts with the The Queen Is Dead, flauting the flowers of hauntingly anti-nationalist bitterness and Morrisey’s sentimental anger and sadness. Music for hormonal, unrelenting teenagers, if ever I heard it.
Will Creed: Pink Floyd – The Wall. “The subject at matter is very profound, with the lyrcis telling a story. I think it’s a great album”. Pink Floyd catapulted an alternative serge in the presciptivist definition of British music, offering 1979’s The Wall as a further prog-rock supliment for those who needed the trippy, eary fix of Pink Floyds growing legacy. Moving strength to strength in the post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd era, the themes of isolation, self-abuse and abandonment ring fiercly true in tracks such as “The Trial” and “Nobody Home”. One of the great British concepts albums that still carry an esence of Barrett about it.
Josh Carter: The Darkness – Permission To Land. “It was the first album I ever bought, and I just loved it”. Honest words to a surprise selection in our listeners album choices. A modern take on classical rock, boardering on the comical but maintaining an odd sensational being of enjoyment and fun. Scratching through the foil of serious music, and giving us a taste of the joy of music British has to give to the world. We all remember the constant radio bonbardment from “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”, that branded them as an unsung British rock hero. I take my hat off to you, boys.
Alex Stainthorpe: The XX – XX. “It’s probably one of the best British albums in times. You can listen to it without being any specific mood. It’s chilled out but exciting at the same time”. Londons’s indie-pop foursome (now a threesome) cornered and slid between conventional pop tyrants to offering a quiet, simplistic alternative that soothed the bones of it’s listeners. Whilst offering chilled, dire songs about love and frustration, while reverberating instigating and tuneful songs that conflict a level of power through the album. Perhaps not one of the greats, but one to rival and set up foundations of a new wave musical dynasty, winning a Murcury Award along the way.
Lee Jewitt: The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses. “I first listened to it on my way to a Beautiful South gig in Nottingham in 1989. From then on I never really stopped playing it”. Maracas, shaggy haircuts and ecstacy. Popularising the acid house, indie rock era that carried through with bands such as The Happy Mondays in the dying days of Factory Records, Ian Brown and co produced one of the defining British indie albums ever recorded. Sour, tormenting tracks such as “I Wanna Be Adored” and “Elizibeth My Dear” contadicting with upbeat, shining guitar songs like “She Bangs The Drum” and “Fools Gold” shape the album as a powerful, reawakening symbol of the Manchester music scene’s ongoing forebear.
Luke Johnson (Aztec): Bonobo – Black Sands. “Influential as shit. I love all his stuff, he literally nailed it with that EP”. Again, perhaps another surprise choice. Tear away at the extrematies, and you’ll see reason behind Luke’s choice. As music becomes more technologoical, it gets harder to make records sound more diverse and stripped down. Bonobo give an answer to the quesiton ‘where is British music going?’. British music is following the painted footsteps into a minimalistic, chillwave electro direction, indicating a rich, underground sound that brushes over the broken sub-woofers with a more refined, thought over sound. A choice for the future, and we love that.
Dan O’Sullivan: Artic Monkey’s – What Ever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. “I think it’s definitely one of the best albums to come out of England over the past decade or so. It’s pushes the right buttons”. The brash, cheeky corse of Alex Turners voice, Matt Helders puncy drums and the commending raw guitar sound made the 2006 Artic Monkey’s debut album a chart topping record breaker, going 4 times plainum and selling a worldwide total of 2.3 million records sold. From the pub cultured Yorkshite suburbs of Sheffield, to topping the bill at some of worlds most acclaimed stadiums and festivals, the Artic Monkey’s have helped sale British music back to the top of world.
Tom Jewitt (Me): Joy Division – Unnown Pleasures. Ending on my personal choice, I can only place Joy Division’s 1979 debut into a very simple bracket. I’ve listened to a lot of albums, but I’ve never listened to anything that sounded remotely like Joy Division. There are similar bands, like Interpol and The Horrors, but the distinctive hollowed drone of Ian Curtis’ voice, matched by the croaky bass lines planted by Peter Hook, post-punk harmonies thundered by Bernerd Sumner all over the top of the robotic machinery drumming from Steve Morris, has always remained individual. Tracks such as “Disorder” and “interzone’ interwine the all but expired punk scene of the 1970’s, with the kicking and screaminf foetus of new wave post-punk revival. Even more poetically, Joy Division became a sound died along with it’s singer many decades ago, epitomising the brief moment in British history when music was never about money or fame.