Uncut’s 100 best debut albums

From Elvis to Eminem, Arctic Monkeys to Zeppelin… we give you the greatest debuts

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Unknown Pleasures (1979)
Packaged in Peter Saville’s pulsar-graph sleeve and layered in chilly reverb by producer Martin Hannett, this album feels like a vast granite monument. In his richly emotive baritone, Ian Curtis sings of mental breakdown and urban alienation, at times even appearing to predict his own demise.
Best track: “Shadowplay”

Led Zeppelin (1969)
Recorded in 30 hours, Led Zeppelin landed with a debut of astonishing urgency. It boasted majestic Page guitars, monumental grooves and Plant’s orgasmic vocals, establishing him as the archetypal cock-rock icon. Sadly, few of the HM hordes Zep inspired recognised the subtlety of shade and texture with which they surrounded the pummelling riffs.
Best track: “Communication Breakdown”

The Clash (1977)
The Pistols were more notorious, but The Clash delivered the signal punk debut. A tour de force of politicised rage and shrewd (sometimes comic) social observation, it was designed to sound primitive, but there was artistry, too. The Jones/Strummer guitar combo embodied a bleeding-fingered brutalism, while the rhythm section was relentless.
Best track: “Garageland”


Music From Big Pink (1968)
An extension to the Basement Tapes that behaves as if psychedelia and acid rock never happened, The Band creating their own beautifully detailed inner world, filled with fables of search and belonging. Strange that it took a mostly Canadian group to wring so much from America’s musical heritage.
Best track: “The Weight”

The Stone Roses (1989)
In 1989, the Roses were still in the process of being transformed by rave. If they were known at all, it was as another mumbling Manc indie band, closer to Goth than dance. However, with their debut, they caught something new in the air. It’s the budding, hesitant yet sanguine quality of The Stone Roses that has made it endure to this day; not so much Something Happening as Something About To Happen. This LP was an implicit ‘good riddance’ to the weary ’80s. Opener “I Wanna Be Adored” hoves into being like a rising sun, a slow, expansive burst of psych ecstasy; “Waterfall”, with its backward version, “Don’t Stop”, bears literal witness to the effect the Roses had on British indie rock – turning it inside out, from b/w to colour. Squire’s rich guitar palette and Brown’s arrogance were a potent mix; “I Am The Resurrection” was a portent. The ’90s belonged to the Roses, only for them to fritter it away – Oasis’s path to glory was already Roses-strewn.
Best track: “I Wanna Be Adored”


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Peter Gabriel, Michael Stipe, The Flaming Lips, Tim Buckley, David Bowie, Archie Shepp, Jonathan Richman, Mary Chapin Carpenter and The Rolling Stones