Uncut’s 100 best debut albums

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

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37 MAGAZINE
Real Life (1978)
Magazine – all alienation, literacy and epic ambition – saw the full unfurling of former Buzzcock Howard Devoto’s peculiar genius. Surging anti-anthem “Shot By Both Sides” was “Born To Run” as written by Franz Kafka.
Best track: “Motorcade”
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36 ARCTIC MONKEYS
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)
Antennae tuned to grim reality, Alex Turner delivered songs about copping off in nightclubs and Mondeo-driving kerb-crawlers, with a brio to match idols Mike Skinner and Jarvis Cocker. Result: the fastest-selling debut album ever. At last, The Jam and The Smiths had a legitimate heir.
Best track: “Riot Van”
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35 BLACK SABBATH
Black Sabbath (1970)
A groundbreaking fusion of occult imagery, brutal blues riffs and working-class attitude. The title track is pure Hammer horror, but much of the album is churning, super-heavy proto-punk with a streak of genuine psychosis.
Best track: “Black Sabbath”
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34 STEELY DAN
Can’t Buy A Thrill (1972)
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker fused ’50s Latin jazz, cool bop and faux LA rock and the Dan (named after a dildo in Burroughs’ Naked Lunch) introduced a cynical jazzy sensibility to pop.
Best track: “Midnite Cruiser”
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33 GANG OF FOUR
Entertainment! (1979)
These Leeds students replaced punk’s passionate nihilism with carefully theorised alienation. Funk and dub techniques were whitened, while love and leisure – pop’s subject and purpose – were disgustedly dissected. A crucial bridge into the post-punk future.
Best track: “Anthrax”
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32 MC5
Kick Out The Jams (1969)
Detroit proto-punks, radicalised by police harassment and the city’s apocalyptic ’67 race riots. Elektra introduced the “house band of the revolution” with a live album, to exploit their rep for gigs mixing soul testifying and feedback carnage. MC5 laid the seeds for punk and political rock.
Best track: “Kick Out The Jams”
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31 ELVIS COSTELLO
My Aim Is True (1977)
Costello burst onto the Summer of Hate like a sneering Buddy Holly, unloading a sharp set of blazingly intelligent songs that veered between bitter disappointment and disgust, revenge and guilt. Backed by US country-rockers Clover (later to become Huey Lewis’ News), this was where New Wave songcraft met the twisted remains of old-school rock’n’roll.
Best track: “Alison”
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30 OASIS
Definitely Maybe (1992)
The Gallaghers’ arrival was perfectly timed. A pair of mono-browed enforcers preaching the glories of The Beatles and the Pistols, they crushed the opposition with their sledgehammer melodies, sung with brutalist zeal by 22-year-old thug-Adonis Liam Gallagher. Oasis would subsequently take a great deal of flak both for their boorish antics and for dragging indie rock back into an era of retrograde conservatism. Even Noel Gallagher suggested in interviews that they were delivering diminishing returns with each new album. But it’s hard to deny the stone killer qualities of their debut, recently voted the best album of all time in an NME.com poll. Tracks like “Cigarettes And Alcohol”, dirty, restless and toxic, were about the everyday frustrations of a dead-end job and the need for kicks. Definitely Maybe provided an adrenaline shot, with Liam’s voice – fag-rough, rasping and dangerous as Lennon at his most acerbic – the ideal mouthpiece for brother Noel’s songs, the whole thing capturing the intoxicating euphoria of the mid-’90s.
Best track: “Slide Away”
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29 NICK DRAKE
Five Leaves Left (1969)
Drake’s cult status is partly attributed to his early death.  But in reality it stems from the realisation that his debut contains some of the loveliest songs ever – languid, haunting, folk-based wisps marinated in a fragile but gorgeous melancholy.
Best track: “River Man”
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28 THE DOORS
The Doors (1967)
In Jim Morrison, The Doors boasted a wild child touched with genius. His poetic visions and fearless desire to explore the limits of human experience produced a debut remarkable for its depth and darkness.
Best track: “End Of The Night”

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