Albums of the decade

November 20, 2009 at 7:03 pm (Musical)

For various reasons I opted against the ‘Doug’ route of blogging personal feelings for a while but thought now would be a reet good time to post my albums of the decade, which has been doing the rounds through people on twitter and in various publications. I sort of wanted to blog it and write a bit about each release rather than just make a list, just cos it’s a bit more interesting!

Lots of bands I fucking adore didn’t make this list because they’re more down to a collection of great songs spanning several albums as opposed to one particular masterpiece.  I’m looking at you Converge, Strike Anywhere, Isis, Further Seems Forever, Poison The Well, Boysetsfire, Rufio, Strung Out, Hope Con, Bane & Funeral for a Friend…

But doing this was pretty tough and I’m sure I’ll change my mind back and fourth.  There’s definitely a level of nostalgia to it, but when an album is released in 2008 it’s hard to decide a mere year later if it’s an all time classic, whereas an album you still adore 7 years on…you just know.    These albums needed to be more than just a great collection of songs, because LOTS of albums are great collections of songs that you can listen to and then forget about for a while and then go back to.  These needed to be that little bit more added significance, hence the reason there’s a bit of an essay with each one that HOPEFULLY will be of interest to some of you.  Feel free to post yours as well.

10: Renee Heartfelt – ‘Death Of The Ghost’ (2005)

‘Death Of The Ghost’ was the only full length Renee Heartfelt ever released, and the band were exactly what people needed to hear to get what the term ’emo’ meant as it started to become the victim of quite ignorant journalism from the likes of the Daily Mail who were hugely mistaken as to what the subculture was about. Featuring ex Give Up The Ghost and Count Me Out members, they pretty much define ‘post hardcore for me’ in that sense!

It wasn’t hugely original, and it was so easy to hear the influence of the likes of Elliott, Quicksand and even Cave In, but when you consider that a) these bands were awesome and b) lot of the 90s era emo/post hardcore bands were finished, it was just a great refreshing change at the time. Hugely atmospheric, a great vibrant guitar sound, and accessible emotive songs with a real substance, it was a great little discovery and a huge shame the band didn’t last a little bit longer.

9: Andrew WK – ‘I Get Wet’ (2001)

This might shock you…but I hated Andrew WK at first. But put your fists away and bare in mind that as a young pop-punk kid with no interest in metal I had no real need to listen to it, and when you consider the fact that ‘Party Hard’ and ‘She Is Beautiful’ are the two weakest tracks, it’s understandable. Once I saw the things he did with Jackass, I was converted, checked out the album and loved it. I’m sure lots of people who even now who aren’t fans probably haven’t heard the album in full, and would be hooked if they listened to ‘It’s Time To Party’ and ‘Ready To Die’. If not, they’re either dead inside or they simply take themselves way too fucking seriously.

The man is an inspiration – he was essentially a laughing stock for much of the decade but just kept going. A man so devoted to his fans, so devoted to just having a good time and remaining positive, so devoted to making life enjoyable and now enjoys a cult status among solely awesome dudes (and the odd fashionista in East London liking him ironically). This album will always cheer me up. I ❤ AWK.

8: The Starting Line – ‘say it like you mean it’ (2002)

This album might not be rocket science – essentially it’s simple pop-punk meets emo, something that’s pretty over-saturated right now. But in 2002, aside from possibly Saves the Day… who were still that little bit older, there weren’t many seriously youthful bands reaching a wider audience of the same age. Bands like Blink were in their late 20s, so at the time it was awesome for a 17 year old hearing a dude exactly the same age sing about things extremely relevant to him. It’s a bit more believable than blokes who are married with kids singing it.

Sure, it was standard ‘lovesick boy feels bad over a girl who a) has dumped him b) lives far away c) is dating a dickhead d) is being a bit of a headfuck’, but we’ve all been there at some point during our school years and beyond. And what separates them from the overwhelming number of dime-a-dozen bands who look and sound the same in 2009 is that you knew this was REAL. I cannot help but think bands like Forever The Sickest Kids et al care more about styling their hair and shagging under age girls than the quality of their music, whereas The Starting Line really weren’t keen on ‘hearthrob’ status or selling out. All their work contains a sense of honesty truly lacking in bands who they have inspired since. Plus, the simple fact is the songs are much better – the relatively technical, sugarsweet pop-punk of ‘Up and Go’, ‘Best Of Me’, ‘Decisions, Decisions’ and ‘This Ride’ remain fantastic 7 years on. A very special album indeed that meant so much to me at the time.

7: Shai Hulud – ‘that within blood ill tempered’ (2003)

“Rest assured, this is sincere, this is true…”

Shai Hulud never quite got that legendary status I personally think they deserved, probably because they’ve had so many line-up changes they’ve had to start over so many times and never really maintained much consistency. This album is by FAR their best effort. Read the lyrics, at times you feel you need to take a step back and try to take in what vocalist Geert van der Velde is saying as it’s so intelligent and complex, touching on many subjects often raised in hardcore yet never once feeling cliched or overdone. When you remember the dude is Dutch, his use of the English language is only that much more impresive.

Musically, it’s fucking brutal, and will inspire many a circle pit, but what truly sets this album apart is the juxtaposition some incredibly heavy beats with some of the most beautifully melodic guitar lines you’ll ever hear layered over the top….meaning that you’re given genuinely anthemic and memorable songs you can scream along to yet at the same time they remain pretty complex and challenging. It’s actually quite difficult to explain, so you might as well just purchase it and enjoy one of the finest hardcore releases of all time.

6: Envy – ‘all the footprints you’ve ever left and the fear expecting ahead (2001)

Tokyo’s Envy are a truly phenomenal band and criminally underrated. Ideally, you should own their whole discography which sees their incredible career progress from an exceptionally intense hardcore/screamo band to an awe inspiring post-rock/metal hybrid balancing beauty with sheer force. As such, it’s incredibly difficult to actually pick a best album, and it’s purely down to personal preference rather than a blatant case of one album being better than the other.

‘All the footprints…’ for me is their pinnacle simply because it has the perfect balance between the scramz (I hate that word and use it clenching my teeth) side and the post-rock side. The earlier material is great, but is reasonably similar to a lot of their peers with short, sharp, awesome bursts of hardcore energy that’s over pretty quickly. The latter material is also great but perhaps lacks the ferocity and power of this, or at least the power is more through the sense of epic and melody rather than the chaotic side, which is what I personally connect with the most. This gives you the best of both and is outstanding.

5: The Juliana Theory – ’emotion is dead’ (2000)

Oh my this is cheesy. But sometimes, just sometimes, you just would rather have a nice few slices of brie spread thinly on crackers, or some good old English cheddar melted on toast with Lea and Perrins as opposed to a juicy steak sandwich, and The Juliana Theory satisfied this need. Part of my love might be simply because they felt more ‘mine’ than others, due to them remaining relatively unknown in the UK whilst their uber melodic, early 00s emo (or MTVmo as my friend liked to call them) peers such as Dashboard Confessional, Brandtson and Further Seems Forever among others of got bigger.

They’re far more melodic than a lot of the other acts, and unbelievably corny, but at the same time irresistably catchy. ‘Top Of The World’ is one of the most utterly wimpy things you’ll ever hear, but you’ll seriously struggle to avoid singing along to the chorus of ‘sha la la la’. As well as this, there are some genuinely decent and moving emotional numbers such as ‘Into The Dark’, ‘If I Told You This Was Killing Me Would You Stop’ as well as pop hits like ‘Understand The Dream Is Over’ and some decent aggressive moments such as ‘To The Tune Of 5000 Screaming Children’, with Brett Detar wailing ‘your hatred only fuels us on’, very self aware of how easy they attract scorn.

It’s strange, seeing as they were so easy to lay into, particularly as their genuinely dislikeable frontman Detar loved himself so much, and ESPECIALLY as 2003’s ‘Love’ sounded like Creed minus the comedy value, that those that did like them LOVED them. Despite all the band’s imperfections I adored them and always will.

4: Botch – ‘we are the romans’ (2000)

The greatest heavy album ever written by the greatest heavy band of all time. From the first second in, you are BLOWN AWAY.

Blown away by just how MASSIVE it all sounds, despite the seeming restriction of only having one guitarist. Blown away by the mind-fuck time signatures, in which pretty much nothing like this existed at the time and all the modern metalcore bands owe to now. Blown away by the sheer vehemence of the bass which adds to just how pant-shittingly fucking heavy it is – skip to 2:19 in ‘C Thomas Howell as the Soul Man’ to see what I mean, possibly one of my favourite split seconds in music ever… Blown away by the unusual poetic lyrics which refuse to follow a specific pattern. Blown away by pretty much everything. I really cannot use words to put it this album to justice and already can sense I’m rambling. Basically, take everything good about hardcore, metal and mathcore or whatever, times it by a million, and you’re close to what Botch achieved with this album.

Lots of bands since have done a similar thing, some seemingly trying to be a full on tribute act almost. Some have been awesome, some have been dire. But none have come remotely close to achieving the sort of brilliance that ‘We Are The Romans’ posessed, and nobody ever will.

3: New Found Glory – ‘new found glory’ (2000)

One thing I have loved about the last few years is how New Found Glory have gone from being a serious stick-worthy band to becoming inexplicably credible amongst EVERYONE in punk. Well, not inexplicably, for they deserve it, but it’s just odd because I remember being around 16-17 and adoring this band but constantly seeing bad press from critics and the more elitist alike, and for a while were held in the same regard as Good Charlotte, Sum 41 and Simple Plan, which was ridiculous.

Yet as time went on, they became ‘okay to like’. And as a result their shows are always such a great experience because you’ve simply got a huge diverse crowd where everyone just wants to have a fucking great time. I guarantee if you were to have a road trip with ska kids, hardcore kids, emo kids, crust punks, pop-punks and all sorts of different characters, one album they could all agree on enjoying is this. It is just the perfect pop album. From start to finish, it is packed with flawless hits (‘black and blue’ aside), and singalong anthems that remain true nearly 10 years on.

I’m just as likely to scream out the lyrics to ‘boy crazy’ and ‘ballad for the lost romantics’ now as I was when I first heard this album, as I’m sure many other dudes in their early/mid 20s will do, whilst adolescents will do the exact same thing.

‘Let’s toast the night away to friends and forget about tomorrow’. Indeed, let’s.

2: Jimmy Eat World – ‘futures’ (2004)

Jimmy Eat World truly cracked the mainstream in 2001 with ‘Bleed American’ with a collection of great radio rock songs. However, it was arguably one of their weaker efforts. Jimmy Eat World’s true genius is with the slower, heart wrenching and beautiful numbers present on their 1999 masterpiece ‘Clarity’, my personal favourite album of all time. This is the closest they’ve come to matching that genius since.

They do still provide some radio friendly stuff – such as lead single ‘Pain’ which is often the set closer, despite being the worst song on the album. The likes of ‘Work’ and the title track are similarly upbeat and incredibly catchy, but still a bit more ‘Clarity’-esque.

But it’s the darker songs, the love songs, the slow songs that truly make this album. Yet it’s also the diversity of it that make it such a masterpiece, with the slow ballad ‘Drugs Or Me’ being followed by ‘Nothing Wrong’, fairly brutal for JEW’s standards. ‘Polaris’, ‘The World You Love’ and particularly ‘Kill’ are all wonderful, with extremely simple, yet unbelievably effective lyrics that all can relate to (‘I know what you want to say, I know that I can’t help feeling differently’).

’23’, the closer, is quite possibly the finest song written. It’s over 7 minutes long and as such could quite easily drift off….for me personally, songs that long require odd time signature/beat changes, or several parts to the song that are completely different if it needs to keep my attention going. This song remains a simple pop song from start to finish, but is just so wonderfully written that you remain hooked throughout for an utterly overwhelmingly brilliant final chorus, and one of the most incredible endings to an album. Utter genius.

1: Thursday – ‘full collapse’ (2001)

The genre-defining ‘Full Collapse’ essentially showed me that heavy music can be intelligent, thought provoking and beautiful. There really was very little like this back in 2001 that was as accessible, aside from the likes of At The Drive-In which personally I wasn’t that into, and this really did have such a huge impact on me, sounding almost as mind blowing and as fresh today as it did back then when I had to specially order it in from my local record shop, as you did back in’t day. You can in hear equal parts all the hardcore & post-hardcore acts that influenced them throughout their youth going to basement shows as you can Sonic Youth, The Smiths, The Cure, Joy Division and early U2, and it was that indie-rock element personally that opened my eyes to a lot of other types of music, in particular Morrissey (baring in mind he was out of the limelight at the time, and The Smiths had, until then, passed me by).

My knowledge of hardcore was there, but it was fairly limited and was more just about simple pounding, heavy aggression rather than anything particularly elaborate or enthralling, nor was I as passionate about it as later on in my teens. Thursday opened that door for me dig deeper, discovering heavy bands who influenced them, as well as their New Jersey peers at the time that were that bit more creative and inspiring.

Had Thursday split up immediately after recording this, I am adamant they’d be held up in the same regard as Refused and particularly with ‘The Shape of Punk To Come’. At the time, and even now, ‘Full Collapse’ is a phenomenal record and one that was unbelievably difficult to follow up. ‘War All The Time’ was a great effort, and one of 2003’s finest releases, but simply didn’t have the same impact, particularly as that sound started to be copied a bit, thus losing the impact it once had, and ever since they’re not really managed to recreate such brilliance (though this year’s ‘Common Existance’ is still a great record).

Despite the copycat-ish bands however, there’s still something about Full Collapse that sounds totally different to your Hawthorne Heights or From Autumn To Ashes or whoever you want to say they influenced. There just seems to be so much more to this than simple scream-sing-scream-heavy-light switcharoos and that’s why they can never quite be completely imitated.

In 2006 I interviewed Geoff (in a kitchen cupboard no less, to keep it quiet) for my radio show. At the time, I wanted to try and remain cool, and I also wasn’t to know ‘Full Collapse’ would remain my favourite album of the decade. Looking back, as lame as I may have looked, I really wish I could have just thanked him for the inspiration. Objectively, it might not be the best album of the decade, I’m not sure… There will be some people who’d regard it as a bit dated now, but as I have mentioned already, it would mean that they didn’t listen to it when it was initially released and wouldn’t have felt the impact it had. Perhaps I was the perfect age for it, still a young and impressionable pop-punk kid for the most part, and people a few years older would have perhaps been that bit wiser. But I don’t really care – for me, me it had more impact than anything else, and has stood the test of time and still sounds as exciting now as it did back then.

‘Autobiography Of a Nation’…1 minute in….fuck. Incredible.

Other great albums that deserve a mention:

The Gaslight Anthem – ‘The 59 Sound’ (2008)
Afi – ‘Sing The Sorrow’ (2003)
Jesu – ‘Silver’ (2006)
Imogen Heap – ‘Speak For Yourself’ (2005)
The Steal – ‘s/t’ (2006)
Thrice – ‘The Artist In The Ambulance’ (2003)
Joshua Fit For Battle – ‘To Bring Our Own End’ (2001)
Hot Water Music – ‘Caution’ (2002)
Copeland – ‘Beneath Medicine Tree’ (2003)
The Ataris – ‘So Long Astoria’ (2003)
Glassjaw – ‘Worship and Tribute’ (2002)
Raein – ‘Il N’y A Pas De Orchestre’ (2003)
Taking Back Sunday – ‘Tell All Your Friends’ (2002)
Set Your Goals – ‘Mutiny’ (2006)
The Movielife – ’40 Hour Train Back To Penn’ (2003)
A Wilhelm Scream – ‘Career Suicide’ (2007)
HORSE The Band -‘R Borlax’ (2003)
Further Seems Forever -‘The Moon Is Down’ (2001)
Converge – ‘Jane Doe’ (2001)
Hundred Reasons – ‘Ideas Above Our Station’ (2002)
Fastlane – ‘Overdrive’ (2007)
Rise Against – ‘Revolutions Per Minute’ (2003)
Stretch Arm Strong – ‘A Revolution Transmission’ (2001)
Hit The Lights -‘This Is a Stick Up, Don’t Make It a Murder’ (2006)
The Dillinger Escape Plan – ‘Miss Machine’ (2004)
Fugazi – ‘The Argument’ (2001)
Hopesfall – ‘The Satellite Years (2002)
Killswitch Engage -‘The End Of Heartache’ (2006)
Finch – ‘What It Is To Burn’ (2002)
Cartel -‘Chroma’ (2005)
Mastodon – ‘Leviathan’ (2004)
My Awesome Compilation – ‘The View Is Amazing’ (2003?)
Jimmy Eat World – ‘Bleed American’ (2001)
Amanda Woodward -‘Discography’ (2004) [I know, it’s essentially Alan Partridge liking ‘The Best of the Beatles’… Big Whoop Wanna Fight About It?}



  1. freethepress said,

    Christ, the very fact I left Envy off my list is criminal.

  2. freethepress said,

    and Cave In!

  3. millsymillsy said,

    Cave In are great but I’ve not really found they have an album I love sitting all the way through, I just tend to skip to the awesome songs. ‘Perfect Pitch Black’ is AMAZING but I find myself skipping to ‘Trepanning’ too much!

  4. tobycj said,

    You spelt ‘skramz’ wrong 😉

  5. millsymillsy said,

    That’s cos spelling it correctly would imply some sort of recognition!

    Nah I don’t properly hate it, it’s just a bit of a dumb word when screamo is a perfectly good word to use!

  6. Chris said,

    Where’s A Song to Ruin??

  7. millsymillsy said,

    In the ‘reasonably decent albums but nowhere near best of the decade’ pile!

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