Each month we handpick a collection of reissues, limited editions or just straight classic long-players that deserve a place in any record collection.
Words | Paul Jones, Amy Flower and Zoë Radas
Radiohead, OK Computer (1998)
Dismissed as one-hit wonders by many following the massive success of Creep, Radiohead defiantly declared “Hold my beer!” and followed it up in 1995 with absolute masterpiece The Bends. If there were still any doubters, come 1997, OK Computer arrived and had the world clambering for superlatives.
While its rockier predecessor hinted at what was to come, this one threw together elements of rock, pop, jazz, dub and even prog, resulting in a sometimes disturbing, often beautiful concoction. All the greats should make your emotions work.
Kicking off with sonic playground Airbag, if your ears aren’t yet aroused, then track two of side “Eeny” ensures their pleasure, with the crazy four-part musical excursion Paranoid Android. Much like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, it could never be a single, right? But it was the first one plucked from the opus and went to number three in the UK charts.
The Miles Davis-inspired Subterranean Homesick Alien rounds out the first side, before stunning Romeo + Juliet movie closer Exit Music (For a Film) kicks off side “Meeny”, followed by the lose yourself, slow-building Let Down, which could easily have been a single. And, speaking of, second single Karma Police completes the side.
Third side “Miney” gives us the computer of the title, with digital voice/ affected piano collage Fitter Happier, before Electioneering classic-rocks out, Climbing Up the Walls goes trip-hoppy, and third single – the tinkly No Surprises – sees an end to side three.
Arguably saving the best for last, side “Mo” brings us the genius Lucky, recorded in a day for charity and included here because it was just too damned good not to be, and gentle album closer The Tourist. Later albums saw the band embrace more jazzy vibes, so for many, this is Radiohead’s finest.
TOP TRACK: Lucky
FAST FACT: Paranoid Android’s title was a nod to depressed robot Marvin the Paranoid Android from Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books.
Anna Calvi, Anna Calvi (2011)
10th ANNIVERSARY LIMITED EDITION RED VINYL
In 2011, 30-year-old London-born Anna Calvi became an overnight sensation when she released her intriguingly raw, undeniably elegant, eponymous debut album to the world. At the time, she told The Daily Telegraph: “I had a phobia about singing until five years ago. I wouldn’t sing in school, or even in the shower. So, the guitar became my voice when I was a teenager; it was how I could express myself.”
We understand the statement within the first few moments of the album: Calvi’s virtuosic electric guitar-playing curls and eddies, expanding out into massive washes of sensuous colour. But once her singing voice begins, its operatic command has you shivering with gratitude that Calvi decided not to remain simply an instrumentalist.
With backing vocals from Brian Eno – an early disciple of Calvi’s talent – Anna Calvi is a rich, strange, glamorous and raw alt-rock record which was quickly nominated for a slew of awards, including the prestigious Mercury Prize.
TOP TRACK: Suzanne and I
FAST FACT: The record was produced by PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis, another early Calvi fan.
Green Day, Insomniac (1995)
25th ANNIVERSARY VINYL
Come 1995, Green Day were massive crossover stars thanks to their incredible smash-after-smash third album, Dookie. As pathetic diehards subsequently screamed “Sell-outs!”, it got to the band, and the punkier Insomniac was the result.
With darker lyrics giving insight into where Billie Joe Armstrong’s head was at, it’s not only a kick-butt ride from the go of Armatage Shanks to the whoa of Walking Contradiction, it’s also a very honest record. Highlights include the side-B double whammy of Brain Stew and Jaded, plus first single Geek Stink Breath. This anniversary release ups the ante with eight live tracks from 1996, plus a cool side D etching.
TOP TRACK: Brain Stew
FAST FACT: Penultimate side-one song Bab’s Uvula Who? has nothing to do with, but is named after, a punchline from a 1976 Saturday Night Live sketch starring Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner.
Alice In Chains, Facelift (1990)
Masters of the heavier side of the Seattle sound, Alice in Chains beat Nirvana to be the first “grunge” band to nab a gold disc for this, their debut long-player. They’d go on to receive many more accolades, not least for the kicking second track in – and first single – Man in a Box, which, with its catchy hooks and wild, throaty intro from singer Layne Staley, remains a rock radio staple today.
The album thrums with intensity, from the stop-go thrills of second single Sea of Sorrow right through to the Led Zep-like album closer Real Thing (complete with its shout-out to Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America, “Sexual Chocolate, baby!”).
TOP TRACK: Man in the Box
FAST FACT: Drummer Sean Kinney nearly didn’t appear on the album, as he had a broken hand. Soldiering on, he removed his cast and played, icing up the offending paw regularly.