A quick snapshot of some of the best albums ever to emerge from Brighton.
Brighton has a rich musical history. From the music halls to ballroom dances on the pier. To The Who and punk, to the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) and hip-hop battle nights. Here is a selection of 10 albums that couldn’t be possible anywhere else, other than 'London-on-Sea'.
The Who - 'Quadrophenia' (1973)
From the opening moments of ‘I am the Sea’, Brighton permeates The Who’s rock opera Quadrophenia. The story revolves around a mod called Jimmy who is disillusioned by life but loves music, drugs, girls and fighting. After quitting his job in London, the second half of the album is set in Brighton, where he once enjoyed watching The Who, where he steals a boat and sails to a rock, which is where the album ends. Musically it’s a rollercoaster ride of searing riffs, falsetto vocals and the punishing rhythm section of John Entwistle and Moon.
Poison Girls - 'Chappaquiddick Bridge' (1980)
Before there was Dream Wife, Our Girl and Penelope Isles there were the Poison Girls. This anarcho-punk quartet fronted by Vi Subversa, a 44-year-old mother of two, who sung about gender politics and sexuality. On their 1980 debut album, Chappaquiddick Bridge Poison Girls sounded like The Slits covering Crass. Chappaquiddick Bridge is still a visceral and captivating album with its intelligent lyrics and left-wing stance. Poison Girls also have a playful side. ‘Good Time (I Didn’t Know Satre Played Piano)’ is a witty romp about the lengths men and women go to when getting ready for a night out. Deceptive sexuality indeed!
Peter and the Test Tube Babies - 'Pissed and Proud' (1980)
Peter and the Test Tube Babies are the most exciting thing to happen to Peacehaven since Graham Greene set the end of ‘Brighton Rock’ there. Their debut album ‘Pissed and Proud’ is a warts-and-all live snapshot of the band in their natural habitat. In between tracks, you can hear the crowd heckle and try to rattle the band, but Peter Bywaters takes it in his stride and gives as good as he gets. Stand out track is ‘Run Like Hell’, which tells the story of a late-night tryst in a nightclub. It still sounds fresh and exhilarating today as it did in 1982.
Fatboy Slim - 'Better Living Through Chemistry' (1996)
Nothing really says Brighton quite like Norman ‘Fatboy’ Cook. His 1996 debut album Better Living Through Chemistry is the musical equivalent of an afternoon on the pier. The wonky samples and skewed beats feel like walking through the hall of mirrors, before a sesh on the waltzers and a fish and chip supper on the beach. Big Beat never really caught on, but Better Living Through Chemistry shows all the promise of a scene that wasn’t to be.
The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster - 'Horse of the Dog' (2002)
Horse of the Dog is an important album. Firstly it didn’t really sound like anything else at the time. Psychobilly riffs, Beefheart-esque vocals and catchy melodies created something terrifying and exhilarating. Secondly, it allowed Brighton’s ‘Freak City’ vibe to grow and flourish. Without The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, and Horse of the Dog, we wouldn’t have The Wytches, Cannibal Hymn Records a slew of bands that could flourish as the spotlight was on the city and possibly one of the best Nike adverts in recent years.
British Sea Power - 'Open Season' (2005)
BSP’s second album Open Season is a different beast to their debut. Their intricate post-punk guitars and an almost impenetrable wall of sound had been replaced with massive hooks and a general pop sheen. It was the kind of u-turn that could look too calculated, but BSP pulled it off with aplomb. Open Season is the kind of album you wish for, catchy melodies, jagged guitars, insightful lyrics with a giddy gleefulness but tinged with melancholy. This is summed up perfectly on the monster track ‘How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?’ Make some tea, put it in a thermos, head to the beach on an overcast day and enjoy.
Tyrannosaurus Dead - 'Flying Ant Day' (2014)
Flying Ant Day is one of the most underrated albums in recent years. Tyrannosaurus Dead were masters of making a hell-of-a-racket peppered with poignant thought-provoking lyrics. They wrote songs they wanted to hear, and for people who were bored with all the posturing and slogan shouting choruses. The album is littered with musical reference points from Daniel Johnson, Pavement, dEUS, Sebadoh, as well as early Teenage Fanclub and Smashing Pumpkins. But their influences are never pastiched or bastardised. While these aren’t simple songs there is an element of simplicity to them that adds to the enjoyment. At times you feel that the tracks will fall over, but they never do as change course several times per track. Sadly they called it a day shortly after Flying Ant Day was released, but we are left with this nigh on perfect slice alt-indie.
Ocean Wisdom - 'Chaos '93' (2016)
Ocean Wisdom’s debut album Chaos ‘93 blends genres, draw lyrical comparisons to Rodney P, Tyler the Creator, and The Fall and gets better with each listen. On the exquisite opening track, ‘Walkin’ Ocean Wisdom manages to fit in 4.45 words per second. On its own, this is a phenomenal feat, but given that Eminem manages 4.31 on ‘Rap God’ this takes ‘Chaos ‘93’ to a whole different level.
The Hundredth Anniversary - 'Sea State Pictures' (2017)
The Hundredth Anniversary is one of Brighton’s current hidden gems. On their flawless debut album, Sea State Pictures, THA sounds like everyone and no one. Sometimes they sound like Nico fronting early My Bloody Valentine, then Sonic Youth covering Galaxy 500. This is showcased on standout track ‘The Outside In’. After a broody drum beat and morose guitar work, it breaks into a spoken word piece about a woozy walk through their hometown. And this is the strength of Sea State Pictures. Just when you think you have it worked out, it turns another way.
Theo Verney - 'One Small Piece' (2017)
If anyone sums up Brighton at the moment, its producer and engineer Theo Verney. As well as being the go-to man to make your song sound awesome Verney is a musician of note too. His last album One Small Piece was written, recorded and produced in his Hove studio. Imagine a lo-fi ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’ and you’re on the right track. Opening track ‘Running Backwards’ sums this up perfectly and lets the listener know they are in for lavish guitar solos and gritty tales of sub-life living. But the best is yet to come, and over 33 minutes Verney washes over the listener with his gentle tales of love, loss and redemption.