A rundown of some of the best albums ever to emerge from Manchester.
Few cities in the UK (or even the world) can rival Manchester for musical heritage. Unlike New York or LA, or even London however, no other city actually creates such cultural appropriation and envy in non-Mancunians, who frequently adopt the fringe, parka and desert boot uniform even when they’ve never even been to the city. Here’s a list of the cream of what Manchester has had to offer aurally throughout the ages.
Bee Gees - 'Saturday Night Fever [Original Soundtrack]'
What no, really? Yes really. Okay a good few of the songs on the album are not by the multi-talented (Mancunian) brothers Gibb, and an OST might not count as an album, but its sheer weight of influence and sales deserves its inclusion, and could be actually described as the biggest selling Manchester album in history!
The Fall - 'This Nation’s Saving Grace'
The late, great Mark E. Smith left a legacy of 32 studio albums across five impressive decades of output. Probably the most prolific (and grumpy) Manchester artist, Smith and his ever-changing line up were never afraid to buck trends and whilst never scaling the commercial heights of many of his contemporaries, you get the sense that he didn’t give an F. Despite that, this 1985 release was the height of their influence and alongside 1984’s ‘The Wonderful and Frightening World Of...’ cement theirs and his legacy.
Buzzcocks - 'Another Music In A Different Kitchen'
Manchester’s answer - and response - to the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks took their driving guitars, direct songs, and Pete Shelley’s biting lyrics and produced a seminal album just as the punk wave was starting to crash. Replacing the cynical cartoonish persona of the Pistols with a grit and determination that could only have been produced in Manchester, and set to tone and bar for the decade to follow.
Joy Division - 'Unknown Pleasures'
The Manchester sound of the early 80’s was defined by two bands. The first, Joy Division and their tales of paranoia, industrial wasteland, nihilism, bleakness and benefits - truly captured the city at its lowest ebb. Its follow up ‘Closer’ was more rounded and rich in its production, but the debut from one of the brightest and shortest-lived Manchester bands still jostles for the top spot of the best album to emerge from the decade itself, and the city.
The Smiths - 'The Queen is Dead'
The Smiths were the other band to emerge in the early 80s, quickly sweeping up the nation’s disenfranchised youth and producing another great singer-guitarist hero duo in Morrissey and Marr. Their output was sublime in its mockery and sardonic wit, coupled with Marr’s genius guitar, truly they are one of Britain’s best groups, and best left as a testament to the time.
Stone Roses - 'Stone Roses'
Following the end of Joy Division and the breakup of The Smiths, the city was left for a time with a cultural void. One that was swiftly filled by possibly the most talented group ever to emerge from Manchester. Forgetting for a moment, their flabby and protracted follow up and later come back tours, for a time the world belonged to Brown, Squire, Mani and Reni. Their debut album was sophisticated, poetic, musically soaring and a genuine front-to-back classic.
Happy Mondays - 'Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches'
Nobody does excess better than the Happy Mondays. In fact, they’ve made a career out of being Manchester’s biggest wreck heads. However, their third album came to define a culture and a club, and on playback is incredibly diverse and complex - especially considering most of the band couldn’t manage a full take in the studio.
Oasis - 'Definitely Maybe'
No list can be complete without, what is for many, the defining Manchester album. If you grew up within 10 miles of Burnage in the 1990’s this was your magnum opus the same as The Queen Is Dead was for your older siblings. Many opt for the mega-selling follow up ‘What’s The Story (Morning Glory)’ but with songs like ‘Rock n Roll Star’ and ‘Live Forever’ never have the brothers Gallagher been more visceral, united and brilliant as this.
Charlatans - 'Tellin’ Stories'
Okay. Yes, most of the band are not from Manchester at all, and in fact they were formed in the West Midlands, but songs like ‘North Country Boy’ ooze Manchester charisma and confidence, and it’s hard to think of them as anything other than treading the stage at the Boardwalk.
Chemical Brothers - 'Dig Your Own Hole'
Proving that Manchester isn’t all about guitars and floppy haircuts, the artists formerly known as Dust, dropped a magnificent and diverse album in 1997 that proved the DJ’s were fighting back. Tracks like ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ have more tightness and rock n roll spirit than many of the bloated guitar bands had as the decade started to wane. Listening back, the album wears it’s 21 years well, and holds its own with the others.