With Whenyoung's much-anticipated debut album 'Reasons To Dream' arriving this Friday, 2fm's Dan Hegarty takes another look at some of the most impressive Irish debut albums from the recent and distant past.
The Cranberries - ‘Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We?’ (Island Records, 1993)
The Cranberries have been such a big band for so long that it’s easy to overlook their remarkable and in some ways unlikely rise to global acclaim. You often hear people saying how innocent and honest the songs sound, but that’s not the only reason that they went on to connect with people en mass. Along with the singles ‘Dreams’ and ‘Linger’, ‘Not Sorry’ and ‘Put Me Down’ underline why this album became one of the biggest debuts of the 1990s. It’s remarkable to think that it would take them just over a year and a half to follow this with their second album ‘No Need To Argue’.
Reggie Snow - ‘Dear Annie’ (BMG, 2018)
In their review of his debut album 'Dear Annie', the highly influential Pitchfork described Rejjie Snow as a artist that was "churning out tracks in enough styles to suggest a one-man equivalent to the Odd Future collective." It's high praise, but deserved. The Dublin artist is something of an enigma in the sense that he rarely engages with the media like most do.Considering that preceding singles 'Flexin' and 'Pink Beetle' aren't included on this album, it makes this album all the more impressive. From his interpretation of Republic Of Loose's 'The Steady Song' which he's renamed 'Charlie Brown' (featuring Anna Of The North) to 'LMFAO' through to the beautiful 'Greatness', Rejjie gave us a debut of immense quality.
The Altered Hours - ‘In Heat Not Sorry’ (Art For Blind Records, 2016)
If bittersweet is beauty, then this Cork band’s debut album would overwhelm you and draw you in like the lure of a siren. The Altered Hours are perhaps the most underrated Irish band in the past decade. They’ve have been making a marvelous guitar racket right under most of our noses for many years, and it’s a travesty that this 2016 album didn’t get anywhere near the amount of attention that it deserved. This hasn’t deterred them; they tweeted back in February that their next album was "slowly coming together."
God Is An Astronaut - ‘The End Of The Beginning’ (Revive Records, 2002)
This Wicklow band benefit from that rare anomaly where they are better known outside of Ireland than they are at home. The seeds of their international popularity started with this album, and have built steadily ever since. ‘Route 666’, ‘From Dust To The Beyond’ and the stunning ‘Remembrance’ are still staples in their live set. Post Rock has never been a description that sits well with the band, but it does encapsulate some of their sound. The Cure’s Robert Smith is a fan, so much so that he invited the band to play at the Meltdown festival when he curated it in 2018.
Cat Dowling - ‘The Believer’ (Can Do Records, 2013)
If you to listen to ‘The Believer’ without knowing anything about it, you’d be forgiven for assuming it was one of those hugely successful and revered albums that somehow slipped past you when it came out a few years ago. The truth is, it was well received but didn’t reach the sizable audience that it could have. It has a bit of everything; it rocks out with ‘Somebody Else’, slows down with ‘The Well Runs Dry’, and keeps you guessing with the beautifully unusual ‘Gospel Song’.
Jacknife Lee - ‘Moy Rico!’ (Pussyfoot Records, 1999)
He went on to produce everyone from Snow Patrol to U2, Crystal Castles to Kodaline, and Neil Diamond. Garret ‘Jacknife’ Lee had spent much of the 1990s in alt rock bands Compulsion, and Thee Amazing Colossal Men. To call his solo outing as a change in direction might be understating the fact! ‘Moy Rico!’ is full on beeps and bleeps, BPMs and electro tunes that are almost impossible to sit still to. 'Cookies' is the best track from it, and is an irresistible earworm... beware!
Lethal Dialect - ‘LD50’ (Working Class Records, 2011)
Praising ‘LD50’ solely on it’s sometimes gritty realism, would be selling this album short. Paul Alwright and his cast of collaborators put an album together without any sort of concessions for airplay or media coverage; it was come and take a listen or take a hike. Most people chose the album rather than the hike, and ‘The International’ and ‘Do You Believe’ became favourites. Alwright would go on the release the excellent ‘1988’ album with JackKnifeJ a number of years later, and his best work under his own name with his ‘Hungry’ album in 2018.
An Emotional Fish - ‘An Emotional Fish’ (Atlantic, 1990)
If you were making music in Ireland during the late 1980 or early 1990s, the prospect of having to compete with a band like An Emotional Fish can't have been one that filled you with optimism. Here is a band that had just about everything; they could put on a serious live show, they looked the part, they had momentum, added to which they had songs to back all this up.The opening four tracks from their debut album tells you everything about their pedigree: 'Celebrate', 'Grey Matter', 'Blue', and 'Lace Virginia'. As it's often put, here is an album that has aged gracefully.
Noise Control - ‘Our Life’ (NC Records, 2010)
Teaming up with vocalist Shahin Badar wasn’t a bad start for Noise Control when putting this album together. Badar’s vocals had been heard on nearly every part of planet earth through her featuring on The Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ track in 1997.The Dublin-based act had grown as a true powerhouse on the live circuit around Ireland and the UK, and the album confounded their talent. The downside was, they split a year later. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the album’s release, so perhaps this may see some long overdue activity from the band.
Nina Hynes - ‘Staros’ (Reverb Records, 2002)
Technically ‘Staros’ isn’t Nina Hynes’ debut album, but it was her first full length album. The lead single from this album ‘Mono Prix’ was the perfect introduction to ‘Staros’; a bright and engaging collection of songs. You could say that this album is the sound of an artist that has just found their artistic identity. On ‘The Other Side Of Now’ you can’t help to get lost in the multiple layers of what’s going on, while the sparse Bjork-esque ‘Dive’ could soundtrack those twilight hours. ‘Last Song Of The 20th Century’ and ‘Universal’ have aged very well, and wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist created today.
The Radiators From Space - ‘TV Tube Heart’ (Chiswick Records, 1977)
Some songs are that good that they make you delve back into the past to hear where and who they came from. ‘Television Screen’ by The Radiators From Space is one of those songs. It’s taken from what is commonly known as Ireland’s first punk album ‘TV Tube Heart’. Like Fontaines DC’s ‘Dogrel’, it's a frantic burst of youthful exuberance and angst, it just happened four decades earlier. It’s certainly not a one song album; ‘Blitzin At The Ritz’, ‘Press Gang’, and ‘Electric Shares’ are teaming with frantic energy.
Just Mustard - ‘Wednesday’ (Pizza Records, 2018)
There’s been a lot of talk about guitar music’s revival or even rebirth. Regardless of where you stand on this, it’s hard not to be slightly blown away by the Dundalk band’s debut offering. Reference points include Sonic Youth, Girl Band, and early Pixies, but there’s a lot more going on here too. ‘Feeded’, ‘Pigs’ and ‘Boo’ are the standout tracks, but to be fair, there isn’t a bad track on the album.
Whipping Boy - ‘Submarine’ (Liquid Records, 1992)
Three years before Whipping Boy would release their celebrated ‘Heartworm’ album, they gave a much more raucous collection of tracks in the form of ‘Submarine’. ‘Valentine 69’, ‘Snow’ and ‘Favourite Sister’ have an unorthodox power to them, while ‘Bettyean’ is a slower affair. Not every album can capture the chaos of an act's live show, but 'Submarine' goes quite a distance to encapsulating what witnessing a Whipping Boy live show was like; confrontational as times, always unpredictable, and at the very least memorable.
Pugwash - ‘Almond Tea’ (Velo Records, 1999)
These days Thomas Walsh (who essentially is Pugwash) can count names like Ray Davies, and XTC’s Andy Partridge as admirers of his song craftsmanship. Back in the late 90s Walsh was in the midst of putting together a collection of songs that would come together form ‘Almond Tea’. ‘Two Wrongs’, ‘Shine On Norvell Jefferson’, and ‘Finer Things In Life’ are three of 12 tracks that went on to this power pop beauty. It was the first step for an outrageously talented song writer, vocalist, and lyricist.
My Bloody Valentine - ‘Isn’t Anything’ (Creation Records, 1988)
If you were to retrospectively survey the musical landscape of 1988, you would quickly come to the conclusion that albums like ‘Isn’t Anything’ were part of an undercurrent that was gathering velocity at a rate of knots. The word perfectionism is often attached to My Bloody Valentine's 'Loveless' album, which would go on to inspire generations of musicians. 'Isn't Anything' the album that came three years before it, often gets over-shadowed.
It's a brilliant debut, that too often gets remembered for its louder moments; tracks like 'Lose My Breath' and 'No More Sorry' are filled with brooding beauty. When the volume does raise, it does so in striking fashion, no better than on 'Nothing Much To Lose' and Cupid Come'. If you don't know this album, investigate immediately.