The 50 Greatest UK Indie Records Of All Time

From the fringes of the mainstream come 50 records of romance and revolt.

50 Best UK Indie Records Ever

INSPIRED BY PUNK, angered by Thatcher and in love with ’60s culture, the UK indie scene produced some of the greatest (and oddest) pop records of all time.

It all began on December 28, 1976 at Indigo Studios on Gartside Street in Manchester. The Buzzcocks had just recorded and mixed four songs destined for the Spiral Scratch EP. A month later the EP would be released on the band’s own New Hormones label, in the process spawning a scene of musicians, songwriters and labels hell-bent on doing it for themselves. Forged in the political turmoil of the late ’70s and early ’80s, labels such as Postcard, Creation, Factory, Zoo and Rough Trade emerged as maverick flag-bearers of a new eclectic indie aesthetic. The DIY revolution had begun and British pop would never be the same again.

From Aztec Camera to Arctic Monkeys, Felt to Franz Ferdinand, Swell Maps to The Smiths, here are MOJO’s 50 essential albums, EPs and singles of homegrown genius.

50. Huggy Bear HerjazzWIIIJA 7-INCH | 1993

50. Huggy Bear HerjazzWIIIJA 7-INCH | 1993

MOJO SAYS: The DIY ethic of C86 meets the radical activist spirit of riot grrrl.

49. The Delgados The Great EasternCHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND LP | 2000

49. The Delgados The Great EasternCHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND LP | 2000

MOJO SAYS: The Hamilton four-piece’s third album is packed with grand orchestral epics. They left the template for “indie” looking redundant.

48. James Village FireFACTORY 12-INCH EP | 1986

48. James Village FireFACTORY 12-INCH EP | 1986

MOJO SAYS: An enthrallingly odd mix of delicacy, awkwardness, heart and muscle.

47. Swell Maps Read About SeymourRATHER 7-INCH | 1977

47. Swell Maps Read About SeymourRATHER 7-INCH | 1977

MOJO SAYS: Brothers Epic Soundtracks and Nikki Sudden drew on Can, T.Rex and the Pistols to create their jerky 1977 debut.

46. Camera Obscura Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be HeartbrokenELEFANT CD SINGLE | 2006

46. Camera Obscura Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be HeartbrokenELEFANT CD SINGLE | 2006

MOJO SAYS: Ebullient, beefed-up ’60s pop stylings with joyous hammond organ and an infectious guitar line.

45. Half Man Half Biscuit The Trumpton Riots EPPROBE PLUS 12-INCH EP | 1986

45. Half Man Half Biscuit The Trumpton Riots EPPROBE PLUS 12-INCH EP | 1986

MOJO SAYS: The Fall-esque Trumpton Riots allied topical comment on civic disturbance with ’70s kids-TV whimsy.

44. The Wild Swans The Revolutionary SpiritZOO 12-INCH | 1982

44. The Wild Swans The Revolutionary SpiritZOO 12-INCH | 1982

MOJO SAYS: Liverpool romantics intone verses of Blakean portent over florid keyboard surges and dramatic drums.

43. The Pooh Sticks On TapeFIERCE RECORDINGS 7-INCH | 1988

43. The Pooh Sticks On TapeFIERCE RECORDINGS 7-INCH | 1988

MOJO SAYS: Huw Williams’ arch bubblegum theorists had a killer guitar lick, Spectoresque drums and a half-decent melody.

42. Fire Engines CandyskinPOP:AURAL 7-INCH | 1981

42. Fire Engines CandyskinPOP:AURAL 7-INCH | 1981

MOJO SAYS: Edinburgh No Wave-inspired quartet provide nursery slopes treble-funk garnished with serene string glissandos and David Henderson’s adenoidal yelp.

41. McCarthy Keep An Open Mind Or ElseMIDNIGHT MUSIC 7-INCH | 1989

41. McCarthy Keep An Open Mind Or ElseMIDNIGHT MUSIC 7-INCH | 1989

MOJO SAYS: Barking oddballs offer a soaring 12-string melody tied to a footstomping beat and lyrics that screamed, “Be reasonable!”

40. Jane And Barton It’s A Fine DayCHERRY RED 7-INCH | 1983

40. Jane And Barton It’s A Fine DayCHERRY RED 7-INCH | 1983

MOJO SAYS: Realised by vocalist Jane Lancaster, Edward Barton’s song is a cappella and Haiku-like, suggesting a sundered relationship with deep sadness – grist to indie pop’s miserabilist mill.

39. Josef K The MissionaryLES DISQUES DU CREPUSCULE | 1982

39. Josef K The MissionaryLES DISQUES DU CREPUSCULE | 1982

MOJO SAYS: Josef K epitomise indie’s infatuation with ephemeral doomed brilliance. Recorded in 1981, The Missionary’s tundra-funk fusillade blueprinted every indie dancefloor dalliance for the next 25 years.

38. Ride Ride EPCREATION 12-INCH EP | 1990

38. Ride Ride EPCREATION 12-INCH EP | 1990

MOJO SAYS: ’60s psych melodies pre-fluffed with a thick carpet of post-MBV/Mary Chain guitar fuzz.

37. The Bodines ThereseCREATION | 1986

37. The Bodines ThereseCREATION | 1986

MOJO SAYS: Hailing from Glossop in Derbyshire, this genius Bodines single is a breathless romantic gulp of twin guitar twirl.

36. Shop Assistants Safety Net53RD & 3RD 7-INCH | 1986

36. Shop Assistants Safety Net53RD & 3RD 7-INCH | 1986

MOJO SAYS: Finest offering by Edinburgh’s Shangri-Las for C86ers. Loud buzzsaw guitars and drums that sound like cardboard boxes.

35. The Primitives Really StupidLAZY 7-INCH | 1986

35. The Primitives Really StupidLAZY 7-INCH | 1986

MOJO SAYS: This Coventry set recorded effervescent bubblegum pop, all buzzsaw guitars, feedback and infectious choruses. Morrissey was a fan.

34. Saint Etienne So ToughHEAVENLY LP | 1993

34. Saint Etienne So ToughHEAVENLY LP | 1993

MOJO SAYS: Ambitious multi-styled pop. It is impossible to remain unmoved by Hobart Paving.

33. The Sea Urchins Pristine ChristineSARAH 7-INCH EP | 1987

33. The Sea Urchins Pristine ChristineSARAH 7-INCH EP | 1987

MOJO SAYS: Soundtracking the Birmingham Mod pop scene with beautifully inept jingly-jangly Byrds-meets-Velvet Underground pop.

32. Elastica Line UpDECEPTIVE 7-INCH | 1994

32. Elastica Line UpDECEPTIVE 7-INCH | 1994

MOJO SAYS: An infectious dissection of mid-’90s groupiedom with riffs and rhythms purloined from Wire.

31. Stereolab Peng!TOO PURE LP | 1992

31. Stereolab Peng!TOO PURE LP | 1992

MOJO SAYS: Merging VU fuzz, Neu! drone, Francophone pop, lounge exotica and vintage keyboard-ery.

30. The Wedding Present George BestRECEPTION LP | 1987

30. The Wedding Present George BestRECEPTION LP | 1987

MOJO SAYS: The band’s debut set the template for David Gedge’s unique, often abrasive take on indie-pop. It remains their definitive UK indie offering.

29. Young Marble Giants Colossal YouthROUGH TRADE LP | 1980

29. Young Marble Giants Colossal YouthROUGH TRADE LP | 1980

MOJO SAYS: YMG’s only album was a sustained exercise in minimalist brio and an idiosyncratic jewel in Rough Trade’s pre-Smiths crown.

28. New Order TemptationFACTORY 12-INCH | 1982

28. New Order TemptationFACTORY 12-INCH | 1982

MOJO SAYS: Manchester’s gloomiest invested their greatest moment with washes of colour that sentenced an entire indie aesthetic to the sidelines: RIP Miserabilism, 1979-81.

27. Franz Ferdinand Take Me OutDOMINO 7-INCH | 2004

27. Franz Ferdinand Take Me OutDOMINO 7-INCH | 2004

MOJO SAYS: A daring composite of two equally infectious songs, it begins like a deluxe Pastels then morphs into an urgent, disco-rock stomp.

26. The Libertines What A WasterROUGH TRADE 7-INCH | 2002

26. The Libertines What A WasterROUGH TRADE 7-INCH | 2002

MOJO SAYS: The Libertines’ best record was also their first. Stewing The Jam’s knuckle-drag Modernism with a lustful eye for deviance.

25. The Loft Up The Hill And Down The SlopeCREATION 7-INCH | 1985

25. The Loft Up The Hill And Down The SlopeCREATION 7-INCH | 1985

MOJO SAYS: East London collective offer giddy, rattling collision of Television’s basement art rock and janglepop’s wide-eyed intensity.

24. The Vaselines Son Of A Gun53RD & 3RD 7-INCH  | 1987

24. The Vaselines Son Of A Gun53RD & 3RD 7-INCH | 1987

MOJO SAYS: Debut single by Bellshill four-piece marries call-and-response vocals to a pounding, utterly infectious Byrdsian melody. Later covered by Nirvana on Incesticide.

23. Aztec Camera High Land Hard RainROUGH TRADE LP | 1983

23. Aztec Camera High Land Hard RainROUGH TRADE LP | 1983

MOJO SAYS: A debut album filled with a mature poetry that has grown with age and leaves you wondering why Roddy Frame isn’t a household name.

22. Happy Mondays LazyitisFACTORY 12-INCH | 1989

22. Happy Mondays LazyitisFACTORY 12-INCH | 1989

MOJO SAYS: This re-recording of the Bummed LP track with ’60s yodeller Karl Denver absorbs elements of David Essex’s Gonna Make You A Star and Daytripper into it’s polydrugged soundworld.

21. The Pastels Up For A Bit With The PastelsGLASS LP | 1987

21. The Pastels Up For A Bit With The PastelsGLASS LP | 1987

MOJO SAYS: Simple, almost-childlike melodies and endearing, sometimes off-key vocals, combine naïvety with a bruised romanticism.

20. Spaceman 3 RevolutionFIRE 7-INCH | 1988

20. Spaceman 3 RevolutionFIRE 7-INCH | 1988

MOJO SAYS: Lyrically drawing on the MC5, musically it nods towards the psychedelic experimentation of The Stooges, 13th Floor Elevators and Silver Apples in its noisy, compelling drone.

19. This Mortal Coil Song To The Siren4AD 12-INCH | 1983

19. This Mortal Coil Song To The Siren4AD 12-INCH | 1983

MOJO SAYS: Cocteau Twin Liz Fraser renders Tim Buckley’s ballad a thing of desolate, muezzin beauty against Robin Guthrie’s über-flanged guitar.

18. Lloyd Cole And The Commotions RattlesnakesPOLYDOR LP | 1984

18. Lloyd Cole And The Commotions RattlesnakesPOLYDOR LP | 1984

MOJO SAYS: The debut album from these five Glasgow University graduates remains the epitome of ’80s indie romanticism.

17. Teenage Fanclub Everything FlowsPAPERHOUSE 7-INCH | 1990

17. Teenage Fanclub Everything FlowsPAPERHOUSE 7-INCH | 1990

MOJO SAYS: Bolt-from-the-blue noise pop anthem that introduced the open-ended racket of Dinosaur Jr to the widescreen romanticism of classic indie.

16. Wire Outdoor MinerRALPH | 1980

16. Wire Outdoor MinerRALPH | 1980

MOJO SAYS: A magical pop melody steered by post-punk values (and lyrics about the human condition) that proved a blueprint for indie’s DIY pop sound.

15. Echo & The Bunnymen CrocodilesKOROVA LP | 1980

15. Echo & The Bunnymen CrocodilesKOROVA LP | 1980

MOJO SAYS: Pioneers in a generation’s obeisance to The Doors and Velvets, the Liverpool quartet managed to channel these ’60s US touchstones and still resemble no one but themselves.

14. Belle & Sebastian TigermilkELECTRIC HONEY LP | 1996

14. Belle & Sebastian TigermilkELECTRIC HONEY LP | 1996

MOJO SAYS: This landmark debut combined the unashamedly sensitive values of old school indie with a poetic voice that proudly sided with the unloved and the unappreciated.

13. The House Of Love Destroy The HeartCREATION 7-INCH | 1988

13. The House Of Love Destroy The HeartCREATION 7-INCH | 1988

MOJO SAYS: The moment when the-band-most-likely-to came closest to achieving their promise.

12. Subway Sect AmbitionROUGH TRADE 7-INCH | 1978

12. Subway Sect AmbitionROUGH TRADE 7-INCH | 1978

MOJO SAYS: Singer Vic Godard’s lyrics, seared with anomie, were delivered with mordant derision over a backdrop of organ, guitars and the ping-ponging of table tennis balls taped from an arcade game.

11. Felt Forever Breathes The Lonely WordCREATION LP | 1986

11. Felt Forever Breathes The Lonely WordCREATION LP | 1986

MOJO SAYS: Led by the ultimate anti-hero of ’80s janglepop, the reclusive, eccentric Lawrence, Felt’s Forever Breathes... is driven by lush Hammond organ and a literate, romantic vision.

10. Primal Scream Crystal Crescent/Velocity GirlCREATION 7-INCH | 1986

10. Primal Scream Crystal Crescent/Velocity GirlCREATION 7-INCH | 1986

MOJO SAYS: Wobbly West Coast efflorescence undercut by a Velvets-inspired druggy cynicism.

9. The Stone Roses The Stone RosesSILVERTONE LP | 1989

9. The Stone Roses The Stone RosesSILVERTONE LP | 1989

MOJO SAYS: Kaleidoscopic pop debut from The Clash-worshipping, scooter-punk-scene regulars who mainlined The Beatles, Beach Boys and Byrds.

8. The La’s There She GoesGO! DISCS 7-INCH | 1990

8. The La’s There She GoesGO! DISCS 7-INCH | 1990

MOJO SAYS: Lee Mavers’ Liverpool gang of retro melodists were too early for Britpop, but this remains a love song of heart-busting beauty.

7. Arctic Monkeys I Bet You Look Good On The DancefloorDOMINO 7-INCH | 2005

7. Arctic Monkeys I Bet You Look Good On The DancefloorDOMINO 7-INCH | 2005

MOJO SAYS: Sardonic northern voice plights unrequited love to a disinterested chainstore goddess, soundtracked by a frantically played scrawny guitar racket.

6. Joy Division TransmissionFACTORY 12-INCH | 1979

6. Joy Division TransmissionFACTORY 12-INCH | 1979

MOJO SAYS: Driven by Peter Hook’s pulsating bassline and Ian Curtis’ phantasmal vocal, Transmission conjures feelings of fear, detachment and isolation.

5. My Bloody Valentine You Made Me RealiseCREATION 12-INCH EP | 1988

5. My Bloody Valentine You Made Me RealiseCREATION 12-INCH EP | 1988

MOJO SAYS: A rapturously be-misted sound that suddenly made British indie as compelling as anything from the US.

4. The Fall How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'ROUGH TRADE 7-INCH | 1980

4. The Fall How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'ROUGH TRADE 7-INCH | 1980

MOJO SAYS: 1980, the year of the mighty Grotesque album, was a time of surging, magical power for The Fall.

3. Orange Juice You Can’t Hide Your Love ForeverPOLYDOR LP | 1982

3. Orange Juice You Can’t Hide Your Love ForeverPOLYDOR LP | 1982

MOJO SAYS: Edwyn Collins and James Kirk’s shorts-wearing quartet epitomised what Scottish indies stood for in the early 1980s: literacy, Roger McGuinn’s fringe and funk.

2. The Jesus And Mary Chain PsychocandyBLANCO Y NEGRO LP | 1985

2. The Jesus And Mary Chain PsychocandyBLANCO Y NEGRO LP | 1985

MOJO SAYS: Brutal guitar delirium smothers echo-laden Spector pop.

1. The Smiths This Charming ManROUGH TRADE 12-INCH | 1983

1. The Smiths This Charming ManROUGH TRADE 12-INCH | 1983

MOJO SAYS: Johnny Marr’s jealousy of Aztec Camera and Morrissey’s tale of a flirtatious encounter with an upper-class gent put the ultimate indie act on Top Of The Pops for the first time.