AS PART OF MOJO’S 20th Anniversary celebrations, we asked our readers to vote for the most seismic long-players of the MOJO era: the albums that rocked your world and – most importantly – moved music on a bit since MOJO magazine’s inception in November 1993.
With the results in – and adorning the latest issue of the magazine along with substantial pieces with the key creators – we thought we’d share them online.
So view the list below and (as Loyd Grossman used to say when Masterchef was tolerable) deliberate, cogitate, and digest. Surprised? Delighted? Disgusted? Give us your reasons, and well-argued omissions, in the comments section at the bottom of the article.
Please note that these are the albums with the most votes overall. Another chart, of the best albums year-by-year 1993-1012, also appears in the magazine.
List: MOJO Readers’ Top 20 Albums Of The Last 20 Years
20. The Libertines – Up the Bracket (2002)
Bringing up the rear (a double entendre they would have enjoyed), a group so dissolute they had to dissolve. But before doing so they left this flyblown billet-doux of black leather, book-learnin’ and tumbledown, damn-the-torpedoes rock’n’roll.
19. Nirvana – In Utero (1993)
The lead album review in MOJO’s first issue – a baptism we hope we’ve lived to live up to – this still-incredible artpiece in a way closed an era of music. A beautiful, scabrous, terrifying and exhilarating epitaph for the incomparable Kurt Cobain.
18. Pulp – Different Class (1995)
Pop at its best, with the spirits of Scott Walker and Jake Thackray mixing with Roxy and ABBA and Slade as Jarvis Cocker skewers a slice of Britain as it would never be again: squatters, skivers, students, dealers, dropouts and music lifers swilling in a sub-culture on the cusp of an inexplicable upswing.
17. Portishead – Dummy (1994)
The unmanning debut of perhaps Britain’s most underrated popular music group (granted, a side-effect of their own cussedness and reticence). Extraordinary songs and Beth Gibbons’ trembling, aching voice swirl in a kind of cavernous robo-blues update on Billie Holiday. For all the genre-coining of “trip hop”, this is actually sui generis.
16. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)
Almost impossible to decontextualise – for good and ill – Oasis’s second album caught the UK’s mid-decade wave of euphoria with classic rock’n’roll songs that self-consciously referenced Britain’s last great mainstream pop culture renaissance. Should the bursting of that bubble besmirch the Burnage bovver boys? ’Course not.
15. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (2011)
A unique and uncompromising artist from her arrival on the scene with 1992’s startling Dry, Polly Jean’s eighth album protested war with beauty, grit and single-mindedness. That this album won the Mercury Prize is perhaps the best argument ever for the Mercury Prize.
14. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
Innovating in terms of music’s delivery (straight to your inbox) and purchase (pay what you like) models, and upgrading their blend of guitars and electrics, live drums and programmed beats until it was now almost impossible to see the join. Plus: their least gloomy album ever? Discuss!
13. Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs (1998)
Former psych-punk goblins retreat to the Catskills, forge elegies for lost friends with help from Band magi Levon Helm and Garth Hudson, rebooting “Cosmic American Music” for a new generation in the process.
12. Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994)
Tim’s lad blew through the early-’90s like an angel-voiced whirlwind, bringing back beauty, giving Radiohead The Bends. Watch out for Grace collaborator Gary Lucas’s insight on the MOJO site soon.
11. Beck – Odelay (1996)
Postmodernism achieved its audio incarnation in this superhip, hip-hop-rock kiss-off. Lesser artists spent the late-’90s trying to catch up, but Beck Hansen discerned Odelay’s instant-cliché booby-trap immediately. Sometimes a record does something so perfectly everyone – even its creator – needs to walk away.
10. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)
However good the records that Alex Turner and co go on to make turn out to be (and this year’s AM is very good indeed), they cannot do this again: definitively assassinate modern Britain with the cynical-romantic switchblade of teen omniscience and hauteur. Poetic, punky, perfect.
9. DJ Shadow – Endtroducing..... (1996)
The best record made out of other people’s records ever? A cinematic landmark even Californian turntablist Josh Davis found subsequently intimidating. “I ended up making something that was very hard to replicate,” he tells MOJO this month.
8. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
As ’90s boundaries broke down, and experimental findings from Krautrock’s heyday were unearthed, the best bands felt obliged to reinvent. The risks, costs, and rewards attending such bravery are all encapsulated in Jeff Tweedy’s infinitely involving masterpiece.
7. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008)
The from-left-field triumph of folk-rock in the noughties writ large, as Robin Pecknold and his harmony-singing New Indie Minstrels made Steeleye Span a name to drop for the first time since Commoners Crown.
6. The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin (1999)
The loss of guitarist Ronald Jones forced the Oklahoma psych voyagers to rethink the template. In came: samples, stagecraft, and a somehow vaguely profound and poignant narrative about science and humanity… or something.
5. The Strokes – Is This It (2001)
Back then: an unexpected rambunctiousness-infusion from New York, with essence of Lou Reed insouciance. Now: a standalone mystery of quirk, drift and quease. The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and others followed, but no-one – not even The Strokes – sounded like this again.
4. Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)
The waning century’s fallout brilliantly parsed in a record that fizzed with musical ideas and textures. Another state-of-everything address preoccupied with mental fracture – Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon – was regularly cited as a parallel. Amazingly, Radiohead’s third album didn’t pale by comparison. [NB: MOJO readers also voted Kid A the best album of 2000, although not in quite enough quantities to make this “all-time” Top 20.]
3. Bob Dylan – Time Out Of Mind (1997)
Bob back from the brink (again!) with Daniel Lanois in attendance and a bad fog of mortality brooding overhead. “I knew it was not going to be a sing-along record,” the producer tells MOJO in the latest magazine. No shit, Sherlock.
2. Arcade Fire – Funeral
Junk shop art-pop meets stadium-sized anthemeering with a core of human emotional honesty. A game-changer in every way, and suddenly choral vocals were everywhere.
1. The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)
Jack White – the Jimmy Page de nos jours – delivers a multi-coloured collision of outrageous riffing, dynamic pop and sonic invention. New hope for guitars in a new century… but the best album of the last 20 years? Your shout!