The best debut albums of the 1990s
2 January 2021, 11:00
The 1990s was the decade that launched a thousand careers: from Massive Attack to Oasis, Pearl Jam to Smashing Pumpkins, here are some of the best debut albums of the era.
Massive Attack - Blue Lines (1991)
As dance music got ever-more frenetic, Bristol had a new direction to take: trip hop. Shara Nelson's captivating voice gives tracks like Unfinished Sympathy and Safe From Harm an unearthly lift. This was a bold, game-changing debut.
Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists (1992)
The Welsh quartet took the lessons of punk and reinvented it for a new decade, with classic rock references in abundance. For a debut, it's a hefty slab of 18 anthemic tracks, including Slash 'N' Burn, Love's Sweet Exile, Stay Beautiful, You Love Us and the evergreen Motorcycle Emptiness.
Jeff Buckley - Grace (1994)
Not just a debut, but also an epitaph. Buckley died from drowning three years after the release of this classic album, but this one official studio outing is enough to afford him legendary status. A supernatural voice, singing songs of a troubled life that can't help but move the listener.
Weezer - Weezer - (The Blue Album) (1994)
Weezer were the band that didn't care if they were cool - they wore their nerd credentials on their sleeves. Usually long sleeve, worn under a short-sleeved t-shirt. This debut outing is packed with great, rocking singalong tunes: (Undone) The Sweater Song, Buddy Holly, and great album tracks like In The Garage and Surf Wax America.
Daft Punk - Homework (1997)
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter took house and genetically spliced it with old school disco to create something uniquely 90s. Da Funk changed the sonic landscape and Around The World made them one of the biggest acts in the world.
Suede - Suede (1993)
Brett Anderson and co may have been uncomfortable with the Britpop tag, preferring to trade on their outsider status, but the combination of Anderson's posturing lyrics and Bernard Butler's scything guitar. Classic moments include So Young, Animal Nitrate and that provocative front cover.
Oasis - Definitely Maybe (1994)
Of course this had to be on the list. This record ushered in Britpop with some generation-defining tunes: Supersonic, Live Forever, Cigarettes And Alcohol, Slide Away…
DJ Shadow - Endtroducing (1996)
Sample culture was nothing new in 1996, but Josh Davis took turntablism to a whole new level with this incredible debut. It's a kaleidoscopic mix of beats, vocal samples, riffs and sounds that, as the sleeve-notes say, "reflects a lifetime of vinyl culture" at a time when it seemed like vinyl was dead and buried.
Portishead - Dummy (1994)
In the wake of artists like Massive Attack and Tricky came this beguiling debut album from Geoff Barrow, Adrian Utley and the unique vocalist Beth Giboons. Songs like Glory Box and Sour Times sound like they're being beamed from a radio station on the moon.
Muse - Showbiz (1999)
The Teignmouth trio began as they meant to go on - with stadium-sized, epic songs. Their debut includes Muscle Museum, Cave, Sunburn, Uno, Unintended and more examples of impesccably-delivered rock.
Björk - Debut (1993)
After her stint in Iceland's premier quirky indie band The Sugarcubes, Björk Guðmundsdóttir went solo with the help of Soul Ii Soul's production genius Nellee Hooper. A perfect mix of joy and mystery, with some choice tunes like Human Behaviour, Venus As A Boy and Big Time Sensuality.
Smashing Pumpkins - Gish
Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness may have had bigger hits, but this debut from Billy Corgan's grunge rock outfit is the one purists go for. A gleaming guitar sound and a surprising blend of noise and melody make this ripe for rediscovery.
The La's - The La's
Lee Mavers could have been as big as Noel Gallagher in the British songwriting stakes if he'd managed to follow-up this accomplished debut. But this one-off remains as a monument to the embryonic stages of Britpop - simple, acoustic guitar tunes that recall the heady days of Merseybeat and The Smiths.
Foo Fighters - Foo Fighters (1995)
Big Dave Grohl had a lot to prove when he resurfaced after the tragic end to Nirvana. Recorded pretty much on his own, this started as a way to get over Kurt Cobain's death, but soon blossomed into one of the biggest rock acts of the 90s. This Is A Call, Big Me and I'll Stick Around proved Grohl had the songwriting skills
Air - Moon Safari (1998)
If Daft Punk were the French electronica duo for the dancefloor, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel were the version for the chillout room. Retro analogue sounds, blissful female vocals and a wry sense of humour make this an enduring favourite.
Stereophonics - Word Gets Around (1997)
Kelly Jones proved he was the songwriter for a generation with this bold, confident debut album about life in small town Wales. Local Boy In The Photograph, A Thousand Trees and Traffic are keenly-observed sketches of a particular time and place.