The 25 best Manchester albums of all time

26 August 2019, 15:00 | Updated: 26 August 2019, 15:01

Best Manchester Albums
Best Manchester Albums. Picture: Press

Looking to start a collection of the finest music to hail from Greater Manchester? Here’s where to start - from Joy Division and The Smiths to Courteeners and Everything Everything…

  1. The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow

    The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow album cover
    The Smiths - Hatful Of Hollow album cover. Picture: Press

    Possibly the greatest compilation ever, this 16-track collection was initially released as a budget-price stopgap between the first two Smiths albums, but became a mission statement for the band in its own right. Singles, b-sides and radio session tracks showcase the amazing songwriting talent of Morrissey and Johnny Marr.

  2. Oasis - Definitely Maybe

    Oasis - Definitely Maybe album cover
    Oasis - Definitely Maybe album cover. Picture: Press

    Liam and Noel Gallagher reinvented Manchester music for a new generation - classic guitar riffs, anthemic choruses and down-to-earth lyrics. Just look at the track listing: Live Forever, Shakermaker, Rock ’N’ Roll Star, Supersonic, Cigarettes And Alcohol… it’s a Mancunian masterpiece.

  3. New Order - Power, Corruption And Lies

    New Order - Power, Corruption And Lies album cover
    New Order - Power, Corruption And Lies album cover. Picture: Press

    Shaking off the associations with their previous incarnation as Joy Division, New Order ditched the gloom of their debut album Movement and embraced technology for a very Mancunian blend of dancefloor synthpop and indie rock.

  4. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

    Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures album cover
    Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures album cover. Picture: Press

    Never mind one of the best Manchester albums, this is one of the best albums ever, full stop. The sound of the old industrial city crumbling away as the 70s turned to the 80s, Unknown Pleasures is claustrophobic and insular while at the same time being uplifting and liberating. A unique sound-world in 40 minutes.

  5. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid (2008)

    Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid album cover
    Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid album cover. Picture: Press

    Guy Garvey and his band had been releasing affecting, emotional albums since 2001, but it was their fourth outing that caught the public’s imagination and won the Mercury Prize that year. The Bones Of You, Grounds For Divorce and The Bones Of You all capture Garvey’s fragile voice and heartfelt lyrics perfectly.

  6. Inspiral Carpets - Life

    Inspiral Carpets - Life album cover
    Inspiral Carpets - Life album cover. Picture: Press

    After a series of succesful EPs, Oldham’s finest proponents of 60s-tinged garage rock made this confident album of well-crafted tunes featuring Clint Boon’s distinctive Farfisa organ. Best bit: the everyday drama of This Is How It Feels.

  7. Johnny Marr - The Messenger (2013)

    Johnny Marr - The Messenger album cover
    Johnny Marr - The Messenger album cover. Picture: Press

    After spending the best part of two decades being the world’s greatest sideman, Marr finally committed himself to recording a proper solo album and the result was an upbeat series of great tunes. Upstarts crackles with punk vigour, while New Town Velocity is a wistful look back at his Mancunian upbringing. Marr surprised the world by being a pretty good vocalist,too!

  8. Courteeners - St Jude (2008)

    Courteeners - St Jude album cover
    Courteeners - St Jude album cover. Picture: Press

    The pubs and clubs of Manchester gave birth to the unique worldview of Liam Fray, who captures the loves, laughter and tears of the region with some keenly-observed songs. Not Ninteen Forever is the big hit, but this assured debut also includes the favourites Cavorting, What Took You So Long, No You Didn’t No You Don’t and Fallowfield Hillbilly.

  9. Oasis - (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

    Oasis - (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? album cover
    Oasis - (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? album cover. Picture: Press

    One of the biggest-selling British records of all time, this was Noel Gallagher at his songwriting peak. The raw innocence of Definitely Maybe has been replaced by confidence and swagger, with the songs getting deeper and more personal - see Don’t Look Back In Anger, Champagne Supernova and Wonderwall for details.

  10. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)

    The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses album cover
    The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses album cover. Picture: Press

    A defiant, understated album that set the template for the next decade in guitar music. Part indie rock, part psychedelic tribute and part dancefloor wonder, it’s a brilliant mix of influences that is pure Manchester. Look at those songs: I Wanna Be Adored, She Bangs The Drums, Made Of Stone, I Am The Resurrection

  11. Happy Mondays - Bummed (1988)

    Happy Mondays - Bummed album cover
    Happy Mondays - Bummed album cover. Picture: Press

    Indie rock morphed from fashionable lads with guitars into a loping, shuffling, dancing beast as the club scene became ever more influential in Britain, and Happy Mondays were at the cutting edge of the changeover. Joy Division producer Martin Hannett manned the controls for this spiky piece of gnarly funk, with tunes like Do It Better and Wrote For Luck showcasing Shaun Ryder’s quirky worldview.

  12. Everything Everything - Get To Heaven (2015)

    Everything Everything - Get To Heaven album cover
    Everything Everything - Get To Heaven album cover. Picture: Press

    One of Manchester’s best bands of the Noughties, 2015’s Get To Heaven sums up the tensions of modern life via some slick art rock. Distant Past is an angular plea for the simpler life, Regret is a twisted take on Motown and Spring/Summer/Winter/Dread is fascinating funk pop. It should have won the Mercury Prize!

  13. Doves - The Last Broadcast (2002)

    Doves - The Last Broadcast album cover
    Doves - The Last Broadcast album cover. Picture: Press

    The dark sound of the Cheshire peaks and plains, courtesy of Wilmslow’s Doves. The trio of Jimi Goodwin and Jez and Andy Williams concocted this melancholy record with moments of pure pop brilliance in There Goes The Fear and Pounding.

  14. Happy Mondays - Pills N Thrills And Bellyaches (1990)

    Happy Mondays - Pills N Thrills And Bellyaches album cover
    Happy Mondays - Pills N Thrills And Bellyaches album cover. Picture: Press

    After the scratchy sounds of Bummed, the Mondays teamed up with DJ and producer Paul Oakenfold to produce a more accessible record and pretty much coined the “Madchester” sound in one fell swoop. From the bright piano of the intro to Step On to the spooky funk of Loose Fit, it’s a hedonist’s dream with a dark undercurrent.

  15. New Order - Technique

    New Order - Technique album cover
    New Order - Technique album cover. Picture: Press

    Manchester loved to go clubbing, so when New Order headed to Ibiza to record their new album, the Balaearic beats were deeply embedded in the new tunes. That’s not to say the classic guitar rock sound was still there - Peter Hook’s bass is as mournful as ever on some bittersweet songs.

  16. The Verve - Urban Hymns (1997)

    The Verve - Urban Hymns album cover
    The Verve - Urban Hymns album cover. Picture: Press

    Hailing from Wigan at the furthest edges of the Greater Manchester region, Richard Ashcroft caught the mood of the nation with such immediate classics as Bitter Sweet Symphony, Lucky Man, Sonnet and hugely personal ballad The Drugs Don’t Work.

  17. Joy Division - Closer

    Joy Division - Closer album cover
    Joy Division - Closer album cover. Picture: Press

    How do you follow-up a masterpiece? Joy Div’s second album was released after the death of singer Ian Curtis, which makes this a gloomy postscript to a brief career, but the synth-laden second side hints at the direction New Order would take.

  18. The Charlatans - Tellin’ Stories (1997)

    The Charlatans - Tellin’ Stories album cover
    The Charlatans - Tellin’ Stories album cover. Picture: Press

    Tim Burgess and co’s discography is lengthy, but their fifth album from 1997 is a highlight. Having ridden the wave of Britpop, The Charlatans settled on classic guitar rock with freewheeling tunes like One To Another, North Country Boy and How High.

  19. James - Laid (1993)

    James - Laid album artwork
    James - Laid album artwork. Picture: Press

    The band’s fifth album saw them team up with influential producer Brian Eno and the collaboration saw James’s music mature and grow. The title track is a memorable character study, Say Something is worthy of The Smiths at their finest and Sometimes is emotional in a particularly Mancunian way.

  20. The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

    The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead album cover
    The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead album cover. Picture: Press

    Morrissey’s state of the nation address appeared slap bang in the middle of the Margaret Thatcher era and while the political bite has been lost with the passage of time, the honest emotion of I Know It’s Over and Never Had No One Ever jostles with the whimsy of Cemetry Gates, Vicar In A Tutu and the bleakly humorous There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

  21. Buzzcocks - Love Bites (1978)

    Buzzcocks - Love Bites album cover
    Buzzcocks - Love Bites album cover. Picture: Press

    Manchester took punk to its heart and Buzzcocks were one of the first bands to release an indie EP. For many, their artistic peak was the second album, issued in the autumn of 1978. Founder member Howard Devoto had moved on, leaving the late, great Pete Shelley to front the band for the classic Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've and other kitchen sink dramas like Nostalgia and Sixteen Again.

  22. Electronic - Electronic (1991)

    Electronic - Electronic album cover
    Electronic - Electronic album cover. Picture: Press

    With The Smiths no more and New Order on hiatus, Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner joined forces for a Mancunian supergroup. Rather than creating a wall of riffs, the two guitarists celebrated their love for synthpop with an eclectic record of compelling hits including Get The Message and Feel Every Beat. If you get the special edition, you also get the excellent Getting Away With It, too.

  23. Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour Of Bewilderbeest (2000)

    Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour Of Bewilderbeest album cover
    Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour Of Bewilderbeest album cover. Picture: Press

    Damon Gough was born in Bedfordshire but grew up in Bolton and the Northerness shines through on this excellent collection. Once Around The Block is a great entry point, but the whole album was skilful enough to win the 2000 Mercury Music Prize.

  24. Morrissey - Viva Hate

    Morrissey - Viva Hate album cover
    Morrissey - Viva Hate album cover. Picture: Press

    He may elicit controversy today, but Steven Patrick’s first solo album was one of the most keenly-awaited debuts ever. The Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly steps in for Johnny Marr and the singles Suedehead and Everyday Is Like Sunday continue the obsessions that made Morrissey one of the most intriguing artists of the 80s.

  25. 808 State - 90 (1989)

    808 State - 90 album cover
    808 State - 90 album cover. Picture: Press

    Manchester embraced the house music revolution and electronica pioneers 808 State were one of the first British acts to release an album influenced by the Chicago acid movement. Their peak was the classic 12” Pacific State: chilled-out beats, electronic bird sounds and synth-sax made it a Hacienda favourite. The rest of the album is a great snapshot of Manchester’s club scene during the Second Summer Of Love.