Musical labels suck. With that, here’s a guide to five essential albums that aren’t considered punk, heavy metal or hard rock but are a must for anyone who likes aggressive music that takes chances and broadens creativity:
- NWA – Straight out of Compton – This is street level aggression that kicks complete ass. The drumbeat on the title track is as heavy as it gets and the lyrical content unleashes the anger of black youth on a realistic street level. This is rebellion that is not for the weak of heart.
- Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill – While at times it is technically hard rock, this work of art expands past the barriers of any label or definition. This album contains ripping guitars, sonic bass and contagious percussion. “You Outta Know” is the Red Hot Chili Peppers at their best with Alanis defiantly expressing angst. This is great, angry music. In light of all the recent heinous sexual crimes and allegations that are part of the daily news, this is a worthwhile listen that should empower people to fight back.
- U2 – Achtung Baby – Just when this group of Irish street punks seemingly sold out and became the darlings of every rich, white suburbanite kid, U2 went all Bowie, and hunkered down in Berlin. Achtung Baby is a big fuck you to the establishment and it worked magnificently. Brian Eno and the band unleash a unique blend of strange, melodic and heavy music that blends together and works harmoniously well. “The Fly” is fucking genius.
- David Bowie – Station to Station – This is a product of the Thin White Duke version of Bowie who at the time lived on cocaine, milk and peppers. Despite his aversion to this period, Station to Station is easily the best work Bowie ever produced. Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar delivery amazingly heavy and unique riffs that make the album one of the greatest dual heavy guitar albums ever. The music is hard, funky, weird and catchy all at the same time. It is amazing wizardry that delivers the incredible title track and the equally great “Stay”.
- PiL – Album– in 1986, John Lydon aka. Johnny Rotten, released his 5th album and surrounded himself with incredible musicians such as Steve Vai, Ginger Baker, Tony Williams and Bill Laswell. The unique song writing of Lydon combined with Mark Schultz and Jebin Bruni created a sound that has never been duplicated. Album or Compact Disc or Cassette, depending on what format you purchased it on (thank God, there’s not one called “Download”) is an incredible listen. Vai himself states that his playing on the recording is possibly his best work. If there is a concept here, it is one of being generic. All of the song titles are one word. The best songs are “Round”, “Home” and the fantastic ending song “Ease”. The sound can’t be defined. There’s mysticism combined with heavy lead guitars. The vocals are haunting. In a world of sanitized pop music and pop metal that topped the charts in 1986, Album was more than a refreshing breath of air. It was and still is a timeless brutal assault on the ears and conscious.
Written by Joe Becht. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBecht