Longevity in music is about as rare these days as a selfie without a snapchat filter, or a semi-literate Drumpf tweet. So it comes with great relief to find two of my favourite bands: The Bronx and The Horrors, released LPs entitled V last year, not only a hint that their careers have been sufficiently successful to reach the five albums milestone, but also that they are both as unimaginative when it comes to naming records.
The Bronx have been delivering ecstatic rock’n’roll enthused punk (with occasional forays into mariachi music) for over 15 years and it should come as no surprise that their fifth offering if you haven’t heard it yet delivers all the gut punching thrills, kick ass riffs, and huge choruses you’d expect. Whilst not being at quite the level of II it’s still a fine addition to their canon with songs like “Fill the Tanks”, “Sore Throat”, and “Broken Arrow” consolidating all they’ve achieved over their previous releases into flaming balls of irresistible fury.
Meanwhile, The Horrors have not only learnt from their past 12 years in existence but have surpassed them with V, a transcendental journey into glorious 80s stadium pop recalling, at times, Depeche Mode, New Order and Gary Numan. It’s a massive improvement on previous album Luminous and takes the band from cult also-rans to potential festival headliners with its huge ambition and scope.
And it got me thinking (not unlike Carrie Bradshaw after her umpteenth Manhattan of the evening). What are the best fifth albums in a band’s discography that have ever been released?
After rummaging through my record collection and discounting amazing works from Fugazi, Beck, Faith No More, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Sleater-Kinney, Super Furry Animals, Husker Du, David Bowie, and Jeffrey Lewis I’ve decided on my top five. It ain’t perfect, you’ll probably disagree, but here they are in chronological order.
The 5 Best Fifth Albums From Artists / Bands
Neil Young – On The Beach (1974)
The great lost album released in 1974 deleted in the early 80s and only widely available again in 2003 after an online petition resulted in a CD release, On The Beach is the perfect summation of early Young, from the glorious hook on opener “Walk On” and the downright scary “Revolution Blues” through to the sublimely depressing “Ambulance Blues”, its bleak, lyrically majestic and heart-bleedingly raw.
The fact that such a dark uncompromising work (alongside Tonight’s the Night) was the product of Young’s psyche following the huge success of Harvest says a lot about the man: contrary, unburdened by commercial pressures, and driven by truth, Neil Young would never again write an album as stark and honest as this.
Prince – 1999 (1982)
Is 1999 Prince’s best work? It’s certainly up there giving Sign o’ The Times, Dirty Mind, and Purple Rain a salacious run for their money. The ubiquitous opening track has been the soundtrack to New Year’s Eve parties even before the titular date had swung around (despite its apocalyptic subject matter) whilst “Little Red Corvette” is one of those effortless slices of pop that Prince seemed to just excrete on a regular basis throughout the 80s.
But it’s the deeper cuts that hit hardest, the strutting funk of “D.M.S.R.”, the filth fest of “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, or the foray into sound experimentation of “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)”. And, let’s not forget, that 1999 was released as Prince’s first double album before he was famous enough to even contemplate releasing something so ambitious AND, at the same time, he was also knocking out corkers like “Nasty Girl” for Vanity 6. If proof were ever needed of the Purple One’s prolific genius then 1999 is it.
Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988)
There’s very little I can say about Daydream Nation that hasn’t been said before. Widely regarded as Sonic Youth’s greatest achievement and often cited as the best alternative album of the 1980s, it’s an album that’s been preserved by the National Recording Registry and widely regarded as one of “those” records you need to listen to before anyone will take you seriously as a music fan.
It provides some symmetry to my list of top five fifth albums by not only nearly being called Tonight’s The Day in tribute to Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night but also containing the song “Teen Age Riot” a fictional account of J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr as POTUS. Full of hooks and gloriously noisy it’s the sound of one of the world’s most inventive bands literally rewriting the rule book on how a rock record could sound.
Dinosaur Jr – Where You Been (1993)
Essentially this is the record that introduced me to alternative rock, Where You Been proved that, five albums in, J. Mascis and co. might not want to deviate too far from their tried and tested formula but they weren’t done with penning cracking tunes. “Start Choppin” (probably their finest five minutes) feels like a band throwing every trick they know onto tape and revelling in the magnificent chaos bought forth whilst “On The Way” moulds the band’s early bombastic power trio noise into something approaching commerciality.
This was the first album where bassist Mike Johnson had an active role in the recording process and the change in tone from previous album Green Mind (a Mascis solo album in all but name) is clear: a more joyous and free record with a band right at the top of their game.
Pulp – Different Class (1995)
Probably the best British album released in the 1990s, Different Class, was the distillation of Pulp’s growing ability to create dramatic slabs of disco-infused indie pop detailing the class divide and the battle of the sexes in all their grubby glory. Despite being lumped in with the boorish Britpop movement, Pulp (like Suede) were far too clever for the beer swilling, Fred Perry wearing, lad’s mag reading Oasis fans who flocked to their gigs (I know I was one of them), but the cross pollination of this audience alongside the John Peel set ensured both critical and commercial success.
A feat which had eluded them until fourth album His and Hers. Cocker would never again be as lyrically agile as he is here, the band never quite as catchy, and the UK charts have been bereft of intelligent pop music ever since.
Think you can do better? Let’s start a discussion and stick your top 5 in the comments below…
Head screamer in Dead Arms, Dad to Thomas and big bearded pop-culture geek..