This week, we thought we’d do something a little bit different for the UDS blog. The idea started with a random year chosen by our own Neale, and as you’ve probably guessed from the title, the year chosen was 2004. We then each chose 2 albums from the year 2004 that we think people should go and check out again. The albums we’ve selected are a reasonably eclectic bunch, ranging from Metal to Glam-Pop to Japanese Alternative Rock and all sorts in between. So, without further ado, here are 6 albums from 2004 that we think you should go and listen to again!
Contraband – Velvet Revolver (Dobbie)
In 2004, supergroup Velvet Revolver released their debut album ‘Contraband’. Consisting of members from the bands Guns ‘n’ Roses (Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum), rhythm guitarist Dave Kushner and ex-Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland (RIP), the band had a straightforward Hard Rock sound with the notable swagger that was brought about by Weiland’s vocal and performance style. It’s an absolute ripper of a debut album, arriving with the band’s intentions fully laid out for all to see across the 13 blistering tracks that make up the album.
As you would expect, lead guitarist Slash’s guitar riffs are the main focal point across the board, and he doesn’t miss an opportunity to provide an earworm that will likely return to your mind a few hours/days/weeks later. It would be easy to write Velvet Revolver off as just Guns ‘n’ Roses with a different singer, but I think the vibe of the music is very different, and sounds very modern for its time.
On top of all that, the album’s lead single ‘Slither’, which is almost definitely the song the band will always be remembered for, doesn’t even turn up until Track 11! A barnstormer of an arrival for a band to make.
Notable Tracks: Slither, Fall to Pieces, Do It for The Kids
Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) - Slipknot (Tom)
Slipknot’s ‘Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)’ was quite a marked departure from their sophomore effort ‘Iowa’, which I still maintain could be the heaviest album ever released (I’m sure I’ll write more about that in the future). Rather, ‘Vol. 3’ see’s the Des Moines natives expand on their sound, employing Corey Taylor’s impressive clean vocals more than ever before, without sacrificing the visceral brutality that has become Slipknot’s trademark.
An interesting factoid - there’s almost no swearing in this album at all. This was a deliberate choice by Taylor, who had faced criticism for over-relying on naughty words on the band’s earlier releases. Personally, I don’t think the decision affects the album either way, but it’s interesting to appreciate the lyrics with the context of these self-imposed restrictions.
Notable Tracks: Before I Forget, Vermillion, Circle
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (Neale)
It’d be unfair to call Franz Ferdinand a one hit wonder, but to a large portion of the UK population they probably are just that. It’s a little unfortunate most people will only know their debut album for the track ‘Take Me Out’, despite the single barely scratching the surface of what was on offer.
Despite drawing significant inspiration from the sounds and visual artistry of the 70’s krautrock scene, this album was almost genre-defining in 2004. The singles included ‘Take Me Out’, ‘Dark of the Matinee’, ‘Michael’, and ‘This Fire’, all of which you’ve probably been exposed to without realising it. That said, I think the opening track ‘Jacqueline’ establishes the scope of Franz’s discography – a slow and gentle melody, erupting into fierce and distinct guitar riffs. If Franz is going to be remembered for anything, it’s likely the strength of their guitar melodies.
This debut is a fantastic example of new wave for the next generation, really showcasing what the band was capable of at an incredibly early stage, helping set up the indie/pop rock scene in the early 00’s. It’s a shame the band hasn’t been able to find quite the same success despite making some remarkable works, but for 2004, this was huge.
Notable Tracks: ‘Jacqueline’, ‘This Fire’, ‘40’’
Scissor Sisters – Scissor Sisters (Dobbie)
Scissor Sisters seemed to arrive in 2004 without any warning and quickly became a major talking point. Leading the charge with the jaunty ‘Laura’ and following it up just before the album’s release with an excellently reimagined cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, Scissor Sisters seemed to take hold of radio and charts for the entirety of the year and refused to let go.
The impressive falsetto-laden vocals of Jake Shears and the unique sound of the band behind them were a mainstay of radio for the rest of the Noughties, but with the band having been on hiatus since 2012, they seem to have fallen off the radar for the most part. Which is a shame, I think the airwaves are missing a band like this in 2019, a band with a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek attitude with songs that are just great to bounce to.
Side note: Frontman Jake Shears released a self-titled solo album in 2018 that I would highly recommend!
Notable Tracks: Take Your Mama, Laura, Filthy/Gorgeous
Sol-Fa – Asian Kung-Fu Generation (Neale)
I’m not even going to pretend that I listened to this album in 2004, in fact I probably didn’t hear the whole thing until about nearly 10 years later, when Asian Kung-Fu Generation (AKG) came to the UK on tour in 2013. I knew a handful of songs that had appeared in shows like Naruto and Full Metal Alchemist back when I was younger, but until they handily released a greatest hits album in 2012 (‘Best Hit AKG’), I had no idea of their extensive back catalogue.
‘Sol-Fa’ is where AKG developed their sound with conviction. Despite finding success with their first album (‘Kimi Tsunagi Five M’), ‘Sol-Fa’ was their first album to garner international success, and was one of the few examples of a Japanese band gaining traction in the English-speaking market at the time. Strangely enough, a track from the album found itself with a new lease of life after being used as the opening theme to 2016's Erased, bringing in a whole new generation of fans for the album.
Demonstrating their wide breadth of sound, the album’s tracks range from the hard hitting ‘Rewrite’, to the mellow ‘Kaigan Dori’, and just about everything in between. AKG are great at covering a lot of ground with their melodies and aren’t afraid to experiment a little. If you’ve ever had a passing interest in Japanese rock, ‘Sol-Fa’ is a great place to start.
Notable Tracks: ‘Rewrite’, ‘Siren’, ‘Re: Re:’
Racecar Is Racecar Backwards - Reuben (Tom)
2004 saw the release of Reuben’s ‘Racecar Is Racecar Backwards’, the album that introduced me to my favourite band. Reuben are one of those bands that most people probably don’t know too much about, but those that do form one of the most loyal, fanatical fan bases in British rock music.
As a debut album, ‘Racecar…’ is almost obnoxiously ambitious, consisting of 16 tracks, ranging from the face-melting brutality of ‘Missing Fingers’ to the mournful tenderness of ‘Dusk’. The sound that vocalist/guitarist Jamie Lenman and co. can conjure out of a three piece is massive, technically proficient and, at times, emotionally devastating. Much of the latter is down to personal opinion; subject matter across the album deals with the trials and tribulations of starting a band, abandoning a conventional future and modern comforts for the sake of your art, all the while contending with the bevy of adolescent issues that plague even the more well-adjusted of us. As I’ve grown up, these issues have been inexorably entwined with these songs, so their gravitas is only augmented.
But ultimately, the main reason I’d implore anyone to check out ‘Racecar…’ is the simple fact that the songs are just good, with or without context. There aren’t many bands that blend riffs and vocal melodies with the surgical precision of Reuben (‘Parties Break Hearts’ is my favourite example of this), and the bitter sweet lyrics will put a smile on anyone’s face. Jamie Lenman is up there with the best lyricists in the game, alongside Dan Adriano of Alkaline Trio and Frank Turner.
Reuben may not have had the success they deserved during their all too fleeting time as a band, but their influence in the British post-hardcore scene is clear to see in the form of their contemporaries. In another timeline, Reuben are headlining Wembley with Biffy Clyro, and it would have all started with 2004’s ‘Racecar Is Racecar Backwards’.
Notable Tracks: Parties Break Hearts, Freddy Krueger, Moving To Blackwater