Smashing Pumpkins Albums (And some notable EPs/Compilations) Ranked:

This list feature is based on my subjective personal opinion, not fan consensus or journalistic research. They are ranked from best to worst, best being simply “my own favourite” and worst being “the one I personally like the least.” I know it is customary to rank from worst to best, but I prefer to lead with the positive. Check out the rankings home page for more albums-ranked lists.

Today I’ll be discussing Chicago’s own genre-defying, ever-evolving, hard to define band, The Smashing Pumpkins, and their somewhat intimidating discography. (Feel free to add your own ranknigs in the comments).



1. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993) – Its quite hard to pick a number one album when the band have two of the most definitive albums of the 1990s, both of which are always featured on every list and retrospective of the most important / most iconic / most famous / best albums in every book, magazine, website, blog etc. that you can think of. (Almost like Pink Floyd having both The Wall and Dark Side Of The Moon in their catalogue). Which one you will prefer will ultimately come down to personal choice: Do you want a tighter more direct ride to your destination? Or do you want the more scenic diverse route that covers more ground, and gets you there in a slower but more colourful way?
I like every album the Pumpkins have made so far, but it is fair to say the most famous two are the most famous for a good reason, and the two best starting points for a new fan. I was almost tempted for half a minute not to pick either the perfect-flowing Siamese Dream or the epic double-album Melon Collie’ for first place, but ultimately decided that was just being deliberately awkward, and inaccurate. After deep consideration, I do honestly believe Siamese Dream is my favourite Pumpkins album and deserving of the top spot, even if it is an obvious choice.  

Great drums, heavy moments, soft moments, grungey moments, occasional proggy tinges and some very memorable hits. Enough has already been written about Billy Corgan’s masterpiece that I won’t write too much steamy praise here, but if you haven’t heard it yet, I’ll just echo the hundreds of voices online that say it absolutely lives up to its reputation, deserves all the plaudits, and gets better on each listen.

And to think, I took a strange dislike to this band as a teenager due to the song “Today” and its music video, and didn’t give the band a fair listen until my brother got me this album as an unrequested gift, only about 4 or 5 years ago. All that time wasted, not realising how good this band are. Oh well, guess I’ll have to make up for it now.

Best hits: “Cherub Rock” & “Disarm”

Best deep cuts: “Silverfuck,” “Geek USA” & “Hummer.”



2. Smashing Pumpkins – Melon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1996) – As hinted above already, this huge sprawling eccentric record is another masterpiece, and has an equal chance of being thought of as their finest hour. It is almost difficult to take in during one listen, there’s more creativity and ideas popping off here than in some of their peer’s whole discographies.

It takes all the ideas of their previous two albums, amplifies them, expands upon them and then introduces dozens more new ideas on top of that to create a two-hour voyage through numerous facets of rock, pop and metal music with a loose dreamy passage of time theme, some trippy artwork, and some very evocative lyrics. There are songs for every mood you could be in, for every type of rock fan – perhaps that’s why it was such a monster seller?

Speaking of its sales, I almost find it hard to believe that such a borderline reckless album with seemingly no creative restraint ended up being so financially successful (gold, platinum, multi-platinum and diamond selling, in different territories). Sometimes it doesn’t even seem to know if it wants to be Smells Like Teen Spirit, Pink Moon, Colony Of Slippermen or Enter Sandman. Then again, a few listens, and you get to see how good the songs are, and as mentioned above… there’s something for everything, so I guess it makes a lot of sense.   

Best hits: “Tonight, Tonight,” “Zero” & “1979.”

Best deep cuts: “An Ode To No One,” “X.Y.U” & “Where Boys Fear To Tread.”



3. Smashing Pumpkins – Gish (1991) – This is one of the band’s tightest, most efficient, consistent and succinct records to date. Whereas the next two albums made a great success out of being broad, expansive, and diverse, this album’s strength is in its relative straight-forwardness and cohesion.

That’s not to say the album is boring or repetitive, there is a mixture of hard rockers, ballads and sleepy psychedelic moments – its just focused, flows well and has a clear direction. I know the band started off in the ‘80s with a bunch of goth and New Wave influences, but by the time they got into the 90s, their debut album sounds more like early Monster Magnet and peak Kyuss to me than it does like New Order or The Cure. Maybe that’s just my ear. Rock fans who have only heard the big singles like “1979” and “Today,” or “Tonight, Tonight” might be quite surprised with the fuzzed out attacking moments on this record. If you like your “Demon Cleaner” with a side of “Dinosaur Vacuum” – check this one out, you might be pleasantly surprised.

In terms of a well-crafted album, this is pretty damn great. The others are just trying to be “more than an album” and, arguably succeeding. Still, in such a long and very varied career, with members coming and going, with exploration into all sorts of different musical territories, through various breakups and comebacks… whichever album managed to come in at third place behind the two obvious always going to be number one or two shouts must be pretty must-hear, right? Well it is. I feel like every music publication in the rock world will tell you to listen to Siamese’ and Melon Collie, but if you have even the most passing interest in the band, you need to get some Gish in your life too, at an absolute minimum.

Best songs: “Bury Me,” “Siva” & “I Am One.”



4. Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist (2007) – This album usually features pretty low on critic’s Pumpkins album ranking lists, but I don’t care. This blog isn’t about the common consensus, this is just my own personal taste, and personally, I love this record.

The Smashing Pumpkins have one of the most frustrating and hard to please fanbases in the rock world, and the critics seems twice as unpleasable as that. This album was already written-off by the press before it was even released because bassist and guitarist D’arcy and James were gone, and then upon review, the specifics were added in. It was poo-pooed for being too metal and too simple, despite critic’s favourite Pumpkins albums being full of highly metallic songs like “Zero” and “Bodies” and “Quiet” as well as despite critics previously poo-pooing parts of Machina for being too experimental and proggy, on top of the fact that D’arcy and James contributed the least musically to all the albums the critics do like… its just a weird bandwagon for everyone to jump on.

When the Pumpkins came back with a cool striking artwork and theme (that carried through to all the merch and singles and videos and stage image etc), and a vague promise in interviews to return to the immediacy of Gish, and kept the two most important members of the band, in hindsight it just seems a little weird and off that this album is thought of by so many people as a stinker.

Imagine being Billy Corgan in 2007, or even nowadays looking back at rankings and seeing this at or near the bottom. What must he be thinking? “You’re mad at the Pumpkins because they’re being more simple, like you wanted them to, and writing more metallic songs again, like you wanted them to, and because the band members who make the least difference to the overall Pumpkins sound are gone – but the really noticeable drummer and the voice and writer of 90% of the music is still there…the guy who physically played all the bass on Siamese Dream anyway? – And on top of that, this record and marketing campaign are both really cool and that’s all being ignored in favour of those really nit-picky complaints?”  Yeah, ok, I wouldn’t know how to process that either.

When I personally listen to the excellent music, which has some great Hard Rock / borderline metallic bangers ala the best moments on the first three albums, as well as some great melodic modern moments that rival or even exceed the best moments on Machina (“That’s The Way My Love Is,” “Bring The Light” etc), and even a near-ten-minute Tool-sounding drum fuelled epic (“United Stated”)… I definitely get what I want from the Pumpkins.

I guess some people wanted Dream Pop, or Shoegaze or New Wave or Avant-Garde, and fair enough, those aspects are in shorter supply here, so if that is what you were expecting, those elements aren’t as well represented this time, and if that was the actual criticism, I could respect that. But don’t try and tell me with a straight face that “Death From Above” is a bad song, or that you can really hear the lack of D’Arcy on this album.

Some people don’t like the production, especially on the vocals, and fair enough, that’s personal taste. I can get if you don’t want all the overdubbed vocals and effects. For me, personally, the production here still sounds a lot better than Adore or either volume of Machina did, so its not a deal-breaker level bad production to my ears.         

Best songs: “Doomsday Clock,” “Tarantula” & “United States.”



5. Smashing Pumpkins – Shiny And Oh So Bright’ (2018) – This eight track album (initially called Volume 1, although there seems no sign of a volume 2 at time of writing) is the Pumpkins’ shortest album to date, at just over half an hour.

While other Smashing Pumpkins albums tend to have a hook or angle of some sort (eg. broad, diverse, eccentric, arty, commercial, electronic, heavy, quiet, proggy, back to basics, etc) this one just seems to focus entirely on “good song writing” which for my money, is a very admirable goal.

There are only eight songs here, but all of them are a winner, nothing is skippable, all are immensely memorable.     

The Rick Rubin-produced affair sees the return of guitarist James Iha (absent since 2000) and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain (absent since 2009), which makes for good headlines, although early bassist D’arcy Wretzky is still absent, which rankled some critics, so I guess you could only consider it a partial reunion… kind of like Guns N’ Roses getting Slash and Duff back in the band, but not Adler.

Oh well, if the results are this good, I can live without the optics of a full reunion.

PS. I don’t mean to come across like I dislike D’Arcy or anything, not at all, I just really don’t understand when some people online or in the media come out with a real hard-line “No Pumpkins album without D’Arcy is any good” attitude. I just don’t see it. They’ve released some spectacular work without her.   

Best songs: “Seek And You Shall Destroy,” “Marchin’ On” & “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts).”



6. Smashing Pumpkins – Machina II: The Friends & Enemies Of Modern Music (2000) – Smashing Pumpkins are years ahead of their time. They gave an album away for free on the internet more than half a decade before Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails made it cool. They had some alternate-reality marketing before a similar idea made Reznor look like a genius. Hell, they even had the idea of an animated band before the Gorillaz.
If you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, have a good old read online about the stillborn double album Glass And The Machines Of God. Ok, it wasn’t all completely original…  the idea of a rock opera about a rock-star thing had already been well explored by bands like WASP and Savatage a decade prior, and of course by Pink Floyd over a decade before that. But the they handled/were going to handle it, seemed like quite a cool update / twist on the basic premise.   

When the record that was initially to be a double eventually morphed into two separate records, Machina 2, (the one that didn’t unfortunately get a proper commercial release and which you have to listen to online or via dodgy bootlegs), was actually the better of the two, with the best songs, the best ideas, and the most clear narrative.

Until this eventually gets rereleased in some glorious deluxe edition, you’ll just have to search-engine your way to a trustworthy copy, and the sound won’t be perfect, but for the tunes its worth it.

Although it has such an interesting backstory, it is not a mere gimmick, and if it was just an album you could always get in the shops just like anything else, it would still be one of their best. I can’t even think of the Pumpkins without thinking “Shattering fast…”  

Best songs: “Glass’ Theme,” “Cash Car Star” & “Dross.”



7. Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments To An Elegy (2014) – This album has the somewhat weird distinction of having Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee on drums. As odd a pairing as that is on paper, Lee actually fits the music tastefully and you wouldn’t even know he was there unless you were told.

Similarly to Shiny And Oh So Bright, it is barely over half an hour in length. With the exception of the quite rocking opener, the musical direction is quite upbeat, poppy, synthy. It’s a very pleasant listening experience.

If you want blistering guitar solos, throat rending screams, and gen-x angst, you’ve very much picked up the wrong disc, but if you want to hear the band in a more contemplative, mature, less aggro space, this is a nice diversion. Simple, elegant, understated. I guess you could see it as Billy exploring what songs you can write at the polar opposite point to the complex, ostentatious, over the top end of the spectrum that brought us Melon Collie. I wouldn’t like them to live here full time, I love it when they go big, but as a one off album, I really love that this exists.

Best songs: “Tiberius,” “Drum + Fife” & “Anaise!”



8. Smashing Pumpkins – Pisces Iscariot (1994) – Ok, this isn’t a real album, its actually a B-sides compilation, but its as good as most band’s real albums. In fact, there’s many a Pumpkins fan who would place this as their second or third best record, almost up there with the top tier classics.

Its well sequenced, and flows like a real album, moreso than a compilation, and if someone told you it wasn’t just their second album between Gish and Siamese Dream, you could easily fall for that line.  

For that reason, I’ve decided to include it on the list here. If you’re using this list as a buyer’s guide, seriously treat this compilation like a true album, its unskippable.

Best songs: “Frail & Bedazzled,” “Pissant” & “Starla.”



9. Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania (2012) – 2012’s Oceania is the first full-length Pumpkins album with Jeff Schroeder officially on it, even though he’s actually been in the band since the comeback shows of 2007.

After the press and even a lot of the fans unceremoniously took a dump on the fantastic Zeitgeist album, in which the band had tried to be simplistic and go back to basics, but also took a dump on the live shows of the time in which the band tried to be creative and progressive and boundary pushing, (see the excellent documentary / live DVD “If All Goes Wrong” for context), then also ignored their ahead-of-their-time, creative new “we don’t do albums anymore, we’ll just release stuff online” approach of the next few years… the Pumpkins were at a bit of a cross roads. People aren’t happy when the band go back to their roots, people aren’t happy when the band making progress… the only thing people can really seem to ever agree on is liking  Siamese Dream. Everyone likes Siamese Dream. So, Billy and company decided with Oceania to deliberately try and remind people of Siamese Dream. Not so much obvious retreading, but “capturing a vibe.” Well, I say not obvious retreading, but you’d have to try very hard to find a review of this album that doesn’t mention “Cherub Rock,” or “Disarm” or maybe even “Spaceboy” and “Luna” …everyone is tripping over themselves to hear hints of Siamese Dream on this album, and tell .

Its not all Siamese-nostaliga though. You can actually hear as much were they would be going on future albums like Monuments’ and Cyr in some of the poppier and synthier moments as much as you can riffs or drum rolls that remind you of the glory days.

In terms of ranking it, it is a pretty strong album, but a bit of filler holds it back from the absolute top tiers. If it had either been a tad more adventurous, or else a tad more succinct, it would have been even better. As it stands, its just pretty good, but not an utter classic.

Best songs: “The Celestials,” “Inkless” & “Quasar.”



10. Smashing Pumpkins – Teargarden By Kaleidyscope EPs & Singles (2010) – As mentioned above, after the music journalists savaged basically everything Billy and his merry band did since they returned, the decision was made to abandon the traditional album format, and instead just release digital EPs and singles.

This was quite forward thinking, but like Lars was right about Napster at the time, and people are starting to realise it in hindsight, but it seemed crazy at the time and people just didn’t rally around it like they should have. It seems like the whole “lets eschew albums in favour of just digital singles or short but frequent EPs” mostly idea is more relevant today than ever. You can’t switch on a music podcast these days without some artist or industry insider pondering about whether the album format is old fashioned in the era of streaming and downloads.

Technically, Oceania and Monuments’ are part of this overarching project too, but they work as well (if not better) as distinct albums, so for this entry, I’m just talking about the rest of the material. If you take the EPs The Solstice Bare & Songs For A Sailor plus the rest of the Teargarden single tracks, they basically all add up together to form a third album’s worth of material, and so for ease of organisation, I tend to just think of them as one album, and have actually just formatted them as one album in my music library. A sort of missing album between Zeitgeist and Oceania if you will.

You know how they say don’t look a gift horse in the mouth? Yeah, well, considering these are totally free tracks, it’s a very enjoyable set. Alright, if you want to get your critical analysis skills out, sure, it isn’t as accomplished as the upper half of the list, but for a free record, it’s a heck of a lot better than you’d expect.

Best songs: “Song For A Son,” “Freak USA” & “Cottonwood Symphony.”



11. Smashing Pumpkins – Cyr (2020) – The newest album on this list at time of writing, Cyr is a double disc synth-pop album. It was talked up as being their attempt to create something modern, but to me it sounds like ‘80s worship. I wonder is this in fact closer to the vision inside Billy’s head when they started the band, than a genuine attempt to be modern?

At first, I wasn’t quite as into this record as most of the others. My main concerns were basically, “What’s the point of having a drummer as good as Chamberlain back in the band if you are going to have programmed beats and restrained songs?” and “what’s the point of having a double album if its all sort of one pace and all sort of one duration, with no peaks and valleys?” but from repeat listens, it has really grown on me. At the end of the day, a good song is a good song. Yeah, it isn’t as heavy and aggressive as I like, or as proggy and weird as I like, or as acoustic and beautiful as I like, or as diverse and surprising as I like, or as virtuosic and instrumentally impressive as I’d like… but do I spend a lot of the week humming choruses or melody lines from it… so Billy must have been on to something.

Best songs: “Ramona,” “Anno Satana” “Tyger, Tyger” & “Wyttch.”



12. Smashing Pumpkins – The Aeroplane Flies High Boxset (1996) – Originally this was a box set collecting all the singles from Melon Collie, but nowadays you can just get it on iTunes or Amazon etc, and if you ignore the hit Mellon Collie songs, its kind of works like a (less-good) follow up to Pisces Iscariot. In contrast to that very wonderful compilation though, this doesn’t flow like an album, isn’t consistent all the way through, and isn’t a must-have. If you love the Pumpkins and just want a bit more, it is worth seeking out, and there are some great tunes on it, but it is definitely uneven and for-fans-only.

Best songs: “God,” “Pennies” & “Marquis In Spades.”



13. Smashing Pumpkins – Machina / The Machines Of God (2000) – I really like the album, but I’m going to have to try and justify putting it so far down the list, lower than things that aren’t even real albums, between albums you can’t even buy on CD and between albums without most of the original line up. Far below albums many critics outright panned. It would be easy to just say “personal preference” chalk the whole thing up as a good job, and knock off early for ice cream, but I suppose I better try and come up with a rationale anyway.

The production on this one has a bit of a harsh sheen on most of it, and sort of hurts my ears. It’s a bit too bright, brittle and loud.

The record is also a bit overlong and although there is some diversity and some totally new ideas, it suffers a bit from filler in the middle and so unfortunately feels like it doesn’t justify its length.  

The heavy, energetic, intensely memorable opener is one of the best songs in the band’s history, and there are some nice trippy experimental moments here and there, but most of the album is a bit too syrupy.

Also, for a concept album / rock opera, the narrative doesn’t really come across as clearly as you would expect.

If either they had combined this and Machina 2 into one giant epic, or else they had trimmed this down to its best moments, and toned down the production a bit, then perhaps it would be a bit higher up the list, but as it stands, it is a good Pumpkins album, but not a great one.

Best songs: “The Everlasting Gaze,” “Try, Try, Try” & “Wound.”



14. Smashing Pumpkins – Adore (1998) – It feels harsh having this album last, and indeed it will be utter blasphemy to some fans, but something has to be in last place, and although I like it, it is unarguably my least favourite. The songs, for the most part, aren’t just quite as good as the Pumpkin’s best. There’s definitely good stuff here, but there’s better stuff elsewhere.

I don’t mind them not playing hard or metallic, I don’t mind them not having Chamberlain’s drums, and I don’t mind them using synths or being gothy elsewhere, so don’t think I’m some kind of luddite just rejecting this album because it was a big sonic shift for the band.

Its just a bit plain, unadventurous and dreary when compared to the Pumpkins’ bigger more beloved albums, and also not as memorable, concise and well-written as their lesser well-known material. Even compared to their other ‘80s and electronic tinged album, its not as fun.

I’m sort of making it sound as though I don’t like it, but that is not the case, I do still like it… I’m just trying to explain how it can be last on the list, so the hardcore fans put down their pitchforks and flaming torches. It has some memorable moments, a unique aesthetic in the band’s catalogue, was historically important. I’m not denying that. It is an interesting portrait of a dark, bereaved time for the Pumpkins and confused time for the music business. But its just not as much my cup of tea as all the others.

Oh wait, did I essentially just say “personal preference” and knock off early? Woops. Anyone for ice-cream?

Best songs: “Ava Adore,” “Blank Page” & “For Martha.”



Also, the EPs American Gothic and Lull deserve honorary mentions. You can do with “Slunk” and “The Rose March” in your life if you like good Pumpkins.

Clutch Albums Ranked:

This list feature is based on my subjective personal opinion, not fan consensus or journalistic research. They are ranked from best to worst, best being simply “my own favourite” and worst being “the one I personally like the least.” I know it is customary to rank from worst to best, but I prefer to lead with the positive. Check out the rankings home page for more albums-ranked lists.

Today, I’ll be discussing the studio albums from the one of a kind, eccentric and diverse Maryland Rock band, Clutch.



1. Clutch – Earth Rocker (2013) – This is one of those albums like Dr. Feelgood or Permanent Vacation where it seems like someone sat the band down, sobered them up, got them into a laser-beam focus, and said “ok, you have to make the biggest album of your career now.” Its one of those career defining albums like Back In Black, or British Steel or The Black Album where it feels like the band were making a concerted effort to “step up.” Its one of those albums like “Paranoid” where the album plays more like a greatest hits compilation than a single album and almost every song could have been a hit. Its one of those albums like Formation Of Damnation or Hordes Of Chaos that come later in the band’s career and somehow set a new standard for excellence and start a new golden age for the band.

Its all of those things and more. It’s the biggest, boldest, liveliest, punchiest record of the band’s career; with a level of quality control, focus and singular-vision that makes this something truly rare, truly special….a perfect record! It’s the band’s supercharged, hyper-focused, ultra-consistent, perfect-all-the-way-through, “THIS.IS.CLUTCH.” defining statement.

The album just explodes out of the speakers, crackling with life, bursting with colour, oozing personality, throwing gem after gem after gem at you and never letting up. “Coming at you in all 3-Ds.” Its larger than life, its almost too good to be true. Its Earth Rocker, motherfucker!  Blurgh-haw-hah-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Best songs: “Earth Rocker,” “Cyborg Bete,” “Crucial Velocity” & “Unto The Breach.”



2. Clutch – Blast Tyrant (2004) – This thing could be described as “Personality, the album.” This record is the refinement, crystallisation and then expansion of everything the band had been building up to until this point. This album forever set Clutch aside from the pack. All the way up until Earth Rocker (almost a decade) this must have been their Ace Of Spades type “cannot escape the shadow” album.

This album is like a colourful alternate reality dreamworld. Lots of little Funk, Soul, Gospel, Gogo, Southern Rock and Blues tinges mix with a bombastic foundation of high energy Hard Rock, filtered through boundless creativity in an effortless air of cool. The band clearly tapped into an embarrassment-of-riches vein from the mine of earworm choruses, toe-tapping beats and make-you-smile riffs n’ basslines. Every musician is like the best musician in any other band.

Add to that an outrageously good opening run of six classics, some diversity with a smoky ballad, an instrumental and some virtuosic jamming. Its packaged up in bizarre memorable artwork and a gorgeous clear vibrant production job… mix it all up and you’ve got a straight up classic album on your hands.

Frontman Neil Fallon also seemed to take this moment to ascend from cool singer with quirky lyrics into a God-tier contender for best rock frontman in history. If this guy had been around in the ’60s or ’70s when the history books were still unwritten he would no doubt be up there in the top-10 with the likes of any icon you dare to name. Its like he did some soul searching, figured out what his “best qualities” were, then just made his whole being the best bits, and then upped his game tenfold again! Remember the idea of how Dimebag decided to make every riff “the money riff”? Here its like Neil decided to make every verse, chorus and bridge the vocal equivalent of “the money riff.”

As if all that if that wasn’t enough…. they then also managed to write “The Mob Goes Wild” …which for my money is unarguably one of the best songs in human history. If you don’t love that song, you are no friend of mine! The fact that it isn’t talked about daily in the same breath as “Smoke On The Water,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is nothing short of a crying shame.    

Best songs: “The Mob Goes Wild,” “Subtle Hustle” “The Profits Of Doom” & “The Regulator.”



3. Clutch – Clutch (1995) – The band’s “real” debut in the eyes of many, and for many their crowning achievement. Self-titled for a reason. This is one superb set of songs let me tell you and a real genre-classic for the Stoner Rock scene. (I mean Clutch are a weird, unique outlier for the scene and more than just Stoner Rock, but its definitely a part of the sound, particularly on this record).

It was great enough for them to play it in its entirety for a live album, and they have always played a hell of a lot of it live over the years.

This is such a humongous step up from Speedway’ and the early EPs. The same DNA is there, but the results are very different. For example, the bounce of ‘Marcus can be heard updated on “Animal Farm,’ the groove of “El Jefe” can be heard evolved on “Tight Like That.” The clever lyrics and badass attitude of “12 Oz Epilogue” and ‘Monster Trucks can be heard evolved on, well… all over this album. This album takes the best most charasmatic and memorable moments of the last a builds a whole album out of the cream of the crop.

If you have this as your own number-one in your own rankings, I’d totally get it. The only reasons I can think of to knock it down lower are personal preference issues, and just because they’ve released better stuff since. If I was to try and justify it not being first like so many online Clutch rankings would have it, all I can come up with is that the production is a bit rough, the vocals are a bit unrefined, the last few songs could have been cut for a tighter experience… but all that is just nitpicking and I love this record. At the end of the day, it does have some of the band’s finest tracks, is a fan-favourite and really helped define who and what Clutch are, and it is chocked to the brim with charm.

Best songs: “Texan Book Of The Dead,” “Escape From The Prison Planet” & “Animal Farm.”



4. Clutch – The Book Of Bad Decisions (2018) – The band’s newest album at time of writing, and the one that has grown on me the most over time. Every single time I listen to this I like it more and more, and I liked it plenty when it was released. If you deleted tracks 2 and 3, I think you could even bump this album up another place, as it would then be close to perfect.

It almost goes without saying, since we are talking about Clutch, but this album is so big, fun, memorable, and full of personality, with such unique lyrics and charismatic vocals, immense drumming, and stick-in-your-head-for-weeks basslines & riffs.

How many bands twelve albums deep (and numerous EPs and compilations more) into their career are still putting out one of their best albums and seeming more relevant and exciting now than when they broke through? It’s a pretty exclusive club.

Imagine being decades into your career and still being able to knock out a song as memorable, powerful and immensely fun as “How To Shake Hands” …that’s almost unfair, leave some quality for the rest of the bands in the world! I never get tired of imagining President Fallon flying around in a UFO.

Best songs: “Ghoul Wrangler,” “Paper & Strife” “In Walks Barbarella” & “Hot Bottom Feeder.”



5. Clutch – Robot Hive/Exodus (2005) – Blast Tyrant was like their equivalent of coming out with The Blackening years after Burn My Eyes. It can’t have been easy following that up. No matter what you do it won’t have quite the same impact for most fans.

Despite gigantic shoes to fill, Robot Hive’ is a superb follow-up and near as good. Its more diverse, more eclectic and tries more things, and sacrifices a little bit of focus for variety, but it is certainly worth it and much more hit than miss. Bazumph.

I always think of this and Blast Tyrant as a set, and often don’t listen to one without the other, so it is purely academic ranking them or having one higher or lower than the other. You need to buy both, it’s as simple as that.

Best songs: “Burning Beard,” “Circus Maximus” & “The Incomparable Mr. Flannery.”



6. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (2015) – Like Robot Hive’ is the follow-up companion to Blast Tyrant’s excellence, so too is Psychic Warfare the worthy follow-up companion to Earth Rocker’s perfection. This album is pure class, the only reason it isn’t higher being it had to follow up a surprise world-beater. If this had have came out first and Earth Rocker never existed, then this would be talked about in much the same way as Earth Rocker is.

Certainly they were on a fine run on form, and you can take the albums from Earth Rocker onwards as a set, and it would be an absolutely fantastic set, a golden era. This is what the phrase “its like someone lit a fire under their ass” was made for. Few bands ever have (or ever will) released three such strong albums in succession. It goes against my catholic upbringing, I admit it, but I’m a sucker for this album!

Best songs: “Sucker For The Witch,” “A Quick Death In Texas” & “Your Love Is Incarceration.”



7. Clutch – Strange Cousins From The West (2009) – Most fans might have this one a bit lower in the rankings, but its one of my favourites, and I have an emotional attachment to it as it was the first “new” Clutch album in my time as a serious fan. ‘90s fans would probably want to slap me for having it above Elephant Riders, but hey, this is my list, make your own list if you want this lower. This album is the band’s blues-iest, roots-iest album to date, perhaps leaning hard in on the success of “Electric Worry” and doubling down on it.

It’s a far cry from the days of “Impetus” and “Pitchfork” style face-smashing, and instead sits in a “the world’s greatest bar band” territory. Its like John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix and a coked-up gospel preacher decided to play at your local blues bar and knock out some of the most good-time music they could. It also has fabulous, Monster-Magnet-quality, memorable, unique, quirky lyrics. Lyrics have always been a selling point for Clutch and I feel like this album has some of their absolute best.

This album is all about the feel. Its all about being in the pocket, in the groove, in the vibe. It’s the idea of Jam Room for the new millennium, but the execution is a thousand times better. If you dislike this, I have a hard time taking you seriously.

Best songs: “Struck Down,” “Freakonomics” “Sleestak Lightning” & “50,000 Unstoppable Watts.”



8. Clutch – The Elephant Riders (1998) – “Uneven” is a very harsh, pedantic and easily counterargued criticism for the album, but short of just having all albums be “joint first” and calling it a day, there has to be some way of differentiating the albums and ranking them…even if having this one lower than some of the other ones might be blasphemy to many fans.  

It is painful to have this album so low, but we are into the ultimate “they’re always brilliant, how do I choose?” splitting hairs territory now. This album is an absolute classic of the subgenre, one of the best albums of the 1990s and contains some of my personal all-time favourite songs ever written by anyone.

In fact, if the whole album was as good as the highlights, this could have a shout for being one of the best albums of all time. Yes, I do like other records better, but I still consider this still “must-have,” and still recommend it to all fans no matter how casual.

Best songs: “The Elephant Riders,” “The Soap Makers” & “The Yeti.”



9. Clutch – From Beale Street To Oblivion (2007) – If any other similar band put this out, it would be the greatest achievement of their whole career. Sixty Watt Shaman, Five Horse Johnson and Monster Truck will never, ever release anything even close to this good, so the fact that it is so low down on this list makes me feel very conflicted.

An album with an opening three song run as good as this, or a moment as joyous and infectiously mood-lifting as “Electric Worry” can’t honestly be ever considered one of a band’s “lesser” albums can it? Well that’s just testament to how ridiculously good Clutch are.

Sometimes I will hear people talk negatively about this album and it just seems offensive to me. If this was a one-off album by a band that broke up afterwards, it would be such a beloved cult classic. Ok, its their ninth best album, but its better than 90% of the albums in whole subgenre.

Best songs: “You Can’t Stop Progress,” “Power Player” & “The Devil & Me.”



10. Clutch – Pure Rock Fury (2001) – This album was a bit of a hit, due in no small part to the rap-rock satire of its most famous track. It also contains the title track that became the does-what-it-say-on-the-tin badge that all fans and journalists use to describe the band with when they go a bit harder and faster. It is very well liked by fans of a certain vintage. It is however, just a bit “different.”

A lot of this comes down to the fact that it has a very different production for the band, seemingly going for the opposite of their loose, groovey Stoner Rock stylings of their previous three albums and attempting something more fitting in with modern Metal productions of the era. The results are a tighter, stiffer sound than any other Clutch record before or since.

Musically, this is also a transitional album that doesn’t fit neatly into any era of the band’s varied discography. It is heavy in places and dark at times, but it isn’t the punishing bruising hardcore dirge of the early days, it isn’t the funky stoner mashup of the preceding albums or the unique career defining new direction of the albums that follow it. It is an island.  Its still 100% Clutch; the musicianship, the exploration, the blue-collar vibes, the wit and humour of the lyrics, the variety and eccentricity of the vocals… and yet it is also kind of nothing like they’ve done before or since at the same time. Unique.

If you check out the Live At The Googolplex live album, these songs sound much more like Elephant Riders/Self-Titled era songs live, stripped of that tight stiff production, and similarly, if you look at the demo version of “Sinkemlow” on the 2004-reissue of Jam Room, you can really get an idea of what a difference the producers (the pseudonymed combo of “Uncle Punchy” and “Machine”) made here.

All talk of production jobs and stylistic directions aside though, this is a solid collection of good songs, with some really high highlights that make the overall package even better.  

Best songs: “Pure Rock Fury,” “Red Horse Rainbow” & “Careful With That Mic.”



11. Clutch – Jam Room (1999) – The band’s “we’re sick of record label disappointment, let’s just jam in a garage and have a good time” type album. It is a lot looser, more “live” sounding, freer and “jam”-feeling than any of the albums that preceded it (and certainly the one that followed it).

The band weren’t trying to write hits, the band weren’t trying to win over legions of new fans, the band weren’t trying to make a definitive magnum opus, this is just four dudes knocking out some music. For what it is, Jam Room is a complete success.

The only reason it is so low on the list is that Clutch are one of the best bands to ever pick up instruments and this album isn’t as good as their usual output by comparison. It’s a deliberately low effort, low brainpower, unrefined version of the band, and gloriously so, but the fact remains, they’ve done better.

Definitely not “skip it” but don’t let it be your first Clutch album either, wait until there’s almost nothing else you haven’t tried before giving it a go.   

Best songs: “Raised By Horses” “Big Fat Big” & “Who Want’s To Rock?”



12. Clutch – Slow Hole To China  (2003) – This list doesn’t cover some of the band’s catalogue, such as the various early EPs or reissues and compilations thereof, the mid career Basket Of Eggs EP, various live albums, the Weathermaker Vault series, or spin off material like The Bakerton Group.  

However; there is one non-studio-album release I felt needed to be included – the B-Sides album, Slow Hole To China. Slow Hole’ is sequenced and arranged like a real album, features many fan favourites that the band still play live and have been on live albums and generally, compared to other bands this B-Sides compilation is not just random loser-material for superfans only, but rather an “essential album” for all but the most casual of fans. Ok, its not Earth Rocker, Blast Tyrant or The Self-Titled… but it is worth your time.

Best songs: “Hoodoo Operator,” “Willie Nelson” & “Easy Breeze.”



13. Clutch – Transnational Speadway League’ (1993) – The band’s debut album is stylistically quite different than most people’s idea of the Clutch sound. When I first got into the band, I didn’t like this album at all and have very-gradually warmed to it over the years. When you hear songs from it live in amongst songs from Elephant Riders or The Self-Titled you sort of “get it” a bit more, and because the music is pretty dense, thick and sludgy it takes a lot of repeat listens for it to sink in.

It’s the band’s heaviest, nastiest, most aggressive album to date (all usually things that make an album my favourite) and some of the band’s trademark wit, humour and inventive lyrics/vocals are starting to come through, but the reason this album sits in last place is that only about half the songs are what I’d describe as “good” and only about a quarter of them are what I’d describe as “fun” so basically, I usually listen to the very good band Clutch and have a fun time, but when I listen to this album all the way through in one sitting, I’m only getting that part of the time. Instantaneous this is not, but that doesn’t mean it is devoid of quality. For collectors.

Best songs: “A Shogun Named Marcus,” “El Jeffe Speaks” & “Walking In The Great Shining Path Of Monster Trucks.”



Helloween Albums Ranked

In honour of the release of the Alive United live album, I’m taking a moment out to highlight some of the best moments from the ultimate cheese masters Helloween, ranking their studio albums from best to maybe-don’t-buy-that-one-first.


Keeper Of The Seven Keys parts 1 & 2. (1987 & 1988)

I always say ‘’If you only get one Helloween album, get these two!’’

It almost doesn’t need said, but the Keepers are two of the finest metal albums in history. Beyond iconic. Near flawless. Immensely repayable. Instant, but rewarding on repeat listens. The best albums of the Kiske era.  What Reign In Blood and Master If Puppets are to Thrash, the Keepers are to Power Metal. If you want to try Helloween, this is your starting point. If you have any interest in the ‘weenies, this is the must have moment, the pinnacle. Recent studies at the university of metal have shown that it is medically impossible to like Helloween and not like these albums. And hey; If you really only want to buy one album, they do also sell both of these albums together in one package, so that’s almsot like buying one album.


Time Of The Oath (1996)

After the Keepers, Helloween made a few, questionable decisions. It wasn’t until the album prior to this, Master Of The Rings, that things started getting back on track. When they actually GOT back on track however, is Time Of The Oath. The crown jewel in the Andi Deris era. No, its not just the album art. This is the most straight ahead classic Power Metal album since the Keepers stylistically, but more importantly, the best set of songs they ever concocted outside those peerless two classics. Tracks like the mighty ‘Kings Will Be Kings’ and ‘Steel Tormentor’ are brilliant and the album contains one of the band’s all time best tracks, ‘Power.’


7 Sinners (2010)

If you thought the band’s best material was confined to the late ‘80s and mid-‘90s, you’d be wrong. 2010’s 7 Sinners album stands tall and proud in the upper echelons of the band’s discography. Stylistically, this one is a deliberate effort to be heavier and more metallic. The guitar tone is thicker and crunchier than usual. The toms are pounding and the kick drums are thunderous. Its such a great mix of catchy, heavy and diverse. The opener ‘Where’s The Sinners Go’ is mid paced and modern, whereas ‘If A Mountain Could Talk’ is classic ‘80s style Helloween and ‘Raise The Noise’ is a melodic gem like ‘Power’ only with a Jethro Tull style flute solo.


Walls Of Jericho and Helloween EP.  (1985 & 1985)

Like the Keepers, these two are similarly linked and the only releases in the Kai Hansen era. Like the Keepers these two are often packaged together too. Stylistically; You can see how they would come to develop into the style they are more known for it, there are touches of it here and there, but they are rawer, thrashier and less melodic than most Helloween albums. My personal favourite track  on ‘Jericho is the catchy as hell ‘’Heavy Metal (Is The Law)’’ and it features other memorable moments like ‘’Ride The Sky’’ and the 7 minute long ‘’How Many Tears.’’

On the EP, tracks like ‘’Starlight’’ and ‘’Victim Of Fate’’ show that these Germans were onto something great from the very start. The only downside is the production and vocals aren’t as smooth as on later albums.


Gambling With The Devil (2007)

I wonder what it is about this band and the number 7. Anything with 7 in it turns to gold. 7 Keys. 7 Sinners. ‘’The Bells Of 7 Hells.’’ Aforementioned hell themed track is one of my all time favourite Helloween moments.  

Like the 7 Sinners album, this album sees a diverse yet consistent Helloween with a focus on heaviness, but willingness to diverge. ‘’As Long As I Fall’’ for example starts off as a commercial semi-ballad and ends up as a masterclass in lead guitar. Opener ‘Kill It’ has one of the band’s most savage choruses since the Kai era.


Master Of The Rings (1994)

The first album with Deris in the band. It would be a nicer story to say this one was the stylistic return to form. Well, it was partially. Tracks like ‘’Sole Survivor’’ and ‘’Still We Go’’ give the fans what they want.  However; This album had bigger plans in mind than just getting the old fans back. They’ve got eyes on a whole new audience. Van Halen alike tracks like ‘’Take Me Home’’ see the band diversify. Big commercial pop tinged tracks like ‘’Perfect Gentleman’’ and ‘’Why?’’ helped the band reach a new audience.


Rabbit Don’t Come Easy (2003)

I’ve heard a few people weren’t keen on this one, but aside from the annoying ‘’Never Be A Star’’ that’s too cynical a recreation of ‘’Perfect Gentleman,’’ this album is probably one of the bands most consistent albums from beginning to end. Its chocked to the brim full of happy melodic choruses, relentless double kicks and lead guitar majesty. I think it may be the best set of lead guitars and guitar solos on any of their studio albums yet. Stand out tracks include the single ‘’Just A Little Time’’ (even with its Blink 182 level erection jokes), and the amazing ‘’The Tune’’ and ‘’Hell Was Made In Heaven’’ which both show the band at their melodic best. Also of note is ‘’Liar’’ which has the kind of heaviness introduced on The Dark Ride and perfected later on 7 Sinners.


Straight Out Of Hell (2013)

One of the band’s most eclectic and varied albums since Master Of The Rings, Straight Out Of Hell tries a range of different ideas on for size, and sees the band not content to just repeat themselves over and over, without going the Chameleon route of straying too far from what fans want. This was the first new release from the Pumpkins in my time as a fan and has a special place in my heart for that. At the time there was a big buzz about them going back to sounding happy, after the heavy material, but in hindsight I do prefer 7 Sinners. This one is good, but not 7 Sinners good.


My God Given Right (2015)

The follow up to Straight Out Of Hell. Sort of more of the same. The album is less experimental, but more consistent. It’s a smooth a perfect distillation of modern Helloween, with nothing to complain about. A very solid album. The best songs, like ‘Russian Roulle’ and ‘If God Loves Rock N Roll’ are solid and a good addition to the catalogue, and there’s no weak moments of obvious filler. Only not higher in the list due to lack of a real stand out. Its all good, but its missing anything extra-special.


Better Than Raw (1998)

Terrible album artwork, but decent record. There are few really memorable moments, like the Latin ‘Laudate Dominum’ as well as ‘Push’ and ‘Hey Lord!’  I feel like this album was a moment of maturing and modernisation for the band. For me it wasn’t as good as ‘Time Of The Oath’ and I resented it a bit for that, but upon recent re-evaluation I have found it to be much better than I remembered it. It isn’t their best album, but it is not one to be overlooked either.


The Dark Ride (2000)

In some ways, a continuation of the modernised matured direction of Better Than Raw, but with a big dose of heaviness added in. Its not really what you expect to hear from the band who made the Keepers, and definitely what you expected from the band who made ‘Jericho. But its not without its moments. The title track is pretty great. ‘Escalation 666’ is nice and heavy.  As much as I want Helloween to just write straight Power Metal all the time, you do have to admit that the power ballad ‘If I Could Fly’ is a good tune, even if it isn’t what you want.


Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy (2005)

A lot of Helloween fans dislike this one. Its not without merit, but its not their finest hour either. Its one of those classic ‘’the double album would’ve been better as a single album’’ situations. Its also one of those classic ‘’the sequel isn’t as good as the original situations.’’ I get why they did it, but it also feels like a bit of a step backwards. Definitely don’t start with this one, save it until your already a fan.


Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)

Well, really this isn’t what anybody wanted as a follow up to two of the finest albums in the history of power metal. I guess it was their attempt at a ‘Black Album’ but it falls short. Its not without merits, in fact I may even get defensive if it gets an out and out bashing, but this should never be anyone’s first Helloween album.


Chameleon (1993)

The only one I don’t like or own. Critically reviled. Stylistically confused. Not at all metal. Not what the fans wanted. Not what their own drummer wanted. A mix of prog, pop and featuring children’s choirs. Pretty much universally agreed as the worst Helloween album. For collectors only.

The Best Rock & Metal Live Albums: Underrated Classics

Chances are, that if you listen to Rock or Metal music, you’ll have come across the idea of the seminal, incendiary live album. An album that just absolutely scorches, and where the versions of the songs are heavier, bigger and more bombastic than their studio counterparts.

After about a year, or two years at the most, nobody needs to be told to check out Live And Dangerous, Live At Leeds, Live Killers, Live After Death, Alive, Alive II, Unleashed In The East, No Sleep Till Hammersmith, Made In Japan, Playing The Fool or 101 Proof Live.

The following is a list of albums that are every bit as good as those, but for whatever reason aren’t just quite as famous. If you like Rock or Metal music at all, of course you should pick up those aforementioned records, but you also should get yourself a copy of these:


1. Jethro Tull – Bursting Out: This album sees Jethro Tull touring Heavy Horses, with a really powerful performance, witty stage banter, and a phenomenal set list. They manage to mix in a few acoustic numbers without killing the energy and have a drum solo that isn’t boring (an absolute miracle as far as live albums go). The songs are so much bigger and heavier than their album counterparts; hear how ‘Sweet Dream’ absolutely comes to life. The version of ‘Thick As A Brick’ on here is indescribably brilliant. This record mixes up tracks from many different Tull eras and makes them sound cohesive and related.Material from Stand Up sits proudly beside material from Songs From The Woods and sounds absolutely natural in so doing, all owing to the fact that the band are absolutely on fire, and deliver the material so well. As far as live albums go, this is hands down one of the best ever to be released. In Fact; Not only is this a brilliant live album, or a brilliant Tull album, its one of the best albums ever released. If you haven’t got it I’d strongly urge you to find out what you’re missing.


2. King Crimson – USA: This is an absolute rager of an album, the performances are out of this world. The setlist pulls together some of the absolute best tracks from the Wetton period, and adds ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ in there too for good measure. If you haven’t explored the band any further than In The Court Of The Crimson King yet, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this. Prepare to have your hair blown back.


3. Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More From The Road: Quite how this album isn’t the most famous Skynyrd release really is beyond me. This album is absolutely fantatic. So much energy. There’s not one song on here that’s better in the studio. This takes every Skynyrd track worth thinking about from the first four albums and makes them faster, heavier and better. There’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ ‘Tuesdays Gone’ and ‘Free Bird’ for the casual fans, and just about every gem going for the rest of you. The version of ‘Travelin Man’ on here is quite possibly the best thing that Skynyrd ever recorded. Instead of buying a greatest hits, buy this.


4. Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Live: This is a recent addition to the list. I only got into Saxon last April after being a bit skeptical of them. I’ve been listening to the first six studio albums a lot since then, but it took me a while to realize that this live album which I got as part of the same boxset I got all those records in existed, and was worth listening to. Not only is it worth listening to though, its absolutely brilliant. I don’t know why people don’t talk about this more often. It contains absolutely all the best songs from Saxon’s best three albums, performed with power and precision. Long story short, you listen to this and you’ll walk away thinking Saxon are brilliant. If you only buy one Saxon album, it should be this one. The only thing I would say about this album at all is that it doesn’t have the song “Denim And Leather” on it, although I fixed that for myself in iTunes by moving the live bonus track of it from The Crusader over to the end of this. If you ever wonder why Saxon were considered equals to Maiden and Motorhead at one stage, listen to this and you’ll see why. All of their best stuff with none of the filler, great solos, great riffs, an appreciative audience and a killer performance. You can’t beat it.


5. Marilyn Manson – The Last Tour On Earth: I think you’ve gathered the idea of this list by now. Consequently, you’ll probably understand that if its included here, then The Last Tour On Earth is an absolutely cracking live album, that takes the best songs available at the time it was recorded, and makes them even better. John 5 really adds extra style and class to the material. The whole thing just absolutely jumps out of the speakers. No fan should be without this.


6. Foghat – Live: I think I might go so far as to say that this is all you really need from Foghat. They had some great songs but the albums were often a bit hit and miss, you’d get one or two absolute ragers on an album, then the rest would just be “OK.” There’s none of that here though. This takes six of their ever best tracks and delivers them in a really energetic, exciting way. The musicianship is absolutely stellar. If you like guitar solos then this is definitely an album for you. In fact, if you like Classic Rock at all you really should give this album a try.


7. Biohazard – No Holds Barred: Everything that I just said about Saxon’s album; that all goes for this too. No Hold Barred is all of the band’s best songs at the time of recording, played hard and with passion, to an audience that gives a crap. Its one of those albums that makes you feel like you’re at the concert. Anytime you forget how good Biohazard are, or any time that you start to think that the rapping is a bit much, a bit cheesy or whatever… this album shows you just what a serious, creative and powerful band Biohazard are. The recording quality isn’t the best (due to the band’s strict no-overdudbs policy) but the passion and umph more than make up for that.


8. Blackfoot – Highway Song Live: Blackfoot in my opinion are what you would get if you crossed 70s Judas Priest with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and then made it twice as fun. This album captures them at the absolute height of the powers, with a setlist comprised mostly of their best material, absolutely smashing it. Its loud, raucous and its very, very fun.Its hard to hear something like ‘Good Morning’ without breaking out into a giant grin. Every song on here has that effect, Ricky Medlocke really knows how to force you to have a good time. If you like Blackfoot its mandatory listening and if you haven’t tried them yet, you should give this a shot. Its a fine, fine introduction.


9. Machine Head – Hellalvie: This album may have been released as a contractual obligation; there might be a few cover songs that the band played live removed from the album to save money, two of the songs may be taken from a different show and the setlist may contain more music from the controversial Burning Red and Supercharger albums than a few fans might care for, but do you know what? This album is absolute solid gold. There is such a brilliant energy and power to this performance. Tracks like ‘Nothing Left’ and ‘Supercharger’ are a thousand times better live than their studio counterparts, and the songs from the first two albums crush just as hard. Don’t be too proud to give this album a chance or else you’re missing out big time, because its an absolute gem.


10. Led Zeppelin – How The West Was Won: Don’t be put off this because it was released so long after it was recorded. Don’t worry about things like “nostalgia” or “cash in.” Just listen to the version of ‘Immigrant Song’ and ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ and be absolutely decimated by some of the best live performances anyone has ever captured on tape. As a gigantic, triple album taken from different concerts you’d think it might be a bit bloated and bitty, put it really works. I have to admit that if I’m listening to it, I’ll give the gigantic Drum Solo and Guitar solo a miss, but when the songs are being played, this is one of the best records on the market, period.