Is the first track of an album arguably the most important? Openers certainly have the power to set up something incredible or blow an album’s load by making all that follows pale in comparison. We’ve just unveiled the opening track to our new EP ‘Cheer Up’ and I’m not saying that it does either of those things… But anyway, here’s a list of my all-time favourite opening tracks:
At the Drive-In – ‘Arcarsenal’ (Relationship of Command)
This track is just pure excitement caught on tape. That pounding floor-tom drum intro building and building makes you feel like you’re being dragged up on a rollercoaster, before lulling you for just a few seconds and launching you into a shredding full-band attack. It’s the perfect introduction to possibly the greatest post-hardcore record of all time. Ace.
Mclusky – ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ (Do Dallas)
All that needs to be said about this song is this: from 1:30 to the end of the track is the greatest 21 seconds of music ever recorded, fact.
Big Black – ‘The Power of Independent Trucking’ (Songs About Fucking)
This song not only introduces ‘Songs About Fucking’ in brilliantly chaotic fashion, but it was also the first song I ever heard by Big Black. So, I class it as the song that introduced me to the band that made the underground punk scene of the late ’80s/early ’90s what it was. Without their rejection of mainstream rock culture of the time we might not have ever seen grunge as we know it. Steve Albini proving all you really need is guitar, bass and a Roland TR-606 Drum Machine.
QOTSA – ‘Millionaire’ (Songs for the Deaf)
It’s the perfect use of the “album starting quiet and lo-fi to accentuate and enormous kick-in” cliché. Which is not only a cliché that is probably going to show up a few times in this list, but also definitely one that we’ve been guilty of starting an album with in the past. Fuck it, it’s awesome. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it – this song is mint and so is ‘Songs for the Deaf’. Extra points if you start with your speakers turned down and then ramp up the volume as it kicks.
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Hendrix – ‘Foxey Lady’ (Are You Experienced)
This song came out in 1967, which is unbelievable in itself. I’m pretty sure the sound of it would have blown minds back then, because even if it was just being released now in 2021 it would still absolutely floor people. The first track from the first Hendrix album, magic.
Barkmarket – ‘Visible Cow’ (L Ron)
The aforementioned cliché with a twist… it does it twice! And oh my goodness is that second kick in just the best sounding riff you’ve ever heard? (and they beat Queens to the punch by a good 6 years…) I think it works so well because the drums coming in over the lo-fi intro is already satisfying enough, which tricks you into believing this is the ride for the duration – then the second kick absolutely dominates. There’s also no wonder it sounds so great, as vocalist/guitarist Dave Sardy produced the album and then later dissolved the band to focus on his career as a producer, working with the likes of System of a Down, Death From Above 1979, Rage Against the Machine, Incubus and A Perfect Circle to name a few.
Refused – ‘Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull’ (The Shape of Punk to Come)
They 100% called it with the title; arrogant? Perhaps, but completely justified. The album is a pitch-perfect tour-de-force from start to end with ‘Worms of the Senses…’ ringing in the new era on explosive form. It twists and turns throughout and never quite goes where you expect it to, proving that Refused could both be on the absolute cutting edge of hardcore and progressive music with the click of their vocalist Dennis’ fingers. The irony that Refused would disband soon after its release and wouldn’t meet the recognition they deserved for some 14 years afterward, reforming in 2012 is devastating.
Hawk Eyes – ‘Witch Hunt’ (Ideas)
Watch out! It’s the good old “loud/quiet” again, but this time served up by the most criminally underrated band of all time; all hail Hawk Eyes! I remember hearing the twisting & turning intro riff to this track for the first time, it melted my brain; I just couldn’t figure out where it would go next. The whole song rips and it effortlessly guides you into an absolutely flawless rock album. If you don’t know them already, get to know Hawk Eyes!
Metallica – ‘Fuel’ (Re-load)
Okay so the album that this track prefaces isn’t exactly the best, or really that good at all depending on who you ask… but it’s my list and I defy you to tell me this isn’t how you want all albums to start deep within your soul, right? “Gimme Fuel, Gimme Fire, Gimme jabbaddabbadaa!”
Biffy Clyro – ‘Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies’ (Puzzle)
For a little while, Biffy Clyro were the undisputed kings of the album-opener, it would have been criminal not to include at least one song of theirs here. There were probably two-or-three I could have picked but the epic opener to Puzzle nabs it. Swirling strings into an intro that try as you might, you can’t not try to drum along to (and fail). All leading into an opus of operatic backing vocals and so many layers of strings blending with brutal backing screams and the angular guitar riffs that make Biffy, Biffy. What a song!
Led Zeppelin – ‘Achilles Last Stand’ (Presence)
I’ve chosen a lot of songs for this list based on their instantaneity – they tend to be short sharp blasts that truly knock you off your feet and warn you that you’re in for one hell of a ride. This track however IS the ride. A true epic that builds and keeps your heart in your mouth throughout. Still, somehow, when you reach its epic climax completely breathless, all you want to do is listen to more Zeppelin – and lucky you, 6 more amazing tracks follow.