6 Albums That Created Their Own New Genres
No musical genre exists in a vacuum, so it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the precise point at which one musical genre was invented. There are always underground scenes and precursors that predate a genre’s mainstream acceptance. Could punk rock have ever existed without the influence of The Stooges? Nonetheless, we’ve done our best to compile a list of six albums that, in one way or another, defined their own genres before they had completely come into existence. In no particular order, let’s count down the records that managed to innovate and create something seemingly out of nothing.
1. Loveless – My Bloody Valentine
The term “shoegaze” had been used before My Bloody Valentine released their acclaimed second album in 1991. Shoegaze refers to their earlier debut album Isn’t Anything, and especially to other bands playing within the early ’90s London music scene labeled as The Scene That Celebrates Itself. Typically, the term refers to a sound that’s heavy on multi-textured guitar feedback while featuring dreamy, often barely audible vocal melodies made more strikingly beautiful when surrounded with all that noise. Loveless is, almost unarguably, the epitome of this difficult mixture of moods. Consisting of dream pop and guitar feedback, they created their own distinct sounds by experimenting with new guitar feedback sounds in a midst of songs that thrived on crooning romance partially derived from the honey-sweet vocals of band member Bilinda Butcher. Today, when one considers the essential albums of the shoegaze genre, Loveless is almost guaranteed to be at the top of a short list.
2. Endtroducing… – DJ Shadow
Trip-hop is a genre founded upon the sampling and turntablism that characterizes hip-hop, mixed with a downbeat approach that often gives way to layered, often creepy atmospherics and extended, meticulously composed jamming. The term was first coined by music writer Andy Pemberton in 1994 to describe the singles such as “In/Flux,” just being released by California producer DJ Shadow and contemporaries such as The Chemical Brothers. DJ Shadow mined the same vein for his debut album Endtroducing…, whose songs were composed almost entirely of samples taken from vinyl records DJ Shadow had bought from record stores. The instrumental album used the foundations of hip hop, including sampling and drum-based breakdowns, to explore genres such as jazz, ambient, and classical, receiving widespread acclaim for its craftsmanship. The genre became a mainstream breakthrough in the late-90s and Shadow’s influence can still be felt today within trip hop and multiple related subgenres within electronic and hip-hop music.
3. Surfers’ Choice – Dick Dale and His Del-Tones
Dick Dale’s nickname is the King of the Surf Guitar, which gives a good indication as to his importance within the surf music genre. Though many of his hits include vocal hooks, Dale is best known for his pioneering work with the guitar, as he used the propulsive beats of rock and roll music to support his reverb-soaked guitar experimentation. Living and surfing in El Segundo, California near Los Angeles, Dale used reverb, as well as the new techniques of fast-picking and Middle Eastern scales inspired by his Lebanese heritage, in order to make music that evoked the sensation of surfing. Preceded only by instrumental rock and rollers from around the world, Dale captured the imagination of regional and later national audiences with songs like “Let’s Go Tripping” and “Misirlou,” both of which are featured on his 1962 debut LP Surfers’ Choice. His instrumental style of surf music would later be co-opted and combined with Chuck Berry-style pop melodies by bands such as The Beach Boys, while the guitar sound he helped to invent remains popular within indie and punk sub-genres today.
4. In Heaven – The Meteors
It’s especially difficult to pin down the starting points of major genres that became cultural forces throughout the world. While punk rock emerged almost concurrently in both the UK and New York City in the late ’70s, certain bands were already carving out their own specific niches within the budding world of punk. Among them were The Meteors, formed in South London, who pioneered a subgenre blending the fast-paced, intimidating style of punk with American rockabilly scales and songwriting. Shunned from neo-rockabilly circles, their sound, incorporating apolitical stances and horror-film-esque themes, typified on their first album In Heaven, quickly became its own musical force, gathering a fan base called “Crazies” who even invented their psychobilly trademark form of slam-dancing called “wrecking.”
5. Electric Warrior – T. Rex
Marc Bolan began his band Tyrannosaurus Rex as a folk duo, but the band transformed into simply T. Rex by the late ’60s while becoming the foundational group for a new movement in rock music — glam rock. The diverse genre is based upon fashion as much as music, and as the frontman for T. Rex, Bolan defined both sides of the genre in the early ’70s with the release of the 1971 LP Electric Warrior and his appearance on the UK TV show, Top of the Pops, wearing the garish glittery satin clothes. The genre is more diverse musically, incorporating traditional rock and roll as well as complex art rock theatrics, but perhaps the most identifiable glam trademark is the distinctive, squelchy electric guitar sound heard in spades on Electric Warrior. Marc Bolan’s musicianship and sexualized, even androgynous public image became inseparable from the glam rock of the ’70s, typified by artists like David Bowie, and even from the glam metal or hair metal of the ’80s, though few of his imitators could recreate the magic of Electric Warrior.
6. Funkadelic – Funkadelic
Few bands in history have managed to create an entire subgenre, let alone a subgenre named after itself. Funk pioneer George Clinton surrounded himself with a host of influential musicians, especially in the ’70s, when Clinton and his collaborators released an impressive string of albums under the band names Parliament and Funkadelic. Inventing a complex band mythology as well as a new form of funk music, the two bands, collectively labeled as P-Funk, distinguished themselves with spacey synthesizers, prominent electric bass lines, humorous group vocals, extended jams and multi-layered production styles. The diverse music collective began to hone their distinct musical style and mythology on the 1970 self-titled debut of Funkadelic, and today the collective label P-Funk is thought of as its own subgenre, influencing everyone from Prince to Kendrick Lamar and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.