Releasing an eponymous album has always been a pretty bold strategy only truly enacted by the greats of the music world. Self-titling an album can often be misconstrued as arrogance or, worse still, nonchalance. After all, not bothering to come up with a name for your album is a pretty easy way to show you’re not particularly interested in what you do. But for those on our list, the choice to title a record after themselves was a calculated move to show the world the very distillation of their sound, ethos and personality.
Album titles can be pretty pretentious; trying to name a body of work just one thing can often lead to some horrendously difficult names to process. Take, for example, Arctic Monkeys’ classic debut album Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not — a great record with a truly awful name. So perhaps the safer option is to go for the self-titled LP and be done with it. Below, we’re picking out 20 of our favourites who did just that, as we share a selection of the greatest self-titled albums of all time.
After all, especially during the 20th century, providing an eponymous album meant your name was likely to be shared twice on radio or television. It may have helped many bands get off the ground and could very well be why most of the albums listed here used the self-titled LP opportunity to announce their place on the world stage and share the record as a reflection of their journey thus far.
There are plenty of debut albums on our list but also some notable moments when artists attempted to redefine themselves for a new audience or fro the band itself. From The Beatles to Blur, we’ve collected the greatest self-titled albums of all time.
The 20 greatest self-titled albums ever:
20. The xx – The xx (2009)
When the first notes of The xx’s 2009 LP xx bleed through your speakers, it’s easy to note how transformative the band were when they floated into the public conscience on the back of some sub-standard indie music.
Jamie xx, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim delivered an album that was littered with future classics and opened up the opportunity for ambient electronic music once more.
Now, endlessly sampled and rich in the duo’s iconography, xx deserves its place as one of the greatest self-titled records of all time, even if it’s not quite word for word. Put this record on and get lost in an album from the past that still sounds future-proof.
19. The White Stripes – The White Stripes (1999)
It’s not The White Stripes’ greatest album but when Jack White and Meg White delivered this bristling garage rock record, filthy with Detroit grease and the mud of the Missippi, with all the aplomb of the great artists they would become.
A debut record needs to make an impact and the 1999 LP certainly did that. Brazen and filled to the brim with blues that would make Muddy Waters weep, The White Stripes may not have yet hit top gear but they were certainly purring away.
18. Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine (1992)
The debut album from Zach de la Rocha, Tom Morello and crew saw the rap-rock of the LA outfit reinvigorate an entire generation. Grunge had seen Gen X get angry yet apathetic, meanwhile, RATM promoted affirmative action wherever they could, their debut record was simply an extension of their ethos.
As well as featuring a monk performing self-immolation in protest it also had a tracklisting bristling with political intent. Standout singles include ‘Killing in the Name’ and ‘Bullet in the Head’, both of which tell you all you need to know about Rage Against The Machine.
17. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008)
When Ezra Koenig and his band of Oxford-collar wearing indie charmers – aka Vampire Weekend – were shaping up to release their debut record, they had initially planned it out as a concept album. Inspired by Koenig’s failed vampire spoof film, the band were named after the working title of the project, something largely explained in the song ‘Walcott’.
Outside of that song, the record is positively charged with catchy, clever and ultimately brilliant indie dancefloor-fillers. The perfect album to reminisce about the early days of your favourite social media platforms.
16. Gorillaz – Gorillaz (2001)
There are very few times that within the music industry the word ‘revolutionary’ is used correctly, but it’s hard to think of another word that accurately captures the insanity of Gorillaz and their self-titled debut album from 2001. What was meant to be a simple side project for Blur’s Damon Albarn quickly grew into a phenomenon when the greatest cartoon band of all time strode into town.
Songs like ‘Clint Eastwood’ and ’19-2000′ not only provided some fresh sounds for the speakers sick of playing ‘Wonderwall’ over and over, but suggested that genres were a thing of the past. The band melded sounds and styles to form their very own unique standpoint in the music world. That’s all without mentioning the fact that we only ever see them in 2D form — but that’s a conversation for another day.
15. Blur – Blur (1997)
Far from the Britpop royalty’s debut record, Blur arrived as the fifth record from the band and, ultimately, cemented their legacy as one of Britain’s finest bands and Damon Albarn as a supreme songwriter. As well as including the brilliant lyricism of ‘Song 2′, the album also worked as a direct comparison with Oasis’ Be Here Now.
The southerners looked to be going from strength to strength with their music while their arch-rivals looked to have hit a cocaine-induced impasse. Whichever way you look at it, it’s hard not to recognise this album as one of the finest of the decade.
14. The Libertines – The Libertines (2004)
One album that was supposed to solidify a band who made it was The Libertines eponymous 2004 effort. The record came off the back of the wild success of Up The Bracket, which confirmed Pete Doherty and Carl Barat as rock music’s 21st-century saviours. However, the album also brought to the fore the wide variety of public and personal issues between the two.
A few break-ups made the recording process for the album extremely difficult and would eventually be released without real hope of ever being able to tour the record. Dutifully, the band split not long after. That doesn’t mean the album isn’t one of the finest examples of rock ‘n’ roll Britain’s produced this side of the millennium.
13. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (1975)
One of the only bands on this list to have two eponymous albums to their name, Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 effort is by far their best. Not only did it include their amazing song ‘Rhiannon’ but also saw the first studio introduction of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.
The duo would set the band on a course for supreme stardom and this album was the beginning of it all. As well as the best song ever written about a Welsh witch, the album also boasted ‘Say You Love Me’, another song that lit the fuse for the band’s powerful trajectory.
12. Weezer – Weezer (1994)
Like a few entries on our list, Weezer’s self-titled album usually goes by another name; The Blue Album. The record has been rightly revised as one of the most important albums in alt-rock history, not only crafting a new pop rock sound but delivering it all through Rivers Cuomo’s sardonic vocal tone.
Considered a classic in 2021, the album is a great listen from start to finish but shines with two singles in particular. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an album that contains behemoths like ‘Buddy Holly’ and ‘Say It Ain’t So’ as subtle additions within its tracklisting.
11. The Stooges – The Stooges (1969)
Easily regarded as one of the most potent and punchy debut albums of all time, The Stooges were stuck together with spit and superglue when they arrived to record their first LP. They had barely five songs between them and, while Elektra was excited by their new signees, they still needed a full album. Enter John Cale.
The Velvet Underground man guided the band into a brand new sound, a bright and dangerous sonic that captured their energy and refined it. With an album that has such incendiary songs as ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ and ‘No Fun’, it’s hard to argue that Iggy and his band went the very first murmurs of punk beginning to shout out.
10. The Doors – The Doors (1967)
Few debut albums land as heavily as Jim Morrison and The Doors self-titled LP did in 1967. One of the albums charged with starting the counter-culture revolution, Morrison became the poster child for the summer of love and, throughout this album, he enacts his utopian ideals for living.
Morrison always walked the walk as well as talking the talk and, on this album, he made it clear that he wasn’t simply a poser. Songs like ‘Break On Through’ and the simply glorious ‘The End’ both hinted at a lead singer and principal songwriter who was deeper and more intelligent than had ever been assumed before.
Take all that into account then press play on ‘Light My Fire’ and you have a stellar album that always needs revisiting.
9. Metallica – Metallica (1991)
Metallica didn’t choose to give out their eponymous record with their debut album, instead, waiting until 1991 to unleash their self-titled LP. Also known as the Black Album, the record was a perfect distillation of why the band had risen to prominence. As well as the game-changing track ‘Enter The Sandman’, the album was punctuated by fearsome metal hits.
Selling a truly astronomical 30 million units since its release, you’d be forgiven for thinking the LP would be one of the band’s favourites yet, thanks to the continuous conflicts with Bob Rock that permeated its recording, the LP is usually given a hard time by the band and their diehard fans.
We still think it’s a corker though.
8. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)
Ambition is a very alluring thing and the ambition of Ian Brown and Co. to produce an epic and otherworldly record is almost fully enacted on the groups 1989 eponymous LP. The record is rich with sweet indie-pop hits and a bouncing bagginess that wouldn’t just enthral its audience of the day but still enrich us in the 21st century.
The record influenced countless bands over the years with Oasis being a prime example. But, simply put, this is the album that once again emboldened Britain to take rock ‘n’ roll for its own once more. It stimulated creativity in the north of the country that rippled through the entire world.
‘I Wanna Be Adored’, ‘Waterfall’, ‘She Bangs The Drums’ — basically, any good Stone Roses song can be found on this record and enjoyed today as much as it was in 1989. A sensational album.
7. Ramones – Ramones (1976)
To imagine a world without the Ramones and their foundational album Ramones would be not only to lose the aforementioned punks but the majority of our list. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy were the original rulebreakers and proved that music had been too snobby for too long.
Before 1976, a real rock band were full of noodling guitar solos; drum fills that lasted months and the kind of high-pitch screeching that made eagles land atop rock venues looking for a mate. The Ramones showed that you didn’t need all of this pomp to get your point across. You just needed three chords, some jeans and a leather jacket and you were good to go.
“Our early songs came out of our real feelings of alienation, isolation, frustration – the feelings everybody feels between seventeen and seventy-five,” singer Joey Ramone said. It’s an accurate depiction of the album which, at less than 30 minutes long, flies by without a breath. If you’ve never had the pleasure, introduce yourself to the Ramones, you won’t be disappointed.
6. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
Black Sabbath’s debut record is one of those albums that we’ll bet few people can name more than one song from. It’s a difficulty not helped by the monstrous noises the record itself made on every revolution and, in doing so, caused its very own heavy rock revolution as it spun.
After the titular opener, the record journeys into a brand new space, one that is both warmed by the bowels of hell and dusted in the snows of the tundra. The real reason to include this debut record in our list of the greatest is not simply because of the music on the album itself but, literally, the thousands of bands who sprung up with a brand new sound after they played his foundational heavy metal album.
A joy from start to finish… we think.
5. The Smiths – The Smiths (1984)
The Smiths are a band who many now feel a little bit strange adoring so deeply. Not only do they have the, at best, polarising figure of Morrissey as their former frontman but they’ve been so acutely attached to incels, simps and other social media defamation, that it can feel a bit dirty to pick up a Smiths record with glee. However, if you remove the guff that surrounds their debut LP, you have one of the decade’s defining albums.
Released only a few months after The Smiths had begun to make a name for themselves with their new indie jangle-pop sound, this album gave a generation of adolescents a unique sound and a brand new idol. Punk, and everything that had since followed it, provided the public with a voice of frustration and anger. The Smiths, however, rolled their eyes at the world and went back to their books.
There’s some real gold on the record too. ‘Pretty Girls Make Graces’, ‘Still Ill’, ‘Hand in Glove’ and ‘What Difference Does It Make’ all feature on a landmark indie record. Forget this one at your peril.
4. The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
“The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band,” said Brian Eno.
For that reason alone, the album should rightly be considered the greatest debut LP of all time. The sheer weight of bands, both contemporaries and those that followed, who cite Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Mo Tucker and Nico as major influences in their musical journey, ensure that this album will never be forgotten. Of course, it has a couple of other reasons it will remain in memory too.
Not only did it have an audacious album cover form the band’s de facto manager, the pop artist Andy Warhol, which featured a peelable banana on the front, but inside the gatefold, there was a record deeply entrenched in the golden hues of music itself. The songs on this album expertly walk the line of self-expression, observation and uncanny subversion.
Songs like ‘Sunday Morning,’ ‘Run Run Run,’ ‘Venus in Furs,’ ‘Heroin,’ and ‘There She Goes’ are all included and all shine. It sees Lou Reed in the form of his life as he delivers subverted pop ditties ready for radio but too dangerous to play. It was the perfect combo for stoking a fire of passion in rock music. In 1967, there was a danger that rock and pop had merged to the point of no return, that music had been so sanitised by chart sales that the real expression of the people may never be given room to breathe again. Luckily, this album changed it all.
3. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)
Of course, Led Zeppelin arguably had four different self-titled albums but to ignore Led Zeppelin’s debut album as one of the pivotal moments in rock history would be to forget a large chunk of modern music as we know it today.
The blues-heavy sound laid the foundations for heavy metal and countless other genres and it shook the music scene to its core. While The Beatles and The Stones were getting trippy, Zeppelin had got heavy, real heavy.
Many people would have this LP much further up the list and, we bet, if you witnessed the explosion of Zeppelin first hand, and picked up this record as it was released, then chances are it will be your favourite record they ever made—such was its incredible impression on the kids of the day.
It’s an album that changed the entire face of music.
2. The Beatles – The Beatles (1968)
Most artists releases their self-titled record as a first foray into the public sphere; a way for their name to be front and centre in the public’s eyes. But for The Beatles, they used the opportunity to show the world they were getting back to what they did best and they did it on their self-titled record from 1968, often known as The White Album.
“What we’re trying to do is rock ‘n roll, ‘with less of your philosorock,’ is what we’re saying to ourselves. And get on with rocking because rockers is what we really are,” said John Lennon in 1968 while recording The White Album, the mammoth double LP can certainly be seen as that.
Across a myriad of tracks, the group had returned from the conceptual piece of Sgt. Pepper and were now getting back to their roots. The album also allowed each member of the band more room to add their own songs, meaning George Harrison got his opportunity to shine.
It means the album is full of big-hitting Beatles numbers such as ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’, ‘Savoy Truffle’, ‘Dear Prudence’ and countless other masterpieces. Across a plethora of songs, The Beatles once again proved to be on top of the world despite their inner turmoil.
1. The Clash – The Clash (1977)
The Clash’s first burst onto the music scene was a powerful, deliberate and ultimately legendary one. Recorded over three weekends in the depths of winter in London back in 1977, there isn’t an album that more accurately captures that moment in time—imbued with the hopeful energy of a new movement yet batted down by the world around it—than this record.
14 tracks of fearsome and potent moments of wasted youth and untethered revolution make The Clash quite possibly the best record the genre ever produced. Certainly the purest. The album is split between a desperate need to highlight the plight of working-class youth and an unwillingness to accept the role as their lot.
Of course, the album is full to the brim with Clash classics. From their first single ‘White Riot’ and on to album opener ‘Janie Jones’, the songs on this album did more to cement the band’s iconography than any other moment in their history.
An album made by a bunch of young hopefuls with nothing to lose is the usual tale for a debut punk record but there was something altogether more authentic about this LP which let you know that The Clash were, without doubt, the only band that mattered.