Friday Pick Six from EKG: Pick Six Favorite Rock Concept Albums

Saturday, December 18, 2010
I've been given the great pleasure of writing this week's Friday Pick Six, and with the recent release of MCR's Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, one thing I've been revisiting lately are concept albums. Personally, as a wanna-be writer in my spare time, I'm a sucker for concept albums, which are simply albums that are built around a central concept or idea. A lot of the time, these albums tell a story and follow a central theme, meaning that a good concept album uses music and the traditionally album format to combine several songs into something more cohesive and poignant. These are my six personal favorite, three older and three newer, with links to a couple of the best examples of the album.

1:Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
2: The Wall by Pink Floyd
3: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie
4: Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails
5: American Idiot by Green Day
6: Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by My Chemical Romance

A few notes before I link videos (which I will try my hardest to limit to two videos per album, hopefully if you're really interested you'll give the full album a listen).

Obviously, you can't really discuss rock concept alums and NOT include Sg.t Pepper's somewhere on the list. While it wasn't the first concept album, it was and still is the definitive rock concept albums, that paved the way for every one that would follow. The concept of creating alter-egos in a fictional setting as a means of framing the concept album would be an example that almost all of the other albums on my list would later use.

The Wall is more than a concept album, it's an experience. It's something so powerful and personal and moving that it yearns to break free even from its medium and spread. If you only listen to one album on this list, make it this one, and I highly recommend that you rent the movie while your at it (the movie actually is what turned me on to The Wall in the first place, interestingly enough). On a side note, every album Pink Floyd ever wrote was, in some way a concept album, but I barred myself from repeat bands on the list.

Ziggy Stardust takes a nod from Sgt. Pepper, and features Bowie as a compilation of eccentric and awesome characters. I've included it for two reasons, first, the album is Bowie at his best, eccentric, flamboyant, and all around ass-kickingly awesome, and second, because it is one of my first exposures to the world of the concept album, so it has some sentimentality to it as well.

I honestly don't expect most people to like or even really get Year Zero. The album is Trent Reznor's brain child, and follows a dystopic not-too-distant future controlled by a hyper-religious oligarchy that subdues the population with drugs and mind control, and led by a greedy bureaucrat who Reznor swears isn't based on our former president (but, I mean, listen to the song Capital G. You're not fooling anyone, Trent). It's experimental, visceral, industrial, and amazing. Also, how many albums could I possibly write a paper on for a college-level English course? Yet I did with Year Zero, and it was awesome.

I know it's hip to hate on post American Idiot Green Day, but I've probably listened to this album more than any other album, not just on this list, but ever. For having been around and famous for as long as they have, I can think of few other bands who are still so close to the pulse of the modern generation as Green Day. American Idiot is a sum of all the hopes, fears, and vices of my generation, and that isn't an easy feat. However, they speak to a wider audience as well, because this is one of the rare modern bands that both my parents and my brothers and I can all agree is fantastic.

Like post American Idiot Green Day, it's hip to hate on MCR, but since they sparked this whole list, I had to include them. Also, I'm not afraid to admit that Danger Days is not only their best album, but perhaps one of my personally favorite albums of the year. Also, I have unashamedly liked MCR for years. Danger Days is inspired by some of the other entries on the list, as it follows the band's alter egos as they resist and evil corporation in a not-so-subtle message of art versus industry in a dystopic, post-apocalyptic California. Their videos are colorful and bizarre, and looks like a mix of the Road Warrior and Blade Runner.

As per usual, videos after the jump.

Pink Floyd: Just Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (original music video)

Pink Floyd: Mother (from the movie)

David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust (live)

(surprisingly, there are no good live links for Suffragette City, sorry all)

(also, no good live links for anything off Year Zero, and no music videos. Again, sorry, but check out Survivalism and Capital G if you have the songs)

Green Day: Jesus of Suburbia (music video)
Link (embed option removed)

Green Day: Holiday (live video)
Link (embed option removed)

My Chemical Romance: Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) (music video)

My Chemical Romance: Sing (music video)


  1. It will take me a moment to accept MCR and NIN in with my classic favorites....but I will defer to your eclectic musical appreciation for that. Of course I would agree with my all time favorite band ever, The Beatles, being up there. Along with Bowie and Pink Floyd, of course. And Green Day are my absolute favorite current band, so that works beautifully, too.
    My young students all hate Green Day (well, most of them) and rant on about how 'cool' they were in the beginning (before these kids were born) and I remind them, gently, that Green Day have become grown ups and, well, grown ups are never as cool when you're 16. But they are the coolest grown ups EVER. Done.
    Now, I have to say something about the Wall I have not admitted to anyone yet. They are partially responsible for my parenting skills. I'll wait a moment for that to sink in. But listening to them, in a heightened state of awareness as a young woman, the lyrics from Mother Wall just blew me away, and when I became a mother and raised my sons that song played in the background of my mind all the time. This was the mother I did NOT want to be. I suppose if my sons think I did a decent job of it, we all have Pink Floyd to thank.Here then, if you skipped the video, is the anti-mother:

    Hush now baby, baby, don't you cry.
    Mother's gonna make all your nightmares come true.
    Mother's gonna put all her fears into you.
    Mother's gonna keep you right here under her wing.
    She wont let you fly, but she might let you sing.
    Mama will keep baby cozy and warm.
    Ooooh baby ooooh baby oooooh baby,
    Of course mama'll help to build the wall.

  2. Sadly, many of the people slagging off on MCR (myself included occasionally) are old dudes. I think MCR is like a Scion commercial. I watch them and think, 'What is that all about?'. Then I realize, they aren't selling that car to me... they are selling it to you.


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