125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years
SPIN's editors rank the top releases since the magazine's beginning in 1985.
120 Lil Wayne Tha Carter III
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This blitz of cough syrup-slurping wordplay and inspired nonsense blew SPIN away in 2008 — the magazine couldn’t settle on a rating for its review, so it simply awarded it a “%!$#*&.” “Lil Wayne is the purest product of the most transformative, chaos-inducing man-made disasters of the 21st century,” Charles Aaron wrote. “New Orleans, hip-hop, and the Internet.” Wayne came across as pure enigma, a raspy-voiced rebel with legal troubles, copious mixtapes, and facial tats. “Never has such a gifted MC been more motivated and distracted, piercing and random, clear-eyed and stoned into total bewildering oblivion. Who can’t relate?”
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– Tha Carter III review (August 2008)
119 Green Day American Idiot
The punks that once sang about the joys of masturbation decided to get serious in Dubya’s America. “It’s about the confusion of where we’re at right now,” Billie Joe Armstrong told SPIN in a November 2004 cover story. “My education was punk rock — what the Dead Kennedys said, what Operation Ivy said. It was attacking America, but it was American at the same time.” The album took on an unexpected form. “It started out as a joke,” Armstrong said in an earlier Q&A. “All of a sudden it started taking on the characteristics of a rock opera.” And — how American can a punk-rocker get? — it’s even ended up on Broadway.
118 Yeah Yeah Yeahs It’s Blitz!
A band that started as a caterwauling, in-your-face burst of punk energy completed their transformation into something else entirely: a synth-heavy, dance-ready trio fronted by a refurbished Karen O. Comparing the album to both New Order and the Stones, SPIN crowned It’s Blitz! “the alternative pop album of the decade — one that imbues the Killers’ Hot Fuss and MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular with a remarkable emotional depth and finesse.” The band’s March 2009 cover story compared Karen O to both Cyndi Lauper and PJ Harvey — and outed her as a long-ago Deadhead.
117 The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Oklahoma oddball Wayne Coyne may or may not have a messiah complex, but there’s certainly a cult of personality around the Flaming Lips ringleader. “He thinks of something, and it becomes real,” one of his bandmates told SPIN in 2002. “Who knows what he could have been 300 years ago? He could have been a Napoleon or the guy in charge of building the pyramids.” Instead, in the humdrum 21st century, Coyne’s stuck making brilliantly whacked-out rock albums that sound pretty while asking disturbing questions: “Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?”
116 Against Me! New Wave
Fronted by a dedicated “folk-punk rabble-rouser in the frayed-and-furious tradition of Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg, and Ted Leo,” this band jumped to a major label with an album produced by Butch Vig. “Where the band’s previous studio albums crackled with scrappy DIY brio,” SPIN wrote in 2008, “New Wave stomps like big-budget radio rock, all swarming guitars and gang-vocal thrust.” Could antiestablishment vitriol survive a slick studio polish? Against Me! answers with an affirmative “hell yes” — and if you listen hard enough you can almost hear the kids in the pit screaming along to the chorus.