15 albums that defined your angsty teenage years
1. Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
Angstiest track: The Way I Am
Angst is generally owned and operated by bands with guitars, long hair and ex-girlfriends, but Eminem was a rapper ("a white rapper? But, how?") with a deep well of ill-feeling to draw on. It's a toss up between this and The Slim Shady LP in the angst rankings, but Eminem went deep into the darkness inside himself on The Marshall Mathers LP - you never forget the first time you listen to Kim.
2. Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory
Angstiest track: In the End
Linkin Park were one of the new nu-metal bands that sort of managed to pull off the rapping over rock music thing, but it wasn't about the music (which was heavy as shit) as much as being a vessel for angry kids. Just look at the lyrics for Crawling: "Crawling in my skin/These wounds, they will not heal/Fear is how I fall/Confusing what is real". What does it mean? Nothing, but that was the genius of Hybrid Theory; Linkin Park allowed you to project whatever you were angry about onto them, and they gave you validity.
3. Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine
Angstiest track: Freedom
Yes, the band that introduced you to politics and activism, or more accurately, the band that introduced you to Che Guevara t-shirts and being angry at The System. Instead of reaffirming your angst, Rage Against The Machine generated it, getting you wound up about complex political situations that no 14-year-old could possibly understand. Huge riffs though, and actually really good rapping - not something you often found in rock bands.
4. blink-182 - Enema of the State
Angstiest track: Adam's Song
There's some feelings that only full-tilt pop punk can articulate, and blink-182 were its prime exponents. Crude, crass, but completely honest, Enema of the State is a perfect encapsulation of that teenage 'ugh' feeling. What's My Age Again? and All The Small Things were huge hits, but Adam's Song was the sad heart of this album - it's still moving now.
5. Weezer - Weezer (Blue Album)
Angstiest track: Say It Ain't So
Weezer spoke for a lot of young men, specifically the nerds who couldn't get laid - in other words, most of us. Not many other rock bands were singing about Dungeons & Dragons, but the music was far from nerdy. Weezer (Blue Album) is balls-to-the-walls, no-messing-around pop rock, with killer riffs and big choruses, coupled with the awkward aesthetic that you have to be properly uncool to pull off.
6. Green Day - American Idiot
Angstiest track: Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Yeah, fuck America! Fuck you, George W. Bush! Fuck you, Tony B-liar! Joking aside, Green Day tapped into that uneasy feeling that teenagers have when they start to figure out that everything is basically bullshit, and if that uneasy feeling happened to coincide with the Iraq War, then so be it. Also, a punk rock opera? 9-minute songs? Hell yeah.
7. Slipknot - Iowa
Angstiest track: People = Shit
It's fair to say that Slipknot probably knocked the lever up a few notches from 'angsty' to 'self-bludgeoningly furious'. Against the odds, nine scary dudes in scary masks jumping around, growling like dogs and almost being sick on each other turned out to be a cultural phenomenon, but with lyrics like "You are wrong, fucked, and overrated/I think I'm gonna be sick and it's your fault", it's not hard to see how Slipknot owned disaffected youths.
8. Muse - Absolution
Angstiest track: Time Is Running Out
Absolution was the sound of Muse inventing a new kind of angst: apocalyptic angst. The album was basically about the end of the world and sounded as huge as you'd expect an album dealing with that subject to sound. Big guitars, big pianos, big drums, big bass, big songs, big themes, big choruses - everything was big, big, big. Muse also managed to make lengthy piano solos cool... briefly.
9. Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
Angstiest track: Degausser
There's no band angstier than Brand New; they are the angst connoisseur's favourite band. Previous album Deja Entendu has a straight-up furiousness in it, typified on songs like Sic Transit Gloria, but The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me's rawness is balanced with a delicate melancholy, Jesus Christ being a prime example. Plus, it has a better album cover, not that that was a deciding factor.
10. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Angstiest track: A Certain Romance
Not strictly angsty, but few albums got what it was like to be a teenager in modern Britain more than Arctic Monkey's debut record. From dickhead bouncers to young love, pulling on the dance floor to the dark side of town, there was something in Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not that spoke to everyone in the UK, and that something confirmed that Alex Turner was and is a genius.
11. Enter Shikari - Take to the Skies
Angstiest track: Sorry You're Not A Winner
I'm going to be honest here: I thought Enter Shikari were awful then and somehow even worse now, but there's no denying that their bleepy-bloopy, shouty-screamy response to indie rock spoke to a huge swathe of Britain's youth in the late '00s. As a home-grown success story (they sold out the London Astoria before they even had a record deal) it's hard not to admire them, though.
12. System of a Down - Toxicity
Angstiest track: Chop Suey!
For some reason, everybody likes System of a Down. It's a bit of a head-scratcher as to how they broke through the mainstream, given that they were essentially a bunch of weirdos yelling and screaming over Very Loud Rock Music, but they managed it with Toxicity. It probably all rests on Chop Suey!, which is an absolute belter and perfect for those overly-emotional bedroom sing-a-longs where you got all your feelings out.
13. Radiohead - OK Computer
Angstiest track: Exit Music (For a Film)
Radiohead have more of a reputation for being wrist-slittingly depressing (a reputation they only partially deserve - it's hard to think of any actively happy Radiohead tunes, to be fair) but their most famous album dealt with loneliness, isolation, paranoia, suspicion, feeling trapped, without ever sacrificing the band's emotional rawness and beauty. It all hinged on whether you liked Thom Yorke's voice though, and OK Computer is the real test of that.
14. Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Angstiest track: The Good Times Are Killing Me
Being making an angsty album doesn't mean the music has to be depressing or aggressive. In fact, on the face of it, Good News for People Who Love Bad News sounds like a pretty straightforward indie pop album - twangy guitars, little quirks and oddities with a couple of smash-hit singles (mainly Float On). But underneath, this is a record about the complex difficulties of life and death, and when you're an angsty teen, everything is life and death.
15. My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
Angstiest track: It's all pretty angsty, but let's go with I'm Not Okay (I Promise)
So it may not have been 'cool' to be into emo, and My Chemical Romance were most certainly the poster boys for emo, but as far as teenage angst goes, it's hard to think of a band that summed it up better. Black clothes, guy-liner, violent imagery - if things weren't okay, MCR were your band, and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge was the soundtrack to your misery.