Listening to a good album for the first time is one of my favourite things about being alive. That might seem trivial thing in the bigger scheme, with the world on fire, but let me assure you that there is nothing trivial about grabbing a slice of freedom from wherever you can. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that you can always find freedom in sound; in the twist and turns of the unexpected and new, the subtle nuances noticed with repeated listens, and in the comfort of familiarity when music finally becomes part of you.

Which is why we, The 405, are starting a listening club. Every Friday we'll select two albums for you to listen to; one from the new releases, one that we love, and the following week we will publish your thoughts on them. Just drop us an email or tweet us @the405 if you want to be featured and we’ll include the best takes.

We decided as it’s the first week to start with just one album. Which meant choosing one album from all of human history, which meant several meltdowns, which led us to Portishead’s self titled album, obviously. An album which IMHO, is one of the most underrated albums of all time.

The commercial success of Portishead’s debut album, Dummy, led to the commodification of their sound. Bands that couldn’t quite replicate their quiet horror, aimed for edginess but landed flat on a beige plateau, became a soundtrack to the shitty vibe bar // hip hairdressers // edgy late night tv series about interpersonal relations (fucking) of twenty somethings. What originally represented a sleazy underbelly/alternative to the rising horror show of britpop, became a sterile chill out lounge in the space of a few units shifted. Which makes this album, their returning gesture, as bleak as it is, a wonderful middle finger to something the band never wanted to be.

After twenty or so years it still sounds perfect, consider for a moment how the scratchy, sinister and gothic album opener Cowboys sounds, as a direct contrast to the booming intro of All Mine that follows it. It’s the perfect set up and yet it never feels forced. All the way through the album subtle production tricks exemplify the strengths of these songs and enhance the listening experience. Two decades later, those tricks still sound great, which is an incredibly rare feat in itself.

This is all just my opinion though, so take a listen to the album, whether it’s for the first time, you haven’t heard it in ages, or you listened to it earlier, and let us know what you think. Is this the most underrated album of the 90's? Is there an album from the 90's that actually sounds better than this one?

Email us your thoughts, or tweet us @the405.

Read Ana Leorne's excellent piece on this very album.