To be an actual concept album it's got to have some kind of discernable story or theme running through it. According to Wikipedia "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers The Album: A Rock Adventure" is a concept album. No it fucking isn't. Thanks to the 13-year-old (or tremendous pervert) who added that I have to discount their entire list and come up with my own. I can only think of four that I actually like, and one that is sort of there but is arguable.
Baader Meinhof - Baader Meinhof
First alphabetically and critically. This almost completely unknown album from Luke Haines (Black Box Recorder, The Auteurs etc..) tells a stylised version of the story of the Red Army Faction. Slinky lounge music about 1970's German terrorists - it shouldn't work but it does. Creepingly sinister, but beautiful at the same time it won't teach you anything about terror that you didn't already know but it does sound spectacular.
Incidentally during year 8 I was quizzed by the school librarians about why I kept borrowing the same books about international terrorism and Carlos the Jackal again and again. No proper answers were forthcoming, but I turned out alright didn't I? Nowadays if you did that they'd search your locker for a concealed stash of AK47's and pipebombs. Ahh, the mid 90's - such a simple time.
Drive-By Truckers - Southern Rock Opera
The 70's in the deep south as seen in a double album of songs that pretty much all have something to do with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The first act is called "Betamax Guillotine" after the urban legend about an on-board video player taking somebody's head off in the plane crash that killed most of the band.
Not quite country, but not rock either. Call it.. Southern Rock? If you want. There's even spoken word interludes if you're into that sort of thing. I first heard of this randomly listening to Triple R one afternoon driving around in a work car when the track "Ronnie and Neil" came on and I was blown away. Great album, great song.
Lou Reed - Berlin
It is, they say, the most depressing album of all time and they're not far off. Drugs, death, sordid sex, crying children - cheery Lou has it all. It's a far cry from the comedy trannies wandering down the street on Transformer. Unlikely to make you lob yourself off the Westgate Bridge unless you're already that way inclined, but not one to be playing as the on-hold music at Lifeline.
Neon Neon - Stainless Style
I have a little known fetish for stainless steel. God knows if I had enough money to live anywhere but a decrepit hellhole then it would be stacked with that shit, and with enough fingerprint marks to make a professional cleaner weep. So, in the realm of fantasy car purchasing I'd like the DMC-12 from Back To The Future in all it's stainless steel glory. Fuck the time travel, give me the vehicle that looks like a part of somebody's kitchen.
So, when I heard that old mate out of the Super Furry Animals (Hometown Unicorn anyone? Brilliant. Oh, all right then how about this you foul mouthed beasts?) had signed up for an entire album about John DeLorean and the DMC I was IN, even if it did turn out to be naff. Luckily it turned out to be ace, is probably my album of the year so far and features a song (see below) which is a dead cert for my end of season top 5.
What a story too - man rises from the slums to become a car company executive, starts his own company, designs a freaky deaky car, builds it in a factory in Belfast that has seperate entrances for catholics and protestants, watches the entire thing go tits up, tries to sell cocaine to save himself, gets busted, goes broke and then watches the demand for the cars go through the roof too bloody late when it turns out that the things can travel through time.
Pulp - This Is Hardcore
Ok, so I'm cheating a bit here. It's not a concept as such, but it does represent a suite of songs by Jarvis Cocker which essentially say "oh fuck, I'm famous. What do I do now?" As far as I can see, the answer was "an even better album" as this has got highlights from top to bottom as opposed to the sketchy Different Class. Opening track The Fear (below) is the perfect post-fame paranoia ("This is the sound of someone losing the plot, making out that they're ok when they're not. You'll like it, but not a lot") and the tone of the album slips neatly from terror, to lust, joy and resignation without missing a beat. Undoubtedly the highlight of Jarvis' career so far it didn't sell half as well as different class due to the fact that a) the Britpop boom had died in the arse, and b) it didn't have the sort of Common People-esque anthem that it's predecessor did.
Probably the best "sound of somebody losing the plot" that you'll ever hear.
P.S - Forget the Kinks and their 50,000 different concept albums. Try The Fall singing their song Victoria instead,
When I grow up I want to be Mark E Smith.