Thursday, September 22, 2011

Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#20-#11)

Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#40-#31)
Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#30-#21)

20. 'Truth and Soul'


I was enamored with the second wave of ska (Madness, English Beat, the Specials) throughout most of the '80s. So, it wasn't much of a leap to listen to offshoots such as this mix of ska, funk and punk. Like on previous albums, there are classic party anthems... but quite a bit of "truth," too. Through the years, I liked quite a few songs by them, but this is the only album I can back from beginning to end. Get yourself one of their best-of packages and this one. You'll be all set.

19. 'Rio'

Duran Duran

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with Duran Duran. The first time I ever saw MTV, "Hungry Like the Wolf" was THE hit of the network. I saw (and heard) the song at least five times that day... and was hooked. By the time "The Reflex" took the channel hostage in the summer of '84, I hated them so much I couldn't even go back and listen to 'Rio.' It took a while to wait out duds like "Wild Boys," but I was back on board when "Notorious" came out in '86. You get the point. Through the decades, I have had quite a few happy moments with Duran Duran, but none have matched those first listens to 'Rio' back in 1982.

18. 'Easy Pieces'
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Rich (mp3)

Many fans consider this album one of the band's weaker moments, but 'Easy Pieces' has always been my favorite in the Cole canon. The lyrics are at least as sharp as those found on 'Rattlesnakes,' and much more accessible. The music is more synthesizer driven and the production seems a little dated today, which I think turn off some, but I still love that sound to this day. There isn't really any reason to argue about which record is better. Outside of R.E.M, I can't think of a better freshman-sophomore effort during this decade.

17. 'Reckoning'


And speaking of R.E.M., here is that second album. As I write this, the band has announced it's disbanding, to which I replied to Mrs. LTL!, "I thought they were finished 25 years ago." That was a little harsh. There was a bright moment or two in the late '80s, but 'Reckoning' is the back end of what might be the greatest one-two punch in indie history. It opened me to a whole new genre. Without 'Reckoning' I may have never become a passionate follower of jangle pop. Perhaps I wouldn't have discover peers and predecessors like the Feelies, Let's Active, the dB's, Guadalcanal Diary and a slew of Athens bands. So, even though my feelings for R.E.M. went from love (the first four albums), to like (the rest of the I.R.S. catalog), to indifference (the first couple of major-label outings), to downright hate (everything after that), I will always be thankful for 'Reckoning.' It was an important moment in my musical growth.

16. 'Graceland'

Paul Simon

Admittedly, Paul Simon wasn't one of my favorites in 1986. I was full of teen angst, and punk rock filled my life. I couldn't stand "You Can Call Me Al." Obviously, that smash hit wasn't representative of the greatness of 'Graceland.' So, I'm glad I was converted in 2001. That's when I found Simon. Brian Wilson was opening for him that summer, and I wasn't going to miss a chance to see my favorite Beach Boy. So, I gave his new record, 'I'm the One,' a try. I liked it enough to get a best-of package and this album. I have never looked back. Simon has had quite a few good albums, and in my mind, his solo debut is right up there, but 'Graceland' is his high-water mark.

15. 'Let's Dance'

David Bowie

'Let's Dance' is the only appearance on this list by David Bowie, and I'm not doing this to shake feathers. It's true most of you out there hate Bowie's '80s output, but the one exception might be 'Scary Monsters' from 1980. If this list went to 50, it would have been here. Truth is, I'm an unapologetic fan of just about everything he has ever done, including the much-maligned 'Tonight' and 'Never Let Me Down' albums. I'm not going to critique 'Let's Dance' as too light and commercial. If it wasn't a hit, I may not have discovered it. I was only 12 years old when it came out, and this was my first taste of Bowie's work. That's part of the reason why I hold it in such high esteem. Now I have just about his entire discography, and I still consider 'Let's Dance' one of his best. Feel free to rip me now.

14. 'The Crossing'

Big Country
Big Country - Fields of Fire (mp3)

I have written so much about this band since the inception of this blog. There's not much more to say. They were my favorite band from this debut through 'The Seer' in 1986. I'm not sure if this album has aged well. Perhaps my bias makes me a poor judge. All I know is their distinct sound still fills me with joy to this day. These were heady times for the Scottish band, both critically and commercially, and I'm rooting for brighter days on the comeback trail, sans the late Stuart Adamson. C'mon lads, give us another album like this one.

13. 'Stands for Decibels'

The dB's
The dB's - Bad Reputation (mp3)

Through the years, the dB's have reached cult status, but this is my plea to elevate the band, and this album in particular, to classic status. If you're a fan of power pop or jangle pop and don't own this record, you have a large hole in your music collection that needs to be filled right now. While you're at it, get the followup, 'Repercussion,' too. Once Chris Stamey left the group (after these two albums), their sound changed... good, but different. The good news is, after all of these years, the original lineup is recording again. We should have a new album from them in 2012.

12. 'Marshall Crenshaw'

Marshall Crenshaw
Marshall Crenshaw - Brand New Lover (mp3)

I didn't discover Marshall Crenshaw until his second album. I was only 11 years old when his debut came out, after all, but I know the single "Someday, Someway" was a minor success, particularly on the East Coast, but the general consensus seems to be that he is a one-hit wonder. Wrong! When it comes to pop music, Crenshaw is an absolute genius. Artistically, I think he hit a rough patch in the late '80s and early '90s, but before and after that he has put together several overlooked albums that I hope some day, some way, will get their due.

11. 'Double Nickels on the Dime'

Minutemen - Viet Nam (mp3)

Looking back, it's shocking. MTV actually used to play the video for "This Ain't No Picnic." It's kind of embarrassing to admit, but that's how I discovered Minutemen and this album. D. Boon and Mike Watt became my heroes. I thought of San Pedro like New Romantics thought of London. The trio "jammed econo," from their less than flashy flannel to their less than three-minute songs. (It took 45 of them to tell the 'Double Nickels' story, however.) This album was my conduit to the punk-rock scene and, in particular, the SST label. Boon was missed, but I took a huge liking to Watt's next band, fIREHOSE, and that trio also had albums considered for this list.

1 comment:

Uncle E said...

Fantastic list. Bonus points for including the feelies and minutemen albums. I've just started a maniacal task by creating a new blog called 500 reasons the 80's didn't suck ( and would love to get your opinion Maybe a guest post even?