domingo, 31 de janeiro de 2010

Os Melhores Discos dos Anos 80 - Pitchfork

It's said that the 1980s are responsible for the worst fashion, fads, and music of any decade of the 20th century. But as we see the decade recycled and updated with post-millennial minimalism, it's becoming clear that the 1980s had more to offer than we've given them credit for. As the calendar left the classless earthtones and polyester of the 1970s behind, musicians looked to the future for inspiration in new genres. With this feature, Pitchfork seeks to prove that, amidst the smooth-jazz of Kenny G, the vanilla soul of Hall & Oates, and the white-trash hair-rock of Warrant, lay a revolution in sound. It is to the vision and perseverance of many of these artists that we owe the roots of hip-hop, synth-pop, and most notably for this publication, alternative and indie rock. Respect is due.

100: Minor Threat
Out of Step
[Dischord; 1984]

Reagan's future-blind ass was deregulating everything and cocaine had our parents in its blurry grasp. These District of Columbia reactionaries strove to set the record straight. "Betray", "Look Back & Laugh", and "Out of Step" still stomp, and Ian MacKaye's scorching, rebellious screams still make the deaf deafer. How were Minor Threat this fast and this tight, this judgmental and this inviting, this minimal and this expansive? This album can serve as lesson #1 when your kids get old enough to wonder, "Daddy, what's a Fugazi?" --William Bowers

099: Gang of Four
Songs of the Free
[Warner Bros; 1982]

Gang of Four's third full-length left behind the dry, unaffected sound that made their first two records so immediate and bracing, instead taking textural cues from modern R&B and pulling most of the tempos back for a more overtly danceable brand of funk-rock. Andy Gill's guitar was more controlled, though it still sears on opener "Call Me Up", and he lays down some of his trademark scratchy riffs on "It Is Not Enough". The band's shift to a more produced sound was most apparent on the immortal "I Love a Man in Uniform", with its female backing vocals, while "We Live as We Dream, Alone" found them writing an actual pop song, albeit one about the emptiness of material pursuit. Unfortunately, Gang of Four waned terribly after this album, but as last hurrahs go, Songs of the Free is outstanding. --Joe Tangari

098: Cocteau Twins
[4AD; 1984]

The Cocteau Twins' third album was titled simply enough. Treasure was an adjective for the endlessly inventive melodic lines you'd find buried in these songs, and a verb for what you'd do with them for years to come. With the addition of Simon Raymonde on guitar, the Twins had moved beyond the moody, bass-driven sound of Garlands and come into their signature ethereality. The drum machine tracks added a sharp edge to some songs, especially the 80s dancefloor mini-hit "Lorelei". But as always, it was Elisabeth Fraser's angelic vocals that managed to comfort, confound and mystify in the end, perfectly matching the song titles. Affixing words to the Cocteau Twins often seems pointless; in its own unique way, Fraser's streaming glossolalia speaks for itself. --Christopher Dare

097: Mekons
The Mekons Rock 'N' Roll
[A&M; 1989]

This album is nothing more or less than its title claims. Basically their only major label release, it's their piss-take/tribute to rock and roll, and they attack it from every direction: as icon (the Elvis image embedded in the cover), as commodity (from the slave trade in "Amnesia" to Sally Timms' correlation of sex and rock as salable items), as the lowest moment of a dark night ("Only Darkness Has The Power")-- but best of all, as raw rock squall that's just fucking volcanic. --Chris Dahlen

096: Rites of Spring
Rites of Spring
[Dischord; 1985]

Besides being, along with Minor Threat, one of the Lions of what would eventually become the mighty Voltron of Fugazi, Rites of Spring were also, a while back, slapped with the now-dubious title "fathers of emo". Back then, of course, there was no need to be ashamed of punk's whiny, besweatered stepchild; even before the horn-rimmed glasses crowd started buying into the torn larynx = sincerity equation, Guy Picciotto and the rest of the band were just letting it histrionically rip. Minor Threat might have been the conscience of the DC scene, but Rites of Spring were its secret, spurting, and beating heart. --Brendan Reid

095: Duran Duran
[Capitol; 1982]

When I first heard the term "electroclash", I thought it would sound like evil Duran Duran. Now I know that it doesn't sound enough like evil Duran Duran. Duran Duran perfected what a lot of boring, obscure British bands had been doing before them: mixing colonialist rhythms with sapphire-bullet synths and surly brass. The band peppered the 80s with a number of hot singles (most of which can be found on the unstoppable side A of Rio) before departing for MOR country. You'll most readily recall the Simon LeBon jungle adventures of the title track and "Hungry Like the Wolf", but dig "My Own Way" and "Hold Back the Rain" outta your subconscious as well. Praising this album might be like giving the nod to N'Sync ten years from now, but until then, MY NAME IS RIO AND I'M DANCING ON THE FUCKING SAND. --Rob Mitchum

094: Meat Puppets
[SST; 1983]

Like apple and pie, like bass and balls, country n' hardcore just go together in that all-American way. Though the Meat Puppets' second record is often filed under this fusion (and credited as the first to make the connection), there was really a lot more going on here than the "cowpunk" label can account for. The main thrust of the album was more psychedelic, using the claustrophobic tightness of punk and the vastness of Americana as head-metaphors, analogies for two distinct states of being really goddamn freaked out. And, while many of their heirs got the punk part right, few could approximate the huge, haunted spaces that lurk in the darker corners of this album, threatening to swallow even the most manic of the band's outbursts. --Brendan Reid

093: David Bowie
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
[RCA; 1980]

By 1980, critics were already chomping at the bit to declare David Bowie D.O.A. Where, they wondered, could he possibly go after his spectacular, antiseptic Berlin trilogy (which, it was suspected, Brian Eno was really the genius behind)? Certainly, he couldn't get any more avant-garde! All it took was a few steps back from the musical fringe and the nervy, sweeping rock opus Scary Monsters to shut them up. One of Bowie's more uncharacteristically backward looking records, the guitar-driven edge of Monsters gave a brief nod to the artier end of the passing punk movement (including "Kingdom Come", written by Television frontman Tom Verlaine), but coupled it with Bowie's infallible pop acumen. The result is an record of startling emotion, tension, and simplicity, and the last of the truly excellent Bowie albums. --Eric Carr

092: Kate Bush
Hounds of Love
[EMI; 1985]

Discovered in 1975 by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, Kate Bush began and ended her career with sappy sentimentality bathed in new age-isms and unicorn fantasies. Yet, at the heart of her discography lies this uncharacteristically forward-looking full-length, whose striking arrangements are aided by her Fairlight synthesizer/sampler and dipped in mind-blowing, crystalline production. Side one begins with "Running Up That Hill", setting the scene with tension and galloping programmed percussion, and ends with the government conspiracy ballad "Cloudbusting", which pours on strings like liquid nylon. But it's the suite on side two that's hauntingly inexplicable, comprised of dissimilar songs tied together by a dreamlike pall. Her singing is seductive and wraithlike, especially when joined by disembodied voices, and a distant, watery choral group. --Chris Dahlen

091: X
Los Angeles
[Slash; 1980]

I dare anyone to listen to the nightmarish tale of "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene", let it really sink in, and not be at least a little bit disturbed by X's nihilistic masterpiece. The Stooges, The Dolls, and Richard Hell (among others) gave a voice to the "no future, no problem" mindset of the States' burgeoning East Coast punk movement, but it took a half-decade and a West Coast band to really nail it. The whispered wailing of John Doe and Exene Cervenka spoke of desperation, but Billy Zoom's guitar churned out punk-warped versions of feelgood 50s rock riffs; Los Angeles was the sound of youth culture gleefully racing toward oblivion. At the time of this album's release, Richard Meltzer called X, "the only punk band with half a chance at commercial success in America today." Truth is, they never had a prayer; they were better than that. --Eric Carr

090: Jane's Addiction
Nothing's Shocking
[Warner Bros; 1988]

In a perfect world, the Red Hot Chili Peppers disbanded upon hearing this catastrophic slab of kinky trip-funk. I'm not sure that Jane's Addiction ever amounted to more than a dreadlocked amalgam of their titanic influences (Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Velvet Underground), but I do think that God granted Perry Farrell a slim window of genius before banishing him to an oblivion of balderdash-mouth. You know you were up waiting for Britny Fox or a Bulletboys video on the Adam Curry-hosted "Headbanger's Ball" when Jane's Addiction's "Mountain Song" blew your mind. As hallucinogenic as it was socially conscious, this album's chief irony was that its killer numbers were revisitations of songs from the band's debut ("Jane Says", "Pigs in Zen"). God bless the West Coast every now and then. --William Bowers

089: Boredoms
Soul Discharge
[Shimmy-Disc; 1989]

Where John Zorn and Sonic Youth approached the avant-garde from an already rich backdrop of NYC punky-dadaism, Osaka's Boredoms seemingly came out of nowhere in the late 80s. Boredoms' first full-length gave adventurous listeners something disturbing and more than a little stupid to chew on, but Soul Discharge was arguably their greatest early example of their thrilling widescreen outbursts. They played Sabbath riffs over ramshackle, caveman Japanese Court beats; they managed to mangle even the most rudimentary garage pound, creating a soundtrack for scat-porn toons and destroying cats; and, of course, they managed to provide a lifetime of jams at a fraction of the sanity. Sure, Mr Bungle and Melt-Banana took a few pointers here, but in the end, there is no influence. Only Boredoms. --Dominique Leone

088: Spacemen 3
Playing with Fire
[Fire; 1989]

A far dronier affair than its predecessor, 1987's epic The Perfect Prescription, Playing with Fire shows Jason "J Spaceman" Pierce and Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember drifting apart, writing songs alone more often than together. The two would splinter into Spiritualized and Spectrum shortly thereafter. Though their distance from each other shows in the songwriting here, the execution is another thing entirely. Pierce and Kember's guitars still unite in blissful double-helixes, and their voices still meld together in canyon reverb. Playing with Fire, their final album really working in tandem (it would be Spacemen 3's last hurrah before the wane of Recurring, which virtually exists as a compilation of solo material from the two members), is Spacemen 3 going out with a supernova, and leaving the powerful interplanetary spirituals "Come Down Softly to My Soul", "So Hot (Wash Away All of My Tears)", and the stunning original version of "Lord Can You Hear Me?" in their vaportrail wake. --Ryan Schreiber

087: Prince
Dirty Mind
[Warner Bros; 1980]

No one ever made the combination of gender ambiguity and panting sexuality seem as right and natural as Prince, an outsider stuck in a mid-sized midwestern city with the balls to sport heavy makeup, thigh-high stockings and bikini briefs while opening for the Rolling Stones. Dirty Mind is the Purple One in stark black and white, as yet untouched by the spiritual heaviness that would color his work as the 80s wore on. At this point, all he wanted was to get down, in both senses of that word. The music is unbelievably lean, with the dry recording and minimal production serving as the perfect foil to the decidedly wet and lush physicality of the subject matter. Catchy electro-pop meets danceable electro-funk, Dirty Mind stands as Prince's first great album. --Mark Richardson

086: The Police
Ghost in the Machine
[A&M; 1981]

It seems strange to think that Sting could ever have found his hand so firmly entrenched in the direction of modern pop as he did circa this album. Fresh from The Police's almost single-handed reinvention of what radio rock was supposed to sound with their previous three records, Sting was transformed from cute new wave frontman to Serious Artist. Perhaps that signaled doom for the band (who were more than the sum of their parts as a matter of practice), but even with a jazzy sound overhaul (much courtesy of mega-producer Hugh Padgham), few ill effects were found on this record. Newfound textural sophistication via synthesizer and piano, horns, lots of massed vocals, and typically light-handed tackling of reggae and ska-- in addition to some of their best tunes ("Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", "Invisible Sun")-- translated to a curiously underrated classic. --Dominique Leone

085: Paul Simon
[Warner Bros; 1986]

Graceland was a controversial recording in its day, transcending the UN's cultural ban on South Africa to expose the vibrant mbaqanga musical movement of the nation's black neighborhoods to the world. But Graceland was a phenomenal musical achievement from any perspective-- an effortless fusion of styles (Zulu mabazo choral music, zydeco, country, etc.) that sounds like little else even today. Most of us, myself included, first heard this record around the house, that rare album our parents stumbled onto that we all could dig. Through all my shifts in musical taste in those fifteen years-- through punk, prog, avant-garde, electronic, and onward-- this disc has never lain far from my stereo. Its appeal is truly universal. --Joe Tangari

084: ESG
Come Away with ESG
[99; 1983]

Sisters Renee, Valerie and Marie Scroggins, and bassist Leroy Glover, formed ESG in the South Bronx at the dawn of the 1980s. Though influenced mainly by Motown soul and jazz, their rudimentary skills on their instruments forced them to create something of their own. What they came away with was the deeply minimalist and spacious sound of barebones, electronics-free dance grooves submerged in murky reverb, yet performed with a youthful vitality and laden with joyous shoutouts. Their music is almost all beat: loose, African polyrhythms and stabbing basslines beneath the girls' sing/speak vocals. Strangely, their first release came with a Martin Hannett-produced, three-song seven-inch on Factory Records, which led to the interest of NYC-based 99 Records who booked the band in punk clubs where they opened for many of the other bands on this list (Public Image, Ltd, Gang of Four, etc). They disbanded after the release of this album, but the widespread sampling of their music by hip-hop legends like Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane and Beastie Boys is a testament to its influence. Plus, it's a kickin' party record. --Ryan Schreiber

083: Talk Talk
The Colour of Spring
[EMI; 1986]

Talk Talk made their first big step out of new wave and into something else entirely on The Colour of Spring, opening their music to looser structures and stranger textures. The rhythms were still mechanically governed, but the guitars were huge, Mark Hollis' vocals more enigmatic, and the sonic palette much, much wider. "April 5th" and "Chameleon Day" most closely anticipated Talk Talk's future directions and today suggest something like Peter Gabriel inventing post-rock ten years ahead of schedule. Talk Talk's uniquely balanced appreciation for sweeping gestures, big sound, minimalist songcraft, and the importance of space made for some singular music, and it was on display here at its most accessible. --Joe Tangari

082: The Fall
Perverted by Language
[Rough Trade; 1983]

Of The Fall's dozen or so "comeback albums", 1983's Perverted by Language deserves the classification most. It marks the band's move toward a more accessible second wave of songs that would land them a deal with the majors, as well as the first appearance of Brix, an American Mark E Smith met in Chicago and married soon after. Perverted by Language leads off in a clang-bang, sing-along stupor with "Eat Y'self Fitter", which goes on twice as long as it should. Reissues have thoroughly muddled the original running order, which had their most straight-ahead rock song to that point, the driving "Neighborhood of Infinity", giving way to the album's nine-minute centerpiece, "Garden". "Garden" succeeds The Fall's earlier long-form spectral jams like Room to Live's "Hard Life in the Country" and "An Older Lover, Etc." from Slates. Non-linear, occasionally postwar imagery builds into The Fall's finest, frenzied twin-drummer cacophony, Smith squealing: "A Jew on a motorbike!" --Chris Ott

081: Cocteau Twins
Blue Bell Knoll
[4AD; 1988]

After brief forays into ambient and acoustic music in the mid-80s, the Cocteau Twins returned to the celestial sound so lushly documented on Treasure and the Aikea-Guineau EP. Though 1990's Heaven or Las Vegas would crystallize the band's identity, 1988's Blue Bell Knoll offered some intriguing new ideas and a single many fans feel they never topped. The title track spins a loop of harpsichord keys over which Elizabeth Fraser rings out with deft assurance, a noticeable break with her somewhat timid, awkward past; Robin Guthrie's beat-driven dream-pop leanings come full circle with "Carolyn's Fingers", the dazzling single that garnered the Cocteau Twins their first serious recognition in America; and "For Phoebe Still a Baby" follows in fine form, pointing to their most accessible album, 1993's Four-Calendar Caf. --Chris Ott

080: Hsker Dü
New Day Rising
[SST; 1985]

"Bob Mould, intelligible? Never!" Believe it. After the throat-clenching rage of Zen Arcade, Mould decided to follow fellow Hsker Grant Hart's songwriting lead (well, most of the time) and hew a bit closer to pop, while Hart's straighter rock songs swung into almost traditionalist territory. Given that the guitars still buzz, careen, and overload, New Day Rising was both edgy as hell and hugely accessible. More than Zen Arcade, New Day Rising predicted both Mould's excellent post-Hsker project Sugar and, by extension, the general landscape of alternative/indie rock into which that band fit so perfectly. --Brendan Reid

079: Manuel Gttsching
[Spalax; 1981]

As the story is sometimes told, Gttsching stopped in the studio for a couple of hours in 1981 and invented techno. E2-E4 is the most compelling argument that techno came from Germany-- more so than any single Kraftwerk album, anyway. The sleeve credits the former Ash Ra Tempel leader with "guitar and electronics", but few could stretch that meager toolkit like Gttsching. Over a heavenly two-chord synth vamp and simple sequenced drum and bass, Gttsching's played his guitar like a percussion instrument, creating music that defines the word "hypnotic" over the sixty minutes of the single track. A key piece in the electronic music puzzle that's been name-checked, reworked and expanded upon countless times. --Mark Richardson

078: They Might Be Giants
[Fire; 1989]

Catch their non-sequitur breakdowns before they were de rigeur! In my bank-robbing dreams, I blast the next lazy asshole who describes this band as "quirky". What does that even mean? "Ana Ng" and "Purple Toupee" are what would happen if punk songs emitted from the heart and brain and not from the fists and dick. Yes, their afflicted polka-dance can be sonically distracting; in an interview circa Apollo 18, John Flansburgh had to remind me that their songs were sad, that TMBG's main subject was "existential dread". Far from being a neutered Devo, They Might Be Giants were auditors of how we can't control "Where Your Eyes Don't Go" and how "They'll Need a Crane" to dismantle our romantic investments. Wallace Stevens gets quoted. Santa gets cuckolded. Identities get inverted. Workaholism gets spoofed. Catholicism gets dirged. Amen. --William Bowers

077: The Smiths
Strangeways, Here We Come
[Sire; 1987]

Though time has made period pieces of The Smiths' first three proper albums, their adventurous finale Strangeways, Here We Come continues to impress, some fifteen years on. Critics cried "Bohemian Rhapsody!" on first listen to melodramas like "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" and "Paint a Vulgar Picture", but forgiving these tearjerkers, the record houses some outstanding pop songs and an anthem to rival their best material: "Death of a Disco Dancer" is a meticulously measured jam, building toward a finely executed rock and roll crescendo. The Smiths scored hits with the breezy springtime bound "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before", and their most infamously maudlin romp, "Girlfriend in a Coma". Beneath these standouts are two equally great Smiths tunes: "Unhappy Birthday", which would have fit nicely on The Queen Is Dead, and the sweet, acoustic "I Won't Share You", which, given the egomaniacal breakdown of the Morrissey/Marr alliance, can be read a number of ways. --Chris Ott

076: The dB's
Stands for Decibels
[IRS; 1981]

Given the times, those first few punk-sharp, jangly bars of Stands for Decibels' opener, "Black and White", could've turned into anything. A few measures later, however, an infectious, fluid lead announces the dB's allegiances to the more basic ideals of pop and the malleability of pop in the right pairs of sweaty little hands. Coming on like a smartass Big Star, the Winston-Salem, NC-based dB's were, like that band, a powerful intimation of the South's intentions to rise again. And indeed, Peter Holsapple's starry-eyed melodies and Chris Stamey's cross-eyed rhythmic and production fuckery paved the way for R.E.M. and the legion of college-boy rockers, both in love with and frustrated with rock, who would soon march North into the spotlight. --Brendan Reid

075: Boogie Down Productions
Criminal Minded
[Sugar Hill; 1987]

When you hear people nod their heads and say "hip-hop today ain't as good as that old-school shit," BDP's Criminal Minded is the "old-school shit" they're talking about. BDP laid down blueprint for true-skool hip-hop, with Blastmaster KRS-One supplying streetwise rhymes over Scott La Rock's beautifully spare production. The Jamaican-influenced "The Bridge Is Over", directed at Queens hip-hop legends Marley Marl and MC Shan, may be the best diss song ever. And did any of The Teacher's lessons ever rival the brutal honesty of the chorus to "The P Is Free", where the Blastmaster raps, "The pussy is free, but the crack cost money"? In a word: no. --Sam Chennault

074: Mekons
Fear & Whiskey
[Sin; 1985]

Mekons are one of the few bands in the history of music that can claim to have birthed a genre-- English folk, dub rhythms, punk aesthetics, and a rockabilly glaze went into Fear & Whiskey, and somehow, out of all that, came something people now affectionately refer to as "alt-country". Mekons were as enigmatic as they come, fusing highbrow anti-conservative populist politics and humanist desires with the most basic roots of rock, and as such, Fear & Whiskey is like drunken redneck lecturing you on the finer points of socialist economics-- it's funny, informative, and surreally entertaining. It has to be heard to be believed. But mostly, it just has to be heard. --Eric Carr

073: Coil
Horse Rotorvator
[Relativity; 1987]

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse turn on their steeds, slitting their throats and fashioning from the connected jawbones a plough with which to excoriate the Earth: The Horse Rotorvator. This vision appeared as a dream to John Balance and became the title of his second album. The bulk of these songs are grand, sweeping treatments of themes of death and betrayal, wrought in a collage of noise and restless rhythms. Coil were always their own breed, but the self-conscious drama of 80s industrial culture mediates these bleak meditations. It's the small details that are truly unnerving: a child giggling, fabric rustling and tearing, or the void of silence after a marching band passes. Equally austere, humorous and frightening, Horse Rotorvator stands as one of the more unique projects of its decade. Just make sure to buy an officially minted copy; Coil have cursed the various bootlegs. --Christopher Dare

072: Meat Puppets
Up on the Sun
[SST; 1985]

Curt Kirkwood: so middle-of-the-road today, he's the official standard for double-yellow lines in his native Arizona. Yet, back in '85, the firm of Kirkwood, Kirkwood & Bostrom presided over one of the most out-there (and, at the same time, down-home) albums of the era. Jettisoning most of the punk they'd built their reputation on, the Pups seem to be loosely allied here to a sort of double-jointed funk, though the trail of influences quickly gets lost in the warm fever-glow of "Hot Pink", "Swimming Ground", and the blissfully weird title track. This makes it even harder to pin down the bands Up on the Sun has influenced; if anything, the album seems to be emblematic of the sonic left turn, often so labored in indie rock but so effortless here, that shortcuts the long, boring road of rock tradition to reach that big ol' Mountain of Song. --Brendan Reid

071: Replacements
Pleased to Meet Me
[Sire; 1987]

Fame for the Replacements was starting to look like a lost cause by the time this album dropped. Did that mean they were losers for trying once again? Pleased to Meet Me made the question utterly irrelevant. Paul Westerberg had progressed quickly from shaky smart aleck to confident chronicler of the shafted, writing ferociously sharp power-pop elegies to preterite rock stars ("Alex Chilton"), shimmering folk tunes about being in the wrong place at the wrong time ("Skyway"), and elegant odes to anxiety ("Can't Hardly Wait", which, true to form, doesn't get played till the ending credits of the movie that ripped its name). Before the Loser pose became an instant fame-ticket to anyone shaggy enough to pass for one, the Replacements were living it, and like most everything they touched, turning it to cool. --Brendan Reid

070: Elvis Costello
[Columbia; 1981]

This is one of Costello's earliest attempts to mix and match genres: the fourteen tracks are all over the map, with country, rockabilly, drippingly melodramatic piano ballads, and of course, the modern and popular strains of "Clubland". Unlike some of his later experiments, every song works and every stretch is justified: his sharp pop hooks and perfect melodies never miss. The lyrics chart one disaster after another ("white knuckles on black and white skin"), but the upbeat music helps you through it; and the tinge of regret in "New Lace Sleeves" comes away glowing. Plus, dig the shades. His future's so bright! --Chris Dahlen

069: The Feelies
Crazy Rhythms
[A&M; 1980]

1980 was a good year for geeks-- for instance, I was born; the dB's were recording Stands for Decibels; and, oh yeah, Crazy Rhythms came out. Call them the Velvet Underground with pocket protectors, the Bowlcut Beatles, but the coolest thing about The Feelies' debut was the beat. Drummer Anton Fier's punked-up take on motorik, along with hyperspeed strumming from boy-guitar-heroes Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, punched a gaping hole in the fabric of the universe, giving us access to the bizarro geek-chic realm from which Weezer and their ilk would eventually crawl. More locally, the band's anxious jangle gave courage to better-dressed college rockers everywhere, as well as post-punk acts who weren't hip enough to be British. And who knows what sort of Brave New Feelies World will dawn on us in the Land of Tomorrow? That Steven Hawking does, I bet. --Brendan Reid

068: Talking Heads
Stop Making Sense
[Sire; 1984]

Call and response: What do we want? White-nerd punk-funk! When do we want it? 1984! Stop Making Sense is one of only two movie soundtracks on this list. And I'll admit: you really need to see the film to fully appreciate these key-and-percussion-heavy renditions of the Heads' canonical standbys. They had high, high live standards-- a zillion drunks will argue the conspiracy theorem that this had to be an overdubbed studio recording. Leave fingernail scars on your soulmate to the table-saw synths of "Life During Wartime", "Once in a Lifetime", and "Girlfriend Is Better". If you can really multitask, I recommend that you listen while reading This Must Be the Place's account of Byrne waving a banana at a Nixon rally, or of their museums-versus-cheeseburgers tour with The Ramones. Yes, of course, big-suit Byrne was truly rock's Kafka, being swallowed by his costume-- ahem-- professional attire. --William Bowers

067: The Pogues
Rum, Sodomy & The Lash
[MCA; 1985]

Traditional Irish balladry mixed with a drive-it-like-it's-stolen attitude toward music and performance is only half of The Pogues' story; the other half is the slurred, frothing charisma of Shane MacGowan. His drunken excess is both the reason the band inevitably collapsed and the conviction behind their vitality. Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, their second album, captured The Pogues at their most emotionally raw. MacGowan switches from tearful lament to bitter growl with almost unparalleled ease-- his heart is on his sleeve here, and it's beautiful to behold. It's here, during the Celtic legends ("The Sick Bed of Cuchulain") and wrought, personal reminiscences ("The Old Main Drag") that The Pogues are at their unfurnished best. --Eric Carr

066: The Dukes of Stratosphear
Psonic Psunspot
[Virgin; 1987]

Despite their adoption of florid costuming and silly pseudonyms like Sir John Johns and The Red Curtain, it remains obvious that The Dukes of Stratosphear could be no other band than XTC. For one, Andy Partridge could never disguise his trademark throaty vocals, and two, the band's sense of songcraft is utterly distinctive. Partridge and Colin Moulding brought some of their best songs to the table for this side project, ensuring it all the life and vitality of the best records in XTC's back catalog. The Beatles/Kinks musichall of "You're a Good Man, Albert Brown", the phased paisley of "You're My Drug", and the Smile-worthy "Pale & Precious" stand wonderfully as single tracks, but as part of the same piece, and crowned with the beautifully frail pop blast "Vanishing Girl", they become a surreal rock-opera of opaque, hallucinogenic wonder. The 60s never sounded so good in the 80s. --Joe Tangari

065: The Soft Boys
Underwater Moonlight
[Armageddon; 1980]

A psych-pop oddity released at the height of punk, and an incredibly important guitar record, Underwater Moonlight is ageless. Robyn Hitchcock's songwriting was at its demented peak with the kinky insect imagery of "Kingdom of Love", and on the effervescent title track, a saga of drowning lovers. The exuberantly malevolent "I Wanna Destroy You" dared punk to face itself in the mirror, and "The Queen of Eyes" updated The Byrds and found its way into the musical vocabulary of R.E.M. and their countless comrades in the early-80s underground. The Soft Boys were that ever elusive rarity-- muscle and brains in the same package, and the package they made was incredible. --Joe Tangari

064: Television Personalities
...And Don't the Kids Just Love It
[Rough Trade; 1981]

The kids might have loved it but, given the relative obscurity of this album at the time of its release, not as much as they ought to have. Widely acknowledged as a defining influence on dozens of artists, Television Personalities seem to have been doomed to be the stepping stone to greatness without achieving a fraction of the notoriety of any of the other groundbreaking bands they left their mark on. But that can't detract from the no-frills attraction of this, their debut full-length; the hissy lo-fi techniques that would later come into vogue give And Don't the Kids Just Love It a closeness that wonderfully amplifies the simple directness and charm of the band's charming, wildly catchy twee-pop. Though its fuzzy aesthetics are a result of necessity rather than artistic intent, the album sounds remarkably prescient. Its sugar-high enthusiasm and impeccable hooks don't hurt, either. --Eric Carr

063: Young Marble Giants
Colossal Youth
[Rough Trade; 1980]

The band would have put it more succinctly, but here's my take: Colossal Youth was Zen disco, new wave haiku, monk-punk that used sweetly perverted Ramones/Pistols minimalism to gently sketch out an exploded drawing of pop music. Though the album's spare, perfectly placed strokes of guitar, bass, organ, and voice would have more of an effect on mopey slowcore types and basement four-trackers, the ineffable thing about the Giants' music was how simultaneously haunting and cheery they could be. "Eating Noddemix" is music for brushing your teeth to the morning after an apocalypse, and the inimitable "Wurlitzer Jukebox" is a dance track for the last man on earth, with a geiger counter relentlessly ticking out the beat. Om, baby, yeah. --Brendan Reid

062: R.E.M.
[IRS; 1984]

They were already huge underground, but this is the record that put R.E.M. on mainstream radio for the first time, unleashing the tide that eventually swept the word "alternative" into the national musical vocabulary. Musically, R.E.M. opened up their sound on Reckoning, driving things home more directly than on their debut. "Pretty Persuasion" was one of the band's most gorgeous songs, while the countrified second single "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" was a welcome blast of fresh air on the increasingly artificial airwaves of the early 80s. The record occasionally drop hints that it's not as young as it sounds, but when it does, at least has the good taste not to turn attention from its wrinkles with caked-on mascara. Yeah, Stipe, I'm talking to you. --Joe Tangari

061: Nurse with Wound
Homotopy to Marie
[United Dairies; 1982]

Steven Stapleton was at his most frightening in the early 1980s, his albums creating stark, edge-of-seat tension with pitch-black textures and foreboding silence occasionally broken by scraping metal and humanoid scurrying. Homotopy to Marie is Stapleton's career apex, a twisted masterpiece of minimalism whispering terrifying suggestions of death rituals and torture chambers. This album creeps. It is horror. The 20-minute title track is avant-garde dismembered for sadists and perverts. "The Schmrz" is hulking army men barking in reverse. "The Tumultuous Upsurge" is a grotesque death rattle with robotic toys laughing in proud hysteria. Do not play this for children. --Ryan Schreiber

060: Bruce Springsteen
[Columbia; 1982]

The legend has Springsteen carrying around a four-track cassette of demos for the new album in a ratty back pocket and then deciding finally to release the tape as it was. Nebraska was a precursor to both the unplugged movement and the four-track bedroom folk that swept the indie world in the early 90s, but none of that would matter now if the music weren't so remarkably good. Springsteen's love of the band Suicide helped shape the claustrophobic sound, and the dawn of the Reagan era is usually cited as the album's chief thematic inspiration. Ultimately, the political climate of its birth is irrelevant, as Springsteen's novelist's eye for detail and character ensure that the stories remain timeless. Live versions of these songs with the E Street band confirm that these songs were meant to be performed by a single man, in a room, alone. --Mark Richardson

059: Guns N' Roses
Appetite for Destruction
[Geffen; 1987]

What are your friends' names? John? Paul? Evan? That's some weak shit next to the ultimate rock-o-nyms: Axl, Slash, Izzy, and Duff (yes, I am leaving out the drummer, the drug-addled Adler whose ejection begged the fantasy-question of how far gone you had to be to get the boot from these guys). Four different cults of personality! Five shaggy, fatless, tat-dappled Icaruses! Such creatures of instinct that Axl's channeling of Bowie and Iggy had to be accidental, right? This album can be summarized by a holy phrase: No filler. Thank god the original robo-rape art got banned; that skull-cross is the perfect visual accompaniment to an album that, along with displaying better songcraft and being more anthemic, was heavier than all of its competition. Alas, the band would later defy rock physics by bloating and disintegrating simultaneously. --William Bowers

058: Elvis Costello
Imperial Bedroom
[Columbia; 1982]

Costello's famed collaboration with Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick came at a tumultuous time for the earnest rock and roller. With his marriage on the rocks and journalists touting a tryst with legendary NY groupie Bebe Buell, Imperial Bedroom marks Elvis Costello's most personal investment, an unflinching examination of fidelity, trust and the dishonesty of role-playing. He front-loaded the album with the most ambitious song he'd recorded to that point, explosive as the crashing thunderclap that introduces its bridge. To this day, the complicated layering and full bars overlapping in "Beyond Belief" make for an almost psychedelic listening experience, to say nothing of its astounding verse. Costello was already well-established as a master lyricist, but Imperial Bedroom makes clear he was not fucking around this time: "Charged with insults and flattery/ Her body moves with malice/ Do you have to be so cruel to be callous?" --Chris Ott

057: Pixies
Come On Pilgrim
[4AD; 1987]

Compiled from a demo tape recorded in March, 1987 at Boston's Fort Apache studios, this disc served as the world's first taste of a band that would soon become one of the indie music world's all-time greats. It was, at the time, a curious release for 4AD who, The Birthday Party aside, largely favored jangly pop and gothic romance. But in retrospect, The Pixies would have been at home on any label, mapping their own rugged terrain with their trademark whisper/thunder dynamics and Frank Black's infamous turbulent screeching. Come On Pilgrim is filled with paradox: the narrator of "Caribou" mourns the torture of city life yet wishes for death as its namesake in the peace of wilderness; "Levitate Me" translates lyrics from a folk ballad to a shoegazing rocker; "I've Been Tired" is its most antic song. What possessed them? --Ryan Schreiber

056: King Crimson
[Warner Bros; 1981]

Were punk and new wave really so powerful as to banish prog from rock history? For a few English "dinosaurs", certainly not. Guitarist Robert Fripp had already earned his hip underground stripes working with Brian Eno throughout the 70s, but for this version of his celebrated prog outfit, he attempted to completely destroy the barriers that would segregate cliques. Keeping drummer Bill Bruford from the previous incarnation of the band, and adding guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew (who'd played with David Bowie and on Talking Heads' earth-shattering Remain in Light) and bassist Tony Levin (who'd played with John Lennon and would go on to back Peter Gabriel), Fripp's gang played music as angular and tense as any post-punk group while as precise and rhythmically propulsive as a Bartok string quartet. Songs like the title track, "Thela Hun Ginjeet", and "Frame by Frame" are almost-danceable maxi-minimalist etudes, and obvious precursors to virtually all math-rock. --Dominique Leone

055: The Police
[A&M; 1983]

The Police were never a punk band, but that didn't stem accusations that the group were ditching their rock roots for adult contemporary. Nor were the Police ever New Romantics, but the themes suggest meaning behind the makeup: romanticism not from supposed individuality, but in the synchronous parallels of our modern lives. The band was indeed taking a distinct move toward pop with Synchronicity, but not from substance. Sting never shied away from the tensions below the surface: not just in "Every Breath You Take", but in songs like "Synchronicity II", in which "many miles away, something crawls from the slime at the bottom of a dark Scottish lake," its identity never revealed. Er... about that shadow on the door of the cottage... --Christopher Dare

054: Big Black
Songs about Fucking
[Touch & Go; 1987]

Child molestation, urban decay, hopeless apathy, trucking, and racial commentary were all fair game to Big Black, and the screeching, clanking thud of their proto-industrial sound was only a shade less disturbing than their subject matter. Dave Riley's bass is a metallic, twisted train wreck, and Steve Albini's every word so bile-drenched it barely makes it past his lips. This, combined with the searing buzzsaw guitars and the violent percussive force of a jackhammer, will strip the enamel straight off your goddamn teeth. Their pervasive stench clings to the entirety of the burgeoning industrial movement, and Songs About Fucking is the still the biggest, baddest sound on the block; underestimate it at your own peril. --Eric Carr

053: Mission of Burma
Signals, Calls & Marches
[Ace of Hearts; 1981]

Mission of Burma soundly countered the feel-good 70s rock and roll of The Cars (Boston's biggest export at the time), but their difficult, indulgent shows alienated most of their potential audience. As drummer Peter Prescott recently quipped in L.A.: "You guys are a lot nicer to us than your parents were." Signals, Calls & Marches housed their one inescapable hit, "That's When I Reach for My Revolver", which, in comparison to screaming post-punk/pre-hardcore numbers like "Outlaw" and "Fame and Fortune", sounds flat and somewhat dated. But "This Is Not a Photograph" holds up best of all, a delegate for the songs of Mission of Burma's first wave. --Chris Ott

052: Eric B. & Rakim
Paid in Full
[4th & Broadway; 1987]

Although Rakim didn't invent the art of rhyming, he was the one who defined what it meant to be a hip-hop lyricist. With a flow that would've melted glaciers, Rakim handled the beat with a precision that sounded otherworldly to '87 ears, igniting an entire generation of MC imitators. On Paid in Full, he used rhymes like putty to sculpt a lyrical masterpiece that hasn't been touched since. "I Ain't No Joke", "Paid in Full", "Move the Crowd"... how could you even pretend to fuck with Rakim Allah? And, oh yeah, the beats were also on-point, regardless of who produced them. --Sam Chennault

051: Leonard Cohen
I'm Your Man
[Columbia; 1988]

You know you're cool when you get all dressed up in shades and a blazer just to be eating a banana on your album cover. And dig the David Lynch font of the song titles. I'm Your Man is the perfect midpoint for Cohen's career-- it rivals the poetry of 1969's Songs from a Room, but labors under the resort-lounge production of the apocalyptic, Oliver Stoned 1992 release The Future (yo, everyone knows that 2001's Ten New Songs was a non-representative carjacking). My theory is that there are two Leonard Cohen robots, one of which is a genius lyricist, and one of which is a melodramatic, obtuse-voiced mercenary who will speak-croon over the most Karaokean arrangements. Yet who else sings lines as piercing as "It's Father's Day and everybody's wounded," or, "Let me be somebody I admire"? He talks to Hank Williams, he says we're talking to our pockets, and without his concrete odes to monkey-mailing there might not be a Smog, or even Iron & Wine. --William Bowers

050: Spacemen 3
The Perfect Prescription
[Fire; 1987]

Hipsters the world over have tried to assert that, of The Perfect Prescription and Playing with Fire, the latter is Spacemen 3's landmark achievement. You will never tell me this and escape unscathed. Though both are massively haunting works of dystopian misery and contented addiction, The Perfect Prescription's dreamweapon is its stunning melodic depth. Whereas Playing with Fire showed the band already splintering, the bulk of its songs written solo, The Perfect Prescription's tracklist consists entirely of collaborations between the band's two primary members, and proves they were at their euphonic best when working together. The record drips with harrowing accounts of habitual users denying their dependence, yet its droning astral reverence pressures you to try it yourself, replicating the bliss of the altered state in gossamer keyboards and celestially aligned vocals. This is your brain on drugs. --Ryan Schreiber

049: Mission of Burma
[Ace of Hearts; 1982]

Boston's finest art-punk trio-plus-tape-guy recorded just one studio full-length, and it's a massive legacy. Assessable not in tunes but in grinding velocity, it's texturally complex and high-energy. Roger Miller's guitar varies from hypnotic repetition on "Trem Two" to sounding like a power line flailing in a pool of rain, while the rhythmic noise divides into shards for Martin Swope's tape manipulations; Miller as vocalist is prone to outbursts and declamations, while Clint Conley sings with his vulnerabilities in barbed wire on his sleeve. --Chris Dahlen

048: R.E.M.
[IRS; 1987]

As addressed by the double-sided pun on the sleeve, "File Under Fire", Document featured a harder, more focused R.E.M. From "The One I Love" to "Fireplace", it was as if the band had become enflamed by the times. It was their most political album yet, with songs like "Exhuming McCarthy" and "Welcome to the Occupation" indicting the Reaganite indulgences of the 1980s. Avian imagery formed the album's other aesthetic undercurrent in "King of Birds" and "Disturbance at the Heron House", hinting at a phoenix-like rebirth. With their fifth album, R.E.M. emerged into the mainstream while managing to address politics with a dignity shared by few other visible acts of the era, at the same time offering a new path to the murmuring underground. Of course, they also gave us the timeless acronym "ITEOTWAWKI (AIFF)". --Christopher Dare

047: John Zorn
Naked City
[Tzadik; 1989]

In many ways, John Zorn's po-mo mishmash Naked City project was the academic fruition of no-wave. Just like The Contortions and DNA (one of Zorn's faves), Naked City's effortless deconstruction of popular sounds seemed at once a reaction to the music, and completely apart from it. Ever wondered how the James Bond theme would sound if reinterpreted as noise-rock? They covered that. Always wished that those hardcore drummers could mix a little be-bop into their repertoire? Your wait was over. But Naked City was more than just raucous genre-bending; it was a visceral, sometimes violent (especially regarding the murder and bondage imagery Zorn associated with much of the music) display of controlled freedom-- and all of that performed by some of the most accomplished musicians to have ever been associated with rock. No New York, indeed. --Dominique Leone

046: XTC
English Settlement
[Virgin; 1982]

Exit quirky English new wave, enter nervous breakdown. To Andy Partridge, it was clear XTC couldn't go on producing the same stage-ready sparxx at this point, and this double-LP was something of a sonic renaissance. The band's penchant for spiking the pop punch began a gradual shift towards the pastoral and "arty", yet these tunes could hardly be described as pretentious. Perhaps taking cues from the Talking Heads and The Police (XTC toured with both), world music touches began to creep into the band's mix, and a whole range of state-of-the-80s synth technology helped flesh out Partridge and Colin Moulding's still-maturing craft. "Ball and Chain", "Jason and the Argonauts", and "Snowman" are but a few of the songs from English Settlement that could not have appeared on any of their previous records, such was the complexity of the themes and arrangements. Of course, Partridge would soon explore these avenues to an extent that could no longer maintain the band's breakneck zeal in any capacity-- but that's another story. --Dominique Leone

045: Prince
Sign 'O' The Times
[Paisley Park/Warner Bros; 1987]

Along with The White Album and Exile on Main Street, Sign 'O' The Times is the template for the perfect double album. Take an artist at the peak of his powers, give him the space to work all his crazy ideas to their logical conclusion, and then edit the results into a varied four-sided collection. Club classics ("Hot Thing", "U Got the Look"), ballads of epic rock ("The Cross"), sexy R&B ("Adore"), and flat-out amazing pop songs ("I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man," "If I Was Your Girlfriend") are all here in abundance. Oh yeah, he wrote, played, produced and sang just about everything himself, too. Was he the greatest quadruple threat ever? Listen and decide for yourself. --Mark Richardson

044: Kraftwerk
Computer World
[Warner Bros; 1981]

The standard critic's line points to Computer World as the turn where the rest of electronic music caught the inside corner before dusting the dour Germans completely on the sad back stretch of the mid-80s. The truth is, Ralf and Florian were no longer interested in being ahead of the game in 1981, and Computer World was their chance to celebrate the arrival of the world that they'd been promising for so long. And what's a celebration without good pop songs? Ditties like "It's More Fun to Compute" and "Home Computer" show Kraftwerk at their most playful and self-aware, their electronics hadn't sounded this rich and warm since Autobahn, and the beautifully edited three-song stretch of "Pocket Calculator", "Numbers", and "Computer World 2" is perhaps Kraftwerk's finest sequence on record. Don't stop believing (until side two of Electric Caf, that is.) --Mark Richardson

043: Run-DMC
Raising Hell
[Profile; 1986]

Until I reached adolescence, I grew up in an isolated town in central Louisiana. Although the community was a majority African-American, most of us had only heard of hip-hop before Run-DMC. But after Jam Master Jay & Co dropped, there was a steady stream of cars headed to New Orleans in search of boomboxes and Adidas sneakers. Soon, the swamp was alive with the sounds of boom bap; and our parents and teachers watched in horror as we snapped, popped, and spat our way through childhood. Run-DMC took hip-hop out of the cities and introduced it to the world. They introduced us to a culture that is now the most wide-spread and influential youth culture in the world, making them every bit as important as Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones. This is the group at their peak. [R.I.P. Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell: 01.25.62-10.30.02] --Sam Chennault

042: Cowboy Junkies
The Trinity Session
[RCA; 1988]

It's amazing how many of the stylistic tropes of The Trinity Session have come to be a standard fare of the underground music scene. Now it would almost seem like an indie music clich, but there just weren't many slow, country-tinged bands recording the Live 1969 version of "Sweet Jane" in 1988. Cowboy Junkies created a sound from VU's street poetry, traditional folk songs, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline, then recorded it all live through a single microphone in a church in Toronto with the studied reverence of Midwestern graduate students. It still sounds great in the dark. --Mark Richardson

041: Beastie Boys
Licensed to Ill
[Def Jam; 1986]

[Bowers:] Ryan, why is this on the list? [Schreiber:] Mmmfhhmm... [Bowers]: Dude, wake up! How'd you get a Twinkie in your effin' hair? Why are we honoring Licensed to Ill? Hasn't it become the frat lodestone it was supposedly lampooning? Wasn't it beneath them? Wasn't it condescending? Didn't even their concerts on this album's tour amount to statements of contempt for their audience, like their dumb videos? Wasn't this a callous move by Rick Rubin/Russell Simmons to cash in on "Walk This Way" rock-hop with a bunch of vaudevillian palefaces? [Schreiber:] You mean Elvises? This album is epochal. Think to when you first heard it. Then think to the last time you played it, how good the songs you didn't skip were. [Bowers:] You're right. In 1986 and in 2002, "The New Style", "Paul Revere", "Rhymin' and Stealin'" and "Hold It Now Hit It" made/make no sense and made/make perfect sense, as the Beasties rant like used car salesmen about fast food, hard drugs, and general malfeasance over rickety-suave backbeat clusters. And "Brass Monkey" keeps stealing my brain's lunch money. [Schreiber:] Then quit yer bitchin'. --William Bowers

040: Dinosaur Jr.
You're Living All Over Me
[SST; 1987]

It's appropriate that one of the most revolting, festering cysts on rock and roll's enduring legacy grew out of contempt for the incomparably deluded fratboys and prissy, politically correct dilettantes at UMASS, Amherst College, Holyoke, Hampshire, and of course, Smith. Dinosaur Jr recorded three albums in this environment before succumbing to a then-infamous personality clash between bassist Lou Barlow and lead singer/guitarist J Mascis; You're Living All Over Me is the finest document of their struggle, combining elements of Hsker D, Sonic Youth, Jimi Hendrix and hardcore punk in a bubbling cauldron of disease. Mascis' wavering whine skirts annoyance thanks to even more grating, explosive distortion-- it's a low-fidelity overload unheard of in 1987, save perhaps for Big Black's turgid racket or Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising. The brutal onslaughts "Sludgefeast" and "Tarpit" are countered by a pair of twang pop songs ("In a Jar" and a version of Peter Frampton's "Show Me the Way"), but there's an economical middle ground where you'll find "Raisans", "The Lung" and "Little Fury Things", the best of Barlow-era Dinosaur Jr's proto-grunge rock. --Chris Ott

039: The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses
[Silvertone; 1989]

The Stone Roses arrived so fully formed upon the release of their debut that it destroyed them altogether. This record simultaneously gathers the disparate strands of UK rock in the 80s and predicts the Britpop of the 90s. Guitar hooks drip from the stereo like honey spiked with acid and a dab of arsenic. Vocalist Ian Brown exudes boredom and venom in equal measure, calmly repeating, "I wanna be adored/ You adore me," as a mantra and confidently declaring, "I Am the Resurrection," as though it were pre-written. And it all sounded so good you believed it, even if just for a moment. --Joe Tangari

038: The Cure
[Fiction/Elektra; 1989]

A titan of an album (clocking in at 70+ minutes with its two cassette/CD bonus tracks), Disintegration outlines every reason The Cure inherited the word "atmospheric" following the demise of Joy Division; though it wants for a single as glorious as "Just Like Heaven", Disintegration stands unquestionably as Robert Smith's magnum opus. The title track is without peer in their catalog, a tyrannical eight-minute epic swirling with formless, distant melodies and sinister, writhing lyrics. "Pictures of You", at 7 minutes, was nicely trimmed and remixed for 1990 radio play, but as with "Fascination Street" (the album's lead single, also heavily edited), the sonorous guitar architecture heard on the album version wins out every time. More than these highlights, Disintegration stands alone for its preamble: scant few albums released in the 1980s can boast an opener as grand as "Plainsong", the most breathtaking, shimmering anthem the band ever recorded. --Chris Ott

037: The Replacements
[Sire; 1985]

With a shave and a shower, the 'Mats didn't sound half bad. After wiping the puke off their shoes, they were almost ready for their big date with radio. Almost. Even armed with the rough-and-tumble love letter "Left of the Dial", Tim couldn't break through at any frequency that reached past the campus line-- the angst was too ahead of its time, and Paul Westerberg's voice still refused to stick to the fantastic melodies that kept flowing from his brain. Though The Replacements couldn't quite bust down the door here, they did leave it hanging off its hinges, and when the next wave of uncompromising bands (who knew that the 'Mats got a raw deal) finally came of age, they just waltzed right in. --Brendan Reid

036: Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes
[Rough Trade; 1983]

Using minimal instrumentation to convey maximal sexual frustration, the Violent Femmes showed that you don't need a distortion pedal to be punk, "Kiss Off" and "Add It Up" being two mini-sagas that absolutely seethe with uncompromised hormone overflow (read: "why can't I get just one FUCK!"). But unsung heroes shine as well, particularly the bittersweetness of "Good Feeling" and the pleading "Prove My Love". I used to feel sorry that the Femmes were stuck playing the same material through their graying years, but they can at least take comfort in the fact that their debut will be loved as long as there are horny 10th graders in the world; in other words, forever. --Rob Mitchum

035: N.W.A.
Straight Outta Compton
[Ruthless/Priority; 1988]

While Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions tried to take the high ground, NWA didn't bother with either coherent political platforms or constructive pro-unity messages. NWA was dangerous in the most immediate and scary sense. In their music, you could hear the reckless adrenaline of youth pumping through the nihilistic heart of South Central L.A., where the average man didn't make it out of his twenties. And with Dre on the boards and Ice Cube writing the rhymes, theirs was a very well-stated malaise. It must be noted that the album was funded with crack money and assailed by everyone from the morality police to the FBI. While many imitators have tried, no one has been able to capture the rage and vitality of Straight Outta Compton. --Sam Chennault

034: Talk Talk
Spirit of Eden
[EMI; 1988]

There aren't many records out there like this one, a collection of meditative songs so abstracted by their arrangements that it's impossible to pin them to their era. Talk Talk created something so uniquely their own on Spirit of Eden that the only people to effectively traverse that terrain again were Talk Talk themselves, on their 1991 masterpiece Laughing Stock. Instrumental timbres combined in strange ways to create new sounds, and Tim Friese-Greene's production allowed for massive dynamic shifts and passages of glassy clarity. Common modern tags for genreless music like obscuro and post-rock needn't apply-- Spirit of Eden is the sound of elegance itself. --Joe Tangari

033: The Fall
Hex Enduction Hour
[Kamera; 1982]

Beginning with 1980's Grotesque, The Fall set out on a decade-long run of confrontational, controversial and eventually commercial releases. It's definitely controversy-- perhaps more than music-- that lands Hex Enduction Hour its place in our 80s canon. The "Slates" ten-inch that preceded it is far and away their most accessible record prior to 1985's This Nation's Saving Grace, but Hex has history in spades. Mark E. Smith felt the six-member band was going nowhere, and decided Hex Enduction Hour would be the last Fall album, at a then-outlandish running time of sixty minutes. Unbeknownst to him, their offbeat, drum-driven singles had caught the attention of an up-and-coming Motown rep in London, to whom Smith gave a copy of Hex upon request. The infamous first yawp from "The Classical" blared from his office: "Where are the obligatory niggers?! Hey there, fuck-face! Hey there, fuck-face!" and obliterated what could have been one of the more daring marriages in pop history. --Chris Ott

032: Hüsker Dü
Zen Arcade
[SST; 1984]

While R.E.M. crossed over into pop territory, a handful of moderately renowned independent bands continued to make hard art: Sonic Youth, Husker D, and The Minutemen dashed all conventions, creating astounding, unique material, overflowing with determined conviction. These bands labored in a tenuous, low-income network, playing houses, hole-in-the-walls, and whenever possible, wealthy liberal arts campuses. Most of the people that helped make said network would agree or concede that up to 1984, Zen Arcade was at once the most artistically and commercially remarkable record to come out of their nascent scene. Bob Mould's out-of-step, trademark Gibson Flying V stood for everything the underground were struggling to prop up, and the smarter-than-hardcore rage of "What's Going On" and "Something I Learned Today" silenced any closed-minded quips about the plaintive "Never Talking to You Again". The blinding winter skies conveyed in "Chartered Trips" and "Pink Turns to Blue" exemplify the power of this massive double album, a testament to the frustration and isolation underground bands fought through in the early 80s, as well as the debt we all owe them. --Chris Ott

031: Sonic Youth
[SST; 1986]

Like the first slimy creature to pull itself from the primordial muck, EVOL is an aural document of Sonic Youth's One Small Step. Feedback-soaked noise had been their hallmark until this album, but EVOL would mark the true departure point of Sonic Youth's musical evolution-- in measured increments, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo began to bring form to the formless, tune to the tuneless, and with the help of Steve Shelley's drums, they imposed melody and composition on their trademark dissonance. A breathtaking fusion of avant-garde noise (as far as Rock was concerned) and brilliant, propulsive rock took its first shaky advances out of the storm and didn't look back. That these sonic youths would go on to release two more of the decade's most impressive albums before you could say "Teen Age Riot" only reinforces the prominence of EVOL; this is where the seeds of greatness were sown. --Eric Carr

030: U2
The Joshua Tree
[Island; 1987]

Oh, how the punks hated U2. Just when they'd managed to dispel the excess of the 70s, here were four lads from Ireland trying to capture the entirety of human pathos in the broad strokes of the rock song. Yet there's an unquenchable yearning here incommensurate with the bloated contentment of the worst of 80s pop. Three of these eleven songs became wildly popular radio anthems still in heavy rotation today, and I'll be damned if they've lost any of their power. The pleasure comes in discovering that the latter tracks prove just as great, from the moody closer "Mothers of the Disappeared" to Bono's aching depiction of just "hangin' on" in "Red Hill Mining Town". Named for flora that flourish even in the heat of the desert, The Joshua Tree features songs about the political fallout of the 20th century, but it truly justifies the oft-overused adjective "timeless". --Christopher Dare

029: The Replacements
Let It Be
[Twin/Tone; 1984]

Youngish lad that I am, I heard plenty of worship about the 'Mats before I actually got around to hearing their body of work. Once I finally did, it became pretty clear that Jeff Tweedy is merely the reincarnation of Paul Westerberg's relevancy. Through a career that ran from sloppy alcohol-soaked punk to alt-rock grandpaws (nicely summarized in the first two-thirds of "We're Coming Out"), Let It Be stands as the hingepoint, and I snuggled up to it more closely than most albums of either extreme. Since my memories of the 80s are distorted by childhood haze and retrospective kitsch, Westerberg coughing out "Androgynous" with nothing but tape hiss for company is necessary proof that the decade's fashion struggles were about more than bad haircuts and neon. --Rob Mitchum

028: New Order
Power, Corruption & Lies
[Factory; 1983]

Ian Curtis haunts this album for exactly thirty seconds: until Bernard Sumner's vulnerable vox begin, one can almost detect combustible Curtis imploring us to "Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance! Dance! To the radio!" over the drum-n-bassline opener "Age of Consent". Shifting the lyrical focus from alienation and fascism to love and lovelessness, and mutating the band's sound from marchy rock to marchy dance, this was the peak of the New Order's stellar 80s output, before they'd become soccer-anthem softies begging us to "Rock the Shack". Every synth sweep holds up. Hear the jangle everybody in Athens, Georgia was copping. Hear why Peter Hook is the most fitting name in Britpop. Hear what you're missing if you only know the hits. --William Bowers

027: Michael Jackson
[Epic; 1982]

I don't care what kind of music your promo bait covers; any 80s list without Thriller is kidding itself. Thanks to a twenty-year campaign waged by Jacko to completely incinerate his artistic integrity, revisiting Thriller is a revelation, cutting through the tabloid baggage with its crisp, sharp-edged Quincy production. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" is sweltering dance-floor Afro-funk highlighting Michael's abhorrence for personal criticism; "Billie Jean"'s paranoid bass and hiccup histrionics are still cooler than its video's illuminated sidewalks; the breakdown in "PYT", with its ecstatic call-and-response and sultry panting, remains the funkiest goddamn thing since James Brown's "Hot Pants". Though the audio equivalent to Star Wars in that it can be held responsible for inspiring perhaps more crap than any other release of its time, Thriller permanently ziplocked the sound of era so that it might forever remain as fresh and vital as the album itself. --Rob Mitchum

026: Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Get Happy
[Columbia; 1980]

Like something out of a Nick Hornby novel, a British music geek proves that he "gets" soul music. Elvis Costello leads the Attractions through twenty tracks that burst the seams of the original vinyl. At the time, Costello still wrote his lyrics almost entirely in puns and double-entendres-- "love for tender", or "'til I step on the brake to get out of her clutches"-- but the music makes it weightless. The band is giddy, especially Steve Nieve, as Costello slings his tightest set of material ever. Even covers like Sam & Dave's "I Can't Stand Up (For Falling Down)" blend right in. --Chris Dahlen

025: Black Flag
[SST; 1981]

Henry Rollins might be his own running gag now, but without him, Black Flag might have forever remained buried under the miles of garbage calling itself hardcore in Los Angeles circa 1980; with him, Black Flag took on the essential ferocity of men about to snap, and combined that with an acidic sense of humor and these things called "songs"-- a concept that many of the wannabe punkers of the day were still trying to sort out. Damaged hit in 1981, and by 1982, four bars bearing the Black Flag name had been airbrushed across miles and miles of spiked leather. Conflicting feelings of violence, apathy, rage, and self-satire course through this one-- the essential touchstone of the entire genre of West Coast hardcore-- crystallizing the turmoil of the movement. Listen to "Rise Above" and try not to be incensed, then listen to "TV Party" and try not to laugh out loud. That's awesome. --Eric Carr

024: Gang of Four
Solid Gold
[Warner Bros; 1981]

Solid Gold documents a band that has moved beyond the comparatively simple, chic politics of their punk-funk debut Entertainment! into truly cynical, wicked critique. Despite recent efforts, it's nigh impossible to give Gang of Four too much credit: a vast majority of underground records released since 2000 are grievously indebted to the band whether they know it or not. In the 80s, groups as varied as R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, and INXS all cited them as a key influence. Big Black simply wouldn't exist without them. In the 90s, The Jesus Lizard, Helmet, and Quicksand (who completely ripped off "Paralysed" on their album Slip) added a darker gloss to the Gang's shimmering twang, exposing a new generation to the detached, zombie swagger they all but invented. For sheer societal terror, few bands can approach the resigned paranoia of Solid Gold's finest moments: "If I Could Keep It for Myself", "Cheeseburger" and their most harrowing cut, "He'd Send in the Army". --Chris Ott

023: The Jesus & Mary Chain
[Blanco y Negro/Warner Bros; 1985]

The Jesus and Mary Chain stripped pop music down to its essentials and filled all the leftover empty space with white noise. Psychocandy is considered one of the key records in what became shoegaze, but the band's greatest contribution to the movement may have been to make walls of guitar racket seem sensual and feminine. Despite the consistently maxed-out distortion, Psychocandy seems much more pop than rock, more Beach Boys and girl groups than Stooges or Suicide. Not one, but two (rather great) songs use the "Be My Baby" drum intro, for god's sake. --Mark Richardson

022: My Bloody Valentine
Isn't Anything
[Creation/Sire; 1988]

Sure, it was Loveless in chrysalis, but pupating genius is genius nonetheless. Isn't Anything can be described as a stage in the evolution towards the next album-- the guitars, though warped and shredded, still act like guitars, the vocals haven't yet been absorbed into mix, etc.-- but there was nothing tentative or vestigial about this record. If Isn't Anything wasn't so rippingly aggressive, so instantaneously memorable-upon-first-listen, who knows whether the more oblique Loveless would have been pampered like it was? Nearly as influential as its successor would be, Isn't Anything was an inspiration to bands who, not willing to completely fuck with their axes, were content with getting to third base. --Brendan Reid

021: Brian Eno & David Byrne
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
[Sire; 1981]

Slick politicians, laughing exorcists, Lebanese folk singers, agitated radio hosts, and radio reverends all shared speaker space with some wildly funky music on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. With this album, Brian Eno and David Byrne combined programming, live instrumentation and samples into a clever stew that anticipated, in one way or another, nearly every trend in electronic music for at least the next decade. The sonic result of their collaboration expanded on the hypnotic worldbeat experiments of the Eno-produced Talking Heads albums (particularly Remain in Light, as this album was recorded during those sessions), bringing in folk recordings and plying the wasteland of American talk radio for choice material. Popular music turned a corner with this record, and things haven't been the same since. --Joe Tangari

020: This Heat
[Rough Trade; 1981]

Superficially, bands like This Heat had very little business existing in the 80s. Their legacy appeared to have been comprised of most of the radical, experimental rock trends of the 70s (drone, prog, free improv, electronics, punk, et al), yet in 1981, it's hard to imagine many other bands sounding as out of place as they did. In retrospect, there may have been a small family of like-minded ensembles (Art Bears, Etron Fou Leloublan, Family Fodder), but virtually no unifying "scene" for this music. That Charles Hayward, Charles Bullen and Gareth Williams' music has impacted out-musicians a generation removed from the actual events speaks volumes of what they accomplished. The first moments of Deceit sound current enough to have been recorded yesterday afternoon. This album is dense, damaged, furious, inspiring (technically, musically, perhaps even politically), and it's a damn fine argument for rock as transcendental experience. --Dominique Leone

019: Public Image, Ltd.
Second Edition
[Virgin; 1980]

Only John Lydon could claim to be "getting rid of the albatross" by tying it around his neck in the form of an obtuse ten-minute album opener. Less a band than a menacing juggernaut, PIL recorded an unforgiving second album, propelled by Keith Levene's livewire guitar work and Jah Wobble's endless, rubbery basslines. Lydon (still Rotten, just not by name) used these perpetual motion machines to launch bitter screeds against society, and it's hard to imagine more anti-social music. But the group were aware of the potential hypocrisies in holding up a dark mirror image to the public, implied by their corporatist name. Second Edition was originally released as Metal Box, literally packaged in cost-prohibitive film canisters. For this, Lydon was eternally grateful to Virgin, his pride and price for showing that major labels were capable of issuing genuinely challenging art for mass consumption. --Christopher Dare

018: De La Soul
3 Feet High and Rising
[Tommy Boy; 1989]

In 1989, Prince Paul dispensed with his musical pots and pans and ushered hip-hop from its Stone Age into sampledelia-- never before had samples been as versatile, intricate, or as expressive as they were on Three Feet High and Rising. Paul rarely stepped up to the mic here, but his voice resonated throughout history; DJ Shadow, RJD2, Co-Flow, and any number of other sample-based hip-hop acts owe a long thank you letter to the real Prince of the 80s. And let's not forget young MC's Pos, Trugoy, and Mase, who rose to the occasion and matched Paul's sound collage quirk-for-quirk, proving that you didn't have to be hard to rock a mic. --Sam Chennault

017: Minutemen
Double Nickels on the Dime
[SST; 1984]

It's a double-album by a hardcore band that specialized in one-minute funk-punk blasts. That adds up to a lot of songs-- over forty of 'em-- and few are less than fantastic. The first ten tracks are the disjointed warm-up; the middle locks together to make one of the greatest one-sided conversations you'll ever have; the end peters out, exhausted. D. Boon, channeling co-lyricist Mike Watt, rants about politics, disses Michael Jackson, makes fun of suck-ups and reads off "shit from an old notebook". He reminisces about the band's early days, speak-singing the classic prophecy, "Our band could be your life." Even the Van Halen and Steely Dan covers succeed, like singing along to the car radio, while the Minutemen's own jumpy hooks and short, sharp rants are unstoppable. And you wouldn't it know from the edited version on Jackass: The Music, Vol. 1, but "Corona" is a thinking man's feel-good masterpiece. --Chris Dahlen

016: Galaxie 500
On Fire
[Rough Trade; 1989]

A casual listen to On Fire yields little. The spastic vocals drive some crazy. The drumming constantly lags a quarter-measure behind the already-slow compositions. Every song has the exact same rhythm, which happens to be the first one every guitar player learns. But if you're wired a certain way, Wareham's falsetto flights on "Blue Thunder" and "Snowstorm" are the very definition of majestic. You'll notice that guitar and bass compete to see which can spin up with the most achingly melodic leads. Damon Krukowski's cymbal washes demonstrate his preference for color over rhythm. Tying it all together, producer Kramer smeared Vaseline on the lens and shot every scene straight into the golden late-afternoon light. --Mark Richardson

015: XTC
[Virgin; 1986]

Of all the words I might use to describe XTC, "warm" didn't really become applicable until the band realized it was okay to like Burt Bacharach. However, on Skylarking, they had the adjective thrust upon them by alpha-producer Todd Rundgren. Taking their already ambitious songs about life, love and the passing of seasons, Rundgren turned what might have been another clever-but-distant outing into a beacon of psychedelic greenery. Andy Partridge's diatribe "Dear God" (a b-side not originally slated for the album) was a modest U.S. hit, but magic tracks like Colin Moulding's "Grass", "Season Cycle", and the weeping, orchestral "1000 Umbrellas"-- all lending a modern sophistication to the amiable eccentricity of The Beatles and Beach Boys-- revealed a more peaceful tune at the core of the album. --Dominique Leone

014: Sonic Youth
[SST; 1987]

Sister was the last time Sonic Youth spent the majority of an album in full-on Attack Mode, which explains why it's the fist-clenchers' SY album of choice. The word of the day is "aggressive", with the album's humid production throwing a blanket over the noise to convert all instrumentation and vocalization into power-tool percussion. You can hear the clenched teeth through "Catholic Block" and "White Cross", the grinding machinery on "Pacific Coast Highway". Stranded in the midst, "Cotton Crown" still stands as the band's most romantic moment, frustrating evidence that Thurston and Kim should've sang together far more often. Sister was the last burst of Sonic Youth's early stage before they molted and moved on to bigger labels and bigger audiences, but for those with a preference for their grainy-footage early days, it's their zenith. --Rob Mitchum

013: The Fall
This Nation's Saving Grace
[Beggars Banquet; 1985]

The product of years of development into a powerful rhythmic beast, This Nation's Saving Grace predicts both The Pixies and Pavement with pristine clarity, and like those bands, it is at once accessible and utterly uncompromising. Mark E. Smith stars as the unhinged emcee as the band rages through the enormous riffs of "Barmy" and the thunderous stomp of "Gut of the Quantifier". "Spoilt Victorian Child" is a defining moment for post-punk, Smith tripping over his own words while Brix's guitarwork anchors the tracks with melodic fury. The band moves over more terrain than their usual sturm-und-drang here, too, stopping off in "L.A." for a go at sleazy, junkyard new wave and paying tribute to Can with "I Am Damo Suzuki". This Nation's Saving Grace is The Fall at their mightiest, Brix's riffs coaxing you in just far enough for the Scanlon/Rogers/Burns/Hanley rhythm section to crush you with a sledgehammer. Genius. --Joe Tangari

012: Prince & The Revolution
Purple Rain
[Warner Bros; 1984]

Prince was everywhere in 1984. Almost every song on Purple Rain was in steady rotation on radio or MTV at some point (don't remember hearing "Computer Blue" anywhere), and incredibly, they never really got old. What carries Purple Rain over is the unbelievable emotional intensity Prince brings to nearly every song. He never screamed with more intensity than on the end of "The Beautiful Ones", he never wrote another melody as good as "When Doves Cry", and he never integrated his rock leanings into his sound as completely as on "Let's Go Crazy". The great accomplishments of Prince are very great indeed, and this is his greatest. --Mark Richardson

011: Tom Waits
[Island; 1983]

The edge goes to Rain Dogs, but it was the album prior that found Waits coming out of the cocoon as a death's head moth. With Swordfishtrombones, The Black Rider was thrown out of the nightclub into the alley and, finding himself in his true element, he made its trashcan residents and urine stink the genetic code of the rest of his career. "Underground", "Shore Leave", and "Frank's Wild Years" all convey this mission nicely, with Waits embracing his inner Cookie Monster and divine guitar clang. There's even time for a few pint-swinging shanties to boot, and a heart-shaped declaration of dependence ("Johnsburg, Illinois") to the woman that preserved Waits' life, liver, and hipness quotient. Waits' early career is certainly respectable, but Swordfishtrombones is the corner he turned to become America's proud hobo laureate. --Rob Mitchum

010: Joy Division
[Factory; 1980]

Murmurs of "...too soon..." and "...what if..." will never be far from Ian Curtis' final statement. Closer was the fulfillment of the colossal promise of Joy Division's brooding debut masterpiece, Unknown Pleasures, but it promised even more in return; Curtis's eventual suicide would leave those expectations tragically unrealized. Though it's easy to diminish the significance of what Joy Division left behind by second-guessing what could have come after, that would be more tragic. The true impact of Joy Division's bass-leading, minimalist works is still being fully realized; echoes of the themes of fear, alienation and loss they championed still resonate in so much music. That they might have gone on to surpass this fractured, wrenching catharsis is irrelevant; this is what is, and it is a thing of uncompromising beauty. --Eric Carr

009: Public Enemy
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
[Def Jam; 1988]

Public Enemy was the real deal: a codified cultural force featuring an off-the-hinges production team (The Bomb Squad), the black-nationalist scholar (Professor Griff), menacing Para-Military types (The S1W's), the B-Boy (Flavor Motherfuckin' Flav), and the mouthpiece that held it all together (Chuck D). The unrelenting momentum of Chuck's radical rhetoric was matched pound-for-pound by The Bomb Squad's dense, revolutionary soundghettos; while Flav (who repped both big clocks and crack rocks) did his gyrating dance around armed Black Panther rejects, making Public Enemy possibly the finest example of Hip-Hop Theater, ever. And when all these elements gelled on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy became the equivalent of a Molotov Cocktail thrown into the ever-growing cultural necropolis of Reagan's 1980s. --Sam Chennault

008: Tom Waits
Rain Dogs
[Island; 1985]

Tom Waits' life-as-theater has been onstage for nearly three decades, yet of all his albums, this one edges to the top of the pile. The second installment in his German art song/"Island trilogy", Rain Dogs has the strongest songs and the surest grip on its own wanderings. With his hobo-centric lyrics reinspired by a move to New York City, Waits belts out "Union Square" and then rumbles out ballads like "Time"; the bleak vaudeville comes with accordion and pump organ wheezing out oompahs, while the percussion clanks, romps and slinks ("Clap Hands"). And then there are the guitars: Keith Richards shows up to make Waits look young and healthy, but it's Marc Ribot whose icepick lines best suit Waits' verses, and who owns the riff on "Jockey Full of Bourbon". But c'mon, Waits, surely you could have stopped Rod Stewart from destroying "Downtown Train". --Chris Dahlen

007: Pixies
Surfer Rosa
[4AD; 1988]

Surfer Rosa snapshots the Pixies when they were still young, fresh-faced, and (I assume) speaking to each other. Frank Black's demonic one-man choir is already snuff-film disturbing, Kim Deal's voice charms, having yet to be thoroughly scorched by cigarettes, David Lovering's meaty fills float in ethereal reverb, and Joey Santiago proves himself master of the one-note riff. Maybe it's Albini on the knobs, but Santiago's six-string, sounding like a bee with its finger in a socket, is a key element here, bloodbath-battling Black's tongue-speaking through "Something Against You" and "Vamos". The band jumps from the abstract weirdness of tracks like "Broken Face" and "Tony's Theme" to the effortless pop immediacy of timeless indie wonders like "Where Is My Mind?" and "Gigantic". How one band could toe the line between jagged, artful unpredictability and sublime melodic bliss is anyone's guess, but their gift has not been equaled since, and Surfer Rosa, easily their strangest and most chaotic outing, remains an unparalleled example of rule-smashing innovation in independent music. --Rob Mitchum

006: The Smiths
The Queen Is Dead
[Sire; 1986]

In a way, this is the Smiths album-of-choice by default, as it's the record that feels least like it was built around a few great singles. The pacing and sequencing are key, starting off with one of the band's most urgent songs (the title track) moving to the jaunty and clever "Frankly Mr. Shankly", before eventually getting around to the incredible "Cemetery Gates". The back half has two of the finest songs of the modern guitar-pop era ("The Boy with a Thorn in His Side" and "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out"), some of Morrissey's funniest lyrics ("Bigmouth Strikes Again"), and no filler. A new batch of lonely and alienated American teenagers discovers The Smiths every year. The reason is simple: few other bands could ever provide an antidote to adolescent yearnings as powerful as The Queen Is Dead. --Mark Richardson

005: R.E.M.
[IRS; 1983]

Not widely noticed when it was released, R.E.M.'s first full-length album was surely a milestone: a clean break from everything else on the radio, Murmur introduced the band's simpler, stripped-down, almost folky sound and its straightforward but insidious music. Guitarist Peter Buck jangles more gently than his garage or power-pop peers (like, say, producer Mitch Easter's Let's Active); but without a doubt, it's Michael Stipe who defines the band with his deadly combination of feminine sensitivity and masculine, stoically cryptic vocals. And they brought great songs-- "Radio Free Europe", "Pilgrimage", "Moral Kiosk", "Catapult"... everything sounds just as good, and even as refreshing, two decades later. If any one album were single-handedly responsible for inventing alternative rock, this would be it. --Chris Dahlen

004: Pixies
[4AD; 1989]

Quick-- pick the most influential alternative rock band of all time. If you didn't choose The Pixies, I'll give you another chance. In the meantime, listen to Doolittle and learn from your mistakes. In all of indie/alternative, there may be no single album more borrowed from, adapted, or flat-out ripped-off than The Pixies' follow-up to Surfer Rosa. Steve Albini once dismissed the band as "boring college rock", and he was half right-- The Pixies were college rock in 1989. (The "boring" half was obviously added to pad his notoriety, as anyone who could call this band boring is surely The World's Biggest Asshole.) Doolittle is almost senselessly varied-- mood-altering hooks, poetically insane lyrics, larynx demolishing screams and surreal croons, surf, thrash, pop, slow burns and races to the finish line... Let me put it this way: if not for Doolittle, there would be no Pitchfork. In other words, the influence of this record is so vast that, fifteen years on, it has altered the course of your life at this very moment. --Eric Carr

003: Beastie Boys
Paul's Boutique
[Capitol; 1989]

Once upon a time, three Brooklyn Jews lost their Def Jam street cred. They'd already been punks and raunchy pop-rappers, and damn if they didn't find themselves lost as to what to be next-- until down swooped the Brothers Dust. These fairy godbrothers helped them usher forth a dense samplorama that tanked sales-wise because it was so much smarter than its predecessor. Paul's Boutique was free of riff-slag, and boasted mostly unfunny, intimidatingly allusive lyrics. Just as the African-American Gwendolyn Brooks opened up doors for poetry, allowing epics to be written about dehumanizing Chicago tenements, the Beasties expanded hip-hop's domain to namecheck Salinger, Dickens, Galileo, and Newton. So ahead of its time, it should be on a 90s list. Odelay would owe it back rent if they didn't have the same landlords. --William Bowers

002: Talking Heads
Remain in Light
[Sire; 1980]

As the 1970s gave way to the 1980s, the Talking Heads found themselves at an awkward time: after punk, which they were at first associated with, had become synonymous with three chords and a sneer, but before the arrival of new wave. So they congregated in a Nassau studio with Brian Eno and created a record without precedent-- one that merged the restlessness and anxiety of the former genre with the futurism of the latter. The resulting album, drawing influence from tribal Africa, is massively percussion-fueled, dense with elaborate polyrhythms and elastic bass. Adrian Belew's bizarre guitar work flavors the music with erratic, technological pings and effects, even nailing modem noise with crystalline foresight. Byrne's lyrics are at their surreal best here, with shapeshifting as a recurring theme, but also at their most affecting on songs like "Once in a Lifetime", which poignantly addresses the passage of time and the crossroads at which we find ourselves during life, and "Listening Wind", whose haunted refrain finds us sympathizing with a man for whom terrorism is the last hope for preserving his culture. Both daringly experimental and pop-accessible, Remain in Light may be the Talking Heads' defining moment. --Ryan Schreiber

001: Sonic Youth
Daydream Nation
[Blast First/Enigma; 1987]

I could sit here and force-feed you dietary information about Daydream Nation's purported Importance, and because it's ended up as our 80s MVP, perhaps that's expected. But really, the reason I like Daydream Nation better than anything else spawned between 1980-89 is that, hell, it's just the greatest fucking album. Few musical moments are more guaranteed to bring me joy than the joyous riff and snare rim clicks that kick off "Teen Age Riot". Never was the elusive Sonic Youth balance of noisecraft/songcraft kept so gloriously intact-- despite containing few songs under five minutes, this is still the most accessible album they ever made (including even that brief period when they were trying to be accessible). Thank their confidence in allowing themselves to stretch out their improv legs in the studio, to present the record with bright, clear production, to keep all the SKREEERAWWWKKK within the context of actual melodic songs. Thank the highest Lee ratio ever to be found on SY product, and unparalleled composition consistency from Thurston and, gasp!, Kim. Daydream Nation was a noisy punctuation mark to the evolution of sub-radar rock in the Reagan years, and as long as people are still listening to guitars, it will remain a milestone. --Rob Mitchum

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