Joy Division, Kraftwerk, Sonic Youth, Public Enemy, The Smiths - Touchstone albums of the 80s
Let's get it straight for most people the 1980s were grim times, the rebellion of punk replaced by the footprint of Thatcher's cold hard conservatism, leaving many on dole ques that stretched for miles. The recent BBC series on the 80s proved that some people look back on the era with rose tinted specs, as a time of comforting(given the grey confusion of the noughties) binary opposites of left and right waged war with the miners strike, the glamour of the early new romantic period, the fall of the Berlin wall, Live Aid, all striking "easy to understand" events. But what's missing was the increasing gap between rich and poor the deprivation that many suffered under a distasteful Thatcher government and the struggle that many acts found to be heard amongst the din of cheesy pop and slick rnb.
But music has always been a vital expression of dissatisfaction and when the shiny new romanticism of the early years faded, the bands that first emerged in the post punk years of the late seventies re-established their musical might Siouxie, The Cure, The Slits, Talking Heads, Joy Division and New Order all acts that had their roots in the later seventies, their influence spilling over into the new decade. Then there are the pop albums those influential tomes that many searched out and inspired in the 90s have seemingly over shadowed the charts for the last ten years or more. Remember Electroclash at the begging of the decade? initially a interesting movement this was subsumed by the use of 80s techniques (synths, drum machines, sampling) in a new modern production setting in the mainstream, like that was enough? The really influential acts of the era managed to create their own worlds and that's why they stood out. Since then the mainstream has clung to the 1980s template like a baby with its bottle. The independent scene too is dominated by revivalist waves some with merit some not, shoegaze has been revived no doubt influenced by 80s acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Spacemen 3, C86 has reared its head again. With American acts bringing the jangle and vocals of the underground indie of the 80s back to us in a more 'trendy form' just take a listen to records by the Pains of Being Pure at heart, Vivian girls and The Crystal Stilts and you'll be overwhelmed by their love of all things English. Then there's the Smiths arguably the first indie band to go mainstream they set the template for everyone from Oasis to the Arctic Monkeys and Elbow and beyond.
So whilst the 1980s was mired in cheese and heavy handed commercialism of Stock Aitken Waterman below the surface(and occasionally above) lurked albums that have had a influenced way beyond their own decade. Here are the albums that have influenced us from the 1980s, this is by no means a definitive list, you may have different recollections of what long players influenced you. But these are some of the albums that we love from the period: "Don't forget the songs that made you cry and the songs that saved your life.”
Joy Division- Closer(1980)
As the punk explosion of 1977 died down, and the filth and the fury became little more than a distant memory, Joy Division emerged with something far more sublime and sophisticated. Indeed, to call music of this quality 'post-punk' does not do it justice. Perhaps Lydon, Strummer and co. should be referred to as 'pre-Joy Division'.
'Closer' was Joy Division's second album, and their final release prior to the demise of vocalist Ian Curtis. The morbid atmosphere which dominates throughout could be seen as his last will and testament, yet this record is so much more than a musical suicide note.
Despite their tragically short career, Joy Division proved to be a formative influence upon many bands, such as Interpol and Manic Street Preachers. Final song 'Decades' betrays a striking (albeit unlikely) resemblance to The Stranglers' 'Golden Brown', proving that Joy Division themselves were not without their influences. 'Closer' features neither of their biggest hits, 'Transmission' or 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'. Yet it is still by far their definitive record, and one of the finest to emerge from the 1980s.
Kraftwerk - Computer World (1981)
Kraftwerk were as important to music as The Beatles. If ever there was a word that made electronica fans' legs tremble and quickly take in breath, it is Kraftwerk. The grandfathers of synthesizers and keyboard music, everyone from The Prodigy to Klaxons can trace roots back to the German quartet who were decades ahead of their time.
Foreseeing a society that was becoming more and more dependent on computers and machines, Computer World is the peak of Kraftwerk along with The Man-Machine. Sounding today almost like something found on a Sinclair Spectrum soundtrack when compared to modern-day equipment, the tracks are delightfully deep and expansive, despite the basic tools they wielded.
First single Computer Love (which Coldplay has a lot to be thankful for…) is perhaps even more poignant than when it was first released. The track reflects on the idea of being reliant on machines and a feeling of hopelessness because of it - how many millions of people, in 2010, have the needy and unnecessary longing to cling onto the Internet, and find refuge in Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace? Remember, this is a song that was written twenty-nine years ago…the idea of true home computing was still in its infancy.
The b-side to Computer Love, The Model, is the most commercially accessible piece Kraftwerk wrote and (in my opinion) the exact moment the music world saw proof that electronic music could be mass-market.
Kraftwerk were the Nostradamus of electronic music and the computerised world. Without them, the definitive sound of the 80's would have, arguably, never came into fruition.(Luke Langlands)
David Bowie - 'Scary Monsters And Super Creeps' (RCA) 1980
Bounding off the back of a highly successful, and artistic triumph, series of albums in the later half of the 70s, which included the famous Berlin triumvirate; the Germanic imbued Bowie kicked off the new decade with the startling inventive 'Scary Monsters And Super Creeps'.
Spawning the New Romantics anthem of 'Ashes to Ashes' along the way, this industrial disjointed and at times Orwellian, 'Scream Like A Baby', suite of eclectic songs features both a reflective Bowie 'Because You're Young' and 'Teenage Wildlife', and a more resigned forlorn Bowie, 'It's No Game No.1' and 'No.2'.
This would be his last album for RCA before he went onto don pastel shades, boxing gloves and floppy quiff and re-incarnated himself as a colonial crooning pop artist.
Right…I'm going to lay down my head on the chopping block here - this is the Thin White Dukes finest moment; there I said it!.(Dominic Valvona)
The Human League - Dare (1981)
'You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, when I met you…don't you want me babbbbby????'…if ever a track summed up a decade in music, its Don't You Want Me, the final single to promote synth-pop perfection Dare by The Human League. Spawning many copycats and causing school reunions to go into meltdown from the nineties to the present day, Dare saw the band achieve massive commercial success for the first time.
Before Dare was released, vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley had to make a decision: do they leave the group who previously had mixed success, in order to go to university, or do they take the plunge, and go full time with The Human League. Thankfully for us, the young women had the balls to postpone higher education, and a genre-defining album was born.
At a time when electronic bands were heavily instrumental-based, The Human League strove for thought-provoking lyrics that made you think and reflect, rather than relying on the music alone. Often the true meaning behind their songs have been left untold.
The Sound Of The Crowd saw Catherall and Sulley put down on record for the first time, with enormous success. The now immediately recognisable back-and-forth, male/female of Human League vocals was born. It's a true dance song that still reverberates today. In tracks like Darkness, the bite the group posses comes out, with melancholy synthesizers helping to recount the fear and helplessness one can feel during a sleepless night plagued by unwanted thoughts.
Dare always has, and always will, ooze cool. The atmosphere and gravitas in the record creates a timeless album produced by one of the most iconic bands of the eighties.(Luke Langlands)
Orange Juice - Rip It Up(1982)
Orange Juice's second major label album garnered their biggest ever success with their only Top 10 single, but much of the material within indicated a strange move for the ramshackle Glaswegian post-punks. Production wise some of the tracks do sit ill at ease with earlier Postcard singles, but there's clearly a playfulness and wry experimental streak running through even the most seemingly commercial moments on Rip It Up which helps balance things. Following the classic title track, 'A Million Pleading Faces' is a truly baffling few minutes with it's sheened funk guitars, tribal drums and chanted vocals, yet it's oddly satisfying in it's apparent transgression of cool. There's also the reggae style vocals and anguished screams on 'Hokoyo' or the heavily eastern European sounding re-record of 'Breakfast Time' to try and get your head round. Thankfully at the heart of it all sits the lethargic romance which Edwyn Collins espouses so perfectly, with his tender drawl and sardonic lyrics all over the likes of 'Louise Louise' and 'Tenderhooks'. It all points towards a band at the peak of their creative powers taking on the mainstream at their own game; making pop music which to those not paying attention may seem homogenised and standard but is actually infested with experimentation, heart, and most importantly great songs which have stood the test of time.(Chris Tapley)
Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)
It's not a coincidence that this is the biggest selling record of all time. A behemoth 110 million copies are thought to have been sold. The second-highest selling album, AC/DC's Back In Black, couldn't even muster half of that ('gotta love a quick Wiki). Thriller could easily be a Greatest Hits album - every song could be a smash-hit single. Forget the personal-life rumours, his plastic nose, the questionable later albums, and the fact he seemed absolutely mental, because this album is the definition of genius.
Thriller continues in many ways where Off The Wall left off. However, during the creation of the album, Jackson was going through an unhappy time in his life despite the level of stardom he was facing. As a result, tracks such as Beat It and Billie Jean (originally considered not good enough for the album by Quincy Jones) are perhaps darker and heavier than previously seen by the singer. During the recording process singer and producer would often clash due to the importance seen in trying to create a true classic, with the pair taking a week to re-mix each song until they were considered perfect.
Everything about this album is iconic. From the understated, classy album cover to the brilliantly absurd 14-minute long music video accompanying the Thriller single (everyone's done the dance before…and I mean everyone!)
I can't imagine anyone not knowing at least one track of the song. Even if you lived in a cave on Mars you would have came across this album at least a hundred times. The scariest thing about the album? Michael Jackson was only 24 at the time of its release.(Luke Langlands)
Echo And The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain (1984)
While their earlier LPs, such as debut record Crocodiles showcased a barren, despairing sound not dissimilar to bleak northern contemporaries Joy Division, and other post punk acts, record number four saw a departure for Liverpool band Echo and the Bunnymen.
With its' lush string arrangements and textured guitars, the haunting, maudlin tone of the LP challenged critics and was not universally understood or appreciated at the time of it's release. However, it aged well and is now regarded as a masterpiece, and often quoted as the best record they ever made. (Abbas Ali)
Jesus and Mary Chain- 'Psychocandy'(1985)
The Vaselines recent song “I Hate The 80's' certainly resonated with me, the eighties were for me, generally 'shit.' Greed, consumerism, Thatcher, ostentatious fashion, Stock Aitkin and Waterman, ozone shredding hair styles, Live Aid, Thatcher, yuppies, Thatcher, the horrific omnipresent gurning visage of Phil Collins, I could go on… Anyone who tells you it was any different wasn't actually there. The post punk promise of the early eighties soon evaporated to make way for bands dressed up as if they'd covered themselves in super glue and ram raided a fancy dress shop. Their music wasn't much better, producing the sort of soulless whine that would one day find its spiritual home as incidental music on a DFS commercial (alongside Martin Kemp!!) The sight of these prancing preening peacocks on TOTP's was a spirit crushing affair; it really felt like punk had never happened and the old order wasted little time in re-establishing itself as a purveyor of all things shite.
Despite the occasional shaft of light from the likes of The Cure, the Bunnymen, the Smiths, and some fantastic Indie labels, it wasn't until 1985 that a band emerged who put the excitement back into an increasingly flaccid music scene. Two Scottish brothers broke cover from their bedroom studio with a collection of incendiary songs and a début album that was destined to be a classic, no, no, I'm not talking about the Proclaimers , I refer to Jim and William Reid, The Jesus and Mary Chain and their seminal album 'Psychocandy' .
These boys were not only writers of melodious pop, but true iconoclasts who had a deep understanding of rock n roll history and it's mythology. Taking Phil Sectors' musical template the Reid's beat the living shit out of it, fusing distortion with melody, brutality with tenderness. I suppose to describe an album as 'influential' is fatuous unless you qualify that assertion, I mean I'm sure Haircut 100 *influenced* people of no fixed musical taste, but let's face it they were complete guff and besides it's *who* and *what* you influence that matters. So forget the riots and violence of the Mary Chain's early shows, that was merely a distraction, a media circus, and should not obfuscate the influence and impact 'Psychocandy' had. It made white noise acceptable, and it's effect was huge and wide ranging paving the way for many bands who are now regarded as musical deities. 25 years on since its release 'Psychocandy' is still regarded as a defining moment in 1980's indie guitar music and regularly appears in 'best ever' albums list.
If you still haven't heard the album you really should remedy the situation forthwith, it's a timeless album *from* the 80's but not really *of* the 80's . It still sounds as wonderful today as it did way back in 85, truly a classic.(Andy Von Pip)
Elvis Costello - Blood and Chocolate(1986)
In 1986, it looked as though Elvis Costello was basically irrelevant. His last effort, Goodbye Cruel World, had been universally panned as a self-indulgent, tuneless wreck, and he'd been keeping a low profile ever since. After less than a decade as an artist, he seemed to be out of momentum. But if Goodbye Cruel World was a record of self-loathing, Blood &
Chocolate was about turning that rage outward. Coming off an acrimonious divorce and nearly driven to blows with The Attractions, Costello was bursting with anger, frustration, and resentment - and he poured it all into his song writing.
Blood & Chocolate ranks among the most vicious albums ever made; the most virulent heavy metal seems like James Blunt by comparison.
Costello has never really found a niche - when he burst onto the scene in 1977, he was lumped in with the punks. Despite being pre-new-wave, he was later consigned to the Blondie scene. As a songwriter, he's handled nearly every genre imaginable - rock, country, pop, blues, soul, jazz, classical - it's all been done before. But somehow, Costello still sounds the best when he cuts loose of his pretensions and embraces the true rock ethic. After Blood & Chocolate, he'd go on a relentless journey of exploration and creativity. But he'd never sound this free, this exuberant, this wonderfully nasty again.(Emily Tarantella)
The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead(1986)
Without doubt the most complete album in the Smiths cannon, off the pack of the musically eclectic and personal careers into political lyrics of 'Meat Is Murder. 'The Queen is Dead' it sees the Manchester outfit at a creative pinnacle, a height they never quite touched again as they disintegrated during the patchy last record 'Strangeways here we come' that was dogged by infighting. The Queen is Dead is a vivid document of why the Smiths are etched on the heart of every miserable teenager, and everyone looking for music that took a step out of its comfort zone and tackled subjects in an emotive yet intelligent way, influencing countless acts since its release a quick scan of the independent scene and one can see the traces of Morrissey, Marr & Co on everyone from the Arctic Monkeys, Belle and Sebastian to Wild Beasts and The Heartbreaks.
Musically there's not a note out of place Johnny Marr's pristine 60s jangle pop is matched by and dexterous basslines, and insistent solid thud, whilst Stephen Patrick Morrissey delivers perhaps his boldest set of vocals to date, no longer fey or shy his tone consumed by a yearning and underlying sexual tension and defiance that's whilst obviously melancholic is dripping in irony and pathos. From the utter absurdity of opener 'The Queen is Dead' with its very British type of ridiculous rebellion(So, I broke into the palace / With a sponge and a rusty spanner/She said : "Eh, I know you, and you cannot sing"/ I said : "That's nothing - you should hear me play piano"), from the sarcastic label baiting of 'Frankly Mr Shankly' and 'Vicar in a Tutu' there's a thread of bitter humour that's oft overlooked in the Smiths work.
Whilst the achingly sad 'I Know its Over' that details the death of love, the literary metaphors of the prosaic rockabilly of 'Cemetery Gates' the shimmying grace of "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" one of the greatest expressions of hiding forbidden love 'under a bushel' ever executed in pop music. Climaxing with the unspeakably tragic/romantic imagery of 'There Is A Light That Will Never Go Out' it's arcing melody balanced gracefully upon a bed of twisting rhythms, and elegant strings that drive you home to bed, it's one of the greatest songs ever committed to tape. “The Queen is Dead” is that rare thing, an album without a bad moment, a snapshot of a time when a startling original voice and sharp musical force are in complete synergy, it has only been fully appreciated with the passing of time.(Bill Cummings)
The Wedding Present- George Best(1986)
Any feature about albums from the 1980s on a site like God Is In The TV would be obsolete without a C86 album or two. Though David Gedge may shun such tags now and their Albini spell just a few years later on from this was a world away from their early material, they very much encapsulated that early incarnation of British indie music on their first record. Charismatically adorned with great song titles and Gedge's wryly humorous and deject lyrics about breakups, rejection and segregation, George Best truly captures not just the sound but also the ethic of the staunchly northern indie circle the band belonged to. Unpolished when compared to their later albums, George Best's rough gems are comprised of the unmistakable coupling of Gedge's earnest vocal delivery and Peter Solowka's imitable guitar playing - more swipe n' slash than jingle n' jangle, few can say they play the instrument at such a fierce velocity - alongside one of the few rhythm sections of Joyce and Rourke's caliber at the time. Sometimes scathing, often funny, always heartwarming, George Best possesses a track list that reads like a 'best of' collection - “Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft”, “My Favourite Dress”, “Shatner”, “Give My Love to Kevin”, “Anyone Can Make a Mistake”, “Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?” - and yet for most (including this Weddos fan) it isn't even their finest hour! It is however most likely the best album to define where British guitar music was in 1987. George Best engages the heart and intellect. More than anything else though, it begs the nagging question - how on earth did Peter Solowka's right hand not fall off when playing on this record?!(Daniel Round)
Sonic Youth- Daydream Nation
It takes a particular kind of psychotic audio pyromaniac to consider playing the guitar like Sonic Youth. Daydream Nation is proof that with a enough creativity, an unhinged mindset, and more drugs than you can possibly believe, the electric guitar can become a living, breathing organism, a work of art in the original sense of the word.
Providence. A beautifully sparse, and spine tingling two minute interlude. A few distant and meandering piano chords are layered over a rich gust of crackling white noise which sounds like the hum of a blowtorch magnified to a deafening scale. A deliciously vague sample of what could be a police radio, or the correspondence between two criminals communicating on a walkie talkie (its actually two wonderfully strange answer phone messages left by the band members on tour) cuts through this texture like a breadknife. “Its 10:30” this echoing ethereal voice slurs “we're calling from Providence Rhode Island”. As soon as I first finished listening to this piece of music, I must confess to looking up the word “providence”
in a dictionary. It means God. If you cock your head in a certain way, and squint very hard, you may notice that the first seven tracks of this album influenced the next ten years of rock music. The fleeting ghost of “Silver Rocket” haunts every track on Definitely Maybe, “Teen Age Riot” is a shadowy figure lurking behind The Bends smoking a cigarette and looking bored, Loveless has been dipped head first in Daydream Nation, and left to soak for 4-6 years.
From the fizzling and ephemeral first thirty seconds of “Teen Age Riot”, before that riff kicks in and the song rips a whole in the fabric of time and steps gingerly through it, to the final jarring notes of the last act of “Trilogy”, this album is a special kind of masterpiece. “The Sprawl” is an epic twisted anthem of consumerism, prostitution and urban alienation, with fleeting glimpses of chilling lyricism - “I grew up in a shotgun row, sliding down the hill, out front were the big machines, steel and rusty now I guess” - placed either side of two monstrously huge instrumentals.
“Total Trash”, at a particular time of day, in particular circumstances could well be my favourite song of all time. Then again there's probably a particular set of extraordinary circumstances under which “The year 3000” by Busted would be my favourite song of all time, so it might not be saying much. The whole track is based on a fantastically infectious and terrifyingly fuzzy guitar riff. About half way in, the track stumbles into a jaw-droppingly insane instrumental. “Total Trash”, at a particular time of day, in particular circumstances could well be my favourite song of all time.
I could go on for a thousand words. I could extol the beauty of “Candle”, a love-song to mentholated spirits “I can't stay a candle, Gotta change my mind before it burns out” the stomach churning pulses of “Rain King” and “Kissability”, and the final screeching and crumbling sign off of “Trilogy”.It is a piece of pure guitar art, guitar sex and guitar punishment. …Listen to that class!(Sam Wetherell)
The Triffids- Calenture(1987)
Like Born Sandy Devotional, Calenture is similar to how we imagine the landscape of Australia: nothing for miles, sparse, empty and lonely. It's perhaps a little more accessible than their debut with a much poppier overall sound, in fact so much so that opener Bury Me Deep In Love was used in a wedding sequence in Neighbours. In many ways this perfectly displays how Calenture can be misunderstood. Lyrically obsessed with the pain and loneliness of unrequited love, it shouldn't be something that lends itself to be a cheesy soundtrack to soap based nuptials, but due to being fairly light power pop it's far too positive to really give the lyrics the right context.
In complete contrast to Calenture, In The Pines is a raw, organic record which lacks the glossy edge that holds Calenture back. Recorded on an eight track in a shearing shed over four days, this would never be used as the soundtrack to Madge and Harold's wedding, more the soundtrack of slow, bitter death from heartbreak. In The Pines significantly benefits from it's simplicity: the vocals have all the more power, each strum of the guitar and every beat of the drum is there resulting in an album that could easily be called a classic.(Jenna Leonard)
Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back(1988)
While today's hip hop scene has been subsumed into r & b to make commercial “urban” music, full of rhymes about crystal sipping, Bentleys, and bitches, the 80s was a naive time for the burgeoning form, which was considered a subversive, anti-establishment force by mainstream US society, not dissimilar to the role punk played in the Great Britain during the 70s.
At the heart of rap as a political force were Public Enemy. Formed in Long Island, New York in 1982, the band's sound was characterised by lead rapper Chuck D's authoritative baritone, and the accompaniment of crazed hype man Flavour Flav, as well as the production of maverick duo Eric Sadler and Hank Shocklee, aka The Bomb Squad, who gave the crew their distinctive mixture of off-kilter jazz samples, white noise and raw funk beats.
Whereas todays' rappers consider themselves a brand to be marketed, Public Enemy were more than the sum of their parts, and ITANMTHUB communicated their message of black empowerment against a brutal white system in a racially divided country with anger and urgency. With standout cuts including 'Rebel Without A Pause', 'Don't Believe The Hype', and 'Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos', the record is PE's finest work, and one of the most important albums of the decade.(Abbas Ali)
Talk Talk - Spirit of Eden(1988)
Often cited as one of the decade's most influential records, Spirit of Eden was relatively unprecedented in the 1980's even by Talk Talk's own three albums released prior. It was a game changer; Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene entered the studio in 1987 as a multi-million selling new wave pop band and emerged with a sprawling improvised masterpiece fusing elements of pop, jazz, ambient minimalism, noise and just about everything else. Even now, 22 years on, the album has hardly dated as it was so far ahead of time and it's legacy has since become apparent. Being seen in many ways as a pre-cursor to the post-rock genre with it's focus on textures and dynamics rather than form going on to be hugely influential in the work of acclaimed groups such as Bark Psychosis and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As well as this kind of visceral instrumentation the album has a very raw emotional centre to it, Hollis' vocals sounding particularly tortured as he switches between mumbles and wails of spiritual catharsis; it sounds almost unsettlingly personal at times. This perfect balance between emotion and musical progression is the magic that lies at the heart of Spirit of Eden, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if it still sounds just as fresh in another twenty-odd years.(Chris Tapley)
Galaxie 500- Today(1988)
Debut album Today is probably Galaxie 500's finest collection of songs. The listener is spared no introductory niceties being thrown straight into “Flowers” - the archetypal Galaxie 500 elegy and an ode to lunacy - and is edged out uncompromisingly with closer “Tugboat”, the bands' first single and the lovelorn highlight of their first long-player. In between the two standard bearers of their back catalogue, Galaxie 500 reveal a troupe of songs that, against all odds, manage to stand in equal stead with the brilliant first and final songs. Calmly schizo-circulating from the dourly sweet (“Pictures”, “It's Getting Late”) to the upbeat (“Parking Lot”) and through to melodious downcast pop (“Oblivious”, “Temperature's Rising”), Today is a cacophonous patchwork of rough gems, yet it possesses an accomplished and distinctive identity that holds it all together. Though primitive (perhaps even more so than their second and third albums) the scope of their creativity seems completely unrestrained by their apparent musical limitations - their instrumental (which goes by the name “Instrumental”) showcases the wistful Galaxie 500 sound at its most innovative and achingly beautiful, while their cover of Jonathan Richman's “Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste” is completely invigorating with scathing guitars and a grippingly rhythmic, almost tribal backing. Just as most great covers reinvent the original, here Galaxie 500 manage to do so by firmly stamping their own sound in place. Across the record, Galaxie 500 introduce the key basic ingredients of what remains so stridently in place along the course of their catalogue - Wareham's vocal steady yet maddening, his guitar raw and free, his lyrics firmly rooted in the disconsolate and the absurd; Yang's bass as elegiac as her vocal would later prove to be; Krukowski's drumming visceral, percussive, commanding. Complemented by the compulsory bonus track, a lulling and downright mesmeric song called “King Of Spain” which sees Wareham's vocal at its dissonant best, Today is as inescapably brilliant and vital now in 2010 as it was in 1988. (Daniel Round)
The Jungle Brothers - 'Done By The Forces Of Nature'
(Warner Bros.) (1989)
Part of the loose collaborative 'Native Tongues' posse, The Jungle Brothers kicked off the whole Afrocentric skool of hip-hop, and pioneered the use of house music with rap, on their 'Straight Out Of The Jungle' LP the previous year. But it would be their ambitious and assiduous follow-up 'Done By The Forces Of Nature', that changed the scenery, bringing in a more sophisticated, educated and proud appraisal of their African heritage to the world.
Their message was a positive one, compared to the increasingly violent west coast gangster scene, using subtlety and clever layering of rich soul, funk, disco and more traditional African music to create a lavish concept, as opposed to the more grimy and confrontational style of groups like N.W.A.
Constantly overlooked and stupidly underrated, this album changed the hip-hop scene forever, heralding the beginning of a short but influential epoch in the genres history.
De La Soul - '3 Feet High And Rising' (Tommy Boy) 1989
By the end of the 80s, hip-hop had transformed from its roots through to a radical political stance and onto an almost post-modern review with De La Soul's debut masterpiece.
If Public Enemy were the hardcore equivalent to rebellious rock'n'roll, then De La Soul were the psychedelic hippie forbearers.
'3 Feet High And Rising' is the Sgt.Pepper of hip-hop albums, full of the most ingenious use of both sampling and wordplay; mixing seminal tunes like 'Magic Number', 'Say No Go' and 'Me, Myself and I' up with omnivorous vignettes.
Hall & Oates, The Rascals, Steely Dan and The Average White Band were all ploughed into the melting pot, to create an almost entirely new sound, which ushered in the new age positive 'Native Tongues' collective of The Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah and The Black Sheep.(Dominic Valvona)
Throwing Muses - Hunkpapa(1989)
Throwing Muses, particularly Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly meant a lot, and led to a lot. For sure, it segued into a whole discovery of East Coast alt rock, but more than that was part of a catharsis that made music much more real.
Despite bands like The Smiths, by the mid 80's it had all somehow turned into entertainment for me - safe pop music on Top of the Pops. The performers were plastic and 'other' - not like us ordinary people. After the Muses, it was real people in airless concert halls; smell the sweat and love it.
The cause of this epiphany was no single song. Throwing Muses been going for a while already, but like the adverts for holidays in Ireland, this was how I discovered them. Others might disagree but I didn't even find huge stand-out tracks in Hunkpapa. Compared to others in their canon, the production is weedy and over-lush at the same time and frankly sucks. The essential factor, the thing that made it like a hit off a crack pipe, was the way that the writing pulls worms and wires from Kristin's living psyche. This level of complexity forced its way into my mind so that I had to keep going back to try and solve it, if that makes any sense at all. The 'it', the puzzle, was more than just words; it was the whole thing, the performance, all of it vomited up in my face. Of course, much has been written since about Kristin's bi-polar condition and her overwhelming and compulsive need to get the music out of her. Her recent book 'Rat Girl' is revelatory, I had no idea at the time of the barely controllable need to get this music out of her self, but it all makes sense. What a curse and what a blessing. There she was pulling debris out of a well, for me and a thousand others to try to make something of it. In 'Fall Down' for instance Kristin sings "I showed this girl my stitches, she said she had some too". Even served with this, I still didn't quite get how raw all this material really was. At the risk of appearing boy-band incoherent, all I knew was that it somehow moved me.
A huge part of this whole equation was a punching realisation that this rock music, that had me by the nuts, was coming out of the hearts and minds and mics and electric guitars of women. Like a new continent, I had discovered and found that I loved the voice of literate female rock music. Loved it to such an extent that these days I find it hard to be enthused by yet another lad-fronted indie band, even if they're called Arctic Monkeys or Oasis or something.
The funny is that at the time I had the firmly fixed idea that the Muses were global huge, easily as big in my mind as say, The Smiths or Nirvana. I understand now, with the benefit of hindsight, that maybe they weren't quite such globe striding colossi, but to me and my musical awakening, they were right up there. Maybe that's a whole subject for debate, the influence of alternative bands like the Muses, often much more influential than is ever realised at the time, like underwater mountains affecting the weather.
A few years later, Tanya was off, first with Belly then later on her own. The slow fuse lit in me was such that before long I was dragging myself and at times my family to places like ULU to fuel the now fully fledged need to be in the front row. It took years longer before before I saw Kristin, way after the Muses became just one of three or furrows she was ploughing and her solo stuff was garnering the plaudits. I love Throwing Muses. I have to love them because of the way that they have become part of my psyche and part of me.
The Pixies - Doolittle(1989)
The release of the Pixies second album ”Doolittle” in 1989 is often cited as the birth of alternative rock music. As well as the obvious comparisons to Nirvana's grungy distortion, it's easy to see the vast influence the album has had on almost every corner of modern indie music. If we had never heard Frank Black's grizzled barks about “slicing up eyeballs” on Debaser, then Radiohead's twisted imagery may never have come to fruition, and the pairing of Kim Deal's breathy, ethereal vocals with hazy walls of distortion has been mimicked by modern day bands as far off as Crystal Castles.
Musically, the album is relatively simple, and it is the band's delivery that makes it so incredible. “Tame” is based around three simple bass chords, but is transformed into something truly epic by the transition from the snarled whispers of the verses to the gut wrenching screams that drench the choruses. What truly makes Doolittle so distinctive however is the pairing of the macabre with the sickly sweet. “Wave of Mutilation” is a straightforward pop song about, in Frank Black's own words, “"Japanese businessmen doing murder-suicides with their families because they'd failed in business, and they're driving off a pier into the ocean." And every furious wail and discordant guitar riff on the album is juxtaposed with a jangly melody, or Kim deal's gentle voice, creating a vast melting pot of sounds that somehow works.(Gwyn Bandfield)
The Stone Roses- S/T(1989)
The Stone Roses debut is an album of ephinanies, a piece of art, that eschews the modern trend for single tracks and itunes, each song bleeds into the next (rather like the colours of guitarist John Squire's Pollack like artwork) creating a glorious, joyous, unstoppable whole, the soundtrack to 1989, the end of the decade and the heralding of a bright, shiny new one the colliding of rave and independent guitar music. From the rocket ship take off of opener 'I Wanna be Adored' that subtlety builds through Mani's rumbling bass, dappling jazz like riffs of Squire, Reni's rhythmic beat is both solid yet infinitely more playful than any drum machine, while Ian Brown's half whispered melody literally grows in confidence until his repetition of the title line becomes a chest beating statement of intent, corralled by John Squire's now lassoing guitar figures that are writ large in the sun blushed sky. 'She Bangs the Drum' is absolutely infectiously, rushing, spiralling melodies are powered Squire's insistent jagged notes and Reni's clambering drums, it's the euphoric sound of the first flush of indescribable love, and the sound of a new beginning("the past is yours but the futures mine"). It's echoed by the joyous pysch-jangle of 'My Sugar Spun sister' Brown's swagger detailing his pursuit of a lover in sweltering heat, and inter cut by half remembered bizarre political imagery ("until every member of parliment trips over") and the Catherine wheel guitars, drum and basslines of 'This is the one' that's pressure rises to cacophony in the imploring chorus line, bringing to mind a Hacienda full of revellers hands in air, literally off their heads on esctacy.
The Roses debut wasn't all sunshine melodies though, 'Made of Stone' is dripping with melancholia and fantasy, driven by a menacing bass line, Reni's expert drum fills and Squire's arpeggios hen three minutes the flanged guitars ride a wave of producer John Leckie's making. While the sparse funk of 'Shoot you down' is littered with acerbic put downs,.to the messianic power of closer 'I Am The Resurrection' that is the final pinnacle of the album, built on Reni's trademark beat, it builds from melodic whisper to sky scraping chorus of affirmation, and then into a psychedelic jam that's rippled with the kind of twists and turns more associated with dance music, bright imaginative, and empowering, its final refrain of 'I am the Resurrection and I am the light' belies Brown's almost superhuman confidence in his band of brothers and defines the sheer transformational quality of this record. So despite the cocaine breakdowns of their 'Second Coming', The Stone Roses peerless unforgettable debut is seared onto the subconsciousness of every music fan, distilling the sound of one summer, the end of the 80s, bright, hopeful and coming up, the melding of two until now opposing cultures, where for one brief unattainable moment anything seemed possible.(Bill Cummings)