For feces and giggles, I just participated in a listmaking exercise with an album-trading group I belong to. We’re compiling the “best albums of the 1980s.” Here was my list.
1.) Tommy Keene â€“ Songs From the Film (1986)
One of the most obscure albums here. A 12-song slab of guitar pop from Washington DC’s most talented, screwed-over musical son (Geffen killed his “commercial” album Based on Happy Times in its crib, and it’s been unavailable ever since).
2.) Ramones â€“ End of the Century (1980)
The single greatest Ramones album, produced by Phil Spector. Not many fans agree with me.
3.) The Go-Betweens â€“ 16 Lovers Lane (1988)
Actually, most critics rate this one highly. Ten songs, split evenly between bandleaders Grant McClennan and Robert Forster, who were in different stages of relationships. McClennan was dating the band’s beautiful multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown, and his songs are happy. Forster was in the death throes of something with drummer Lindy Morrison, and … guess.
4.) King Crimson â€“ Discipline (1981)
The shapeshifting art rock album by the 1980s incarnation of KC, including probably the most talented progressive rock ensemble ever. Robert Fripp on guitars, Adrian Belew on guitars and vocals, Bill Bruford on drums, Tony Levin on bass.
5.) The Cure â€“ The Head on the Door (1985)
Robert Smith’s breakthrough pop album – the last time he cut a record without oodles of filler.
6.) Husker Du â€“ Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987)
The two-disc swan song of the Minneapolis hardcore band turned poppy troubadors. You can hear the heroin.
7.) Devo â€“ Freedom of Choice (1980)
Their flawless breakthrough album
8.) Genesis â€“ Abacab (1981)
Same as above, only with a horn section and Phil Collins.
9.) Eric B and Rakim â€“ Follow the Leader(1988)
The greatest MC of all time with his greatest samples and hooks.
10.) Camper Van Beethoven â€“ Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (1988)
Best album by the Northern California college rock wizards.
11.) Lou Reed â€“ The Blue Mask (1982)
Reed’s darkest, finest album with his best band (including Robert Quine) and most literal, to-the-bone lyrics.
12.) Public Enemy â€“ It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
No explanation necessary.
13.) Game Theory â€“ Real Nighttime (1985)
Scott Miller’s Joycean power-pop opus. This is his “Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man” – Lolita Nation is his “Finnegans Wake”.
14.) â€˜Til Tuesday â€“ Everythingâ€™s Different Now (1987)
Aimee Mann’s collaboration with Jules Shear, and the best work either of them ever did.
15.) Iron Maiden â€“ Iron Maiden (1980)
The metal classic that launched a thousand 20-foot skeleton stage props.
16.) Minutemen â€“ Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)
A 42-song, 60-minute head trip.
17.) The Smiths â€“ The Queen is Dead (1985)
No explanation needed.
18.) Captain Beefheart â€“ Ice Cream for Crow (1982)
A scary man’s scary swan song.
19.) Prince – Purple Rain (1984)
Oh, you know why.
20.) Leonard Cohen â€“ Iâ€™m Your Man (1987)
Hilariously produced comeback by the aging anti-crooner.
21.) Bad Brains – I Against I (1986)
You got your metal in my reggae! You got your reggae in my metal! And now it’s all fallen into a vat of punk!
22.) Lloyd Cole and the Commotions â€“ Rattlesnakes (1984)
British power-pop at its apex.
23.) R.E.M. â€“ Murmur (1982)
24.) Japan – Tin Drum (1982)
David Sylvian’s tribute to Asia and pretentiousness. And keyboards.
25.) Robyn Hitchcock â€“ Element of Light (1986)
Best album by the Syd Barrett who didn’t go nuts.