Essential Albums of the 1980s


Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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48 Responses

  1. Joe Carter says:

    Noted Creed apologist Joe Carter

    I’ve started putting that on my CV. ; )Report

  2. Ian M. says:

    This would be to convince *my* kid the 80s had good music. The linked post has The Smiths at the top, which is a good sign.

    Zen Arcade by Husker Du
    Paul’s Boutique by The Beastie Boys
    Synchronicity by The Police
    Starfish by The Church
    I Against I by Bad Brains
    Collection I by The Misfits
    Love by The Cult
    Sweet Dreams by The Eurythmics
    The Lion and the Cobra by Sinead O’Connor
    …And Justice For All by Metallica
    Doolittle by The Pixies
    Double Nickles on the Dime by The Minutemen
    Once Upon a Time by Simple Minds

    The post is about “non-obvious” albums, I think the Smiths are pretty obvious so I just put the first stuff that came to mind.Report

  3. Clint says:

    Strongly agree with the Doolittle and Randy Travis shoutouts. And from the “so thats who ________ are ripping off” file, i’d suggest Operation Ivy’s Energy and Gorilla Biscuits’ Start Today.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    Concrete Blonde got me through a rough evening or two.

    As did Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry”… though those were different kinds of ‘rough’.Report

  5. JosephFM says:

    Til Tuesday Welcome Home and Everything’s Different Now
    The Psychedelic Furs Talk Talk Talk
    Magazine The Correct Use of Soap
    Japan Tin Drum
    The Chameleons (UK) Script of the Bridge

    and anything from Donnie Darko.Report

  6. Aaron says:

    Wait, when did Peter Gabriel, the Smiths and Dire Straits become non-obvious? Did I miss that conversation?

    I’m going to have to go with Public Image, Ltd, Second Edition/Metal Box; Dinosaur Jr., You’re Living All Over Me; Spacemen 3, The Perfect Prescription; and They Might Be Giants, Lincoln, in no particular order.Report

    • Aaron in reply to Aaron says:

      Oh, and I completely forgot: Kraftwerk, Computer World. That album is unbelievable.Report

    • JosephFM in reply to Aaron says:

      Oh those are all great! But yeah, I had that same reaction.Report

    • Nathan P. Origer in reply to Aaron says:

      You know, while I agree in re P.G. and Dire Straits, I’m not actually convinced that, anymore, the Smiths are well-enough known not to be on the list. It’s a sad point, but, nonetheless, an accurate one, I fear.Report

      • JosephFM in reply to Nathan P. Origer says:

        Where do you draw that conclusion from?

        I heard “How Soon Is Now?” at a college bar last night. And not an especially hipsterish one either, and it wasn’t 80s night.

        I know kids still listen to them – if nothing else than thanks to the prominent role that their music still plays among those still alientated from their contemporary popular culture as I was. The Cure fall into that same situation – they’re still cult-popular.Report

        • Primarily from my own experiences, to wit, that outside of indie/hipster/scene kids, the Smiths are unheard of — excepting, perhaps, as you note, “How Soon Is Now?”. Whereas I’m in complete agreement regarding the Cure and the Pixies, I’m still not convinced about the Smiths. In 2005, when I was a senior in college, I saw all three (well, Morrissey, playing many Smiths tunes) over the course of four months. Aside from a few indie/hipster/scene kids (groups upon the fringes of which I found myself at the time), the crowd at the Morrissey show was noticeably older, but both the Pixies (at Chicago’s Aragon) and the Cure (at Curiosa) drew younger audiences.Report

  7. joeyhepatitis says:

    The db’s – Stands for Decibels
    The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace
    Sonic Youth – Sister since Daydream Nation is pretty obvious
    Fugazi – 13 Songs
    Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
    My Bloody Valentine – LovelessReport

    • Ian M. in reply to joeyhepatitis says:

      Loveless was 1991. I thought about the MBV “You Made Me Realise” single, but it’s not really an album and their early album (“Isn’t Anything”) isn’t really essential. But My Bloody Valentine would be high on the list of bands I would introduce my children to.
      Kudos on the Sonic Youth decision, I didn’t mention Daydream Nation for the same reason.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    Marillion (Fish era) was spectacularly good.

    The quintessential “oh, *THAT’S* who sings that!” band.

    Kayleigh, Punch and Judy, Sugar Mice… Don’t listen to this group when you’re drinkin’ unless you’re hoping to end up a moist puddle.Report

  9. Ian M. says:

    Kicking myself for not mentioning it in the first list:
    Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion TechnicianReport

  10. Seriously, how does he not have the Cure on the list? We all know that “Disintegration is the best album ever!”

  11. Dave PV says:

    You guys are old. When do we do the 90’s?Report

  12. Sam M says:

    “You guys are old.”

    Ha! You, too.

    Last group of undergrads I taught were born AFTER Nevermind was releaed.

    Not that they just don’t remember it. They did not exist.Report

  13. Ian M. says:

    Had to look it up, but making it into the 80s by 6 months – Bleach by Nirvana.Report

  14. Ian M says:

    Here’s a question, do you think Joy Division is essential 80s or 70s? They certainly came to prominence in the 80s, and Ian Curtis committed suicide in May 1980 so they didn’t make it far into the 80s. But their most listened to album is Substance which is a compilation released in 1988. I think it’s essential 80s, others?Report

    • JosephFM in reply to Ian M says:

      Its a thorny issue, as the late 70s underground blends pretty seamlessly into the 80s – that’s also why I was unsure as to whether to include the original-lineup Human League’s Travelogue on my list above – it came out in 1980, and sounded little like when the reconstituted band would become famous for.

      That said, given how many bands have been influenced by and/or ripped off JD over the last decade, and how they still consistently top critics lists (in the UK at least), I’d imagine they’re be filed under obvious either way.Report