[originally posted May 20th, 2002]
When the prattle about an '80s revival was frequently making the rounds among the pseudo hipster youth, our good friend and frequent "5" collaborator Greg Casseus took to stating the following: "Children, we were there; it wasn't all that". Truer words were never spoken.
In light of this we have compiled a list of albums that made the era of spandex, Max Headroom and wine coolers a bit more bearable.
Some of them are probably benchmarks of your respective collections, while others you may have forgotten or for whatever reason never got to experience in the first place. A few are essential musical artifacts of the time and others just personal favorites, but they all are very special to us.
20 FROM THE '80s (in alphabetical order by artist):
1- AC/DC Back In Black [Atlantic-1980]
Where Black Sabbath meets Chuck Berry and producer Mutt Lange earns his stripes. When it came time for them to do their own 'Black' album, you know Metallica and producer Bob Rock paid very close attention to this one.
2- MIGUEL BOSE XXX [WEA Latina-1987]
Spain's pop monarch is an intensely charismatic and talented figure with forays into the worlds of art and film. Unlike the man himself, this album's production hasn't aged very well but the songs have maintained the airy, elegant richness they've always had.
3- STEWART COPELAND The Rhythmatist [A&M-1985]
Unlike his Police-like work under the Klark Kent moniker, the sophisticated pop of Animal Logic or his excursions into opera, this a worldbeat record. And what a record it is: a joyous, earthy collection of songs that reflect and underline Copeland's love for the music of Africa and the Middle East. And percussion of course. By the way, we almost went with Copeland's soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 film Rumble Fish.
4- THE CHURCH Starfish [Arista-1987]
Ah, the days when alternative rock was truly a whole other alternate musical universe and albums like this were special little jewels on the periphery of the lowest common denominator sludge. Still is, as a matter of fact.
5- THE CURE Disintegration [Elektra-1989]
"Pictures of You", "Closedown", "Fascination Street", "Untitled"...undoubtedly The Cure's greatest album-length achievement...
6- PETER GABRIEL self-titled [Mercury-1980]
Quite possibly his very best and one of the most pop friendly art rock records ever made. Newly remastered in 2002.
7- 440 Soplando [Audiolab-1984]
(re-released as: JUAN LUIS GUERRA & 440 El Original 440 [WEA Latina-1990])
Dominican jazz guitarist Juan Luis Guerra's dream of a tropical Manhattan Transfer came true on his debut album. The 1990 release is the CD version. Currently out of print.
8- GUNS 'N' ROSES Appetite For Destruction [Geffen-1987]
Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Just as hard rock was divided between the cheesy hair bands (Winger, Warrant, Poison, etc) and the ultra-heavy Metallica-Slayer-Megadeth contingent, along comes GnR with punk attitude, Aerosmith-like swagger and a truckload of killer tunes. Even the filler on this one rocks.
9- MINISTRY The Land of Rape and Honey [Sire-1988]
Loud, uncompromising, relentless and intensely powerful. Everything an industrial record should be. Right, Trent?
10- THE POLICE Zenyatta Mondatta [A&M-1980]
Together with Regatta de Blanc (1979) this is the quintessential 'Police sound' that many have imitated but never equaled.
11- THE PRETENDERS self-titled [Sire-1980]
Way before Chrissie Hynde went Air Supply on us—and transferred her aggression to animal rights activism—she and her original co-horts were indeed a pretty rockin' outfit. This is proof.
12- PUBLIC ENEMY It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back [Def Jam-1987]
The only rap album from which we can recite whole chunks of rhymes effortlessly. PE does not get much respect from the newer citizens of the hip-hop nation, unfortunately.
13- LOU REED New York [Sire-1989]
A harsh but accurate musical snapshot of the New York of the late '80s by the man who has chronicled his hometown in song like no one ever has—or probably will.
14- MIKE STERN Upside Downside [Atlantic-1986]
Mr. "Chops of Doom" gained worldwide solo recognition with this one. Jazz fluidity, rock sensibility and great tunes from the one-time Miles Davis guitarist. Contains legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius' last studio performance.
15- DAVID SYLVIAN Gone To Earth [Virgin-1986]
Engagingly beautiful and mesmerizing ethereal pop. And like good jazz, meant to be heard at night. Extra points for being a killer soundtrack for sex.
16- 'TIL TUESDAY Voices Carry [Epic-1985]
Yeah, it is kinda cheesy and the production is terribly dated but there are in fact some very cool tunes on this baby. Aimee Mann on bass and vocals.
17- TIN MACHINE self-titled [EMI-1989]
Predating by two whole years the guitar-based explosion that roared out of Seattle—and probably the last time he was ahead of the musical curve—Bowie and co. let loose on this lithe, loose and loud batch of garage-blues tunes like nobody's business.
18- U2 The Unforgettable Fire [Island-1985]
The maiden voyage of the U2-Eno-Lanois triumvirate took the band to a place where they could a give a more sympathetic musical landscape to their burgeoning worldview.
19- SUZANNE VEGA Solitude Standing [A&M-1987]
One of the most beautiful collection of songs—not to mention voices—we've ever heard. Salud, Ms. Vega.
20- XTC Oranges & Lemons [Geffen-1989]
If the critically praised Skylarking (1987) is their Sgt. Pepper's then this is their 'White Album': a sprawling collection of songs that range from the silly to the sublime. And everything in between.