Thursday, October 27, 2005

The 80's Really Didn't Suck Musically

Now PC's done gone and pissed me off and he probably did it on purpose. He posted his Top 10 Albums of the 80's on his journal and he HAS NO DAMN WAY TO COMMENT! I'm sure he did it on purpose - I can just see him now, thinking as he types:
I'll start off with a couple that I know Tony'll like to lull him into a false sense of complacency then I'll zing a couple in there out of left field that'll get his fingers itching to type and then he'll realize... HEY, NO COMMENTS! Hee-hee!! It'll be great!
Bastard. And yeah, we DO live in a Plutonium-centric universe. He's taunting me, I tellya!

So... The Pretenders? Booyah!! He takes the opening tip down the court for a slam dunk! Not just one of the top 10 of the 80's - one of the top 10 ever. Whether you give me 10, 5 or just 3 albums to take with me into exile on a desert island, this one's coming.

XTC-Black Sea? Absolutely!! No question they're in the Top 10 for the decade. Peter Gabriel's 3rd album titled "Peter Gabriel"? Yeah, I think so.... I think. Maybe. Or would I go with So? Let's see what else...

R.E.M.'s Murmur and U2's Joshua Tree - well, actually I'd reverse those and go later into R.E.M. 's catalog with Life's Rich Pageant and earlier with U2's War, but certainly valid choices. Ah, now here's where it gets interesting. First he bends the no-two-albums-by-the-same-band rule by having both a Robyn Hitchcock AND a Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians disk on the list. Sorry, I don't share Peter's love of Mr. Hitchcock - I actually think (and I know PC thinks I'll burn in hell for this) that he's boring. Off the list. Pixies? Frankly (get it?!) I can't stand 'em. No kidding - never got 'em. That leaves Elvis Costello's King of America, an absolutely stellar album but I think I'd go with Trust instead. Or maybe Get Happy!. No, Trust. And I have to say that it's interesting that neither of us picked Imperial Bedroom...

I skipped the Billy Bragg. I like Billy Bragg. But I can't see any of his albums in my top 10.

So where I thought we'd be in agreement on a good chunk of these, we're actually together on just 20%.

So here's mine:

The Pretenders - The Pretenders (1980)
XTC - Black Sea (1980)
R. E. M. - Life's Rich Pageant (1986)
Elvis Costello - Trust (1981)
U2 - War (1983)
and here's where we start to diverge...

The Clash - London Calling (1980)
So PC is probably sputtering that LC was actually released in mid-December 1979. Well, so what? Nobody really heard it until 1980 (and I don't think it was released in the States until 1980 anyway). If he gets two Robyn Hitchcock entries, I get this one - one of the greatest rock and roll albums of any time.

X - Los Angeles (1980)
Continuing on the rock and roll trend, this album (and the previous one) gave lie to the idea that punk bands were full of talentless shouters. Both X and the Clash very quickly transcended any sort of boundaries anyone wanted to set around them but this one is straight ahead sonic ecstasy.

The Replacements - Let It Be (1984)
I'll admit to being late to the 'Mats bandwagon - band guys at the club were raving about them before I'd heard them, but one listen to I Will Dare and I was hooked but good. Sure there's some crap on the disc (that's part of it's charm) but Unsatisfied and Answering Machine are two of the most emotionally wrenching rock songs ever written. Defiantly trashy but brilliantly written.

David Bowie - Scary Monsters (1980)
This is just a stellar album - the last great disc from the Thin White Duke. It rocks hard, it holds its own with anything from the punks and new wavers of the time and it's more thoroughly listenable than most of his earlier discs without resorting to the less challenging, more pop sounds of his next few releases. One of the tests of any great album is how it sounds later and 25 years on, this one still sounds fucking awesome.

Talking Heads - Remain in Light (1980)
I started to leave this one in the honorable mention list just because I seem to be focused on 1980 (this is number 6) but I realized a) it really is a small cut above the others I'm about to list and b) I could actually put together a credible Top 10 of the 80's with ONLY albums from 1980 (add the Peter Gabriel album from PCs list, Devo's Freedom of Choice, Pete Townshend's Empty Glass and Squeeze's Argybargy). Like the Bowie album, Remain in Light was really a bridge between the earlier, more experimental music of More Songs and Fear of Music and the more pop sounds of later Talking Heads releases (that's not to take anything away from brilliant later albums like Little Creatures). Once in a Lifetime spoke of an uneasiness with, if not alienation from, the suburbs that most of us were headed for and did so with lines that have become part of our popular culture. But the first side of the album (with only three songs) was a masterpiece by itself. Same as it ever was.

Honorable Mention (and I wouldn't object if anyone else had these in their top 10):
Squeeze - Argybargy (1980)
English Beat - Special Beat Service (1982)
The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy and the Lash (1985)
Drivin' n' Cryin' - Scarred But Smarter (1986)
Joe Jackson - Night and Day (1982)
Roxy Music - Avalon (1982) - the best make-out album of the decade
The Rolling Stones - Tattoo You (1981) - little special mention of the Stones here - when this album came out, people had been writing the Stones off as geezers who were all washed up (despite the brilliant Some Girls having just come out a couple of years before). It should be noted that in fact Jagger hadn't turned 40 at that time and the Stones had been together only 18 years. U2 has now been together almost 30 years - hell, Green Day put out American Idiot in their 16th year as a band. Our perceptions of rock and roll longevity have changed dramatically, eh?

Almost but no cigar - gave serious consideration to these but each is missing some little something:
Devo - Freedom of Choice (1980)
Pete Townshend - Empty Glass (1980)
ZZ Top - Eliminator (1983)
Psychedelic Furs - Pretty in Pink (1981)
Thomas Dolby - The Golden Age of Wireless (1982)
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980)
Prince - 1999 (1983) / Springsteen - The River (1980) - I put these two together as they were both double albums that had single disc best-albums-ever-recorded hiding inside them.

So, PC, I hope you're satisfied - this has taken me two nights, many walks through my vinyl/CD collections and numerous searches through allmusic.com to compile. I will find a way to get you back...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Fun With The Radio On Grocery Night

It will become obvious that I was doing the shopping myself tonight, as any attempt to station-surf with JennySlash in the car would likely result in broken fingers (mine of course).

Started off promising as 100.7 cranked up Elvis Costello's
What's So Funny ('Bout Peace, Love and Understanding) before I made it out of the neighborhood. If I've got to go do the marketing, pounding away on the steering wheel along with Pete Thomas ain't a bad way to go.

The followup was some whiny shit from the late '90s (why did everybody get so damn whiny at the end of the last decade? What the fuck was there to be whiny about? Whine now, dammit!) so I flipped over to WRDU and an earful of Kansas
Carry On, My Wayward Son which was followed when I came out of Earthfare with Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner. Freaky, freaky high school flashback - I had to look around and make sure I wasn't driving my version of the Vista Cruiser - the 1968 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon that I wired an 8-track and a pair of DYN speakers into as soon as I got my license. It didn't help that I'd just finished watching That 70's Show before leaving the house.

Follow that back on 100.7 with Sarah McLachlan's Possession, my favorite all-time song about obsession and stalking. When she sings
you speak to me in riddles and you speak to me in rhymes
I suspect what he had said was something really cryptic like
get away from me, you crazy bitch! Do the words restraining order mean anything to you?
Still, pretty song.

And finally, one of those wonderfully weird things where you get two stations playing the same song at almost the same time - this time it was the Police's
Every Breath You Take, which was a very clever stalker follow-up to Possession by one station and just one of those coincidences by the other. They were off from each other by about two bars, so by switching back and forth you could double every other line and skip the one in the middle. No, JennySlash would not have been happy...