Pitchfork, November 20, 2002

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Pitchfork

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Top 100 albums of the 80s


Pitchfork staff

It's said that the 1980s are responsible for the worst fashion, fads, and music of any decade of the 20th century. But as we see the decade recycled and updated with post-millennial minimalism, it's becoming clear that the 1980s had more to offer than we've given them credit for. As the calendar left the classless earthtones and polyester of the 1970s behind, musicians looked to the future for inspiration in new genres. With this feature, Pitchfork seeks to prove that, amidst the smooth-jazz of Kenny G, the vanilla soul of Hall & Oates, and the white-trash hair-rock of Warrant, lay a revolution in sound. It is to the vision and perseverance of many of these artists that we owe the roots of hip-hop, synth-pop, and most notably for this publication, alternative and indie rock. Respect is due.

100. Minor Threat - Out of Step (1984)
99. Gang of Four - Songs of the Free (1982)
98. Cocteau Twins - Treasure (1984)
97. Mekons - The Mekons Rock 'N' Roll (1989)
96. Rites of Spring - Rites of Spring (1985)
95. Duran Duran - Rio (1982)
94. Meat Puppets - II (1983)
93 David Bowie - Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)
92. Kate Bush - Hounds of Love (1985)
91. X - Los Angeles (1980)
90. Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking (1988)
89. Boredoms - Soul Discharge (1989)
88. Spacemen 3 - Playing with Fire (1989)
87. Prince - Dirty Mind (1980)
86. The Police - Ghost in the Machine (1981)
85. Paul Simon - Graceland (1986)
84. ESG - Come Away with ESG (1983)
83. Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring (1986)
82. The Fall - Perverted by Language (1983)
81. Cocteau Twins - Blue Bell Knoll (1988)
80. Hüsker Dü - New Day Rising (1985)
79. Manuel Göttsching - E2-E4 (1981)
78. They Might Be Giants - Lincoln (1989)
77. The Smiths - Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
76. The dB's - Stands for Decibels (1981)
75. Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded (1987)
74. Mekons - Fear & Whiskey (1985)
73. Coil - Horse Rotorvator (1987)
72. Meat Puppets - Up on the Sun (1985)
71. Replacements - Pleased to Meet Me (1987)

70 - Elvis Costello - Trust

Trust album cover small.jpg

This is one of Costello's earliest attempts to mix and match genres: the fourteen tracks are all over the map, with country, rockabilly, drippingly melodramatic piano ballads, and of course, the modern and popular strains of "Clubland". Unlike some of his later experiments, every song works and every stretch is justified: his sharp pop hooks and perfect melodies never miss. The lyrics chart one disaster after another ("white knuckles on black and white skin"), but the upbeat music helps you through it; and the tinge of regret in "New Lace Sleeves" comes away glowing. Plus, dig the shades. His future's so bright! --Chris Dahlen


69. The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms (1980)
68. Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense (1984)
67. The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy & The Lash (1985)
66. The Dukes of Stratosphear - Psonic Psunspot (1987)
65. The Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight (Armageddon; 1980)
64. Television Personalities - ...And Don't the Kids Just Love It (1981)
63. Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth (1980)
62. R.E.M. - Reckoning (1984)
61. Nurse with Wound - Homotopy to Marie (1982)
60. Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska (1982)
59. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction - (1987)

58 - Elvis Costello - Imperial Bedroom

IB album cover small.jpg

Costello's famed collaboration with Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick came at a tumultuous time for the earnest rock and roller. With his marriage on the rocks and journalists touting a tryst with legendary NY groupie Bebe Buell, Imperial Bedroom marks Elvis Costello's most personal investment, an unflinching examination of fidelity, trust and the dishonesty of role-playing. He front-loaded the album with the most ambitious song he'd recorded to that point, explosive as the crashing thunderclap that introduces its bridge. To this day, the complicated layering and full bars overlapping in "Beyond Belief" make for an almost psychedelic listening experience, to say nothing of its astounding verse. Costello was already well-established as a master lyricist, but Imperial Bedroom makes clear he was not fucking around this time: "Charged with insults and flattery / Her body moves with malice / Do you have to be so cruel to be callous?" --Chris Ott


57. Pixies - Come On Pilgrim (1987)
56. King Crimson - Discipline (1981)
55. The Police - Synchronicity (1983)
54. Big Black - Songs about Fucking (1987)
53. Mission of Burma - Signals, Calls & Marches (1981)
52. Eric B. & Rakim - Paid in Full (1987)
51. Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man (1988)
50. Spacemen 3 - The Perfect Prescription (1987)
49. Mission of Burma - Vs. (1982)
48. R.E.M. - Document (1987)
47. John Zorn - Naked City (1989)
46. XTC - English Settlement (1982)
45. Prince - Sign 'O' The Times (1987)
44. Kraftwerk - Computer World (1981)
43. Run-DMC - Raising Hell (1986)
42. Cowboy Junkies - The Trinity Session (1988)
41. Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill (1986)
40. Dinosaur Jr. - You're Living All Over Me (1987)
39. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)
38. The Cure - Disintegration (1989)
37. The Replacements - Tim (1985)
36. Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes (1983)
35. N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton (1988)
34. Talk Talk - Spirit of Eden (1988)
33. The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour (1982)
32. Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade (1984)
31. Sonic Youth - EVOL (1986)
30. U2 - The Joshua Tree (1987)
29. The Replacements - Let It Be (1984)
28. New Order - Power, Corruption & Lies (1983)
27. Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)

26 - Elvis Costello - Get Happy!!

GH album cover small.jpg

Like something out of a Nick Hornby novel, a British music geek proves that he "gets" soul music. Elvis Costello leads the Attractions through twenty tracks that burst the seams of the original vinyl. At the time, Costello still wrote his lyrics almost entirely in puns and double-entendres -- "love for tender", or "'til I step on the brake to get out of her clutches" -- but the music makes it weightless. The band is giddy, especially Steve Nieve, as Costello slings his tightest set of material ever. Even covers like Sam & Dave's "I Can't Stand Up (For Falling Down)" blend right in. --Chris Dahlen


25. Black Flag - Damaged (1981)
24. Gang of Four - Solid Gold (1981)
23. The Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy (1985)
22. My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything (1988)
21. Brian Eno & David Byrne - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981)
20: This Heat - Deceit (1981)
19. Public Image, Ltd. - Second Edition (1980)
18. De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
17. Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)
16. Galaxie 500 - On Fire (1989)
15. XTC - Skylarking (1986)
14. Sonic Youth - Sister (1987)
13. The Fall - This Nation's Saving Grace (1985)
12. Prince & The Revolution - Purple Rain (1984)
11. Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones (1983)
10. Joy Division - Closer (1980)
09. Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
08. Tom Waits - Rain Dogs (1985)
07. Pixies - Surfer Rosa (1988)
06. The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead (1986)
05. R.E.M. - Murmur (1983)
04. Pixies - Doolittle (1989)
03. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique (1989)
02. Talking Heads - Remain in Light (1980)
01. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (1987)

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Pitchfork, November 20, 2002


Pitchfork's Top 100 albums of the 80s includes Get Happy!! (26), Imperial Bedroom (58) and Trust (70).



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