Treble’s Best Albums of the ’80s: Part Two

Best of the 80s - part 2

1988


10. Jane’s Addiction — Nothing’s Shocking (Warner Bros.)

If you get me to start talking about music, it’s inevitable that I’ll mention my older sister. She was coming of age during the late ’80s and early ’90s and her listening habits formed my tastes in music. It’s no coincidence that bands that I heard coming out of her room are some of my favorite bands today: The Replacements, Nirvana, Violent Femmes, Hüsker Dü, etc. One album that she played frequently was Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking. I remember looking at the album cover and being, for lack of a better word, shocked by the bare breasts and thinking “this is so weird.” Looking at the cover now, I think that Perry Farrell couldn’t have designed a better cover for this album. It’s attention grabbing, daring, audacious, raw and just a little overblown and pretentious, all which you could say about the album itself. – Jackie Im

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9. R.E.M. — Green (Warner Bros.)

On Green, long gone are Michael Stipe’s mumblings from the days of Murmur. Stipe’s vocals leap to the foreground, leading the way for Peter Buck, who had since honed the jangle of his Byrds-inspired guitar work. Besides spawning two massive singles, the anthemic “Stand” and the infectious “Orange Crush,” Green also allowed the band to experiment with Buck’s mandolin in the delicate “You Are The Everything” and “Hairshirt” (leading eventually to the hugely successful mandolin-led “Losing My Religion” from Out Of Time). – Mars Simpson

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8. Talk Talk — Spirit of Eden (EMI)

The first time I encountered Spirit of Eden I was 19. I got a battered copy from a public library and was a little baffled. The noise sounded warm but didn’t grab me. Frankly, it sounded like a lot of contemporary bands I’d already heard with no immediacy to force my index finger away. I hadn’t the heart to think bad thoughts, and something in my head (gut/same thing?) was telling me that it should be me with the inferiority complex. This was some slightly alien tasteful kitchenware, rather than a progressive vegetable. Nonetheless, I went back to ill-harboured revenge fantasies about customers. – Thomas Lee

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7. Dinosaur Jr. — Bug (SST)

The last vestiges of the dinosaurs are all but extinct, a few creatures here and there showing obvious evolutionary adaptations from the originals, the last few signs of a remarkable age. One can learn quite a lot studying the Dinosaurs, and one would have thought, considering their unique abilities, that they would have roamed the earth forever, but as Yeats said, Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. And thus, Bug came to be the Dinosaur’s last album from the original trio. Well, what did you think I was talking about? – Terrance Terich

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6. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds — Tender Prey (Mute)

Tender Prey seems like a story or chronicle in some way and from the beginning of the album a dark storm cloud begins to brew, but it is isn’t until the fifth track, “Mercy” to where it begins to drizzle with Blixa Bargeld’s shivery slide guitar and Wolf’s backing vocals. From numbers like the Blind Willie Johnson inspired “City of Refuge” onward, a state of a bleak Western hamlet cut from the cloth of Ennio Morricone is put forth most notably with all the gooey organ licks making Tender Prey tantamount to a sonically ingested drug which can numb even the most crippling of emotional pain. – Chris Pacifico

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5.The Sugarcubes — Life’s Too Good (Elektra)

Without being attracted to bright, catchy colors, I might have never discovered the Sugarcubes during their time together. The cover art to Life’s Too Good with its bright neon green colors, and black and hot pink lettering was what drew me in. I was only 11 at the time, and listening to this band that I had never heard of before was strange, especially after hearing the song, “Fucking In Rhythm & Sorrow.” I have never heard such wild and catchy lyrics as “thread worms on a string/keeps spiders in her pocket/collects fly wings in a jar/scrubs horse flies/and pinches them on a line.” I was mesmerized by the song “Birthday” and “Cowboy” and would listen to them frequently. I loved the lyrics even if I didn’t understand them fully. And even now, I will listen to the lyrics, and visualize happy, strange images in my head. – Ayn Averett


4. My Bloody Valentine — Isn’t Anything (Sire)

The first pairing of Bilinda Butcher’s airy vocals and Kevin Shields’ meticulous and bittersweet songwriting, Isn’t Anything is a brilliant breakthrough made of equal parts noise and amorphous light. On their second album, My Bloody Valentine severed ties with its more goth-tinged earlier work and began its first steps into shoegazer, a territory that the band would eventually conquer and, arguably, remain untouched. – Hubert Vigilla

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3. Public Enemy — It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (Def Jam)

The cast was the same, Chuck D as the “Messenger of Prophecy,” Flav as the “Cold Lamper,” X as the “Assault Technician” and Professor Griff as the “Minister of Information” along with the Nation of Islam following dance team, the Security of the First World, or the S1W. The message was somewhat different. PE used its sheer lyrical power to educate its listeners, but knew that every message had to be balanced with entertainment value. Flavor Flav was the court jester who usually filled that role, the hype man to Chuck’s political machine, but so too did Terminator X, with beats and samples taken from jazz and rock with equal flair. – Terrance Terich

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2. Sonic Youth — Daydream Nation (Blast First – Enigma)

Few people can come to an agreement over which of Sonic Youth’s albums are the best. Some prefer the abrasive melodies of Goo and Dirty, others like the spacious experimentalism of A Thousand Leaves, and others still prefer the freeform compositions of their SYR output. One thing never changes, though—we all can collectively agree that Daydream Nation is an unparalleled masterpiece in brave new sonic worlds, and it may be directly or indirectly responsible for hundreds, maybe thousands of bands. Hell, DGC wouldn’t have had half their roster without Sonic Youth jumping from the indies, and seeing as this was their last great independent release, well, that pretty much says it all right there, doesn’t it? – Jeff Terich

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1.The Pixies — Surfer Rosa (4AD)

Frank Black didn’t do a whole lot of what you could call singing back in the early days. He yelped, shouted, moaned, screamed and hollered his way through the band’s first proper full-length, the Steve Albini engineered Surfer Rosa with a frightening ferocity, and a dark, dark sense of humor. His lyrics were such that only the most fearsome and aggressive melodies could possibly back them, so in that regard, this album is a complete success. For a band that liked it so raw, both lyrically and musically, it’s a wonder that Surfer Rosa is so much fun. But it only makes sense; you can only have this good of a time when being completely uninhibited. – Jeff Terich

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