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

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Best of the 80s - part 1


X - Under the Big Black Sun 10. X — Under the Big Black Sun

With all due respect to their incredible debut, Los Angeles, it is Under the Big Black Sun on which X transcends their LA punk roots and solidifies them as a truly great band. The story of Under the Big Black Sun is a tragic one. Before recording, Cervenka learned that her sister had been killed by a drunk driver. It is a cliché to say that pain begats great art but a cliché wouldn’t be a cliché if there weren’t some truth behind it. – Molly B. Eichel

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Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five - The Message 9. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five — The Message
(Sugar Hill)

Looking at the cover to The Message provides an overview of the entire album. You’ve got Grandmaster Flash, the Furious Five and Duke Bootee looking fresh—striking a pose on the street as if this brief bit of posturing were done while en route to a B-boy party—while in the background you’ve got glimpses of urban decay best depicted by the torn up storefront sign. It’s an eclectic and solid album all the way through that epitomizes all that’s great about old school hip-hop, but it’s the combination of the party atmosphere and urban decay that makes The Message an important creative social statement for everyone involved. – Hubert Vigilla

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Prince - 1999 8. Prince — 1999
(Warner Bros.)

Appreciation of Prince is always more fully rendered by the fluid movement of bodies. The clumsy groping of language seems particularly ill adapted to the task. 1999 demands to be expressed visually and physically. It has crossed my mind that I should simply depict the movements, fluid to the imagination of their purveyors, of a group of people in a dimmed living room, all of them slightly licentious with intoxication, all of them feeling the groove that is 1999. – Tyler Parks

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Duran Duran - Rio 7. Duran Duran — Rio

While their debut contained a trio of hit singles in “Planet Earth,” “Girls on Film” and “Is There Something I Should Know,” it was Rio that made Duran Duran into superstars, teen idols and music video heroes. Rio was actually the first cassette I ever bought with my own money so it holds a special place in my heart. It wasn’t the first album I ever owned; I did have a handful of vinyl records, but the early ’80s heralded the debut of the Walkman and cassettes were all the rage. Unfortunately, the small rectangular plastic case couldn’t well represent the largesse of the biggest ’80s new romantic band in the land, Duran Duran. Rarely does an album cover truly fit the style and attitude within, with maybe only the Clash’s London Calling as the most obvious example, but the Nagel painted cover not only encapsulated the slick new wave of the stylish band, but also the early ’80s in general. – Terrance Terich

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The Clash - Combat Rock 6. The Clash — Combat Rock

Combat Rock, a short and rather succinct effort in comparison to Sandinista!s self-censorship-be-damned complex, is a surprisingly consistent and oft-bewildering statement-of-brevity, a far cry from the “sell out” so many punker-than-thou breast beaters proclaimed at the time. And for all the supposed controversy that came with a classic punk band hitting mass airwaves, both hit singles (“Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?” and “Rock The Casbah”) are brilliant pop songs, not only two of the strongest in the Clash’s catalog, but two of the ’80s’ most endearing hits. – Paul Haney

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Mission of Burma - Vs 5. Mission of Burma — Vs.
(Ace of Hearts)

It took Mission of Burma 22 fucking years to follow-up their debut album, Vs. This can be attributed to the band members’ countless other projects with which they became involved, the band itself essentially dissolving. But it may have something to do with the album being a complete statement in and of itself. As guitar, bass, drums, tape loops and unruly, civilly disobedient shouts combine in viscous, caustic motion, something beautiful and horrendously painful forms. One listen to “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” and all other songs become irrelevant. But then again, The Obliterati does kick a lot of ass. – Jeff Terich

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Elvis Costello - Imperial Bedroom 4. Elvis Costello and the Attractions — Imperial Bedroom

It has been said that certain songwriters throughout the twentieth century have been seekers of the end to their own medium—that they are ever in pursuit of the “perfect pop song.” To name only a few of the most obvious: Burt Bacharach and Phil Spector, Ray Davies, Lennon and McCartney, Brian Wilson. Naturally then, there have been some songwriters, often the same that sought the above grail, who since the advent of the album’s supremacy in the 1960s, have been, consciously or not, drawn to the composition of a “perfect pop album.” Elvis Costello is one such songwriter, and more than any other of his albums, Imperial Bedroom reflects this. – Tyler Parks

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Michael Jackson - Thriller 3.Michael Jackson — Thriller

Some would argue that it’s the greatest single recording in the history of music—it still ranks as best selling album of all time—showcasing an artist fully in control of the creative forces rampant in his mind. From beginning to end, Thriller is Michael Jackson’s royal proclamation, the crown of Pop-landia belonged solely to him. From incorporating vastly different influences, the new romantic tinged “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” to the driving rock beat of “Billie Jean,” Michael was able to create a work of art that everyone could access and share. – Dean Steckel

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The Cure - Pornography 2.The Cure — Pornography

Pornography, despite its titular implications, is far from a salacious feast for those in search of stimulation. It’s a horrific experience. Love is hopeless, sex is repulsive, people are unsympathetic and cruel, and life simply isn’t worth living. And yeah, there’s that ever-present drug problem. Robert Smith eventually got comfortable, got married and wrote a few hit singles. To hear Smith on Pornography, though, was to hear him inches from losing it altogether. – Jeff Terich

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Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska 1.Bruce Springsteen — Nebraska

Bruce Springsteen was at a time in his life when he didn’t necessarily need to record demos. He had just come off the double album, The River which spawned yet another hit single for the Boss in “Hungry Heart.” It would be two more years until Bruce would vault old time American rock and roll back into the forefront of American consciousness with Born in the U.S.A. But in between those monumental successes was a quiet, dark and disturbing album, recorded by Springsteen in his basement without the `E’ Street Band. More often than not, reviewers tend to make grandiose statements about artists or albums being essential when they’re really not. But if there is one album that I would surreptitiously place on every CD rack in every home in America, it is Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. – Terrance Terich

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Personal Best

The Birthday Party - Junkyard The Birthday Party – Junkyard

In The Birthday Party’s world, there is no mid-range; there is only bowel trembling low-end and eardrum shattering highs. The sound of The Birthday Party circa 1982 was something like a knife fight between Iggy Pop, Bo Diddley and Suicide—and everybody gets cut. It seems only appropriate, then, that there would be a song titled “6” Gold Blade” on the album, brutally describing a murder over a haunting mix of rockabilly and no-wave, bluesy riffs combining with sledgehammer bass grooves. – Jeff Terich

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English Beat - Special Beat Service English Beat – Special Beat Service

Gone were attacks on Thatcher and her reign over England and in their place, songs about love triangles, kids’ games and various aspects of relationships. With the subject matter, so too did styles change. There were still the requisite sax-heavy skanking numbers and at least one toasting track, but for the most part, the English Beat became a jangly pop confection, and one that made an absolutely exquisite album. Special Beat Service quickly became one of my favorite albums, and still finds its way into my playlist on a regular basis. – Terrance Terich

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