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

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Best of the 80s - part 1


David Bowie - Let's Dance 10. David Bowie — Let’s Dance

After a three-year hiatus, David Bowie had risen from his cocoon and transformed once again to a bleach blonde pompadoured new romantic funkster. Major Tom had bookended the seventies in “Space Oddity” and “Ashes to Ashes,” and the early ’80s gave birth to a new type of Bowie superhero, the Modern Lover. Bowie had influenced an entire batch of musicians that emerged in the early `80s as the new romantics. So, to complete the musical circle of life, Bowie recorded his own new romantic album with the guidance of Nile Rodgers. From Scary Monsters to Let’s Dance, Bowie seemed far less troubled and ready to have a good time, thus the inviting party-like title. – Terrance Terich

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Aztec Camera - High Land Hard Rain 9. Aztec Camera — High Land, Hard Rain
(Sire-Rough Trade)

High Land, Hard Rain is one of those absolutely brilliant debuts, one that showcases an artist with both immediate musical genius and limitless potential. It’s quite rare that I use the term `guitar god,’ as I find it too often thrown about without merit, but Roddy Frame, at only 19 when High Land, Hard Rain was released, truly deserves the title. His acoustic stylings go from jazz to pop to Spanish flavors with each song, and each note is intricately played and placed. His lyrics were smart enough to be considered second only to Elvis Costello. His voice was deep, slightly nasal and with just a little Scottish accent, years before Britpop would become the mode du jour. – Terrance Terich

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Echo and The Bunnymen - Porcupine 8. Echo & The Bunnymen — Porcupine

The Bunnymen’s decision to keep things a little cynical, or at least sensible, despite making music to move mountains, has been a defining characteristic. They’ve never quite crossed over to super band status, and one senses that they couldn’t punch the air without a telling smile. Yet they’ve been up there, with company friendly songs, an available, endearing alternative on the festival and radio circuit. Both Chris Martin and a typical smirking independent critic would make a strong case for their existence. Porcupine embodies the things the Bunnymen do best. – Thomas Lee

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The Police - Synchronicity 7. The Police — Synchronicity

By the end of their career, The Police were not only at the height of popularity, but at an artistic peak as well. Synchronicity, the band’s fifth and final album, was their most finely crafted pop album, loaded with hit singles that, despite appeasing the masses, represented their height of artistic creativity. No longer the brash young new wavers from the UK that churned out “Fallout” in 1978, The Police evolved into one of the biggest bands in the world, creating universal anthems while remaining smart and musically adventurous. Shortly afterward, they went on indefinite hiatus, and as far as we know, that hiatus is still on. – Jeff Terich

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Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes 6. Violent Femmes — Violent Femmes

From the famous day they were discovered playing on a corner in Milwaukee, the Violent Femmes have been undeniably influential on both mainstream and underground music movements. Additionally, their self-titled debut is famous in its minimalist production, creative song structures, and infectious lyrics and tempos. And although the album did not become famous until a decade after its release, its underground popularity in the 1980s ultimately defined the album’s overall influence on music history. To this day, you can’t go a few blocks without meeting someone, anyone, who can recite the lyrics and imitate the percussive beats of “Blister in the Sun.” – Anna Gazdowicz

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Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues 5. Talking Heads — Speaking in Tongues

Speaking In Tongues is full of the fractured disco hinted at by the poppier side of Remain in Light and more fully realized on bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz’s side project the Tom Tom Club. The split with Eno as a producer stripped the band of the harsher rhythms that marked their previous collaborations with the former Roxy Music member, making Speaking in Tongues a much smoother, but no less potent, listen. – Molly B. Eichel

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U2-War 4. U2 — War

Before the ballads that would come to define their sound, before Bono made a mockery of the Spanish language and before they enlightened Dubya as to the African plight and way before those ridiculous fockin’ sunglasses, U2 was a rock band, churning out cathartic pieces of dynamite that teemed with politic undertones. War, the group’s third album, would come to stand as their opus and a creative benchmark that had not been reached in the music scene of Europe since London Calling. – Kevin Falahee

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Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones 3. Tom Waits — Swordfishtrombones

I have no idea what the hell a swordfishtrombone is. Maybe the gin-soaked boy knows. Maybe it’s one of the soldier’s things. Perhaps it grows underground Frank may have encountered one during his wild years, while on shore leave, or back in Johnsburg, Illinois. It could be at the end of trouble’s braids or pumped full of thirteen shells from a thirty-ought six. Maybe it’s in the neighborhood in a town with no cheer. Only one thing’s for sure: it’s one of Tom Waits’ finest albums, and the initial descent toward bizarre boho experimentalism that would soon become his trademark. – Jeff Terich

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REM - Murmur 2. R.E.M. — Murmur

If Murmur was intended to be what its title suggested, it failed at being a bit of throwaway sound in the halls of college radio and ’80s indie rock. Though when looking at and listening to R.E.M.’s debut – that seminal work that birthed alternative music, a phrase whose meaning has been used in recent years to refer to any and all bands – you can understand the aptness of the title rather than its irony. – Hubert Vigilla

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New Order - Power Corruption and Lies 1. New Order — Power, Corruption & Lies

There are dark themes on Power, Corruption and Lies, and there are melancholy melodies. But despite these shadowy moments, New Order’s second album was the first in which they truly distanced themselves from Joy Division and released strong, cohesive statement all their own. Inspired in part by Kraftwerk while still retaining some of the post-punk guitar work that marked their early singles, Power was New Order’s first perfect album, a triumphant and joyous statement of artiness and danceability; it’s the thinking man’s dance record and the dance music fan’s cred-maker. It’s one of the hippest albums on our whole entire list, and despite being electronica in its infancy, absolutely timeless. – Jeff Terich

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Personal Best

Tears for Fears - The Hurting Tears for Fears – The Hurting

The Hurting would be Tears for Fears’ most collaborative effort. Curt and Roland nearly equal each other in the lead vocal department with the opening title track featuring both as the frontmen. With each progressive album, TFF would become more and more Roland’s brainchild as he agonized over every nuance and dominated the microphone. I am hard pressed to think of any other band that featured one singer on every successful pop single, with resulting albums favoring the `other’ singer. Hit songs “Mad World,” “Pale Shelter” and “Change” were all sung by Smith, and he is only given one major song to front on Songs from the Big Chair. How that worked out is beyond me. – Terrance Terich

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