"democracy is a shitty way to evaluate art"
August 26, 2015 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Pitchfork has released their list of The 200 Best Songs of the 1980s.

skip to the top 20...
And of course it has it's critics.
posted by Theta States (201 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Walkin' With Jesus" at #139 and "It Takes Two" at #138???? I would switch those two around, but other than that the list is perfect.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:23 AM on August 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


The top twenty was very agreeable, but I was sort of lost starting at 200.

Don't know it
Don't know it
Don't know it
Don't know it
Don't know it
Don't know it
Hey, Too $hort!
Don't know it
Don't know it
Don't know it
Don't know it...
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:27 AM on August 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Because it has no country what-so-ever, as a music critic, I have corrected that:

Forty Best Country/Folk/Roots Songs of the 1980s, Because Pitchfork Didn’t Vote on One:
Forever and Ever Amen Randy Travis 1987
80s Ladies KT Oslin 1987
Rosanne Cash 7 Year Ache 1987
Carlene Carter Hearts in TRaction 1983
Sally Timms, Horses, 1980
Dolly Parton 9-5 1980
George Jones, He Stopped Loving Her Today, 1980
kd lang and Roy Orbison, Crying, 1987
The Judds Grandpa Tell Me About the Good Old Days 1985
Hank JR All My Rowdy Friends are Coming Over 1981
Willie Nelson Midnight Rider 1980
Kris Kristofferson The Eagle and the Bear 1989
Sinead O'Connor TRoy 1987
Jean Cougar Jack and Diane, 1983
Alabama 40 Hour Week 1985
Anne Murray Could I Have This Dance 1980
The Oakridge Boys Elvira 1981
Kenny Rogers, Coward of the County, 1980
Ronnie Milsap, Smokey Mountain Rain, 1980
George Strait, All My Exes Live in Texas, 1987
Greg Brown Iowa Waltz 1981
Barbara Mandrell, I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool, 1981
Keith Whitley, When You Say Nothing At All, 1987
Gereformeerde Blues Band,Sit Di Af, 1989
Long Ryders, Ivory Tower, 1984
Gun Club, Death Party, 1983
Blood on the Saddle, When I was A Cowboy,
Robert Earle Keen, No Kinda Dancer, 1984
Steve Earle, Copperhead Road, 1989
The Pogues, Dirty Old Town, 1985
Lyle Lovett, She’s NO Lady, 1989
Buffy St Marie, Up Where We Belong, 1982
DAvid Frizzell and Shelly WEst You're The REason God Made Oklahoma 1981
Crystal Gayle, Till I Gain Control Again, 1989
Vince Gill, Baby That’s Tough, 1987
Marty Stuart, Hillbilly Rock, 1989
Richard Thompson and Linda Thompson, Did she Jump or was She Pushed, 1982
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Fishin in the Dark, 1987
Loudon Wainwright III, Your Mother and I 1989
Los Lobos, Will the Wolf Survive, 1983
posted by PinkMoose at 6:31 AM on August 26, 2015 [39 favorites]


The criticism of the list is more interesting than the list itself of course, because honestly what is there to say about such lists that hasn't been said already.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:32 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


No XTC. "Life Begins At The Hop" is better than half of this list.
posted by thelonius at 6:36 AM on August 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Well, if everything to be said about such lists has already been said, I would expect the criticism to be not interesting at all, given it has been said already.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:37 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fugazi in the top twenty is a step in the right direction, but I can't work out how they had the time and patience to try and order 200 of anything, let alone something so plainly subjective.

Edit: I mean seriously, what do they think they're going to achieve with these lists? A top twenty or even fifty as a talking point is one thing, but Pitchfork's idea that they can somehow condense an entire decade by looking at more items than anyone can concentrate through is so dumb.
posted by opsin at 6:39 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pitchfork is telling me that Hall and Oates' “I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)” is better than every song Elvis Costello released in the 80's - and that includes the entire "Imperial Bedroom" album.
posted by davebush at 6:40 AM on August 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


Hmmm...Interesting list, but it seems to be more of an ad for Apple Music than anything else. If you don't have AM, and your click the link, you'll get a "The item you've requested is not currently available in the U.S. store." error, even though most of the tracks are also available in the iTunes store
posted by Thorzdad at 6:40 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have decided that this list was just designed to make me angry.

Really, this list should be retitled "What was on the radio when I was first trying to get drunk and/or laid," but that's what all these lists are.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:43 AM on August 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Blue Monday was my prediction for #1. I can accept its actual score, though. List seems overly biased toward R & B, especially in the early going.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:44 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


what do they think they're going to achieve with these lists?

You clicked the link, right?
posted by ShutterBun at 6:45 AM on August 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'd like to thank PinkMoose for reminding me to listen to all of those songs, right now. Seriously all of those songs are great. Especially "Seven Year Ache," but especially all of them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:46 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought the top 5 was pretty awesome.
posted by furtive at 6:47 AM on August 26, 2015


Does anyone else born c. 1974 have the thing happen where the songs near the beginning of the decade seem too old for the list (sometimes) and the songs after 1988 seem like they are almost definitely from the 1990s (always)?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:51 AM on August 26, 2015 [29 favorites]


(Basically in my brain, only Purple Rain, Michael Jackson, and New Order happened in the 80s)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:52 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Smiths fans ruin everything.
posted by biffa at 6:52 AM on August 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


Absolutely MCMikeNamara. "Buffalo Stance" was the 80s?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:53 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


thelonius "Life Begins at the Hop" is from 1979, but yeah, list needs Moar XTC. "Generals and Majors", "Senses Working Overtime", basically all of Skylarking...

(Also, I'm pissed there's no DEVO on this list.)
posted by SansPoint at 6:53 AM on August 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


No Def Leppard. No Ratt. No Ozzy, Iron Maiden, or Anthrax. And on and on.

No Thompson Twins, Tom Petty or XTC.

This list should have been titled "Things an Art Media Studies Major at ITT listened to in 1989".
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:54 AM on August 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


I was happily surprised to see Mission of Burma on that list.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:56 AM on August 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


From the Billie Jean entry:

Directed by Steve Barron (who would go on to do A-Ha’s "Take on Me")

I was going to give Pitchfork the benefit of the doubt and assume the entire staff completely forgot about "Take on Me," but nope, someone remembered and still didn't put it in the list.

Yeah, yeah, lists like this are completely subjective and clickbait and they probably purposely included/omitted/arranged certain things in order to get readers to react. I guess it sort of worked: I am not going to share this list on social media, but I am going to go listen to "Take on Me" about a dozen times in a row now.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:56 AM on August 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Pitchfork is telling me that Hall and Oates' “I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)” is better than every song Elvis Costello released in the 80's

You can't go for repeating the same old lines? Just forget about it, say no go.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:57 AM on August 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


"The 80s" in beat music terms ran between 1976 and 1988.

In the future, the calendar will be re-aligned to correct this mild anomaly. Julian, Gregorian, JohnnyRottian
posted by Devonian at 6:58 AM on August 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Once I saw a Yoko Ono song I've never heard of in front of both The Sugarcubes and The Pretenders, I knew I needed to stop reading.
posted by tunewell at 7:00 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Life Begins at the Hop" is from 1979

Well that's a hell of a thing. So is "Message In A Bottle" btw.
posted by thelonius at 7:01 AM on August 26, 2015


That wasn't worth the time it took to load the two pages I bothered with. I really didn't expect much from Pitchfork, and they still disappoint.
posted by inthe80s at 7:10 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


1. Check list
2. See that "I Melt With You" is not on the list
3. Sigh heavily, load up the song on infinite repeat
4. Stop the world
5. ???????
6. PROFIT!
posted by Lucinda at 7:15 AM on August 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Aside from the Arthur Russell, it's all question marks to me until they got to Carly Simon. Why? is indeed a catchy number. Maybe not Top 200 catchy, but, hey. The video for it is the epitome of "I've got the camera for half an hour."
posted by Sys Rq at 7:18 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


No Def Leppard. No Ratt. No Ozzy, Iron Maiden, or Anthrax. And on and on.

I know, but let's not go overboard with praise, I don't think they get it 100% right.
posted by biffa at 7:18 AM on August 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


I'm asking this question honestly: In the dog-eat-dog world of competition for clicks and buzz, do you think this list might be -designed- to leave everyone disappointed?
posted by tunewell at 7:19 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least a song (Once in a Lifetime) from arguably the best album of the decade (Remain in Light) made it on the list.

That alone surprised me!
posted by sutt at 7:22 AM on August 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


"The 80s" in beat music terms ran between 1976 and 1988.

Yeah I wondered why XTC's Making Plans For Nigel wasn't on the list. Had to look it up: came out September 1979.
posted by Theta States at 7:23 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tom Tom Club “Genius of Love”

Gah, I hate this song. I am very much a Talking Heads fan, but this song, I despise. Aboslute worst thing about the Stop Making Sense re-issue.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:31 AM on August 26, 2015


From Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" at 153: From all accounts, New York City was a total shithole in 1982: broken glass everywhere

They really just should have copied and pasted the rest of The Jungle and moved on.
posted by dr_dank at 7:33 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


This list is flawed because they didn't even try to take steps to make sure that all people were going to be happy before they made the list. It's almost like they polled their staff and contributing writers for their favorite songs of the era and tabulated the results. What an awful way to make such a list. How DARE they.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:36 AM on August 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


PinkMoose: Because it has no country what-so-ever, as a music critic, I have corrected that:

No Seven Spanish Angels?? My nine-year-old self is deeply disappointed.
posted by clawsoon at 7:39 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Stuff like this gets me excited to discover and re-discover music. But to be completely objective for a moment, the best song of the 80s, or of any age perhaps, only made it to #20, which makes the whole exercise a bit dinky.
posted by beau jackson at 7:41 AM on August 26, 2015


PinkMoose: Your list does not have any Dwight Yoakam, therefore your list is invalid.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:41 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Interesting to see them include a lot of the house, disco, and NYC leftfield stuff that's been adopted/coopted into the Pitchfork canon in the last decade or so. But none of that seems to crack the top 50, and by the top 20 they at least partly revert to their rockist DNA in the top 20 with the usual "Smiths, Joy Division, Cure".
posted by taromsn at 7:41 AM on August 26, 2015


And if you're going to include Gun Club and the Long Ryders, you need to include Uncle Tupelo.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:43 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


No Def Leppard. No Ratt. No Ozzy, Iron Maiden, or Anthrax. And on and on.

They do have GnR at #41.
posted by clawsoon at 7:44 AM on August 26, 2015


The Chills! Yay! I don't need to look at the rest of the list :)
posted by gaspode at 7:45 AM on August 26, 2015


entropicamericana: "PinkMoose: Your list does not have any Dwight Yoakam, therefore your list is invalid."

Hah. I just finished scanning through that list and immediately thought "what, no Guitars, Cadillacs ...?"
posted by octothorpe at 7:47 AM on August 26, 2015


"Purple Rain," a rock anthem, with all the baggage those words carry, better than "When Doves Cry," a super-cool song strangely bass-free? Oh well. I'll assume this too-long list is OK. I don't know most of these songs. I was immersed in another genre in the 80's.
posted by kozad at 7:48 AM on August 26, 2015


Smiths fans ruin everything.

QFT.

Also, because I cannot break my very long running streak. Nemesis: Shriekback
posted by Sophie1 at 7:50 AM on August 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, but I did look and I was so pleased to see "That's when I reach for my revolver" because Mission of Burma is the best.
posted by gaspode at 7:52 AM on August 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


No Seven Spanish Angels?? My nine-year-old self is deeply disappointed.

Someone asked me what song always makes me cry last weekend and I gave an answer that was only sort of true, because I couldn't think of anything, but THIS! THIS IS THE SONG. "She knew the gun was empty/and she knew could not win"? Gets me every time. It's getting me right now, in my office.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:52 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


They do have GnR at #41.

GnR is terrible, and this is a terrible list, so that make sense. I am suprised, considering the terribleosity of this list, that they also excluded Motley Crue.

And given the epic terriblisimous of the list, it is meet that they also left out Jane's Addiction - I got Nothing's Shocking in 1991, so I always think of it as a 90s album - but it was released in 88. And just a stunning album. I'm sorry I missed it when it came out, but it remains one of my favorites.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:52 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, this overrates The Smiths and underrates The Replacements and that's about all I have to say about it. Also, I agree with the linked critique that the new canonization of N.W.A. is a fad that can't pass quickly enough. "Straight Outta Compton" a better track than "Fight the Power"? That shit's offensive.
posted by Mothlight at 7:54 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Pitchfork is telling me that Hall and Oates' “I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)” is better than every song Elvis Costello released in the 80's - and that includes the entire "Imperial Bedroom" album.

This fact may decrease, or at least distract from, the irritation ever so slightly: At the recording session of "We Are The World," Michael Jackson approached Hall and Oates and confessed to them that he lifted the bass line from "I Can't Go for That" for the song "Billie Jean." (citation)

As for my take on their list, I thank them for reminding me of The Chills "Pink Frost," (which I often described as 'Sort of like Galaxie 500 and Joy Division had a baby') but I find the lack of Men At Work's "It's a Mistake" rather unfortunate.
posted by chambers at 7:55 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, what a shitty format. 20 for each page is alright, having to scroll to read some of the entries isn't. Googled, and someone up on Reddit has the full 200 is list form.

If I was a staffer there, a few artists that should have been there from browsing through my MP3:

Visage - Fade To Grey / The Damned Don't Cry
Durutti Column - Sketch For Summer / Never Known
Gary Numan - We Are Glass
John Foxx - Underpass
OMD - Electricity / Enola Gay / Souvenir / Joan of Arc (Maid or Orleans) / Forever Live and Die (really, I love vintage New Order, but a lot of NO and no OMD?)
The Sound - I Can't Escape Myself / Missiles / Winning / Sense of Purpose
Liaisons Dangereuses - Los Niños Del Parque
Jarre - Magnetic Fields Part 2
Stranglers - Golden Brown
Yazoo - The Situation
Cabaret Voltaire - Sensoria / Blue Heat
Dream Syndicate - Bullet With My Name On It
Jane's Addiction - Ocean Size
Nine Inch Nails - Terrible Lie
MARRS - Pump Up The Volume
Ultravox - Vienna
Chameleons - Mokeyland / Up The Down Escalator
Happy Mondays - WFL / Do It Better / 24 Hour Party People
posted by lmfsilva at 7:58 AM on August 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I was happily surprised to see Mission of Burma on that list.

Me too! Of course, in a perfect world "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" would be in the top 10. Oh well, I guess it split the vote with every other song on Vs.

I would also like to note that they put A Certain Ratio's "Shack Up" at #198 without even mentioning that it's a cover of a 1975 track by Banbarra, which has been sampled by such luminaries as Public Enemy and Dr. Octagon.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 8:05 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whitney Houston in the top 20 but not the Pixies. Yeah, that makes sense.
posted by something something at 8:05 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


They managed to get at least one song each by Metallica and Slayer, so I can't totally hate it.
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:05 AM on August 26, 2015


It's their list, not my list, which is why I like it. Where it misses songs I consider superior, I get to feel smug. Where it mentions little songs that don't usually make it onto lists like this, I get to feel like we're in a complicit little group. And where it mentions really popular, obvious songs, I get to be part of the retro zeitgeist.
posted by maudlin at 8:08 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Oh, and where it mentions songs I haven't heard yet, I get the chance to find something old-new.)
posted by maudlin at 8:09 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was all ready to yell "NO FISH HEADS?!?!?" but that was 1978.

Carry on.
posted by delfin at 8:21 AM on August 26, 2015


Whitney Houston in the top 20 but not the Pixies. Yeah, that makes sense.

Right!!?? It makes total sense. Whitney's the best.
posted by beau jackson at 8:24 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' at number two, I approve. That song is amazing.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:26 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Really, this list should be retitled "What was on the radio when I was first trying to get drunk and/or laid," but that's what all these lists are.

Liquid Liquid was on the radio when you were first trying to get drunk and/or laid?
posted by monkeymike at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


davebush: Pitchfork is telling me that Hall and Oates' “I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)” is better than every song Elvis Costello released in the 80's - and that includes the entire "Imperial Bedroom" album.

Well, “I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)” is one of my favorite songs, and none of Elvis Costello's are, so...

Although I think I might prefer this version "I Can't Go for That" by PJ Pooterhoots.
posted by univac at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2015


I wonder how many of the people responsible for this list lived through the 1980s. So much of the list (especially the bottom half) seems to have been constructed by working backward from later music, finding sources of samples and influences. (Obligatory whine: no Police? No Paul Simon? ONE Peter Gabriel song amid a list that has multiple efforts from Tears for Fears and Janet Jackson?)
posted by Daily Alice at 8:31 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's a little disturbing how easily I am conflating this thread with this one and this one in my mind.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:32 AM on August 26, 2015


Made a spotify playlist for the list (what was available.)

It was interesting to see which artists aren't on spotify - Prince and Kate Bush are the most surprising.
posted by synthetik at 8:33 AM on August 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah, for me the value of pitchfork lists is closer to the bottom of the list, with the songs I don't already know. I got into TuneYards after BirdBrains was placed on a Pitchfork year-end list at like 44th of 50...
posted by kaibutsu at 8:35 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


No XTC. "Life Begins At The Hop" is better than half of this list.

Even if it's just a popularity contest, Dear God should have made the list, but I think i lived in an entirely different universe during the 80's except for the Roxy Music, David Bowie & Talking Heads. Brass in Pocket may have been the single, but to me it's the weakest song on the Pretenders first album, so unless this is specifically about singles, then where is Kid or Private Life?

There was a damn lot of good music at the time, & 200 doesn't really cover it, though I don't generally have much argument with what the did include, though I didn't pay attention to most of it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:43 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, Life Begins at the Hop came out in '78, so there's that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:44 AM on August 26, 2015


Does anyone else born c. 1974 have the thing happen where the songs near the beginning of the decade seem too old for the list (sometimes) and the songs after 1988 seem like they are almost definitely from the 1990s (always)?

*raises hand*

Though my brain knows Daydream Nation came out in 1988, in my heart, it's 1990s all the way.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:44 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can argue about what "best" means here, but definitely one of the most influential songs of the 80s - even evocative, if you're of the right age - is the Super Mario Bros. theme.
posted by wanderingmind at 8:45 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Then there’s the writing, which pretty much sticks to the tight, clenched ‘I’ve heard every note of recorded music ever made and will now evaluate it from up on high’ style I find so grating on that site.


And that's precisely why I stopped reading/consuming pitchfork stuff. "Holier than thou" is a way of life with subjective artistic evaluation of any sort.... But. Jeez. They're just the fucking worst.

Or as a an old lady near me at Wendy's just said (true story) about something totally unrelated: "They're just a bunch of.... I dunno.... Fart smellers"
posted by chasles at 8:47 AM on August 26, 2015


No Was (Not Was)? Your list etc. etc.
posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 8:48 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am currently reading the upcoming Tom Petty biography, and following his band through the 70s and 80s and 90s has been reminding me of a lot of artists who I had simply forgotten about. (Also, that guy and his band made some awesome music.)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:53 AM on August 26, 2015


I found some songs I wasn't aware of on this list. I enjoyed that. Thank you for posting.
posted by josher71 at 8:53 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


> You can argue about what "best" means here, but definitely one of the most influential songs of the 80s - even evocative, if you're of the right age - is the Super Mario Bros. theme.

My wife says she wants this music playing when her coffin is lowered into the ground.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:55 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Brass in Pocket may have been the single, but to me it's the weakest song on the Pretenders first album, so unless this is specifically about singles, then where is Kid or Private Life?

Precious.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


A friend on Facebook made the case for the first Pretenders album being the best debut album of any band ever, and I have since been unable to dispute that assertion.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:14 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


In case anyone else was going to do a CTRL-F on ever page for "88 Lines About 44 Women," don't bother.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Devils Rancher: I can. It's The Cars.
posted by SansPoint at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Me too! Of course, in a perfect world "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate" would be in the top 10. Oh well, I guess it split the vote with every other song on Vs.


The only upside of the newest Last.fm redesign was having Mission of Burma on the top of my page, thanks to That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:19 AM on August 26, 2015


From #3 - Straight outta Compton:

"Tipper Gore never becomes a shook one."


I laughed out loud at that line.
posted by KillaSeal at 9:21 AM on August 26, 2015


If there's no Twisted Sister, I can't take it seriously.
posted by jonmc at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2015


Two David Bowie songs, and neither is "Ashes to Ashes." Also, one Grace Jones song and it's not "Warm Leatherette."

Also, I don't see how "Pay to Cum" made the list over "Sailin' On" from the same album, or anything off "I Against I."

I will not argue with "Purple Rain" at #1, though. Close enough. And "Master of Puppets" is definitely the 77th best. Nailed it.
posted by univac at 9:27 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


If there's no Twisted Sister, I can't take it seriously.

Those weren't songs-- They were Anthems!
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:28 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I cannot fathom being a grown adult, a professional writer, a person who identifies as a music critic, and doing absurd little calculations like deciding whether Prince is more important than Joy Division and wanting other people to see the results you came up with
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I cannot fathom being a grown adult, a professional writer, a person who identifies as a music critic, and doing absurd little calculations like deciding whether Prince is more important than Joy Division and wanting other people to see the results you came up with

This.
posted by davebush at 9:47 AM on August 26, 2015


It sounds Just Like Heaven to me. *wink*
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:51 AM on August 26, 2015


I wonder how many of the people responsible for this list lived through the 1980s. So much of the list (especially the bottom half) seems to have been constructed by working backward from later music, finding sources of samples and influences

Yeah, exactly. I was 21 in 1980, and knew better than to even look at this list, because the songs which were most important to me back then were not, in retrospect, the most influential. However, if O Superman is not in this list-- and it's not in the top 20-- I'm going to have to scream at somebody.

Also, The Ghost in You.
posted by jokeefe at 9:59 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Brass in Pocket may have been the single, but to me it's the weakest song on the Pretenders first album, so unless this is specifically about singles, then where is Kid or Private Life?

Precious.


Oh god yes. The willful mishearing of the line as "not me baby, I'm too precious, FUCK OFF" lit up so many girls and women then like an electric strike.
posted by jokeefe at 10:02 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


And I'm again afraid to look, but how does 4AD come off in this list? I hope there's something.
posted by jokeefe at 10:03 AM on August 26, 2015


Oh god yes. The willful mishearing of the line as "not me baby, I'm too precious, FUCK OFF" lit up so many girls and women then like an electric strike.

Is that not the line? I've been hearing it wrong for 30 years!
posted by Sophie1 at 10:03 AM on August 26, 2015


I cannot fathom being a grown adult, a professional writer, a person who identifies as a music critic, and doing absurd little calculations like deciding whether Prince is more important than Joy Division and wanting other people to see the results you came up with

In general, I see these kind of lists as tiresome, but besides the business side of things (draw readers, spur some arguments, draw more readers, etc) there are two good things that can come from a good writer even with this overused trope. I might find something new or have forgotten and the writer makes some interesting connections, and more importantly, they just might have a good argument that challenges my initial negative reaction to their choice, and it could make me take another look at something I've previously dismissed.

From the writer's perspective, I can see this kind of assignment as a 'tiresome chore I have to do now and then to get paid' thing, similar to some one-hit band who has half a dozen albums but knows they have to play that one damn song again every time they do a show. The best thing to do is to put it in the context that it's for them (the audience), and not for you (the writer), and the best you can do to make it less of a chore is try to make the reasoning inside it interesting.
posted by chambers at 10:06 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


jonmc: "If there's no Twisted Sister, I can't take it seriously."

Twisted Sister, don't you miss her?
There's a hundred more where she came from.

posted by Chrysostom at 10:06 AM on August 26, 2015


However, if O Superman is not in this list-- and it's not in the top 20-- I'm going to have to scream at somebody.

yeah, that's the kind of omission that can negate an entire list. I'll also be problematic and point out that only two Prince tracks in the Top 11 is a problem.
posted by philip-random at 10:14 AM on August 26, 2015


Pitchfork is telling me that Hall and Oates' “I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)” is better than every song Elvis Costello released in the 80's - and that includes the entire "Imperial Bedroom" album.

Well, that is a fact. Sorry. Elvis Costello at his best was only ever a hipster Billy Joel, and that was in the seventies.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:18 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


jokeefe: "However, if O Superman is not in this list-- and it's not in the top 20-- I'm going to have to scream at somebody. "

Scream away, it's #44.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:19 AM on August 26, 2015


‘When Doves Cry’ and ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ all run circles around ‘Purple Rain’, to say nothing of ‘Kiss’. All are cooler, stranger, more exciting, and by any objective criteria just plain better.

What are the objective criteria by which one song is just plain better than another?
posted by layceepee at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2015


Ten Best XTC Songs of the 1980s

10. Grass
9. 25 O'Clock
8. All You Pretty Girls
7. Respectable Street
6. Towers of London
5. Dear God
4. No Thugs in Our House
3. Mayor of Simpleton
2. Love on a Farmboy's Wages
1. Senses Working Overtime

I recognize that the omission of Generals & Majors will be controversial. I just don't love it that much. Feel free to make your own best XTC songs of the 80s list.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:28 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


What you do is go find people between and 40 and 50 -- people who were no older than 15 in 1980 and no younger than 15 in 1990--and ask them what three bands were their favorites in the 1980s. This is your "popular favorites" list.

Then gather a group of people a decade older, and ask them what live shows they went to in the 1980s, and which two shows stand out, and this gets you a "worth seeing live" and "great performers" list.

Then you go find musicians in bands which debuted between, say, 1985ish and 1995ish and ask them "who were your influences" and "who made you think 'I need to do that!'" and that's your "influential" list.

Then you ask members of actual 1980s bands, the kind who would make this list, which of their contemporaries were putting out great stuff at the time, and that's your "insiders" list.

Then you find people who were record store clerks in the 1980s and ask them what their favorites at the time were, and what they mocked people for buying were, and these are your "obscure favorites" and "probably better than you remember" lists.

Then you ask professional music critics to name their favorite songs of the 1980s, and this is your "hipster retro" list.

Then you get your various "Top 100" lists of the period and that is your "Heavily Promoted" list.

AND you do this in the US, and England, and France, and Egypt, and the USSR, and Japan, and Australia and...

THEN you mash all these results together in some sort of elaborate relational diagram which indicates by size what songs had the most consensus and indicates by shading which list they rose highest on and has some arrows and stuff which show relationships and some sort of map-based Venn diagrams to demonstrate how regional or not some of it was and some filter buttons to allow you to manipulate what influences match your own and you have a "I am outraged _________ isn't on here!" form thingy which pulls in the modern gestalt and somehow the semi-vetted results from that get added to the diagram AND you can listen to all of them AND THEN you have something. (Maybe.)

Then you nap because putting all of this together sounds like a lot of work and probably wouldn't end up being as interesting as you hoped it might be.
posted by maxwelton at 10:30 AM on August 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Pitchfork is a shitty way to evaluate art.
posted by chrchr at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I find I like about two percent of the songs I discover through Pitchfork. Maybe that should tell me how much value I should place in their best-of lists.
posted by rocket88 at 10:37 AM on August 26, 2015


Ctrl-F "Cure"...

Pictures of you? PICTURES OF YOU? WHAT KIND OF FUCKING?

Like - ok, "Disintegration is the best album ever"

But of all the fucking tracks on that album? Fascination Street, Love Song, Homesick, Disintegration, Same Deep Waters As You... Like, COME ON!

And that's not counting all the other great Cure tracks from the 80s (Fountainhead is one of my faves, personally)...
posted by symbioid at 10:41 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


OK, I saw Just Like Heaven. Whew... Just didn't scan down far enough. I'll accept that and its position.
posted by symbioid at 10:42 AM on August 26, 2015


Pictures of You is a fine song but anybody would would pick it as the best track off of Disintegration is a chowderhead of the first water.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:44 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Untitled" is the best one on Disintegration. It is known.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:45 AM on August 26, 2015


Feel free to make your own best XTC songs of the 80s list.

Melt The Guns
Jason And The Argonauts
Summer's Cauldron
Dying
The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul
Across This Antheap
Burning With Optimism's Flames
Deliver Us From The Elements
Chalkhills And Children
Mermaid Smiled
Garden of Earthly Delights


everything else they recorded in then 80's
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:46 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


No Def Leppard. No Ratt. No Ozzy, Iron Maiden, or Anthrax. And on and on.

How can any "Best of the '80s" list be complete without the soothing strains of "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)" from W.A.S.P.? I'm gonna listen to that right now. Really.
posted by MikeMc at 10:49 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The willful mishearing of the line as "not me baby, I'm too precious, FUCK OFF"

All those dumb lyrics websites seem to have misheard it too -- is that not correct? Her full-strength in-you-race feminism was utterly amazing at the time. Actually, it still is.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:52 AM on August 26, 2015


'Pink Turns To Blue' is the best thing Husker Du ever did?
It's not even in the top 5 on Zen Arcade for fuck's sake.
However, it does sound sound like generic '90s indie rock, before that was even a thing so...
I'm on to you Pitchfork, you swaybacked, goat huffing mountebanks!!
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 10:55 AM on August 26, 2015


Not my 80s.
posted by spilon at 10:55 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


GnR is terrible, and this is a terrible list, so that make sense.

Indeed. The Cure are on it. I went to high school and University in the late 80s and the Cure always reminds me that before Nickelback there was the Cure.

A friend on Facebook made the case for the first Pretenders album being the best debut album of any band ever, and I have since been unable to dispute that assertion.

I imagine such a list of 1 would vary considerably from person to person and genre to genre. I might go with Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star as one of the strongest debut albums ever until I hear another one and my mood is different, or something.

I do like a lot of Joy Division's tracks but have never understood the love for Love will Tear Us Apart. It's one of their worst.

recognize that the omission of Generals & Majors will be controversial. I just don't love it that much.

Also the video is terrible.
posted by juiceCake at 10:57 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


elvis costello peaked in 79 and pitchfork recognise that.
posted by andrewcooke at 10:59 AM on August 26, 2015


andrewcooke My copy of Trust disproves your entire argument.
posted by SansPoint at 11:11 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Costello continued to put out great work, & still puts on a good show, but Lipstick Vogue was the best single thing he did, balancing atop a pretty large pile of pretty great music.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:15 AM on August 26, 2015


'Mayor of Simpleton' is from the early 90's iirc
posted by thelonius at 11:18 AM on August 26, 2015


"I went to high school and University in the late 80s and the Cure always reminds me that before Nickelback there was the Cure."

YOU SHUT YOUR FILTHY DISGUSTING WRONG MOUTH!

At least you like Joy Division and Black Star.
posted by symbioid at 11:21 AM on August 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


thelonius 'Mayor of Simpleton' is from the early 90's iirc

Oranges and Lemons came out in 1989. Don't feel bad, though. I had to look that up.
posted by SansPoint at 11:22 AM on August 26, 2015


Brass in Pocket may have been the single, but to me it's the weakest song on the Pretenders first album, so unless this is specifically about singles, then where is Kid or Private Life?

Per Wikipedia and discogs, "Brass in Pocket" and "Kid" were both released in 1979. I can't explain "Private Life" for you.

I guess if I were going to make an oddball pick that would be on my list but would never make the collective canon, I'd go with "Beginning of the Heartbreak/Don't Don't" by Peter Gordon & Love of Life Orchestra, which is 1980 as far as I can tell.

I cannot fathom being a grown adult, a professional writer, a person who identifies as a music critic, and doing absurd little calculations like deciding whether Prince is more important than Joy Division and wanting other people to see the results you came up with

It's just a fun way to start a conversation about music. Look at the 100+ comments it's inspired here.
posted by Mothlight at 11:23 AM on August 26, 2015


Oranges and Lemons came out in 1989. Don't feel bad, though

Oh, I don't. That was a long time ago!
posted by thelonius at 11:24 AM on August 26, 2015


thelonius That was a long time ago!

It was. I was only 5 when that album dropped. (Good music knows no age.)
posted by SansPoint at 11:27 AM on August 26, 2015


Oranges and Lemons came out in 1989. Don't feel bad, though. I had to look that up.

Yeah, I had to leave a couple Nonsuch songs off of my list, and I had to look up O&L too.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:28 AM on August 26, 2015


"But the years have been kind to 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'."

No, no, no. It may be played on the radio a lot (I hear it on the "oldies" stations here all the time). But that doesn't equate with "the years have been kind." It's got that bombastic farting whoopee-cushion late-80s production all over it, and not in a good way. Another song with a similar late-80s sound that's way better is Jody Watley's Looking for a New Love (or almost anything else Jody Watley sang inside or outside Shalamar). My ideal would be to see all those Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston songs on the list given the heave-ho and replaced with Shalamar and Jody Watley.

And I love Prince, but "Purple Rain" the #1 song of the 80s? Not even close. It's not even Prince's #1 song of the 80s. Top 20, maybe. But not even top 10.

Egyptian Lover is at #200, with not a mention of Uncle Jamm's Army's Dial-A-Freak, which with any justice would be the #1 song on the list.

"Brass in Pocket" is the song you hear on the radio and at the malls while shopping for socks, but it's not even close to being The Pretenders' best song.

Way too much else to comment on, but I'll confine myself to laughing out loud at the notion that Costello peaked in 1979. Trust and Get Happy! are two of the best albums of the 80s or any other decade. "New Amsterdam" alone could easily kick "About a Girl" or just about any other song off that Pitchfork list.
posted by blucevalo at 11:30 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


the thing that messed me up was I kept this static idea that So came out "about five years ago", and suddenly it was 2006 and it was 20 years old
posted by thelonius at 11:31 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I lost all the Elvis Costello in the first divorce and haven't replaced anything newer than Imperial Bedroom -- I need to get on that. Jeez, this is another checkbook-killing thread.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:33 AM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Command F's for Violent Femmes... Realizes this whole thread is out of order.
posted by drezdn at 11:38 AM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, no Red Hot Chili Peppers?
posted by bendy at 11:39 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


blucevalo David Byrne did a live cover of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" on his Live in Austin, TX album, with a string quartet, and it really changed how I feel about that song. It's quite good, but the production on the original is so, terribly dated.
posted by SansPoint at 11:40 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Toast on Purple Rain
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:42 AM on August 26, 2015


I made a horrible mistake. Dying should have been Sacrificial Bonfire -- Colin Moulding's finest moment, and a song that never fails to bring my spirits up when I'm in one of my existential dread moods. Best last song on an album, ever, & XTC knew how to close albums.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:43 AM on August 26, 2015


elvis costello peaked in 79 and pitchfork recognise that

Absurd. Even a little throwaway like "Hoover Factory" (1980) buries that argument.
posted by davebush at 11:52 AM on August 26, 2015




I ignored the list completely and I've been listening to Marc Masters' choices instead because he's one of the Pitchfork writers with really good taste. Individual lists will always be better than democratic aggregates.
posted by naju at 11:55 AM on August 26, 2015


Two things:

First, Pitchfork usually releases these lists as Spotify playlists, so you can put it on shuffle (to wipe away ranking drama) and have a solid 10 hour soundtrack to your 80's party (or '60's or '90's or 00's if you pick the other ones).

Second, the original poster Caitlyn (Theta States) has been posting incredible mixes on her website since the late 1990's. Crazy wide range of material from IDM to dubstep to hiphop. Probably not as a good a soundtrack to your 80's party, but better overall.
posted by rtimmel at 11:56 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Untitled is best on Disintegration.

Charlotte Sometimes or Primary are as good as any on Disintegration. Which is to say they're really good.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:00 PM on August 26, 2015


That Generals and Majors video is awesome. Cap guns at dawn. Or noon? I'm a night owl.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:01 PM on August 26, 2015


Melt The Guns
Jason And The Argonauts
Summer's Cauldron
Dying
The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul
Across This Antheap
Burning With Optimism's Flames
Deliver Us From The Elements
Chalkhills And Children
Mermaid Smiled
Garden of Earthly Delights


I'm completely unfamiliar with XTC so I googled a couple of these to make sure this wasn't a Clickhole list.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:09 PM on August 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just between the first three REM albums, a number of Cure albums, various Replacements albums, various Clash albums, NWA and PE, various New Order albums, Joy Division Closer and singles, various Peter Gabriel albums. Ok, easily I could pull 200 songs from there. And that's just totally obvious good stuff off the top my head and leaves off stuff like MoB, Gang of Four, Kraftwerk, Pixies, Prince, MJ, Stone Roses, Chameleons, Echo, Violent Femmes, Minutemen, U2' Husker.

Ok, my question is this: if I pull a list like this out of thin air, and easily could fill 200 with part of it, what is Whitney Houston doing here?

Also, XTC.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:11 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've never liked Elvis Costello. I need to take a Fugazi shower after I hear him.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:13 PM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ok, my question is this: if I pull a list like this out of thin air, and easily could fill 200 with part of it, what is Whitney Houston doing here?

I didn't read past the top 20, but my guess is it's for the one-two punch of "here are some deep cuts you probably haven't heard of" and "here are some ubiquitous mainstream tracks you have failed to appreciate properly." They getcha coming and going!
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:17 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


First, Pitchfork usually releases these lists as Spotify playlists, so you can put it on shuffle (to wipe away ranking drama) and have a solid 10 hour soundtrack to your 80's party (or '60's or '90's or 00's if you pick the other ones).

Yeah, yeah, except now it's Pitchfork sponsor Apple Music, so you have to struggle with iTunes to fire it up. Also, key artists like Prince and Kate Bush are missing, which kind of spoils the fun. (You'd think that Pitchfork could create a playlist that included those tracks so that Apple Music would pull them in if they already exist in a user's personal library, but apparently that's a technological bridge too far.)
posted by Mothlight at 12:39 PM on August 26, 2015


XTC is one of those bands I feel like I am *supposed* to like, but I've never been able to. A couple of their songs are okay, I guess?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:46 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am here to also say that Untitled is Disintegration's peak but only because Plainsong is the album's first track and picking it would make the peak come too early.

Plainsong rules.
posted by item at 12:46 PM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Smiths fans ruin everything.

You just don't understand us !
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 12:46 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


When did Pitchfork turn into Rolling Stone?

The problem with lists like this is not that they're "wrong", but they tried in the first place. A list like this cannot have any personality to it, because it's a corporate decision-making process. One person's list, with personal biases and foibles intact, is always going to be infinitely more interesting, particularly if ranking is dispensed with. It is meaningless to say that X is 48th while Y is only 49th. This list is by definition not interesting.

That said, the fact that they don't have "Cattle and Cane" is an error, as it is better than anything on this list. And they have the wrong Orange Juice song. Naturally. And the tokenism and rockism is laughable -- Tom Zé (because he has the David Byrne stamp of approval), William Onbeayor (because he's had high-profile reissues in the past year or so), Sunny Ade but not Kanda Bongo Man, etc. etc.
posted by Fnarf at 12:47 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I should have put Dwight, and Garth Brooks debut in 1989 there. I don't like Uncle Tupelo
posted by PinkMoose at 12:47 PM on August 26, 2015


Disintegration is the best song on Disintegration. The best version is the live version on the Pictures of You single.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:48 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I should have put Dwight, and Garth Brooks debut in 1989 there. I don't like Uncle Tupelo

You should have also included some Meat Puppets because II is chock full of country greatness.
posted by item at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lyle Lovett, She’s NO Lady, 1989
Meh. I'd go with the beautifully ironic "LA County."

Robert Earle Keen, No Kinda Dancer, 1984
Admittedly the live versions are better, but why not "The Road Goes On Forever?"

And leaving off "Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc." is an immediate disqualification, but I do appreciate the chronically underrated "Seven Year Ache" on the list, tho.
posted by dw at 12:51 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gang of Four

Solid Gold came out in 1981. That is a terrible omission. Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time. A Hole in the Wallet.

Harumph.

Harumph I say.
posted by jokeefe at 12:56 PM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think the irony on LA County is a little too thick, and I think that the erotic exhaustion that marks much of Lovett's work begins there. I find Road more of a live expereince, and less of a song for songs sake. You are right about Yoakham.
posted by PinkMoose at 12:58 PM on August 26, 2015


"However, if O Superman is not in this list-- and it's not in the top 20-- I'm going to have to scream at somebody. "

Scream away, it's #44.


And here I thought Pitchfork was doing better on the sexism front lately....
posted by jokeefe at 12:58 PM on August 26, 2015


18 goddamned Smiths songs and not one from The Human League, Styx, Journey, Night Ranger, Toto, Fleetwood Mac, The Cult, Sonic Youth....

have a solid 10 hour soundtrack to your 80's party

Any 80s party with that much Smiths and Cure isn't a party. There is only so much emotional larceny you can take, man.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:58 PM on August 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt With the exception of "How Soon is Now?", I'd argue any amount of Smiths music is, in fact, enough to make something an anti-party.

The Cure do have some good dance tunes, though.

(There was, and may still be, a semi-regular dance party in Philly called DJSC: Depeche Mode, Joy Division/New Order, The Smiths, and The Cure. 4/5 songs were usually pretty good.)
posted by SansPoint at 1:01 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Pitchfork list reminds me of how every Rolling Stones list is waist deep in Springsteen and every Spin list of the 80s and 90s pretty much assumes the music world begins and ends at the Five Boroughs. Pitchfork wants to shove every writers' pet record in there, throw out the obvious ones for the obscure, and make sure every single sub-sub-genre gets some representation with the most hipster-music-geek choice possible (I mean, yay the Wipers making the list since they were the bridge between the Sonics and Nirvana, but the Wipers?)

And, of course, music is a classical de gustibus subject. Everyone has their opinions. But these seem like the opinion of a kid who thought his goth older sister's music was the coolest. (Or maybe his goth mother? Oh hell, the 80s is 25-35 years ago.)
posted by dw at 1:02 PM on August 26, 2015


In Between Days is a such a great song to dance to.
posted by item at 1:03 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


and it's better than Pictures of You as well
posted by item at 1:04 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love lists like this. I'd loved all of the Pitchfork lists. Seriously.

I love seeing my preferences confirmed. I love smiling knowingly to myself at all the wrong choices they've made. I love the chance to go back to songs and albums I love but haven't played for ages. I love finding new stuff to listen too.

Also - the lists are not canon. They are not gospel. They are not true. You can make your own list. There is no one correct answer.

Also, and finally - No fucking Go-Betweens? Seriously??? I could make an argument that they were the best band of all time and you'd at least consider how right I was!

(Full of love and seriousness today.)
posted by maupuia at 1:08 PM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


No Men at Work, I see. Highly underrated band.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:08 PM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The lack of Go-Betweens is a massive aberration, but then there's very, very little Aussie representation ("Never Tear Us Apart?" Really?)
posted by dw at 1:11 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


"All Cure songs are gloomy and depressing" = "I have never actually listened to The Cure"
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:15 PM on August 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Arguing taste is mostly a fool's errand, but since they're included in the Marc Masters playlist naju linked, I'm going to bring up Camper Van Beethoven, because they never seem to get enough credit.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 1:17 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


PinkMoose, I'd probably pick different songs for George Strait, Lyle, and REK, but your list of artists is very solid.
posted by wintermind at 1:34 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just noticed - Pitchfork has a list for the 1960s, the 1980s, and 1990's, the 2000's and 2010-2014. What do they have against the 1970's? When will the Bee Gees and little Andy Gibb get their due?
posted by rtimmel at 1:35 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Uh....while I see that 90% of this thread is people gathering together to pour a keg of Haterade all over this list, am I really the only one that digs on checking out the songs that I've never heard of but that a bunch of people think were among the greatest of the decade? That seems like the fun part to me, the bit where you're going to find some undiscovered gems.

Although I'm listening to the 60s version of this, because I'll be dammed if I'm signing up for and cancelling a paid music service just to hear what Pitchfork thinks of the 80s. (I already have Spotify).
posted by Diablevert at 1:47 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


On consideration, Dead Kennedys' Bleed For Me came out in 1982 and if that song isn't the best of the 80's then I don't know what is.
posted by item at 2:01 PM on August 26, 2015


Having looked on Spotify and Youtube just for kicks, I can tell you:

There are about a billion songs called "Dear God," and every single one of them is sanctimonious, self-important drivel that has no business existing.
posted by koeselitz at 2:01 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


rtimmel: “I just noticed - Pitchfork has a list for the 1960s, the 1980s, and 1990's, the 2000's and 2010-2014. What do they have against the 1970's? When will the Bee Gees and little Andy Gibb get their due?”

Really? I'm sure they've done a 1970s best albums albums list. In fact, I could swear this was at least the second 1980s best tracks tracks list.
posted by koeselitz at 2:04 PM on August 26, 2015


(But it's the first to include Michael McDonald or Hall & Oates. Apparently "Yacht Rock" had an impact.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:04 PM on August 26, 2015


There are about a billion songs called "Dear God," and every single one of them is sanctimonious, self-important drivel that has no business existing.

I'll see your Dear God and raise you the sanctimonious, self-important drivel of Dear Mr. Jesus. It came out in 1986 and Pitchfork committed a criminal act by not including it in this list.
posted by item at 2:09 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Diablevert: “Although I'm listening to the 60s version of this, because I'll be dammed if I'm signing up for and cancelling a paid music service just to hear what Pitchfork thinks of the 80s. (I already have Spotify).”

You might be interested to note that synthetik has already put together a Spotify playlist, so if you really want to listen to the 80s songs via Spotify you can. (I know I'm going to.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


So now having bothered to click through the whole thing, I can conclude that it's not a completely awful list. And yet it does have Tom Tom Club in its Top 40.

Whut.

And yet none of these, from a list I happen to have lying around (lacking hip-hop because it's all vinyl and somebody stole all my hip-hop vinyl back in the day).

Prince - mountains (12 inch)
Prince - the beautiful ones
Husker Du - turn on the news
Husker Du - eight miles high
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - relax
Einsturzende Neubauten - yu gung
Talking Heads - born under punches
Brian Eno + David Byrne - Jezebel spirit
Sonic Youth - the trilogy [Daydream Nation]
Pogues - thousands are sailing
Spacemen Three - revolution
The Fall - the man whose head expanded
Lee Perry + the Dub Syndicate - music + science lovers
This Mortal Coil - song to the siren
Butthole Surfers - sweat loaf
Bauhaus - third uncle
KLF - doctorin' the Tardis
Slayer - south of heaven
Clash - one more time
Clash - if music could talk
Clash - Washington Bullets
Clash - Charlie don't surf
Leonard Cohen - everybody knows
Waterboys - this is the sea
Flipper - sex bomb baby
The Cure - cold
The The - perfect [12 inch]
Motorhead - eat the rich
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Enola Gay
Peter Gabriel - intruder
Swans - new mind
Minutemen - political song for Michael Jackson to sing
posted by philip-random at 2:27 PM on August 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


on the subject of Motörhead, if you're gonna pick a Motörhead song it's gotta be "I'll Be Your Sister"

(which also happens to have the benefit of being on the best Motörhead album of all time)

"Ace of Spades" is great, but it's overplayed by people who apparently don't really care about Motörhead enough to listen to more than just that one record

(admitting of course that "Eat the Rich" is a stone cold classic)
posted by koeselitz at 2:41 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


They put There Is A Light... at #14, and then include this drivel:
There’s a moment of stunning humility in the lyrics, when the narrator imagines his death coming in a darkened underpass before "a strange fear" grips him, and he realizes he wants to live. Many songs are written from a depressed point of view, but few navigate the ontological breakthrough with such subtlety.
Death was not involved in the "darkened underpass"! That's not even what the "strange fear" is about! DID THE WRITER EVEN LISTEN TO THIS SONG
posted by jabes at 3:48 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


So many of these picks made me think "that's not even the best song on the album". Whatever I guess?
posted by DrLickies at 4:13 PM on August 26, 2015


When will the Bee Gees...get their due?

In the 60s list, obviously.
posted by hydrophonic at 4:18 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


One fact that nicely sums up the suck of Pitchfork: Andrew WK - I Get Wet was given a rating of 0.6 upon first review, which was then updated years later to an 8.6. 5 years from now they'll have a wholly revised 80's list that reflects the current musical tastes of trendy 2020 bands. Moreso than any other music journalism outfit, I always get the sense that Pitchfork is just out to prove how much they're "tapped into the pulse" of current music; which is mostly accomplished by talking out of their ass.
posted by p3t3 at 8:18 PM on August 26, 2015


A friend on Facebook made the case for the first Pretenders album being the best debut album of any band ever

Your friend may have a case, but I'll go
with the Violent Femmes. And in a weaker moment, Van Halen.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:21 PM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok Led Zep had a pretty good debut too, maybe better than Weezer
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:49 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hendrix too dammit. Ok i am done
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:59 PM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Geez, why do you sourpusses hate The Smiths so much!? I am sure I am not the only person whose lonely queer adolescence was salvaged by Morrissey & Marr.

& Tom Tom Club is fantastic! So is Whitney Houston! So is "Walking On Thin Ice!" A lot of the omissions being groused about at length are not missed by me in the slightest, for what it's worth. I am a big Elvis Costello fan and was a bit aggrieved to see him omitted, but I also agree that his most essential work can be found on his first three albums. And don't get me wrong, I love 80s Costello. Also, if you're going to include one Pretenders superhit on a list like this, why "Brass In Pocket" and not the infinitely superior "Back On The Chain Gang?" & "Wanna Be Startin' Something" is a perfectly cromulent song but ranking it above "Billie Jean" is just a naked provocation, albeit a tame one from these guys.

I also don't really understand why people hate P4K so much, especially nowadays. They've mellowed with age and spend more time writing about why they love what they love as opposed to why they hate the things they hate, and hearing people explain why something matters to them is infinitely more interesting than the usual "your favorite band sucks" routine we all know & hate. I frequently find great insights, fun trivia and new favorite songs there. Is there some better music criticism on the website that is always right and never snarky and unfailingly fascinating?
posted by zeusianfog at 9:56 PM on August 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Another Smiths lover here (though less into solo Morrissey).

I don't want this to devolve into more Pitchfork hate (so probably shouldn't have posted above), but my own beef with them has never been about whether they love albums too much or hate on others too much, but rather just on how safe, formulaic and predictable their reviews always turned out.

I actively avoid P4K enough that I'm barely qualified to speak on them, so I'm almost curious enough to give them a new chance in light of your comments about maturing with age, but every time I've googled an album and bothered to click a P4K link, I play a game of "guess the rating," and the fact that I'm usually right continues reinforcing my belief that I don't need to bother reading more.

That said, I don't have much better to offer as an alternative lately. I mostly check weekly new release lists from preferred shops/distributors, and a few music blogs.
posted by p3t3 at 11:10 PM on August 26, 2015


Julian Cope
posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:07 AM on August 27, 2015


No Men at Work, I see. Highly underrated band.

I've had quite a few of my friends kind of scoff at Men at Work, but I've found that "It's a Mistake" is the song that will often get them to give them another look. By not being on most people's "played to death in the 80s" list, it often bypasses those "Oh man, not again" barriers, and as it ambles along into their brain, they go from 'that's not too bad' to 'that's a lot better than I thought' to it popping into their heads at random times, and finally to "Hey, put on 'It's a Mistake.' I'm starting to really dig that.""
posted by chambers at 9:20 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


zeusianfog Geez, why do you sourpusses hate The Smiths so much!?

Because Morrissey is a pompous ass who can't sing... and this is coming from a guy who loves Pere Ubu, by the way.

My queer adolescence was saved by DEVO. As a bullied child, and socially ostracized teen, "Through Being Cool" was exactly the sort of message I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. DEVO was the first band to tell me not to wallow in my misery, but to fight back instead.
posted by SansPoint at 9:28 AM on August 27, 2015


I've had quite a few of my friends kind of scoff at Men at Work, but I've found that "It's a Mistake " is the song that will often get them to give them another look.

Cargo FTW. I'll just leave Overkill here.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:47 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because Morrissey is a pompous ass who can't sing..

except I sometimes quite like a singer who's been inspired by him. Brett Anderson (originally of Suede) comes to mind. I guess, it's the nth dimensional self-absorption of Morrissey that gets under my skin (in a bad way). Like if I hear Meat is Murder, I'm suddenly craving a hamburger.

But he's the perfect singer for How Soon is Now, which is absolutely one of the very best records of the 1980s. If only it had been a one-hit wonder.
posted by philip-random at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2015


philip-random Yeah, "How Soon Is Now?" is the exception that proves the rule that The Smiths are intolerable. And, I'm sure there's singers that are inspired by Morrissey that I like too (though I don't think I've ever listened to Suede). If he were's so nth-dimensionally self-absorbed, I might think higher of him as a vocalist. As it stands, when I think of Morrissey, I think of this classic MST3k Invention Exchange...

And even Mike Nelson's impression sounds better than Morrissey's real singing voice.
posted by SansPoint at 10:34 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have to say – maybe it's just because I'm old enough to remember when people from Henry Rollins on down openly despised Morrissey and the Smiths as a limp-wristed English whiner, in a way that skirted ever so close to outright and abject homophobia before veering away at just the last moment. It was disgusting, an obnoxious and offensive delight that people took in mocking anyone who happened to be young and unhappy and unwilling to conform to sexual norms – so when people really get to hating on Morrissey and the Smiths, it begins to make me a bit angry.

But, again, maybe that's because I'm old enough to remember that. And frankly in the past few years it's often been people who are gay who express disdain for the Smiths to me. Maybe that's a sign of how far we've come; there was a time when hating the Smiths was a (very popular) political act, a way of saying "I really hate homosexuals" without actually saying "I really hate homosexuals." Probably that's a big reason people don't like the Smiths now – because a lot of us feel liberated to despise this thing we really had to cling to before for political reasons.

And – let's be fair – the Smiths are not always pleasant. They're often quite unpleasant. That's because Morrissey tends to dwell on pains that a lot of us have left behind, if we have the luxury of doing so. Who wants to wallow in that? Hell, at the time, people loved calling it "wallowing," because they didn't understand that this shit was part of the everyday life of a lot of young people, and because it's easier to mock pain than to understand it and accept it.

But none of this changes the simple fact: Johnny Marr was (and probably still is) a brilliant musician, Morrissey was (and probably still is) a brilliant songwriter, and the music the Smiths made is some of the best and most important of the past thirty years. "The Death of a Disco Dancer" is still to my ears the most searing and bitterly devastating critique of the popular reaction to the AIDs crisis ever put on record. It is followed on Strangeways Here We Come, the Smiths' final album, by the curious and odd "Girlfriend in a Coma," which is fitting when you consider the subject of both of the songs; lesser critics have assumed that "Girlfriend" is sarcastic, but anyone who knows Morrissey and his utter hatred of cruelty knows that it's sincere. An insightful queer critic once pointed out that these two songs together sought to capitulate on hetero society the sheer pain and suffering that had been inflicted on homosexuals. Even that, to me, is probably too political a reading of these songs, but it cuts to the heart of what makes these songs so essential and so biting.

I mean, even individual songs, songs that aren't the most popular – like "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore," an absolutely perfect expression in the face of our constant willingness to be cruel to the helpless, an expression that Morrissey doesn't let himself off the hook from, he includes himself in the indictment: "I've seen this happen in other people's lives / Now it's happening in mine..."

And it's still undeniable: the man is a brilliant lyricist, just exceedingly good at writing lines that are recognizably his that connect all over the spectrum, literary and intelligent and kind and biting and expressive of things that nobody had been willing or able to say before.
posted by koeselitz at 2:00 PM on August 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


SansPoint: “My queer adolescence was saved by DEVO. As a bullied child, and socially ostracized teen, 'Through Being Cool' was exactly the sort of message I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. DEVO was the first band to tell me not to wallow in my misery, but to fight back instead.”

'The musical act that saved my queer adolescence is awesome, whereas the musical act that saved your queer adolescence is insufferable and embarrassing.'
posted by koeselitz at 2:03 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Johnny Marr was (and probably still is) a brilliant musician

You want a dose of Johnny Marr, then you can't go wrong with The The's Mind Bomb. It's great album anyway, but Marr makes it a masterpiece. Speaking of which, it could have squeaked onto this list. Certainly an audiophile's orgasmatron on the headphones, at the very least.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:04 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


... which brings me to albums produced by Warne Livesey, which brings me to... WHAT NO MIDNIGHT OIL THIS LIST SUCKS!
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:08 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was 12 in 1980 and despite being trapped in a rural hellhole as a tween/teen, I was also fortunate enough to grow up listening to a very good indie college station, so this list speaks to me. I have issues with the lack of the Police and Men At work, and could beef about the lack of Thompson Twins, et. al., although they've got the New Romantic tribe adequately covered with Roxy Music. I'm a bit appalled at how you could include so much Smiths / Cure and not Jesus and Mary Chain or Bauhaus. And ignoring NIN completely is, well... idk. So it goes.

I can absolutely do without the XTC and Elvis Costello (and REM, too, tbh), however, mainly because I have a lot of youthful baggage associated with them. Every one of those bands were locked into endless rotation by the same kinds of insufferable protohipster art college creeper dudes who watched Woody Allen movies and wore those stupid skinny round tortoiseshell glasses and just generally had a complete raging boner for any and everything related to NYC, to the point where they'd drone on and on about how underappreciated they were at Wright State / University of Dayton and how their art/music/acting/whatever would hit it big once they moved to "The City". They'd hang around our high school cross-country meets or the mall trying to find some naive Midwestern manic pixie dream girl upon which to bestow their neverending supply of bullshit.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:53 PM on August 27, 2015


a pompous ass who can't sing

The former, to be sure, but the latter? I really don't think so. I'd say quite the opposite, even. He's streets ahead of a Dave Gahan or a Bernard Sumner, at any rate. Or a Mark Mothersbaugh, for that matter.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:54 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


koeslitz You asked why people don't like The Smiths. I gave you my reason. If you like 'em, fine, just don't crowd the jukebox if we happen to be sharing it. If it's any consolation, Johnny Marr's okay by me, in no small part due to his involvement in Electronic---arguably the best supergroup in pop music, until Franz Ferdinand and Sparks hooked up, at least.
posted by SansPoint at 3:48 PM on August 27, 2015


in no small part due to his involvement in Electronic

but Bernard Sumner
posted by Sys Rq at 5:19 PM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I usually say that the best and worst about the Smiths/Morrissey are the fans (well, until Moz went fom being amusing to an asshole very close on blaming his cancer scares on someone that smelt of kebabs on the front row).
You get both the "oooh, so grim and dark" and the "that's funny and well written" crowds. One of the reason I got into them so much was a website (pre-songmeanings) that went very in-depth in the lyrics, and showed they were far less literal than a first read backed by preconceived ideas suggest.

Same thing with Joy Division. I've known a lot of fans that eat up Tony Wilson's carefully planned myth, and refuse to believe for the most time Ian Curtis was just a regular Manc working class kid (with a terrible neurological condition), not some sort of urban gothic cartoon.
posted by lmfsilva at 5:40 PM on August 27, 2015


I've always enjoyed the Smiths for their over the top mopiness. I went through a difficult divorce, and listening to the Smiths was a big help in taking myself less seriously. "Oh, Morrissey, it's okay! Come on, let's go out for ice cream."
posted by Chrysostom at 6:49 PM on August 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


their over the top mopiness

Same here. It's the mopiness and darkness juxtaposed with self-awareness, cleverness, humor, etc. Mostly the same reasons I love the Magnetic Fields; but while Stephin Merritt's deadpan delivery constantly reminds of the self-aware side, Morrissey goes much deeper into character.
posted by p3t3 at 8:08 PM on August 27, 2015


It's the hooks that make me like the Smiths.
posted by josher71 at 5:15 PM on August 29, 2015


I bought Skylarking before the release that had Dear God on it, so I had to buy the twelve inch too.

Life Begins at the Hop is a great song to broadcast in a bouncy house.

I queue things up for Boy before he wakes. I've been reading the older part of the bible to him because I think it is important to understanding Western literature. He reloaded the video five times and said it was fucking weird and that he would like an egg and gouda biscuit now please. I hope he digests all three.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2015


The very latest release of Skylarking has 2 things going for it-- it's "polarity corrected" (a mistake was made in mastering originally) and it really sounds better, and the correct track order is restored with Mermaid Smiled & Dear God both in their correct places, instead of one or the other being missing, or tacked on at the end. Best to order it through Ape House, which is Andy's label & web store.

I'm kind of an XTC completist, but that one was the best bang for the buck reissue they've done, aside from the Steven Wilson remixes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:47 PM on September 5, 2015


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