Jandek and Lustmord and Geto Boys, oh my
October 3, 2014 4:38 PM   Subscribe

FACT mag's 100 Best Albums of the 1980s. Inspired, sometimes surprising selections slightly off the beaten path: Whodini, Whitehouse, Suzanne Ciani, Nurse With Wound, and Godflesh while no Talking Heads, R.E.M., or Clash. Complete with free downloadable mixes guaranteed to make you shake your ass like a dork at work.

Single page list sans links here.
posted by ifjuly (104 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
 
I usually cringe at sweeping definitive-style lists with music (as we recently discussed on the Blue even!), but this was a treasure, equal parts stuff I'd yet to hear and old less celebrated favorites, without the baggage and useless dross of Rolling Stone-style bombast in the form an eighteenbillionth "we all agree on X and Y Z!" given. To me anyway, less about the lists, more about shakin' your booty at the playlists and taking a walk down memory lane. Fun.
posted by ifjuly at 4:42 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's an exciting list! Or perhaps I am biased because World of Echo would possibly be my nomination for best album of the eighties. Cannot wait to listen to the stuff I haven't heard.

It would be interesting to see a list compiled by women and focusing on work by women - this list reads like my most cerebral music nerd dude friend compiled it (I actually went and checked the byline to make sure he didn't have anything to do with it) and while his taste is awesomely impeccable and has provided me with a great deal of music education, he isn't that good at Music By Women.
posted by Frowner at 4:47 PM on October 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Very happy to see David Sylvian, John Foxx and Steve Roach on the list.
posted by davebush at 4:47 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


FACT is hitting it out of the park every time. I'm excited to dig in.
posted by naju at 4:58 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


No Replacements? No NWA? No Metallica or Anthrax? No Jason & the Scorchers? No Jane's Addiction? No Ministry?
posted by jonmc at 5:07 PM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not big on lists, and this one is pretty much "here are some albums from the eighties that might seem super-obscure if you're not into all these disparate genres but are pretty pedestrian surface-scratches if you are, and we hope for the sake of desperately maintaining our quasi-cred that you fall into the first category."

But a pretty big handful of my favourite albums are on there (how could they not be?), so, hey.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:11 PM on October 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


To: FACT
Re: Your decision to include a single-page list without graphics or commentary

THANK YOU.

Yrs,
Everyone
posted by Etrigan at 5:12 PM on October 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


Uh, there was Land of Rape and Honey at #66. I had to check to see someone didn't raid my CD collection.
posted by adipocere at 5:12 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


No Replacements? No NWA? No Metallica or Anthrax? No Jason & the Scorchers? No Jane's Addiction? No Ministry?

NWA and Ministry were both on the list.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:14 PM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Jandek!
posted by AJaffe at 5:17 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I know and love about two dozen of these. So I'm excited to try out the rest, and am not at all miffed that XTC, Bunnymen, Feelies, Opal, TMBG are not there. :)
posted by jetsetsc at 5:20 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry. Age attacks the mind first. The others still belong on the list though.
posted by jonmc at 5:22 PM on October 3, 2014


I've just discovered I still know 5 Minutes of Funk.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:33 PM on October 3, 2014


No Husker Du, no justice.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:43 PM on October 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


cmd-F "pylon" 0 matches close window.
posted by ardgedee at 5:53 PM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Wow, I love this list. This is a view of a decade I lived through, but one so informed by present aesthetics and cultural concerns that I barely even recognize the years they're talking about (even though I've owned or heard about 20% of the albums listed). I'm really excited to see The Eighties (a decade which seems to be reduced, like its predecessors, to symbols and shorthand these days) reinterpreted like this.
posted by heurtebise at 5:54 PM on October 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Eh. Pointless list making is still pointless while a one album per page review structure is not designed to get me to read it, which makes this even more pointless as the justifications are always the most interesting bits of such an exercise.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:55 PM on October 3, 2014


You had me at "03. Godflesh – Streetcleaner (Earache, 1989)"
posted by googly at 5:59 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Even with a list 100 long, you aren't going to please everyone, but...

No Pat Metheny?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:10 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bongwater's Double Bummer made the list?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:12 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm saying this with a big toothy friendly grin, not as a dick:

Oh come on...

We know this is a list of THE most obscure albums of the 80's solely to make us feel like our tastes are soooo eccentric.

/endgrin

That being said, how is there no Steve Reich? The dude was responsible for trance!
posted by peter.j.torelli at 6:13 PM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Which is why we had to shoot him.
posted by jonmc at 6:17 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


The first comment on every one of these list posts should be "What, no X?" so that everyone's favorite neglected thing can be accounted for and everyone feels better.
posted by munchingzombie at 6:17 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was ready to hate on this but they put e2-e4 at number 4. Not sure I agree with it being that good but it was certainly that important and almost never mentioned anywhere ever.
posted by milarepa at 6:18 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was only looking for one album. It's there. Top 10, and with a nice few words on the second half of the best song on the album that is pretty close to the reason why I also love that song.

I am satisfied.
posted by droplet at 6:34 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The first comment on every one of these list posts should be "What, no X?"

So true! I was expecting at least Under the Big Black Sun, if not Wild Gift.
posted by stargell at 6:38 PM on October 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


A quick scan shows zero Replacements records. And thus, I am done reading.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:46 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


01. Arthur Russell – World Of Echo (Upside/Rough Trade, 1986)

seriously? I've got it. Had it since ... the 1980s. Always felt more gimmick than anything. Sandinista is at least nine times as relevant.
posted by philip-random at 6:49 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


At first I just thought, Oh, perhaps I misremembered, and Remain in Light was actually released in 1979, like London Calling? And then I was all come the fuck on.

However: there are some fine, fine records in that list (The Dead Kennedys! David Sylvian! Robert Wyatt! Cocteau Twins! Glenn Branca!) despite that one glaring omission.
posted by jokeefe at 6:50 PM on October 3, 2014


Also The Lion and the Cobra should be on there... and I guess we could play this game all night.
posted by jokeefe at 6:52 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


And interesting to see Arthur Russell so quickly and firmly boosted to the top of the canon in recent years.
posted by jokeefe at 6:58 PM on October 3, 2014


Also The Lion and the Cobra should be on there... and I guess we could play this game all night.

It should be. And we could. I'll lament the omission of Thomas Dolby's "The Flat Earth", but celebrate with a great deal of surprise and delight the inclusion of this remarkable music from Virginia Astley.
posted by vverse23 at 7:01 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


No Plangent? No Karaoke Summer Brigade? No Pilsen? No Blooming Onion? No Shit Mafia? No Ello? No Eighties Are The Worst? No Llama Krew? No Senator Trotsborough? No Epic Flail? No Guitar Brother? No Final Orgasm? No DMT Wedding? No
posted by naju at 7:39 PM on October 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Wow. I obviously lived through a different eighties than they did. I have a feeling that I might like theirs better than mine though.
posted by octothorpe at 7:44 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Come now naju, we all know that Shit Mafia hasn't released anything worth listening to since the underground test pressings of their second EP in 1978.
posted by jokeefe at 7:45 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


And as for Epic Flail, the less said the better. The costumes, man, the costumes. Just too much.
posted by jokeefe at 7:46 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hey, there's actually a genuine Real Shit Mafia! They're three Russian teenagers with some home-made videos on YouTube. Check them out. (This video is entitled the "Clean" version; my apologies if any of the lyrics are offensive to Russian speakers.) This one is apparently about playing video games and was taped in somebody's bedroom; they actually do say "Real Shit Mafia" though. Swag! Swag! Swag!
posted by jokeefe at 7:52 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is enough good music that I already know on the list to make me respect the pieces of the list that I don't know. *shrug*

I find these kinds of things problematic in a lot of ways, but at least this list is going to help spark people to maybe find out about the music I love that they don't already know.
posted by hippybear at 7:54 PM on October 3, 2014


African Head Charge.
Laibach.
The Blasters.

What, not obscure enough?
posted by Chrischris at 8:02 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, Daydream Nation is the best '80s Sonic Youth album. If Double Nickels on the Dime (rightfully) makes this list, then you must also include Daydream Nation. I have many opinions. This is one of them.
posted by Chrischris at 8:10 PM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


"here are some albums from the eighties that might seem super-obscure if you're not into all these disparate genres but are pretty pedestrian surface-scratches if you are, and we hope for the sake of desperately maintaining our quasi-cred that you fall into the first category."

In other words, an old-school Pitchfork list now that the 'fork is basically millenial Rolling Stone. Nothing wrong with that though, an intro to breaking the canon is still one more person discovering Houston rap.
posted by gorbweaver at 8:12 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sure, there are albums that I think are glaring omissions, but at the same time it's cool that there are that many bands and albums from a decade I lived through (and was musically invested in) that I either hadn't heard of at all, or had heard of but hadn't actually heard.

tl;dr: Your favorite band may suck, but even an imperfect list is good.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:37 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Back around 2007 Mojo Magazine had a fine supplement of its top 80s albums. It was really ear-opening stuff for a 22 year old who had largely disavowed that decade's musical gestalt. Though it's somewhat Brit-centric, I think the albums there are more solid overall than this list. But that's just, like, my opinion, man.
posted by Perko at 8:38 PM on October 3, 2014


Daydream Nation is the best '80s Sonic Youth album.

Despite Daydream Nation's legendary status, I agree with their choice of Sister. They also selected what I think are the best Eno, Tom Waits, Prince, Nurse With Wound and Foetus albums.
posted by davebush at 8:39 PM on October 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


I could maybe try to out-nerd this list, but why not:

No Pat Metheny?

Okay, for a real kinda 80's experience, we can go for a nice little drive.
posted by ovvl at 8:45 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I could maybe try to out-nerd this list

I'm a bit shocked Vangelis - Heaven And Hell isn't on the list, really.
posted by hippybear at 8:48 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, it's much better than that abortion of a Blade Runner soundtrack they featured.

(Plus, COSMOS theme)
posted by hippybear at 8:49 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


No XTC, so boo. But, hey, they included The Soft Boys, which counts for something in my book.
posted by mollweide at 8:52 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pretty heavy on record nerd stuff, and, damn, the whole list is sort of hewn of Industrial Music Sensibility, but like of reconstructed self-conscious industrial types, consciously biting around the edges with "fellow traveler" type records until industrial gets rehabilitated--e.g. jandek, half japanese, rapeman, nurse with wound, etc. (not sayin I don't like that stuff...). Also, it's interesting to see how Elvis Costello has dropped off this list in the last decade and a half--Get Happy probably would've been unavoidable on a hipster type list from y2k era, as would Talking Heads and maybe Devo--certainly you would have gotten to those records before Bathory or Morbid Angel...wtf?

Actually, the fact that Bathory is on this list and Venom is not strikes me as highly pretentious.
posted by batfish at 9:04 PM on October 3, 2014


There's no way they can make a list of the best 80s bands and leave off Stars and Stripes, Ohm's Law, Toxin, Complicated Purple, Norad Norad, The FBI, Ecrasez la Rue, Royalty, and Old Chaos.
posted by euphorb at 9:06 PM on October 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, as a whole the list actually eschews the stuff that was actually well-liked, popular, and even heard of by anyone mainstream during the 80s. Even the Prince album is the one that only "those in the know" like, while everyone else buys 1999 and Purple Rain and got disgusted by Parade and Around The World In A Day.

It's definitely a list with a skew toward the obscure, even when it touches on the popular. There were many albums from the 80s which were very popular which are also really great albums and deserve to be recognized as such.
posted by hippybear at 9:12 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like the list a lot overall, though my own list would probably have a lot more hardcore on it (and a lot less Bathory and Jandek, but that's just me). Yes, it's pretentious, but that's the whole point of making a list of the top 100 Xs in decade Y, and it's good to see a list that doesn't feature all the albums you've already seen a hundred times before. I'd put this in the top ten of top 100 lists.
posted by whir at 10:49 PM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


okay. I'm sticking with my initial impression that Arthur Russell at Number 1 is about as relevant as claiming that Echo + the Bunnymen are the best band to ever come from Liverpool.

Speaking of which, where is Echo + the Bunnymen? And Husker Du, DOA, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Residents, The Pogues, Spacemen 3, The Fall, The Dub Syndicate, This Mortal Coil, Bauhaus, the KLF, the Jesus + Mary Chain, the Waterboys, NoMeansNo, The Cure, Flipper, Butthole Surfers, The The, Jah Wobble, Current 93, Wall of voodoo, The Swans, Gun Club, Killing Joke, Laurie Anderson ... and so on?

This really is a mostly pointless list. But not entirely. I mean, it does have Tackhead, Bongwater, Coil, Young Marble Giants. But Kollaps is not the essential Einsturzende Neubauten album. And Dead Kennedys's Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables should be top ten (or why bother). Ditto Prince's Sign O The Times and the Minutemen's Double Nickels On the Dime. And Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions could only NOT be Top Five on a list put together by people who weren't alive in the 1980s (or certainly too young to be paying attention).

Finally, I've referenced it already. But it bears repeating. The Clash's Sandinista, without which that fucking decade would not have been survivable.
posted by philip-random at 10:51 PM on October 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


There were many albums from the 80s which were very popular which are also really great albums and deserve to be recognized as such.

Sure, but if you're any kind of music nerd you can make that list up yourself in your head with no difficulty. It probably resembles this. Also, even though barely anyone was listening to, say, Half Japanese at the time, that doesn't disqualify them from a Best Of list. I actually like the idea of a list as seen from three decades on.
posted by whir at 10:57 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, I have much love in my heart for Daydream Nation, but I'm with FACT on Sister being superior 100%, just for that drum breakdown on "Pipeline/Kill Time." Likewise, Surfer Rosa is, I think, the best Pixies album of the era. The inclusion of those two entries on FACT's list (along with The Smiths) was a little surprising, though, since they are exactly the sort of rock-critic chestnuts that the rest of the list eschews.
posted by whir at 11:16 PM on October 3, 2014


I had another "wait, that was released in 1980, why the hell wasn't it on this list" with Closer. Seriously? And Talk Talk as well!

I love that Mojo's 2007 supplement included Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares. I had that album on cassette tape and played it until it shredded.
posted by jokeefe at 11:48 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


No 'Reign in Blood' by Slayer? The definitive thrash album of all time. *tsk*
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 11:52 PM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


So much that is new to me here!

Love, love, love Julee Cruise's Floating Into The Night, happy to see it here. Fans of Twin Peaks will recognize several of the songs. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 11:55 PM on October 3, 2014


no Metallica
posted by philip-random at 11:56 PM on October 3, 2014


I think the general philosophy at FACT is something along the lines of "you already know about the fucking Talking Heads and Daydream Nation if you're reading this, here's something that's not the Talking Heads and Daydream Nation ok cool bye" and I for one appreciate that.
posted by naju at 12:39 AM on October 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Right, and also that it's a subjective list, in that it reflects their personal preferences and it's written from a modern viewpoint. Here's a quote from their Top 100 Albums of the 90s list, which goes into a bit more detail than the 80s list:
The result is a list that above all reflects our preferences and our prejudices. We’ve sought to include as many personal favourites of our staff members as possible....No false nostalgia, no sacred cows, no going through the motions. Many of the chosen LPs we discovered during the 90s, many we discovered more recently. At the end of the day, this is a list of the best albums of the ’90s from a very precise and peculiar vantage point: 2012. If we had compiled the list last year, or next year, it would look broadly similar to the one you’re looking at now, but certainly not identical.
posted by Pink Frost at 12:49 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was ready to hate on this but they put e2-e4 at number 4. Not sure I agree with it being that good but it was certainly that important and almost never mentioned anywhere ever.

It had a place in the Pitchfork list of eighties best albums, which is about as mainstream as you can get without hitting Rolling Stone. And much of this list is in clear Pitchfork territory and overlaps with that list. The sort of indie-record-nerd-alto-obscurist, no really only 500 people bought it at the time but now every indie music snob has it on their pandora playlist now albums.

No 'Reign in Blood' by Slayer? The definitive thrash album of all time. *tsk*

That's a strange way of spelling Among the Living. Or South of Heaven. The metal albums on the list are pretty dodgy picks. Scum e.g. is the album every not actually liking metal all that much critic picks because it was on Peel, while Altars of Madness is an important early death metal album, but Death's Leprosy is the better and as important, if not more so.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:27 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love that they have Cleaners From Venus on this list.
posted by spilon at 1:35 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think I can play this game too! No Voivod!

Actually, if most of you had happened to listen to the mixes, you'd be much more sympathetic for Fact's choices, I believe. Or not. We are a snooty bunch, after all. Mixes #2 and #4 really really work for me.

Muslimgauze! Yay!
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:37 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ryuichi Sakamoto! Good god, I have fallen in love with his insanely good music over the past year, beginning with this startlingly beautiful recent work with the great and legendary Alva Noto, and then through his catalog when I realized he was an incredible pioneer in the field of electronic music, creating some of the earliest all-electronic experimental pop albums in the late 1970s – and he also happens to be an excellent and most inventive pianist.

But I haven't even heard the soundtrack for "Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence" yet – I had kind of skirted around the soundtracks in his discography. And now I discover that Sakamoto actually starred in the movie? – alongside David Bowie?

This is totally awesome - new music to listen to, and an awesome-looking film to dig up. And the rest of this list is likely to be brilliant, too, judging just one this one choice. Merry Christmas, me.
posted by koeselitz at 1:54 AM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think the general philosophy at FACT is something along the lines of "you already know about the fucking Talking Heads and Daydream Nation if you're reading this, here's something that's not the Talking Heads and Daydream Nation ok cool bye" and I for one appreciate that.

cool. but then don't label it "100 Best Albums of the 1980s", because fucking Talking Heads and Daydream Nation are included in that. Call it the "100 Best Albums of the 1980s That You Probably Haven't Heard" ... but even then, where's 23 Skidoo, Viv Akauldren, Tupelo Chain Sex, Teardrop Explodes, Three Johns, Severed Heads, Negativland, Mark Stewart, John Zorn, Fad Gadget, Danielle Dax, Copernicus, Blurt, The Beatnigs, African Head Charge ... and so on.

In the end, it's just another list, cooler than some, more smug than most.
posted by philip-random at 1:58 AM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


philip-random: “but then don't label it ‘100 Best Albums of the 1980s’, because fucking Talking Heads and Daydream Nation are included in that.”

"Daydream Nation" actually only really belongs on the list called "albums by unbearably hip and pretentious bands that nobody actually wants to listen to, but this one has the one or two songs you actually could sort of bear listening to if you really screw up your eyes and pretend to try."

But then you go and mention Viv Akauldren. Fucking Viv Akauldren, whom everyone in the world should listen to – they are so, so great! I have a copy of Witness, and it's one of my most prized possessions. Keir MacDonald's later one-man project Medusa Cyclone is also awesome, but Viv Akauldren will live forever as the underground alt-metal / uncategorized / whatever band that never got its due. That shit is epic.
posted by koeselitz at 2:06 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


hippybear: “I mean, it's much better than that abortion of a Blade Runner soundtrack they featured. (Plus, COSMOS theme)”

I tried listening to a few Vangelis records after the Blade Runner soundtrack seemed cool, and all of them were terrible new age schlock. Maybe I just didn't have the right ones. But after two or three I couldn't take it anymore and gave up.

So, uh – you're saying Heaven and Hell is not like that, so I should try it? Or was I just wrong about Vangelis? Always good to try things again, really.
posted by koeselitz at 2:10 AM on October 4, 2014


Ooh, this has Rites of Spring on it! Probably not that obscure, but really, really good.
posted by koeselitz at 2:22 AM on October 4, 2014


lol no SWANS, list fails.

(actually not a bad list despite the overwhelming preponderance of terrible noise albums)
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:31 AM on October 4, 2014


You Made Me Realise by My Bloody Valentine is great, but it's not an album.
posted by iotic at 5:24 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Best Of" lists should cordon off Canon from Deep Cuts. Yes, this will only provoke further nerd rage.

Alternatively, differentiate between "albums with songs you can move to" and "album-length surreal explorations". NWA and NWW are barely comparable to one another.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:26 AM on October 4, 2014


Ryuichi Sakamoto's score to Snake Eyes is an underappreciated treasure.

One of my fondest memories from film school was idly bringing this up, only to have an acquaintance blurt out, "I OWN THAT MOVIE ON LASERDISC!!!!"
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:28 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The first comment on every one of these list posts should be "What, no X?" so that everyone's favorite neglected thing can be accounted for and everyone feels better.

What, no gravy?!
posted by entropicamericana at 6:42 AM on October 4, 2014


Including Minor Threat without including Bad Brains just seems wrong to me.


Also, Grace Jones' Slave To The Rhythm is a glaring omission.


As is Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:44 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


seriously? I've got it. Had it since ... the 1980s. Always felt more gimmick than anything. Sandinista yt is at least nine times as relevant.

Arthur Russell is amazing and hugely underrated. I was so thrilled when they re-released his stuff in the early 2000s, because before that basically all I'd been able to find was "Tell You Today" and the other stuff on the Ze records compilations.

The thing is, I love Sandinista. For a long time, that was my very favorite album of ever. For me, right now (and these lists are always "for right now) I feel like Arthur Russell is doing more complex and difficult stuff, and listening to his work challenges me more. I think that a lot of stuff people are listing as "better" and "why isn't it on this list" is just....easier listening than what's on the list. When I think about my other eighties favorites (mid-period Mekons, the Clash, Elvis Costello, Orange Juice...even Scritti Politti and the Chumbas) I think about how much more they're focused on rock/pop song structure, sing-along-ability, sounds that are readily appealing right away). A lot of really good, high-quality, innovative eighties music is very much about an accessible and attractive sound, and for me, that creates a different listening experience.

Also, I feel like this list is zeitgeisty because I get this feeling - when I listen to what the kids are listening to, or at least the hip kids - that a lot of the ways of writing popular music have shifted way more into (my music words are going to be inadequate here) being more influenced by industrial and dance and "cooler toned" electronic music, plus the more cutting edge hip-hop of the past. Like, I scarcely ever hear a contemporary song that's warm-toned and has a conventional sing-along-able structure (a la mid-period Elvis Costello, for instance) that has any pretensions to quality and interest. Whereas on the other hand, frex, I cannot get enough of listening to Owen Pallett and there's a kid whose work reminds me of Arthur Russell, especially on the new album. (not, IMO, as a strong a lyricist, though) I think that this list is really about how pop songs are made now.

I wish people could frame these lists as "songs that were best in the eighties considered through the lens of [musical concern]".

At the same time though seriously fucking FACT magazine, maybe you could - I don't know? - get some women on your staff. I looked at the nineties list too, and while it's possible (I guess) to have a list of best eighties music that includes almost no women, it should not be possible to have this be true for both the eighties and the nineties. If you are making "best of" music lists that routinely omit almost all work by women, you are doing something wrong. I would suggest that it's pure bias, because there have been women in all these scenes making difficult and complex music - it's not as though the only things women produced in the eighties were Madonna-like bubblegum.
posted by Frowner at 7:08 AM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Or maybe it's just that what the Clash is doing on Sandinista - or what the Mekons are doing with So Good It Hurts, etc - has been so completely absorbed that it seems "easy", kind of like we all always-already have encountered certain basic pyschoanalytic concepts (repression, disavowal, the idea that we have motives that we ourselves can't immediately perceive) because they've been so completely absorbed into the culture.
posted by Frowner at 7:14 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


This (and their 70s list) are nifty. It's neat to see past decades filtered through a very particular modern sensibility---watching a canon get rewritten is fun. It's got interesting takes on albums I know, and a lot of albums I don't know and want to hear. So even though I might disagree with some albums even on the list's own terms (Stations of the Crass over Penis Envy WTF?!??!?!?!), it's a great read.

if you are making "best of" music lists that routinely omit almost all work by women, you are doing something wrong.

Kate Bush, Young Marble Giants, Julee Cruise, Suzanne Ciani, Mary Currie, Sade, Virginia Astley, Eurhythmics, and Skin are all on the list. Plus The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, and Soul II Soul.

It's not 50/50 parity, but it's a lot more women than you'd see on most non-pop lists of the decade.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:16 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love that they have Cleaners From Venus on this list.
posted by spilon


Yes, but it should be "Living With Victoria Gray", which is up there with Rubber Soul in density of great songs.
posted by jetsetsc at 7:18 AM on October 4, 2014


Or maybe it's just that what the Clash is doing on Sandinista - or what the Mekons are doing with So Good It Hurts, etc - has been so completely absorbed that it seems "easy", kind of like we all always-already have encountered certain basic pyschoanalytic concepts (repression, disavowal, the idea that we have motives that we ourselves can't immediately perceive) because they've been so completely absorbed into the culture.

Great point.
posted by davebush at 7:56 AM on October 4, 2014


no SWANS, list fails

Well, in fairness they do include (World of) Skin, which fits in with their theme of "don't go for the better-known stuff."
posted by whir at 8:08 AM on October 4, 2014


They said that Hounds of Love was the first time Kate Bush had creative control over a record.

[telephone rings] Um. One second.

Hello. Yes. Ok.

Someone calling themselves The Dreaming is on the line, and they want to have a terrifying shriek with you.
posted by erlking at 8:09 AM on October 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


Love this, love this, love this. I lived through that era and have always liked underground music but I don't know half this material.

Oh, and Sandinista! is a very hard album. I distinctly remember getting it and thinking, "Whoa, what's wrong with this record?" My late :-( friend Pierre explained a lot of it to me - the politics, the satirical/surrealistic flavor of "Washington Bullets", which is a cheerful carioca with extremely grim lyrics. He even knew that "Mensforth Hill" is "Something About England" backward without the lyrics.

This album contained the first dubs I ever heard; the first political ballads about contemporary times; and precursors of rap ("The Magnificent Seven") and chiptunes ("Ivan Meets GI Joe", "Silicon on Sapphire"). An ultimate anti-fundamentalist Christian song ("Up In Heaven"), an ultimate anti-war song ("Charlie Don't Surf"), an ultimate meta-song ("Broadway")...

But more, it has songs for the ages - strong political songs that could have been written at any time, like "The Crooked Beat" and "The Callup":
It's up to you not to heed the callup
You must not act the way you were brought up
Who knows the reasons why you have grown up?
Who knows the plans or why they were drawn up?
[...]
All the young people down the ages
They gladly marched off to die.
Proud city fathers used to watch them
Tears in their eyes...
I could easily keep going - there isn't a dud song on the album.

Not that I'm complaining about this excellent collection. The Clash doesn't need curation!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:25 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Normally these things are a matter of opinion but this is quite an interesting case in that the absence of any The The makes it demonstrably wrong.
posted by biffa at 9:32 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ach, I meant "strong political songs that could have been written at any time, like "Rebel Waltz"..."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:36 AM on October 4, 2014


It was really looking at the nineties list that convinced me that there's a woman problem with these - I counted ten albums out of 100 where I was sure there was a woman involved in the band and only two which seemed really to center women. I'm sure the actual count is higher because I'm not familiar with all the music and because the nineties list has to be clicked through one by one, but it's clear that there's not a lot of majority/all women bands on the list, and not a lot of women centered as musicians. And this in the nineties! I happen to remember the nineties pretty well, and if anything there were more women actively producing music.

I surmise that this all comes from just not really listening to music made by women as a regular thing - just like I don't regularly pick up country albums or whatever.

Again, these are great, useful lists, and I'm certainly not going to say "where is [woman musician whose work I think is great]????" because this type of list is idiosyncratic and the absence of any one or two musicians doesn't mean a thing, but when I see so few women, I feel like something is off.
posted by Frowner at 9:57 AM on October 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I will say that for a much better guide to women of the era, Musicophilia's The Young Lady's Post-Punk Handbook is an essential listen (and maybe merits its own FPP).
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:35 AM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


If they'd called this list "The 100 Best Non-Obvious Records of the 1980's" I could have gotten behind it. But they called it "The 100 Best Records of the '80s" and then left off such an enormous amount of transparently, inarguably great records that it ends up being either willful obscurantism or just plain trolling and it makes the entire exercise obnoxiously contrarian.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:01 AM on October 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


I was prepared to hate this list but then...Carcass, Bathory, Morbid Angel and...could it be...Mayhem? It is! Hooray for "Chainsaw Gutsfuck"!
posted by MikeMc at 11:33 AM on October 4, 2014


I will say that for a much better guide to women of the era, Musicophilia's The Young Lady's Post-Punk Handbook is an essential listen (and maybe merits its own FPP).

Oh yes, it does indeed.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:07 PM on October 4, 2014


Oooh, someone do it please, as that sounds very up my alley and I don't know about it!

(And Frowner, I think that's true esp. of the '90s list...I was bummed there was no Helium, Sleater-Kinney, the Butchies, Gillian Welch, Bjork, Lisa Germano, Cat Power [!!], or Bikini Kill, just off the top of my head, though I was elated Unwound showed up--Sara Lund is amazing--as well as personal favorites OTC, Codeine [! the right one too even, yesss], Earth, and Eric's Trip. So yeah. There is that whiff of "certain kind of guy musician you date [or are, ehrm, married to], who is awesome but not as well versed in women musicians" thing. I missed Y Pants and ESG off the '80s list, as well as dear god yes Pylon, among others...)

(And as for the Kate Bush creative control thing, I could be wrong but I've a feeling they mean that it was the first album she was able to do once she'd built a studio from the ground up exactly to her liking, which is something she's said was a huge part of what made HoL possible. But yeah. The Dreaming! Man.)
posted by ifjuly at 12:27 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


OK, now that I've checked it out--Chris and Cosey! Au Pairs! Lydia Lunch! Slits and Siouxsie and Marine Girls and Grace Jones! Aforementioned-pining-for Y Pants and ESG and Pylon! Thank you for sharing, whee.
posted by ifjuly at 12:55 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


RE: lack of female artists on the list

I was a radio DJ more or less constantly from 1983-99. Yes, there were always cool, interesting, engaging female artists through the 80s. No, there weren't that many. As a not particularly "conscious" guy, it was very easy for me to program two or three hours of non-stop cool radio and not play a single female artist (certainly no bands/artists that you immediately identify as female). By the late 90s though, things were significantly different. By then, I was programming all kinds of stuff that identified as female, and I suspect I was "unconscious" as ever. It just happened that there was way more cool stuff that identified that way. Which is great. Proof that the culture had actually changed, was changing (and it continues to change big time).

So yeah, much as I have issues with this list, I can't really fault it for its lack of female representation*. That's just a sad "sign of the times".

* the glaring omission, of course, is Laurie Anderson, who wasn't just playing with the boys with her first two albums in particular, she was showing them how it was done.
posted by philip-random at 2:02 PM on October 4, 2014


I'm actually intrigued with a half-formed musing-type thought that it's nebulously a thing where FACT's clearly doing what naju said, a "let's focus on stuff you might not know about, shall we"*, but one of the casualties of that is cool women, because of all the usual "why are there no great women artists"/"room of one's own" hashed stuff, where to even exist and be present at all, at ALL, is a big deal, and if you manage it at all it's because you become...not tokenized exactly, but you know, yes, a stand-in shorthand for so much more that never gets to that point. So the result is you leave people off of the '90s list like Bjork or Cat Power because that's in the "c'mon man, if you're reading this you already like Daydream Nation" vein. To clear the hurdle at all as a lady criticism and notoriety clear you farther, because getting anywhere at all means you'll be somewhat of a stand-in for everyone who doesn't, more so as a less visible group from the get-go.

I'm probably not articulating that well, and it is indeed a half-formed thought currently. But I liked being prompted to think of it!

*which I personally heartily agree is GREAT, I don't need a list to tell me the Clash were good, thanks, and also what a couple others have mentioned, the way it's the past through a lens now and it's interesting to see how that works...I was making dinner yesterday and playing the lists in the kitchen and while doing dishes I was struck with how, yeah, the mixes generate this feeling of something in the past for sure, but that's been given a breath of fresh air upon examination through today's lens...it gives off a less cartoony caricatured vibe for the '80s, probably due to avoiding the oversaturation "know so well as background you don't even really notice it or are able to think clearly about it" bit.
posted by ifjuly at 2:21 PM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wonder if the lack of women artists on the list might also partly be down to the curators' evident affection for proto-electronica, metal and industrial music. Those aren't genres I know tons about, but most of the artists I do know from that period are pretty heavily male dominated. (I'd be glad to be educated about women working in those genres back then, I just can't think of many.)
posted by whir at 2:57 PM on October 4, 2014


turbid dahlia: “lol no SWANS, list fails.”

World of Skin is about a billion times better than the Swans' 80s output anyway. Yeah, I said it.
posted by koeselitz at 2:58 PM on October 4, 2014


It's not the right era, but there are comps like Extreme Music: Women (which includes a song expressly addressed to Laura Mulvey), and actually weirdly I would say in modern day music I like, electronica is one of the more democratic spots for women to really shine (the only brand new major, like blockbuster-in-their-realms-level artists I've been way, WAY into in the past 3 years or so are Grouper and Grimes, and historically when I think of major pioneers in their fields music-wise I tend to think first of women in electronics and how they didn't have to do anything like be marketably sexy or whatever, just kick ass matter-of-factly--Delia Derbyshire, Laurie Spiegel, Suzanne Ciani, Eliane Radigue). But that's a hobbled, one-person-subjective mindset, granted.
posted by ifjuly at 3:07 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


And yeah, I consider Cosey Fanni Tutti a personal feminist (not just music-oriented, or art-, but straight-up too) hero who beat PJ Harvey to the punch in certain delightful ways by over a decade. (Reminded now of her Red Bull Music Academy [yes, I feel absolutely ridiculous typing that out but it really was great, along with the series in general] interview that made my Thanksgiving years ago, ha.)
posted by ifjuly at 3:10 PM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


As long as we're doing "why didn't they include [blah album]"...what, no Lolita Nation? I know it's been out of print for-freaking-ever, but come on. Of the two double albums with the word "nation" in the title that Enigma dropped in the mid-80s, it was the better of the two by a country mile. And I would stand on Thurston Moore's coffee table in my high-button shoes and say that.

But don't just take my word for it.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:29 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


koeselitz So, uh – you're saying Heaven and Hell is not like that, so I should try it?

It's quite a little musical adventure, IMO. Here, check it out for yourself.
posted by hippybear at 11:22 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The more I think about it, the more I think that not having Laurie Anderson's Big Science on there more or less invalidates this list.
posted by erlking at 11:47 AM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I dunno man...Whitehouse but no :zoviet*france or Sleepchamber or SPK or even Psychic TV? And nothing from Leeds? Bah.
posted by malocchio at 7:18 AM on October 6, 2014


I miss SPK too, malocchio. Fer shur.
posted by ifjuly at 9:21 AM on October 6, 2014


and Tuxedomoon--I keep forgetting to mention that one did genuinely surprise me given the tenor and aims of the list as I perceive them. But maybe there's a musician connection somewhere to a band they already shout out I'm not aware of--I noticed they tried to limit representation that way to get as much out there as possible (which I have no problem with).
posted by ifjuly at 12:05 PM on October 6, 2014


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