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July 9, 2002

80's Music That Does Not Suck

Angry Robot recently listed his ten favorite 80's albums, as did Andrew, so I thought I'd add to the nostalgia.

The 80's were a musical awakening for me. I went away to college in 1981, leaving a small town in north Alabama for Atlanta and Athens, Georgia. In high school I was enraptured by Elvis Costello, the Velvet Underground, the Sex Pistols, and assorted college radio icons. Arriving to the Georgia music scene, the 688 club, the 40 Watt and blessed WRAS (still my favorite radio station) was an introduction to live music, interesting bands and too much beer.

My top 10 albums from the '80's:

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Rattlesnakes: Smart lyrics, great hooks and brilliant pop melodies made this a favorite from my first listen.

R.E.M. - Chronic Town: Expertly and minimally produced by Mitch Easter of Let's Active (see below), the lyrics were another instrument and the guitars jangly and evocative of the band's live performances.

The Smiths - The Smiths: I heard "This Charming Man" on the radio and instantly went out to buy this record. Morrissey and Marr at their sparest, to this day if I pick up a guitar I instantly play a few bars of this song...

Jason and the Scorchers - Fervor: I bought this the next day after seeing the Scorchers open for another band. Alt-country before it was cool, Jason Ringenberg's vocals evoke Hank Williams and Werner Hodges is one of my favorite guitarists.

Pylon - Chomp: Another Athens band with energetic live shows.

Let's Active - Cypress: Curious melodies and interesting arrangements make this a pop masterpiece.

Billy Bragg - Life's A Riot With Spy vs. Spy: I remember hearing "A New England" on the radio, then rushing out to find a copy of this EP the next day. Often compared to Woody Guthrie, Bragg's earnestness, delivery and surprisingly good guitar work stand out on this debut album.

Lou Reed - New York: I had been a fan of Reed's for a long time, but this stands out as my favorite album of his.

The Brains - Dancing Under Streetlights: Tom Gray (better known for writing "Money Changes Everything" RealAudio) at his best. I had this EP on a tape with REM's Chronic Town on repeat for much of 1982. Some friends and I even went to the video shoot for the title track...

The Replacements - Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash: My introduction to the Placemats, one of those albums where I couldn't wait to see what the band would come up with next (I wasn't let down).


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