Pitchfork’s latest list, The 200 Best Albums of the ’80s, is fairly solid, but (there’s always a “but” with any blog post about the precarious conceit of canon-building) there are questionable inclusions and head-scratching omissions. This tweet by the astute record-producer/-collector Andy Zax accurately summarizes the problems.
Too many genre pieces and latter-day enthusiasms elevated and overcorrected into canon. Also, lots of Right Artist/Wrong Album and “you still haven’t seen through that schtick?”
P.S. Maybe check out “Sulk” by the Associates sometime?
P.P.S. Thanks for not including Lewis. https://t.co/cDJ28PoLVF
— Andy Zax (@andyzax) September 10, 2018
As the internet’s most widely read music-criticism site, Pitchfork is an easy target for bloggers, tweeters, and readers to fling gripes at. Despite the profusion of negative critiques for the online juggernaut’s contentious lists, Pitchfork surely sleeps soundly at night, cushioned by its prodigious ad revenue. Nevertheless, one must point out injustices when one sees them. Plus, complaining about music lists is innately enjoyable, as is communicating righteous indignation over perceived slights toward one’s favorite records.
That being said, Pitchfork’s editors and contributors did select some great releases that fall outside of hive-mind consensus. For example, Nuno Cannavaro’s Plux Quba (181), Godflesh’s Streetcleaner (175), Laurie Spiegel's The Expanding Universe, King Sunny Adé And His African Beats’ Syncro System (162), Pauline Oliveros/Stuart Dempster/Panaiotis’s Deep Listening (164), Au Pairs' Playing with a Different Sex, Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4 (80), and ESG’s Come Away (50) are superb, unexpected choices. Also, Pitchfork genuinely seemed to strive to present a diversity of genres, although country-music fans will likely grumble about a paucity of their faves. (Was the ’80s a good decade for country? This music really has never resonated with me, so I don’t know.) Electronic music kind of received short-shrift, as did New Age and ambient. But, you know, it’s more important to recognize the paradigmatic awesomeness of Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock, Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, Steely Dan’s Gaucho, Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July, Joe Jackson's Night and Day, and Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night.
I can only speculate about the ages of this list’s decision-makers, but I do wonder how many were actively listening to music during the years in which these releases appeared. I’m not saying it’s essential that they were, but it would help bring a deeper perspective to the era’s zeitgeist.
In other nitpicking news, I would’ve gone with Ornette Coleman’s Of Human Feelings over In All Languages, Echo & the Bunnymen’s Heaven Up Here over Ocean Rain, Elvis Costello’s Trust over Imperial Bedroom, Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon over Apollo, the Fall’s Grotesque (After the Gramme) over This Nation’s Saving Grace, Sonic Youth’s Sister over EVOL and Daydream Nation, Scritti Politti’s Songs to Remember over Cupid & Psyche 85, and Spacemen 3’s The Perfect Prescription over Playing with Fire. Yadda yadda blah blah blah. You and I could do this all day, and the catharsis would be off the charts (as would be most of our picks).
Anyway, moving on to the part of the post for which you paid admission, here are 20 more albums that should be on any “best albums of the ’80s list,” in a universe with perfect chakra alignment. Your mileage may vary… like the sun may rise in the east tomorrow.
01 Chrome, 3rd from the Sun
02 Colin Newman, Not To
03 Killing Joke, Killing Joke
04 Jon Hassell, Dream Theory in Malaya (Fourth World Volume Two)
05 Associates, Fourth Drawer Down
06 Fire Engines, Lubricate Your Living Room
07 Loop, Heaven’s End
08 Birthday Party, Prayers on Fire
09 Magazine, The Correct Use of Soap
10 Rain Parade, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip
11 Dream Syndicate, The Days of Wine and Roses
12 World Domination Enterprises, Let’s Play Domination
13 Cabaret Voltaire, Red Mecca
14 Opal, Happy Nightmare Baby
15 The Pop Group, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?
16 The Soft Boys, Underwater Moonlight
17 Moebius/Plank/Neumeier, Zero Set
18 Savage Republic, Jamihiriya
19 A.C. Marias, One of Our Girls Has Gone Missing
20 Deutsch Amerikanisch Freundschaft, Die Kleinen und Die Bösen
Close, but not quite:
The Go-Betweens, Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
Richard Pinhas, L’Ethique
Yasuo Sugibayashi, Yasuo Sugibayashi (later reissued as The Mask of the Imperial Family)
A.R. Kane, 69
Bongwater, Double Bummer
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
23 Skidoo, Seven Songs
Severed Heads, Since the Accident
Meat Beat Manifesto, Storm the Studio
Soviet France, A Flock of Rotations
Robyn Hitchcock, Black Snake Diamond Röle
Slovenly, Thinking of Empire
A Certain Ratio, To Each…
Straitjacket Fits, Hail
Screaming Trees, Even If and Especially When
Dexy’s Midnight Runner, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels
Zazou/Bikaye/CY1, Noir et Blanc
The Psychedelic Furs, The Psychedelic Furs