Punk rock -- soon to be, if not already, post-punk -- soldiered on into the 1980s. Hardcore sped things up to the speed of light and made the funny, sarcastic, brilliant lyrics sound like one long yell into the abyss. If you didn't sit home and memorize the lyric sheet -- on your own time!!! -- then you were just left to slamdance as long as your young, stupid body allowed and know in your heart that you were standing up for something surely righteous.
To go along with the new youth movement, there were the weird offshoots from old punks who kept their names in the ring by releasing something and while there's a good chance that I'm overrating a few things, it's also likely that so is everyone else. Punk rock was provincial and the alternative scene was as much what you heard as what existed. The network was up and running but the glitches were fatal for some groups. Who knows how hard they rocked in the outskirts of Lawrence, Kansas.
Had I grown up in Orange County, California I'd be telling a different tale than had I spent my time in the trenches of CBGBs. Since I lived neither existence, Agnostic Front don't matter to me and I may have romanticized T.S.O.L. more than I should have -- and listening to the actual records listed here, some haven't aged all that well.
Face it, at this point we're lucky to even remember this stuff. In a few more years, we'll all just be crying in our underwear.
Every college radio DJ heard the question over the request line: "Could you play "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies?" This went on for years and seeing as to how my illustrious College Radio Career at WKNJ ended with a visit to the Dean's Office, I never found out how it ended. Did it take until Nirvana to move the listening audience along? Were people annoyed that I referred to them as Suicidal Tenderness? Hey, I've been consistent!
24) The Fall -- Perverted By Language:
This is what we call Post-Punk because we don't know what else to call it. Mark E. Smith came along with the '77 movement, but he hated membership dues and he went on his merry way playing music that gathered a devout audience. I click on my iTunes Library and discover 51 albums and 772 songs and I don't consider myself a huge fan. Maybe it's time I had that talk with myself.
These fellas surely could have gone the way of The Fall. They had the same stream of consciousness that allowed them to say anything. "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs" is such a brilliant idea that it's only competition are the other songs: "Dreams Are Free, Motherf----r!," "Little Man With a Gun In His Hand" and "I Felt Like A Gringo."
22) X -- More Fun In the New World:
X were the study of a great band who suffered because of the times they lived through. Had they shown up in the late 1960s, they likely would've been huge on the scene where 200,000 albums sold was enough to hang. As it stood, the band were a huge cult band trying to find their connection to the mainstream they deserved. But by doing so, they weakened and broke apart. Now, we go see them perform their early songs, of which this album is near the tail end of their relevance, and see them take over a small club. Could there be new songs? I dream.
They're credited with being among the first bands to discover Psychobilly, but The Cramps would likely wish to debate that claim. I only remember hearing this album once in 1983 at the official opening of a punk record store near my house -- Rebel Rouser! -- that every young vinyl collector should have had at their disposal for at least one year of their suburban life.
20) Jason and the Scorchers -- Fervor:
For a brief time, The Scorchers were the band they were supposed to be. While a major label contract is what most bands thought they wanted or needed, in the 1980s it turned out to be a deal with the devil that bore no fruit. They lost momentum and their second album just tanked the group for good, no matter how they try and spin it. This EP was enough to make a believer out of most people who didn't hold the cowboy hats against them.
I have no idea what this sounds like. I've never heard it, but I saw it around. In all likelihood, I have a cassette tape somewhere of a radio show where the DJ didn't identify what they played and this is on it. Trouser Press says it "contains most of their best songs" and I'm pretty sure that's true, since why would they lie?
18) Jim Carroll -- I Write Your Name:
There weren't many of us who went looking for this album. Catholic Boy barely got played beyond "People Who Died," but if you could get past the limitations of his voice -- uh, we did for most people on this list -- then this was better stuff than you likely realized. Or maybe it's worse. I lost track after Dry Dreams.
Stiv Bators! The Dead Boys were so good, but the albums became difficult to find just when they needed to be there at a DJ's disposal to carry on the legacy. Instead, we had this album, which, truth told, I don't remember beyond the cover. Why don't you write this entry? (I'm not entirely convinced anyone reads these middle entries anyhow.)
16) T.S.O.L. -- Beneath The Shadows:
Over the course of a decade, these folks had enough line-up and stylistic changes to make each album a different experience. Having gone back to Spotify to hear this album for the first time in many years, I'm not sure what I'm listening to. None of it sounds familiar and all of it sounds pathetically underproduced. I prefer their next album Change Today?, which featured a different singer. Supposedly, this album was "critically-acclaimed" but hated by their punk audience. What does that even mean?
Here's what happens when your band tries to keep up with the scene and abandons what they do best. Hardcore flat-out ruined Glenny Danzig. He had to know it, since he eventually reverted to Rick Rubin-approved form and forgot about playing too fast.
14) Sonic Youth -- Confusion Is Sex:
To think what these folks went on to do. Very little of it is here. Though this is several subway stops better than their previous EP, they still don't consistently "try" for anything here. Turning on your amp is not all it takes, after all. Play it loud and it sounds like genius, like most things.
I admit I don't get Johnny the way other people get Johnny. Heresy in some quarters, but I'm part of the "New Honesty" movement. Each one of these "albums" has like five songs and is still listed as an album. I know he was a junkie -- he told everyone that -- but I still think he should've worked harder or had his people work harder. I like laziness. But I wouldn't buy it.
12) The Meatmen -- We're The Meatmen…and You Suck!:
These days with people being more sensitive than they once were, I don't know how this holds up. But when you're a teenager and you really don't care about anyone but yourself, this stuff is just what the mirror ordered. It's loud. It's stupid. It's offensive. Who wants to grow up anyway?
Mike Ness was smart as hell and once his 'punk' career was in doubt, he grabbed onto Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" as fast as other kids slamdanced. You could say he was always careering where the other kids were having fun. But then he had a voice better than hoarse screaming, so he had to take of it, right?
10) Dead Kennedys -- Skateboard Party:
It looked like a bootleg. It was live. There wasn't a young kid with a need to outrage the neighbors who didn't look to these guys as something to know about. I loved East Bay Ray's guitar playing and shamelessly imitated Jello Biafra until I went towards mimicking Gordon Gano and Nick Cave. We were kids and this stuff was fascinating, but I haven't thought about it in years. What happened to me? What happened to you?
Sly punks didn't actually have any hits and this wasn't a compilation album but their third studio record with the title track being a medley like "Stars On 45" that had punk covers of "Along Comes Mary," "Afternoon Delight" and "Having My Baby" among the tunes roughed up. At 27:34, it was nearly twice as long as their debut album Group Sex that a friend of mine paid $9 for and to which I laughed and told him he got ripped off! Sorta.
8) Dicks -- Kill From The Heart:
I don't know if the Dicks were a great band or if it's all on Gary Floyd and his attention-grabbing voice. I liked Sister Double Happiness, so you know I was willing to accept Mr. Floyd as my personal cause. I even once pitched Sister Double Happiness to a major magazine and got back the opportunity to review a Merchants of Venus album and to profile Ned's Atomic Dustbin. You wonder why kids didn't read mainstream music mags?
Public Image, Ltd. were supposed to be about non-exploitation and Johnny no-more-Rotten controlling every aspect of his career with integrity and then this live album -- the second for a group with three studio albums -- showed up and people bought it because they couldn't find the other one. I think the other one is supposed to be better.
6) Scream -- Still Screaming:
Released on Dischord Records and said to be its first full-length album by a single band, Still Screaming likely had a tag on it that said 'Pay No More than $4.99 for this album' right near the store's price tag of $7.99. If you knew how to get your mom to write a check, you ordered it in the mail and started buying all kinds of inferior stuff all the time from the back of Maximumrocknroll. No, Dave Grohl isn't yet in the band.
How dire were the 1980s? Well, listen to the production of these records? They're rough and hurried and half the songs are instantly forgettable: no worse than most albums, actually. It was "The Real World," "It's Not Funny Anymore" and "Diane" that kept hope alive! And then Zen Arcade!
4) Adrenalin O.D. -- Let's Barbeque:
This six-song EP -- which came with a xeroxed insert with the words to the songs typed out and a bunch of photos all crammed together in that popular style with a generous special thanks section -- was the kind of record you paid no more than $3 for and is now a bonafide collector's item, likely becoming less collectible the more the fans die or go deaf or no longer have a turntable but a wife who wants to clean out the junk in the basement. You really think you're gonna use that Pilates thing, woman?? This is history in the making!
This EP was like hooked on phonics or something, lots of rhymes and overenunciation. The entire 4-song EP lasted about six minutes, which is about three minutes less than it takes to fold the package back into place the right way.
2) Bad Brains -- Rock For Light:
The original album is mixed differently than all issues of the record prior to 1991 when original producer Ric Ocasek (The Cars) and bassist Darryl Jenifer went back in and changed everyone's memories. The band broke up after this album, which is something they did after most of their albums. Did H.R. stand for Human Resources?
Hold on tight! They didn't drink, they didn't smoke, they didn't have sex, but they played music that defied the laws of physics and once again fought capitalist pigdom by letting us know how much we should pay for the record right there on the album cover. (I'm told this was on future pressings, but by 1985, two years henceforth -- henceforth!!! -- it was already on there) When it comes to "integrity rock," know the name Minor Threat!
- Johnny Thunders
- Suicidal Tendencies