Emmett and Dave pick their favorite albums of the 80s

By Emmett Overbey and David Trout

Emmett: Well, we’re supposed to list the top albums of the 80s, but since Dave and I both hate charts…

Dave: And popular music…

Emmett: Yeah and popular music, we’re just going to discuss our personal favorites.

Dave: Whether they were popular or not?

Emmett: Right. So, what’s your nominee for the best album of the eighties?

Dave: Well, the quintessential album of the eighties is “Murmur” by R.E.M.

Emmett: That’s what everyone says. As far as I am concerned I prefer “Reckoning”, also by R.E.M.

Dave: Well Emmett, “Murmur” is the harbringer of all the college music of the eighties, which is of course the best stuff. They said Bill Haley created Rock and Roll, but R.E.M. put college music on the map. Not to mention that they influenced about 100,000 bands I have seen.

Emmett: That’s true, but Bowie came first. My pick for “Album of the Decade” is definitely “Scary Monsters”.

Dave: I respect Bowie, but his style is too concrete. It is simply straight forward rock and roll whereas “Murmur” was a masterpiece of mystical, magical, southern bred Byrds-style origin. Not to mention the early punk years influence.

Emmett: I don’t know what that means. It seems to me that Bowie laid the groundwork that bands, like R.E.M., have built upon. They’re sort of picking up where Bowie left off.

Dave: R.E.M.‘s “Murmur” is so diverse, yet it all strikes the listener in a way that he or she will think, “What was that all about?” They are definitely the thinking man’s band. They can put it to you straight as in “Radio Free Europe”, or they can be spellbinding, as in “9-9”.The eerie feeling of the album coupled with the mysterious, indistinguishable lyrics makes this the most important album of the decade as well. Upon the first listening “Murmur” gave me a feeling of complete astonishment.

Emmett: 1980’s “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” still stands as Bowie’s last worthwhile solo album. His best of the decade, if not of his career, the album epitomizes Bowie’s chamaeleonic style. The title track, along with classics like, “Up the Hill Backwards”, and “Ashes to Ashes”, blends Bowie’s basic style with groovy technical tricks that create the kind of atmosphere Bowie records are famous for. His influence is evident in most current music, and “Scary Monsters” is the most influential and most artistically impressive album of the decade.

Dave: For the best album of the eighties, the technical trick stuff, the award goes to “Scary Monsters”, congratulations! Well, we’ll never settle this, although everyone out there knows I’m right, so let’s talk about the other great albums of the decade.

Emmett: Sure. My number two album is “Mask” by Bauhaus. Their later stuff wasn’t as good, but “Mask” is great—Bauhaus at their best.

Dave: Is that possible? (chuckle, a real loud chuckle) Where R.E.M. ends at mystical, Husker Du takes over with a sound as deafening as a head-on collision between two tractor trailers on the Kennedy Expressway. “New Day Rising” is my choice for the second best album of the decade. Not as acclaimed as other Husker records, but this one is the most enjoyable.

Emmett: Third on my list is “7th Dream of Teenage Heaven” by Love and Rockets. This came along before Love and Rockets were concerned with getting popular, so it’s not self-conscious. Really long and slow songs. Lots of experimentation with new sounds, innovative stuff.

Dave: Talking about innovative stuff, the most innovative band of the eighties was the Butthole Surfers, and their album “Rembrandt Pussyhorse” was a masterpiece in itself. This stuff is the ultimate hallucinatory backdrop music available. This band is from the darker reaches of hell, so if you do decide to give it a listen don’t blame the psychological damage on me.

Emmett: On the same level, how about the “Spinal Tap” soundtrack? Less serious than the surfers , but just as much fun.

Dave: The Beer drinking album of the millenium award goes to the Replacements for their album “Tim”. They used to exemplify what sleazy rock and roll is about, thank god Soul Asylum took their place, but now they just wallow in their capitalistic greed. I want Bob Stinson back.

The rest of the best albums of the eighties fall into the better-buy-these-albums-before-they-disappear-from-store-shelvescategory.

In no particular order: The Cure-“The Top”, Db’s-“Like This”, The Feelies- “Only Life”, The Jazz Butcher-“A Scandal in Bohemia”, The Waterboys-“This is the Sea”, Shriekback-“Oil and Gold”, The Flaming Lips-“Oh My Gawd, It’s the Flaming Lips”, Sonic Youth-“Evol”, Sonic Youth-“Daydream Nation”, XTC-“English Settlement”, They Might Be Giants-“TMBG”, The Silos-“Cuba”, Tears for Fears-“The Hurting”, Husker Du-“Zen Arcade”, Echo and The Bunnymen-“Ocean Rain”, Naked Raygun-“Throb Throb”, Let’s Active-“Big Plans for Everybody”, and R.E.M.-“Life’s Rich Pageant”.

And the two albums that we both agree exemplify eighties rock are (drum roll please) “Mother’s Milk” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and “Think Rain” by DeKalb’s own Acquatic Noggin.