If you were happy to dismiss our recent list of albums about to turn 40 as “before my time”, never fear, because now we’ve got one to make all you millennial/Generation Y, identity crisis-hit mid-eighties kids realise the terrifyingly fleeting nature of time as well.
If, like me, you fit into that bracket, this fine octet of 1988 albums is almost as old as you are. The only difference is that they’ve actually changed the world for the better – what the hell have YOU done?
Get a grip, and get these down your ears!
1. Pixies – Surfer Rosa
Is it possible that if there had been no Surfer Rosa, there would’ve been no Nevermind and no Seattle grunge scene? Kurt Cobain is quoted as saying ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was just an attempt to “rip off the Pixies”, the whole quiet verse, loud chorus being the blueprint for the simple yet era-defining song.
If you’ve never heard Surfer Rosa, it’s one of those albums that will pretty much undermine everything you’ve heard and enjoyed since. Whatever your favourite band do, they probably nicked it from here.
2. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
Iconic and unparalleled. Everything from its instantly recognisable cover featuring a Gerhard Richter painting, to the completely alien (at the time) mesh of post-punk, art rock and spoken word, tells you this album is something out of the ordinary.
Even if we pretend the rest of it is just noisy rubbish, has there ever been a better opening track to an album than ‘Teen Age Riot’?
3. My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything
Many prefer this debut to Loveless, and although I personally disagree, I can understand the argument. The rougher, choppier stuff like ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ and ‘(When You Wake) You’re Still in a Dream’ is some of their best work, while the likes of ‘All I Need’ lean towards the more abstract and ethereal material to come.
4. Happy Mondays – Bummed
To some it was yobbish and uncouth, but to others (including Tony Wilson) it was poetry. Even when completely plagiarising The Beatles (‘Lazyitis’), Shaun Ryder is a witty, larger-than-life frontman who is swaggering and slurring right in your face. You don’t necessarily want him there, but he’s not going to leave you alone so you might as well just enjoy it.
5. R.E.M. – Green
Not their easiest album to dive into, and ‘Orange Crush’ seems oddly out of place on it to me, but it rewards the persistent listener. Mandolin-laden ballads like ‘The Wrong Child’ mingle with brooding laments like ‘I Remember California’, while ‘Stand’ showed that even when Michael Stipe tried to write a banal pop song, he couldn’t help but make it a bit good.
6. Dinosaur Jr – Bug
Arguably Dinosaur Jr.’s breakthrough album, and the one that J. Mascis ranks as his least favourite. Not too many of his fans agree! Tensions in the band might have been high, but maybe that edginess is what makes it so good? The likes of ‘Freak Scene’, ‘Yeah We Know’ and ‘The Post’ would make it onto any Dino Jr. mixtape. And it would’ve been a ‘mixtape’ in ’88, not one of those la-di-da newfangled ‘playlist’ things!
7. Rapeman – Two Nuns and a Pack Mule
Dear me, why on earth did they choose that name? That’s Steve Albini for you, I suppose. Just like the band name, this is an uncomfortable, awkward listen and you almost feel like there’s something wrong with you for liking it, but it’s so sonic, so intense. The guitars scratch and grind like fingernails down blackboards, and Albini himself squawks and yelps desperately like a man who’s just realised he’s being buried alive. Why would anyone want to listen to it? I don’t know, but you should!
8. Bad Religion – Suffer
A nod to my late teens where pretty much all I listened to was SoCal punk. Even then, I never found Bad Religion the easiest band to like. Dr. Greg Graffin is a right smartarse sometimes with his “big words” (e.g. “Phantasmal myriads of sane bucolic birth”), but their riffs and energy are awesome. They’ve done 16 albums, all of which are basically an inferior version of this ‘un.