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Date: 1979
Release: EMI / IRS #13153
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While the albums that make up the Buzzcocks‘ sacred late-’70s trilogy (Another Music In A Different Kitchen, Love Bites, and A Different Kind Of Tension) are all must-hear masterpieces in their own right, the Buzzcocks were, first and foremost, the premier singles band of Britain’s early punk movement. Therefore, no ‘Cocks collection–hell, no record collection, period–can be complete without their A-sides compilation Singles Going Steady, which not only sounds as fresh in 2001–the year of the Manchester band’s 25th (!) anniversary–as it did in 1979, but in fact sounds much more vital than some bordering-on-parody works by such better-known punk peers as the Damned and (yes) the Sex Pistols.

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Date: 1977
Release: VIRGIN #91343-2
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Hands down, this is Iggy Pop‘s best post-Stooges record as well as one of the hardest rocking pop albums to come out of the 1970s. Along with the legendary live shows of Kiss, Lust For Life rescued American music in 1977 from total disco oblivion. British-born David Bowie was the crucial element here, producing, playing, writing, and singing throughout the record with the drive and delivery of an over-achieving genius.

Still, this is Iggy’s show, as he makes perfectly clear with his classically black-edged vocals on the title track (revived in the heroin-chic film, “Trainspotting”). Drummer Hunt Sales‘ relentless pounding on “Lust For Life” holds a candle to the drumming machine known as John Bonham. Bowie-veteran Carlos Alomar plays a mean guitar that defines much of the album’s sound.
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Date: 1977
Release: Captain Oi! #129
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London, 1977. Its year zero of the revolution, hippy-love is out, teenage angst in. A new breed of bands are smashing it up, blasting out a mean racket known as punk rock. Its a violent break from the past—as the kids gets busy kicking in the door, hoping that the whole rotting Establishment comes tumbling down. The Sex Pistols are banned from the radio, and that’s exactly the point. Throwing a brick never felt so damn good.

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Date: 1985
Release: Warner / Sire #25426-2
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“Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Morrissey.
Morrissey who?
See, I told you I didn’t have any friends!”

–The Fantastic Morrissey Knock-Knock Joke, from the comic strip Great Pop Things

The long-standing, long-suffering caricature of Morrissey The Melancholy (or “Morosely,” as he is sometimes dubbed in Great Pop Things) looms large in rock ‘n’ roll mythology. And with joyless underdog laments like “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” and “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”–bleated with his typical heart-sleeved, slit-wristed bravado–it’s no wonder The Smiths icon has attracted such a fervent following of hypersensitive bedroom hermits and other assorted asexual/pansexual pariahs. (As an aside, I must warn you single folks out there, Smiths conventions are not the places to go looking for love: If you ever meet a prospective suitor who’s a card-/Prozac-carrying Morrissey obsessive…RUN! Chances are, this charming man/woman will cause you nothing but grief.)

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Date: 1993
Release: Virgin #87950
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Unless you spent the entire summer of 1997 in a coma, you’ve heard the song “Bittersweet Symphony.” Found everywhere from the top of the charts to Nike ads, under the leadership of Richard Ashcroft, The Verve crafted an album’s worth of beautiful ballads — Urban Hymns — that featured intelligent lyrics, soulful singing and exquisitely crafted pop melodies. Alas, The Verve broke up after the album, and we’ll have to hope that Richard Ashcroft‘s solo career provides us with more of those type of songs.

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Date: 1986
Release: Virgin/Geffen
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In the pantheon of post-punk new wave bands, few wrote songs with as keen an understanding of melody, harmony, and arranging as XTC, whose innovative songwriting has often been likened to that of The Kinks. Although the band’s quirky style cultivated an avid cult following over the years, the group never managed to capture much commercial recognition. The tightly crafted lyrics and dense arrangements on 1986′s Skylarking make it one of XTC’s most cohesive albums.

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