Decades
A quarterly report that looks back
on music and film from 10, 20, 30 years ago

Top 50 Albums of 1987

on July 10, 2017, 12:30pm
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eurythmics   savage Top 50 Albums of 1987

50. Eurythmics – Savage

The story of the Eurythmics follows waves of expansion and contraction — in the size of the band, in the intensity of their themes, and in the tension and release laced within Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox’s interplay. That vibrating sensation comes through intensely on Savage, as if a high-gauge wire pulled taut almost to the point of breaking. And yet it glistens and gleams in the bleary sunlight so much that you can’t help but stare at the thing, a sort of energetic violence shuddering to break free. Whether in the disco-tinged “Heaven” or the swaggery guitar-driven “I Need a Man”, Lennox’s self-insistent lyrics and the bracing synclavier production keep things poised to snap yet somehow under their control. It might not be the most radio-ready the Eurythmics ever got, but it could well be the most bewitching.

Last Seen: At a 2014 Grammy-sponsored event, Lennox and Stewart teamed up for the first time in years in order to pay tribute to The Beatles with a rendition of “The Fool on the Hill”.

–Lior Phillips

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51uy36bzel Top 50 Albums of 1987

49. Close Lobsters – Foxheads Stalk This Land

Emerging from the same Scottish jangle pop scene that brought the world better remembered bands like Orange Juice and The Pastels, Close Lobsters cut a much grittier figure even if their music was just as melodic and pleasant as their peers (in just under five minutes, “A Prophecy” predicts the career of dreamy modern indie guitar groups like Real Estate and Woods). The key was the lyrical outlook of singer Andrew Burnett. He imbued the songs on his group’s debut LP with a bitter poetry inspired by Dylan and the Beat writers. They revealed a fevered mind, a feverish romanticism, and a heated view of the political landscape of a United Kingdom still under the thumb of Thatcher.

Last Seen: Since 2012, a reunited version of the band has been slowly putting out new music. Their last release, the EP Desires & Signs, came out Shelflife Records in 2016.

–Robert Ham

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r 1928915 1253105328 jpeg Top 50 Albums of 198748. The Melvins – Gluey Porch Treatments

Thirty years ago, Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover, and Matt Lukin released an album that stands as one of the first muddy footprints of grunge and sludge. In the proceeding time, The Melvins have released more than 25 albums and toured almost ceaselessly, continuing to push their brand of oddball intensity. And it all started at Gluey Porch Treatments, an album brimming with low-end rumble, repetitive boom and burn, and King Buzzo’s wild-man howls. The Melvins took Green River’s “Leech” (a song the band featuring future members of Mudhoney and Pearl Jam had reportedly given up on for being too repetitive) and stretched it out even further into “Leeech”, a sign of their embrace of the more caveman elements of what would become grunge. But there’s a wicked intelligence here, too, not just primitive head-banging, a sort of meta awareness of rock deconstructed.

Last Seen: Probably just down the street from you. After continuing to set records for their touring, they’ve just released their first double-album, A Walk with Love and Death.

–Lior Phillips

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4f21635ec272531948350230ae2cd7ad Top 50 Albums of 198747. The Wedding Present – George Best

A long career mapping out the joys and catastrophes of modern love began with this jangly blast of melodic guitar pop. Leading with a loose right wrist that allowed him to kick the tempo of his tunes into overdrive, singer/guitarist David Gedge was able to cut through the muddy production of the Weddoes’ opening salvo with egregiously catchy hooks and lyrics that exposed the hurt and delight we can inflict on one another in the name of love. That they named a collection of songs populated by passive-aggressive manchildren after the bruising ultra-masculine English soccer star was perhaps the slyest joke of this band’s long history.

Last Seen: Touring the world to celebrate the 30th anniversary of George Best and in support of their 2016 album Going, Going…

–Robert Ham

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descendents   all cover Top 50 Albums of 198746. Descendents – All

Not only did the fourth album by this California pop/punk institution solidify a lineup of the band (bassist Karl Alvarez and guitarist Stephen Egerton both joined up the year before) that is still going strong today, but it also introduced the Descendents’ overriding philosophy as expressed by the LP’s title and the sermon-like track “All-O-Gistics”. (“Thou shalt not partake of decaf … thou shalt not have no idea…”). The new blood and new spirit took the group’s music in more intricate directions while still maintaining their puckish energy and childish sense of humor. This would also be the last album the group would make for nearly a decade after vocalist Milo Aukerman left to work in the field of biochemistry.

Last Seen: The band released a new album, Hypercaffium Spazzinate, last year and have been touring regularly ever since.

–Robert Ham

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mi0003515883 Top 50 Albums of 198745. Ice-T – Rhyme Pays

Released a year before N.W.A would drop the seminal Straight Outta Compton, Ice-T’s debut, Rhyme Pays, would introduce the world to 1980s Los Angeles gang life. Personified by the track “6 ‘n the Mornin’”, Ice-T’s vivid imagery and storytelling style would go on to craft classics like his 1988 follow-up, Power. On Rhyme Pays, however, he was more focused on proving himself as a crowd-moving MC, mixing party raps (“Make It Funky”) and outlandish routines (“Sex”, “I Love the Ladies”) with hardcore testimonials about life behind bars (“Pain”) over minimal 808 beats. He also displayed his penchant for classic metal (which would later result in his notorious hardcore band, Body Count) by sampling Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” on the album’s title track. The album was a solid showcase for an obviously promising MC, but only displayed a hint of what was to follow in the years to come.

Last Seen: In New York City, among the dedicated detectives who investigate vicious felonies, members of an elite squad known as the Special Victims Unit.

–Scott T. Sterling

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8609db624bad4b9f8d398ebb8a59abe0 1000x1000x1 1489793544 crop 550x550 Top 50 Albums of 198744. Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician

Long before “Pepper” made them the most unlikely toppers of the Billboard Modern Rock chart, the Butthole Surfers were a ragtag bunch of weird kids who liked to set their equipment on fire and fuck each other onstage. In retrospect, their unhinged avant-rock feels like a perfectly reasonable reaction to the nihilism pervading the Reagan years, and their 1987 album, Locust Abortion Technician, crystallized the band’s early impulse to turn rock music inside out and expose its guts for all to see. They make fun of Black Sabbath on “Sweat Loaf”, they make fun of punk on “Human Cannonball”, but mostly they make fun of themselves. Locust famously inspired Kurt Cobain to send his own music off the rails, but its influence reaches into the present among contemporary artists like Ariel Pink, Katie Dey, and Mac Demarco.

Last Seen: Guitarist Paul Leary recently told The Quietus that it’s about time for a new Butthole Surfers album, given who’s president and all.

–Sasha Geffen

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sentimental Top 50 Albums of 198743. Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene

Some stars burn bold and bright, and others give off a strange glow. Outlaw songwriter Warren Zevon likely was one of those stars that the rest of the galaxy would never quite know what to make of no matter how long he continued to burn alone out there. Forget that nearly every important songwriter of the ‘70s either collaborated with him or covered him and that his name was once heaped alongside other promising songwriters of the era like Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen. Zevon’s dark, deadpan style would most likely always leave him out on the margins. However, by 1987, Zevon was coming out of a rehab stint, and with the help of his fellow Hindu Love Gods (Bill Berry, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills of R.E.M.), he put out Sentimental Hygiene, his first record in five years. A lot of attention gets paid to the backing band and a who’s who of guest hands (everyone from Bob Dylan and Neil Young to Michael Stipe and Flea), but the real stars here are Zevon’s songcraft, humor, and especially his earnestness. After all he had been through, songs like “Reconsider Me” and “Heartache” reveal someone who’s taken his lumps and knows that there’s nothing else to do but climb back into the ring for more punishment.

Last Seen: Zevon’s career would continue to find peaks and valleys until he passed away from cancer in 2003 at age 56. His death sparked a newfound interest in both his life and work.

–Matt Melis

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 Top 50 Albums of 198742. The Cult – Electric

All those utopias dreamed up by the flower children of the ‘60s had wilted long before The Cult laid their third album, Electric, to tape, but that didn’t keep Ian Astbury from singing songs like “Peace Dog” as though the ghost of Jim Morrison were perched on his shoulder. History, especially music history, runs in circles. Like so many British bands before them, The Cult dug their heels into American roots for this lap, funneling blues scales and guitar solos into their songs, and recruiting Rick Rubin’s production hand to polish them off. Electric might’ve sounded dated even in ’87, but its earthy, retro stylings let Astbury show off his vocals like never before. It was enough to catch the attention of David Bowie, who booked The Cult as an opener on his Glass Spider tour and personally met with Astbury after the show.

Last Seen: The Cult put out their 10th album, Hidden City, in 2016 — they’re still kicking.

–Sasha Geffen

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miracle legion surprise Top 50 Albums of 198741. Miracle Legion – Surprise Surprise Surprise

After turning heads with 1984’s The Backyard EP, including Rough Trade Records and the Dean himself Robert Christgau, Miracle Legion returned three years later with their proper full-length debut, Surprise Surprise Surprise. True to his rural New England roots, singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy retained all of his underdog qualities, penning one poignant song after the next, his feet planted firmly in all too familiar themes and feelings. Perhaps that’s why songs like “All for the Best”, “Country Boy”, “Truly”, and “Everyone in Heaven” can still ably soundtrack balmy afternoons now as well as they did during the Reagan era. Of course, much of this success also has to do with the way Mulcahy’s voice — ahem, which would go on to inspire Thom Yorke’s signature falsetto, mind you — swims over Ray Neal’s tender guitar work. There’s a natural ease to their collaborations here that makes you believe they’re always saying the same thing, only in different tongues.

Last Seen: The band reunited in 2016 for a North American and European tour, reissuing their final album, 1997’s Portrait of a Damaged Family, and dropping a live album from said tour titled, Annulment. This year, Mulcahy put out his fifth solo album, The Possum in the Driveway.

–Michael Roffman

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