Thursday, November 26, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 1988!

Adding three or four 20th century lists each month was clearly too ambitious, even with skipping the first '60s one (1961). So I'm scaling it back for December. I won't swing for the old-school cycle ('60s-'90s), just whatever gets done. 2005 will be dropped in favor of a 2009 extravaganza, including whatever guest lists I can wrangle. And maybe we'll get a bit more non-Top 10 infotainment!

But for now, the last of the first go-round of randomized previous-century decades: 1988. Missing many, but not all, of the 'classics' of the era. What a racially-divided time Reagan had bequeathed us, with some of the blackest music of the decade and definitely some of the whitest. I was in college, good times for good music!

#10 Albert - Ed Hall

"Reading" [live] from Albert (1988)

Genre - Hill Country Noise Rock
Wikipedia - /wiki/Ed_Hall_(band)
Location - Austin, TX

iTunes - Ed Hall
Lala - Albert
Purchase - Amazon

Probably only Ed Hall's 4th best album, and their debut, it's a real rollicking guitar freak-out of punk-inflected crazy. It's the proto-Ed, but not to be overlooked for the afficianado of the pre-grunge noise. Slightly less of the bottom-end funkiness and expansive shred of later work, with a heavy helping of punkoid outbursts. But "Candy House" points the way. Vastly underappreciated!

#9 Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 - Traveling Wilburys

Vol. 1
"Handle With Care" from Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 (1988)

Genre - Classic '60s Beatlesque Roots Folk-Pop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Worldwide

Review - Stylus Magazine
iTunes - Traveling Wilburys
Lala - Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1
Purchase - Amazon

I believe this might be the first mega-hit to grace the Top 10s (at least US chart-wise). It's well-deserved, even if the cassette once destroyed a car tapedeck of mine. George is my favorite Beatle, this would have been my first real listen to Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison's re-emergence was as heartwarming as it was unexpected. And I've never been a big ELO or Tom Petty hater, so... Everything about the record is loose and fun, in a really unaffected way for superstars of this caliber.

#8 Those Who Know History Are Doomed to Repeat It - Henry Kaiser

Those Who Know History
Crazy Backwards Alphabet... from 1987

Genre - Guitar Virtuoso Goofing on Covers
Official -
Location - San Francisco, CA

Review - All Music Guide
iTunes - other Henry Kaiser
Purchase - Amazon

In 1988, a record of Grateful Dead and Captain Beefheart covers, with soundtrack and themesongs, mixing semi-non-ironic pop treatments with psychedelic guitar wank, and released on SST, was right in my wheelhouse. I didn't continue to follow the Bay Area guitarist, grandson of the famous Bay Area industrialist, but I've checked in from time to time. More recently, he's worked on a series of tribute projects to Miles Davis' late-'60s early-'70s rock-jazz experimental phase: Yo Miles!

#7 Moss Side Story - Barry Adamson

Moss Side Story
"The Man With The Golden Arm" from Moss Side Story (1988)

Genre - Concept Jazz-Noir Ersatz Soundtrack
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, England

Review - Guy's Music Review Website
iTunes - Barry Adamson
Purchase - Amazon

Dramatic interpretation, muted piano-bar ambience, smooth jazz crooning, and saxophones - that's what we're all about here at the Astral Headspace... Especially when mixed in a martini shaker with crackling industrial drum machine, musique concrète, and Diamanda Galas! The soundtrack album that would be its own movie, shifts beneath you like a convoluted noir plot should, lulling just enough to sneak in a pistol-whipping now and again. The Bad Seeds bassist would eventually do actual soundtrack work for Derek Jarman and David Lynch.

#6 Two Nuns and a Pack Mule and Budd EP - Rapeman

Two Nuns And A Pack Mule
"Hated Chinee" from Two Nuns and a Pack Mule (1988)
[Includes live version of title track from the Budd EP]

Genre - Pigfuck
Myspace -
Location - Chicago, IL

Review - Mark's Record Reviews
iTunes - Not on your life...
Lala - 30-sec clips of Two Nuns and a Pack Mule/Budd
Purchase - Touch & Go

Controvery just seems to follow Steve Albini. I mean, can't a guy just name his band Rapeman? Following the abusive Big Black, Albini joins with Scrach Acid's rhythm section for only one full-length. Each of the power trio was a titan of what he did, and what they do here stops and starts and scrapes, rhythmic and dissonant. Incapable of not giving offense, ugliness crawls through the gutters from the aggressively anti-vegetarian "Steak and Black Onions" to the drunken slut of "Trouser Minnow." Still...

#5 Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A.

Straight Outta Compton
"Gangsta Gangsta" from Straight Outta Compton (1988)

Genre - Gangsta Rap
Official -
Myspace -
Location - City of Compton

Review - Pitchfork
iTunes - N.W.A.
Lala - Straight Outta Compton
Purchase - N.W.A. Store

G-Funk ground zero. Dre's production, Cube's flow, Eazy's vision. Not a perfect record, but that's a lot of high-quality product for either a first record or any rap album. Not sure if its influentuality is a pro or con, but in and of itself, an all-out classic.

#4 Double Bummer - Bongwater

Double Bummer
"Lesbians of Russia / Jimmy" from Double Bummer (1988)

Genre - Druggy Independent Psychedelic Pop Music & Spoken Rants
All Music Guide - Bongwater
Kramer Official -

Review - Stylus Magazine
iTunes - other Bongwater
Lala - Too Much Sleep
Purchase - Amazon

So, let's say there's this guy - and a girl. And they take a lot of drugs. Like, think of a lot of drugs. No, more. No, much more. Okay, triple that. So, these people are doing a lot of drugs, and they have access to musical and recording equipment. Because they love druggy music (and drugs) and have all this equipment (and time), they will make song after song after song. Each more inspired and frenzied and ramshackle and almost-finished than the last, before moving to the next one. About half are covers of classic songs from the heyday of drugginess. When they get a double-album's worth, they release it. And it's glorious.

#3 It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy

It Takes A Nation Of Millions
"Night of the Living Baseheads" from It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

Genre - Serious-Minded Hip-Hop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - NYC, NY

Review - Slant Magazine
iTunes - Public Enemy
Lala - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Purchase - Amazon

Relentless. It's interesting to think how the '90s would have been different if Public Enemy had had NWA's influence and vice-versa. Neither group ever reached the heights of 1988 again. NWA's tunes were dope, PE's were bombs! Rock, beats, anger, thought, Flav, black noise. Look, "She Watch Channel Zero?!" is entirely built on Slayer's "Angel of Death" and James Brown's "Funky Drummer."
How low can you go?

#2 Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth
The Whitey Album - Ciccone Youth

Daydream Nation
"Silver Rocket" [live] from Daydream Nation (1988)
"Macbeth" from The Whitey Album (1988)

Genre - Post-No-Wave Indie-Skronk
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Manhattan, USA

Review - Dusted Magazine
iTunes - Sonic Youth
Lala - Daydream Nation
Purchase - Amazon

Can't remember where I heard it, but I believe the complete title was It Takes a Daydream Nation to Put Up with Us. Both bands are from NYC, and Nick Sansano co-produced this and engineered PE's #3 entry. Considered by some to be the greatest album of the '80s. If you don't listen to Sonic Youth or don't own this record, it might behoove you to rectify that situation. Ciccone Youth is experimental toying with electronics, noise and contemporary hit-factory dance music. It's mostly cooler than it has any right to be.

#1 Hairway to Steven - Butthole Surfers

Hairway to Steven
{Horse Urinating}["Rikki"] from Hairway To Steven (1988)
Genre - Freak Primordial Disturbance
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Austin, TX

Review - Guy's Music Review Website
iTunes - Butthole Surfers
Lala - Hairway to Steven
Purchase - Amazon

It was a close call, and I switched 'em at the end. But Sister (1987) is my favorite official SY album, and Hairway is my favorite Buttholes studio album. And I generally like BHS more... and it's my list!! So I figured if I was going to write about just one 1988 album, I'd rather write about this one. Believe me, you can find plenty of paeans to Daydream Nation out there.

Cool and hot. Black and white. Blockbusters and superunknowns.
Nineteen hundred and eighty-eight!!

Hairway toooo

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