Henry Rollins began his music career at the dawn of the 1980s. That decade's sound is often stereotyped by overly-synthetic sounds and styles. But Rollins's finely tuned ears have picked out some of the best, most brilliant, and most influential albums from the 80's.
Disclaimer from Henry: Lists are just, like, your opinion, man. The 1980's, like any other decade, had a ton of great records. Here are but a few.
The Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique
I bought a promo copy of this for a few bucks at a used record store. I have no memory of what my expectations were. I knew their previous album License To Ill quite well and I guess I just expected more of that. What came out of the speakers just floored me. I couldn't believe it was the same band. They had more than evolved, they had changed the game entirely. There are no Beastie Boys albums not worth checking out, but Paul's Boutique was a moment.
Dinosaur Jr. – Bug
What a band. Their newest album, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not is yet another great Dinosaur Jr. album. Bug was one of those records that when it came out, you knew you would keep as you moved from apartment to apartment. Bug's predecessor, You're Living All Over Me, is great too. I remember when I first heard this album all the way through and realized the whole thing was as good as the album's breakout song, "Freak Scene".
Sonic Youth – Evol
Just one of the many great albums the band made. I saw them twice on this tour and the second time, at the Roxy in LA, where they played the album from start to finish, was one of the most perfect concerts I have ever seen. A lot of people became aware of the band after Daydream Nation came out, and that's a great album as well, but the band was happening way before that. Evol and the follow up, Sister are both great.
Pixies – Doolittle
Many of us played this record so much, we might have overplayed it. After I heard it in North Dakota, of all places, I was able secure my own copy and for a good while played it almost every day. I had to take breaks from it. An incredibly good album that, in a way, defines Independent Music and is the perfect example of how amazing it can be.
Joy Division – Closer
I think it's easy to be so drawn in by the power of the band's one-of-a-kind debut, Unknown Pleasures, that it's possible to almost forget that the band indeed followed up and with a second album that shows not only great songwriting and ambition, but the way out there production of Martin Hannett. Closer is an album that must be heard on vinyl. It is through this medium that Closer delivers its full potential, the drums especially. The Joy Division remasters are absolutely great. Go forth without hesitation.
Birthday Party – Prayers On Fire
It's hard to imagine a band could be this unique, this diverse, and make its case with a mere two sides of an LP with which to do it. Just my opinion, but there is not one single Birthday Party song that isn't great. If I was a better writer, I could describe the music on this album. How about this, check out the band on Spotify. If you like what you hear, you can thank me later.
Rites Of Spring – End On End
My single favorite release from the mighty Dischord label. I have been listening to this album for over thirty years and it's lost none of its velocity. When I hear it, over and over, I conclude they were the most alive people in the world when they made it. Produced by Ian MacKaye, who would later get together with two members of Rites, Guy Picciotto and Brendan Canty and along with Joe Lally, form some band called Fugazi.
The Damned – The Black Album
The band's fourth album and one of their best. This is the album the Damned started the 1980's with and what a way to usher in a new decade. It is a double LP, three sides studio, one side live. The band walked the line of pretension with one song, Curtain Call, taking up the entire third side, but they pulled it off and then some. Much different than the first three Damned LPs, the band showed everyone that, as chaotic as they could be, they were a real band and would not be confined or defined by the fact that they were one of the first Punk Rock bands.
Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
We were on tour and turned up at a college radio station for an interview. Someone there said the new Public Enemy album was coming out and they had a promo copy. The guy actually taped it. I still have the cassette. We ended up in the parking lot of a music store to get supplies and decided it was time to listen to the tape. I can't remember any of us saying a word. I wondered to myself why we should even bother, as I had just heard the best album. This record blew our minds.