Punk and New Wave

The Records “The Records” (1979)

Sure, their flawless, jet-setting single “Starry Eyes” is reason enough to pick up The Records’ debut, but the album as a whole is stuffed with more sugary goodness than your average box of Frosted Flakes. The first side is jam-packed with the restless “All Messed Up and Ready to Go,” adolescent buzz of “Teenarama,” minor key mood piece “Girls That Don’t Exist,” and choice deep cut in the lingering ballad “Up All Night,” while the remainder is highlighted by the punchy rock of “Girl,” nervous “Insomnia,” and jukebox hero tale, “Another Star.” With the requisite vocal harmonies and ringing guitars filled out with the occasional organ or synthesizer, The Records is steadfast in it’s delivery of classic power pop confection. –Ben

The Fall “Live at the Witch Trials” (1979)

They are the Fall. He is the Fall. I’m awfully glad someone is, because, pound for pound, album for album, song for song, no one would make such consistently exciting music between 1977 and about 1987. Their debut LP is just about as extraordinary as any of their other prime-period albums, as a young Mark E Smith rants over a busily neurotic minimalism that here sounds a lot like Public Image Ltd. but with more Can than dub in the mix. They also have more studio polish here than they would for several albums, even if it is an ultra-cheap studio sound with a slightly cheesy “punchy” drum sound and a rather drab mix that’s oddly glossy in comparison with, say, Grotesque or Hex Enduction Hour. And even if the infamous Fall sonic/conceptual vocabulary is only in its infancy on this one, this is light years ahead of its peers for morbidly funny, scathing misanthropic vitriol and irresistible two-note hooks. I shouldn’t say that. The Fall have always been peerless. Not a weak track on here; threatening, hilarious, creepy, that is the Fall. If you don’t like ’em, you deserve it. –Will

X “Under The Big Black Sun” (1982)

A record that sums up Americana as well as any other. “Under The Big Black Sun” is proof that X was as good of a country band as they were a punk band. Rockin’, rollicking, dissonant and dizzying, this record is a forty-five minute bender. Bookended by “The Hungry Wolf” (an superblast of syncopated yell along) and “The Have Nots” (possibly the best drinking song ever), this is the soundtrack to an unencumbered night out. –Cameron

New Order “Low-Life” (1985)

One of New Order’s great subtext is the notion that these band members don’t like each other. Low-Life is a typical New Order record, a 50/50 mix of guitar rock and mechanical dance tracks built around synths and table-top boxes, but it stands out to me for excellent songwriting that hints at genuine emotion restrained by an unwillingness to emote in front of those people. Lyrically uncommitted and passive, this is the sound of a band at a creative high with A+ material, trying to keep the sneer hidden behind a stiff upper lip. High points for me are “This Time Of Night” and “Sub-Culture” (the latter of which was a dance club hit) both of which juxtapose the deadpan with cinematic, sinister hooks. –Cameron