You’ve seen this going around the FB, on the internet, and even on Pitchfork.com. It’s the latest viral trend, to choose 10 albums from your formative teenage years that left a lasting impression.
So it’s time I shared mine as well.
These are chronological order, since each one created a different impression on me at different times as well as show a progression of my taste, moving from mainstream to the alternative and back. I stand by this list as definitive. And while other albums came and were also impactful on me at the time, these are the first that come to mind from memory, so it just firmly establishes their importance.
These are the albums from 1987 to 1991 that made me stop and listen:
Fleetwood Mac, Tango in the Night (1987)- Still by far my favorite Mac album, and one of their last as this incarnation at the time. Christine’s songs are flawless and lovely, Lindsey’s are aching and hostile, and Stevie’s are mysterious and winsome. You can hear the breakup coming.
Def Leppard, Hysteria (1987)- The era of hair metal, and these guys were on top. But what an album. The guitar work was epic, and Rick Allen’s drumming was phenominal: it was the first album after he lost his arm in a car accident, but that had inspired him to utilize a new set with an additional foot pad to supplement. Genius and very tight.
The Cure, Disintegration (1989)- I heard this on my first trip to NYC with the Art Honors Society in high school. Dreamlike, meloncholy, sweeping. My alternate listening at the time on that bus tip was Skid Row’s self titled debut, and a lot of my classmates were all over U2’s The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum. This was something I never heard before, however, and went on repeat. It’s also about this time I started exploring more of what was called alternative music and checking out 120 Minutes on MTV.
Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique (1989)- We all loved the Beastie’s crass first frat boy rap/rock album. This was not a repeat of that. The beats and rhymes were more sophisticated, and the samples were outrageous. Blew my mind. You could see where they were going, and it was good.
Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine (1989)- I sometime forget how early this album came out. I remember seeing Head Like A Hole and Down In It on 120 minutes. But it was when I heard The Only Time the fall of 1991, when I was hanging with upperclassmen at Bethany College in the radio station(where my real music revolution would begin), that I really delved into this album. The dark electronic industrial sexual vibe was exotic and intoxicating to me, and I became infatuated. As I called it at the time, it is an electronic industrial disco epic.
Jane’s Addiction, Ritual de lo Habitual (1990)- What an revelation. I was obsessed with this album. It was pure art, from the cover to the theme to the music; a complete composition. Three Days is still one of the best songs of all time.
George Michael, Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 (1990)- Yeah, you gotta have Faith, but this was an introspective album for me. It came out the fall of my senior year of high school, when I felt isolated, lonely and conflicted. I related with the heartbreak and serious tone.
Depeche Mode, Violator (1990)- Personal Jesus was HUGE in the day and a fab dance track, but the rest of this album is just vibrant and alive while having that cool electro synth edge. Again, it was themes of isolation, sex and guilt that dominate and are what I identified with.
U2, Achtung Baby (1991)- This is the pinnacle of U2’s career. It was the opposite of The Joshua Tree: very European electro disco kraut rock, a reflection of what was coming out of eastern Europe at the time, especially since the Berlin Wall came down so close to the recording. It was introspective, less anthemic and more electronic and metallic sounding. It was a revolution for them and for me.
My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (1991)- It always comes back to Loveless. Along with Achtung Baby (they were released within a week of each other and I came to know them at the same time), this album caps the end of my adolescence and the beginning of my adulthood. It was nothing I had ever experienced before, and I was ready to hear more. And I felt the music. It is a seismic album for me and always will be.