Speaking of making the best of the hand that God or the universe or just overall randomness has dealt you, no list of top twenty records that most people probably haven’t heard would be complete without something dire and eviscerating from the Berlin outfit known as Einsturzende Neubauten. With Feurio (from 1989’s Haus Der Luge) getting the nod here because it is 1989, the year The Wall came down, the year everything finally gave. Not that the Einsturzende crew knew what was coming while they were recording the album. It was just heads down, eyes wide open industrial strength soul music, because when the enemy’s been at the gates your whole life, that’s what you do – you give everything, leave no energy un-realized, no noise un-made.
And nobody’s ever had enemies at their gates like everyday Berliners of the Cold War world (1945-1989). Hard not to be bleeding sparks from the friction of everyday life when you’re sandwiched between the world’s two great military powers, flexing their military and ideological bullshit for four and a half decades. So we get this fierce and timeless force of nature. Feurio translating as Fire— by pressure and body warmth / will our confusion become a nuclear fusion / and enormous / enormous / amounts of energy will be released. Which is exactly what it sounds like — the furious heat of souls that won’t bow down, that won’t submit to all the usual political economical bullshit. Or as Neil Young commented at around the same time. Keep On Rockin In The Free World, except Berlin was neither free nor un-free. It was the line between. Lest we forget.
“One of my more dangerous friends used to say Full Metal Jackoff was the ultimate surf tune – the music he wanted playing when that monster wave he was riding finally rose into a tsunami the size of a continent and effectively removed all evidence that humankind had ever existed. What it is actually, is a hardcore supernova — Jello Biafra and DOA together (for one short 1990 album), and no question, Full Metal Jackoff is its primary reason to exist. Because it uses its fourteen piledriving minutes to put it all together for us: the monstrous evil of Ronald Reagan’s America in all of its streamlined complexity, conspiracy and cynical malevolence.
Because it really would be a little obvious to fence off all the slums, hand machine guns to the poor and just let them kill each other off. No you need to be more subtle than that, you need a plan that involves illegal cash from Iran, cocaine from Colombia, the ‘freedom fighting’ Contras of Nicaragua and CIA guns … until at some point there’s a black van with no windows cruising the various mean streets of the great US of A, sealing the deal, maybe disappearing a few of your neighbours on the side. But nobody even hears their screams. Or if they do, they’re too terrified to do anything about it. Welcome to America at the end of the 1980s. Not fascist so much as stampeding in that particular direction. Though it’s not as if serious f***ing noise isn’t getting made about it.” (Philip Random)
“Because I couldn’t really justify forcing the Beatles Revolution onto this list, and anyway this latter day Revolution (care of The Spacemen 3) pays it fierce and eviscerating and ultimately beautiful homage, all flesh eating distortion and simple message. Just five seconds. That’s all it would take for all the fucked up children of this world to rise up and tear everything down. The weird part is, I was in Britain when this was new. I even saw the t-shirts. But I didn’t get around to hearing any of it for at least a year, by which point grunge was breaking (or about to anyway), which is really what was going on here. Grunge before they had the marketing figured out. A punk rock that wasn’t in a hurry. And I mean that in the best possible way. Because once marketing got involved, it was game over for everybody but the unit-shifters.” (Philip Random)
“Debaser was the first Pixies track to properly grab me, give me a proper smacking around, as all world class, eschaton immanetizing rock must do. The eyeball slicing helps, of course. A Salvador Dali reference. Actually, it came from Luis Bunuel’s dream, but Dali liked the sound of it and the rest is history. Surrealism with a capital S. Debaser, that is. Which makes it as much about Paris 1929 as the Americas of 1989, or Zurich 1916, for that matter. Meaning being entirely beside the point. Because seriously: what did happen in the Cabaret Voltaire? What strange and vital energies were released from its bowels even as all of Europe was tearing itself to pieces in the so-called Great War? What conjured them? What nurtured them? And how did they somehow inspire and ignite a sort of surf punk outfit operating out of Boston, Massachusetts seventy plus years later? I’m clear on one thing. Meaning had nothing to do with it, or a dog, Andalusian or otherwise. And I’m pretty sure Marie Osmond would back me up.” (Philip Random)
“Because the highest Led Zeppelin track on this list would have to be from Physical Graffiti, the best of their least overexposed albums. I mean, I never even heard In My Time Of Dying until I finally bought Physical Graffiti, summertime 1989, almost fifteen years after the fact – that fateful day I went to the record store intending to spend a hundred bucks on maybe seven CDs and instead walked out with better part of thirty used albums, plus a pile of 7-inches. Because everybody was suddenly doing what I’d thought I was doing: switching to CDs. Which meant they were dumping all their vinyl. Which meant here was pretty much every album I’d always wanted but couldn’t really afford, now being pretty much given away. And when I got home, Physical Graffiti was the first thing I played, with In My Time Of Dying EVERYTHING that had ever made Led Zeppelin legendary. The blues, the ROCK, the epic and dynamic darkness that said as much about the hard times of the Mississippi Delta circa 1932 as the concert trails of 1974. Or the imminent end of the world circa 1989, for that matter — one’s time of dying never more than a heartbeat or a split atom away.” (Philip Random)
“I’ve never been one to buy many singles – something to do with coming of record buying age in the early 1970s, I guess, when albums were the thing. But every now and then, you’ve got to adjust your strategies. Like hearing Dinosaur Jr‘s planet killing version of the Cure’s Just Like Heaven on the radio one sublime summer day and immediately needing to own the record. But all I could find was a 7-inch. Which if I’d been truly cool would’ve triggered a whole new phase for me, 7-inches being all the rage as the 80s turned over into the 90s, particularly if you were into raw sort of proto-grunge indie-rock. But I’ve never really been into just one sound or attitude. It’s always been everything, if possible. Which to my mind (and heart) is what J Mascis and crew accomplish here, the kind of rapturous, all encompassing escape velocity that redefines reality forever … until it suddenly just has to stop.” (Philip Random)
“I don’t do regrets. But that said, damn, it would’ve been cool to be born maybe fifteen years later, so that I would have still been young and fabulously confused when the Stone Roses hit with I Wanna Be Adored. Yeah, it’s narcissistic, absurd even, but it’s also true, painting a picture of what it feels like to be riding a certain wave, high and immortal, seeing all the world in such a way that you know it also sees you, beautiful and true, caught by the sun, throwing rainbows as you go … with unicorns glimpsed grazing in the distance. And oh yeah, what a band! What an album ! Maybe the best debut ever.” (Philip Random)
“And because it really is that great an album, another selection from Parliament’s 1975 gem, Mothership Connection, George Clinton and his crowd tearing the roof off reality itself … live anyway. Which is how I first really encountered Give Up The Funk. First via that aforementioned TV broadcast, then thirteen years later, in the flesh. The outfit was called the P-Funk All Stars now, which simplified things somewhat, but not the music. The music remained a complex and fabulous beast, multi-headed but working only one heartbeat, everything in service of the groove. They played for the better part of four hours and I don’t think anyone anywhere ever stopped moving. Phenomenal.” (Philip Random)
“Springtime, 1989, the year I ended up in London somehow. It’s a long story, which only matters here because that’s where I found Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. Lonely, very low on cash, wandering through the big HMV near Piccadilly and there it was on cassette, remaindered, dead cheap. What I knew of Talk Talk was that they were a better than average synth-pop outfit. What I was completely unprepared for was the deep and spacious and ultimately epic first side of Spirit of Eden – three titles (The Rainbow, Eden + Desire) but really all one seamless song, and exactly what I needed to set my soul free long enough to get my thinking straight toward sorting out the problem of the rest of my life. I left town the next day.” (Philip Random)