“It’s springtime 1966, the first sessions for the album that will come be known as Revolver, and it’s entirely arguable that those loveable moptops from Liverpool, the outfit known as the Beatles, have already perfected so-called psychedelic rock. Seriously. Short of that snare shot at the beginning of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, I’m arguing that it all really starts here – the opening of the floodgates on the vast and psychedelic ocean that all humanity had to navigate in order to not blow ourselves to smithereens, because don’t kid yourself, that’s where the so-called status quo had us headed come the mid-1960s. And we’re still in that ocean, still navigating its mysteries and monsters. And maybe we always will be.
Not that everybody has to do heroic doses of LSD, get lost in the chasms and altitudes of their beyond within, but we do all need to share in the discussion of the impossible stuff that’s been found there (and we keep on finding more). And this discussion has always sounded best, made the most sense, when delivered via music. Bass, drums, guitars, maybe a few keyboards, tape loops, backwards masking, whatever — full-on raging and rhyming from the very highest and deepest part of anything and everything. It is shining, It is being, It is Knowing, It is Believing, Existence to the End, of the beginning. Even if it makes no sense at all, it really does matter.” (Philip Random)
Speaking of the 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.
“Some songs just want to be longer, I guess. Case in point, the All Night mix of Echo and the Bunnymen’s Killing Moon. Nothing particularly wrong (or short) about the original almost six minute long album version – this one just goes further, deeper, richer. And seriously, what’s the rush given what’s on the line? Which is everything: life, death, eternity, oblivion, fate up against your will, looking the truth of it in the eye, daring to stare it down. There’s a f*** of a lot going on here, needless to say, and not just in and around Ian McCulloch‘s preposterously overwrought ego. Because I doubt the world’s ever had as many possible endings as it did in the mid-80s. If AIDS wasn’t going to get you, then trust that old man Reagan and the malevolent bureaucrats in Soviet Russia would. Or maybe it would be that hole in the ozone we kept hearing about – bigger than Antarctica, or was it Australia? And the ice caps were all melting. Yeah, we knew that even then. So why the hell not take a few more minutes to work the mood, ponder the imponderables, explore the best f***ing song ever recorded. Arguably.” (Philip Random)
“The 1987 album known Time Boom X De Devil Dead (yeah, it’s a mouthful, but why shouldn’t it be?) is one of the greatest three way musical collisions that ever happened, and further evidence that you just can’t trust the Music Biz when it comes to getting superlative noise from creators to appreciators. In fact, it may just be the whole reason for this list (the best stuff you’ve probably never heard). The music and science lovers in question here being i) Lee “Scratch” Perry (having recently split Jamaica for the UK), ii) the Dub Syndicate (absolute truth in advertising), and iii) Adrian Sherwood (mix magician extraordinaire) all taking the night train together, feeling no pain, even as the Cold War reality of the moment kept burning hotter and hotter, almost as if the only conceivable constructive action was to keep moving, keep grooving, keep smoking the ganja and cranking the echo, and spilling the mad truth in hopes it might someday one day, by whatever improbable means, finally find the sort of ears that need it, want it, maybe even deserve it. Time Boom X De Devil Dead. Seriously, seek it out — possibly the greatest album ever that hardly anyone’s heard.” (Philip Random)
“Though I was aware of the fabulous strangeness of George Clinton and Funkadelic and/or Parliament as far back as 1976 (having caught him/them on TV one late and lonely teenage night), I never really dove in until You Shouldn’t Nuf Bit Fish crossed my path in 1984. It was just so utterly what I needed — completely concerned with the apocalyptic mess that we, the species, were very much in as the 1980s stumbled toward their midpoint, all of our nuclear fishin’ fuelling the cold war arms race, the Doomsday Clock ticking every closer to midnight … with the old man in Washington DC whose finger was on the trigger slipping into dementia. No better time for a funk that was spaced way out, and resolutely strange.” (Philip Random)
“The release date of Berlin based Einsturzende Neubauten‘s fifth album Haus Der Luge was 4-September-1989, roughly two months before The Wall finally fell. So yes, all that rage and delirium you’re feeling, it’s the real thing, the house is indeed full of lies, the new buildings are all coming down, Neubauten being one of those bands who absolutely sounded like the history they were riding, the sum result of forty-odd years of two opposed worlds grinding up against each other, something/everything finally giving. Historians now seem to give Ronald Reagan the credit. F*** that sh**. It was Neubauten all the way. Music that dissolved concrete, melted barbed wire, changed everything forever.” (Philip Random)
“1984 was Frankie‘s year (Goes To Hollywood, that is). Nobody had heard of them before. Nobody would ever really care about them after. The root of it, I figure, was a line from Two Tribes (which won’t be on this list because I’m assuming you’ve heard it). ‘Are we living in a land where sex and horror are the new gods?’ The land they were from was England, but given the degree of international success they had, it’s safe to say they were speaking of the whole mad Cold War world. Which put the Pleasuredome everywhere, including spread across the entirety of side one of Frankie’s debut double album.” (Philip Random)
If the summer of 1983 had an official soundtrack album, New Order were on it. Or perhaps Power Corruption + Lies (and the non album monster single that preceded it, Blue Monday) was that soundtrack. Because power, corruption and lies were all the rage that summer – Ronald Raygun in the White House, the wicked witch of the west Maggie Thatcher running things in the UK, the Cold War in full acceleration mode, nuclear winter in all the forecasts even if the sun was shining. Your Silent Face seemed to be a love song, except if you actually listened to the lyrics, you realized it was packing as much bile as anything else. It was that kind of summer.
“When Einsturzende Neubauten recorded Sand, the Berlin Wall was still dividing their home town, a fact of geo-political nature if there ever was one. So yeah, here was a raw slab of pure, impossible to ignore Cold War soul. Little did I realize it was a Lee Hazelwood cover until a certain backyard BBQ maybe a decade later. The Wall was gone by then and even eight thousand miles away you could feel the overall decompression. Or maybe it was all the marijuana and tequila. Anyway, I was lying in a hammock counting the clouds or whatever and suddenly there was Nancy Sinatra doing an Einsturzende cover. It made perfect sense.” (Philip Random)