Neu! being German for New! Hero being the closest Neu! ever came to a proper song with lyrics and singing and everything. Meanwhile, at pretty much the same moment in time, somewhere across town, their former band mates Kraftwerk were perfecting what would come to be known as techno-music. So maybe call Hero a proto-form of punk. Beat simple and four-to-the-floor, everything else snarling melodically along until screaming to noise at the end. And the world would hear it one way or another, the times would change. And seriously, who better than some malcontent German hippies to call bullshit on the whole notion of heroism? Or whatever it’s about.
Wire’s 154, released in 1979, has been hard to ignore with this list, being one of those albums that helped invent the future, gave birth to all manner of sounds and textures that would come to define the decade known as the 1980s, which is now ancient history, of course. But 154 continues to stand up, songs usually as sharp and short as they are lyrically obtuse. Though A Touching Display goes the other way with a vengeance – an epic and passionate display of song as weapon, particularly as things erupt past the midpoint, like a bomber the size of a football stadium off to deliver a payload that would destroy the known world. And it did.
Zoom is about the future apparently (the 1973 album in question being called 1990), though men had already been walking the moon for four years by then, smacking golf balls around even. Either way, this is the Temptations (arguably the greatest all male vocal group ever) together with their producer Norman Whitfield boldly and beautifully going as far (and as long) as they ever would, indeed as far as man ever has, a thirteen trip, which if taken at the speed of light would actually get you to Mars. Not bad for a bunch of guys from the wrong side of the tracks, Detroit.
“I guess you could say this strange age we still find ourselves in officially landed with Kraftwerk in 1981 — everyday people owning artificial brains, keeping them in their homes next to the TV maybe, playing games on them, writing with them, making music. Not that I was paying it all much attention in 1981. I was mostly confused in 1981, or more to the point I was fighting confusion, because I’m still confused. I just gave up the fight a long, long time ago. Which gets us back to Kraftwerk, Computer World. What an album! Sounded exactly like the future that we all had coming, ready or not. And I guess I was. Ready, that is. In spite of all the confusion.” (Philip Random)
(photo: Kevin Komoda)
“The first song from the first Roxy Music album makes it abundantly clear. This band is not concerned with the past. This is not a rock ‘n’ roll soaked in blues and authenticity. This is dissonance, angularity and cool high fashion, which no doubt must have felt like a hostile alien invasion if you were a certain kind of hippie in 1972. Hell, I didn’t even hear Remake/Remodel until at least 1979 and I just assumed it was some up and coming New Wave outfit, except they were way better than most. And I suspect the same would be true today. Still more about what’s to come than what has been.” (Philip Random)
“The first thing I ever consciously heard of My Bloody Valentine was Andy Weatherall‘s 12-inch remix of Soon. And it was good, immediately figuring in all the mixtapes I was making at the time, 1991 being a serious watershed year for me. I’d taken the baleful rage and angst of the 1980s further than most, and loved it often as not. But now it was time for a change, and here it was, often as not lyrically vague as it was musically expansive, like 1960s psychedelia all over again, only bigger, richer, pumping cool light and amazing colours. And then the album Loveless showed at the year’s end, and I finally heard the actual original version of Soon, and holy shit, it was everything I could’ve imagined, only more so, the future having arrived.” (Philip Random)
“It’s true. Can saved us all at least a decade before most of humanity even knew of their existence (my corner of it anyway). While everybody else was reeling from the meltdown of the Beatles, the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, the end of 1960s in general, backtracking deeper and deeper into so-called authentic blues, or going all progressive, singing of castles, strange kingdoms, lost dimensions (not that there was anything particularly wrong with it) … the Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist combo known as Can (operating out of their own schloss in Koln, West Germany), were still fiercely working the Now, deep into the pretty much infinite groove of Halleuwah, the Lord be praised indeed! Howls and riffs and passing rips of melody and noise and the best f***ing drummer ever — the whole mad stew still sounding fresh and dangerous and profoundly ahead of our time even now, decades later. Why is it not way higher on this list then? Good question. I guess I must’ve been just post a phase of listening to it too much when I was compiling things.” (Philip Random)
“I kept hearing about Dinosaur Jr. back in the late 1980s but I never consciously heard them. Apparently, they were a throwback to the pre-punk days of big wild guitar solos, epic intentions … but in a good way, which sounded promising. Then I finally did heard Freak Scene some time in 1990 and hell yeah, truth in advertising. Except they were anything but a throwback — guitar so sheer and beaming with fractal light, it was carving gateways into the future. Or at least that’s what it felt like that time at the Commodore, the top of my head lysergically removed from the rest of my body. In a good way. Later, I drove home, still quite high, listening to classical music on the radio – some Shostokowich as I recall. And it all made perfect sense.” (Philip Random)
“I still remember the first time I heard Requiem, track one side one of Killing Joke‘s self-titled debut album. It was 1981 sometime, a friend’s place. I walked in and he had it cranked LOUD. Like nothing I’d ever heard before. Intense, violent even, yet not in a particular hurry. Like a genuinely dangerous metal band had embodied the vehemence of punk. Or whatever. The best music is always beyond words. Call it the future, I guess, lobbing us a wake up call. I remember it was stormy that day, great black clouds forcing the horizon.” (Philip Random)