It’s becoming increasingly fashionable to slag off modern music, and you can perhaps see why; whereas the 1960s had the chart battles of the Beatles and the Stones, we get lumped with One Direction and Connor Maynard. Many trace this decline back to the rise of synthpop in the 1980s. Yet then, as now, decent rock music is still to be found if you’re prepared to look for it. My parent’s generation produced some outstanding records. Unfortunately my mum was too engrossed in Bananarama to give The Smiths a listen. So here’s my attempt to cover what she missed out on.
Joy Division – Closer (1980)
My mum was 13 when this record was released, so perhaps she can be forgiven for jiving to Shakin’ Stevens instead. Released two months after lead singer Ian Curtis’s suicide, it is a dark and unsettling fusion of post-punk guitar lines and haunting lyrics: “Just for one moment, I heard somebody call | Looked beyond the day in hand, there’s nothing there at all.”
The Clash – London Calling (1980)
Less bleak but no less impressive is the Clash’s most mature album – London Calling. Progressing from the raw and snarling punk rock of their earlier years is a record which combines elements of ska, rockabilly and reggae whilst retaining their uncompromising political edge.
Echo and the Bunnymen – Ocean Rain (1984)
“The greatest album ever” – so said Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch, a man not known for his modesty. Whilst this analysis overstretches itself to say the least, the album is impressive. Standout track ‘The Killing Moon’ was apparently the result of McCulloch playing Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ backwards. Bit of trivia there.
The Smiths – Queen is Dead (1986)
Amongst the most influential records of the decade, The Smiths produced an album as humorous as it was melancholic. Morrissey’s state-of-the-nation address and venomous attacks on the establishment in the eponymous track could have been written yesterday: “Charles, don’t you ever crave / To appear on the front of the Daily Mail /Dressed in your Mother’s bridal veil?”
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)
The holy grail of the ‘Madchester’ music movement, this record is faultless. Everything from the chugging opening of ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ to the euphoric climax of ‘I Am the Resurrection’ exudes perfection. When 75,000 flock to your reunion shows fifteen years later, you must be doing something right.