Best Albums of the 1980's

  2. Current Trends in Racism - Butch Morris (1985)

  3. 9/10
  4. Variations in Dreamtime - Anthony Davis (1982)
  5. The Ascension - Glenn Branca (1981)
  6. Dolmen Music - Meredith Monk (1981)
  7. Zen Arcade - Husker Du (1984)
  8. Diamanda Galas - Diamanda Galas (1984)

  9. 8.5/10
  10. Lady of the Mirrors - Anthony Davis (1980)
  11. From Her to Eternity - Nick Cave (1984)
  12. Barbed Wire Maggots - Borbetomagus (1983)
  13. Original Sin - Pandora's Box (1989)
  14. Nail - Foetus (1985)
  15. Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth (1988)
  16. The River - Bruce Springsteen (1980)
  17. Dream Theory in Malaya - Jon Hassell (1981)
  18. Passion - Peter Gabriel (1989)
  19. Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables - Dead Kennedy's (1980)
  20. Dreamtime Return - Steve Roach (1988)

  21. 8/10
  22. Bad Moon Rising - Sonic Youth (1985)
  23. The Days of Wine & Roses - Dream Syndicate (1982)
  24. Cobra - John Zorn (1986)
  25. Children of God - Swans (1987)
  26. Episteme - Anthony Davis (1981)
  27. Litanies of Satan - Diamanda Galas (1982)
  28. Double Nickels on the Dime - Minutemen (1984)
  29. Learning To Cope With Cowardice - Mark Stewart (1983)
  30. Telepathic Surgery - The Flaming Lips (1989)
  31. Spirit of Eden - Talk Talk (1988)
  32. Transition - Peter Michael Hamel (1983)
  33. Hemispheres - Anthony Davis (1983)
  34. California - American Music Club (1988)
  35. Fractured Fairy Tales - Tim Berne (1989)
  36. You're Living All Over Me - Dinosaur Jr (1987)
  37. God - Rip, Rig & Panic (1981)
  38. Atomizer - Big Black (1986)
  39. The Art of Walking - Pere Ubu (1980)
  40. Novus Magnificat - Constance Demby (1986)
  41. Appetite For Destruction - Guns N' Roses (1988)
  42. Underwater Moonlight - Soft Boys (1980)
  43. Flowers of Romance - Public Image Ltd (1980)
  44. Miss America - Mary Margaret O'Hara (1988)
  45. Colours of Time - Peter Michael Hamel (1980)
  46. Umber - Bitch Magnet (1989)
  47. Psychic...Powerless...Another Man's Sac - Butthole Surfers (1984)
  48. Fire of Love - Gun Club (1981)
  49. Rain Dogs - Tom Waits (1985)
  50. Isn't Anything - My Bloody Valentine (1988)
  51. For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? - The Pop Group (1980)
  52. It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back - Public Enemy (1988)
  53. Songs the Lord Taught Us - Cramps (1980)
  54. New Day Rising - Husker Du (1985)
  55. The Lion and the Cobra - Sinead O'Connor (1987)
  56. 1933 Your House is Mine - Missing Foundation (1987)
  57. Spleen & Ideal - Dead Can Dance (1985)
  58. Before We Were Born - Bill Frisell (1988)
  59. A-Z - Colin Newman (1980)
  60. White Soul - Green (1989)
  61. Crazy Rhythms - Feelies (1980)

  62. 7.5/10 (Note: the 7.5's are not a complete representation)
  63. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)
  64. Watermark - Enya (1988)
  65. No Borders Here - Jane Siberry (1983)
  66. Let It Be - Replacements (1984)
  67. Swordfishtrombones - Tom Waits (1983)
  68. Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes (1983)
  69. Easily Slip into Another World - Henry Threadgill (1987)
  70. Undine - Anthony Davis (1986)
  71. Surfer Rosa - Pixies (1988)
  72. Skylarking - XTC (1986)
  73. The Firstborn is Dead - Nick Cave (1985)
  74. Master Of Puppets - Metallica (1986)
  75. Kill 'Em All - Metallica (1983)
  76. Tim - Replacements (1985)
  77. Damaged - Black Flag (1981)
  78. Monster Walks The Winter Lake - David Thomas (1986)
  79. Shoot Out the Lights - Richard & Linda Thompson (1982)
  80. Closer - Joy Division (1980)
  81. Pretty Hate Machine - Nine Inch Nails (1989)
  82. Murmur - R.E.M (1983)
  83. Ride the Lightning - Metallica (1984)
  84. World Shut Your Mouth - Julian Cope (1984)
  85. Psychocandy - Jesus and Mary Chain (1985)
  86. Love Agenda - Band of Susans (1989)
  87. Rock for Light - Bad Brains (1982)
  88. Doolittle - Pixies (1989)
  89. The Big Heat - Stan Ridgway (1986)
  90. They Might Be Giants - They Might Be Giants (1986)
Author Comments: 

For an explanation of my criteria, go here:

I've decided to add Dolmen Music to my greatest albums lists, despite going against my own rules. Mainly because it is such an amazing album that should be promoted and I love it so dearly I can't resist the urge. Also, not being a traditional classical album helped a bunch. So don't think this means I'll be adding Shostokavich or Brahms anytime soon. Dolmen Music fits much more snugly into my current modus operandi with my list. Sometime down the road I'll start adding other classical titles but this is likely the only one for some time.

No Skylarking? Remain in Light?

Nope. Remain in Light would rate 7.5 or 7.75/10. Not sure about Skylarking.

It would probably get a 10.0/10 on your scale. Or maybe even a 10.5/10.

Not sure if you're joking or not, you mean it is the greatest musical work in the history of mankind, even vastly superior to Beethoven's and Brahms' greatest symphonies (none of which would rate higher than 9.5/10)?

Without a doubt.

I'm glad you've found such a remarkable work for you then. Perhaps I'll give it a go sometime.

I actually was joking in my original comment (because I meant that you would give the album a 10.5/10, not me), and although I do love the album, I couldn't imagine you giving it more than, oh, say, a 7.5/10, which means you probably won't find it worth listening to. While I might indeed give the album a 10/10, it would certainly mean less than a 10/10 from you, because I would not create a rating system that's inherently designed so that the highest rating is impossible to achieve, so I could imagine giving out a number of 10/10s to albums I love. As for comparing Skylarking to Beethoven, it's really such a bizarre comparison that I can't speak to that, but it amused me to tell you that an album with a song called "That's Really Super, Supergirl" is without question a greater work than all of Beethoven's symphonies.

I was pretty sure you were joking and I too found it amusing, but it's hard to be sure via print on internet postings.

A 10/10 would be an album that is probably virtually beyond my imagination, but is theoretically possible. It would have to exhibit continuity on the order of Irrlicht or Coltrane's Ascension. It would have to exhibit ingenuity on the order of Trout Mask Replica or Faust or Rock Bottom. It would have to exhibit expansion of content on the order of Lullaby Land or Trout Mask Replica, and it would have to be significantly more profound than any musical work I've ever experienced, since nothing has ever rated a 10 in that category (Rock Bottom, Trout Mask Replica, Black Saint, A Love Supreme and a handful of classical works all merit 9.75/10, but no higher). On top of that, every track would have to be as extraordinary and overwhelmingly emotional (force or beauty) as Sun Ra's Atlantis, but each in different ways (so as not to upset expansion of content), and each connected somehow (as in Faust) so as to maintain continuity. So yea, we're looking at a nearly impossible feat, as a perfect score should be in my opinion.

Skylarking is the best album of the 80's, if you ask me. Maybe one of the best pop albums around. There's quite a few genius arrangments there, and a wide variety of styles to be found. It's amazing how much of it actually works.

I suppose I can see why you keep the top end of your rating scale open, but I have a problem with it. If you are rating on the terms of a 10 being perfection, the best possible album, then if one does somehow score that much, you're pretty much saying that no album could possibly be any better. I think you're trying too hard to put this on an absolute scale. Most reviewers don't care about giving out "perfect" ratings because they know that there is no such thing as a "perfect" album. And besides, how do all the qualities you describe necessarily equal a great album? The way you describe it make it sound like an album with one song fifty minutes in length of completely unlistenable minimalist noise that's so random and vague that virtually any meaning at all could be discerned from it. And you have to listen to it 5000 times before "getting" it, and if you don't think it's the #1 album ever, then you haven't listened enough. Give me an outdated synthesizer and I'll make it myself. Or maybe it will just be 50 minutes of silence, that's pretty inscrutible huh? Could you criticize it?

While I can't be totally sure since I haven't heard it, I find it hard to convince myself that I would think it came close the power of some other 80's albums, such as The Ascension or Dolmen Music. Even what I find to be the best pop album ever, Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea "merely" rates 8/10, a full 1.0-1.25 behind my top 80's albums. Despite Aeroplane's greatness, there is a huge gap between it and the 9-9.25 range, and based on what I've read about Skylarking, it seems doubtful it could be any better. It doesn't appear to meet my criteria well enough. But I think I'll give it a listen soon (free without purchase at my favorite store, Everyday Music), so I can provide an actual assessment. I'll also give Neu 75 a go. Thanks.

If you don't agree with my ratings system, so what? It works for me and that is the only reason I use it. They're not your ratings so why would I change it per your discretions?

I have my opinions and I rate albums based on those. You have your opinions and you rate albums based on those. We're both correct, as it is an opinion. It's no big deal. We clearly have very different tastes in music. I thought this had already been determined, yet you're continuously trying to bring home to me a hopeless endeavor of changing the way I feel about my favorite albums--albums I've listened to hundreds of times. I don't think you realize how thorough I've been in shaping how I feel emotionally towards them, thus determining their merits. They are not hanging on some thread as regards my opinion of them, ready to be changed at the first whiff of distaste spewing from your mouth. They are set in stone with an atomic branding iron, and only I have my hands on it.

If you want to talk music, fine. But first get over the fact that I have chosen a different musical path than you.

I'm not telling you to change it. But I thought this was a forum where we should discuss things like that. Especially the music. We're discussing it here. I'm not trying to get you to change your listening habits or anything. I'm just trying to figure out why you feel that the Scaruffi albums are so much more artistic than the famous #1 picks, because right now I don't see it. I'm just wondering why you feel your approach is valid. No need to get upset about it. I feel it's an interesting discussion. At least it's interesting to me. You claim that you've heard Revolver 200 times or something, and used to think it's the best album, and now it's just merely good? Whereas hearing Irrlicht a few times would give most people the impression it's crap, but after 200 listens it's really great? So which is the better album? It's all Greek to me man I ain't never heard a horse sing

The only way to really figure out why I feel that the "Scaruffi albums" are so much more artistic, is to dedicate yourself to listening to them. But this is a plunge that it seems but a small percentage of people are willing to really take.

The albums I have chosen are picked based on my personal criteria which is the following (in order of importance)

1. Profundity
2. Expansion of Content
3. Ingenuity
4. Continuity

These are the major factors I look for in an album. If it rates high enough (9.0+ average)across these 4 areas, it will be on my list. That's the simplicity of it. If these aren't factors you look for then that is probably where your disagreement comes in.

To me, Revolver doesn't rate high in these catagories, but Irrlicht does. After hearing more and more albums from Scaruffi's list I became more acclimated to the avant-garde and more focused on albums that have depth and are an overwhelming profound experience. This reconnected me with my classical music roots and deemed albums such as Revolver pretty much worthless in comparison. I estimate there are thousands (even hundreds of thousands?) of albums that provide the same level of musical rush as Revolver, which is no more extraordinary then, say, Is This It or a Shins album, or the next 'it' album. But there is only one Rock Bottom or TMR or Faust, or any of the other 9/10+ albums. They are singular experiences, and from my observation, do usually take a good number of listens for most music listeners to get into. A great way to go about it is to follow my "Recommended Order..." list.

I'm a new member here. Please forgive me if this has been discussed before:

What do you think of Borbetomagus - Barbed Wire Maggots (1983)?

Personally, I've only made it through the first 4 minutes. I find it very difficult to listen to, not because of any problems with the compositional aspect of the work, but because the recording quality is so abrasive that I'm afraid I'll physically damage my ears if I listen to the whole 45 minute album in one sitting. I think it warrants speakers, not headphones. Once I gain access to some speakers I'll give the album another try.

Anyway, I noticed it wasn't on here; I was just curious if you had heard it and, if so, what you think of it.

I've never heard it, but I just read about it on Piero Scaruffi's website and it seems amazing. It seems like a cross between John Coltrane's Ascension, Kick Out the Jams by MC5 and The Ascension by Glenn Branca. If true it would probably be at or near masterpiece level to me (as all 3 of those are on my greatest albums list).

I would recommend trying Branca's The Ascension and MC5's Kick Out the Jams and then going back to it. But be warned, neither of those are easy listening albums either. You may want to just take on my whole greatest albums list per the "recommended order" I list on "All You Really Need in Tackling My Greatest Albums List". You can find it on both the recent updates in music, or in my profile.

Thanks for bringing up Barbed Wire! I am very interested in checking it out!

Barbed Wire Maggots is incredible. It's not unprecedented, but it kicks the asses of its predecessors.

This only makes me want to hear it more. It's on order from the library and I can't wait!

What would you rate it? 8.0? 8.5? 9.0? 12.5?

I dunno... 7.5 or something.


More accurately, a hundred albums provide the same level of musical rush as Revolver. And I happen to think Is This It is extraodinary. Not the most original work, but for what it is, it is fun. And I almost never really judge albums on other criteria than how much "fun" they are. Like, take TMR, it's one of the most fun albums I've ever heard, and so it's #3 on my Favorite Albums list. Of course, there are a few exceptions, like Rock Bottom, though I think some of the instrumentals are enjoyable, but mostly it's the great emotional impact that makes the experience so good.

I removed Dolmen Music simply because it doesn't qualify as rock or jazz. It's an avant-garde opera album.. At some point in the future I will add classical selections for a complete list, but not now.

Have you heard Cave's other 80s work? I think you'll really dig The Firstborn Is Dead.

Here and there, just songs, not complete albums. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm extra busy these days but I'll see if I can get around to checking it out soon. Which is your favorite of his?

I think my favourite might be No More Shall We Part. I was surprised by how much I liked it because I don't love most of his post-1990 works, which can be too mainstream for me to find interesting. I've only heard the album once and was quite overwhelmed, so maybe it'll be weaker the next time. But right now, I think that might be his greatest work to date. My Cave-loving friends don't agree with me though, so perhaps I just have strange taste. :p

Well, Nick Cave is a very consistent artist so there are plenty of potential choices among his albums. I trust No More Shall We Part would be no exception.

For what it's worth, this Cave fanatic finds No More Shall We Part to be the weakest album he's released. Doesn't make it bad, of course, but it is the most uneven album in his portfolio. Goddamn "Love Letter" is his single worst song, and I've heard "Black Hair."

Ah... I see that you've changed The River from a 9/10 to an 8.5/10... Well check this page out:

That's old. He's had it as a 9/10 for quite some time now. His extended Greatest Rock Albums list is the most accurately updated for his 9's (save Flying Teapot which moved back to an 8.5) as well as his individual rock artist pages.

I wouldn't be surprised to see The River back on my 9+ list in the future. It was actually a 9. I felt it on that level. It just didn't hold up for each of the last 3 listens I had with it. Usually means I've missed something else emotional or significant about it that, once noticed, will then bring it permanently back to that level.

ahh i see... thanks for the tip

haha i love The River too. i think its one of the best albums ever made with so much emotions in it (i think Faust I is even behind River on emotions)
btw do you have any words of wisdom on Gabriel's Passion? thanks

The main thing with Passion is that it's very spiritual and deeply moving, covering a vast landscape of emotions and utilizing an amazing variety of instruments and compositions to forge a complete and unified whole. It defies the common notion of a film soundtrack as it is very definitely and "album" all on its own.

ahh ok thanks! after another listen i find that it is definitely a great work by gabriel (better than his earlier soundtracks, like birdy).

How about Feelies Crazy Rhythms? Seems like a pretty clear 8.0 to me tonight, though I must admit that I rarely want to listen to anything but "Raised Eyebrows" off it.

Never heard it. Sounds interesting though...

Very cool band, known for only playing on national holidays. They write odd new wave music that is highly minimalistic and layered and have two drummers. The percussive/rythmic aspect of the music is outstanding. That album is still out of print, sadly. I would highly recommend it.

Whoa, you've never heard The Feelies? He's right, Crazy Rhythms is an excellent album (though I couldn't fathom you giving it an 8). I think Scaruffi gives it an 8. It's solid

8.0 on a good day, on most days, probably 7.5

Meh. Pandora's Box Original Sin was a disappointment. Have you listened to American Music Club's albums?

Surprisingly enough, I haven't, though I am well aware of them. Original Sin may never come around for you...for me it was an acquired taste that took a number of listens to come full circle.

where is Thriller and Bad..??

Two classic albums for sure, but I'm just not much of a fan. Personally, I'm more into experimental rock/jazz and the great masters of classical music, so Michael Jackson, although very talented and among the most popular and celebrated artists ever, isn't really my cup of tea--just my opinion--I know there's a lot of people who'd disagree with me ( :

Throwing my two cents in here. Using the same rating system as AfterHours, my ratings for Bad and Thriller would be 6.5 and 7.5 respectively. Even I, who used to have Thriller in his top 5, and still likes Michael Jackson very much, can't give them more than that. Make no mistake, those are high ratings, but not enough for a best of '80s list.

Hey, no love for The Flaming Lips? :(

And there are also some other great artists' albums you've missed.

But for what it is, this is great.

Like, err, the albums from here which aren't on your list:

4 years later: Whaddaya mean? Ive got Telepathic Surgery on there! ;-)

I'm not sure what I was thinking of back then. I don't even like the Flaming Lips' 80s work that much. I mean, I like it, but they've done better.

No worries. Hells Angels Cracker Factory would make it on here all by itself, let alone the entirety of Telepathic Surgery. Oh My Gawd gets props from Scaruffi, but Id have to listen to it (one of these days).