Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Annual Report: 1989

And now for a year that I actually remember pretty well. One look at this list shows that things were shifting, broadening. There's mainstream rap, alt-rock, classic rock, top 40, industrial, the seeds of grunge, folk, metal, jamband. Even if some of the drum sounds are unforgivable, it was a good time to make music.

Full Moon Fever//Tom Petty
One thing we have to make clear here is Tom Petty's place at the table. For whatever reason, I don't feel like he gets his due for being a songwriter (and a hitmaker) on the level of the legends. And, friends, he is. This album is not my favorite TP album (might be 3rd?) and still is pure proof: listenable top-to-bottom with songs that jumped out at teeniebopper radio listeners ("Free Fallin'") and resonated with Johnny Cash ("I Won't Back Down"). The mix of hits and singalong anthems with songs that bring the sadness like "Face In The Crowd" and "Yer So Bad."Petty and Jeff Lynne were on fire between this record and...
Mystery Girl//Roy Orbison
Like A Prayer//Madonna
Rhythm Nation//Janet Jackson
Seeds Of Love//Tears For Fears

Disintegration//The Cure
Paul’s Boutique//Beastie Boys
Don't Tell A Soul//Replacements
Pretty Hate Machine//Nine Inch Nails
The birth of alt-rock? No, I know you want me to say it was Big Star or the 13th Floor Elevators or Velvet Underground. But this is when it broke through and even MTV had to pay attention. These (with the arguable exception of Bleach and Don't Tell A Soul) are seminal, career records for each band. The Beasties got serious(er). The Pixies put their flag in the ground. The Cure made the record that, 20 years later, they'd be asked to devote entire concerts to. And Trent Reznor brought industrial music to the masses.
New York//Lou Reed
Freedom//Neil Young
Two all-time legends dig in. I still remember listening to Lou Reed's "Dirty Boulevard" and knowing that it was something special and rawer than the rest of the produced stuff I was listening to in junior high. And as a Neil Young loyalist, I'm here to remind you that he destroyed in the 90s, starting with this album's bookending "Keep On Rockin' In The Free World." Oh how I love that man.
Spike//Elvis Costello
Flowers In The Dirt//Paul McCartney
My introduction to Elvis Costello, unlike many early adopters, was through his late-80s/early-90s work. And, to this day, it's my favorite era. My friend Matt and I wore out a taped-off-the-radio tape of "Veronica" while at basketball camp one summer. When I found out McCartney had co-written it, it seemed only natural, being a young Beatlephile as I was. Then, Matt's sister was dating a Macca fan, who turned us on to Flowers In The Dirt. A little uneven maybe, but it gave us "Figure of Eight" and most importantly the Costello co-written "My Brave Face." Such a great song.
Oranges & Lemons//XTC
Heart Shaped World//Chris Isaak
Margin Walker + 13 Songs//Fugazi
13 Songs. Where to start? Somehow it crept past my Classic/Modern Rock filter and landed a giant punk (postpunk? anti-BS?) haymaker in my ears. This album pushed me around, challenged me, and demanded I rethink what great music was. The fact that this could co-exist in the same year as Full Moon Fever and Like A Prayer makes me very happy.
Crossroads//Tracy Chapman
Indigo Girls//self-titled (both of these are still listenable. I will hold them up to any contemporary folk record)
Steady On//Shawn Colvin
Nick of Time//Bonnie Raitt
Flying Cowboys//Rickie Lee Jones (89 predated Lilith Fair by quite a bit, but was responsible for planting its seeds)

Oh Mercy//Bob Dylan
Dylan & The Dead
"Most Of The Time" and "What Was It You Wanted" are classics. Read the chapters about the making of Oh Mercy in Chronicles and you'll at least reconsider its place in history. As for Dylan & The Dead? Well, it's Dylan and the Grateful Dead, so if you were expecting smooth edges, you were disappointed.

Dr. Feelgood//Motley Crue
Shine//Mother Love Bone
Sonic Temple//The Cult
Louder Than Love//Soundgarden
Hard rock/heavy metal was in a time of transition, still on top of the heap, but about to be undercut by a little album by a band called Nirvana. These five records represent a stratification of hard rock in 1989. The Crue was pure L.A. hedonistic party metal. Aerosmith was the east coast version that had more songs your girlfriend liked. Mother Love Bone (not well known, I know) were a bridge between the grunge to come and metal as it was. If you listen to Andrew Wood on some songs, you might think it was Steven Tyler, except Wood's sexual metaphors were less lazy and pedestrian. Then there was The Cult, who never really fit into any of the cliques-- too new wave for hard rock in the mid-80s, too hard rock for alt-rock in the 90's. But the songs were good. And then Soundgarden, a metal band that went back to Sabbath School, loved odd time signatures, and twisted it all in their own way.
Mother’s Milk//Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Real Thing//Faith No More (and then two bands trying to fuse rock/funk/rap-- Fishbone's important Truth & Soul was a year earlier)

In Step- Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
Yellow Moon- Neville Bros
The Stone Roses// self-titled

Automatic//The Jesus And Mary Chain
Key Lime Pie//Camper Van Beethoven
Suck On This//Primus
Cosmic Thing//The B-52s
Blind Man's Zoo//10,000 Maniacs
Devil's Night Out//Mighty Mighty Bosstones
The next tier (not in quality, but commercial success) of alt-rock. A nice variety, you gotta admit. A fan favorite by JAMC (controversial at the time for its synthesized drums and bass), namedropped by the Death Cabs and Jimmy Eats of the next wave; a proper farewell for CVB that gave us the immortal "Pictures of Matchstick Men", a live debut from Primus who would weird their way into the top of alt-rock through the 90s and spawned a horde of Claypool clones (but nobody had the storytelling chops, much less the bass ones); a solid showing from 10,000 Maniacs with the hit "Trouble Me"; and a hardcore ska showing from Boston's own MMB. Like I said in the intro, don't knock 89's variety.
Big Daddy- John Mellencamp
Avalon Sunset- Van Morrison
Journeyman- Eric Clapton
Workmanlike efforts by Hall of Famers. Journeyman is too slick but had hits and the gem "Running On Faith." Big Daddy is decent but forgettable in light of what else JCM had done. And Avalon Sunset was touted as a VM's return to the muse, but resulted in us having to hear Rod Stewart slaughter "Have I Told You Lately." Ugh.

Brain Drain//Ramones (Dee Dee's last. Gave us "I Believe In Miracles", "Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)" and "Pet Semetary.")
Let Love Rule//Lenny Kravitz

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