We’ve made it! This is Day 10 of my countdown of the Top 100 New Wave Albums. Most of them will not be a surprise, while some may shock you. So, buckle up. This could be a wild ride. May not the wild ride of the Mueller investigation, but wild just the same. Let the countdown begin!
10. Dexys Midnight Runners – Too Rye Aye (1982). That’s right! Dexys is number ten. Everyone knows the hit from this album, “Come on Eileen.” And, as fun and great that hit is, the album is just as strong. Band leader Kevin Rowland start Dexys as a soul band but abruptly adjusted the sound of the band by incorporating some Celtic folk instrumentation into the band’s sound. So, the overall-wearing street urchin look of the band in the “Eileen” video was not a gimmick; it was part of the image statement. This album continues to surprise me as I listen to it more and more.
9. The Cars – The Cars (1978). If you were a teen growing up at the time this album was released, you remember how ubiquitous the album was on radio after a slow six-month sizzle until it finally took off. This album plays like a Greatest Hits album, since nearly every song is still being played on Classic Rock radio. The genius of The Cars was how they were able to seamlessly blend the herky-jerky sounds of New Wave with the smooth production of Album Oriented Rock. That ability to straddle the two sides was the genius of this band. And, this album was The Cars greatest statement.
8. The Police – Synchronicity (1983). The biggest album of 1983, which ultimately was the band’s final album, saw The Police showing all of us how New Wave should grow up. This album attacks some very adult themes in a literary manner. The biggest song of 1983 came from this album, “Every Breath You Take.” On the surface, it seems like a great love song. But, upon closer examination, this is a stalker’s song. “King of Pain,” “Wrapped Around My Finger” and “Synchronicity II” were the other hits, but darkness invaded each song. We are hearing Sting’s first marriage disintegrating, as well as the band’s partnership. If this album represents New Wave becoming an adult, then I must be following it at the time.
7. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – This Year’s Model (1978). How could I pick just one Elvis album? It was difficult as to which album to choose. But, This Year’s Model truly introduces Elvis as an angry New Wave singer. The iconic moment of his career happened on Saturday Night Live when told he could not perform his new single “Radio Radio” due to the show’s censors not liking the tone of the song (Elvis indicts the narrow-mindedness of radio programmers everywhere), Costello was supposed to sing another song. So, at first, Elvis seemed to acquiesce. Then, he abruptly stopped the band, and said, “There’s no reason not to play this song!” After which, he and The Attractions ripped into “Radio Radio”, spewing anger and venom. The result? A modest increase in sales. And, the rest is history.
6. Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980). If the Heads had not jumped into the whole African rhythm fad, then Paul Simon may not have recorded his masterpiece, Graceland. Those African rhythms helped turn this art punk band into a funk punk band, like an Ivy League Funkadelic. “Once in a Lifetime” is the hit song and video from the album, yet there is a reason Phish covered this album during one of their Halloween musical costume performances. The whole album remains rock, all the while the African rhythms screamed funk. And, then there was David Byrne’s lyrics.
5. The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods (1984). My apologies to my British brethren, but I prefer the American version of this album over your version. Our version has a different running order as well as different versions of the timeless songs of “You’re the Best Thing” and the title song. I will NEVER understand why none of Paul Weller’s bands or solo career have been accepted by Americans.
4. Prince – Dirty Mind (1980). This was Prince’s one rock album. It is a New Wave album, especially when you hear his Purple Majesty’s dominant instrument, the synthesizer. Prince was hinting at his musical greatness when he released this album.
3. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986). This album was Morrissey and Johnny Marr’s finest moment. Morrissey’s lyrics were fantastic and darkly humorous, while Marr’s swirling guitars were innovative in the mid-Eighties as an anti-dote for the overuse of synthesizers. So, were The Smiths England’s R.E.M., or was R.E.M. America’s answer to The Smiths.
2. R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant (1986). Isn’t it ironic that both The Smiths and R.E.M. released their finest albums during the same year? Or, was it? Anyway, R.E.M. traveled to Indiana for John Mellencamp producer Don Gehman to help the band put a little spit-shine on their Southern Gothic sound. Let’s just say, “Mission Accomplished.”
1. The Clash – London Calling (1980). What can I say? This is easily the greatest and most recognized album of the era. The Clash became the most exciting band in the world upon this album’s release. It was also the band’s most focused AND diverse album at the time. from the title song through “Lost in the Supermarket” to “Train in Vain (Stand by Me),” the single that was perversely left off the album’s tracklist. There was a sticker on the album that claim The Clash was the only band that mattered. And, then I played that album, and I sure fell for it. This is my hands down favorite album of all time. Period.
Well, there you have it. My apologies to you for leaving your favorite album off this list, or ranking it so much lower than you would have. This whole thing is subjective and totally for our enjoyment. I hope that this countdown was successful on the last level. Have a great weekend!