The 10 Post-Punk Albums Every Music Fan Should Own
Thirty years ago this week, The Smiths released their self-titled debut. It arrived at a time when every bass groove, dissonant guitar and echo-ey drum machine rhythm that would become identified with late '70s and early '80s post-punk music was at its peak. However, this debut also represented a new approach to a genre that The Smiths would eventually became associated with: Their sound still retained the same somber approach, but coupled with jangly rhythms you could dance to. Instead of treading through dark territory already previously established by such notable acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees or Joy Division, The Smiths' presence challenged the limitations of this already progressive genre.
1984 was a big year for debut releases, with the likes of Run D.M.C., The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, all groundbreaking in their respective genres. But The Smiths, with all due respect, may be the only ones whose album still sounds relevant today. In celebration of the 30th anniversary of this post-punk classic, here is a list of the top albums in descending order that have established this genre as our favorite institution for indulging in melancholy grooves.
10. Treasure - Cocteau Twins
What would any list of moody post-punk staples be without one of the finest examples of drum machine rhythms, echoey lyricism and mystical atmosphere? Decidedly incomplete. While Public Image Ltd. explored the destruction of pop conventions through clamor and discordance, Cocteau Twins discovered similar pop music deviations, however in different ways, as evident in songs such as other-worldly and heavenly tracks such as "Ivo" and "Lorelei."
9. Chairs Missing - Wire
Pink Flag is a quintessential minimalist punk rock standard. If that were Wire's only release, this band would still garner accolades and list-recognition. But when they released an album such as Chairs Missing, Colin Newman and company took the very digestible jagged punk material from their first release and transformed their sound into something enjoyably obscure, adding atmosphere and depth. The album opens with "Practice Makes Perfect," a frightening song that only builds in tension but never to a breaking point. However, you can still find yourself bobbing your head in unison to the jarring rhythms. Then there's the chant-along "I am the Fly," and the pop subtlety of "Heartbeat." Chairs Missing plays musical chairs with a myriad of post-punk stylizations.
8. Rip It Up - Orange Juice
While this album borders on some early new-wave tendencies, Orange Juice still took a different approach to twisting early punk-rock attitude, adding more attention to playful lyricism and a youthful naiveté when it came to their song writing. Post-punk doesn't always have to be outlandishly rebellious, as proven with such songs like "I Can't Help Myself" and the title track, which may be the band's only big hit. That would eventually help pave the way for the dance pop and new wave that was soon to follow. Lead singer Edwyn Colllins retains a soulful formula to his songwriting with his endearing charm and wit. As he sings on "I Can't Help Myself," "Nothing worth finding is easily found, try as one might. That was supposed to sound very profound, it probably sounds trite." Sometimes it doesn't have to be profound, just honest, as is Collins' writing on this stand-out classic.