Friday, May 16, 2008

The Anniversary Party Begins

I've always had trouble remembering anniversaries, but this week from the Today Show to NPR one in particular has been garnering a lot of attention; the twentieth anniversary of The New Kids on the Block's "Hanging Tough." This album was a seminal event in the modern cute-boy-band era. Their sugar sweet pop songs crooned on every radio station, and their faces plastered the covers of grocery store magazines for years afterwards. Now they're back, and reunited for a stadium tour.

For me the New Kids on the Block (or simply NKOTB as my wife and sister continue to refer to them) symbolize the music of the 80s. I remember Top 40 charts chocked full of Phil Collins, Wilson Phillips, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, and other bands with sappy love songs and bouncy ballads. It seemed that all the music I heard while growing up wasn't produced by artists, but was music produced in much the same manner as Diet Pepsi: cute boys and girls, flashy ads, simple lyrics, and engineered for the widest audience possible.

Now that I'm older though, I believe this is unfair. Every era has its share of empty pop songs, and surely the 80s (a time when I was admittedly too young to have much perspective) had music that was challenging, engaging, and worthwhile. I decided to investigate if there were any albums that were truly worth revisiting from the year 1988, and this is what I found. The following are eleven albums which deserve a twenty-year anniversary celebration more than "Hanging Tough."

1. Sonic Youth- Daydream Nation
"Teenage Riot" alone has more value than any Joey solo.

2. Living Colour- Vivid
"Cult of Personality" is harder than Donnie.

3. Pixies- Surfer Rosa
"Gigantic" is a much better stadium rock song than "Hanging Tough."

4. N.W.A.- Straight Outta Compton
Though this album was a favorite of all the white kids in Raiders hats who beat me up, I still had rather hear it than "Please Don't Go Girl."

5. Public Enemy- It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Elijah Muhammed is a much better spiritual leader than Maurice Starr.

6. Metallica- And Justice for All
Though they have since cut their hair, they never danced in sync to please nine-year-old

7. Tracy Chapman- Tracy Chapman
Cuter than Jordan.

8. Leonard Cohen- I'm Your Man
More brooding and quiet than Johnathan, and he's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

9. Slick Rick- The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
Dirtier than the Kids are clean with a better beat.

10. Jane's Addiction- Nothing's Shocking
Twenty years later their members have never been on The Surreal Life or Dancing With the Stars.

11. R.E.M.- Green
If you want a vacant song that is dorky enough to be fun I'll take "Stand" over any New Kids song. In retrospect I wonder though when college rock became alternative rock, and also when the line dissolved.

So I guess 1988 wasn't the terrible year for music I remember it as. For every band I heard on the radio there was another who didn't get nearly as much airplay on my local Top 40 station, and I encourage all those who are considering going to a stadium to see NKOTB to instead listen to an old album by The Sugar Cubes. Then again some people like to revisit their childhood. As I look up from my computer I know that all my G.I. Joe's are in a box twenty feet away, waiting to spring back to life.


Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that I am still being tortured by NWA playing loudly on our living room stereo. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I'd much rather be listening to Slick Rick....

(And I'll admit it, I happen to like 80's Phil Collins!)

phyzish said...

good points on both jane's addiction and r.e.m.-- however i will say that perry ferrel would be the last person i would want to be stuck in small spaces with- he reminds me of the animation of duckman with the perpetual undulating outlines. i would get motion sickness.
as for michael stipe- he reminds me of that friend you had in high school that was always a bit out there- but endearing enough to stick around to see exactly where he was going with whatever he was going with. that all changed for me after his appearance on jay leno after the florida recounts incident where he painted the number on misrepresented voters down the leg of his rock-star pants. never mind the fact he looked as if he'd been held down for hours and tortured by the personal stylists of liza manelli and marilyn manson in some unholy-alien abduction chic facial war paint.
before jay could get a word out stipe brays: "Aren't you going to ask me about my pants?"

oh your pants? i had totally forgot you were wearing any.