10 Definitive 80’s Hardcore Albums (Redux)

A List By Ian Pickens

Opinions are like aresholes. We all have them. So after the debacle that followed Tim Cundle’s choices we now bring you the choices of Ian Pickens. Let’s jump in….

Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

Articulate and musically unique. The DKs took elements of surf guitar and injected them into songs bristling with the energy of punk. Biafra’s lyrics were unrivalled in my opinion and their live shows a thing of legend. Sadly I only saw them on their first ‘reunion’ tour with Brandon Cruz who did a more than competent job of singing the songs, but without Jello’s acerbic wit and onstage theatrics it just didn’t feel the same. It was a toss-up between ‘Fresh Fruit…’ and ‘Plastic Surgery Disasters’ but In The End I plumped for the first album I heard by DKs and the one that set me on a musical journey remains to this day.

Bad Brains – ROIR Tapes

‘Pay To Cum’. Nuff said.

Raw Power – Screams From the Gutter

Italian Hardcore at its very best. I defy anyone to listen to ‘Screams from the Gutter’ now and not be impressed by the velocity and ferocity of these guys. Like many European bands they had a little rock swagger going on behind the short sharp bursts of Hardcore (check out ‘Politicians’ for example). A significant influence on both the European and US Hardcore scenes, where, along with the Netherlands BGK, they were one of the first European band to tour.

SNFU – …And No one Else wanted To Play

One of the first Hardcore albums I owned and it still impresses me every time I listen to it. SNFU had the ability to marry socio-political commentary with dark humour, melodic, catchy tunes and bristling Hardcore, and in Chi Pig probably the greatest front man bar none. I don’t think they ever quite captured the quality of this release again but they remain one of the most influential Canadian Hardcore bands ever.

Crumbsuckers – Life of Dreams

The term Crossover was much maligned in the 80s and became something of an insult for the Punk/Hardcore purists but there was no denying it lead to a flurry of creativity and cross-pollination between the Hardcore and Metal scenes. While bands like Discharge, Venom, Motorhead, DRI, COC and Suicidal Tendencies could rightfully argue that they were the progenitors of Crossover, New York became something of a touchstone in the late 80s with Agnostic Front, Cro Mags and Crumbsuckers all releasing classic albums that resonated as much with open minded Metalheads as they did with Hardcore crowds. Of the three Crumbsuckers were the most Metal leaning (and some would argue musically talented). LOD displays some astoundingly good guitar work, technically as good as any of the Thrash Metal bands of the day but squeezed into the format of a 40 second Hardcore song, topped off by Chris Notaro’s feral snarl.

Agent Orange – Everything Turns Grey

A bleak depressing observation of teenage life in sunny California backed up with surf infused melodic SoCal HC. It’s hard to believe how young these guys were when they wrote and recorded this stuff. The Adolescents are probably a more influential band overall but AO played a significant part in establishing and progressing the sound of West Coast Hardcore, and they were covering Dick Dale when Will I Am was in nappies.

Fear – The Record

Covered (horribly) by Guns ‘n’ Roses, Fear were the antithesis of the Anti-Reagan, left leaning Hardcore scene, featuring straight talking Vietnam Vet Lee Ving, the band forged their own trail through the 80s USHC scene. Incorporating saxophones and beer (lots of beer) while telling everyone how much they hated them, Fear became John Belushi’s favourite band before putting in a  legendary Saturday Night Live performance which allegedly resulted in several $1000 worth of damage and a lifetime ban. Ferocious and unapologetically un-PC, Fear were one of the most musically intriguing bands of the 80s HC scene – adding elements of jazz and blues to the weird counter intuitive time signatures they often used. ‘Let’s Have a War’ and blame it on the middle class”.

Circle Jerks – Golden Shower of Hits

Possibly a controversial choice, many would plump for ‘Group Sex’ or ‘Wild in The Streets’ but for me this was CJs at their absolute best. Every song is a gem. Sneering, sarcastic vocals backed with aggressive yet adept musicianship.  Lucky Lehrer’s metronomic drummer especially stands out alongside Keith Morris’ pithy analysis of 80s American life. Worth checking out alone for the title track – a medley of 6 cover songs which charts a young couple falling in love, an unplanned pregnancy, marriage and divorce all in the space of  5 minutes! ‘Coup D’état’ and ‘When The Shit Hits The Fan’ also went on to be featured in Alex Cox’ influential film ‘Repo Man’ which turned many a teenager on to the nascent US Hardcore scene.

SSD – The Kids Will Have Their Say

Some may be questioning the omission of Minor Threat from this list, particularly those of you who know they are one of my favourite bands; the answer is that we decided to stick rigidly to the brief – no EPs, no Best Ofs, no compilations. If Minor Threat were the forefathers of Straight Edge then SSD were their unruly, hooligan half-brothers. Ferocious in both sound and attitude, the band exuded a far more militant attitude to sXe while embracing the DIY ethic of Hardcore, with guitarist and founder member Al Barile putting Boston on the map for touring bands and starting the X-Claim record label. Criticised for embracing their Heavy Metal influences on later releases, the origins of the twin guitar, breakdown style of Hardcore can be found in SSD. The bands influence extended to Europe too with UKHC legends Ripcord turning in a brutal cover of ‘Boiling Point’ from this album.

Youth Brigade – Sound and Fury

More Canadians but this time relocated to California where the Stern brothers established a lasting impact on the global Hardcore scene by establishing the Better Youth Organisation (BYO) record label which went on to release SNFU and decades later our very own Welsh Punkers Four Letter Word. The band were the first Hardcore band (to my knowledge) to  incorporate rap into their songs on ‘Men In Blue (Part 1)’ but it’s the anthemic title song that really puts this record on the map. Eschewing any Heavy Metal influence, Youth Brigade wrote passionate, positive paeans to a disenfranchised youth that were both inspiring and questioning of simplistic answers.

Honorary mentions:

  • Suicidal Tendencies – S/T
  • Misfits – Walk Among Us
  • DRI – Dealing With It
  • BGK – Jonestown Aloha
  • Adrenalin OD – Hummungusfungusamongus
  • The Adolescents – S/T
  • COC – Animosity
  • Cro Mags – Age of Quarrel
  • DOA – Hardcore 81
  • Spermbirds – Something to Prove
  • Ludichrist – Immaculate Deception
  • Poison Idea – War All The Time
  • Murphys Law – Back With a Bong
  • Agnostic Front – Victim In Pain

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