Best albums of 1989: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Happy Monday all!

(I know what you’re thinking: is it really Monday?! Well, the answer to that is: “YES!!!” )

And if that wasn’t enough of a good reason to kick off a new series this morning, it’s also June 1st. That’s right. We’re five months into this train wreck of a year called 2020 and I haven’t done one of these throwback Best Albums series for a while so I thought I’d throw down for you one of the greatest years for alternative rock. That’s right: 1989.

If you’ve been around these pages before, you might remember that I typically do these Best Album throwbacks on Thursdays (for the #tbt thing, of course) and though I’ve changed up the day this time around, I’ll be keeping the rest of my usual format intact. Today’s post is just the tease, introducing the five albums that round out the latter part of my top ten, and then, over the course of the next five Mondays, I’ll lay out my five favourite albums of the year, one by one. And as I said above, it’s a great one. Many of the albums are classics, catching the bands who released them at their peaks, whether at the beginning or the end of their careers, and are considered some of the most influential albums to the alternative rock artists that followed, through the 90s and beyond.

I’ve already done my top ten favourites for both 1987 and 1988 and though I talked up both of those years at the time, 1989 was the real deal. And I’m not just saying that because I say that about all the years. I was by then firmly into high school and my teen years when the final year of the eighties came around and I was finally forming some musical tastes beyond the normal AM radio fare. And though I didn’t catch on to all of these albums at the time, I can at least say I was aware of most of them, if not right away, then at least within a year or two of their release date. Indeed, I have been listening to these ten albums for so long, they are like close friends.

Are you excited? I am. So let’s do this. And of course, as we do, I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on my picks and what your own would be for 1989…


#10 The Jesus And Mary Chain “Automatic”

With “Automatic”, the Reid brothers, Jim and William, picked up right where they left off with 1987’s “Darklands”, which, incidentally, appeared at #8 on my list for that year. The Jesus And Mary Chain were effectively just the two of them at this point, though you wouldn’t know it by listening to the tunes. They filled every ounce of soundscape using electronics, employing a drum machine and synthesizers to imitate bass guitars and to wash out the rest. And though they were criticized for this at the time, attitudes have changed over time, and the album is nowadays considered amongst The JAMC’s best work. The music is dark, raging, and roaring stuff, like a loud motorcycle racing through high and violent winds, the hair of its leather-jacketed rider, whipping about wildly, but being kept on course by the ever-present cool sunglasses. Yeah.

Gateway tune: Head on


#9 Galaxie 500 “On fire”

I didn’t listen to this album until well over a decade after its release. I finally decided to investigate Galaxie 500 a few years after frontman Dean Wareham’s second band, Luna, broke up and I had exhausted their catalogue. I started with “On fire” because it was the only one of their three of which I had previously heard, which makes sense because it is widely considered the trio’s high watermark. Together with Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, Wareham found his voice out of a love for lo-fi soundscapes, understated guitar brilliance, and The Velvet Underground. “On fire” is definitely rougher hewn than anything in the Luna catalogue but that doesn’t make it any less the underrated dream pop classic that it is.

Gateway tune: Tell me


#8 The Beautiful South “Welcome to The Beautiful South”

After The Housemartins called it quits in 1988, frontman Paul Heaton and drummer Dave Hemingway immediately formed The Beautiful South, the moniker a tongue-in-cheek jab at the fact that they were from Northern England. The five-piece’s debut “Welcome to The Beautiful South” expanded on the jangle pop sound of The Housemartins but happily, the biting and outspoken lyrics continued, as it did throughout their career. The controversial cover (the Canadian version of the cover pictured above omits the image of a woman with a gun in her mouth) didn’t seem to hurt album sales any and really, this album was just the beginning for a band that would go on to sell millions of units. So many great tracks on this one, including the one below.

Gateway tune: Song for whoever


#7 The Grapes of Wrath “Now and again”

The Grapes of Wrath’s fourth album, “Now and again”, was also their most commercially successful. Partially because of Canadian content (CanCon) rules imposed on Canadian radio and television stations but also because this album’s folk rock sound with impeccable harmonies had mass appeal. I definitely remember having the album’s singles recorded to cassette tape from AM radio at the time, but it was years before I would hear this album in full, long after the band had broken up and re-formed again. And though sometimes when I come to an album late, I find I can’t get into the time and place headspace of when it was released, this album is not an example of this. Timeless would be the right word here.

Gateway tune: All the things I wasn’t


#6 New Model Army “Thunder and consolation”

New Model Army’s fourth record is still their most successful to date and is likely one of my own personal faves. Justin Sullivan’s excellent, politically and socially-conscious lyrics and the group’s punk and post-punk informed sound received a bit of facelift when they were joined by violinist, Ed Alleyne-Johnson for this album. The infusion of folk and traditional music started the band to trend towards constantly tweaking their sound over the years and has likely aided in their longevity. And amazingly, they still haven’t lost any amount of edge or sense of urgency, especially here. This album is full of stomping great tracks, like the haunting one below.

Gateway tune: Green and grey


Check back next Monday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best albums of 1987: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)

Happy Thursday! And welcome to the third installment of my Throwback Thursday (#tbt) best albums of the year series. This time, we are on a voyage all the way back to 1987. Just over thirty years ago. The world was a different place, especially for me. Because I was but a child.

1987 marked the year I left grade school and entered high school. A big step for some but since my school was in the process of spawning a secondary school, it just meant changing classrooms. I don’t remember much else special about those early days of grade nine, at least nothing else I want to share today. It was… a very, very long time ago.

Nonetheless, I can assure you that, at the time, I didn’t know anything about music. I definitely wasn’t listening to the albums that will make up this top ten list. In fact, I can’t even remember for certain the songs and artists to which I might have been listening. It was likely the pop and top 40 that I was able to pick up on my AM radio, music from singers like Bruce Springsteen and Corey Hart and Madonna. I would only start discovering the world of alternative music a few years later and some of the following albums would figure in, while others I wouldn’t discover until much later.

It will go without saying that a good portion of the albums I will cover today and in the coming weeks are now considered classics and very much in the mainstream but back in the day, they were on the cutting edge and pushing the boundaries of what pop and rock music should be. So before I start ruining surprises, I am going to kick things off with the first five albums of my top ten below. And if you don’t know the trick by now, I will be featuring the top five, an album each Thursday, over the next five weeks. I hope you enjoy this trip back 30 odd years with me.


#10 Dead Can Dance “Within the realm of the dying sun”

“Within the realm of the dying sun” is the third album by these Australian exports to England, mainly the duo of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard by 1987. It marks a departure from their earlier post-punk and gothic rock sound, dispensing almost completely with guitars and utilizing a vast range of unorthodox instruments, some of which you may have never heard of or seen before. The album’s sides are split between the two primary vocalists and songwriters but it is cohesive in its big and dark and worldly sound. This is the Dead Can Dance we know and love.

Gateway tune: Xavier


#9 Spaceman 3 “The Perfect prescription”

With this, their second album, Jason Pierce’s pre-Spiritualized band with Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember, Spacemen 3 were arguably at their recorded output apex. They were given pretty much free reign of a recording studio for eight months, where they were able to experiment and hone their songs together to perfection. Compare that with the debut that was recorded in a week with an unsympathetic producer and to their third and fourth records, where the relationship, both personal and working, between the primary songwriters, Pierce and Kember, were by times, deteriorating and completely non-existent. This “rollercoaster” concept album of a trip (see what I did there?) is raw and soulful and psychedelic and woefully underrated.

Gateway tune: Walkin’ with Jesus


#8 The Jesus And Mary Chain “Darklands”

For their second album, the Reid brothers replaced Bobby Gillespie (who left to focus on Primal Scream) with a drum machine and really, did much of the instrument work on “Darklands” themselves. They stripped back a lot of the feedback and fuzz and noise but still managed to infuse the follow up to “Psychocandy” with just as much darkness and pure cool. Like the other two albums I’ve already listed, I got into this album years after its release and for me, it’s not an album of singles (although “Happy when it rains” is pretty phenomenal) but one of mood and feel. All black leather and sunglasses cool.

Gateway tune: Happy when it rains


#7 Jane’s Addiction “Jane’s Addiction”

In doing these best albums lists, I’ve been trying to limit my selections strictly to studio albums, which is why you won’t find New Order’s iconic compilation album, “Substance”, in this list for 1987. However, Jane’s Addiction’s self-titled debut album is a special case. Yes, it is a live album but it was heavily mixed and dubbed in the studio afterwards. I also think that Perry Farrell and company went this route to avoid having their debut release come out on a major label, given that they were being heavily courted by Warner at the time. And finally, it’s an album that defies ignoring. It captures the band’s raw live energy and includes rough first recordings of songs like “Pigs in zen” and “Jane says” that would later get a makeover and become classics. And oh yeah, there’s a couple of great covers… like the one below.

Gateway tune: Sympathy


#6 The Sisters Of Mercy “Floodland”

My friend Tim got me into The Sisters of Mercy back in the latter days of high school. He recorded me a copy of 1990’s “Vision thing”, which I loved, and later, when I caught and recorded the video for “This corrosion” on Much, the deal was sealed. The Sisters released three albums and each were recorded by three very different looking bands, the only constants were frontman Andrew Eldritch and his drum machine, Doktor Avalanche. On this, their second album, the goth rock outfit also included Patricia Morrison, who didn’t do very much on the album musically but definitely added to its image and tone. Epic rock producer Jim Steinman (who worked a lot with Meatloaf) also added his touches, especially on the aforementioned “This corrosion” and “Dominion/Mother Russia”. It’s big and it’s dark and it’s awesome.

Gateway tune: This corrosion


Check back next Thursday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

*Note: The photo under the title is not my own but I was unable to find the original source. Apologies and kudos to its creator.