By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
7. Third/Sister Lovers, Big Star (1978). Introducing the warped Southern pop song, where dreariness tussles with melody and melody wins. Modern popsters have spent almost 20 years trying to love the limbs right off the Beatles, and it all started in Memphis with Alex Chilton and Chris Bell.
8. Off the Wall, Michael Jackson (1979). Thriller may be the best-selling album ever, but the blueprint for the current crop of pseudo-soulful R&B outfits can be found in its predecessor. Michael was dressed in a tuxedo on the cover to signal his metamorphosis from boy II man, and producer Quincy Jones tarted up such pillow-humpers as "Rock with You" and "She's Out of My Life" as if he were decorating Diana Ross' bedroom.
9. Meat Puppets II, Meat Puppets (1983). Anytime you see a roots band that's playing badly for art's sake, you can give a tip of the cap to Arizona's Puppets, who made this sun-stroked country-rock at a time when punk music was all about faster, faster, kill, kill. The Velvets can probably claim "lo-fi" along with all their other credits, but the Meat Puppets were the modern pioneers. In its way, this record was as influential to a new breed of country boy as were the Flying Burrito Brothers in their day.
10. Confusion is Sex, Sonic Youth (1983). Too smart to rock and roll, these East Village People have been erroneously labeled "post-punk," when they're really "post-rock." Deconstructionists of the first order, S.Y. succeeded in butchering and maiming the pop canon with weird tunings, abrasive feedback and really shitty vocals. Yeah, I know, S.Y. copped a lot from Glenn Branca and Euro-wank bands like Can and Neu, but none of those people headlined Lollapalooza.
11. Power, Corruption and Lies, New Order (1983). The point at the center of this album's incredibly wide sphere of influence is the programmed drumbeat on "Blue Monday," which was widely sampled by Frankie Knuckles and Silk Hurley during the inception of house music. A speeded-up portion of the drums on "Blue Monday" could also be the foundation for Ministry's aural assault. Boy, imagine a world without either house music or industrial.
12. Ride the Lightning, Metallica (1984). Where this band's 1983 debut LP pioneered thrash-metal, this follow-up introduced a lot of gloomy material like the suicidal "Fade To Black" and the electric-chair ode of the title track. Do we need all this self-pitying angst? I liked it better when heavy metal songs were about screwing girls with big butts.
13. Psychocandy, Jesus and Mary Chain (1985). With backing tracks that sounded like lightning hitting a sheet metal plant, this Scottish band set out to make pop music ugly and succeeded brilliantly. Brought back feedback, phase shifters, and fog machines.
14. Three Feet High and Rising, De La Soul (1989). Hippie-hop is born! Called innovative for finding things to rhyme about other than sex and violence, this album took the edge off hip-hop and showed that "trippy" is in the mind of the beholder.
Evil spawned: P.M. Dawn, Digable Planets, Jazzmatazz, Tribe Called Quest.
15. Nevermind, Nirvana (1991). The best way to destroy a band is to make them real popular real fast. It broke up the Beatles and splattered the Sex Pistols, and the oppressive adoration and the boundary-erasing mega-success of this album and the single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" proved to be more than Kurt Cobain could handle. Be careful what you wish for.