15 Life-Changing Albums

This is thread is going around Facebook. I figured I’d post my note here as well.

Assignment: Think of 15 albums that had a profound effect. Dig into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wazoo, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean.


If I tagged you, it means I either figured you’d have some opinion on the matter or I’m desperately seeking your approval.

Like Steve Hayes who did like Dave Lindquist, I’m going to try to put these in order of when they entered my life…

peter-alexander1. Peter Alexander Wiehnachts Musik. No clue if that is the name of the album. But it is a collection of German Christmas music sung by the German equivalent of Bing Crosby. It’s probably the first time when I was a little kid that I tied music together with atmosphere and emotion. I knew it was Christmastime when mom put that record on and played it seemingly non stop until Christmas finally arrived. I still listen to a (now pristeen MP3) version of that album all December. On top of just being memorable, it’s a pretty well produced album. Church bells cling (sampling? In the 60’s?), children sing, strings swell, choirs bellow…it’s all good. I’ve never heard anything else by Peter Alexander and I don’t want to. Anything else would just be a disappointment.

Culture Club2. Culture Club Kissing To Be Clever – I bought this cassette at either Ayr-Way or Target. Cant’ remember exactly when the stores made the switch. I really liked the song “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” that I had heard on the radio. I went to the store and bought it with whatever allowance I had scraped together. Boy George was probably the first flaming dude I had ever seen or paid attention to. He kind of scared me. But I am kind of proud now that at such a young age I was able to separate a person from their art. It actually probably intrigued me even more that this weirdo put out such good music and I just had to buy it.

howard-jones-dream-into-action3. Howard Jones Dream Into Action – I was always a sucker in the early 80’s for new wave. So at some point in my Freshman or Sophomore year I bought this tape and listened to it so damn much I wore it out and had to buy it again. I listened to it again a few months ago after not having heard it for years. It didn’t hold up.



inxs - listenlikethieves4. INXS Listen Like Thieves – Also purchased sometime as a freshman or sophomore. I remember listening to this a TON. I freaking loved “What You Need”. Laugh if you want, but this was one of the few “rock” album I had ever listened to so it definitely held my attention. I’ve also listened to this recently and it has held up much better than the Howard Jones album. Also, INXS’ Shabooh Shoobah is a way better album.


pretty-in-pink-cd5. Pretty In Pink Soundtrack – By 1986 my little circle of friends were starting to explore non-mainstream music. This was s tough battle, pre-Internet and all. I bought this tape and it introduced me to Psychedelic Furs, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Smiths, and, most importantly, New Order. Their song “Shellshock” was exactly what I was looking for. Something far more serious than New Wave but still electronic and it just sounded grand.


Power, Corruption, and Lies 6. New Order Power, Corruption, and Lies – After hearing #5, I ran out and bought this album. It took me a long time to get into it. For a teenager, it’s not the easiest album to get into. But i knew it was great. It also had the song “Blue Monday” on it. I had heard this song in Germany when I visited there in 1983 and I really liked the song then. But I had no idea who did it. So when I heard this song on the album, it all came together for me. I also saw the original painting that was used for the album artwork on my one trip to London, so that was cool.


NMA - Ghost of Cain7. New Model Army The Ghost of Cain – So my orthodontist had a motivational ploy for his patients. If you put in your rubber bands and all of that crap, you would “win” a wooden nickel. After you had collected enough, you could trade it in for a gift certificate or some other prize. After I had eventually collected enough, I traded them for a gift certificate to the Camelot music store at Washington Square. The next time I got to the mall, I went to the back wall of tapes (where they housed “the cool stuff” and just scanned all of the tapes, wondering which one I would buy. For some reason, I was magically attracted to this tape. It looked kind of bad ass what with it’s leather jacket on the cover and interesting album title. I knew I wanted something that rocked. Little did I know this album would have such a profound musical effect on me. This album had the unbridled energy of punk but was far more musical than what I had heard at that point in my life. This band is still going strong and I have traveled hours to see them play within the past few years. I still buy everything they put out. The album they put out after this one (“Thunder and Consolation”) is a complete master stroke and is also one of my 5 favorite albums ever.

Art of Noise - In Visible Silence 8. Art of Noise In Visible Silence – The album that taught me that you can deconstruct music and it can still be music. This album was very eye opening (or is it ear opening?). AoN have since become one of my most collected bands. I have almost their complete discography, complete with picture discs and Japanese 7″ singles I paid too much for.


negativland - escape from noise9. Negativland Escape from Noise – Wayne at Rockin’ Billys was a musical sensei for a few friends and myself. We’d go in there, chat, and he’d push an album on us and we would buy it. He knew I liked Art of Noise so he told me this one was in the same vein. And it was, except that it deconstructed music even more, often to the point of being more avant garde radio plays than “music”. I loved it. This album helped cement my interest in experimental and non-standard music.


Cabaret Voltaire - Code 10. Cabaret Voltaire – Code – I was in Ozarka in Bloomington on day. I think I was visiting my older sister at IU when I stumbled into there and was browsing the record selection. They were playing the most amazing electronic music I had ever heard. I asked the person at the counter what it was. They said it was Cabaret Voltaire. I told them to sell it to me and they said they were out of stock. Bastards. I eventually found it and listened to the hell out of it. This was electronic music taken to the next level (particularly the song Code). It was cool, it was adventurous, it was so mechanical! Yet they would sing every now and then in this really hip, laid back style that gave the album some soul. This is the album that sent me spiraling out of control into electronic music.

Front Line Assembly - Corrosion 11. Front Line Assembly Corrosion – I would go to Tracks and just buy anything from Wax Trax. I bought this, never having heard of the band. I loved it because it had an organic sound to the electronics going on. Front Line Assembly and the numerous spinoff bands is now by FAR the largest band that I collect. I keep buying anything put out. And fortunately, it continues to maintain a very high level.


He Said - Take Care 12. – He Said Take Care – If there’s an album I’ve heard more than #13, this might be it. It’s a spin off from the band Wire (another of the numerous bands that Rockin Billy’s Wayne pushed on me). I remember going to my friend Walter’s house and asking him to give me the weirdest album he had. He gave me a copy of this. I was disappointed int hat it wasn’t weird so much as it was very original. Chock full of 7 minute long songs that have strong rhythms, dispassionate and obtuse vocals, and all sorts of creativity. Most people I’ve pushed this album to haven’t fallen in love with it as much as I did. Their loss.

Front Line Assembly - Tactical Neural Implant 13. Front Line Assembly Tactical Neural Implant – I got a promo copy of this while working at the radio station at Ball State – WCRD FTW! I’ve listened to that album so much that I think it is now permanently implanted in my DNA. To me, this is not only one of the best electronic albums ever made, but one of the best albums, period. And even though it was released in 1991, it does not sound dated in the least.


Front 242 - 06:21:03:11 UP EVIL 14 – Front 242 06:21:03:11 UP EVIL – This was essentially the last full Front 242 album and it’s my favorite one of theirs. Like many electronic bands in the early 90’s, they dabbled with guitars and “rock” but they way that Front 242 did it was in such a cut up, everything int he blender, mad scientist approach that I’m still in awe today. There was nothing that sounded like this before and nothing that sounded like it since.


Legendary Pink Dots - From Here you'll Watch the World Go By 15. Legendary Pink Dots From Here you’ll Watch the World Go By – I was quite often exposed to LPD through my electronic/industrial music listenings but never got into them because I flat didn’t “get them”. Then, on a whim, I ordered this album and they finally had morphed to meet me halfway. This is a wonderful, deranged album of generally straight ahead rock. There are certainly touchpoints with early 70’s Pink Floyd. But this album got me into LPD and their album releases throughout the 90’s were one of the few good things to come out of that decade. Through them, I pursued Krautrock and got a great appreciation for that genre. But the band morphed again in the 2000’a and we’ve more or less parted ways.

Done Already? I’m not even halfway through the nineties. And I haven’t even mentioned Einstuerzende Neubauten, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Psychic TV, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Talking Heads, Julian Cope, Violent Femmes, Moby, Stone Roses, R.E.M., Thievery Corporation, Revolting Cocks, Nitzer Ebb, Thrill Kill Kult, Kraftwerk, Pixies, Wire, The Orb,and about a dozen others that have put out albums that I have not only listened to 1,000 times, but also somehow affected me more than most other music.

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