College Countdown: CMJ Top 1000, 1979 – 1989 — #700 to #697

dino living700. Dinosaur Jr., You’re Living All Over Me (1987)

Still known as simply Dinosaur at the time, the band fronted by J. Mascis released their sophomore full-length, You’re Living All Over Me, late in 1987. Championed by members of Sonic Youth, the group was picked up by SST Records for the album, providing an immediate cachet, especially among fans of big, loud, guitar-driven music. And that’s what is delivered on the record, thick slabs of hard rock, beholden somewhat to the established titans who’d ruled FM radio for nearly two decades, but also resonantly new and innovative. The tracks on the album sound at once like everything rock ‘n’ roll had ever been and some weird dispatch from a gruffer, grubbier future.

“Little Fury Things” opens You’re Living All Over Me with a spectacular snarl of punk aggression before settling into tuneful thunder, pretty well establishing the band’s general operating framework. Within that framework, it’s remarkable how much variety Mascis and his cohorts — drummer Murph and bassist Lou Barlow — manage to develop. The gargling guitar of “Sludgefeast,” the easygoing tinniness of “In a Jar,” and Hüsker-adjacent blazer “Raisans” are thick with similarities, and yet they all sound just a little bit different from each other, as if it were a procession of different bands taking their own crack at the sound. The distinctive Mascis warble on the lead vocals is arguably the most unifying element, even as it offers the reminder that the band could be a bit of tough sell in the early days, especially when he tilts to truly tuneless intonations, as on “Kracked.” The album rounds out with a couple Barlow compositions, the spectacularly noisy “Lose” and the odd sound collage “Poledo.

“It was like a tornado, a whirlwind of creative energy,” Murph writes in the introduction pages of the 33 1/3 series book about You’re Living All Over Me. “Boom, you just go, something carries you away and sets you down somewhere completely different, like you were in the Wizard of Oz or something. Boom, then it’s done, the storm passes. Everyone wakes up: ‘What happened?'”


lene no

699. Lene Lovich, No Man’s Land (1982)

When Lene Lovich reached No Man’s Land, her third full-length studio effort, her relationship with her label, Stiff Records, had turned completely toxic. The label’s head, Dave Robinson, was pressuring Lovich and her producing partner, Les Chappell, to record material with more commercial potential, fixating on the idea that a cover of a Motown song would be ideal. Lovich rejected the notion, preferring to focus on new material, but Robinson stubbornly refused to even listen to the recordings passed along to him. No Man’s Land sat in limbo until Lovich circumvented Robinson to take the album straight to Epic Records, which released her material in the U.S. Robinson was livid, but Lovich got the album into shops.

Some of the tracks on No Man’s Land carry over from the fab 1981 EP New Toy, and everything is infused with Lovich’s adventuresome creativity. The album does open with a cover, though hardly the sort of immediately familiar tune Robinson wanted. Instead “It’s You, Only You (Mein Schmerz)” was an obscurity first recorded three years earlier by the Meteors. Lovich makes it shimmer like a comet’s tail. She also takes a pass at a song written by Jimme O’Neill (then of Fingerprintz and soon to take the frontman role with the Silencers), “Sister Video,” which finds Lovich employing some of Blondie’s most effective pop tricks.

The rest of the album features songs penned by Lovich and Chappell, and there usually vibrancy and personality is solidly in place. There an energizing exploratory spirit, reflected in elements such as the spooky electronic burbles on “Blue Hotel.” And Lovich generally works wonders with her soundscapes. “Walking Low” somehow sounds like a smoothie whirled together out of “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Come as You Are,” and “Wuthering Heights.”

Unsurprisingly, Lovich was entirely disenchanted with Stiff Records in the aftermath of her struggles to get the album released. She was also finding greater satisfaction in other creative pursuits, most notably a stage musical about Mata Hari which she co-wrote and starred in. She left Stiff Records and largely stepped away from the music business. Six years passed before her next album.



698. Eurythmics, Savage (1987)

“It was a very faithless album, you know,” Annie Lennox said of Savage, to NME. “In terms of the lyrical content, it was a betrayed soul. Things had reached such ironic proportions that there was nothing to believe in any more.”

The sixth studio album from Eurythmics, Savage was a deliberate attempt to retreat from the massive commercial success the band enjoyed with their previous couple of albums. It was also the first real instance of Lennox and Dave Stewart working as essentially separate units. Stewart was holed up in a French chateau with Olle Romo, who’d handled drum duties on most of the Be Yourself Tonight album. The two of them tinkered around with a new Synclavier Stewart had acquired, eventually building layered tracks of electronic sounds. Stewart gave the tracks to Lennox, who rapidly penned lyrics in her Paris apartment, pouring personal pain and frustration into the words. Savage has some echoes of the icy synth-pop that brought Eurythmics to fame, but far pricklier and aggressive, more of a dare than an invitation.

Opening track “Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)” was released as the first single, though Stewart later claimed it knew it was far too complicated and sonically bizarre to turn into a hit. Instead, it served as sort of a warning shot to radio programmers and fans. There would be nothing along the lines of “Would I Lie to You?” or “Missionary Man” on the new record. Savage is instead home to comparative oddities such as “Shame,” an epic under sedation, and “Do You Want to Break Up?,” which offers glum lyrics (“And I’ve been sad/ I’ve been overjoyed/ So let me disembrace you now/ My little trouble boy”) with deceptive sunniness. Later single “I Need a Man” is arguably a mild echo of the Stax Records sounds borrowed for Be Yourself Tonight, but it’s blistering in its approach.

Sometimes the elements and ideas pile up into a lopsided, teetering tower. “Put the Blame on Me” has Prince-like guitar, a numbingly repetitive dance riff, and Lennox employing a small flood of vocal techniques, including some spoken word that could have come from Laurie Anderson. As if presenting a counterargument to the fuss, the album closes with the acoustic ballad “I Need You” followed by gospel-tinged “Brave New Day,” which gives over about half the track to Lennox’s voice alone. Both cuts make the case for simplicity as the better showcase for the talented of Lennox and Stewart.

The band’s stated intent to cool their commercial prospects succeeded, perhaps too well. None of the singles from Savage made it into the Billboard Top 40, the first time that happened with an Eurythmics album (not including the soundtrack for Michael Radford’s film 1984) since “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” became a worldwide smash. There would be only one more trip to the Top 40, with the barely-a-hit “Don’t Ask Me Why,” and Eurythmics folded after one more album, with the occasional reunion in later years.


cheap dream

697. Cheap Trick, Dream Police (1979)

Cheap Trick had their fourth studio album, Dream Police, finished up and ready for release at the beginning of 1979. Then plans got derailed when an unexpected commercial breakthrough occurred. The prior three albums from the Rockford, Illinois band hadn’t generated much interest in the U.S., but they were, for some reason, big in Japan. The label sent Cheap Trick to tour the island nation in the spring of 1978, and the fan response was overwhelming. To further capitalize on the excitement, two shows is Tokyo were recorded and edited together to form the live album Cheap Trick at Budokan, which was intended for release in Japan only. But then an associated promotional disc entitled From Tokyo to You started earning radio airplay, and demand for the full live album picked up. By one estimate, over 30,000 import copies of Cheap Trick at Budokan were sold before Epic Records finally put out a U.S. version in early 1979, around four months after the Japanese release. The single “I Want You to Want Me” charted in the Billboard Top 10

With Cheap Trick at Budokan selling briskly, Epic Records held off on releasing Dream Police, finally bringing the album out in late September of 1979. The lean, punchy appeal of Cheap Trick’s music on the live album is almost entirely absent on Dream Police, which features slick production by the group’s regular producer, Tom Werman. The dopey title cut and the Beatlesque power ballad “Voices” earned Cheap Trick two more trips to the Top 40, but the tracks are drab. “The House is Rockin’ (With Domestic Problems)” is presumably an earnest attempt to cover a serious topic in a straightforward rock song, but it just winds up seeming glib. There’s also the entirely unconvincing “Gonna Raise Hell,” which, stretched to over nine minutes, is also an endurance test. Only the brash “I Know What I Want” has an energy that recalls the live album that brought the band stardom.


To learn more about this gigantic endeavor, head over to the introduction. Other entries can be found at the CMJ Top 1000 tag. Most of the images in these posts come straight from the invaluable Discogs

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