Moments in time, late 1988.
Joy Division, Substance (released 11 July 1988). In between the Flying Bohemians jam sessions, I was teaching myself how to play bass by playing along to some of my favorite albums of the time. I picked up on Peter Hook’s distinctive style (a countermelody high up on the fret board) pretty quick and would often run through “Transmission” and all of the second half of this album.
The Go-Betweens, 16 Lovers Lane (released August 1988). Another case of me really liking a band just as its members were about to head their separate ways. This one’s a lovely and melodic record that got a lot of play on WMDK and WRSI. I’d hear them playing either this song or “Streets of Your Town” every morning as I was getting ready for school.
The Wonder Stuff, The Eight-Legged Groove Machine (released August 1988). A goofy band from the Midlands UK that got a lot of play on WAMH. I picked up this cassette at Tower Records, along with Dead Can Dance’s Within the Realm of a Dying Sun, during a trip to Boston around the time of its release. The trip itself was a visit to Emerson College to check out the school. [Yeah, I’d pretty much already made up my mind which college I’d be heading to by that point.]
Jane’s Addiction, Nothing’s Shocking (released 23 August 1988). This band was the shit that autumn. You’d hear “Jane Says” everywhere. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this band at first, as I wasn’t sure if they were trying to be metal, punk, alternative, or all three at once…but they grew on my pretty damn quick. Especially this song. I may have ‘liberated’ this album from the radio station, under the pretense that there was no way in hell anything on this album would ever be played on-air there…
Living Colour, Vivid (released 3 May 1988). This one’s slightly out of chronology, but I put it here because of MTV. The channel had come up with a ‘new music’ tour of college campuses with The Godfathers headlining, and in early October they’d made a stop at UMass Amherst. Chris and I wasted no time buying tickets and squeezing our way into the crowded student union building to see these guys perform. It was the first show where I’d witnessed a moshpit first hand, and had I been more adventurous at the time, I’d have jumped right in.
Siouxsie & the Banshees, Peepshow (released 5 September 1988). I picked up a used copy of the vinyl version of this album cheap at Al-Bum’s, if I’m not mistaken. I’d been a passive Siouxsie fan for a good couple of years, but this album was the one that made me become a bigger fan. It’s poppier and trippier than the moody Tinderbox, with a lot of wonderful songwriting and atmospheric production.
They Might Be Giants, Lincoln (released 25 September 1988). Whereas TMBG’s first album was filled with weird non-sequiturs, silly imagery and bizarre ranting, their sophomore album was a bit more laid back. It took me a bit of time to get used to it, as I felt there were a few songs that would have benefited from being short segments rather than full songs, but despite that, I still loved their offbeat humor.
Front 242, Front by Front! (released October 1988). EBM (Electronic Body Music) never really got much of a foothold here in the States, but I certainly loved it whenever it popped up on WAMH. It was dance music, but its aggression and metallic sound made it lean towards what would soon be called Industrial. “Headhunter” is by far one of my favorite songs of 1988, and it sounds excellent in headphones. I remember running into Chris at Al Bum’s (he’d taken the bus up from his dorm) one weekend when I bought this.
Ultra Vivid Scene, Ultra Vivid Scene (released October 1988). Right about the same time I was getting into the dark atmospherics of the 4AD label (with Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil, to name a few), the label was signing and releasing bands with a much harder and louder edge, such as Pixies and Ultra Vivid Scene. Chris and I both loved this album, a few of its songs making numerous appearances on our mixtapes. Fun trivia: yes, that is in fact Moby playing the guitar in the background!
U2, Rattle and Hum (released 10 October 1988). Following up on The Joshua Tree, U2 went on a very long tour and decided to record new music along the way. The end result is a double album featuring live performances of past hits and new tracks infused with Americana. A documentary film was attached as well. Many reviewers felt the album bloated and the film too self-important, but both have actually aged really well, to be honest.
Ministry, The Land of Rape and Honey (released 11 October 1988). Ministry was another band that was hard to pin down. Equal parts metal, hardcore punk, goth, and industrial, and angry as hell. I gravitated towards this album mainly due to the energy of “Stigmata”, but also thanks to the ultraviolent (yet funny, thanks to its deliberately bad lyrics) album track “Flashback”, both of which got a lot of play on WAMH.
The Fall, I Am Kurious Oranj (released 31 October 1988). Another band I knew a lot about but never owned an album of theirs until this one. A soundtrack for a Michael Clark ballet losely based on the history of William of Orange? Sure, why not? Mark E. Smith’s vocal delivery is definitely an a acquired taste, but the album is indeed fascinating and fun.
Blue Clocks Green, “Hemingway” single (released November 1988). Simultaneously voted most favorite and most reviled song on WAMH that school year, depending on which DJ you asked. A ‘so bad it’s good’ track that gets stuck in your head for days. Its 12″ single was known for containing a remix which was essentially the single mix played in reverse.
REM, Green (released 8 November 1988). “Two things to do November 8,” the postcard and the advertisement said, followed by two images: the cover of Green and a voting booth. Their first album for a major label after years of being on IRS, the album is a mix of poppier singles, darker-edged sounds and even a few light-hearted moments in amongst the more political tracks. Pretty much huge hit for my entire circle of friends.
Cowboy Junkies, The Trinity Session (released 7 December 1988). My first major brush with alternafolk that resonated with me (I was never a big fan of Tracy Chapman or 10,000 Maniacs). I loved that it was recorded in a church, capturing the natural echo and ambience.