Five Great Guitar Albums: 1980-present



This is part 2 of my look at a few great guitar records. Though it may come as a surprise to some of you who literally think they stopped making music after John Bonham died, there are actually quite a few excellent guitar-based albums from the 80’s and beyond. For example:

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5. Weezer – Weezer (1994)

Let’s go ahead and forget everything this band has done in the decade of the 2000s. Is your head clear? Good. Weezer only had two albums, their brilliant debut and 1996’s underrated Pinkerton. They’re both amazing, and since Rivers Cuomo was tragically killed in a 1998 skiing accident, those are the only two records the group ever made Thus, Weezer remains one of the best bands of all time.

What’s that you say? Weezer has released like 8 albums since then?

I’m sorry. I think you’re mistaken.

Must Listen: “In Dreams,” “My Name is Jonas”

4. The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday (2005)

The world’s most literate bar band delivers chunky riff after chunky riff while singer Craig Finn spins Twin-City-based Biblical allegories over them. The Hold Steady will make you think, and they will certainly make you drink. Think a hardcore-tinged Springsteen who picked up a BA in English, and you’ll be halfway there. Lead guitar player Tad Kubler plays with finesse and exuberance, and the result is a quasi-religious experience.

Must Listen: “Hornets! Hornets!” “How a Resurrection Really Feels”

3. Judas Priest – British Steel (1980)

True metal-heads might dismiss this as pop-metal, but the fact remains that (to paraphrase Raymond Carver), British Steel is what we talk about when we talk about heavy metal. Perfectly coinciding with the rise of MTV, Rob Halford and company’s “Studs and Leather” image caught on big time. None of this would have mattered, however, if the songs had been shit. Luckily, British Steel is filled with memorable tracks, led by the sublime guitar work of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. While the album tampers down the explosive and out-of-control solos customary to metal at the time, this streamlined approach only accentuates the power of the songs.

Must Listen: “Living After Midnight,”Breaking the Law”

2. Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted

You may want to give Pavement credit for Weezer’s existence. They have taken credit for it on more than one occasion. (The actual line was “You’re welcome for Weezer”). Yes, Pavement were a bunch of California brats, but they also created some of the most interesting guitar-rock around during the 90’s, and basically served as one of the flagship bands for the 1990’s alternative/indie” rock boom. Guitarists Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg (aka Spiral Stairs) mix up the hooky power-pop of Big Star with the esoteric art rock of The Fall and Sonic Youth (more on them later) and fill their debut record with off-kilter, borderline subliminal hooks. Pavement manages to rock fairly hard, in spite of their apparent total apathy. Slackers.

Must Listen: “Trigger Cut,” “In the Mouth a Desert”

sonic youth1. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

If you’re looking for the logical extension of what Hendrix did with his guitar, look no further than Sonic Youth. The long running New York group redefines the sounds that are supposed to come out of the instrument, while committing themselves to creating tonal landscapes buried within a pop sensibility. The album is nearly 30 years old, but it sounds as fresh today as it must have in the late 80’s. With the aid of alternate tunings, countless effects pedals, drumsticks, metal screws, and literally anything else that can be done to a guitar, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo create sounds of doom and gloom, but also striking moments of beauty. This is the most important guitar album since Are You Experienced.

Must Listen: “Teenage Riot,” “Total Trash”


Photo credit: Zach Petersen ( )

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