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Top Ten Greatest Post-Punk Albums

Updated on September 18, 2015
Closer, by Joy Division
Closer, by Joy Division | Source

Post punk is sort of a “transitional” genre separating punk and new wave. Post-punk combined the energy and rawness of punk with more introspective lyrics and an experimental approach to songwriting and production. This genre produced some excellent artists and albums, including the legendary Joy Division, and influenced much of the music of the eighties. Here I have compiled a list of the top ten best post punk records, presented in no particular order.

Joy Division – Closer

Joy Division is not only a pioneer of post-punk, but also an influence on new wave, goth, industrial, and most other genres that emerged in the 80s. Famed Factory Records producer Martin Hannett sculpted Joy Divsion's sound, transforming them into something unparalleled, a departure from their punk origins. Hannett's heavy use of digital delay, cavernous reverb, layered synthesizers, and crisp drum production characterized the sound of Joy Division. Their sparse arrangements, consisting of Peter Hook's lead bass, Stephen Morris' unconventional drum patterns, Bernard Sumner's sparse guitar riffs, and Ian Curtis' dramatic baritone created a tense and eerie atmosphere. It may not be hyperbolic to say that Ian Curtis is a contender for greatest lyricist in rock history.

Gang of Four – Entertainment!

Named after a faction of Chinese Communist Party officials, Gang of Four may seem like a typical punk band. What was not typical about this band was their ability to make political subjects personal. Also atypical was their (highly successful) fusion of punk rock's energy and angst with funky dance grooves. This is one of very few albums that provide one with the opportunity to dance to songs about the IRA, Communist rebels, and economic turmoil.

Psychedelic Furs – The Psychedelic Furs

Most recognized for Richard Butler's distinctive voice, the Psychedelic Furs are also noteworthy for their impressionistic lyrics, John Ashton's guitar, and Duncan Kilburn's saxophone. In fact, the saxophone is one of their best features, adding a jazzy/lounge element to the group's sound; this is used to particularily good effect on “Sister Europe.”

Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance

If nothing else, this album is notable for featuring a musette. Pere Ubu really had their own style, especially the rhythms and percussion, which are fantastic. The voice and lyrics of David Thomas are another high point that sets apart this album from its contemporaries. The Modern Dance was so unique and ahead of its time that it still sounds pretty fresh today.

The Fall – Grotesque

The Fall's sound changes constantly, mostly due to the frequent line-up changes, but Mark E. Smith's voice and lyrics are the main ingredient in the Fall sound. Their third album takes the weird rhythms and use of tapes from their previous work, and combines it with synthesizers and acoustic guitar. The result is a very strange, but enjoyable, record.

Public Image, Ltd. – Metal Box

After leaving the Sex Pistols, Johnny Rotten developed a new post-punk sound with Public Image, Ltd. PiL was a departure from the raw and aggressive sound of the Sex Pistols, often featuring slower songs, drones, synthesizers, heavy use of studio effects, and elements of dub music.

This Heat – This Heat

This Heat was a strange band in a genre full of strange bands; they were definitely part of the more experimental branch of the post-punk movement. Their heavy use of tape loops and effects creates a very unusual texture and atmosphere that is rather eerie and ominous. A true testament to their ingenuity is that they can't very aptly be compared to any other band.

Magazine – Real Life

Founded by former Buzzcocks front man Howard Devoto, Magazine takes the basic “punk meets pop” sound of the Buzzcocks into more experimental territory with more cerebral lyrics, atmospheric keyboards, and a taut rhythm section. Of particular note is the guitar playing of John McGeoch, who also played with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Public Image, Ltd., and Visage.


Marquee Moon, by Television
Marquee Moon, by Television | Source

Television – Marquee Moon

Television were one of the more technically proficient of the bands associated with the CBGB scene. Their songs prominently featured complex guitar interplay between Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, and Billy Ficca's jazz-influenced drumming, and the bass lines of former Blondie bassist Fred Smith. Verlaine's lyrics are clever, intriguing, and rather poetic (he changed his surname as an homage to the poet Paul Verlaine). With frequent references to New York City locales, and a sound that represents the New York music scene of the 1970s, any track on this album would be as good an anthem for the city as “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Wire – 154

Wire began with a pretty typical punk sound, and producer Mike Thorne assisted them in bringing out the more artistic aspects of their music, just as Martin Hannett did for Joy Division. This album sounds less raw and punk-influenced than Wire's previous albums, resulting in a more eclectic collection of songs. However, Wire had not lost the frenzied guitars, pulsating bass, pounding drums, and bizarre lyrical themes that made them icons of the post-punk scene. In case you were wondering, the coordinates referenced in the song “Map Ref. 41 N 39 W” are the coordinates for Centerville, Iowa.

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