Gold Medal: Remain in Light by Talking Heads
I remember the first time I heard this record as a teenager, I thought, “What the hell is this weirdness?” But after a few listens, I caught the funky bug and was hooked. I’ve heard this album described as a man’s life summed up in 40 minutes, from the opening shout of “Born Under Punches” to the droning fadeout of “The Overload.” Who knows if that’s what Byrne and company desired but no matter how you think of it, this album is one lively set of songs. Inspired by African rhythms as much as sonic experimentation, Remain in Light is a true classic never to be replicated.
Silver Medal: Peter Gabriel (Melt) by Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel is one of the great dramatists of rock. Though I’m more familiar with his work with Genesis, this thespian touch carries over into his solo career. Melt kicks off with “Intruder”, one of the creepiest tracks you’ll find from a mainstream rocker. And as the record continues, PG adopts a multitude of different characters, such as the amnesiac of “I Don’t Remember” or the children’s narrator of the satirical war tale “Games Without Frontiers.” Oddly enough, African influence is also found on this album, particularly in the civil rights anthem, “Biko.” Add the synthy production and you have another remarkably original record.
Bronze Medal: Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police
The last of the so-called early Police albums, Zenyatta Mondatta is simply a crisp record. A lot of this has to do with Stuart Copeland’s able drumming, but the blonde trio had just about perfected their special brand of punky reggae at this point. Their sense of humor was still intact but the group was starting to mention real issues such as bombings of Afghanistan (“Bombs Away”) despite the danceable rhythms. “Man in a Suitcase” reflects the busy schedule of the band at the time, and though it’s a cute and catchy, conflict about this and other issues would soon mark the end of the Police. Fortunately, they left behind a handful of fine releases such as this one.