Here’s our pick of 20 awesome debut albums from the ‘80s!
There’s a lot of good stuff here, but it’s worth pointing out that there was also a lot of great alternative and independent bands who would be on this list if they’d actually made a full album. Independent music in the ‘80s was primarily about singles, EPs and 5- or 6-track Mini-LPs; indies, especially early in the decade, usually couldn’t afford to record full albums. And there was a lot of great independent music in the ‘80s. It’s also worth pointing out that it was sadly also a very male-dominated era; record companies still tented to see females as just pop artists, and there weren’t nearly as many women in bands as there are now. There were exceptions of course and a few are included here. We hope you enjoy the list and would love your feedback! Let us know if you want us to look at the ‘60s and ‘70s too!
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds | From Her to Eternity (1985)
Nick (and lieutenant Mick Harvey) had plenty of time to work things through in the Birthday Party, and arrived with a more sombre but no less powerful approach for their next project. The beginning of something truly epic.
X | Aspirations
Recorded in late 1979 but released in 1980. Although they started in the ’77, the X of Aspirations, with Steve Lucas on guitar, was the beginning of their ‘80s sound. With Rose Tattoo co-founder Ian Rilen sharing the spotlight (and Lobby Loyde capturing the whole thing on tape in one five hour session!), Sydney’s X bridged the divide between tough Aussie boogie rock and punk rock and were one of the most powerful and singular groups the country ever produced.
Hoodoo Gurus | Stoneage Romeos (1984)
Punk rock’n’roll, garage rock, glam rock, power pop, a canny trash culture sensibility and brilliant songwriting – all thrown in the blender and all in technicolour. A decade and a half later they picked up where the Ramones left off, and they’re still great.
Paul Kelly | Post (1985)
This album only qualifies because PK has effectively buried his work with the Dots. His ‘70s songs are criminally under appreciated, but it’s probably fair to say that this solo debut was the beginning of his future career. So many great songs...
Sunnyboys | Sunnboys (1981)
Sydney’s post-Radio Birdman ‘60s inspired scene entered the ‘80s, and a new generation picked up the mantle. These guys had terrific songs and teen appeal galore.
The Divinyls | Desperate (1983)
A perfect, fully-formed merging of Oz Rock and New Wave Pop, with Chrissy Amphlett’s brilliantly provocative recreation of herself upfront. If the Divinyls hadn’t have hit so quickly – or had that bass player from Air Supply present in their video - we might have more time to realise how significant they were. I’m not sure we really ever did.
The Church | Of Skins & Heart (1981)
Another band that seemed to arrive fully formed; “Unguarded Moment” was a stunner. Like the Divinyls, the Church were complete unknowns until they were everywhere.
Do-Re-Mi | Domestic Harmony (1985)
With Deb Conway and Helen Carter, Do-Re-Mi not only brought a bit of Melbourne-style post-punk funk to Sydney, but they opened the door for forthright women in Australian music. “Man Overboard” remains an incredible statement and is possibly more timely now even than when written.
The Triffids | Treeless Plain (1983)
They’d been making quirky pop singles in Perth for a few years, but with their belated first album, the Triffids started heading towards a unique, considered and very Australian style of classic roots rock with a post-punk edge.
Weddings Parties Anything | Scorn Of Women (1986)
In the footsteps of the Bushwackers and Country Radio, Mick Thomas a crew played Australian roots music – bush ballads, folk and country – and pumped it up with pub rock energy. Why “Away Away” isn’t played every hour on classic rock radio is a question that needs to be asked.
Ed Kuepper | Electrical Storm (1985)
Two bands into his musical life – The Saints and Laughing Clowns – Ed recreated himself as a solo artist in 1985. Stripped back though it was, Electrical Storm lived up to its title and set a songwriting template that Ed would work – in both acoustic and electric formats – for decades to come.
Died Pretty | Free Dirt (1986)
Like the Triffids, Died Pretty almost veered into some alternative classic rock territory, but they had a bigger, more epic sound and focused on the tonal qualities of the guitar and keys. Ron Peno grew from an Iggy impersonator into one of Australia’s great vocalists.
Celibate Rifles | Sideroxylon (1983)
Picking up where the Saints and Radio Birdman left off in ’78, the Rifles took blistering high energy and added a laconic and at time cantankerous humour – which was Damien Lovelock in spades – that made them uniquely Australian.
Crowded House | Crowded House (2006)
Neil Finn was hardly a newcomer when his new band debuted, although he was still young. Having written a couple of classic pop songs in his Split Enz days, it was no surprise that he kept the melody flowing with Crowded House.
Warumpi Band | Big Name, No Blankets (1985)
Rocking and radical, the Warumpi’s music came from about as far away from any music centre as possible – Australia’s remote red centre.
Matt Finish | Short Note (1981)
It still surprises me that these guys were so popular, as they seemed to have a really uncommercial sound, one that was subdued and angular, but it was propulsive and addictive, and there are plenty of people who think they were the greatest.
The Hitmen | The Hitmen (1981)
Unsung heroes of both the post-Radio Birdman ‘Detroit’ rock scene and the Aussie pub rock scene, the Hitmen’s included two former Radio Birdmen members and two future Hoodoo Gurus, and their Mark Opitz-produced debut is simply one of the most powerful records ever recorded here.
Hard-Ons | Dick Cheese (1988)
The naughty boys of Australian punk, the Hard-Ons were a great pop band who played with incredible power and energy. They bridged the Ramones and later generations of pop-punk bands. Although their best work was probably captured on singles, and they’d released at least a couple of albums worth of material across various releases before this, we think Dick Cheese is their first album proper, and it’s a ripper.
Australian Crawl | The Boys Light Up (1980)
Sonically stuck in the ‘70s maybe, Australian Crawl remain underrated songwriters, and, along with Cold Chisel, took that ‘70s Dingoes/Richard Clapton classic rock type thing into the new decade with some great tunes and lyrics that seemed intent on offending the very people who liked them.
The Models | Alphabravocharliedeltaechofoxtrotgolf (1980)
Melbourne’s post-punk popsters had already ditched an album’s worth of great tunes when they game to make their first record, but they replaced them with a new sound that was bubbly, arch, synthetic, and ripe for the new decade.
Listen to more classic from the Land Down Under hits with our 80’s Oz playlist on Spotify: