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The 20 Most L.A. Albums Ever: 10-1

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Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 3:40 AM
click to enlarge Black Flag - EDWARD COLVER
  • Edward Colver
  • Black Flag
From the Sunset Strip to the beach to the streets of South Central, L.A. has for decades created one mythology after another in its music. Whether these images are embraced - or, say, shattered by South Bay punk rock - the dichotomy of a struggling inner city and bikini-clad rich kids in the hills gives L.A. a unique sound, a texture of noise that exists in different ways on the great records born in its neighborhoods. 

Surveying that landscape and digging into the contributions of our musical pioneers, we've selected the 20 most quintessentially L.A. records. -Art Tavana

See also: The Most L.A. Albums Ever: 20-11

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10. The Germs

GI (1979)

On GI, the voice of Germs singer Darby Crash sounds like mint jelly smeared over chunks of grey matter. Produced by Joan Jett, GI is the most primal cut of L.A. hardcore. It's Darby's self-sacrifice to make his city punker and more dangerous than New York, baptizing the gutter punks between Hollywood and Orange County. The scar tissue from the circular burn of GI remains deeply a part of L.A, where Darby's punk ghost (he committed suicide in 1980) remains stuck in purgatory. -Art Tavana

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9. Red Hot Chili Pepper

Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)

Blood Sugar Sex Magik
defined the The Red Hot Chili Peppers as L.A.'s bratty alt-rock prodigies. Recorded in Harry Houdini's former Laurel Canyon mansion, the work captures our city's grimy, sexy weirdness. "Under The Bridge," was the Chili Peppers' first top 10 song, and all of these years later it still sounds, to many, like what we're all about. -Mary Grace Cerni

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8. Black Flag

Damaged (1981)

When Damaged's opening track "Rise Above" first hits your eardrums, the hot, jumbled mess of post-Carter-era Los Angeles is shoved boot-first into your cranial cavity. Damaged is still a torrent that sandblasts away all the shine, all the tinsel, and anything else affixed by the image-conscious, sunbaked brains of the beach-to-Hollywood set. Even with the rage in Rollins' voice and the savagery of Ginn, Cadena, Dukowski and Robo's sonic commotion, the album leaves behind a wake of wit, and a wink of irony, lest you think that L.A. hardcore ever took itself too seriously.
-Paul T. Bradley

See also: Henry Rollins' Column

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7. The Beach Boys

Pet Sounds (1966)

Pet Sounds took the Beach Boys from the beaches of California into the tortured canals of Brian Wilson's brain - a record with a consistent stream of consciousness. Sure, "Surfin' USA" has more sunshine, but the ethereal guitar intro on "Wouldn't it Be Nice" captures the breezy California surfboard aesthetic better than anything, well, ever recorded. It's L.A. dipped into a vat of acid, and it connected with most everyone who heard it; to many people this is the sound of L.A., whether they've been here or not. -Art Tavana

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