“I had heard of Joy Division before the big deal suicide – I just hadn’t heard any of the music (sound traveling much slower before the internet). And meanwhile, I was dealing with a close personal suicide of my own, ex-friend James. So I was abundantly clear on one thing: suicide wasn’t cool, wasn’t romantic, wasn’t meaningful, wasn’t anything but a dire, miserable fact. So when word came down that the lead singer of this cool new band had offed himself, I just wasn’t interested, particularly as a sort of cult grew around him. ‘Badfinger had two suicides, so they’re twice as cool,’ I was guilty of saying. And guilt’s the word, because I was wrong. Not about the romanticizing of suicide, but about shrugging off the fierce grace of Joy Division‘s music. Nothing could negate that. Ever.” (Philip Random)
There’s no shortage of rage in the Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) discography, but nowhere else does so much sorrow show itself than in Public Image Ltd’s Death Disco (aka Swan Lake because it cops a bit of the Tchaikovsky melody), a recorded recorded immediately after the death of his mother (she requested some disco for her funeral). It actually hurts to listen to it, but in a good way (not that the whole album doesn’t lean that way) — the punk is revealed as all too human, just in case there was any doubt.
“Call me agnostic on The Jam. Don’t hate them, just never really joined the fan club. Which is not to say they didn’t nail it every now and then. Like with That’s Entertainment, hitting like a scene from a movie that never got made, the one where the mod punk sort of new wave guy puts down his electric guitar, grabs his acoustic and gets to hard strumming, spitting out his disgust at all the ugliness getting passed off as beauty, all the villains getting sold as heroes, all the nightmares with laugh tracks. Just smile, folks, call it entertainment, and don’t mind the rotating knives.” (Philip Random)
Before their absurdly huge pop success, Human League had two albums of just being a cool outfit mucking around with synthesizers, drum machines, other weird gear, exploring all the mysterious regions that the new technology was opening up. Dreams of Leaving, found on their second album Travelogue, gets downright epic before it’s done, something to do with closed borders, grudges, maybe just paranoia. It was 1980. There was a lot to worry about.
“I’m pretty sure the first time I heard the term Young Marble Giant was that night friend-of-a-friend Carl Johnson, wasted on alcohol and who knows what else, stepped onto a busy Seymour Street, threw his arms wide, and declared ‘I Am A Young Marble Giant’. Horns honked, tires squealed, people called him asshole, but nothing hit him. Jump ahead maybe twenty years and Carl had become an investment banker, gotten stupidly rich. Meanwhile, I’d gotten around to picking up Colossal Youth, the only album by the group known as Young Marble Giants. Call it monolithic in its subtlety, restraint, and ultimate timelessness. But worth dying for?” (Philip Random)
“I liked Spanish Bombs from first listen, which would’ve been summer, 1980, bombing around suburbia in co-worker Gregory’s hot rod, London Calling being the only album I ever remember him playing. It was that kind of album. Still is, I guess. But Spanish Bombs wouldn’t truly land with me until about ten years later, a beach, a bonfire. Some girl I’d never met before grabbed an acoustic guitar and nailed it, nailed me. It was love at first sight, first chorus. Sort of. Because I’ve never seen her since. Except sometimes when Spanish Bombs comes on, like a ghost, I guess, lost in some mythical Andalusia.” (Philip Random)
“It was a summer party, a backyard thing, 1980 or thereabouts, the evening shifting sweetly into twilight, everybody else having gone inside leaving just me and the stillness, and the music, the stereo having been dragged outside earlier, various mixtapes coming and going, and now, miraculously, as though ordained from on high, the Moody Blues‘ epic and spacious finale to Threshold of a Dream, their third and best album — it suddenly seemed to contain everything, capture all the complexity of the moment in strange apprehension, like a painting, but not looking at it, being inside it. Definitely the threshold of something. The acid was kicking in.” (Philip Random)
“I still remember the first time I heard Requiem, track one side one of Killing Joke‘s self-titled debut album. It was 1981 sometime, a friend’s place. I walked in and he had it cranked LOUD. Like nothing I’d ever heard before. Intense, violent even, yet not in a particular hurry. Like a genuinely dangerous metal band had embodied the vehemence of punk. Or whatever. The best music is always beyond words. Call it the future, I guess, lobbing us a wake up call. I remember it was stormy that day, great black clouds forcing the horizon.” (Philip Random)