In which The Gun Club kick out the sort of murky, raw LOUD-quiet-LOUD that would have shifted bucketloads of units to the grunge crowd … if they’d only released Fire of Love (the album) ten years later than they did. Because in 1981, the world just wasn’t ready for the likes of For the Love of Ivey or any number of other dangerous gems. Not the mobbed up geniuses who programmed radio anyway, ran the major record labels, shifted the units. Which in the end has got to be a good thing – The Gun Club still sounding fresh, still beautiful in their ugliness, like Elvis from hell.
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 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)
“I don’t know why I never really dove in and listened to Tuxedomoon. Maybe the records were just too hard to find. As it is, Incubus found me in the early 80s via Best of Ralph, a compilation that went a long way toward turning essential parts of my brain and soul inside-out and sideways, all in the interest of driving home the point that the world wasn’t just stranger than I imagined, it was stranger than I could even begin to imagine imagining. Thanks, Ralph.” (Philip Random)
“In retrospect, we realized that The Magnificent Seven was the Clash taking on hip-hop, but in early 1981 when Sandinista first arrived, nobody in suburban Canadian wherever had even heard the term yet. So for me, it felt more like a riff on Bob Dylan, subterranean and homesick — definitely New York City in all of its turn of the decade corrosion and despair, and yet madly fertile anyway, not unlike the world as a whole at the time. The acid helped in this regard. I feel I should I apologize for this, all the acid references that seem to pop up whenever some kind of broader cultural view is required as to what really went down in the 1980s (my angle on it anyway). But why should one apologize for telling the truth? The Clash never did. Even when they were wrong.” (Philip Random)
Wherein the Human League pound home the point (with big beat and propulsive groove) that the times are always hard. It just depends where you’re sitting, or in this case, dancing. A track that never got released on an album but all the club DJs found it anyway. Do You Want Me Baby? may have been the big deal hit at the time, but it took Hard Times to burn down the house (and perhaps the Empire).
It’s 1981 and King Crimson main man Robert Fripp has reformed the band (after better part of seven years in the wilderness) with a whole new sound and Discipline, and the result is thundering (to put it mildly). Thela Hun Gingeet translates as Heat In The Jungle and it concerns an experience that Adrian Belew (the new guy) had while out for a walk with a tape recorder in the still rather mean streets of NYC. Word is, it actually caused stereo systems to catch fire back in the day.
“It’s true. We dropped our share of LSD in the 1980s, often as not up on mountaintops, miles from any electrical outlets. So we’d drag a blaster with us, because you had to have a soundtrack for all the strangeness and multiplicity. But what happened when we ran into normal folks? That’s where the Penguin Café Orchestra cassette came in handy. Right at the point where their faces were twisting to baleful scowls of judgment and disgust, we’d let drop easy acoustic textures incorporating fiddles, banjos, harmoniums, all manner of wooden gear that nevertheless floated strangely on the subliminal breeze. Although that Telephone + Rubber Band song did seem to confuse.” (Philip Random)