“I guess you could say this strange age we still find ourselves in officially landed with Kraftwerk in 1981 — everyday people owning artificial brains, keeping them in their homes next to the TV maybe, playing games on them, writing with them, making music. Not that I was paying it all much attention in 1981. I was mostly confused in 1981, or more to the point I was fighting confusion, because I’m still confused. I just gave up the fight a long, long time ago. Which gets us back to Kraftwerk, Computer World. What an album! Sounded exactly like the future that we all had coming, ready or not. And I guess I was. Ready, that is. In spite of all the confusion.” (Philip Random)
“Second of two in a row from the Clash‘s last truly great, truly world beating album, the six-sided monster known as Sandinista. In the case of One More Time (and it’s dub), that means the ideal soundtrack for an ironic walk through an upscale suburban enclave on a warm spring evening (‘must I get a witness for all this misery?’), particularly if there’s a house on fire a few blocks away, sirens a-howling, black smoke rising, and you’re a little high on LSD. This actually happened to me, 1981 sometime. I ended up watching it all from maybe a block away, and thinking (not for the first time) that the Apocalypse wasn’t something that was coming, it was already here, and I was in the middle of it – and so was everybody else. Armagideon times indeed.” (Philip Random)
“Have I raved enough yet about Sandinista, the vast and multifaceted Clash album that doesn’t generally end up on Best Of All Time Lists? London Calling being the one that tends to get all the glory. Which it deserves, of course, but I would submit that sometimes more really is MORE when it comes to art, beauty, meaning, rebellion everything. Which, in Sandinista‘s case means thirty-six tracks spread across six sides of vinyl, enough to drown in if necessary. And maybe it is. Necessary. Because Sandinista is the greatest band in the world (at the time) firing all of their guns at once and hitting way more often than they miss. Broadway shows up at the end of Side Four. A slice of Beat-like poetry that may start out weary and down for the count. But never count this band out. Ever. Not in 1980-81 anyway.” (Philip Random)
“Wall of Voodoo being one of the first uniquely post-1970soutfits I ever threw in with — tight, unafraid of new technology, a little nasty, full of film noir shadows and surprises, even some laughs. And they could deliver live. Which is what happened in Vancouver’s Luv Affair, early 1982, one of the great shows of that or any year. They opened strong with a cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, and it all peaked maybe an hour later with Back In Flesh – a song about what happens when your arm gets smashed and your salary gets cut and the corporation’s boiling over … and everything else. Yeah, it sounds a bit like the B52s, I suppose, but what the hell’s wrong with that?” (Philip Random)
It’s 1981 and, after a seven year hiatus, Robert Fripp has decided to reboot the monster known as King Crimson. The new album is called Discipline and it’s clear from the opening seconds of the first track Elephant Talk that it’s all for the good. Tight and modern as the album title suggests, but also dangerous and beautiful in a primal, wild animal sort of way. Special thanks to new guy Adrian Belew‘s guitar athletics. And his vocals aren’t bad either. Not exactly rapping on Elephant Talk. Not singing either. Just arguing, agreeing, babbling, bantering, ballyhooing, chattering, chit-chatting, diatribing … and so on. Which is rather what the world sounded like in those days. As it still does.
“The gods must have had me in mind with America is Waiting, side one track one of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Brian Eno and David Byrne messing with African beats and rhythms, disembodied voices, all manner of weird noises, everything coming together to call down the venal soullessness of Ronald Reagan’s America, like the atmosphere itself was speaking to my concerns. How could all this not go well with the copious quantities of LSD that were bubbling around at the time? But the drugs wore off eventually. My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts didn’t, never has. Others may have used samples before, merged noise and rhythm and all manner of exotic tangents and textures. But once Misters Eno and Byrne had done their bit, this sort of stuff was emphatically here to stay, part of the firmament.” (Philip Random)
“It’s hard to get a specific date on Bucky Skank, just sometime in the 1970s, probably post 1972, which I don’t even know for sure, it just feels right that it came from the Black Ark, Mr. Lee Scratch Perry and his Upsetters being known for their stoned and wistful wandering both in and out of time. The groove is odd, almost broken. The lyrics are mostly nonsensical to my non-Jamaican ears. But it always brings a smile.” (Philip Random)
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.