“I cannot tell a lie. The first time I heard the name Dead Kennedys, it kind of took my breath away. I didn’t say anything out loud or anything, but I liked the Kennedys, was old enough to remember the assassinations of both JFK and RFK. And now here was this punk band exploiting them. Not that I really even listened to the music really. It was just trash and exploitation, right? With a name like that! It took 1981’s In God We Trust EP to set me straight, particularly We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now (which I later discovered was a reworking of California Uber Alles from their first album). It was the lounge bit at the beginning that hooked me, the part about happy hour being enforced by law, and a jar of Hitler’s brain juice in the back, and Emperor Ronald Reagan born again with fascist cravings. Welcome to the future. Ready or not.” (Philip Random)
“The whole of Holger Czukay‘s third solo album, On The Way to the Peak of Normal, is a weird and mysterious and wonderful gem, with Ode to Perfume (the full version of which inhabits the entire second of side of vinyl) particularly notable because of that haunting melody at the beginning – actual chunks of somebody else’s song that I vaguely recognized but could never place (sampling before they called it sampling), until finally, just a few years ago, I finally did place it, but only because a friend’s mp3 shuffle randomly threw the two of them on pretty much one after another. It’s Suspicion made famous by Jimmy Stafford, a genius piece of paranoid pop if there ever was one.” (Philip Random)
“I’d heard dub before I heard UB40’s Present Arms in Dub. I just didn’t know it was a thing – this notion that now every song and/or album could have both its official version and its VERSION version. Some were crying rip-off, of course, accusing labels and artists of double-dipping (or whatever). But there are always loud idiots when something cool and new hits. In the case of Present Arms (the dub version), that equaled an album that was better than the original (and probably anything else UB40 would ever do) because like Sun Ra said (and Hawkwind too for that matter), space is the place, and where there’s a version, there’s always more space – for your mind, your imagination, your soul, room to move and groove, perchance to grow.” (Philip Random)
Ultravox started out as sort of glam infused new wavers, but after three cool but not particularly successful albums, their label dumped them, front man John Foxx went solo, and the other members wandered off in various directions. Which would have been the end of things if keyboardist-violinist Billy Currie hadn’t run into Midge Ure (his first name was actually Jim) while working with original New Romantics, Visage. The rebooted Ultravox took the New Romantic thing and ran with it, first with Vienna, then 1981’s Rage In Eden, with the title track a study in contained, cinematic noir. Like peering out a window at the new decade as a thick fog rolled in – interesting times whether you wanted them or not.
Trio had a big deal international pop hit in 1981 with Da Da Da, and that whole first album is good, simple (some would say simplistic, others dadaesque) fun. Ja Ja Ja was the punk number.
“The Gun Club were punk badasses out of L.A. who did much of the dirty work of rescuing the blues way back when, releasing them back into the swamp where they belong, or as I remember someone shouting in my ear in the late ’70s sometime, ‘Punk killed the blues, and a good thing too.’ But good things never die, do they? They just mutate, reinvent, re-emerge, with 1981’s Fire Of Love all the evidence required: the full-on rush of punk and the muck of the bayou (that crossroad where the real stuff never dies), maybe put it at the service of some dangerous poetry about a girl so heavy, she’s like heroin – never misses the vein. Hell yeah.” (Philip Random)
John Cale, original underground Velvet, reminds us that when it comes to intelligent chunks of aural sculpture that also rock a pop groove, few can touch him. So why did he give the world so few of them? You may as well ask, why did Lou Reed have to be such an asshole?
Catchy pop gem from the Waterboys‘ self-titled first album about a girl with a boy’s name (in fact, a tribute to Patti Smith). What’s not to like? And why again didn’t we get to hear this on commercial radio?
Jerry Harrison being the other guy from the Talking Heads (also the Modern Lovers, it’s worth noting), Worlds in Collision being one of those tracks that employs whatever means are necessary (including big mutant funk, Adrian Belew’s fully animalized guitar, even a little Adolph H railing on about blood and soil and whatever) to drive home its point. Which is yes, we’re in trouble, all of us, every living thing really, this Apocalypse being not a thing that’s coming but a thing that’s here, on top of us, all around us, even inside us, and it’s not going away, such is the wild, weird, stretched-out historical moment into which were born. Just don’t stop dancing.