There is absolutely nothing wrong with Brian Eno’s original take on Third Uncle. Bauhaus’s cover is just louder, fiercer, more dangerous, better. In fact, it gets downright harrowing before it’s done – a reminder that so-called Goth didn’t even exist at the time, Bauhaus being one of those rare outfits that forces a re-think, a whole new definition. Yeah, there were already lots of folks dressing in black, mourning for their own deaths, but they were just part of the greater scene, lurking in the shadows of the cooler clubs like something important was being born, but it hadn’t quite arrived yet. Until along came Bauhaus, looking good in black themselves, and way too loud to ignore.
“Because sometimes passion isn’t hot at all, it’s cold, freezing even, and few have ever captured this as profoundly as The Cure on the album known as Pornography. Which showed up in my life just in time to find me edging back from a prolonged season in the abyss. I guess these days, you’d just say I was depressed. But nah, it was deeper than that, and colder, all that time lost in a void the size of Antarctica, knowing I could just lay down any old time and be gone, yet ultimately choosing not to. Like that Robert Frost poem about the snowy evening — still miles to go before I’d sleep. And there on the soundtrack of the movie I was only beginning to realize I was in, was Cold pounding home the truth that yes, in fact, I was very much on the gods’ straight and narrow path, which only appeared so crooked and convoluted because my filters were so f***ed up, the right music at the right time always being a good straightener.” (Philip Random)
“The album is called Generic. The contents are anything but, the band known as Flipper being one of those outfits that weren’t exactly punk, except what else could they be, except maybe one of the all time essential party outfits? With Sex Bomb my particular go-to for those times when the party really does need to last all night long even if there aren’t chemicals in your blood, just too much alcohol and perhaps marijuana and sloppy stupid eruptions of fun, un-focus, glory even … as we all throw in, do our part to keep this mad world at least in some loose connection with its axis (or maybe the opposite). I do recall thinking this, some late 80s punk party, in the basement of the place they called the Sewer View. A few bands had played, maybe even the Evaporators, but now it was just some guy’s party tape. Probably mine.” (Philip Random)
“I’m pretty sure the first time I heard what came to be known as rap music was 1982, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. To my ears, it was just another pop-gimmick, albeit a pretty cool one. Big funky groove with some hip rhyming on top. But jump ahead a few months and no less than Malcolm McLaren (who’d previously helped invent the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols, if you believe his bio) seemed to be singing (for lack of a better word) this new form’s praises. But it wasn’t just about the rhyming and grooving now, it was also the sampling (not that we’d heard that word yet), grabbing beats and pieces from wherever you could find them (some local NYC radio DJs, an old funk 45, a square dance album, some high school girls having a blast, the backstreets of Soweto), and just sort of jamming everything together, smacking it all around, somehow squeezing out what might be called a song, the weird and wonderful part being that it worked. In fact, I’ll always remember the party where I first heard Buffalo Gals, a friend’s place, everyone trying to get excited about Elvis Costello or whoever and suddenly this other tape got put on. So weird and fun that all you could do was dance to it. And then the album Duck Rock showed up to drive home the point that whatever was going on, it wasn’t just some one-off. Having ex-Buggle and Yes man (and future Art Of Noise instigator) Trevor Horn in the producer’s chair may well have been a factor.” (Philip Random)
“Combat Rock is far from the Clash’s best album. Yet Straight To Hell may well be their best single song, working an oddly open groove to make room for a gush of Joe Strummer passion and consciousness that manages to cover all manner of unstable ground from British Colonialism to American interventionism to junkiedom to everything else. ‘Could be anywhere – any frontier – any hemisphere’ being a key line, speaking to the universality the (r)evolution that the Clash were always propounding, though not always so eloquently as here. Want to get to the heart of 99-percent of what’s wrong with the planet? Start with everybody who’s been just shoved aside by history and its dubious intentions. We need to be needed. All of us. Every frontier. Every hemisphere. Else it’s straight to hell. All of us. The only band that mattered maybe the last time they mattered.” (Philip Random)
“Bauhaus still had one more album after 1982’s The Sky’s Gone Out but in terms of invention and sheer sonic adventure, it’s pretty safe to say they peaked here. And nowhere are things creepier, more sonically inventive than the final track, Exquisite Corpse. Dub, oblique fragments of poetry, sheets of nightmarish noise. Needless to say, this got a lot of play through any number of psychedelic excursions in the lead up to the mid-80s. An abandoned house comes to mind, right at the seashore, a sort of lost cove off Vancouver’s north shore. The weird part is how everything was still furnished, the library still stocked with books. I grabbed one, heavy, bound in strangely moist leather. I opened it up to some calligraphy, a language I didn’t recognize and yet it spoke to me anyway, and then I realized that the ink was blood red and running in trickles to the hungry floorboards. Actually, I’m pretty sure it was all but a dream.” (Philip Random)
(photo: Fin Costello)
“The only reason why Holger Czukay’s Persian Love isn’t way higher on this list is because many people have already heard it, even if they couldn’t really tell you when or where, or who for that matter. It first came to me via Music + Rhythm (Peter Gabriel’s 1982 Womad compilation). Exotic, sweetly melodic, modern — it instantly hooked me, and thus I had to know more, and there was a lot to know. Because, it turns out Holger Czukay came from an obscure German band called Can … and so on. One of those journeys that started small, but damned if didn’t lead me to a vast mansion of musical (and thus human) possibility: doors within doors within doors, and they all kept inviting me deeper, higher. And somewhere along the way, I got the back story on Persian Love itself – how Mr. Czukay constructed it around a fragment of song he’d recorded from shortwave radio. Like a ghost … out of ancient Persia.” (Philip Random)
Wherein Echo + the Bunnymen make it clear that they really are the greatest band in the world (for a few minutes anyway, live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983), surfing all the powerful and angular waves of the confusing and psychedelic moment, taking them to places where gravity holds no sway. Which in the case of Do It Clean means, what the hell, why not throw in some Beatles, some James Brown, some Nat King Cole and Boney Maroni! Because once you’ve achieved a certain critical velocity, there are no borders anymore, no barricades, no lines between – it’s all just one superlative song.
“Wall of Voodoo being one of the first uniquely post-1970s outfits 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)