First of all, the Cabaret Voltaire that mattered most was the one that operated in Zurich for maybe six months in 1916, out of which came the movement known as Dada which, it’s entirely conceivable, saved the world, perhaps the entire universe. It’s true. The other Cabaret Voltaire (straight outa Sheffield), wasn’t exactly trivial either. Starting in 1973, they shamelessly put noise to tape and called it music. Come the 1980s, they were evolving somewhat, taking on the clubs with the likes of Yashar, which did a solid job of both making people move, and informing those people that there were magnitudes more of them on earth than anybody was letting on.
“As I remember hearing it, Wall of Voodoo started out wanting to make movie soundtrack music, but somewhere along the line, they just started making their own movies, in the form of songs. Case in point: Lost Weekend. It may be only four of so minutes long on record, but it’s feature length where it matters, in my soul and imagination. Smoke a little dope, pour yourself some bourbon and you can see the whole thing play out. Wasted and true.” (1982)
Second of two in a row from XTC‘s double treasure, 1982’s English Settlement, the album where they pulled a sort of Beatles move: stopped worrying about how they might reproduce the material live and instead just dove into the studio and its possibilities. And special nod to engineer and co-producer Hugh Padgham, best known for inventing the gated drum sound that so drove the 1980s (for better and worse). But his tricks on English Settlement are more subtle, working an often rich acoustic sensibility which, as the story goes, was driven not by any great conceptual intent, but rather main man Andy Partridge‘s purchase of a new acoustic guitar after giving the old one away as a contest prize.
“Bauhaus, at the peak of their considerable powers, deliver a generational anthem if there ever was one. Though I can’t say I’ve analyzed it much past the title, modest as it demands are. It’s 1982 and everything’s pretty much gone or going to sh**, slimy and/or demented conservative types in power pretty much everywhere in the so-called western world, the rich getting richer, the poor getting eaten. What do we young people want? Oh, not much. Just EVERYTHING.” (Philip Random)
Known as the English Beat in the Americas, the British Beat in the Australia, The Beat were a big part of the groovy side of the so-called post-punk/new wave era, certainly at home in Britain, with the dub mix of Mirror in the Bathroom a nifty little number that was effective on the dance floor, in the background at parties, in the car whilst negotiating traffic. Which has always been the special appeal of dub to me – music which is mostly absent words, yet moving in a particular direction anyway. Something to do with sound-tracking the ongoing corrosion of the so-called Western World. And it’s fun.
“In which Laurie Anderson reminds us that sometimes you’ve just gotta go with your intuition. If you see a guy and he looks like a hat check clerk, he is a hat check clerk. And everything that suggests. To which I must add, I have no idea what that is. And I doubt Laurie Anderson did either, early 1980s, just rolling with the zeitgeist which she was in the process of turning inside out with her strange gear and her stranger stories. And the pinks of the world are still trying to make sense of it. Stop making sense.” (Philip Random)
“Australian outfit Hunters + Collectors took their name from a Can song, though you’d be hard pressed to make the connection as things evolved. But back at the beginning of things, their first album in particular, if you were looking for the big true primal sound of Down Under in all of its dust and grime and imponderable, uninhabitable vastness – well, it was all there. Or in my particular case, it was a local rawk club, 1986 or thereabouts, way the hell out in suburban Richmond (British Columbia, that is), the kind of place where cool bands never played, but for whatever reason, someone booked Hunters + Collectors. Just getting there was a journey in itself but trust that minds were blown, souls were lifted. Particularly as Run Run Run roared through its epic second half. ‘For the ages,’ somebody muttered afterward. And it the whole nine minutes were that strong, well, it’s probable the Eschaton would already have been immenatized.” (Philip Random)
Kate Bush‘s fourth album, The Dreaming, is one of those artefacts that continues to force jaws to drop from beginning to end, every strange and delicious second. But if you’ve only got time for one song, go with the title track wherein a groove is stolen from a Rolf Harris song, then merged rather hilariously with the sound a kangaroo makes when it gets hammered by a van. And then it all just keeps deranging from there, as dreams will do.
“Speaking of reggae, I’d be lying if I said the Clash weren’t one of my key entry points, still to this day maybe the only white reggae band that ever truly mattered. Because somehow or other, they got the depth of it, not just the easy, stoned sunshine grooves. Like Sean Flynn (concerning Errol Flynn’s son, a photojournalist who was killed in the Cambodian spillover of the Vietnam war) a song which maybe isn’t reggae at all, but it’s definitely dub, Apocalypse Now derived hallucinatory helicopter blades, intense heat, but you’re somehow floating above it all, finding just enough altitude to see some beauty without denying any of the tragedy.” (Philip Random)