“I first stumbled across Jah Wobble via his Bedroom Album, which was truth in advertising. It sounded exactly like a guy alone in his room with a multi-track recorder and various instruments, mucking around with various grooves and atmospheres, all cool and weirdly dreamy and easy to get lost in. But then a few months later, one of those moods (the one called Invaders Of The Heart) showed up in 12-inch extended play form, four dubbed up (and out) and ultimately quite powerful versions of the same track, bass now as big as a continent, everything else vibrating exquisitely from there. I’d never heard anything like it. I still haven’t really.” (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.
“I remember getting into a rather intense argument with a fellow DJ at the end of 1983 who insisted that Shriekback’s Care was the album of the year. It wasn’t then, still isn’t now. Shriekback (even with their XTC / Gang of Four lineage) just weren’t that important, the notion of white guys committing full-on to the groove hardly being earth shattering by 1983. Which doesn’t mean Care wasn’t (and still isn’t) a damned fine album, underrated, overlooked, and heavy with all manner of dark and compelling moods and regions, because get the mix right (and perhaps the drugs) and sometimes one’s spine really does become the bassline.” (Philip Random)
“Don’t let the tricky name fool you. The The (mostly the work of just one man, Matt Johnson) are one of the pivotal outfits of 1980s, particularly Soul Mining, their first proper album, of which Giant is the final track, and yes, it’s at least as big as its name. And forever dedicated by me to everyone who’s ever chased their passions, pushed envelopes, stayed awake way too long, and gotten torn apart for their troubles. Because Giant seems to be about all of this — scared of God, scared of hell, caving in on upon itself.” (Philip Random)
In which T-Bone Burnett tells the lucid truth about the so-called American Dream by taking two of its two of its primary architects, definers of its fantasies, and switching their stories. So suddenly Walt Disney‘s the pornographer and Hugh Hefner‘s the guy we trust with our children’s imaginations, and everything makes a little more sense in a horrible sort of way. Found on a 1983 album that really should have been heard by the whole world. But it wasn’t. It’s almost as if some powerful villain in a magical mansion was pulling strings.
“It’s hard to overstate how big a deal REM were in the cool world when they first hit, except maybe to say, everything about them was punk … except their sound. They did it their way, Michael Stipe resplendently inarticulate, the other guys jangling along with deceptive power, reminding us that there was way more to music than all the godawful corporate radio crap we hated and and/or punk’s necessary vomit. Which was the key, I guess. So much beautiful and mysterious stuff between those extremes that wanted exploring. All that passion. And yet, I don’t think REM ever really topped that first album, Murmur. They’d never be that essential again, even as their sound got sharper, tighter, and Mr. Stipe stooped to enunciating, even making sense eventually. Which wasn’t necessarily what anyone had been asking for.” (Philip Random)
“I remember seeing Midnight Oil live when they were as big as they’d ever get (late 1980s sometime), saving the world from ecological ruin one song at a time. They introduced Power and the Passion as a surfing song, which makes sense, because there’s nothing more powerful or passionate than a big wave, all that planetary evolution and movement coalescing across four billion years of evolutionary ebb and flow and yin and yang to conjure this fabulous monster which, if your skills are to up to it, you can actually ride. So not man vs nature so much as man in tune with it, which, in their prime, The Oils were just powerful and passionate enough to make you believe was possible.” (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).
“Though I was aware of the fabulous strangeness of George Clinton and Funkadelic and/or Parliament as far back as 1976 (having caught him/them on TV one late and lonely teenage night), I never really dove in until You Shouldn’t Nuf Bit Fish crossed my path in 1984. It was just so utterly what I needed — completely concerned with the apocalyptic mess that we, the species, were very much in as the 1980s stumbled toward their midpoint, all of our nuclear fishin’ fuelling the cold war arms race, the Doomsday Clock ticking every closer to midnight … with the old man in Washington DC whose finger was on the trigger slipping into dementia. No better time for a funk that was spaced way out, and resolutely strange.” (Philip Random)