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 around. 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 pulled some 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. That got boring fast.” (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 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)
“The band known as X were definitely onto something come 1983’s More Fun in the New World, moving beyond their punk origins into a richer, more widescreen sort of rock and roll that was definitely More Fun. Like that first line in The New World about the bars being closed, they must be voting for the President or something. Way the f*** better and smarter than anything the Springsteens or Mellencamps or Huey Lewises … were cranking out at the time. But did it get played on the radio? Hardly. This is why I generally have no problem saying that the 80s sucked musically speaking. Not that the music itself was bad – it was just so hard to find the really good stuff. ” (Philip Random)
“The Blackouts didn’t last very long before breaking up and getting more or less absorbed by Ministry – the rhythm section anyway, Paul Barker and Bill Rieflin, and just in time to propel that outfit to world pummeling fame and/or notoriety. And it’s all there in Everglades, the twelve minute plus A-side of their Lost Souls Club EP, the only record of theirs I ever heard. And honestly, I don’t think I ever made it to the B-side more than once. Because once Everglades hooked me, there was no going anywhere else. Just so much to explore.” (Philip Random)
“It’s all there in the first couple of lines of This is the Day, the story of my life, summer 1983: Well you didn’t wake up this morning ’cause you didn’t go to bed – You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red. Maybe 5AM, looking myself in the mirror after way too many mixed up hours of mixed up partying, imbibing, whatever. The song spoke directly to me, Matt Johnson and his burning blue soul joining me in my young adult mixed up pain and ecstasy, telling me I wasn’t alone, wherever the hell I was. Melody was pretty much perfect, too. The whole album really.” (Philip Random)
“As the story goes, ECHO was a drum machine and the Bunnymen were a few guys from Liverpool that hung around with it, made weird, angular, dark, psychedelic music. Eventually they got a real drummer, but they stuck with the weird, angular, dark, psychedelic stuff, even as they edged into the popular realm (in Britain anyway). Not unlike early U2, except there was no Jesus in sight. As for The Back of Love, well it just rocks in a particularly sharp sort of way. No idea what it’s about, but something tells me it’s more about confusion and tearing apart than sweetness.” (Philip Random)