If you were halfway cool in 1983, you were hip to the Violent Femmes first album. None of the commercial radio stations were playing it, but you’d long ago given up on them anyway — cesspools of bad sound, populated by liars. Unlike the Femmes who couldn’t not be fresh, horny, mad, honest – sometimes annoyingly so. But not with Kiss Off. Kiss Off hit it all just right, particularly the part where he counts them all down, his ten points of rage, frustration, spite, EVERYTHING. A punk that required no amplifiers, that could be delivered from a street corner, which is how the band got discovered in the first place.
“When power pop (to the point of punk) heroes the Undertones broke up in 1983, their absolute one of a kind singer Feargal Sharkey next showed up doing something pretty much completely different with the Assembly. Which we assumed was a new band, but it was really just him and Vince Clarke, recently ex of Yaz (or perhaps Yazoo). In fact, the only thing I ever heard from them was the one song, which makes Never Never (and the Assembly in general) more or less pop perfect. Talk about not overstaying your welcome.” (Philip Random)
Mysterious live performance from somewhere in Europe, 1983. Chris + Cosey (late of Throbbing Gristle) exploring strange sonic regions via the nebulously labelled CTI – European Rendezvous album. This was the kind of thing you’d record off the radio back in the day, late night weirdness, the DJ never telling you who it was. Maybe a decade later, you’d finally figure it out.
“My immediate King Sunny Ade memory is summertime 1983, way the hell up the trails of the North Shore mountains. The acid is kicking in nicely and Motron decides to put Synchro System on the blaster. The now sound of Nigeria suddenly imposed upon the melting, lysergic edge of western civilization. And it worked, like displaced tourist music, which is generally what you want whilst tripping the beyond within. The live show was also transcendent a few weeks later, Commodore Ballroom, the King and twenty-odd of his African Beats working grooves within grooves within … well, you get the picture.” (Philip Random)
In which Severed Heads remind us that there’s joy in repetition, or maybe just madness; and truth in the notion that many of the so-called Industrial artists of the 1980s only got worse as they got better at figuring out their instruments and related technology, got to sounding more and more like normal musicians. In Severed Heads case, that means they’d peaked long before I ever heard them via any number of cassette only releases. But fortunately, that truth eventually found me via Clifford Darling, Please Don’t Live In The Past, a double vinyl compilation full of delightfully strange and, if needs be, antagonistic excursions.
In which first wave American punk band X (straight out of LA) rein in the intensity of their attack a touch and rather brilliantly nail down the zeitgeist circa 1983. Which was that, come year three of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, humanoid reptiles were in full ascendancy. Look no further than the radio dial. Where was any band that mattered? Nothing left to do but tell the truth.
“Green on Red are yet another of those bands that never got the notice they deserved. Folk, rock, country, maybe a little psychedelic – they had a sound that was hard to get tired of, and, every now and then, a song like 1983’s Brave Generation (found on their first album) that just cut through all the cocaine banality of the time. At least, it did for me, probably because I’d never really thought much about my particular generation – the ones who were little kids when all the bigger kids (aka the hippies) were running wild, storming heaven, doing more than just talk about revolution. But that was all pretty much over by the time our puberty hit. The Beatles had broken up, Flower Power had wilted, Richard Nixon was getting re-elected, the Vietnam War still wasn’t over. I guess that made us brave more or less by default.” (Philip Random)
In which Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) and the ever revolving crowd at Public Image Ltd remind us that the very idea of a love song was problematic come the 1980s, Ian Curtis having slain the beast with Love Will Tear Us Apart (and then he hung himself to emphasize his point). Which didn’t mean that love didn’t exist anymore. It had just become a heavier, more complex and dangerous thing. And take note. This is the original single version, vastly superior to overproduced mess that eventually showed up on album.
“Bauhaus were one of those rare bands who were so confident in the songwriting and performing categories that they could casually release something as raw and nasty and good as Lagartija Nick and not even bother to include it on an album. Which isn’t to say it didn’t make it onto my obligatory Bauhaus mixtape, essential soundtrack to many an mid-early 80s trip to the fun part of the dark side (or was it the dark part of the fun side).” (Philip Random)