Track one, side one of the first Guadalcanal Diary album is pumped up, countrified fun. Philip Random is pretty sure it’s about a movie he saw as a little kid. “Something to do with American cowboys going to the Congo (or wherever), killing natives, other fun stuff. By which I mean, horrific. Which unfortunately was pretty standard in my early days of TV watching (the 1960s). White men killing non-white men, served up as rousing adventure. Anyway. Great song from a highly overlooked jangle-pop outfit.” (Philip Random)
It’s 1984 and proto-goth underlords Bauhaus have broken up, but guitar guy Daniel Ash still has some shadows to explore with bassist (and former Bauhaus roadie) Glenn Campling, an outfit they’re calling Tones on Tail. And it all comes good (if weird) with Pop, an album that that goes all kinds of cool places that music of the moment generally doesn’t. In the case of Real Life, that means acoustic, expansive, dynamic – the right kind of psychedelic.
“Any history of 1980s rock-pop-whatever that does not give Laurie Anderson her own chapter is wrong, and that accounts for most of them. Mister Heartbreak was her second proper album and it started strong with Sharkey’s Day, which I’m guessing is some kind of reference to the Burt Reynolds movie Sharky’s Machine that I never saw. But he was a cop and no doubt macho with corruption involved, and darkness all around. Temper of the times. Or maybe Sharkey’s Day has nothing to do with any of that. Maybe Ms. Anderson just saw the poster at some point, and something about it spoke to her – Burt Reynolds and his moustache and gun riding high at the box office, and everything that had to say about a culture. Where do you go from there?” (Philip Random)
The Violent Femmes‘ debut album tends to get most of the hype, but the follow up Hallowed Ground is better. It goes deeper, rocks harder, bites more fiercely, covers more ground. And it kicks off with Country Death Song, a murder ballad that gets all the more harrowing when you realize that Gordon Gano was still in high school when he wrote it. The opposite of a feel-good unless you just can’t enough of that those toe tapping backwoods American myths and legends and brutal truths.
“Why is this Connie Kaldor track from 1984 so forgotten, shrugged off, lost to the thrift stores of time? Why do Canadian school kids not know where Batoche is? How do we get past Grade 10 without fully grasping the tragedy of what happened there, May 1885, and how, in spite of our ignorance, it still colours our souls (and in very many cases our blood)? So yeah, I try to make sure I play this song every Canada Day. Because my French may suck utterly, but je me souviens anyway.” (Philip Random)
“23 Skidoo being one of those outfits who define the notion of hard to pin down. F*** You G.I. being a heavy slab of polyrhythmic funk driven by a key sample from the legendary Do-Long Bridge sequence from Apocalypse Now. 1984 being nine years on from the Vietnam War’s official conclusion, but you could still feel the darkness, heat, horror, even if you were just out walking the family dog through the suburban shadows, Sony Walkman on, of course.” (Philip Random)
“As the story goes, first the party ran out of wine. Jesus took care of that. And then he invented tequila, just to show off. But I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t there. But I was there for the Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime in particular. Have I raved enough about that? Probably not. Their best album, though who knows what might have been? Three guys with enough heart and soul and rage for a f***ing revolution, cranking out no less than forty-five tracks spread across four sides of vinyl. Jesus and Tequila was one of the longer ones.” (Philip Random)
“In which Jean-Michel Jarre offers up an epic smorgasbord of what were then very “now” techno-possibilities. I personally had little time for his earlier stuff (cosmic lite, to put it bluntly, though millions seemed to disagree with me). But with hip names like Laurie Anderson and Adrian Belew on board for Zoolook, it was hard to ignore, and a darned good thing, because the whole album really goes places, lead off track Ethnicolor in particular. Samples before we called them that, great crescendos and unearthly howls. The future definitely sounded cool, and ambitious.” (Philip Random)
As the story goes, Robert Fripp shut down the original King Crimson in 1974, claiming an overall disgust with the way the music industry world was going in those days. Of course, it could be argued that was version seven anyway, so many members having already come and gone from the Crimson court since 1969. But the intervening silence was inarguable. Nothing until 1981 when a fresh line-up kicked into gear with a whole new Discipline, which was maybe starting to lose some of its freshness come 1984’s Three of a Perfect Pair. But not on Side Two. Not Industry. That was what the world actually sounded like in 1984. Everything grinding, droning, hissing, giving off toxic vapors, finally erupting with savage urgency.