“Because there had to be at least one goddamned Smiths song on this list. Because as much as I’ve generally found whatz-iz-name‘s histrionics annoying as only a perpetual seventeen year old’s whining can be annoying (and f***ing wrong), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think he was one of the all-time heavyweights on those occasions when he did get it right … even with all that criminally vulgar shyness.
And the band’s not half-bad either as How Soon Is Now aptly proves from initial gush of flanged Johnny Marr guitar onward. Trust that it sounded like nothing else in 1984, like a lost acid fragment from 1967 had finally completed its tour of the universe and somehow returned to ground in the grim and baleful north of Maggie Thatcher’s Britain, like a gem of ancient beauty and power. And for those who may already have heard How Soon Is Now, cool, I say. There’s still not enough of us.” (Philip Random)
“Some songs just want to be longer, I guess. Case in point, the All Night mix of Echo and the Bunnymen’s Killing Moon. Nothing particularly wrong (or short) about the original almost six minute long album version – this one just goes further, deeper, richer. And seriously, what’s the rush given what’s on the line? Which is everything: life, death, eternity, oblivion, fate up against your will, looking the truth of it in the eye, daring to stare it down. There’s a f*** of a lot going on here, needless to say, and not just in and around Ian McCulloch‘s preposterously overwrought ego. Because I doubt the world’s ever had as many possible endings as it did in the mid-80s. If AIDS wasn’t going to get you, then trust that old man Reagan and the malevolent bureaucrats in Soviet Russia would. Or maybe it would be that hole in the ozone we kept hearing about – bigger than Antarctica, or was it Australia? And the ice caps were all melting. Yeah, we knew that even then. So why the hell not take a few more minutes to work the mood, ponder the imponderables, explore the best f***ing song ever recorded. Arguably.” (Philip Random)
“This Mortal Coil were a project, not a band, brainchild of 4AD Records’ Ivo Watts-Russell. The idea being to dissolve the boundaries between the various groups and artists on the label, get everybody mixing it up together, with an accent on the ethereal, the mysterious yet easy to listen to. Which certainly worked for me, the first album in particular, It’ll End In Tears, which got a pile of play in the middle 80s, evoking as it did an apocalypse that was neither fire nor brimstone, but rather deep and spacious, mournful even. Ideal for the coming down phase of any number of psychedelic ventures – the part where you’re still too wired to sleep, too spent to do anything else but lie flat. The forty plus minutes of It’ll End In Tears being all somber relaxation and release, a whole definitely more than the sum of its parts, except maybe the cover of Tim Buckley’s Song To The Siren, the Cocteau Twins Elizabeth Fraser taking it places where gravity remains unknown, and you with it. Or did I dream that part?” (Philip Random)
“If the house was on fire and I could only grab one David Bowie album, I’d die for sure because I’d be stuck there trying to make up my mind. Or maybe I’d just be f***ing honest with myself and grab Diamond Dogs, because I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the one I’ve listened to the most over the years, the one that doesn’t even begin to have a weak or misguided moment, the one I’ve never seemed to grow even slightly allergic to, perhaps because it’s so witheringly uninterested in being pleasant. And Sweet-Thing-Candidate-Sweet-Thing (the mini-epic that takes up most of side one) is the high water mark.
The Ziggy alien is long gone by now. This new Bowie creature is very much earthbound – half human, half dog, and rolling in the muck and mire of an apocalyptic hellscape that’s equal parts Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dali, and George Orwell. And he’s running for political office,. He wants to be Big Brother. Which is sort of the concept here. Diamond Dogs being the album that was originally intended to be an adaptation of Orwell’s 1984, but Mr. Bowie couldn’t secure the rights, so it ended up being its own uniquely dark and harrowing thing. And yet there’s a sweetness at the heart of it, a sorrow even, a sliver of soul and humanity that suggests maybe all is not lost. Not yet anyway. Welcome to the early-middle part of the 1970s, the outlook may be grim, but damn, if the noise isn’t superlative.” (Philip Random)
“I never got to see most of the soul greats. No Ray Charles, Al Green, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye ticket stubs in my scrapbook. But I did catch Toots and Maytals while they were still in their prime, one of the best damned bands ever in the history of anything tearing the roof off Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom, making me fall in love with all humanity. It wasn’t even reggae really, just big, soulful, fun and rockin’ music. And Funky Kingston (from the album of the same name) was the climax of the show, rude and raw and at least as hot as a hot night in Trenchtown.” (Philip Random)
“The Violent Femmes gave us more than their share of horny and cool party anthems on their debut album, but for me the deeper, darker Hallowed Ground is the serious keeper, if only for Never Tell. I recall hearing it’s about child abuse. But I can’t remember where I heard it, so all I’m really left with is the impression, and f*** if it’s not indelible – a sonic scar of rage, angst, pain, betrayal. Or as Jesus himself put it, don’t mess with the little ones. Not bad for a sort of indie-folk-punk party band.” (Philip Random)
“The Cocteau Twins are like the new wave Kate Bush. I can still see the idiot who said this to me, one of those music biz types who was still doing the feathered hair thing well into the 1980s. Not that there was anything at all wrong with Kate Bush. It was the timing of it, 1984. So-called New Wave had peaked at least five years earlier, and it was never a proper genre anyway, just a way of marketing fresh sounding stuff that was easier to listen to than punk and whatever. Which gets us back to the Cocteau Twins who were exquisitely easy to listen to, a million miles from punk, a welcome shade of beauty and mystery at a time when everything just seemed to be getting more and more obvious, strident, aggressive. Even the good stuff. Pandora and the album it came from (the aptly named Treasure) gave us something to listen to when we got home from various gigs and warehouse situations. Smoke a little dope, sip a little wine, get luxuriantly lost. Part of me still is. Lost, that is, like Pandora.” (Philip Random)
Erotic City delivers as its title suggests. One of the dirtiest b-sides to ever make it onto a mega million selling single, and being the 1980s, that meant there was an extended option, almost eight minutes of groove and horniness and all night f***ing. The A-side in question was Let’s Go Crazy (all hail the Lord God in Heaven) making for the release that perhaps best encapsulates all that was transcendent, rude, euphoric, essential of the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince.
This is Husker Du as they broke through, defining that zeitgeistmoment when punk finally embraced the psychedelic, became eternal. But Pink Turns To Blue is also Husker Du hinting at their inevitable demise. Or more to the point, Grant Hart, the drummer, the guy who wrote and sang it. A song about heroin and what happens when that person you love is changing colour on you, turning the wrong shade of blue. F***ing junkies. They ruin everything.