“1984 was Frankie‘s year (Goes To Hollywood, that is). Nobody had heard of them before. Nobody would ever really care about them after. The root of it, I figure, was a line from Two Tribes (which won’t be on this list because I’m assuming you’ve heard it). ‘Are we living in a land where sex and horror are the new gods?’ The land they were from was England, but given the degree of international success they had, it’s safe to say they were speaking of the whole mad Cold War world. Which would put the Pleasuredome everywhere, with the bombs about to fall, might as well get your kicks before the whole sh**house burned down (to borrow one from Jim Morrison). Or in the case of Frankie’s debut double album, spread all over the entirety of side one.” (Philip Random)
In which Nash the Slash does full justice to John Hinkely’s undying devotion to Jodie Foster. It may not be the best version of Psychotic Reaction out there, but it is the only one by a one man band who played electric mandolin and violin and never went on stage unless wrapped up in mummy-bandages.
In which Echo + The Bunnymen pay homage to Liverpool local heroes of two decades previous by shambling through an at least half-assed, half-cynical, half-brilliant reimagining of one of the essential summer of love classics. “And the thing is, it f***ing works. At least it did for my psychedelic soul one hot summer day, well into the 1990s. What the hell was I even doing tripping well past my thirty-fifth birthday? Why was I alone in that dank hole of an apartment? What was the fucking point of anything in my misplaced life beyond mere survival, which is the ultimate losing game anyway? And so on. I was on a slippery slope, pitching fast into a darkstar. But then there was Echo + his BunnyFriends in the background, from a random mixtape … reminding me. You’re never really alone, never truly beaten, or doomed. All you’ve got to do is find something to give.”
In which the synth-pop weirdoes known as Fad Gadget tell a necessary truth: all those beautiful new people out there, they just keep collapsing. And thus the world gets a necessary anthem for that point in time (1984) when all the delightfully extreme fashions and hairstyles of the late 1970s, early 1980s finally collided with the mainstream. And yes, there were victims, innocent and otherwise.
“Ivo being the lead off track from the Cocteau Twins third album, the appropriately named Treasure. Because it is just that: a dense and ethereal journey into the kind of dream where nothing’s ever fully in focus or quite makes sense. Or as a friend once put it. This is music you can eat, except the flavors are so exotic, you can’t really describe them, so you just keep on eating.” (Philip Random)
Miracle Legion came our way in 1984 amid the so-called jangle pop resurgence that followed REM’s initial breakthrough. Suddenly it was okay, cool even, for guitars to sound nice again, melodies sweet. In the case of The Backyard, that meant a tight, driving bit of melancholy about early childhood, a time when your whole world was your backyard, but even that could break your heart.
“But were The Cure even Goth? Or so I heard it argued back in the day. How can you be something that hasn’t even been named yet? What they were, was good, sometimes great, which is true of Caterpillar, a wigged out pop experiment if there ever was one. Nothing does what you expect it to, but it always works, keeps the foot tapping, the head nodding, the earworm slithering.” (Philip Random)
American punk-hard core (whatever you want to call it) bushwackers Black Flag unleash a profound anthem of insight and purpose unto the world. Because we’ve all done it, invested precious hours of our lives in smoking cheap dope, drinking swill, watching sh** on TV. Originally found on an EP of the same name, but most of us heard it first care of the Repo Man Soundtrack, which, it’s true, saved the western world, but first it had to destroy it.
In which the band known as Spear of Destiny deliver some seriously Big Music. U2 started the trend, sort of. The Waterboys put a name to it. Any number of bands played it through the 80s. Not just big in terms of sound, but also intention. Change the world. Overthrow kings. Right what is wrong. Tell the truth. Praise God (or whoever). Much of it ended up being pretty embarrassing, of course, but every now and then you just couldn’t argue with the power, the passion, the enormity. Like Liberator. “Exactly what you needed to hear in 1984, what with Big Brother on the move and all.” (Philip Random)