In which Shriekback give us airstrikes, poison kisses, Tinkerbell and Jack the Ripper, centaurs, monkeys, Greeks, Romans, big fat nemesis, parthenogenesis — there’s a lot going on here, even a little Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness by way of Apocalypse Now and Marlon Brando, his head shaved, gone mad in the primordial jungles of Cambodia, a man broken from himself (on the extended version anyway). So what’s it all mean other than we’re all gonna die, and asexual reproduction (which is what parthenogenesis means)? It’s a cool rhyme for nemesis. You gotta give it that. And otherwise, well, it’s from 1985. That’s how things were in those days. Full of looming horror and unlikely rhymes.
“Vancouver’s fabled York Theatre, 1985. Husker Du are in town, the hot ticket of the season. The joint’s packed and wild, like some hack Hollywood screenwriter’s fever dream of a punk rock show gone horribly wrong (in a good way). I’m pretty sure this is the night that somebody actually dove off the balcony. Or maybe that’s just how the drugs remember it. I was definitely quite high, ripped on some of the best LSD of the decade. Anyway, the evening ends up being like high school sex. It peaks way early with warm up act NoMeansNo more or less destroying the headliners. Dad is the encore, the first time I’ve ever heard it. I remember it moving me to tears. The sheer horror of it, and empathy, I guess. I remember thinking, punk rock isn’t supposed to do this. I remember throwing myself off the balcony. Well, maybe not that part.” (Philip Random)
King of the Hill was the Minutemen‘s version of consciously selling out. It said so on the cover, Project: Mersh. Record company big-wigs, pouring over the data, brainstorming how to shift more units, having a eureka moment. “I got it! We’ll have them write hit songs!” Good for a laugh. But then the word hit that D. Boon, the big guy that played guitar and sang and wrote most of their songs, was dead, killed in a van crash in Arizona. A brutal end to what had been a damned fine story.
“In which Aztec Camera take the much loved Van Halen hit that I always loathed and render it first palatable by straining out all the annoying rec-room gymnastics, working a smooth soft rock groove, but then, just as things would normally fade out, everything erupts, tears a hole in stratosphere, leaves all memory of the Van Halen original flopping miserably around in a pile of spilled cocaine and brown M+Ms.” (Philip Random)
Kate Bush pretty much had the world in her hands by 1985’s Hounds Of Love, and she made excellent use of it. Side One was the pop side (more or less) the songs we’ve all heard. Side Two (aka The Ninth Wave) was deeper, richer, stranger, with The Jig Of Life kicking in toward the end all pagan and wild.
“I saw Blurt warm up New Order way back when, just a two piece as I recall. Saxophone and drums, and driven by a nasty sort of good humour. They were way more fun than the headliners, and better. Which is worth considering when you hear Gravespit (a track that only ever showed up on an obscure compilation album as far as I know) — poisonous as it seems, there’s a smile underneath it all.” (Philip Random)
“Prince (and his Revolution) go drug free psychedelic in the middle of the least psychedelic decade since at least the 1950s, with the title track of their first post Purple Rain album. And it works. The whole album works in its multi-coloured way, not bothering to try to measure up to what had come before, just being its own voluptuous thing. And, for the record, the 1980s were actually quite psychedelic … if you were going to the right parties, hanging around in the right rec-rooms, mountaintops, isolated beaches and islands. Psychedelia was definitely a more isolated thing that decade, and all the stronger for it, like being part of some great and mysterious undefined resistance. What were we resisting? Pretty much everything, it seems.” (Philip Random)
“Viv Akauldren were from Detroit, I think. I seem to remember hanging out with the guitar player one day, wandering the sidewalks of downtown Vancouver, mid-80s sometime. He was overwhelmed by how peaceful it all was – how safe. They were gigging in town that night. The booking agent was a friend. So I guess I was being hospitable. Anyway, it all speaks to how lost so much of that era is. So many great indie outfits coming and going, cranking out powerful stuff, leaving little or no trace. Of course, I did manage to hang onto a copy of one of Viv Akauldren’s albums – Old Bags + Party Rags – which was nicely paranoid, political, psychedelic, and entirely relevant, then and now.” (Philip Random)
The Dukes of Stratosphear being XTC in psychedelic disguise, their first EP 25 O’Clock being one of those sublime moments wherein parody transcends itself, becomes its own wonderful thing. And from 1985 no less, which was about as far from the giddy light of the original psychedelic age as the culture ever got. In fact, go ahead and call 25 O’Clock the turning point, its 25 minutes of wild and weird technicolor pop invention being precisely the kind of superlative noise that could cause a shift in a planet’s orbit.