Proof that underneath all the noise and provocation of their early gigs and releases, The Jesus And Mary Chain were first and foremost a damned good rock and roll band doing their bit to keep the western world from imploding. Or more to the point, encouraging the right kind of implosion. Stark and raw, bleak but beautiful, like those first hints of spring sunlight after a long, bitter winter, and even then you know there are some fierce winds yet to blow. Because the Winter of Hate was a long one, no question there. Ended up lasting more than a decade.
“Track one, side one from the first Pixies album, Come on Pilgrim. I even heard it at the time and, genius that I was, decided it was pretty good, but I was more into noise in those days. I needed things falling apart, a soundtrack for the corrosion inherent in my late 80s worldview. Then maybe eight years later, couch-surfing in Berlin, a half-condemned building east of where the wall had been, I stumbled upon a beat up Eastern Block bootleg copy, left over from those grey and perilous days. I was finally ready.” (Philip Random)
Yello being one of those outfits that defy categorization. Yes, their greatest renown has come from their dance floor stuff, but dig into any of their albums and you’ll find nothing if not variety. In the case of Si Senor The Hairy Grill (no idea what any of that means), it’s techno beats and textures crashing into full-on metal wailing. And it actually works.
In their early days, Pop Will Eat Itself presented as mostly just dumbshit grebos, getting wasted, kerranging away in the garage with guitars and beatbox. And yet, the future genius was already, as evident, hiding in plain sight as near as a cover of an obscure Shriekback groover turned sideways and rocked up into two-and-a-half minutes of full-on psychedelic revelation. Because it is true, everything that rises does converge … if you’re high enough.
“Speaking of Wire, I finally paid attention to them in 1987 when, after more than seven years doing various solo and other things, the four original members recombined with the The Ideal Copy (and some dynamite single-only releases). Ambitious gets the nod here because it’s more or less the title track, and it does a sharp, tidy job of touching on all manner of essential 1980s topics such as paranoia, the Cold War, competing intelligence agencies and, of course, the ever present end of the world.” (Philip Random)
“I realize it’s not cool to prefer REM’s cover of Strange to Wire’s original, but who even heard Wire’s first three albums when they were new? Not anyone I was hanging with. So to me, REM’s more jangly, more rocking, more fun take is the original. And given that it comes from 1987’s Document, that means they’re at their pre-mega-mainstream peak. Still suitably artful and obscure, but beginning to enunciate.” (Philip Random)
“In which the Spacemen 3 sing the somnambulant praises of being so f***ing high, you may as well be hanging with God’s own son. Found on their first album and a bunch of other places, it’s rumoured to be completely concerned with heroin. But don’t be fooled, kids. Heroin’s a liar. Ain’t no heaven on earth.” (Philip Random)
It’s 1987 and Tackhead are already delivering it, even as Public Enemy are speaking of bringing it. The Noise, that is. Big beats, no bullshit, as many samples as you can jam into two inches of audio tape. And in the case of Tackhead, genuinely hot playing, because they were most definitely a band. “I seem to remember the original 12-inch single version of Mind at the End of the Tether being the better one – stronger, less cluttered. But the version on the Tape Time album speaks its the truth regardless. Superlative and loud and surrounded by tracks of equal cacophony. If you truly wish to know what the latter part of the mid-80s sounded like, start here.” (Philip Random)
In which Negativland kick off their fourth album, 1987’s Escape From Noise, with not a song but an announcement. Which is rather appropriate for 1987, it definitely being a year where music didn’t suck so much as NOISE suddenly felt very relevant. And nobody’s ever done NOISE as superlatively, as hilariously , as relevantly as Negativland, from suburban San Francisco (or is it Oakland?) – wherever Contra Costa County is.