“Springtime, 1989, the year I ended up in London somehow. It’s a long story, which only matters here because that’s where I found Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. Lonely, very low on cash, wandering through the big HMV near Piccadilly and there it was on cassette, remaindered, dead cheap. What I knew of Talk Talk was that they were a better than average synth-pop outfit. What I was completely unprepared for was the deep and spacious and ultimately gobsmackingly epic first side of Spirit of Eden – three titles (The Rainbow, Eden + Desire) but all seamless song to my ears, and exactly what I needed to set my soul free and get my thinking straight toward sorting out the problem of the rest of my life. I left town the next day.” (Philip Random)
Second of two in a row from the Swans, 1988 being the year that they gave us not one but two covers of everybody’s favourite suicidal love song, both actually quite good. Jarboe‘s version gets the nod here, because she’s got the nicer voice, and it’s more gentle. And we definitely needed some gentle niceness by the time 1988 landed, Winter of Hate in full effect. Not that Love Will Tear Us Apart could ever be mistaken for a song bereft of cataclysm.
The Jesus + Mary Chain were never going to top their first album Psycho Candy in terms of zeitgeist grinding superlativenoise. And yet they’ve managed to stick around for a good while anyway, always good for some dark, menacing pop thrills, like Sidewalking, a single from 1988 (the same basic pop historical moment that Public Enemy unleashed Bring The Noise — it was a damned fine year for disturbing the peace).
“They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Also Prince concerts back in the day. The memory is of seeing the Purple One live in 1988, the Lovesexy tour. The stage was round. The sound was exquisite. The action was non stop. It was everything a rock and roll show was ever supposed to be, and more. And the musical highlight of the evening, the song that pinned all fifteen thousand of us to the wall was a power anthem about a certain cross and the guy that had to carry it, and how we’ve all got to do the same, one way or another, up that hill to eternity. Yeah, I believed.” (Philip Random)
“I kept hearing about Dinosaur Jr. back in the late 1980s but I never consciously heard them. Apparently, they were a throwback to the pre-punk days of big wild guitar solos, epic intentions … but in a good way, which sounded promising. Then I finally did heard Freak Scene some time in 1990 and hell yeah, truth in advertising. Except they were anything but a throwback — guitar so sheer and beaming with fractal light, it was carving gateways into the future. Or at least that’s what it felt like that time at the Commodore, the top of my head lysergically removed from the rest of my body. In a good way. Later, I drove home, still quite high, listening to classical music on the radio – some Shostokowich as I recall. And it all made perfect sense.” (Philip Random)
“A hell of a song from a hell of a band that, for whatever reason, didn’t rise up and become insanely huge. Their first album in particular managed to be heavy and cool and entirely necessary without really sounding like anything anybody else was doing at the time. Which was perhaps the problem. Sons of Freedom were unique … in 1988 anyway. The biz just didn’t know what to do with them. Jump ahead three or five years and I suspect things would have played out differently. But then I would’ve been denied Alice Henderson when I needed it. Winter of 1988 into 89. Did it ever stop raining bullshit? Only when the music played.” (Philip Random)
“Silver Rocket may well be the perfect Sonic Youth nugget. On one level, it’s a ripping cool pop song about riding a silver rocket, I guess, or perhaps heroin. On another, it’s a metaphysical hand grenade that blows a gaping hole through the reality barrier into the next nineteen dimensions. And it accomplishes all of this in barely three minutes.” (Philip Random)
“By 1988, the artist still known as Prince pretty much owned the world, pop, cool and otherwise. He wasn’t just cranking out the tightest, funkiest, coolest, most fun and genre exploding stuff on the planet, he was doing so at an insanely prolificrate. In two years alone, 1986 into 1988, you had Parade, Sign of the Times (double album) and Lovesexy, (not to mention the then unreleased Black Album, which found us anyway as a bootleg). So it’s no wonder that a mad piece of avant-pop genius like Lovesexy’s Dance On (go ahead, try dancing to it) might get missed. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe you needed a decade or so to process it. I think I did.” (Philip Random)
“How f***ed up was the war on drugs? In Los Angeles, 1993, a few weeks before Christmas, a few weeks after River Phoenix had died on the sidewalk outside the Viper Room, a gram or two of heroin cost less than a gram or two of proper skunk weed due mainly to who and what had been getting busted of late. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if we weren’t day drinking, and feeling that something else was needed in the mix, and Gus from Idaho, being cheap, showed up with some heroin instead of the expected bud. And the thing is, none of us are that cool. We’ve never done heroin, but suddenly there it is getting laid out in narrow brownish lines on the coffee table, and yeah, we’re all just drunk enough to be stupid enough to not give a f***, even if you can die just snorting the stuff, particularly if you’re not used to it, if your body hasn’t built up a decent tolerance, this being common knowledge to anyone who’s seen Pulp Fiction. But then just as Greg from Osoyoos is rolling up a dollar bill, Slayer comes crashing in, full roar on the stereo. It’s Smith from Nelson, calling bullshit, enlisting no lesser ally than Lucifer himself, the Morning Star from his haunt way down south of heaven, demanding we see things at least slightly straight. Long story/short, we Just Said No to the heroin, went out for cheap tacos instead, ended up watching I Love Lucy reruns on some lost cable channel. And Slayer will forever have a place in my heart and soul, somewhere in the paradox file.” (Philip Random)