“David Lee Roth may be a world class ass but he does have a way with a one-liner, such as, ‘The reason more rock critics like Elvis Costello than Van Halen is that more rock critics look like Elvis Costello than Van Halen.’ Which is my way of saying, I guess I’m just not a critic, because I’ve never been an overwhelming Elvis C fan (more of an appreciator really), and most of his tracks that I do really like, you’ve probably already heard them a bunch, and thus they exude allergy potential. But not Green Shirt from 1979’s Armed Forces. I never heard too much Green Shirt. Tight, sharp, and smart as pop.” (Philip Random)
If nothing else, Brian Eno’s Another Green World has a perfect title. Put it on and you get transported to a very agreeable yet very different place. Alien even. Yet oh so green and achingly beautiful, like a dream, vaguely remembered via odd, mostly pleasant, always strange fragments, with St. Elmo’s Fire an actual pop song easing from the mists halfway through side one, deepening the mystery, because what the hell is St. Emo’s Fire but a mystery? And there’s a superlative Robert Fripp guitar solo.
More or less perfect modern pop from a more or less perfect moment in modern pop-time. Which is to say 1972, glam eruption. Except it’s wrong to classify Virginia Plain (or Roxy Music for that matter). Virginia Plain defies genre. It just is. Three minutes of pure, strange, driving fun. And thus a reason to live.
It’s 1984 and proto-goth underlords Bauhaus have broken up, but guitar guy Daniel Ash still has some shadows to explore with bassist (and former Bauhaus roadie) Glenn Campling, an outfit they’re calling Tones on Tail. And it all comes good (if weird) with Pop, an album that that goes all kinds of cool places that music of the moment generally doesn’t. In the case of Real Life, that means acoustic, expansive, dynamic – the right kind of psychedelic.
The Hollies were supposed to be finished by the time the 70s hit (Graham Nash had split to California, hooked with Crosby, Stills and eventually Young; their whole sort of sunny pop psychedelia just wasn’t a thing anymore), but, it turns out, they still had a tricks left, including in Long Dark Road, a serious gaze into the shadows. But not without those three-part harmonies, even if some of the names had changed, and would keep changing.
The forced marriage in 1980 of prog-rock dinosaurs Yes and earworm popsters The Buggles was a strange thing that should not have worked. And maybe it didn’t, because they only ever released one album (which was credited to Yes, but they should’ve called themselves something else, because any band called Yes without Jon Anderson involved just feels very wrong, like a Beatles without John Lennon). But all that said, Drama (the album) can’t just be dismissed, if only for the possible future it speaks of that never happened – a musical decade that managed to both embrace the cool new synthetic pop options and the recent powerhouse progressive past. Like an odd sci-fi movie that only you remember, seen just once late at night on one of those scrambled Pay TV channels. Maybe Tuesday Weld was in it.
In which the Velvets indulge their inner Monkees for a bit and go full on pop, but they still can’t help dis-respecting the mighty and magnificent and beautiful sun which gives all life, inspires much of our religion and spirituality. Which is why we love it, of course (the song, that is), because the more bitter you can jam into a sweet, the better. Who cares if the teenybops can handle it?
“The Jesus and Mary Chain seemed to come from nowhere way back when, that lost decade found somewhere within the mid-1980s. Something’s gotta f***ing give, the zeitgeist was screaming, somebody’s gotta take all this noise to its extreme edge, give us all a smug, punk sneer, call it music, cause riots, get arrested, sell records. In the case of You Trip Me Up, that meant taking a nice little la-la-la love song and plugging it into the end of the universe. Sometimes on late night radio, we’d play it at the same time as Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive, both channels maxed to eleven – like competing nuclear mushroom clouds. It had to be done.” (Philip Random)
“One more from that lost and forgotten alt-reality wherein the 1980s were everything they should have been and a record like the Undertones‘ Love Parade hit the toppermost of the poppermost – melodic, soulful, full of light, and so damned popular we all got sick of it. But it wasn’t so we didn’t, so thank all gods for that. And man, that Feargal Sharkey could sing.” (Philip Random)