“I still remember the first time I heard Requiem, track one side one of Killing Joke‘s self-titled debut album. It was 1981 sometime, a friend’s place. I walked in and he had it cranked LOUD. Like nothing I’d ever heard before. Intense, violent even, yet not in a particular hurry. Like a genuinely dangerous metal band had embodied the vehemence of punk. Or whatever. The best music is always beyond words. Call it the future, I guess, lobbing us a wake up call. I remember it was stormy that day, great black clouds forcing the horizon.” (Philip Random)
It’s 1979 and man, it’s cold out there. Back in the 1950s, they said wine, women and song. Come the 1960s, it was drugs, sex and rock and roll. Now, almost into the 1980s, it’s just, I will drug and fuck you on the permafrost. At least, that’s how the band known as Magazine put it on their second album, Second Hand Daylight, as bleak as it was invigorating, taking all the bile and negation of punk and smartening it up some, getting progressive even.
“A tight modern pop song with the kind of sharp, icy edge that defines a sonic future for all mankind. Which is pretty much what Wire did in 1979 with 154 (one of the greatest albums of any time) and songs like the 15th. Hell, I didn’t even hear it until at least five years later, called up the DJ because I had to know what this cool new song was.” (Philip Random)
An early single provides strong evidence that Bauhaus were far more than just a goth outfit (the term didn’t even exist until after they’d split up). What they were was smart, innovative, never remotely boring, with Terror Couple Kill Colonel working all manner of studio exploration to get seductively under the skin, into the blood.
“Back in the very early 1980s, before they became huge, absurd and even stupider than their name implied, Simple Minds were pretty darned cool. Smart modern beats and grooves that weren’t afraid to be dance-able. Lots of pumped up sonics, often machine driven, but hinting at an inner light. And they were strong live. I’m guessing I Travel was about being on the road, not that I ever bothered to study it. Just did what it was telling me, which was hit the dance floor, shake off the ghosts, be glad I was alive in interesting times.” (Philip Random)
“I missed Gang of Four at their peak, didn’t catch them live until maybe 1983 by which point they were softening their sound, going for a more friendly sort of agit-funk, and it wasn’t working. But then came Anthrax, saved for the encore. Guitar feedback so poisonous it could wipe out an entire city. And it’s a love song. Sort of. ” (Philip Random)
“By the time I got around to properly listening to Gang of Four, they were rather past it, attempting to work a sort of white-washed funk that, in retrospect, was probably even worse than it seemed at the time. Or more to the point, subsequent explorations of their earlier stuff revealed a grittier, nastier, far better band. Still somewhat funky, but not remotely clean – the funk being explored in service of the punk, no prisoners being taken, much damage being done.” (Philip Random)
“Somehow I missed Wire completely the first time around. Three future inventing albums culminating with 1979’s 154 at which point they went their separate ways for a long while. Then came 1987’s Ideal Copy, which was way too good to not get curious about, which eventually led me back to 154 and the revelation that, holy sh**, this album invented the 1980s (sort of). The energy of punk driving something smarter, more abstract and intense, taking it way behind enemy lines. No wonder they needed a seven year break.” (Philip Random)
In which first wave American punk band X (straight out of LA) rein in the intensity of their attack a touch and rather brilliantly nail down the zeitgeist circa 1983. Which was that, come year three of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, humanoid reptiles were in full ascendancy. Look no further than the radio dial. Where was any band that mattered? Nothing left to do but tell the truth.