“If you think you ‘get’ the music of the mid-1980s but you don’t know Tupelo Chain Sex, you’re wrong. The cover of 1984’s Spot the Difference may suggest a hardcore outfit, but it’s not remotely as simple as that. Because what hardcore band includes fiddle (c/o Don Sugarcane Harris) and saxophone in its weaponry, not to mention reggae, jazz and other unbound tendencies? And man, did they kill it live! True, some of the lyrics were rather dumb (the stuff about the Jews roaming around murdering blacks – seriously?). Welcome to 1984, I guess. Passion and rage as big as the world, and about as rational.” (Philip Random)
“In which the Forgotten Rebels, straight outa Hamilton, Ontario, remind us (as some now dead guy once said) that junkies gonna junk and dabblers gonna dabble, except with heroin, sometimes the dabblers die anyway, but mostly they just wobble around (if they’re standing at all) like they’re working monster waves a mile from shore. Maybe it feels cool, but it mostly looks dumb. Seriously, the song’s supposed to be taking the piss, but as always with these things, some seem to take it as lifestyle advice. I guess nobody’s to blame but stupidity itself.” (Philip Random)
“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)
The Enigmas are the great Vancouver band of the early-mid 1980s that most folks seem to have never heard of. They had the whole 60s garage-psyche thing more than just down – they actually transported you there, not so much back in time as into a whole other dimension that was tighter than punk and/or hardcore, and sexier, but every bit as hard and fast. If a proper recording existed of their umpteen minute live version of the Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction, it would be way up near the top of this list. As for the Windshield Wiper, it’s a dance. The record even came with a diagram.
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.
“In which Queen unleash one minute fifty seconds of punk rock a good three years before they had a label for such stuff, Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll being found on their first album, the one titled simply Queen. And exhibit A when it came to proving that they could do anything any other so-called rock band could do, and better. At least, that was the argument in the Grade Nine ghetto down by the metal work room.” (Philip Random)
“I cannot tell a lie. The first time I heard the name Dead Kennedys, it kind of took my breath away. I didn’t say anything out loud or anything, but I liked the Kennedys, was old enough to remember the assassinations of both JFK and RFK. And now here was this punk band exploiting them. Not that I really even listened to the music really. It was just trash and exploitation, right? With a name like that! It took 1981’s In God We Trust EP to set me straight, particularly We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now (which I later discovered was a reworking of California Uber Alles from their first album). It was the lounge bit at the beginning that hooked me, the part about happy hour being enforced by law, and a jar of Hitler’s brain juice in the back, and Emperor Ronald Reagan born again with fascist cravings. Welcome to the future. Ready or not.” (Philip Random)
In which the Buzzcocks unleash a short, sharp fever of pure and beautiful pop with punk in its soul. Or is it the other way around? One thing is clear. They were one of (if not the first) bands to have it both ways, and we’ll forever love them for that. Just because you’re mad as hell doesn’t mean you can’t be pretty, too.
NoMeansNo finally got it right on Wrong: the ferocious musicality of their live thunder captured in the studio, pressed to vinyl, unleashed upon the world. The whole album tends to flow together as one prolonged eruption of ugly-beautiful wrongness, but The Tower gets it singled out because it f***ing towers.