Archive for the ‘Alternative’ Category

'80s neo-psychedelic post-punk band Crippled PilgrimsMid-eighties Washington D.C. band Crippled Pilgrims were a bit ahead of their time, and this most likely contributed to their lack of commercial success. The best way to describe their music is neo-psychedelic combined with guitar-driven post-punk, which resulted in an indie sound that would come into popularity later in the decade. The band’s debut release was 1984’s EP Head Down-Hand Out. By the time their first full-length album came out, 1985’s Under Water, they had called it quits. The track “Undone” is off the ‘Under Water’ LP.

 

If you had the opportunity to play DJ for a night, wouldn’t you take it? That’s exactly what I did for my birthday this weekend. Decided to rent out a local club for a couple of hours and invited friends to dance the night away before opening to the public. The challenge? The playlist had to be limited to two hours. Fortunately, the DJ gave me a bonus hour, as long as I didn’t play any later-in-the-night favorites. So, for hour three, I had to reel it in a bit but still managed to throw in some favorites while trying to appeal to the masses. The music covered many genres and spanned a few decades but, of course, the bulk of the songs were from the ‘80s.

I started off the night with something relaxing and danceable and then moved into some minimal wave favorites. This was followed by some early ‘80s post-punk, gothy material that flowed into new wave and synthpop. Even managed to slip in some LCD Soundsystem without a hitch. The last part of hour two was a mixed bag of glam rock, indie, and punk. Hour three was filled with ‘80s new wave staples, jangle pop, and some indie classics. All in all, tried to get in a little something for everyone. The dance floor moved all night and there is nothing like hearing your favorite songs on the big speakers. Might have to make this an annual event.

Pretending to work the decks.

Playing DJ v2

Here’s the complete playlist:

Torch – Soft Cell (1982)
The Last Song – Trisomie 21 (1986)
Watching Trees  – Eleven Pond (1986)
Romantic Me – Polyrock (1980)
Disorder – Joy Division (1979)
Primary – The Cure (1981)
Last Year’s Wife – Zero Le Creche (1984)
A Day Without Me – U2 (1980)
Everywhere I Go – The Call (1986)
Ahead – Wire (1987)
Nowhere Girl – B-Movie (1982)
The Damned Don’t Cry – Visage (1982)
I Die: You Die – Gary Numan (1980)
Messages – OMD (1980)
Up All Night – Boomtown Rats (1981)
Lawnchairs – Our Daughter’s Wedding (1980)
I Can Change – LCD Soundsystem (2010)
Dreaming of Me – Depeche Mode (1981)
Angst In My Pants – Sparks (1982)
Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four) – Eurythmics (1984)
Why? – Bronski Beat (1984)
The Cutter – Echo & the Bunnymen (1983)
Glamorous Glue – Morrissey (1992)
The Jean Genie – David Bowie (1972)
Candy – Iggy Pop (1990)
Dreaming – Blondie (1979)
Janie Jones – The Clash (1977)
Anything Anything – Dramarama (1985)
Sheena Is a Punk Rocker – The Ramones (1977)
Last Caress – The Misfits (1978)
Eighties – Killing Joke (1984)
Mandinka – Sinead O’Connor (1987)
Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) – Flock of Seagulls (1982)
To Look at You – INXS (1982)
The Ghost In You – Psychedelic Furs (1984)
Blue Savannah – Erasure (1989)
Rattlesnakes – Lloyd Cole & the Commotions (1984)
Love Is the Law – Suburbs (1984)
Crash – Primitives (1988)
Chamber of Hellos – Wire Train (1983)
She Bangs the Drums – Stone Roses (1989)
Ceremony – New Order (1981)
Inside Out – The Mighty Lemon Drops (1988)
A Million Miles Away – The Plimsouls (1983)
We Are Not Alone – Karla DeVito – (1985)
Masquerade – Berlin (1983)
Mad World – Tears for Fears (1983)

Released on July 8, 1986, Lifes Rich Pageant is where R.E.M. really found their political footing. They also brought attention to environmental issues with songs like “Cuyahoga” and “Don’t Fall on Me.” The former being about the polluting of the Cuyahoga River and the latter about acid rain. It was the band’s most successful album to date, reaching #21 on the Billboard charts, and #43 in the UK. In my opinion, it ranks right up there with the best from the group and I remember being ecstatic that they played several songs from the album when I saw them in ’87. There were only two singles released from the LP, “Don’t Fall on Me” and “Superman,” but my favorite track is “I Believe.”

 

It took The Feelies six years to release their second album, The Good Earth. Received well by critics, the band traded in some of their trademark jangle for a more mature, developed sound. Championed by R.E.M.’s Pete Buck, they opened up for the band on a leg of the Lifes Rich Pageant tour. Although never reaching mass success, they did grab the attention of director Jonathan Demme who cast them as the high school reunion band in his 1986 film Something Wild. Watch for their interesting rendition of David Bowie’s “Fame.” Director Noah Baumbach also took notice of the band and featured the song “Let’s Go” from The Good Earth album in the 2005 film The Squid and the Whale.

 

It’s time for another installment of ‘80s protest songs. In my last post, I focused on the anti-apartheid movement and how artists helped bring this issue to a broader audience. This time around I’ll be focusing on songs that dealt with the backlash against Ronald Reagan and his policies. There were countless artists who spoke out against the administration’s policies, such as cuts to social programs and taxes for the wealthy, deregulating the EPA, and the rise of capitalism. It would take another post to cover protests over the administration’s military policies.

The B-52s’ song “Channel Z” is pretty much an indictment of the Reagan administration as a whole wrapped up in a fun, upbeat tempo. But mostly this song is a condemnation of the deregulation of the media under the administration and the constant feeding of mass information to an all too eager public. It was the debut single off the 1989 album Cosmic Thing. Although not achieving the success of other songs from the album, such as “Love Shack,” and “Roam,” it did reach #61 on the UK Singles Chart.

 

One of my favorite songs off R.E.M.’s 1987 album Document is the opening track, “Finest Worksong.” The song is basically a rousing call to arms against Reagan capitalism delivered in an almost sermon-like form. It was the third, and last, single to be released off the album. It reached #50 in the UK but failed to chart in the U.S. A slightly lighter-sounding version of the song is included on the greatest hits compilation, Eponymous. It’s the brighter version that Pete Buck felt should have been on Document but I think I’ll have to disagree with Mr. Buck on this one.

 

The Ramones also joined the fray with their song “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg.” The single, released in 1985, was a protest to a visit Ronald Reagan paid to a military cemetery in Bitburg, Germany. Along with members of the German army, there were also several members of the Waffen SS (a branch of the Third Reich) buried there. The Ramones were joined in protest by holocaust survivors, US politicians from both sides of the aisle, and many countries in Europe. To stem the tide of criticism, a visit to a concentration camp was added to Reagan’s agenda. The single was not released in the US and as an import became a minor success on college radio. Retitled “My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg),” the song was included on the 1986 album Animal Boy.

 

There’s not much more to say about the Smiths’ third album, The Queen Is Dead. Released on June 16, 1986 to great critical praise, it has since garnered numerous accolades – #1 on NME’s 500 greatest albums of all time and #16 on Slant magazine’s top albums of the ‘80s. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t warm up to the Smiths until the ‘90s. Their mix of jangle pop and rockabilly didn’t appeal to me at the time. I eventually came to see the light and I’d be hard pressed to find a party playlist that didn’t have at least one Smiths’ song.

Since choosing one song off the album seemed too daunting a task, I’ve decided to focus on the songs highlighted in the Derek Jarman film. The film contains video clips for the songs “The Queen is Dead,” “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” and “Panic.” Although not on The Queen is Dead album, “Panic” was released as a single in 1986.

 

One of the best things about doing this series of posts is that I get to highlight some lesser known albums turning 30 this year, such as Strange Times by the Chameleons. Released on September 1, 1986, it was the group’s third album. Critically praised upon its release, it produced what is probably the band’s most well-known song, “Swamp Thing.” The album also contains several bonus tracks, including a great version of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and a lighthearted take on David Bowie’s “John, I’m Only Dancing.” My favorite song off the album is a bonus track of the single “Tears.” It’s a haunting instrumental version that I prefer to the original acoustic.

 

The Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink” was a song with two lives, pre- and post-John Hughes. I prefer the grittier pre-Hughes version, which is probably an opinion shared by most Furs fans. The song was originally released in 1981 and is the first track off the album Talk Talk Talk. With its darker and moodier feel, the original is a much better fit with the cynical lyrics of the song. As many songs that fed my love of new wave, I first saw the video on MTV. I loved the song then and still do. The song reached #43 on the UK charts, but did not make a mark in the US until the mid-eighties.

Years later, Molly Ringwald brought the song to the attention of John Hughes and history was made. The band recorded a more upbeat and polished version of the song in 1986, and a new video was made to promote the Pretty in Pink movie. Even though they went along for the ride, the Furs weren’t too pleased with the changes and thought Hughes failed to capture the spirit of the song. As Richard Butler told Mojo magazine, “The song was about a girl who kinda sleeps around and thinks it’s really cool and thinks everybody really likes her, but they really don’t…It’s quite scathing.” Regardless, it was the song that really put the Furs on the US map and was their highest charting single in the UK, peaking at #18.

 

I’ve come across several lists of albums turning 30 this year. There are some great albums on these lists, and at one time I owned quite a few in some form or other. With so much good music having come out in 1986, I thought it’d be fun to do a series of posts on songs from albums released that year.

The first song I’m starting with is Public Image Ltd’s “Rise.” It was the first single released from PIL’s fifth album Album, released January 26, 1986, and is reportedly about apartheid. It was the biggest chart topper by the band, reaching #11 on the UK charts, and placing #206 on NME’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Although I wasn’t old enough to go clubbing upon its release, I do remember dancing to this song years later. After a while, the dance floor turned into one collective up and down motion. May the road rise with you…

 

I was a big fan of The Church in the early ‘80s but lost track of them until the single “Under the Milky Way” came out in 1988. I’ve since discovered the band’s music from the mid ‘80s, and glad I did. The album Heyday, released in the US in January of 1986, in my opinion, is one of their best. It’s also probably one of their most overlooked. My favorite song off the album is “Tantalized,” by far the most fast-paced and hard-edged song off the LP.

 

30 Albums Turning 30 in 2016

Posted: January 2, 2016 in Albums, Alternative, General
Tags: ,

The folks at Sonic More Music took the time to put together a list of 30 alternative albums turning 30 this year. There are some true classics on here. What a great year for music!

I look for any occasion to get a group of ‘80s music lovers together, and NYE seemed like the perfect opportunity. Since we’re both not too keen on venturing out on NYE, my husband and I decided to throw a dinner party to ring out the year. Fortunately, all attendees either grew up in the ‘80s or had a love of ‘80s music. With that kind of crowd, I couldn’t help but put together a playlist of songs from the era that included old favorites, rediscoveries, and new music I’ve come across this past year. Oh, we also attempted to play some games but the music took over and our living room became a dance floor until the wee hours of the morning.

Along with the usual suspects (Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, The Smiths, etc.), the playlist included songs from bands I had forgotten about over the years. Bands such as The Members (“Working Girl”), The Producers (“She Sheila”), Wire Train (“Chamber of Hellos”), and Felony (“The Fanatic”) found a much overdo spot on the playlist. Although sharing forgotten songs with the group was enjoyable, it was the unearthed gems I was most looking forward to playing. For a few, it was the first time hearing some of the songs and for others they brought back fond memories.

One of the bands I recently rediscovered is The Bolshoi. I knew of The Bolshoi back in the day but embarrassingly had never listened to any of their songs. My current favorite (and one I can’t seem to stop playing) is “Can You Believe It?” off their 1987 LP Lindy’s Party. It features an addictive, bouncy synth line and a heavy drum bass. I’ll definitely be seeking out more from them for a future post.

 

Another band discovered this past year is The Monochrome Set. From what I’ve come across they were favorites of Morrissey and Johnny Marr. This is another band that I’ll be exploring and posting about in the New Year. The song “He’s Frank” was first released as a single in 1979 and re-released as a slightly different version years later. I prefer this version, in which they sound like a cross between the Violent Femmes and The Velvet Underground. Just as above, there was no official video for the song available.

 

I’ve been away for a while but am looking forward to sharing more classics and overlooked songs of the ‘80s in 2016!