80s UK indie pop band Treebound StoryI came across the English band Treebound Story while researching indie pop bands from the UK. The group was founded in the mid-eighties by Richard Hawley (who would find later success with the Britpop band Longpigs). In their five years of existence (1986-1990), they released four EPs. The song “I Remember” is off the ’86 EP of the same name. The lovely chiming guitar intro immediately grabbed my attention and the rest of the song did not disappoint. It’s a real indie gem.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

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For the second in the series of podcasts on favorite ’80s finds, I decided to focus on overlooked ’80s UK synthpop. Synthpop is one of my favorite genres of music and, needless to say, there was an abundance of great music from this region. I narrowed the playlist down to 13 songs, which was no easy task, so may just have to do a part 2 on this category. As always, I provide a bit of information on the bands/artists, when available. Below is the track list and you can listen to the podcast here. Hope you enjoy!

  • I Start Counting “Letters to a Friend” (1984)
  • Illustration “Danceable” (1980)
  • Henry Badowski “My Face” (1980)
  • Eternal Triangle “Nothing But a Friend” (1984)
  • Pictures Like This “A Night’s Vendetta” (1983)
  • VHF “No Surprise” (1982)
  • Disciples of Spess “Another New Iceland” (1987)
  • Ice The Falling Rain “Lifes Illusion” (1983)
  • White Door “Windows” (1983)
  • Almost Alone “Blue City” (1983)
  • Secession “Touch Part 1” (1984
  • Leisure Process “Love Cascade” (1982)
  • Vision “Lucifer’s Friend” (1982)

1980s band The PassionsBritish post-punk/new wave band The Passions are probably most well-known for the 1981 single “I’m In Love With A German Film Star.” This is the song that piqued my interest in the band and prompted me to seek out more from the group. I’m glad I did, since it led to the discovery of the single “The Swimmer.” Released as a single in 1980, it’s a great mix of post-punk and new wave, with a bit of jangly guitar thrown in. The band went on to release a couple more albums and several singles before calling it a day in 1983.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 

Considered pioneers of dream pop, duo A.R. Kane were probably most well-known for their contribution to the 1987 club hit “Pump Up the Volume.” They collaborated with fellow Brits Colourbox and recorded the song under the name English dream pop duo A.R. KaneM|A|R|R|S. Formed in the mid-80s, their sound was similar to bands such as The Jesus & Mary Chain and other shoegaze/dream pop acts of the time. Although critically praised, they failed to connect with the mainstream and fell into obscurity. The 1986 single “When You’re Sad” was the duo’s first release. They would go on to release three albums and several EPs and singles before disbanding in 1994.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

 

Fiat Lux were an English synthpop trio that had a bit of chart success in the UK. At their height, the group was touring with such bands/artists as Blancmange, Level 42, and Howard Jones but couldn’t seem to break through. Forming in 1982, they released a handful of singles and one mini LP before disbanding in 1985. My favorite song from the group is 1982’s “Feels Like Winter Again,” which was also their first release.

 

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve only recently watched the Depeche Mode documentary 101 (must-see viewing for any Depeche Mode fan). Although I’ve been a Depeche Mode fan since the early ‘80s, looking back I really didn’t give them the attention they deserved. I had also never experienced them live in concert and the documentary was sort of a wake-up call. Since then I’ve been exploring their entire catalog and have gained a new appreciation for their earlier work. I’ve been especially, pleasantly surprised by A Broken Frame – their first post-Vince Clarke album. Released in 1982, it’s largely considered the group’s weakest effort but in my opinion, the LP continues to be unfairly dismissed. It saw the band moving from the upbeat pop of Speak & Spell  to a more dark and melancholy sound, and contains some real electronic gems.

With Clarke’s departure, songwriting duties fell on the shoulders of Martin Gore. And although Alan Wilder was recruited to take Clarke’s place, he did not contribute creatively to the LP. The band felt they needed to prove they could move on without Clarke so Wilder was relegated to studio work and touring musician. (For the record, my favorite DM period are the Wilder years). Even though there are some definite poppy moments, such as “See You” and “The Meaning of Love,” as a whole, the album has a more mature atmospheric and moody sound. By no means their greatest work, A Broken Frame provides glimpses of great things to come.

My favorite song off the LP is the last track, “The Sun and the Rainfall.” From the beginning haunting drumbeat to the lovely chorus, it’s a standout on the album. I’m surprised the song wasn’t released as a single or as a fellow DM fan pointed out, hasn’t been included on some compilation.

 

Another high point is the second track, “My Secret Garden.” It has a great bassline and catchy synth work throughout.

 

After spending so much time digging up unearthed ’80s gems, I’ve decided to do a series of podcasts highlighting some of my favorite finds. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the technical side of podcasts. Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have a technically-skilled friend who did the recording and editing. The first episode is mainly devoted to obscure indie pop, but you may hear a classic or two. I also provide a bit of information on the bands/artists, when available. You can listen to the podcast here. Hope you enjoy the selections!

Following is the track listing:

  1. “A Hundred Words” by The Beloved (1986)
  2. “Forms of Edge” by 33 Tears (1989)
  3. “Say Goodbye” by Weeping Messerschmitts (1986)
  4. “The Invisible State” by Bill Pritchard (1989)
  5. “Heart Happy” by A House (1987)
  6. “Talk About the Past” by The Wake (1984)
  7. “Melt Like Ice” by The Wild Flowers (1983)
  8. “Innocense” by Conspiracy of Silence (1987)
  9. “You Should All Be Murdered” by Another Sunny Day (1989)
  10. “Cincinnati” by HolidayMakers (1988)
  11. “Between Something and Nothing” by The Ocean Blue (1989)

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)

Not many recording groups can say they played live only a handful of times in their whole existence, but System 56 was one of those bands. They were referred to as the Howard Hughes of bands, since they only performed live five times. I came across the band only recently, as I continue on my never-ending quest for obscure new wave bands. I was really surprised to discover that they are American, as they have a sound very similar to early ‘80s new wave bands from the UK. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, they were another band that had an all-too early demise. Fortunately, in their short career, they released some pretty great songs.

Founded by guitarist and lead vocalist Steve Simenic in 1981, the group was often compared to Ultravox. This was primarily due to their ability to create a seamless mix of synth and guitar-driven music. As for the lack of live performances, this was mainly caused by a revolving-door of band members over their three-year run. It seems when new material was released, internal conflict arose and members left. At one point the band was down to two members. Nevertheless, local radio stations, especially college radio, gave the band generous airplay. In all, the band released three singles and one 6-song EP, 1982’s Beyond the Parade. In 2003, a compilation of the group’s music was released, Retrospective: 1982-1984, which contains some previously unreleased material.

The song Metro-Metro was the first single released by the band. It was recorded within a month of the group’s formation. It’s a synth-dominated track with a driving rhythm and signature guitar work. Every time I put this song on a playlist, someone rarely fails to ask “who is this?”

 

In 1983, the band released the single “Life on a Cool Curve.” It perfectly showcases the band’s adeptness at merging synth and guitar. They would go on to release one more single in 1984. Later that year, they disbanded.

 

Like many, I was first introduced to The Plimsouls through the 1983 movie Valley Girl. They appeared as a club house band in the film, where three of their songs were featured. (If only I were so lucky to have had them as the house band at my regular haunt back in the day). The group’s dynamic power pop, garage sound was hard to resist. Well-known on the thriving L.A. music scene for their energetic lives shows, they seemed primed for bigger things but it was not meant to be. Unfortunately, the band disbanded in the mid ’80s due to solo career pursuits.

The group was formed by singer/songwriter Peter Case in California in 1978, after toiling around in two previous bands. They quickly became favorites on the early ‘80s L.A. club scene, and Case was gaining critical attention for his songwriting. They released their first EP in 1980, Zero Hour, which showed promise and received heavy airplay on the legendary L.A. KROQ radio station. Their first album, 1981’s The Plimsouls, managed to capture the vitality of their live shows but had poor sales. They would go on to record the 1983 LP Everywhere At Once, before parting ways due to Case’s pursuit of a solo career. They did reunite in the mid ‘90s and released the album Kool Trash but it received little notice. Case found some success as a folk-rock artist and continues to tour to this day.

Featured prominently in Valley Girl, “A Million Miles Away” was the song that propelled the band into the spotlight. With no record contract in place, the band self-funded the single. After the song was selected for the movie soundtrack, and with a new contract with Geffen, they quickly re-recorded and included on the Everywhere At Once LP.

 

The song “Everywhere At Once” is the reason I bought the cassette of the LP, and played it to ruin. It also appears in the Valley Girl film. From the first guitar chords I was hooked. The song then builds to a rousing, almost perfect power pop anthem.