Posts Tagged ‘1986’

80's postpunk synthpop band Venus in FursEngland’s Venus in Furs began life in the early ‘80s with four band members. By the mid ‘80s, Venus in Furs was comprised only of the solo artist Times. The music isn’t easy to define, moving from experimental, guitar-based post-punk to melodic synthpop. From the 1986 LP Real Moral Fibre, the song “Love Lies” sits on the synthpop side of the spectrum, and falls in line with the melancholy synth/guitar sound of New Order. If that’s your kind of thing, you should definitely give it a listen.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      


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.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

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.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  


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.


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!

Who’s Michael Been, you might ask? Michael Been was the singer of the rock band The Call. In my opinion, one of the most underrated bands of the ’80s. Today would have been his 65th birthday so I thought I’d take the opportunity to repost a blog entry from last September.

Taking Another Look at The Call

The Call was an American band that had mediocre chart success in the eighties. Their lyrics were politically charged and there was a passionate, anthem-like quality to their music. They were considered rock but there was definite new wave influences. The Call were critically acclaimed and admired by some of the biggest acts of the time but for whatever reason they were never able to achieve commercial success. Maybe it was because lead singer Michael Been just didn’t have the look that the MTV generation wanted. He was stout and scruffy and wasn’t the flashiest of front men, but he could sure belt out a song with as much emotional sincerity as the best of them.

They also had quite a long run, having been active from 1980 to 2000. Their biggest chart success was with the single “Let the Day Begin,” which reached No. 51 on the Billboard Charts in 1989. (Side note, this was Al Gore’s campaign song for his run in 2000). But it was their earlier material that made me a fan. Sadly, Michael Been died in 2010 at the age of 60. He was on tour as a soundman for his son’s band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club when he had a heart attack at a show in Hasselt, Belgium. I’ve always regretted not seeing them in concert, as I hear they were a pretty great live band.

One of my favorites from the group is “The Walls Came Down.” A song that combines biblical references with an anti-war message. The year was 1984, after all. It’s a pulsating, urgent song with plenty of Michael Been howls.


“Everywhere I Go” is a single off of the 1986 album Reconciled. It was no secret that Michael Been was deeply religious, and it’s on full display on this track. Another guitar and drum-driven tune with Been at his growling best. Listen closely and you can hear Jim Kerr of Simple Minds and Peter Gabriel on background vocals.


Erasure is currently on tour in support of their new album, The Violet Flame. Having never seen them in concert, I decided to check out the show. I was expecting something over the top from the duo and I wasn’t disappointed. Andy Bell dominated the stage with slithery dance moves and lively interaction with the audience, while Vince Clarke took his stance out of the spotlight. Although a bit older and not able to keep the energy going through the entire show, Andy can still belt out a song, rarely missing a note. They led the concert off with “Oh L’amour,” the third single off their 1986 debut album, Wonderland. At the time, the song only reached #85 on the UK charts and the album was a commercial failure. A 2003 remix of the song, used to promote their best of album Hits!, would go on to break the top 20. It’s now considered to be one of their signature songs.