Friday, October 20, 2017

Dragon


Dragon was a band from New Zealand who were fairly successful in their homeland and Australia in the mid-1970s. They broke up at the end of that decade but resurfaced a few years later with a more polished sound. They had a fairly big hit in 1984 with "Rain" and subsequently had their 1987 album released internationally under the name Hunter. They never really caught on in the US, but they are now in the Australian RNR Hall of Fame. Some of their 80s stuff reminds me of The Call. There's some real gems here.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Smithereens


I always thought the Smithereens were the East Coast's blue collar rock band of the '80s. The Replacements represented the Upper Midwest. Social Distortion represented Cali. I don't know if that makes any sense, but they had some of the '80s best rock songs, regardless.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Robyn Hitchcock


A long and storied career. One of the few artists who can successfully be quirky, clever and earnest all in the same song.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds


Nick Cave, bard of Australia, another figure no one guessed at the start would become such a respectable elder statesman of moody music.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cubanate


The '90s was such a great time for electro/industrial music, especially for those of us who never got into the grunge or Britpop that dominated radio. Cubanate was essentially Marc Heal, spewing high-energy aggression out like no one else. This album treads a fine line between noisy electronic music and pure white noise, but it's just on the right side of that line.

Monday, July 10, 2017

ABC


It would be easy to write-off ABC as a lightweight New Wave version of Roxy Music... although Roxy's last 2 albums could be written off as the same... but that's missing the point. It's the perfect soundtrack to your next cocktail party.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Echo & The Bunnymen


It's autumn somewhere... and from out of a foggy haze, with green trenchcoat and tussled locks... it's Mac the Mouth, here to sing us some lullabies.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Gene Loves Jezebel


Beyond the silly clothes and hair and videos of their early years, Gene Loves Jezebel became a solid band by the time of 1987's "House of Dolls" album and continued until their last, 1999's "VII" - and then suddenly reappearing 18 years later for 2017's Dance Underwater.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Tears For Fears


I could see how Tears For Fears might be on a lot of people's "overplayed" list, as they produced songs so tied to the '80s they've almost certainly gotten more airplay since that decade ended than during. But that shouldn't stop "Songs From The Big Chair" being heard as the masterpiece it is.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Flock of Seagulls


Being the butt of so many jokes and the go-to picture for bad '80s hair-dos, one can easily forget A Flock Of Seagulls made some decent music.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Japan... the band


Imagine naming your band after a country in this Internet age... but nonetheless, David Sylvian, Mick Karn and Co. made pretty original sounding music. After starting as a very punky group, they quickly morphed into something which clearly owed more than a small debt to Roxy Music, but with Karn's fretless bass playing and often quirky rhythms, they became a far more unique entity.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hugo Race + True Spirit/Fatalists


Hugo Race was in Nick Cave's Bad Seeds for 1/2 a minute in the early years. As he continued on a solo career, he initially mined the same territory as early Bad Seeds' records. His most recent stuff is actually how I envisioned Nick Cave would sound at this point in his career and, personally, I find Hugo Race's music much more satisfying.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Neko Case


Country, Alt Country, Indie Folk... whatever it is, Neko Case has a stellar voice. Much of her work eschews the usual verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure for more free-flowing melodies that often build quick and then flicker away.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Cranberries


When I first heard the Cranberries, it was the song "Linger" and I kept getting it confused with that Sundays' song around the same time. I still think the first album sounds like Sinead O'Connor fronting the Smiths... but I don't think that's a bad thing.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The The


The The is the musical project of Matt Johnson. To listen to the first album, one would never guess he'd become an excellent songwriter, sign to a major label, get radio airplay and be in MTV rotation. Nor would anyone have guessed he'd record a fairly straight album of Hank Williams tunes.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Then Jerico


Then Jerico will probably be of interest to people into '80s jangle pop or fans of the Alarm, Mighty Lemon Drops, or Waterboys.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Cure


Not to sound like a broken record but... I'm not a huge fan of the Cure, I just happen to have most of their stuff. Actually, I really like the early 80s stuff.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Big Noise


Here's some late-'80s rock. This was their one album. I found lots of stuff like this in the bargain bins back in the day. It kind of treads the line between AOR and Alt radio and never found a home on either.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Midnight Oil - Overflow Tank


Glad to have these boys back. They've included 1 disc of b-sides and 1 disc of unreleased demos on this new box set, along with 2 discs of previously unreleased live tracks.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Boss


I could write an essay about Bruce, but it's probably all been said before. I will offer, though, that I think he's the best, most consistently excellent American songwriter of the last 40 years.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Angelfish


Shirley Manson started out in the band Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie in the '80s, supplying backing vox and keyboards. When that band failed to break into the US market, they refashioned themselves as '90s chick rock band Angelfish, with Manson taking the lead role. They only lasted 1 album, but it's pretty decent.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Blondie


Blondie is the band. Deborah [Debbie] Harry is the singer. She's had a strange career considering they have a few gigantic hits. They've had an on again/off again relationship, with Harry going off to spotty solo ventures and acting in B-movies.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Berlin


Berlin started as a dark kind of synth band who ended up having one of the biggest songs of the '80s. There's some good stuff spread across their 3 major label releases.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Eve's Plum


They only lasted 2 albums, but Eve's Plum delivered some pretty good '90s chick rock.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Joan Jett (and the Blackhearts)


I say: Joan. You say: Jett. I say: Joan. You say: Jett. I say: Joan. You say: Jett.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

R.E.M.


What more needs to be said about REM? They made 2 of my favorite albums of the '80s - Reckoning and Document - and emerged from their first decade second only to U2 in critical and commercial stature. The '90s boosted them to mainstream pop star status. Their output in the new century, though, was pretty lackluster and they called it quits in 2011.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Thompson Twins


People never believe me when I tell them that Thompson Twins' first two albums are full of some pretty good, edgy post-punk tunes. That's probably because they went from that to mainstream crossover success with a handful of New Wave anthems, and all the way to has-been, out of step adult contemporary within a mere 9 years.

And that's not even mentioning their Live Aid performance which was... bizarre? Look it up online if you've never seen it. But beware... why anyone thought it would be a good idea to invite Madonna to sing for their cover of the Beatles' Revolution... whew.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Gutterball


An indie supergroup of the unknowns? Gutterball was a short-lived band featuring Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), Bryan Harvey (House of Freaks) and Armistead Wellford (Love Tractor).

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Dream Syndicate


The Dream Syndicate were an LA band in the 1980s. Despite critical accolades and getting the opening slot on tours for both U2 and REM, they never found commercial success. Too punk for country, too country for New Wave, too AOR for Alternative, too edgy for AOR.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Drivin' N' Cryin'


Led by singer/songwriter Kevin Kinney, Atlanta's Drivin' N' Cryin' first found success on college radio in the mid-80s before finding themselves on heavy rotation with 1990's Fly Me Courageous. They were another casualty of the grunge era, their AOR roots rock deemed untrendy and were totally forgotten about by 1993's follow-up.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Plugz / Cruzados / Tito & Tarantula


Tito Larriva has been a staple of the L.A. music scene since the late '70s. First, he led The Plugz, often cited as the first Hispanic punk band. Then he moved on to roots rock with Cruzados. And for over a decade, he played bluesy rock with Tito & Tarantula.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Brian Setzer Orchestra


Brian Setzer has actually gotten some pretty varied sounds from his orchestra - rockabilly, swing, jazz, and even Mozart. It's all got a pretty irresistible hopped-up energy and unpretentious sense of fun.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra


Ending my Bryan Ferry triptych with a trio of albums he did with a jazz orchestra. Unlike almost every other rock/pop singer who has reached back into the classics songbook, Ferry and band come off very authentically. This is not one of those cases where an aging pop star goes for the adult contemporary throat.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Bryan Ferry


Bryan Ferry started his solo career while Roxy Music was still active. When Roxy finally petered out in the early-80s, Ferry just continued doing what he does. Is he an edgy crooner or a suave rocker? I'm not sure, but he has been able to carve out his own identifiable sound. Viva!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Roxy Music


Roxy Music came onto the scene with weird costumes, pathos, and screeching synth sounds (thanks to Brian Eno). They evolved into a refined, danceable, stylish pop act. Probably no other band had as much influence on 1980's New Wave and pop music.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Depeche Mode - Singles Boxes 1-6

As any collector of those pesky CD singles knows... the problem is that there's a different release for every country/region of the world, often with differing tracks. Which is why this box set exists. It collects all of DMode's singles and attempts to compile all the different versions.

Going from 1981 to 2004, that makes up 36 singles, which is a heck of a lot of songs.

If you're wondering about the exact tracklisting, the record collector's resource is Discogs

Friday, April 28, 2017

Brian Setzer - solo


Brian Setzer actually made an attempt at contemporary rock (albeit still rootsy) with Knife Feels Like Justice in 1986, and Live Nude Guitars in 1988. Neither one was very successful in the US and it wasn't long before he returned to rockabilly.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stray Cats


The only successful revivalists go all in. You have to. You can't be a weekend warrior and make a career of it. Stray Cats did it right and are one of the few to go retro with authenticity.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Peter Gabriel


Funny enough, I find it hard to sit through an entire Peter Gabriel album beginning to end, but when looking at individual songs, there's a heck of a lot I like.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

OMD


Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark are another New Wave band that if you've only heard their mainstream hits (or the iconic scene in Pretty In Pink) you may be surprised upon hearing their first couple albums. That might have helped The Best Of OMD become a classic. That and it plays like a great album, more than just a collection of their hit songs.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spandau Ballet


Spandau Ballet were known for their international smash "True," but also derided as a caricature of New Wave's soft image. Actually, their first few albums were fairly experimental, sounding not too different from early Human League, OMD, etc.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Simple Minds


Simple Minds have been releasing albums since 1979. Their early years contain a lot of really inventive music, a moody kind of new wave influenced by Krautrock. Then they moved into some edgy, still moody rock albums before finding mainstream success. They're still at it, too, putting out consistently high quality stuff.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

House of Freaks


House of Freaks was the duo of Bryan Harvey and Johnny Hott. They had a minor hit in '88 with "40 Years," but sadly, their second album, though being better than their debut, failed to achieve success. They managed 2 more albums before backing Steve Wynn in the short-lived band Gutterball.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Corey Hart


Speaking of terminally un-hip artists... many people may be surprised to learn Corey Hart is one of the best-selling Canadian songwriters. Known internationally for his early '80s hits "Sunglasses at Night" and "Never Surrender," a deeper look into his work does reveal many gems along the way.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

John Mellencamp


John Cougar... John Cougar Mellencamp... John Mellencamp. Another artist who was, in my teen years, terminally un-hip. Only as an adult have I grown to appreciate him as a very consistent tunesmith, instead of unjustly seeing him as a 3rd-rate Springsteen.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

John Fogerty


Following the singer-songwriter thread, you cannot forget this guy. As an anecdote about how absurd the music industry is - in 1985, Fogerty was sued for sounding too much like... CCR, the band he founded as its singer, songwriter, guitar player, arranger, producer. So, he was essentially sued for sounding too much like himself. It's no wonder there have been two decade-long gaps in his recording career.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Steve Earle


From hard-rockin' to straight-up bluegrass, Steve Earle is a great songwriter, roots rocker, and as close as I get to "country" music.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Elvis Costello


Elvis Costello... forever the other Elvis. Anytime someone has produced a catalogue the size of his, there's gonna be something in there you like... and something you don't. But he is, without a doubt, a true songsmith.