Thursday, November 30, 2017

EDITOR BOY'S TOP 200 SONGS OF THE '80s (126-117)

"Cat Burglar"
Flesh For Lulu deserve a lot better than being that band who had a hit via John Hughes ("I Go Crazy").  They also made a small memorable dent with "Postcards From Paradise." Those singles came after the initial years of struggle: an uneven debut and the mostly neglected nearly-classic sophomore LP (Big Fun City).

Singer Nick Marsh was a lot less preposterous sounding than his goth-glam looks hinted at.  Underneath, was an ace pop singer with an ear to punk's most endearing qualities (dynamics, hooks, and speed). All in all, they bear a much stronger kinship to bands like The Hoodoo Gurus and The Replacements than Bauhaus or Gene Loves Jezebel.  "Cat Burglar" is T. Rex revamped for the next generation.

"Run Me Down"
Some bands you really don't need to know the history to enjoy.  The Higsons are a perfect example of that.  Not that they don't deserve more than a passing glance and acknowledgment of significance with the post-punk world where so many lived and died by the 7" single.
But live and die they did. Amongst an eclectic array of singles circa 1981-1984 and a lone LP, the band was a classic style crasher in the best post-punk sense.  "Run Me Down" falls right into place with bands like APB, Gang Of Four, Medium Medium etc.  A genius moment of post-punk funk if there ever was one.  And not a bad imitation of Kevin Rowland in spots.

"Tell Me When It's Over"
With major cues from Lou Reed, The Dream Syndicate offered a mix of San Francisco acid and CBGB (re: Television) style to the nascent Paisley Underground movement.  Fewer things were cooler in 1982 than a smart untrendy rock band bucking every fad possible but still being gorgeously of the moment.  It's still an unexplainable phenomena to witness a band pull this off.  
Losing any odor of retro-minded nostalgia with music so deeply connected to the past is a rare feat only the most gifted artists achieve.  Luckily, Steve Wynn found like-minded spirits to bring it to fruition.  "Tell Me When It's Over" is that great cool classic rock song of 1982.  Just don't tell anyone it's from 1982 or that it's "classic rock."

"Don't Run Wild"
As I've been compiling this list going back and forth and omitting personal faves versus obvious standout choices, I am happy to rediscover and HEAR some things I know deserve inclusion.  Now, in retrospect, a song like this really stands out.  It definitely fits right in with the whole cow-punk and neo-Garage movement.  As much as the band touts their Boston heritage, I hear Los Angeles and some distant Mexicali dirt underneath. A seductively cool track.  And drums that sound the way '80s drums should sound.  Most likely inspired by T-Bone Burnett.

Side one of Louder Than Bombs clearly showed that Johnny Marr and Morrissey were at the height of their creative powers. With natch pop wonders such as this and "Sheila Take A Bow," it's a shame Marr would hang it up before the end of 1987.
"Panic," despite sounding very "normal" as far as The Smiths were concerned, was still seemingly out of left field.  Such things were the wonders of rediscovering pop that had a sharp melodic sense more akin to the late '60s.  Amongst the dross of 1986, this was a revelation.

Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas had very pure hearts for such a difficult decade. And nothing tops this hypnotic blend of pop that takes cues from cow punks like Rank & File and Southern alt pop like Guadalcanal Diary. It's a highly deserving classic track that highlights the genius of producer T-Bone Burnett who should've ousted Jeff Lynne as producer du jour for the late '80s.

"Because I Love You"
It took a while for Tom Evans and Joey Molland to regroup after the death of Pete Ham, whose voice was the lead on most of their hits.  But Badfinger was really a group effort and Tom and Joey balanced out Pete's melancholy with more country and blues-based tunes. 
1979's Airwaves and 1981's Say No More (which features this gem) were basically two isolated "last stabs" at restarting the band.  Both releases saw minimal results and by 1983 all attempts to continue were gone after the death of Tom Evans.
Nevertheless, "Because I Love You" holds up amongst the band's classic catalog and deserves inclusion with their classic hits. It's also proof that Joey Molland had the goods to pull off top-shelf power pop when needed.  

"Rise Above" 
The mix of low grade artwork and odd raw fidelity created some other-world sense when one discovered Damaged.  This searing little thrasher of an opener is hard to top. And for the sake of hardcore punk, it feels like it starts and ends here.  Tragically, it was tough to expand, although Fugazi figured it out by the end of the decade (re: "Margin Walker" and "Waiting Room"). 

"40 Years"
Long before the White Stripes and Black Keys, Bryan Harvey and Johnny Hott were alternative music's premiere duo.  Mixing rootsy Americana music that was akin to earlier cow-punk bands with Harvey's rich (sometimes Lennonesque) voice, the band created a sound that was sharp and deeply lyrical (southern roots, indeed). 
"40 Years" should've been the tune that opened the gates for them.  Instead, they struggled like many smart guitar-based bands in the late '80s and faded away by the mid '90s.
After singer Bryan Harvey's death in 2006, singer Grant-Lee Phillips (as the "town troubadour")  paid tribute to Harvey's legacy by performing "40 Years" on TV's Gilmore Girls.

"Love Is A Wind That Screams"
After a scrapped 3rd LP from The Bongos, Richard Barone rebounded as a solo artist in classic bohemian form.  Not too many artists sought this path: a semi-unplugged alt-folk quartet. Years later it would be tagged as "orch-pop." 
Taking cues from the more acoustic-based White Album tracks and Marc Bolan's Tyrannosaurus Rex--Lennon's "Cry Baby Cry" and Marc Bolan's "The Visit" are covered on the same LP--Barone enlisted Jane Scarpantoni (cello), Nick Celeste (acoustic guitar and backing vocals) and Valerie Naranjo (percussion) to flesh out a unique spin on the concept that was blissfully out-of-step with most of 1987's musical trends.
The end result was a musical revelation for Barone whose solo debut, Cool Blue Halo, was a live recording at NYC's Bottom Line.
Besides the aforementioned cover versions, Barone recast several Bongos songs and two tracks from his 1983 side project, Nuts And Bolts. To keep in step with such high company, Barone included three new originals ("I Belong To Me," "Tangled In Your Web" and "Love Is A Wind That Screams").  All three are worthy of inclusion on this list, but the most haunting and timeless cut was "Love Is A Wind That Screams."  On the 25th anniversary edition of "Cool Blue Halo," The Band's Garth Hudson, replete with accordion, joined the reunited quartet for a riveting rendition of the song. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

EDITOR BOY'S TOP 200 SONGS OF THE '80s (136-127)

"Join The Professionals"
It's crazy how brilliant the initial post-Sex Pistols output truly is. From PIL's "Public Image" to Glen Matlock's Rich Kids' "Ghost Of Princes In Towers" to this monster call-to-arms from Steve Jones and Paul Cook, it wasn't a bad thing they broke up. In truth, there's probably more goodies created in the wake than there would have been had they stuck it out.

"The Distance Between"
Chosing what Crenshaw tunes make the cut ain't easy. He's got at least 10 that are worthy of entry here. So it's a matter of impact and sheer brilliance.
This one comes at a point that's transitional in his career. Gone is the 3-piece band backed by his brother on drums. In is something more locked in with the times and Marshall's aesthetic. T-Bone Burnett was definitely a better fit than Steve Lillywhite and the artwork for the LP (Downtown) was sharp. What was still in place was Marshall's muse and keen melodic sense.  And a gem for the ages such as this.

"That's What Life Is All About"
Paul, along with Jack Lee and Peter Case, were The Nerves. They didn't last beyond a lone 4-song EP and a shambolic DIY tour of the USA. Peter went on to form the Plimsouls and Jack made a boatload writing hit songs for Blondie and Paul Young. Paul formed The Beat, but had to alter the name to avoid confusion (and lawsuits) from Dave Wakeling's (English) Beat.
Paul landed a major label deal in the wake of The Knack's success and debuted with an LP cut from the same cloth but was fiercer, deeper, and less reliant on cheap misogony. His 1982 follow-up, The Kids Are The Same, was one of the few LPs of the era to stand toe-to-toe with its predecessor. (Power pop bands rarely had such strong shelf life; energy was hard to sustain.)
Tough truth about 1982 was that power pop did not make inroads with the advent of MTV, despite getting airplay. (Note: Paul's most atypical track, the slower paced rocker, "On The Highway" did get him some decent MTV exposure.)
This tune opens things up with what should be remembered as the greatest Buddy Holly rip of the '80s. A true extension of Buddy's vision kicking it a little harder for the modern world.

"Once In A Lifetime"
In many ways they're too easy to take for granted. And it's a given that they've got (and earned) the respect. It took me a longer time than usual to appreciate their genius.
This tune, however, was always immediate and brilliant. A big unique exclamation point that said, "we are in a new decade," musically speaking.

It's still hard to discern what influenced a record like this. It is post-punk funk in step with the 1981-1982 UK pop milieu. It's total kitchen sink. And it's pure trend.
Like, if you played this song to the band when they were kids and said, "THIS is what you will be doing in 10 years time," they would have probably flogged you silly. Even with music as prescient as Brian Eno, Roxy Music and David Bowie in the mid '70s, you would still have trouble drawing any path towards this concoction.
There's a whiff of David Byrne and Devo's herky-jerkyness, but beyond that, it feels like they grabbed the rest from the clouds.

"This Damn Nation"
Proof that there was great modern punk-influenced hard rock with teeth in the mid-'80s. Of course, it didn't really catch on beyond anglophiles and the college radio circles. Which is tragic. They were far less problematic than The Cult; they cut to the chase and were as authoritative as their name implied.
This tune is an unflinching masterpiece; jetting with a coarse and searing apocalyptic slice of riffage and closing with an ominous count down.

"If I Could Walk Away"
Marti was a misplaced soul in the mid 1980s. Looking very much like any normal suburban house wife, it came as a surprise that her solo debut (Unsophisticated Time) was loaded with hip covers from the likes of The Bongos, The dBs and Elvis Costello. The obvious influence was her cohort and producer, Don Dixon, who opened her up to the world of indie pop. Besides great cover choices, there were other unknown gems. And appropriately enough, this one was penned by Dixon. It's a heartbreaker to end all heartbreakers with Jones' powerful performance; taking cues from Dusty Springfield, but creating her own world. Too bad, 1985 wasn't the right place for such timeless classic pop.

"Talk Talk"
They would get better with age. Great artistic vision and a much better sense of evolving while so many other contemporaries lost the thread by the second half of the decade.
In some ways they don't fit in; not nearly as top 40-MTV-minded as Duran Duran and definitely cooler than Classix Nouveaux.

128. HEAVEN 17
"Let Me Go"
Oddly enough, this synth pop gem about fleeting love and the woe of a broken heart didn't crash the charts as impressive as singles from Human League, OMD and Soft Cell. It wasn't until the following year that they'd hit the UK top 10 with "Temptation." As it stands, "Let Me Go" towers like the magical 7" everyone dreamt came each week after scouring NME and Smash Hits for the next buzz. Sure there were others, but fondness for this tune remained eternal. We couldn't let it go.

"For A Moment We're Strangers"
Nowadays people seem to forget that these guys were brilliant from the get-go. And despite a thicker new wave vibe to their early sound, it was still very much a unique blend of post-punk era psychedelic-tinged rock. Steve Kilbey emerged as the intriguing frontman with wonderfully oblique lyrics and a cool a sense of classic glam-era powers like Steve Harley, David Bowie and Bryan Ferry.
This tune opens the door wide with almost too much cool for its own good. After so much snarl over the past four years, this approach probably smacked many as retro. Luckily, there were other kindred spirits afloat like The Chameleons, Love & Rockets, Psychedelic Furs, and Robyn Hitchcock who helped build an alternate universe to the powers at hand (hair metal, chintzy new wave) and the fading impact of our aforementioned early '70s heroes.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

EDITOR BOY'S TOP 200 SONGS OF THE '80s (147-137)

"Oh Lucinda (Love Becomes A Habit)"
If you search Youtube and check the history, you'll probably notice that they just don't fit in with the punk and New Wave class. About as exiled as The Stranglers, but of equal value despite a short life-span, they belong right up there with the best. This tune is proof that they were above most of the class where few were capable of creating something so cool (like Lou Reed) and sublime whilst keeping a deep British vibe intact.

"Talking In The Canteen"
Upon reflection there were a lot more great punk/mod power pop singles after 1980 than most people realize. And in some cases, like these guys, it's where they peaked. It all seems rather simple, but god knows if you're willing to claw your way through the piles and piles and piles of lone 7" releases made by all the upstarts, those who got lucky, and the truly gifted; you'll figure out at some delirious point that such magic as this A side, just ain't a bunch of yobs cutting cookies. Well, it may be a bunch of yobs, but they earned their keep by this release in 1981 shortly after most trains left for post punk pastures or the day job. And it's only a tale about sitting in the canteen and eying birds. All solid back and forth until the end where they unleash the bridled tension.

By Trust Elvis dug himself in. This is the classiest of showings. Iconic with a sense of progression before "The '80s" really took hold.

"The Tunnel Of Love"
After The Specials, Terry Hall formed Fun Boy 3. Despite all the glory etc. that is heaped on The Specials (deserving, yes, but it's hardly Terry's defining moment) it would be his later projects and solo efforts that showed how gifted an artiste he was. "Tunnel Of Love" is a genius slice of soap opera song craft debunking trendier sonics for some futuristic classicism melding Beatles/Zombies orch pop with a stiff post-punk upper lip.

It IS New Wave... and in a good way. This is where the whole deal peaks. A Thomas Dolby-penned tune and just the right amount of punch and je ne sais quoi... All before MTV comes in and ruins it for everyone.

Definitely a band too late to the party, but damn if that shit don't matter once you hear it. Fuck The Jam. Fuck The Damned. By late 1981 those guys couldn't be bothered with such uncluttered blasts of punk urgency such as this. Of course, for them it was water under the bridge, but if you still wanted to kick it hard and fast with a hook for the ages, it was out on the margins for such diehards as these guys (who, truth be told, probably thought this was where things were still heading despite the "leaders" going elsewhere).

"I Wanna Go Home"
I can say that Holly's lack of success and critical acclaim is a crime against humanity, but it still won't change things and everyone will still go on listening to Joan Jett records ad infinitum. It's the way of the world. If you care to dig deeper into the well and find better cooler more refined original female punk-inspired pop, this is it. She really is Joey Ramone's lost soul sister.

"Touchin' The Wind"
The transition from the '70s into the '80s wasn't an easy one. Before the forces of selling out got too overwhelming there were last gasps of pure genius like this tune from the highly under rated Scuba Divers LP which went through a zillion incarnations to become the final product.

"Our World"
This is the energized sound of the new post-NYC punk drifting over to Hoboken where bands like The Bongos, The Feelies and The dB's would be part of a new underground scene that set the course for R.E.M.
Glen Morrow was the brains behind The Individuals and would find more lucrative rewards with his own record label, Bar/None, years later. For those early daze of the 1980s, however, the gold was in music and "Our World" captures it.
Perfection, indeed.

"We Can Get Together"
There's quite a few bands in the '80s whose initial bursts truly overshadow the rest. Or, in the case of Icehouse (depending on your tastes), the burst is just a fluke pop-single moment made for the ages. Kind of a crazy thought for a band who placed 28 songs onto the Australian charts from 1980 to 2004.

"I Can't Get 'Bouncing Babies' By The Teardrop Explodes"
This song, along with its b-side ("Tell Her I'm Ill") is one of the greatest 45s ever released. Coming from a band who only released 45s, it is a touching sentiment.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

R.I.P. Gary Sperrazza!

As a quick one, to note the passing of the under-valued treasure that was Gary Sperazza! (I'm only basing this on his Bomp! Magazine input) I will just throw a list together that has been a life-long search TOTALLY inspired by his delineation of 1970s Hard Rock (in The Power Pop Periphery)...

When record shopping (and now, youtube searching etc) I always have that aesthetic in mind: Hard Rock With Pop Influences...  Of the stuff he noted (April Wine, Artful Dodger, Piper, Starz, Bad Boy, Earthquake, Rabbit) a good chunk would, in time, be accepted as Power Pop by the powers that be and other curators.

Gary Sperrazza!: "Most of them (bands) are all extensions of the post-Glitter days with strong Deep Purple overtones.  However, almost every single one of these bands manage to come up with at least one memorable record. "

The ones who leaned closer to Deep Purple were bands like Boston, Legs Diamond, Kiss, Aerosmith etc.












Tuesday, January 12, 2016

17 David Bowie Clips of Note

the ones that are just audio clips were chosen because they seem like neglected classics... the others are either, rare or just worth checking out and prove that a lot happened outside of his hey daze of 1970-1980

01. “Cracked Actor” (BBC Documentary 1975)

02. DAVID BOWIE- Five Years (live 2005 with Arcade Fire)

03. DAVID BOWIE- Letter To Hermoine (1968 home recording)

04. DAVID BOWIE- Love Missile F1-11 (Sigue Sigue Sputnik cover, 2003)

05. DAVID BOWIE- Waterloo Sunset (Kinks cover, 2003)

06. TIN MACHINE- Bus Stop (1989)

07. DAVID BOWIE- Little Wonder (live 2000)

08. DAVID BOWIE- Oh! You Pretty Things (alternate take BBC, 1972)

09. DAVID BOWIE- Seven (1999)

10. TIN MACHINE- Debaser (live 1991)

11. DAVID BOWIE- Strangers When We Meet (1993/5)

12. DAVID BOWIE- Conversation Piece (2001, “Toy” version)

13. DAVID BOWIE- Dead Man Walking (live, acoustic on Conan O’Brien)

14. DAVID BOWIE- Uncle Floyd (aka Slip Away) original full version with soundbite

15. DAVID BOWIE- Loving The Alien (1984)

16. DAVID BOWIE- The Motel (1995)

17. DAVID BOWIE- Life On Mars (live 2005)

Monday, October 19, 2015

EDITOR BOY'S TOP 200 SONGS OF THE '80s (175-148)

Apologies for the delay of game.  I could blame writer's block again, but that's only half true. Work and life got in the way and slowed things down, and being motivated to jump back in was tough. But I got so lost in it I did more than 25 tunes this time.  I still want to finish before X-Mas and need to get back to record reviews (yes!).
There's a nice eclectic mix to this lot... But it's still all tunes that really resonate with me and seriously define the decade and how it was a big happy mess.


"Boredom Is The Reason"
It was really weird to move out to Los Angeles in 1986 and see what had happened to all the punk and hardcore kids after the Decline Of Western Cilization et al.  Not that I cared or followed much after Black Flag's Damaged and the Dead Kennedy's Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables.  Everything seemed to drift away from melody and hook in transfer for something less fun and interesting. More brooding metallic punk was not what I was looking for. 

"Boredom Is The Reason" is a flash of good old fashioned punk rock verve with solid lyrical consciousness ("you wear a swastika to shock and offend, it becomes so passive, just another trend") that seemed beyond the grasp when it hit in 1984.

THE ANGELS (aka Angel City)
"No Secrets" 
This was one of those seemingly edgy New Wave songs that aired on late night video shows like Hollywood Heartbeat, Rockworld and HBO's Video Jukebox.  In retrospect it's basically a straight ahead rock song touched up with those punchy late 70s guitars and a nervous singer.  Since it rarely made it beyond college radio airplay, it's always had an air of secrecy to it.  For us kids trying to keep the TV volume down at 2am when we saw it for the first time, it was really a seriously heavy blast of modern rock that made us feel like there was something else out there besides Bruce Springsteen and Dire Straits.

"A Broken Horse"
LA's early '80s paisley underground spawned a lot of goodies in a very short span.  It really peaked between 1983-1985.  And even though the Brothers Roback split--Dave went off to form the pre-jazzy Star outfit with former Dream Syndicate member Kendra Smith--by the time this EP was made, the SOUND of the band had evolved to it's most deeply refined and inspired. For me, this was the dream moment of everything you wished the Byrds and Neil Young could be in the (then) present day.

"Academy Fight Song"
Of all the Burma biggies (especially "That's When I Reach For My Revolver" and the definitive hardcore rush, "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate") this one feels the most universal.   And to some degree it is their most standard sounding rock song.  But that doesn't detract from it.  It's a hook to die for; the "not not not not"s echoed for years until I tracked this tune down (being a lone single in the pre-CD reissue years made it scarce).  

"Deep One Perfect Morning"
As much as the worship and praise deservedly gets thrown towards the debut, Psychocandy, the 2nd LP still had moments that showed the band hadn't lost fire or the ear for something that could keep you hooked forever.

"Never Let Me Down Again"
If there was any point where their validity was sealed, it was with this tune.  The ever so slightly changing of the guard; away from the twee and clank of the 84-86 run and into some dense foreboding future.  And even some see it as a murky gloom, this one really balances out with an intense, slightly euphoric build that doesn't relent.  

"Perfume Garden"
Even though this is where the band is produced within an inch of losing their identity, it never gets away from what is the essence of the band, which is the muse of Mark Burgess.  A gorgeous surge of a tune and some brief quick shutter glimpse of a moment.

At some point in the early '80s Todd Rundgren decided to take one last crack at writing a great power pop song a la "Couldn't I Just Tell You."  One of them ("Heaven's Falling") he gave to Cheap Trick for the LP he produced, Next Position Please. The other was this gem which ended up on Utopia's 1984 LP, Oblivion.

"Wide Awake"
This is one of those out of the blue strokes of pop magic that proves you should never under estimate anyone.  Elliot's lone solo outing (much like Ace Frehley's solo debut) was far more impressive than the big shots in The Cars (Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr).  Secret weapon was Jules Shear, who co-wrote the tunes with Elliot.

"Da-a- a-a nce"
With very few exceptions (The Vapors), most mod bands paled in comparison to The Jam.  But most had at least one or two fleeting moments of pop genius.  For The Lambrettas, it was this short and to the point nugget.  Punchy (and a bit dated), it still holds up due its momentary style and innocence. Not to be repeated.

"Heaven Help Me"
For me this is the unofficial spiritual connector to the Jesus & Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey."  For us Stateside they appeared from an odd distant (UK) label, Blanco Y Negro. Both tunes evoke some distant Phil Spector vibe but respectively create some modern middle '80s template; one drenched in reverb and distant feedback, the other (this tune) more traditional with piano and Tracey Thorn's torch singer delivery.  This moment predates the Reid Brothers' by only a few months. 

"All Day"
In retrospect I find it silly to see people divided about this band and their early synth pop beginnings.  A lot of it has enough depth to compete with anyone's fave early '80s UK import a la Soft Cell, Gang Of Four, Heaven 17.  And that's how I prefer to remember them, even though the groundbreaking scream of "Stigmata" was indeed a big deal. This is the sound of walking into alternative dance clubs and not knowing what the fuck you were listening to.

"Wild Flower"
It's still an odd and slightly tragic reality to know that this band's godhead and genius debut (1984's Limping For A Generation) is virtually unknown whilst their lone legacy is a so-so pop hit called "Digging Your Scene."  What's missed is a brilliant concoction that mixed Marc Bolan along with pre-Acid Jazz Jazz swing and some sense of early '80s New Romantic verve that equaled Martin Fry in its smashing sense of outward aplomb. 

With song titles like "He's Shedding Skin," "Atomic Lullaby," "Fat Cat Belusha," "Professor Supercool," "Man From Russia," "Waiting For Mr. Moonlight" and "Trashtown Incident" it should've knocked down more doors. Alas, the public didn't bite and the boys dumbed it down to break the scene.  "Wild Flower" is the classic single that never was.

"Uncertain Smile" (12" version)
There's still something so very "other" about this record. And it hit at a point when there was an anything goes mentality. So why not 10 minutes of something hypnotic and unique?  Matt Johnson would go on and become a pretty well known '80s alternative musical figure but this entry point still remains his most audacious. Very deeply intriguing.

"Freak Scene"
Even though 1985's "Repulsion" really felt like a harbinger of what would become the slacker and indie aesthetic, it is 1988's "Freak Scene" that holds up as the stunning classic.  And seriously, they never improved upon it despite exploring heavier and weirder spaces and getting tagged in the grunge scene.

"Ode To A Koala Bear"
McCartney's lowest point musically was 1981-1985.  Sure he was creative and could come up with a tune... And despite the well-intentioned Tug Of War the sense of the magic and spark that was Macca seemed hard to find. After Back To The Egg the cherry picking became a lot harder. It wasn't until he aligned himself with 10cc's Eric Stewart by mid decade, that he began to blossom again, and his late '80s collaboration with Elvis Costello ended things on a high note.

So, why this "lost" tune?  Well, it might have to do with the fact that Paul can sometimes be at his best when he is not over-thinking or trying too hard. His gifts are so deeply entrenched in him, that sometimes a "ditty" is pure magic and can hold as a timeless pop classic.  Not that this one is, but it definitely holds up.  There is very little known about it, but it definitely FEELS and sounds like a musical answer to John's "(Just Like) Starting Over."


Before The Smiths there was Orange Juice. Besides their label mates Aztec Camera (who really gave Johnny Marr a lot to chew on) Edwyn Collins and company really created an obtuse pop netherworld that left boys like Morrissey dreaming of something else besides the New York Dolls.  It's pop, but it's quite weird.
This is the moment where everything seemed up for grabs with unabated youthful pop vision.

"Brush Me Back"
Like R.E.M., who they drew a lot of inspiration from, Dumptruck's '80s output has a significant point where they break from the more obscure artful sense and become more direct.  Unlike, R.E.M., with Dumptruck this was a good thing. Their first two albums were the type that got most of us indie college pop nut jobs all in a tizzy.  In retrospect, they sound a bit uneven.  Seems Seth Tiven's muse would grow and become fully formed by 1987 when a lot of the buzz was on the way down. Many of our faves by this point had either broken up (Bongos) or had splintered (dB's).  So, when 1987's For The Country came out it was one of the greatest unexpected surprises. Too bad it was 1987 and not 1995 where they would've given The Jayhawks' Tomorrow The Green Grass a serious run for its money as the best alt-country album.
"Brush Me Back" is a timeless gem that has the classic effortless grace of Neil Young.  Seth Tiven deserves the highest praise for being able to create this at a point when no one else (except Flying Color) was even in the same time zone.  Producer Hugh Jones (yes!) is the secret weapon.

"Dear Friend"
Even more obscure and removed from the mainstream than Dumptruck was this proto-alt Country pop band who really knew their way around a hook and made one quick debut and fell off the face of the earth.  The only thread of hipster cred came with producer Tom Mallon who joined American Music Club around the same time.
"Dear Friend" is a glorious roots-rock based Power Pop classic; just a little bit more twangy than the Plimsouls but still very '80s California-esque. 

"I Remember"
The power pop side of punk that would become de riguer after 1992 when Green Day exploded, was still a great underground secret in 1987 despite the best interests of The Descendents who really did all of the hard labor by laying down the groundwork.  Leave it to the Canadians to help solidify a movement. Along with The Nils, John Kastner's Doughboys made the late 80s an exciting time for underground punk that thrived on hooks and melody (and brevity).
"I Remember" is the great introduction I had, and it has yet to age or lose impact.  It's always an immediate, "Turn it up!" moment.

"In Green Fields"
One of the coolest things I got to see in the '80s was my childhood friend Frank Daly become a legitimate player in the underground punk rock scene.  Not that long after our air guitar stints as Kiss in my parent's basement, Frank jumped into the fray as a member X1 Whiteman (among others) until he met Mark Arnold and joined Raw Material which ended in as mysterious a way as Ritchey Edwards' exit from Manic Street Preachers. Mark and Frank were lucky to join Mike Conley for the last phase of M.I.A. circa 1986. Big Drill Car was formed just as M.I.A. was ending.  They debuted in 1988 with their Small Block EP.  In 1989 they hit their stride with CD Type Thing which included this classic which set the blueprint for most to follow.  Now, if only Frank could get a check for paving the way for Green Day and the rest who took the formula to the bank.

"Build A House"
Personally, this tune should be in my top 20, but I'm trying to balance my personal faves with choices that had some impact. And it definitely sucks that this formation of Dancing Hoods never took hold after only one godhead album, 12 Jealous Roses. (A debut EP had preceded it.) Dancing Hoods were a double threat with Bob Bortnick and Eric Williams as lead singers. Guitarist, and future Sparklehore main man, Mark Linkous had yet to step out of the shadows; he did lend a hand in the songwriting process, however.
Bortnick would end up holding onto the band after he and Eric split in 1987.  
What got lost in the split was the pure pop essence of Williams.  On 12 Jealous Roses its songs like "Build A House" that give it a deeper value than just another garage power pop elpee.  This was one of the few that could hold its own against The Plimsouls and Hoodoo Gurus. "Build A House" will forever be one of the greatest love songs ever written in the middle 1980s. Still makes my summer playlist every year.

"Smalltown Boy"
Some '80s synth pop songs transcend their trappings and are far above mere dance floor fodder.  And almost all of them came from the UK.  As much as I enjoy a lot of synth pop, there's a ton I can live without.  Can't exactly say why, but the difference between "Smalltown Boy" and everything by The Communards is massive. Chalk it up to pop luck.  Wonder in a moment.  An echo of some classic melancholy woe.  This one's got it.  And you can dance to it.

"Cico Buff" 
So there's lists and there's compilations and there's a lot of Cocteau Twins music to dig through; most of which all is of some real interest.  But for all the praise and reverence for early stuff like "Lorlei" and "Sugar Hiccup" I don't seriously connect to their stuff until 1988's Blue Bell Knoll which is probably a very unhip thing to say.
Nonetheless, try and find a more gorgeously hypnotic song than this one. For me, this is it.  A peak.

"From Blenheim Crescent To Cheyne Walk"
If I didn't have a French Connection (writer and DJ, Jose Ruiz) I would've never heard of Johan Asherton.  In France, the '80s saw a big resurgence in garage rock and a vociferous following for '70s punk legends who never got their due (Johnny Thunders, Elliot Murphy, Willie Alexander). 
Asherton was part of the new uprising with a band called The Froggies. He went solo by decade's end.  This track is a very cool, to the point, acoustic homage to Marc Bolan that gets past being just that and goes one better by making it fresh and new for the turn of the decade.  A truly inspired moment.

"New York, New York" 
It's easy to get long winded about Andy Shernoff and Handsome Dick Manitoba. Simply put, The Dictators were/are one of the all-time greatest live rock and roll bands to walk the earth. And their legacy, after all these  twisting years has finally gotten most of its due. Their time spent in the wilderness that was the 1980s was only seen by diehard New York area fans who caught their incendiary live reunion shows.  Top Ten went on to form the Del Lords and by the late '80s Andy, Handsome Dick and Ross The Boss formed Wild Kingdom with JP Patterson and Daniel Rey.  This lone ball of fire track, was a "lost" Dictators track that finally got its due on the Mondo New York soundtrack.  To say it RIPS is an understatement.  Lemmy blinked for this one, I'm sure.

"New Thing"
I had zero tolerance for almost all of the 1980s hair metal bands once Mutt Lange forgot what a snare and kick drum were and began to indulge with samples and sequencers to make it all poofy and pointless. It all went south so fast with Motley Spue and the rest of 'em.  Even standard bearers like Cheap Trick fell victim of songwriting teams and faceless power ballads.  What a fucking mess it was. 
Leave it to some closet Off Broadway fans to bring some sense of classic pop virtue and old school '70s hard rock dynamics.  Sure, they had the hair, and the drums were still a bit poofy, but at least there was a real drum track. And this one just jumped out of the radio and said, "Here's how it's done!" Sadly it was bit too late, but these Chi-town boys did at least get some cred and recognition and became a fave among the cross over power pop fans who had a sweet tooth for good hard rock.

"Ace Of Spades"
This could be in the top 20 and is probably the greatest hard rock song of the decade.  Alas, my '80s tastes seriously vary, but I will put this stone cold classic right next to Prefab Sprout as something akin in its sense of purity and vision. It's all in the attack.