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.