Reason’s #4 and #5 Why The 80’s Didn’t Suck As Bad As We All Thought It Did
SUBJECT: Sandinista! by The Clash
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1980
I’m not delusional. I get why the triple album Sandinista! by The Clash splits critics and fans alike. I mean, come on, a triple album by a punk band? London Calling, a double, was pushing the envelope and to follow it up with a triple seems on the surface to be a grandiose act of pretension. Dub, reggae, dance hall, funk, straight ahead rock and roll, getting their kids to sing on a reworking of their classic Career Opportunities? It’s a chunky stew of masterpieces and, of course, some filler. I challenge you to cite any album in the history of rock music that contains only classics (well, maybe Revolver). It’s why the White Album remains my favorite Beatles record.
This 4th album by The Clash has always been my favorite by “The Only Band That Mattered”. Most critics point out that this would have made a fantastic single disk, but I say “what the _____?” Sure, after the all-over-the-map sonic brilliance that was London Calling, Sandinista! may have seemed like bloated meanderings. Honestly though, the meanderings and experimentation are what make it consistently enjoyable. Favorites shift and move all the time, and it’s like that for legions of Clash fans all over the globe. But the only place I have ever seen this album top a list was in a Best Albums of 1980 in The Village Voice.
Damn shame, but all the better for me. I’ll let the punters have their London Calling and the eponymous first release and I’ll just sit back and play “Somebody Got Murdered”, “Charlie Don’t Surf” and “The Call Up” until I pass out.
SUBJECT: Flush The Fashion by Alice Cooper
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1980
In stark contrast to the Sandinista!, Flush The Fashion is all about brevity, clocking in at just under 30 minutes. In 1979 venerable shock-rocker Alice Cooper enlisted the help of Cars/Queen/ Devo/The Stranglers/Bowie/Cheap Trick producer Roy Thomas Baker for his Flush The Fashion album. Baker had a tendency to polished his bands to such a high sheen that the end product had an almost antiseptic quality. Slick, professional, of it’s time. Not to say that’s a bad thing. It worked for The Cars. And it worked for Cooper.
Cooper had been struggling to create a decent follow up to his first solo effort Welcome To My Nightmare since 1975. All the albums leading up to Flush The Fashion sounded like retreads of his past glories and he needed to sound ‘hip’ again. Roy Thomas Baker was a VERY hot commodity around this time and Cooper was on the downward spiral, so why Baker decided to partner with Cooper is anyone’s guess. I’m really glad they did, though. Flush The Fashion is one of Alice Cooper’s best releases, his best since Nightmare, but it absolutely sounds like nothing that preceded it.
The longest song clock’s in at 4:06 (‘Pain’), but most stay close to the 3 minute mark. It’s a ‘new wave’ album to be sure, but it is also definitely an Alice Cooper album. If the music is new wave, the lyrics are typical of his past discography. Song titles like ‘Leather Boots’, ‘Grim Facts’ and ‘Dance Yourself To Death’ are all within the geographical boundaries of Cooper Town. Choppy guitars and synthesizers rule while the albums sole hit ‘Clones (We’re All)’ would have fit nicely on a Gary Newman record. This song was even covered by faux-prog rockers the Smashing Pumpkins and remains one of Cooper’s best known dirge-ditties to this day. To Cooper’s and Baker’s credit, Flush The Fashion nver sounds like an ageing rock star jumping someone else’s new wave train; it sounds like an ageing rock star who’s written a killer batch of songs.
It’s throwaway pop for sure, but it’s really good throwaway pop.
I’ve always believed that the early Alice Cooper Group were one hell of a great garage band, and I think Vince Furnier’s late 70’s and 80’s exploits have done much to tarnish the reputation of this once fantastic and vital group (his severe alcoholism might have had something to do with it!).
This album, however, is his last great album. I could care less about anything he’s released post 1980. Too bad.