The Golden Age?
The “New Wave”, that most maligned of fake music genres, is usually synonymous with bands like The Flock Of Seaguls, Haircut 100, Erasure, and any band that lent its talent to a John Hughes sound track..
LOTS of synthesizers.
And drum machines.
LOTS of drum machines.
And it all happened in the 1980’s.
There are probably close to 1000 new wave compilations out there, and pretty much all of them are definitely not representative of the best that decade had to offer.
Was it MTV with their ‘fashion first’ modus operandi that pigeonholed the good bands of the 80’s into the same genre as A-Ha, Naked Eyes and Wang Chung or was it actually the music itself? Knowing what I know about the really great bands of the 80’s I’d have to say no, it wasn’t the music.
During the late 70’s and all through the late 80’s artists such as Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson, Blondie, The Talking Heads, Squeeze, Split Enz, XTC, Tom Petty (!) and many others were labeled “New Wave” bands, for no real reason other than they defied categorization due to their disparate influences and sounds.
I think that the term “New Wave” was an over simplistic way of saying “sounds different”. The easy way out for rock critics around the globe.
A lot of the bands that came out of that era were fantastic. Some were disposable, sure, and some were artsy and some had longevity, but the term that I like to remember the 80’s by is diversity. Not since the 1960’s has a decade produced so many different genres and styles. Goth, Electro, Madchester, House, Ska, Hardcore, Experimental Pop (synth and otherwise), Chamber, Grebo and the birth of the late 80’s Alternative movement which is still bearing fruit to this day. Sure, you could argue that those movements were all started in the late 70’s, and I suppose you could go back even further if you were so inclined.
Yes, there were failed experiments, of course there was, but name me a decade that didn’t have them and I’ll buy you a vintage Atari game console complete with Asteroids and Space Invaders cartridges. But the successes far outweigh the failures, really and truly.
Here’s my own personal list of the best “New Wave” from that decade. Those that lived through it, chime in. This is by no means a complete list, that’s what you’re here for!
The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead
The The, Soul Mining
Tears For Fears, The Hurting
ABC, The Lexicon Of Love
Art Of Noise, Who’s Afraid Of?
Big Audio Dynamite, The Globe
Blue Peter, Radio Silence
Camper Van Beethoven, Telephone Free Landslide Victory
The Specials, The Specials
Elvis Costello, Armed Forces (and many others)
Joe Jackson, Night And Day (and Jumpin’ Jive!)
The Cars, Candy O
China Crisis, Working With Fire And Steel
The Cure, Head On The Door (I like it better than Disintegration)
David Bowie, Scary Monsters
Depeche Mode, Some Great Reward
XTC, Skylarking (and many others)
Orange Juice, Rip It Up
English Beat, I Just Can’t Stop It!
Gang Of Four, Entertainment
The Fixx, Reach The Beach (come on, you know you like it!)
The Lilac Time, The Lilac Time
Hoodoo Gurus, Mars Needs Guitars
The Jazz Butcher, A Scandal In Bohemia
Lloyd Cole, Rattlesnakes
Love And Rockets, Express
Men Without Hats, Rhythm Of Youth (I will fight anyone who disagrees)
New Order, Power, Corruption And Lies (and many more)
OMD, Architecture And Morality
Police, Zenyatta Mondatta
Prefab Sprout, Steve McQueen
Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk Talk
Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Flaunt It!
Simple Minds, New Gold Dream
Sisters Of Mercy, Floodland
The Stranglers, Feline
Style Council, Singular Adventures Of
Talk Talk, The Colour Of Spring
Tears For Fears, The Hurting
Teenage Head, Frantic City
Thomas Dolby, The Flat Earth