Monday, February 18, 2008

Alternative Eighties - various artists (BMG 2002)

I bought this CD on the premise that it was cheap and seduced by the 'alternative' in the title, as my memories of the 80s were of pretty crap music and bands with bad hair. However as I have since discovered not that many of the bands represented here are very alternative at all in terms of being alternative to the 'mainstream' - indeed they may actually only be alternative to other 80s complilations! And not all of the tunes are strictly from the 80s, although a few sneak in via reissues. However it's somewhat refreshing - you won't find the usual suspects such as Wham, Duran Duran, Human League and Culture Club here.

Some of the reasons to give this complilation a willing ear: 'Boys don't cry' by The Cure before they became completely miserable; Echo and the Bunnymen's serene and sulty 'Killing Moon'; the best song ever to get in the top 10, 'Party Fears Two' by the Associates (their inclusion finally answered the puzzle of whence came that naggingly gorgeous piano riff from Radio 4's Weekending); 'Birthday' by the Sugarcubes with its daft, childlike lyrics; the rumbling 'There's a ghost in my house' by The Fall. 'Blue Monday' is a bit obvious from New Order but it's still a good tune. I remember my history teacher at school tried to introduce us to the Icicle Works on one of the last days of term and we all sneered but 'Love is a wonderful colour' is appealing in a bombastic kind of way. There are also not too many songs with the dreaded honking saxophone solo, although 'Brilliant mind' by Furniture sneaks one in. There is no respite!! I won't admit to having a soft spot for 'The King of Rock and Roll' by Prefab Sprout and will blame it instead on the giant hot dog in the video.

Yet there are also plenty of reasons to give this a wide berth. For a start it has the Blow Monkeys, Elvis Costello and the Style Council, peddling their horrible light soul funk jazz whatever... such artists should be kept far away from me. So should the Bluebells with the hideous 'Young at heart' which has troubled the charts for too many weeks in its time - they make me want to vomit, although not as much as Marti Pellow or Simply Red. I also cannot understand the inclusion of Erasure, surely they have always been mainstream? The rest are tolerable but I wouldn't rush out to overdose on information about the Passions, Bauhaus, The Only Ones, The Primitives, The Lotus eaters or the Psychedelic Furs or a whole host of bands with the prefix 'The'. They probably all use saxophones too.

As with all these compilations its rather frustrating that they could have included so many more bands who actually deserve the title of 'alternative' but then it's probably just a lazy cash in to coincide with some resurgance in the popularity of the 1980s. Still it has its uses especially if my idea for an 80s disco comes to fruition...

Boring fact - Michael Dempsey is possibly the most featured bass player here, appearing as he does on 'Boys don't cry', 'Party Fears Two' and 'The first picture of you.'

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