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OK, there’s more to ’80s music than meets the eye

Published 5:50pm Saturday, August 11, 2012

The 1980s have risen again.

Many people were glad to see the music of the 1980s fade into history, and I am one of many young music fans glad I started listening when the synth-pop, the new wave, the big hair and the over-the-top vocals were securely in the rearview mirror.

Then something happened.

In the last few years, a string of performers have been reviving the pop sensibilities of that decade I’d just as soon leave in the past. The surprising part; The revival is good.

I just don’t know what to believe anymore.

Let’s not forget the ‘80s saw Pink Floyd torn apart, Bob Dylan releasing disappointments, John Lennon murdered and many other acts dissipated into the past.

The popular acts of the day? Not my thing.

So why is this rebirth of ‘80s musicality working?

New bands are bringing many of the pop and rock styles of 1980s and blending them with modern music. One of the more well-known acts was The Strokes, the quintessential garage rock band of the early 2000s.

From the cubic-laden cover to the poppy, high-pitched guitars, 2011’s “Angles” wasn’t subtle in its tip of the cap to the aforementioned decade.

To name a few: The Horrors’ “Skying” brought back the soaring gothic tones; Psychedelic kings Yeasayer’s reinstated 1980s-like drums on “Ambling Alp.”

One of the latest to join this craze is Django Django, and the Scottish rockers’ self-titled debut is perhaps the best album — but perhaps one of the lesser known — in the trend.

I’m not going to beat around the bush, I typically loathe the music of the 1980s. But music overload is rampant today. Through iTunes, Amazon, Myspace,, NPR’s first listens and the many other music websites, there is more music than any one person can keep up with. And, many are making good — or at least on par — music that gets lost in the shuffle. Most of these new bands reinstating some ‘80s staples are a breath of fresh air in the ocean of modern bands.

A criticism of 1980s music is that it was too commercial. Looking back, it appears like rock lost its edge and that the early fervor and rebelliousness of rock gave way to all-powerful record companies.

Obviously, the 1980s were defined musically by MTV. The station is even a key thematic element in one of the decade’s defining novels: “Less Than Zero” by Bret Easton Ellis (moment of irony — the title was taken from a 1977 Elvis Costello song).

Lost in the glitz and glamor of an affluent era, there are many great songs, albums and bands, and they’re style is getting new life.

Every generation and decade in music has its gems and those acts we’d prefer to forget.

The 1990s, the decade I grew up listening to music, was a haven for boy bands, and the Spice Girls were a top selling act. I guess there’s not much room to judge.

So, as much as it pains me to admit, there is more to the 1980s than meets the eye.

Jason’s picks from the 1980s
•”Sound of Confusion” by Spacemen 3
•”Closer” by Joy Division
•”Combat Rock” by The Clash
•”Rain Dogs” by Tom Waits


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