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   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #205  (Vol. 5, No. 9)  This edition is for the week of February 23--29, 2004.
The Digital Divide by Terence Nuzum

30 bands that made the '80s NOT suck Part III
In last week's issue we covered bands 11 through 20. This week, we take up with bands 21--30.

21. Bauhaus -- Mask (1981) Primarily considerd the goth band, Bauhaus always thought themselves a punk band and bristled at the term gothic. After making a name for themselves in the late 70s with the underground club hit "Bela Lugosi's Dead" and the album In The Flat Field, their dark lyrics and harrowing jagged guitars became their trademark. With 1981's Mask, the band disciplined their almost structureless style and made an album that has numerous highlights. From the Joy Division-esque "Hair Of The Dog" to the eerie "Hollow Hills" and the most disturbing "In Fear Of Fear" the album packs a punch with what the debut did not, Dance Punk. "Passion of Lovers" definitely inspired Robert Smith and "Dancing" had to be their poppiest song to the date. They have inspired everyone from the good, Sisters Of Mercy, to the disappointing, Marilyn Manson.
22. Minor Threat -- Out Of Step (1984) The EP that started it all. The American Punk scene would never be the same after Minor Threat. Unleashing a sound so quick and raw that '70s punk paled in comparison even though each track had a deeply hidden pop structure. "Out Of Step" is just about what started the entire straight-edged punk movement with the anthemic lines "don't smoke/don't drink/don't fuck/at least I can fucking think".
23. Gang Of Four -- Solid Gold (1981) Solid Gold might have seemed a like an odd choice of a title for a punk album but that was until you popped it in the stereo and were paralysed by the funk "Paralyzed" a deconstructed funk bass on top of jittery guitar and beat rapping railing against commerce. If that wasn't enough "What We All Want" was danceable as it was haunting with manic guitar chords that give Joy Division and Bauhaus a run for their money. This album is completely responsible for the current dance punk and electro-clash movement. Solid Gold was, in fact, all it claimed and the band hadn't even given us Songs Of The Free yet.
24. The Mekons -- The Mekons Rock N Roll (1989) The Mekons Rock N Roll, indeed. Not in the way you might think though. More of anglo-rockabilly than hard rock or punk and way too much shoegazing-type tracks to convince an American that it is rock, it nevertheless is the perfect display of the English's obsession with guitars. It is inescapably a British band's take on Rock N Roll. The ghostly image of Elvis bleeding through punk graffiti on the album cover perfectly accentuates songs like "Only Darkness Has The Power". The album is worth it if for nothing else the great "Club Mekon", a Cocteau Twins meets The Smiths rave up.
25. The Gun Club -- Mother Juno (1987) It's safe to say that if Gun Club frontman and songwriter Jeffrey Lee Pierce hadn't died he would have gone onto stardom, right? Hmm, sorta, you see The Gun Club's brand of crazed rockabilly wasn't the sorta thing that was all that hot then or now. Their earlier releases were either missteps or too raw, but on Mother Juno, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Kid Congo Powers, and the rest of the band hit upon alt-rock before any other, even the Pixies (arguably). The tracks "Bill Bailey" still possess the Jesse James rockabilly feel but "Lupita Screams", "Yellow Eyes" and primarily the awesome closing number "Port Of Souls" all contain the depressing watery and grungy sound that would be associated with the so-called Seattle sound. "Port Of Souls" had to be the basis for Mark Laneagan's band, The Screaming Trees. Though it was the end of the band with this release Mother Juno is the best epitaph they could hope for.
26. The Stone Roses -- The Stone Roses (1989) Call them the Happy Mondays on pot instead of ecstasy if you will but Shaun and Paul Ryder weren't anywhere near as good of muscians as The Roses. Taking cues from Cocteau Twins, The Happy Mondays, and early My Bloody Valentine this Manchester band would really only have this album to their name (and technically a followup years later that just blows) yet it would go on to inspire legions of up and coming rock bands that would then give birth to Britpop: Blur, Oasis, Radiohead, The Verve. Still in 2004 "I Wanna Be Adored" can't be denied even in all its late '80s drug-induced haze.
27. The Beastie Boys -- Paul's Boutique (1989) You can say they are Rap if you want, but the fact remains The Beasties were always and still are a punk band. In the mid-'80s, The Beasties dropped their satire on the rap and arena rock shagfest, namely the Run DMC and Aerosmith collaboration, titled License To Ill. By accident they created a jock-rock frathouse classic. Wanting to explore studio and sampling techniques further they gave us the funk punk classic Paul's Boutique. "Shadrach" and "Hey Ladies" may sound like rap to the musically declined but what they were were in fact love letters to psychadelic funk bands like Sly and the Family Stone. Their punk rapping is great and vocal interplay is never better than on this album. If disbelievers still call them a "rap band" then try to explain the hardcore punk of "Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun". They were and are just a great band, period. Paul's Boutique at its time and even now has sampling genius that no rap artist can beat. The difference is that The Beasties used samples to accent the music they were already playing themselves (yes, they play instruments). Still gonna call them "rap artists"? Well you can't, they defy convention. The mad sh*@#t they laid down here still hasn't been topped. Long live The Beasties.
28. Dinosaur Jr. -- You're Living All Over Me (1987) You might say that Dinosaur Jr. is slacker punk. You might say that they were proto-grunge. But in reality the best description is Neil Young with irony. If the Pixies, Sonic Youth, and The Replacements were 3/4's of what would become grunge then Dinosaur Jr. is the 4th missing piece of the pie. "Kracked" is doing Nirvana better than Nirvana could ever do, while "Sludgefest" beats Mudhoney to tears. Underneath all the hard-ons for Crazy Horse, though, Dinosaur Jr.'s 1987 benchmark is a pop album and along with The Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy busted down the concept that pop had to be soft to be hummable.
29. X -- Los Angeles (1980) X did go on to put out better '80's albums than this but Los Angeles is the dark poison embryo that it all came from. Imagine The Doors trying to imitate Gene Vincent and you have X. Blistering rockabilly with hardcore undertones and dark mopey vocals on songs like "Your Phone is Off The Hook, But You're Not" kept X in a league of their own. "Johnny Hit and Run Pauline", despite being the best song about a rapist ever written, is the kind of track where you just know they were killer live.
30. New Order -- Power, Corruption, & Lies (1983) Joy Division, plain and simple would have been the best band of the '80s. After lead singer Ian Curtis hanged himself, remaining members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris formed New Order and recorded a debut album that basically sounded like Joy Division without Ian Curtis. On their follow-up, Power, Corruption, & Lies, they hit upon rave music (post-punk with a beat, basically). Yes, the classic is here, the best-selling "12-inch single of all time "Blue Monday", but the real gems are "Ecstasy" and the beautifully haunting "Age Of Consent". Later they would go on to become consumed by their keyboard fetishes, but in 1983 they proved that punks could dance and also created a beautiful and fully-realized pop album. A stunningly painful record to hear when you think about how much even greater it could have been if Ian Curtis lived.

"The Digital Divide" is ©2004 by Terence Nuzum..  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.