November 18, 2004
How long has it been since you loved the 80s?

Well, that's just too long.

It wasn't so long ago that rock music of the '80s was punchline nostalgia along with the Rubik's Cube and Miami Vice. In 1998, Adam Sandler spent a whole movie, The Wedding Singer, poking fun at bands like Culture Club and A Flock of Seagulls, along with the kids with frosted, spiked hair who loved them.

But apparently everything that was once cool will become cool again some day, as 2004 has seen Top 20 debuts for both the Cure and Duran Duran and acclaimed new albums by their 21st century progeny like Interpol, the Rapture and Franz Ferdinand.

The triple bill of TV on the Radio, the Faint and Beep Beep this Sunday at Numbers is another signal that the bleeping keyboards and dark guitar jangle that fueled radio just before grunge and rap took over might be on the rise again.

"I grew up with commercial alternative radio WXXP 107 in Pittsburgh listening to bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and the Stone Roses," said TV on the Radio guitarist Kyp Malone. "I can't really listen to commercial radio anymore. What they call modern rock radio now is just recycling Pearl Jam and Green Day. It's homogenous."

True, though I wouldn't just crime rock radio for that. The rare times when I'm forced to listen to top-40 station KRBE - usually when I'm getting a haircut, as it seems to be the station of choice at my neighborhood Supercuts - I can never tell one bootylicious wannabe from another. I freely admit that the shortcoming may be mine, but I calls 'em as I hears 'em.

Malone and the rest of his band apparently did have cable when MTV burst onto the scene in the mid-'80s. Not surprisingly, it was artists like Eno, Peter Gabriel and younger groups with eccentric thinking like the Pixies and Jane's Addiction that appealed most to the band's own sense of song.

The Wrong Way, the opening track on Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, is Adebimpe's thoughts on being a black man in American society that plays somewhere between the hard-edge of "Me Decade" rock stars Living Colour and the original conscious rap of A Tribe Called Quest. Others like Staring at the Sun and Dreams are quirky looks at love and relationships that speak the same ethereal language as Echo and the Bunnymen and Houston's King X.

I just want to say that our so-called "80s" station, which has greatly (and to its great detriment) expanded its definition of the 80s to include the likes of Steve Miller and Boston, seldom if ever plays any of the artists mentioned above. I couldn't even tell you the last time I heard an uber-hit like "Sledgehammer" or "In Your Eyes". And as I've said before, while they may mention new albums by playlist staples such as Duran Duran and even pimp their concert tours, they would never ever ever play anything off of them. Have I mentioned lately that Houston radio sucks? Yes, I believe I have, and it predates KLOL's demise by a longshot.

Anyway. There are audio samples on the Chron page if you want to check these folks out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 18, 2004 to Music | TrackBack

I downloaded some (legal, from their web site) Faint MP3s, and they're pretty good.

Posted by: Ginger on November 18, 2004 7:20 PM

For a time, there was an 80s station in the SF Bay Area. Other than a tendency to play a lot of U2, it was a decent enough station. But I guess their ratings weren't good enough, because they started adding in more stuff from the 70s and 90s. It was all downhill from there.

Posted by: Sue on November 19, 2004 7:46 AM

What I want to know is what the story is behind all the Supertramp songs on "the Point" playlist. Did the Program Manager lose a bet or something? No one could be that much of a Supertramp fan.

If I recall correctly, I think one of President Carter's last acts in office was to sign an executive order making it illegal to play "Take the Long Way Home" more than once in a calendar year. That cheesy harmonica riff at the beginning could be classified as a WMD (Weapon of Musical Destruction).

I'll stop now.

Posted by: Rob Humenik on November 19, 2004 9:13 AM

Somebody doesn't know their 80s. Eno, Peter Gabriel, and The Cure are from the 70s.

Posted by: Charles E on November 20, 2004 12:40 AM