Don’t You (Forget Abeert Me)
So, here I am.
I never thought I’d see the day.
Can you tell by the change in voice that this isn’t Troy?
That’s right. It’s me: Haley.
I’m writing a Shower Beer Thoughts.
The idea came to me while having a shower beer, which I don’t do very often (not often enough, maybe!) It was a beer by Captain Lawrence–Powder Dreams–but that’s not important here. If you listen to the show, you know I’m not the beer connoisseur (holy shit that word is hard to spell. Thanks autocorrect!) So here I was, shower beer in sipcaddy; and I turned on a playlist that I’ve been listening to a lot lately (see links at the end) which sparked some inspiration in me.
I’m here to confess something: I love 80s music. Probably more than any other kind of music. I feel like this is an era of music that can be polarizing for some people; you either love it or hate it. Even I tried to pretend to hate it for a part of my young life. I was born and raised in the 90s (cue the gasps/sighs from people who didn’t know this already) which was totally the peak years of 80s hating, including in my own household! (Sorry mom and dad, I promise this isn’t a rebelling against your parents thing.)
I think my first experience of self discovery in 80s synthpop was in 2006. I was on the bus, heading home after the last day before winter break. My bus driver was pretty cool, she’d let us use our flip phones and would play the radio for us. That day the radio was playing Christmas music. And then I heard it. The iconic synth. George Michael. You know what I’m talking about: Last Christmas by Wham! (I wanted that sentence to end much more dramatically but the exclamation point in their name kinda killed it.)
I’d say me and 80s music didn’t get too serious again until about 8 years later when I was in college. I was in a video class for the media study major I was in for a few semesters and on the first or second day of class the instructor played a music video for us: Mongoloid by Devo. (The video is mostly/all clips from TV in the 50s, and one of our assignments from him was to make something similar.)
After that day, I spent the rest of the semester consuming as much Devo as I could until I was almost sick of them. What wasn’t there to love? Synthesizers, bumping beats, guys wearing costumes, comedy rock? Everything I love. So once I finally got tired of hearing the same 50 songs, I searched for more like it.
Now I know its pretty vague of me to just claim to like “80s music.” Maybe it’s because I don’t like labels, or because subgenres give me anxiety, but that’s just the easiest way for me to put it. And I mean, it’s not a lie; minus maybe Glam Metal, I like every genre from the 80s. So let’s go deeper into the two I love the most.
According to the wikipedia page for new wave, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock calls the term ‘new wave’ “virtually meaningless”. The term is/was basically a catch-all for acts that hung around the same crowds as punks but couldn’t be classified as punk. In its first years of emergence (76-77) the terms were almost interchangeable. In the U.S., the “Don’t Call it Punk” campaign was launched by the chairman of Sire Records (the company that was signing bands like Talking Heads and the Ramones; and later on, The Pretenders, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, and Echo & the Bunnymen) in an attempt to attract more/detract less patrons to the club CBGB when their acts were playing there. (If it helps, the name of CBGB stands for Country, BlueGrass, and Blues.) As time went on CBGB became the place to see new wave and punk, and later, even hardcore punk, artists.
New wave really blew up in the US with the emergence of MTV in 1981 and their famous debut of “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles; and it didn’t take long for new wave to become one of the most popular genres of the decade. In a 1982 Gallup poll, 14% of teenagers named new wave as their favorite genre, and unlike other genres, this was a popularity that defied racial confines. As new wave died out towards the end of the 80s, synthpop and the New Romantic club scene were born from its ashes.
Pros: poppy; good to dance to; general crowd-pleaser; likely to be on karaoke lists
Cons: poppy; gets stuck in your head; often in commercials, which ruins the song for you after a while
While new wave found its way into mainstream media in no time, post-punk wanted nothing of the sort. Post-punk was originally called “new musick” in response to the poppiness and seeming meaninglessness of new wave, and a desire to revitalize the DIY spirit of punk rock. Post-punk rejected the homogeneity of music of the time (including punk) and strived to be much more experimental, avant-garde, and politically fueled than the norm; what journalist Nicholas Lezard called “a fusion of art and music.” Post-punk in the US never took off as much as in the UK, as the genre of punk tended to stir up visions of violence and sexual deviance in the minds of Americans, but art school acts Devo and Talking Heads are two examples of this genre succeeding in the States.
Post-punk essentially died out by ‘84, but its legacy lives on in the subgenres that it gave birth to. Post-punk artists from the UK like Siouxie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Joy Division, and the Cure would grow into what would later become known as gothic rock. Others simply were put into the box of “alternative rock.” (One of my least favorite terms, honestly. IT’S TOO VAGUE.) Post-punk influences can be seen in more modern artists, as well, even to the point that some call this time period between the late 1990s-early 2000s a revival of post-punk. Artists that fit into this box include Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, Interpol, the Shins, the Strokes, and the Arctic Monkeys. And while it may be called the post-punk revival, there’s definitely some line blurring between new wave/post-punk influences when it comes to these artists, so it may be more fitting to use the other label for this genre, “the new wave of new wave.” Call me a hipster: but even though I do like these new bands, they’ll never be as good as the originals.
Pros: good for a 2000s emo like me; sometimes heavy AF (looking at you, gothic rock); sounds better on a $40 record player than on your phone
Con: maybe just a little too out there for people you don’t know well enough already; might ruin a party (or at least the vibe)