Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The '80s Strike Back - Episode C86

At the start of the current decade it was the spirit of late ’70s punk as well as early ’80s post-punk and new wave that became the dominant influences on most of the new bands of the time (The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol) that came to shake things up and bring the indie-rock sound back into the spotlight. As we come closer to the end of the Zeros, it is the underground guitar sound of the mid-80s that comes to the forefront as the main inspiration of the new breed. Bands like Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Manhattan Love Suicides, Love Is All or Glasvegas demonstrate an obvious adoration for a sound that flourished around 1986 in the UK and was captured in the historic cassette compilation C86 released by the N.M.E.

To catch up with the storyline of the mid-80s UK indie scene, let me remind you that 1985 was the year that saw the release of one of the most influential albums of that decade, "Psychocandy" by the Jesus And Mary Chain. Creation Records, Alan McGee's company that was responsible for unleashing J.A.M.C. to the unsuspecting pop world, was releasing some of the singles that wrote the '80s indie-pop history book, songs like "Up the hill and down the slope" by The Loft, "I'm alright with you" by The Pastels or Primal Scream's debut 7" "All fall down", while in Leeds a new band going by the name of The Wedding Present was making its presence felt with first single "Go out and get 'em boy!". All this was happening while the limelight was on The Smiths who were at the pinnacle of their career.

As you can understand, this burgeoning independent music scene was the joy of the British music press, and in 1986 N.M.E. decided to release the infamous C86 cassette compilation featuring some of the most promising new groups of the era. Next to Primal Scream and Wedding Present who found wider fame soon enough (coincidentally the bands opening and closing this compilation) we find groups like The Pastels, The Shop Assistants, The Mighty Lemon Drops, The Soup Dragons, Age Of Chance, Half Man Half Biscuit, McCarthy (where Tim Gane got his start before forming Stereolab) or Close Lobsters that although never enjoyed the same level of success, their value is evident by the influence they had on the groups that started making waves shortly after (the late ’80s - early ’90s "shoegazers") as well as on those of the current generation.

Add to all this the fact that My Bloody Valentine were also taking their first steps in the same period, a band that basically created its own school with many followers even in today’s music scene (School Of Seven Bells, Asobi Seksu, Howling Bells to name but a few) and you can easily understand why 1986 is the new 1966 or 1976, namely the new cool year from the past ripe for plundering (as you can also read in this Guardian article about Crystal Stilts).

For further evidence of the ’80s influence on the new hot names of 2009 (and for your musical enjoyment of course) here’s a vintage 1987 video from The Pastels for the single "Crawl babies" (from their excellent debut "Up for a bit with The Pastels") and two from a couple of New York’s finest new bands, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Crystal Stilts. It’s "Everything with you" from the former’s 2009 self-titled debut and "Departure" from the latter’s 2008 debut "Alight Of Night":

The Pastels - Crawl Babies

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Everything with you

Crystal Stilts - Departure

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