When I saw the Patrick Nagel inspired cover of "Best 80's Modern Rock Album .. Ever" I had high hopes for it. Calling it "the best" is an overstatement because in order for something like this to really be called 'the best' it would have to have to have at least ten discs and even then there are going to be songs that people are going to disagree about. While there are some bombs to the release, it isn't as bad as some of the others that I got in a bulk purchase but there's always room for improvement. One thing I did notice is a lot of the songs on this have been etched into time through teen flicks of yore. Tracks like "Pretty in Pink" by The Psychedelic Furs and Breakfast Club's epic "Don't Forget About Me" by Simple Minds. Watch enough movies and chances are you'll hear almost all of these in one way, shape or form.
Nothing from the 80's is complete without the inclusion of "Video Killed The Radio Star". If you didn't live on planet earth [yes, a Duran Duran reference] then you might have missed it when MTV went live and kicked off their programming with this song by The Buggles. While it's slightly creepy, it is part of video music history. Yes, teens and tweens there was a time when there was only one MTV station and 90% of the time you could turn it on and see an actual video. Not to be outdone, Thomas Dolby "She Blinded Me With Science" and even though it is a little 'out there' compared to what was considered a typical release at the time it has carved out it's own niche thanks to an ingenious but cheaply filmed video and catchy pop beat.
There are some true "signature sounds" of the 80's - tracks that you hear and know exactly when they were released. "Mexican Radio" is one of them [but "Rock The Casbah" is another even though it is not on this release]. What makes this stand out? The slightly distorted vocals, combination of different sounds and hint of tejano under all the pop clutter. When most of these songs were released there were companion videos for them; they really helped propel the songs on to groups that might otherwise have never hear of them. That's the case of OMD / Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark [So in Love]. They're best known for "If You Leave" but there are so many classic songs from them from the middle of the 80's scene.
Any solid release like this is going to have contrasting sounds; it's hard to find a bridge between something like "Rock Lobster" [The B52's] and "Tainted Love" [Soft Cell] but they are kissing cousins in music history. Then there are songs that you know but you don't really know. The name of the group or song might not ring a bell but fifteen seconds into it you facepalm and snicker. That's probably what will happen when most people hit "Politics of Dancing", "Rise Up" and "It's My Life". While these were moderate hits for their respective groups they contributed to the signature sound of the era.
There is a strong European feel to the release with contributions from groups like Big Country, Duran Duran, Soft Cell and Billy Idol but it doesn't dominate or come off as overbearing. I was stoked to get the original version of Blondie's "Rapture" as most releases like this have the shortened version or some bizarre yet lame remix. While Blondie has a completely different sound than most of the other groups, it is in the timeline of music. One of the true classics of the era is Human League's "Don't You Want Me"; not only does it have the synth-pop sound to it but it's a male / female vocal track. No doubt, there are karaoke bars everywhere that are still butchering this song on a weekly basis.
Dead or Alive was always a misunderstood group and even though I wasn't a fan even in passing, it is nice to see their classic "Spin Me Round" make it on to this. Likewise Naked Eyes super pop hit "Always Something There To Remind Me" fills out the softer happy chipper side of music as a staunch wall to the darker brooding songs. It's not alone on this release; "In A Big Country" and [cringe] Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" do a good job of lightening things up. To some this might be a con because there's no rhyme or reason to the structure of the CD. One minute you are bopping your head to "Girls on Film" and then you hit something darker like "Shout" by Tears For Fears. What's missing? Pet Shop Boys. Spandau Ballet. Paul Young.
There are definitely some songs that are overblown and have been on way too many compilations like this. Yes, I am talking about The Thompson Twins [Hold Me Now] and Devo's "Whip It" along with [regrettably] "Addicted To Love". There's an interesting crossover here though; you are getting Duran Duran, PowerStation and Robert Palmer on one release. If you are from the era you'll know why all three of those are a snicker-moment. Likewise, the winner of the most bizarre but most original song has to go to Men Without Hats "Safety Dance". Yes, I can still get in to that song after all these years and no matter how many time's it's appeared on releases like this.
^V^ ©Freak369 - 2012 ^V^
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