MONDAY, JUNE 15, 2015
WEEK 24: NEW WAVE
In July 1977 at the very peak of punk mania, Phonogram Records issued New Wave, a compilation album featuring the likes of The Dead Boys, The Ramones, The Runaways and The Boomtown Rats ‘Lookin’ After No 1’. It was the first time the term had been used to reference music and heralded the start of a genre that would come to dominate the charts, radio and Top Of The Pops for the next four years.
Now genres can be fuzzy things, particularly when what fits where is uncertain, but contrary to most lines of thought (in America new wave is used to describe everything from The Pretenders to Depeche Mode) new wave had absolutely no connection to post punk or new pop. OK, so it may have been inspired by punk, but it was always easily identifiable as something quite seperate, full of groups too steeped in sixties values to ever be regarded as experimental or modern.
In fact, at its narrowest and most disparaging, new wave came to represent something that musically wasn’t new at all. But punk’s principle problem with many of the groups here was that they were bandwagon jumpers of the most cynical kind; older, opportunist pub rockers, who cut their hair and reinvented themselves as soon as punk began hoovering up the column inches.
Having said that, some tagged as new wave like The Stranglers and The Boys, emerged during the very first days of punk, long before their less abrasive, more melodic sensibility came to the fore. And there were others like XTC, The Only Ones, The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs and The Monochrome Set who were only thrown into the mix because they didn’t fit anywhere else.
Eventually new wave became so insanely catchy that even I was seduced by its charms. With my obsession for seven inch singles, I ended up buying almost as many nerdy new wave records as scroaty punk ones. They were certainly more tuneful and some of them remain as favourites to this day. In the late seventies there can be no doubt that new wave’s endless energy, pop precision and stripped down dynamics contributed to the excitement of the era as much as anything.
Ultimately of course, it was the emergence of ABC, Scritti Politti, Duran Duran, Soft Cell and the like that did for it. Trapped in a trad pop and rock cul-de-sac, new wave was usurped by the shiny surfaces and sonic luxury of new pop. All of a sudden it felt outdated, outmoded and ridiculous. Why listen to The Pretenders when you could listen to the Human League? Why bother with the sound of the past when the sound of the future was so enticing?
01 BOOMTOWN RATS ‘Lookin’ After No 1’ (New Wave Compilation LP July 1977)
02 MINK DEVILLE ‘Spanish Stroll’ (A Side June 1977)
03 IAN DURY & THE BLOCKHEADS ‘Sex And Drugs And Rock’n’Roll’ (A Side August 1977)
04 THE STRANGLERS ‘No More Heroes’ (A Side September 1977)
05 THE MODERN LOVERS ‘Pablo Picasso’ (The Modern Lovers LP October 1977)
06 ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS ‘Watching The Detectives’ (A Side October 1977)
07 REZILLOS ‘(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures’ (A Side November 1977)
08 XTC ‘Statue Of Liberty’ (A Side January 1978)
09 RICH KIDS ‘Rich Kids’ (A Side January 1978)
10 THE BOYS ‘Brickfield Nights’ (A Side February 1978)
11 THE ONLY ONES ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ (A Side April 1978)
12 THE POLICE ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ (A Side August 1978)
13 BLONDIE ‘One Way Or Another’ (Parallel Lines LP September 1978)
14 WRECKLESS ERIC ‘Take The Cash’ (A Side October 1978)
15 THE MEMBERS ‘Sound Of The Suburbs’ (A Side January 1979)
16 THE UNDERTONES ‘Here Comes The Summer’ (The Undertones LP May 1979)
17 THE PRETENDERS ‘Tattooed Love Boys’ (B Side June 1979)
18 THE CURE ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’ (A Side October 1979)
19 DOLL BY DOLL ‘Gypsy Blood’ (Gypsy Blood LP October 1979)
20 THE MONOCHROME SET ‘Strange Boutique’ (Strange Boutique LP April 1980)
21 DEVO ‘Girl U Want’ (Freedom Of Choice LP May 1980)
22 THE B52’S ‘Give Me Back My Man’ (A Side July 1980)
23 SKIDS ‘Hurry On Boys’ (The Absolute Game LP September 1980)
24 THE GO GO’S ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ (A Side May 1981)
25 THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS ‘Pretty In Pink’ (Talk Talk Talk LP May 1981)