At this point, we can safely state that the 1980s musical revival is in full flower. New Romantic, Goth, New Wave, Industrial, Shoegaze, Dance Pop… some version of all of these can be found in nearly everyone’s Spotify playlist. What of those other subgenres from the ‘80s, those bands who didn’t really fit into any category? That’s where Field Music comes in.
After a seven-year hiatus, Denver-based Dressy Bessy have returned with the sugary popified, jittery delicious Kingsized. Joined by a who’s who of the what-used-to-be-college-radio stalwarts (but is surely called something else now), Kingsized is a return to form with an added grittiness. Guitars are fuzzy and heavy, providing a smart counterpoint to meringue light, sunshiny melodies and Tammy Ealom’s distinctive vocals (think: the sound of the Shangri-La’s smoking under the bleachers with the Slits).
Thank you, Omnivore Records, for reissuing JD Souther’s albums. The recent reissue of Souther’s debut, John David Souther, was like reading a blueprint for Americana music. Souther’s follow up album, Black Rose, shows an artist broadening his horizons, marrying jazz with rock and coming up with something unexpected but very effective.
There’s a joke: Old Goths never die, and if they did, how could you tell?
While Robert Smith is arguably the queen of the Old Goths, their king is certainly Peter Murphy, the former lead singer of Bauhaus, who has found himself in the strange position of Gothic Tom Jones, selling out shows filled with swooning plus-sized women wearing the same black dresses they wore in 1985, while their husbands huffily cross their arms and wonder when Anthrax will tour again.
Since its release and quick deletion, Game Theory’s third official LP, Lolita Nation, has carried with it a mystique. Is it because it’s the third album, as producer Mitch Easter has suggested, or because it’s been impossible to find and prohibitively expensive for so long? Now that Scott Miller’s magnum opus is widely available, will we discover that this is actually an average album for the era and subgenre? Happily, Omnivore’s long-awaited reissue reveals an idiosyncratic and breathtakingly ambitious release by a cult-favorite songwriter and band who deserved a greater place in the 1980s college-rock firmament.
American nightmare, guilty generation / fingers on the pulse of their parents’ alienation / from the history, histories of Western civilization
–Ty Segall, “California Hills”
There was a 1987 SPIN magazine cover story on David Bowie called “What Next, Put Together Man?” and while I can’t recall the article’s content exactly, that question has lingered in my brain ever since. At the time I was only just beginning to grasp the depth and breadth of Bowie’s shape-shifting abilities, and it took me years to fully understand the significance of that particular query.
There’s a sense of playfulness on the new album from Tortoise, The Catastrophist. It feels like listening to a card trick. Let’s call it “sleight of ear.”
Mostly an instrumental band, Tortoise comes on as Nintendo-core. The keyboards have that glorious 8-bit sound, but then the drums start and the guitar comes floating in like the backwash of a canyon echo. Almost imperceptibly, the music has moved from Bowser’s Castle to some place far more ethereal.
One thing I’ve learned from writing this column is that history, even something as seemingly fluffy as pop culture history, consists mostly of death. It’s depressing. Factual, but depressing as hell. Sometimes, you’ve got to get silly, especially on a Friday.
Can I get a witness?
I think it’s time for another singalong.
Your Friend’s follow up to 2014’s self-recorded EP, Jekyll/Hyde, is richly textural and gorgeously produced. Gumption is enigmatic, with much to unpack. You can listen to the layers and loops, you can listen for Taryn Miller’s fascinating vocals, you can close your eyes and let the waves of sound wash over you. It’s an immersive, intriguing album.