Just in the last five years, we’ve witnessed a station load of Eighties artists on the reunion train, making comeback records that they hope will draw attention in addition to the classic hits that brought them lasting successes. Although their motives vary with each intention, one thing is for certain: high volumes of record sales are no longer considered to be the baseline of one’s measure of success. “We’re either feeding a demand or chasing a very expensive endeavor,” jokes an optimistic Jack Hues, founding vocalist / guitarist of Wang Chung. Wang Chung, who resurrected their big-American synth-rock sound in 2009, have joined the likes of ABC, the Cars, the Fixx, Van Halen, Trans X and dozens of others on the path to achieving an Eighties revival by releasing new material and taking to the road to promote their latest studio efforts. However, the irony in 2012 is that a revival of Eighties music is happening on its own by virtue with a younger generation led by musicians who were barely old enough to safety dance in diapers back in the 1980s.
So to this, we honor four of the most important bands that you’ve never heard of in the new wave genre. Each of these acts celebrates that classic Eighties sound without being constrained to the dynamics of pop radio. Like their Eighties predecessors, it’s a risk, but then again, Eighties music is always best when it’s unconventional.
MIRRORS “Earnest melodies wrapped in blankets of orchestral electronics”
Sounds like OMD, The Wild Swans, Ultravox.
Armed with analog synthesizers, Mirrors replicate some of the greatest elements from the new wave playbook of production. Elevating the vocals of lead singer John New to heavenly heights, Mirrors electrify your soul with a collection of tracks that leave your spine chilled with retro sensations unfelt since the first time we heard New Order’s ‘True Faith’. Unlike many of their contemporaries who invest all of their energies on the dance-floor, Mirrors are destined for the next generation of John Hughes-type films. But like the Breakfast Club, who spent their Saturday contemplating an essay describing who they are within the confinements of detention, Mirrors will be forced to describe their identity to a generation absorbed in American idols and orgasmic pop. Not only will Mirrors' love for lush synthesizers complex the rules of engagement, revealing lyrics such as those from ‘Write Through the Night’ are sure to raise a few brows (“This boy’s a mess; he’s a menace, he’s a pest and he’s got no one else to blame”).
With the first two years behind them, Mirrors aren’t wasting time pondering their next move. Following their acclaimed debut ‘Lights & Offerings’ (2011, Skint Records) which spawned the sensational single ‘Into the Heart’, Mirrors have supported abroad, electronic godfathers Gary Numan and John Foxx, as well as White Lies and alternative radio favorites Phoenix. However, don’t expect a tour of the States anytime soon. According to sources, Mirrors released a collection of demos in a recent fundraising effort earlier this year to help finance the trio’s second full-length record. Let us pray that the formula that made their monumental debut doesn’t change.
THE HOLIDAY CROWD “Sugar sweet poetic justice”
Sounds like The Smiths, The Woodentops, The Colourfield.
As Morrissey continues to make enemies throughout his career for his outspoken comments on politics, multiculturalism, and most recently the presentation of the Olympics in London last month, don’t expect the Smiths to kiss and makeup anytime soon. While the remaining members of Manchester’s most esoteric band of all-time remain distant with their own projects, their musical influence is responsible for one of the year’s most refreshing new bands. The Holiday Crowd, a Toronto four-piece outfit, have majestically recorded what some will inarguably claim is closer to a Smiths’ record than any solo track laid down by the king of sorrow himself.
Even though the band describes the music from their official debut ‘Over the Bluffs’ (2012, Shelflife Records) as “minimal and stripped-down”, make no mistake of simplifying the crafty guitar chords of Colin Bowers. Bowers' handiwork melts in perfect harmony with the sarcastic wit of lead vocalist Imran Haniff. And like Morrissey, sometimes the lyrics are introspectively blatant and uncomfortable. “Of all of the people that I wish were dead. Well it’s no lie, he’d be the first,” sings Haniff, as he calculates the guilt and consequences of murder on the album’s first track ‘Never Speak of it Again’. Regardless of how tongue-in-cheek the lyrics may be, this is independent jangle-pop at its shimmering best. And to compliment the decade of their inspiration, the Holiday Crowd have specifically released ‘Over the Bluffs’ in vinyl-format (CD and mp3 digital formats are also available), the way great Eighties alternative music was meant to be heard.
LEMONADE “A retro rinse of crystal pop”
Sounds like Gavin Christopher, Waterfront, Indecent Obsession
Although this may be the most difficult record to define in terms of Eighties influence, Lemonade’s third album “Diver” finds the trio maturing as they master a variety of musical styles that produced this soul-searching collection of love gems. Whether intentional or not, the San Francisco trio have reclaimed areas abandoned at the end of the Eighties, incorporating the tight freestyle beats of Information Society, spontaneous synthesizer strokes of the Art of Noise, while juxtaposing a soulful vocal performance by lead vocalist Callan Clendenin that recalls the funky-monkey George Michael. The result is a powerfully refreshing album unlike anything you’ve heard in twenty years.
‘Diver’ is a sensual yet bold electronic record that cuts both ways: crank it loudly and watch as the beats abduct your guests at your next house party; or for a personal experience, play it softly and relax as it hypnotizes your conscience while haunting your soul. Not only will fans of retro attract to this record, but electro-clashers will also chew on it once they learn that producer Le Chev (Fischerspooner) had his hand in the mix. Highly recommended, Lemonade is one band that will quench your Eighties thirst.
ICE CHOIR “Cathedral chimes from the milky way”
Sounds like Scritti Politti, Tears for Fears, The Beloved
From the ashes of the Depreciation Guild, the Brooklyn-based dream-pop band that achieved modest success on the college charts for several years before disbanding in early 2011, arises the year’s most underrated DIY talents in music today. After releasing the dreamy whipped single ‘I Want you Now and Always’ as a digital download last year, electronic composer Kurt Feldman uncovered his golden niche: making perfect Eighties pop records in the comfort of his own bedroom. Is it lucky coincidence or premeditated brilliance? “It’s intentional really. It was an act of choice to make the production aesthetics sound like the Eighties because I like that style (of music),” Feldman revealed to MTV’s Jon Norris in a recent interview. Made for those late Sunday night editions of 120 Minutes -albeit 25 years too late, Ice Choir may not be an original idea, but the songwriting emulates some of the strongest records from the Reagan-Thatcher era. However, Feldman’s pride is cast aside in honor of those that he models. “If this record brings people to the foray and they decide to dig into my influences, then I feel that I did a good job.”
Ice Choir’s ‘Afar’ (Underwater Peoples Records, 2012) is more than a debut; it’s a nostalgic journey in the forgotten territories of your past. Critics from around the world are proudly pronouncing the record with five-star reviews while fans are begging Feldman for another. ‘Afar’ is now available at Amazon.com and other major virtual music outlet locations. For more information, please visit www.icechoir.com
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