Five Obscure Albums
I’m sure that the majority of people going through my extensive vinyl and CD collection would consider much of it obscure — even amongst those who are fans of the 80’s new wave genre. I was never a fan of many of the sub-genre labels that people applied to the music I liked, but I do acknowledge that many of my favorite artists are outside of the broader, more widely-recognized new wave genre. I thought I’d share a snapshot of 5 albums that are off the beaten path of mainstream listening. Enjoy.
Blurt – Pagan Strings
Formed in 1979 by saxophonist and puppeteer Ted Milton and his brother Jake, the album is sometimes quirky, sometimes angry, but very very artsy with minimalistic guitar and spastic saxophone. Recorded in Germany in 1992, this was their 7th album. I was introduced to the band on a road trip with friends, and we used the album to keep us awake on the long, boring night drive between Reno, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Murphy, and this seemed to fit right in….as if Robyn and Peter had had a baby.
Abecedarians – Eureka
I was familiar with the song Smiling Monarchs from a mix tape given to me by a friend in the late 1980s, and had seen some of their vinyl sitting unpurchased in a local music store, but it wasn’t until the early 2000’s while working at Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, California that I met a guy who had become friends with the band and somehow had gained access to their complete catalog and was given permission to create a limited run of bootleg cd’s, which means I now have their entire catalog on CD (cover printed on a really expensive HP color laser printer, no less). They were a southern California post-punk band that would have fit perfectly in with artists on the 4AD label. Moody, dark, atmospheric, and just great music to chill out with.
Monks of Doom – Meridian
I once described this album as “post-modern circus music.” Another California band from the late 1980s, I believe Monks of Doom was a side project of the much more well-known Camper Van Beethoven. It’s different. It’s a bit mental. But I also find it highly entertaining. I found the album while going through the $1 bins at Warehouse Music in Pleasanton, California in 1995-6 and liked the cover art. I mean, it’s only a buck, so why not try it out? Ah, those were the days before streaming music when you had to actually purchase music to hear it (since radio was, and still is, garbage). The band is apparently still together, and you can find most of this album and more on YouTube and Spotify.
The Devils – Dark Circles
Probably the most well-known and respected musicians on this list, The Devils were a side project of Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy and Duran Duran’s co-founder and keyboardist, Nick Rhodes. And if you were unaware, Duffy was also the original lead singer for Duran Duran back before they were signed, and before Simon Le Bon joined the band. Most of the music on this one-off project was written by Duffy and Rhodes back in the late 1970’s, but was re-recorded for this album in 2002. While the lyrics are not very thought-provoking, the production value is high and it’s a great techno-dance album with a definite Nick Rhodes feel.
King – Steps in Time
And for my last entry, this album screams 80’s new wave, down to lead singer Paul King’s extensive mullet and painted Doc Marten’s. Formed in 1984 in Coventry, England, they had one moderate hit with their song Love & Pride. After their second album failed to chart, the band split up in 1986, and Paul went on to become a VJ for MTV. The album can be corny at times, but overall it is a fun and danceable album that is very 80’s, for sure. Totally. To the max.