Various Artists 12”/80s Alternative Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

New Order, Bauhaus, Frankie and more across 35 fine 12” mixes.

Mike Diver 2011

This three-CD set celebrates the alternative side of popular music in the 1980s, covering a trio of broad genres: new wave, goth and indie. The usual suspects are rounded up, and the songs selected are – as the title so accurately conveys – 12" mixes. So the listener gets over seven minutes of Simple Minds’ Up on the Catwalk, almost a full 10 minutes of Propaganda’s P: Machinery, and lengthy versions of Frankie’s Welcome to the Pleasuredome and Talk Talk’s Living in Another World.

Iconic offerings rub shoulders with significantly rarer numbers. Kicking off everything is the original 1983 cut of New Order's Blue Monday, still the biggest-selling 12" of all time. Its crystalline beats are as perfectly sharp today as they were almost 30 years ago. Closing the same CD – disc one, with synths dominating proceedings – is the extended remix of Japan’s Nightporter, a hardly-heard version of the Catford-born band’s 1982 hit. Between these points are fantastic tracks from Soft Cell (Memorabilia), The Lotus Eaters (1983’s top 20 single The First Picture of You), and Scritti Politti (another top 20 success, 1984’s Absolute).

The goth disc begins with Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead – the influential Northamptonshire gloom-rockers’ debut single of 1979 is showing its age a bit, but remains a nostalgic treasure. Post-punk combo Killing Joke follow with Love Like Blood, which – some 27 years after its original release – is probably still their best-known number. The Sisters of Mercy and Siouxsie and the Banshees are expectedly included, with Lucretia My Reflection and Cities in Dust respectively (the latter being its makers’ debut single release in the US), and the 11-track CD two closes with The Cure’s Hot Hot Hot!!! – something of a flop for such a successful band, having peaked at 45 in the UK, but a highlight of the band’s excellent 1987 LP Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (which reached number six).

Disc three collects tracks by Big Country, Julian Cope, Visage, Yello, Echo & The Bunnymen and Prefab Sprout; each number is a classic of a kind, albeit not always representative of the band’s commercial peak. Prefab Sprout’s Faron Young, for example, missed the UK top 40 by some distance, even though it does open their fine album of 1985, Steve McQueen. To these ears it’s the least essential of this release's discs, but personal taste will obviously determine which one enjoys the most spins. And there’s certainly enough variety and quality across these 35 songs to appeal to the widest possible audience.

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