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Various Artists Bustin’ Out – New Wave To New Beat: the Post Punk Era 1979-1981 Review

Compilation. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Reminds us that pop and dance music can be subversive without foregoing accessibility.

Brad Barrett 2010

As a sliver of a cross section drawn from the dawn of the 80s, Bustin’ Out provides an exhilarating glance at the overlooked link between explosive punk and icy synth pop.

No compilation can hope to be definitive when covering the fertile 1978-84 post-punk period. Where Bustin’ Out succeeds is in distilling a small portion of this remarkably exciting time. Focusing on the disco-inspired rebellion co-opted by those wishing to throw off the shackles of archaic punk rock, these cuts are all essential, twisted floor-fillers.

Gary Numan’s synthesiser epiphany, represented here with Replicas, exchanged the Tubeway Army’s guitar chops for futuristic android anthems. This about-turn inspired a new wave of excitable pop experiments. We are further spoilt with the hi-hat scratch and sheet metal noise of Killing Joke’s Almost Red. We’re then teased and taunted by the Bush Tetras’ minimal mutant boogie debut Too Many Creeps and seduced by Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s clicking and popping cover of Arthur Brown’s Fire. 

Initially, Josef K’s brilliantly shambolic jangle, MOEV’s fey electro whine and Dead Can Dance’s oppressively gothic croon seem at odds with the enthusiastic beats on offer elsewhere. But they demonstrate the looseness of post-punk, and indeed, what constituted electro or dance music.

Crucially, what knits this selection is the punk ethos of ‘do it yourself’. Eschewing rehashed rock’n’roll, groups indulged in engaging dance music built on naivety and youthful abandonment. Turning crude into sophisticated and amateurism into precision, lack of ability somehow became an asset. Pulsing rhythms and interesting noises, vocabulary derived from funk and disco, fascinated these youngsters.  

The interpretations of these new techniques were astonishingly diverse, from 23 Skidoo’s eerie 10-minute grooves or itchy insectoid psychedelia from Tuxedomoon. That our ears are now accustomed to these murky sounds is testament to post-punk’s often undervalued effect. Nevertheless, you’re unlikely to accept everything here as fluid listening: Front 242’s Body to Body is intense industrial percussion and alien burbling, and Chris & Cosey’s Heartbeat still resonates with the icy fear of their former group, the confrontational, society-throttling Throbbing Gristle.

Yet as 2010 remains in the grip of 80s synth fever – with hyped groups like Hurts, La Roux and Delphic among others – these songs not only still sound surprisingly innovative and thrilling, but remind us that pop and dance music can be subversive without foregoing accessibility.

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