Various - Alternative Eighties

Despite there being the general impression that the eighties were all shoulder pads, power ballads, Stock/Aitken/Waterman and anti-Thatch politicking by Red Wedge, the recent splash of indie best-of's from those years do indicate otherwise. This was a decade when, unlikely as it seems now, The Jesus And Mary Chain not only made it into the charts but were played, albeit fleetingly, on Mike Smith's Breakfast Show on Radio 1. Sure, when Smithy figured out that Some Candy Talking may have a drug reference or two, he pulled the single off the play list but for a week or two, there it was, squalling feedback greeting people as they sat down at their Corn Flakes and Weetabix.

Best of all was the fortnightly purchase of Smash Hits in which, in amongst Culture Club and Wham!, Jim and William Reid, Mark E and Brix Smith and Morrissey would feature alongside the lyrics to their latest single. You'd barely even hear it in Q nowadays - who seem, in their latest revision of history, to believe that Christina Aguilera is one of the 50 most shocking stars - but to see an interview with Morrissey in which he claimed that he would only attend the Queen Mum's funeral to bang a couple more nails in the coffin in a music mag for pop kids was as revolutionary as things in the sticks ever got.

Whether it's ten to fifteen years of critical reevaluation, the recognised spending power of the early-to-mid thirty-year-old or a bid by record companies to clean out their archives, the last year has seen a fair number of these compilations - Dark Side Of The Eighties, Electric Vols 1 and 2 and Electric Dreams as well as this. Whilst there's always going to be a bunch of songs that are remarkable by their appearance on each of the above, is Alternative Eighties just one more double CD for Gary Numan's Cars and Are Friends Electric? or are there a few gems amongst the unwanted, unloved and uninspiring.

Well, for a start, there are the songs that few would miss. It's hard to imagine any tears being shed had Spear Of Destiny's Liberator or Bauhaus's Ziggy Stardust slipped down the back of the vaults forever. Then, of course, there are those that are almost a given - Blue Monday, Pretty In Pink, Sometimes, She Sells Sanctuary and Reward are all great songs but familiarity with them is currently breeding feelings of contempt. In all honesty, it was hard to find much love for Echo And The Bunnymen - represented here by The Killing Moon - first time around and twenty years has done little to change that.

Where Alternative Eighties does do well, however, is in having a clutch of great songs, some of which just keep getting better. Brilliant Mind by Furniture was a magnificent song when first released in '86 but, unlike some other songs, has not dated in the slightest. Similarly, I had actually forgotten how good The Dream Academy's Life In A Northern Town and The Fall's There's a Ghost In My House is as funny and mindless a bit of post-punk rockabilly as Mark E Smith's band ever recorded. As well as having a few songs that are unarguably classics - Another Girl, Another Planet, Rock The Casbah and Boys Don't Cry, there are a few songs that remind the listener just how strange indie rock could be in the eighties. Birthday by The Sugarcubes is as strange, chilling and unforgettable as it was in '88 and Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops by the Cocteau Twins still sounds like nothing else.

Lastly, there's those songs that really have not aged as well as might have been expected. Lloyd Cole's rewriting of Iggy Pop's The Passenger, Lost Weekend, sounds remarkably dull when put up against Perfect Skin, which is not included here, and The Bluebells' Young At Heart now sounds like what it always was - nowt but a tinny rip of Dexy's Midnight Runners.

Alternative Eighties does, however, find room for Westworld's Sonic Boom Boy, which is such a great little song that the inclusion of The Style Council can almost be forgiven.

So, still no Scarlet Fantastic (No Memory), Sigue Sigue Sputnik (Love Missile F1-11) or Animotion (Obsession) - note to record companies, I buy these albums and these are what I want to hear - but not a bad selection of tracks. BMG's Electric Vols 1 and 2 remain the best buys should you be seeking out some electric pop but if, like me, you're deeply nostalgic and pound foolish, you'll doubtless find some place for this.



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