Various - Dark Side Of The Eighties
Released as a 2xCD set by Telstar in 2003 and, by their standards, lightly advertised on television, Dark Side Of The Eighties was a surprising attempt by BMG to diversify beyond their typical series of compilations - Ibiza Hard House vol 3, Old Skool Rave and the like - into Goth and Alterative Rock between 1970 and 2001. That this release tries awfully hard to get it right with a fairly good track listing is a plus point but that the cover features a photograph of a laughably cliched postcard-Goth means this is not to be taken as seriously as some of the artists would have intended their music to be.
Beginning with The Cure's Lullaby, which originally appeared on Disintegration - their return to a more serious sound following a run of more upbeat albums such as Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me - the nature of the album soon becomes clear - Gothic but with a pop sensibility, preferably where there was a degree of chart success. Therefore, where the appearance of The Cult could, with a little more imagination, have come up with a track from their earlier Southern Death Cult days, Dark Side Of The Eighties offers the all-too-familiar She Sells Sanctuary - a fine song indeed but one that is rather too obvious. From these first two tracks onwards, Disc One offers This Corrosion by The Sisters Of Mercy, the glorious cover of Eloise by The Damned and Moonchild by the none-more-Gothic Fields Of The Nephelim, a band whose devotion to the cause required their wearing of plain flour, cobwebs and an earnest expression at all times.
Where these tracks would seem to hold true to the album's concept of popular Gothic rock, there are a number of rather unexpected tracks included here, which are decidedly better than those more in keeping with the album's theme. For example, Disc One, having got a few pop-Goth songs out of the way, soon offers April Skies by The Jesus And Mary Chain from the days in which they were still recording bittersweet pop, the graceful The Beat(en) Generation by The The, a thumping cover of Mr. Pharmacist by The Fall, which is possibly the most out-of-place song here, and the decidedly non-Goth Monkey Gone To Heaven by The Pixies. What makes these songs all the better are their placing amongst a rash of earnest but awfully dull songs by New Model Army, Spear Of Destiny and Bauhaus.
Disc Two begins with The Mission's rewriting of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir - Tower Of Strength - which is remarkable for being not only that band's only good track but for being such a great song that it's worth buying Dark Side Of the Eighties for it alone. Following the entirely expected placing of Dominion by The Sisters Of Mercy, this half of the album becomes even more surprising than the first, particularly with the inclusion of Peaches by The Stranglers, which was not even released in the eighties, True Faith by New Order, Road To Nowhere by Talking Heads and There She Goes by The La's. In fact, were it not for the dull 68 Guns by The Alarm, the superb Prime Mover by Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction and the closing and wondrous Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops by Cocteau Twins, little that follows Dominion could even be described as dark at all, bringing the title of the album into question. Instead, as the album closes with There She Goes as well as Shine On by The House Of Love, Perfect Skin by Lloyd Cole And The Commotions, Sexuality by Billy Bragg and the aforementioned Pearly Dewdrops' Drops, one's mind turns more to music that is little more than slightly alternative pop instead of the Gothic rock that was promised.
Whilst Dark Side Of The Eighties may not live up to its title, that it isn't entirely without merit shouldn't be a particularly surprising given that Telstar had access to BMG's vast archives. With such a vast amount of music at their disposal, it would have been difficult for them to get it entirely wrong, but neither is it as remarkable as it could have been. Instead, this offers little more than an opportunity to purchase a number of classic indie and rock songs from various bands without resorting to individual albums. Having wanted Tower Of Strength, Shine On, Prime Mover, Go Wild In The Country and This Corrosion for years but not actually wanting to buy anything by The Mission, The House Of Love, Zodiac Mindwarp, Bow Wow Wow or The Sisters Of Mercy, Dark Side Of The Eighties was as much as was needed but in listening to The Alarm, New Model Army and Spear Of Destiny, it could, in all honesty, have been so much better.