Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Second Wave

While out and about this afternoon, I stopped at Starbucks and bought this CD (and a caramel frappacino and some espresso coffee beans and some milk chocolate covered graham crackers...for supper).

It's a great CD and I can't help but wonder how many CBGB regulars from the 70s are wondering how it all came to this. How did their cutting edge music end up being sold as a compilation at such a mainstream commercial venture as Starbucks?

Well, put those questions aside you groovy hipsters and just buy the CD. Pretend you're paying a Friday night cover charge and that you're still helping pay the light bill and buy groceries for some of your favorite artists...or their kids...or their grandkids.

1. More Than This - Roxy Music
2. Brass in Pocket - The Pretenders
3. English Roundabout - XTC
4. Just Like Honey - The Jesus and Mary Chain
5. Everybody Wants to Rule the World - Tears for Fears
6. Love Will Tear us Apart - Joy Division
7. Hand in Glove - The Smiths
8. Never Stop (Discotheque) - Echo The Bunnymen
9. In Between Days - The Cure
10. I Wanna Be Sedated - Ramones
11. Another Nail in My Heart - Squeeze
12. The Ghost in You - The Psychedelic Furs
13. Dancing with Myself - Generation X
14. A Message to You Rudy - The Specials
15. Genius of Love - Tom Tom Club
16. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding - Elvis Costello & The Attractions

For a much more knowledgeable review of this CD, check out the comments on this post. Thanks, Arlo.


mofostopheles said...

I bought this CD thinking it would be a good introduction for my kids to a certain flavor of early 1980s pop music. But after listening to this I couldn't help thinking that I'd wasted my money, for the playlist is flawed on a couple of levels making the disc unlistenable.

First let me say that most of the bands on this disc were quite good. Some were absolutely great. But as a compilation there are several problems:

For example, following Roxy Music's brilliant "More Than This" with the Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket" is absolutely bizarre. The Pretenders were a really good band, but were never actually considered "New Wave" at the time. They sound fine next to Bryan Adams or John Mellencamp, but not here. They were a rock and roll band, pure and simple.

The next couple songs seem out of place, too, but for different reasons. "English Roundabout" is a pretty weak XTC tune when you compare it to "Statue of Liberty" or "Making Plans For Nigel". And Jesus and Mary Chain, who offer a vast catalog of psychedelia, belong to the founding movement of the next era we now call Alternative.

But do not worry, because next we have Tears for Fears to really throw a wrench into the mix. All I can say about "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" is that everybody has heard this song before. This song has probably outlived all others on the entire disc, living out it's retirement with frequent rotations on easy listening stations. This song also brings up another issue with this disc, the notion that the so called Second Wave spanned 1978 to 1985. There's a fairly broad spectrum of sound during that timeframe, too broad for a single label. The center of gravity on this disc is 1981, so to jump ahead to 1985 to a consumer-oriented mega-hit is taking the listener out of the true new wave era. By 1985 the genre had been completely mainstreamed by the industry. The rough edges and raw energy you heard on, say, "Another Nail in My Heart" by Squeeze were completely removed, produced out of the music by the mid eighties.

Joy Division makes an appearance and, okay, here is a band that really serious wavers and brooding, sensitive punks were listening to at the time. But if Starbucks wants to put them on a compilation disc then they really don't belong here either, rather on some type of "Essential Roots of Gothic" disc.

The next Manchurian band on the list, The Smiths, is arguably the best band on the entire collection. It's hard to go wrong with "Hand in Glove"--or any other Smiths song--so we'll let that one alone. But again, it's very hard on the ears to have The Pretenders and The Smiths within the same listening.

Next up is Echo and the Bunnymen's "The Ghost in You". I'll say it: It's boring. If you haven't done so yet, go listen to their debut album "Crocodiles".

There's more, but jumping ahead to track 15 we have Tom Tom Club's only good song, "Genius of Love", a truly ingenius danceable tune brought to you by the better half of Talking Heads. This, I would argue, is the defining song of the New Wave movement and the best song of the collection. Yet, among all these other tunes it seems oddly out of place.

While this disc may introduce some "new" old music to a younger generation--and there are some good starting points--it's just not a well constructed collection. I know the folks at Starbucks didn't intend it, but the fundamental flaw here is a playlist that feels like someone's iPod was set to play random songs. It is a disc that doesn't know what it wants to be. New wave, punk, goth and rock were all a part of this era, but this compilation misses the target.

--Arlo Emerson

Laurie said...

Arlo - Wow! I put a note on the post so people will come in here and read this comment.

I love this CD and agree that it's a somewhat odd mix, especially the Tears for Fears and Pretenders inclusions. I'm sure Starbucks included them as an incentive to get the folks who are less familiar with the genre to pick up the CD.

However, since I like the songs, I'm just going to consider them a little intermission when I listen.

Laurie said...

Arlo (part 2) - Also, I don't think you wasted your money on the CD. I'm sure your kids got a much better music lesson from your explanation of the song list than if Starbucks had made more logical choices. :)

Susan in St. Paul said...

Hmm, there is no Al Stewart...

Interesting comments Arlo.

Hi Laurie!

Rebecca Hickman said...

Yay! All my faves!

Laurie said...

Susan - Al Stewart is a lot of things, but punk/new wave/second wave he isn't. Far from it.

Rebecca - I can't stop listening to it. The more I listen to it, the more I like it.

Alyson said...

Looks like an awesome cd to me!

Laurie said...

Alyson - It is definitely awesome!

mr-mooph said...

I've been mulling over this disc for a few days now. Like Mofostopheles said above, the selection seems rather scatter shot and missing the new wave mark on a few counts (not that I mind as the ones that missed are typically ones I enjoy). But what struck me when I first looked at this disc was as a Lost In Translation - the lost tracks sort of disc.

It's kind of off target because this really only applies to 4 songs, but the movie/soundtrack had been on my mind lately and it jumped out at me.

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Just Like Honey plays over the final scene of the movie and leaves a lasting impression with the visual images. I believe this one was actually included on the soundtrack.

However, what we have on this disc are the three songs you see sung in the karaoke scene by Bill Murray (Roxy Music - More Than This & Elvis Costello & the Attractions - (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding) and Scarlett Johannsen (The Pretenders - Brass in Pocket) which are not (at least to my knowledge) actually on the soundtrack itself.

I don't know if this was intentional, but to have a quarter of the tracks off a compilation disc also appear in a film (that's not blatantly based around music as say High Fidelity or some other films, but not on its soundtrack, seems a bit more than coincidence.

Laurie said...

Mr. Mooph - I love that movie, but I didn't notice the connection. Perhaps I did on some subliminal level? Maybe that's one reason I like the CD so much.

My guess is the song inclusion wasn't intentional, but more the result of some secret marketing deal with some mega-huge-parent-company-conglomeration that those particular songs be used in as many ways as possible. We'll probably start hearing them continuously advertising Cadillacs and/or Saturns in the very near future.

Thanks for the comment, by the way. I think I'm going to start doing more posts about new wave/second wave music. It seems to bring out some very interesting and intelligent commenters.

Jackson Glass said...

Arlo Emerson:
Please get your genres straight and your idiotic statements cleaned up (the Tom Tom Club being the better "half" of the Talking Heads... when you previously stated "Genius of Love" is the Tom Tom Club's only good song {and The Heads? Even worse}).

Keep at it and one day you might right a knowledgeable review (about a Starbucks compilation? C'mon dude, did you really expect them to give a shit about sequencing and packaging a tight group of tracks? No, they'll pump this album out with a $20 price tag and it'll fly off the shelves. Score one more for Joy Division being THE post-punk band. Lame.)

Laurie said...

Jackson - write

Jana Banana said...

LOVE this CD!! I thought the compilation was an odd mish-mash as well, but that's what I love about it! My teenage son listens to it all the time and when my friends hear it in the car they ask for a copy. It may not "represent" the way it should, but it's a fun CD.

Laurie said...

Jana - I still love it!