Saturday, September 23, 2006

Prog Not Frog Radio Presents:The Voice of The Moon #014, With The Herbalist (Were the 80's really that bad?)

There is a common believe among popular music collectors about the 80's. Most will tell you that the whole decade was lost in terms of music creativity.

Some others might tell you that the 80's produced music for robots, or out-of-control punks.

These feelings have deep roots in several phenomena that happened at the end of the 70's. One was the explosion of Disco, a music which lacks any kind of artistic value and which is devoted exclusively to make people dance while suppressing almost all thinking process at the same time.

The other trgedy at the end of the 70's was the catalepsy that trapped many of the great progressive bands of the 70's. Some fell into a cold fusion abyss, others simply stopped making records for sometime.

The political background wasn't too nice either. The whole planet was trapped between two opposite systems: extreme capitalism, represented by Reagan, Thatcher and their gang, and extreme communism, represented by the Holy Supreme Soviet.

There were hot spots in Central America and Star Wars was not only a movie but also a defensive project. Nuclear Holocaust was very possible. Fear was our daily breakfast.

Add to this background a high rate of unemployment in Europe and what you get is that unorganized, anarchic movement in pop culture that eventually we came to know as Punk.

Punk was protest in its purest form. Its motto was "No Future". Its weapons: Ugliness, Violence, Radical and Free expressions of Nastiness.

Although Punk was not, musically-wise, a rich movement, some bands grew and matured with time resulting in interesting proposals like Gang of Four, New Model Army, etc.

Parallel to this, the 80's became the era of the pseudo-robots. The release of the album "Man Machine" by Kraftwerk in 1978, gave birth to a whole generation of techno pop androids like Fad Gadget, Orchestral Manoveurs in The Dark, Human League, The Vapors, Devo, and many others which, some more, some less, produced songs guided by the technology, especially drum machines and sequencers. To our ears that music might sound boring and empty of emotion. But of course that was not every case. We know that here and here there are hidden jewels inside techno pop, waiting to be discovered.

My position is that possibly, the most interesting music done in the 80's was composed and performed by those bands and artists inside the so called New Romantic Movement. They also used the technology at hand, but their approach was more poetic, aiming at a higher level or artistic achievement, using exotism, melancholy, and delicacy as tools to deliver not just pop songs, but cultural objects. We could say that the fathers of 80's New Romanticism are composers like David Sylvian, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Jhon Foxx, to name a few.

Finally post-punk and new romanticism had another child: dark wave. A morbid and nihilistic genre that in time evolved itself into goth rock, gloom, neo ritualism, and some other hyper-sensible ways of making music and poetry.

Of Course the 80's were much more than all this. There was also reggae, dub and ska from Jamaica, three genres that had enormous influence at global level. The 80's were also the background on which Rap had its infancy.

It wasn't after all a dry decade. But it was for sure a time of transitions, a decade of forking paths, many of them leading to dead ends, but some leading to our eclectic 2000’s.

So, maybe The 80's were not that bad. They produced the 90's. That's good enough I think.

Anyway, you don't need to believe me right?


Anonymous said...

I was born in the 80's and still I must say i dislike post 70's music. I did listen to electronic music for a short period from 12-15. For me, modern music has no soul. I cannot ever see anyone in the near future listening to backstreet boys and shakira the way we now listen to the 60's and 70's pop music. And I have absolutely nothing nice to say about goth, punk and all other abysimal spoiled teenager syndrome music. There are so many teens in my country wearing all black and looking like the walkin dead. The names of the bands speak for themselves, "I hate god" is an extreme band that comes to mind. What i dislike about modern music genres, if you can call them that, is that their main thing is posing. They're like a clone army of dress alikes and think alikes who are trying to prove themselves to someone. This is something i cannot comprehend. I consider myself a free spirit and yet i dont wear worn clothes and beads like a general tv overused hippie image. I don't feel the need to pour beer on my hair and paint it green, since it will probably fall off from that :) So my point is that with modern music everything surrounding the music comes before the actual music. Music videos, skinny girls, and cosmeticly treated males.
Of course not all modern music will fall into that category, but more we move on through time, the less I follow new music entries. Instead, I rather travel back in time and seek fro music that somehow manages to evade the capitalist rot. Joe Satriani is an axample of abusing the rock genre. that guy reeks of poserism :D. Just look at his CD covers. From 80's onwards, music has become all about tits and plastic surgery :D

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how there is a widespread belief that music somehow 'died' in the 80s. Some of this comes from people who simply stopped listening to new music. Now in their 40s & 50s they cling nostalically to the old 'classics'
But this is not just nostalgia. I have a theory that music suffered a huge setback around 1973. This was caused, perhaps inadvertantly, by two bands. Led Zep & Pink Floyd.
Both bands were huge at this point and their record contracts up for renewal. Both bands opted to go it alone. Zep formed Swansong & Floyd reduced EMI to little more than a ditributer.This left them free to produce albums when they were ready and keep a greater percentage of the cash. About an album every two years as it turned out. This must have annoyed the record companies bigtime. No longer would bands be given five album contracts and allowed to progress musically. Instant results were the order of the day and record company control became paramount in every contract. Only with the arrival of home recording and especially computers did music outside of the mainstream start to become as available as it was in the 60s & early 70s. Am I right?
Titus Luxor

skaarse said...

As always, the radioshow is GREAT

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all great prog-rock posts over the months! Your choice of music & the albums are very rare & hard-to-find, yet they are excellent. 2 requests from India:

2. MEGATON - MEGATON (UK heavy prog)

I'll be glad if you kindly upload these 2 heavy progressive rock beauties!


Anonymous said...

Good Blog man!!!
I´m from Argentina...I saw your Vox Dei post...It seems you´re very open minded.
I wanna ask just for a record if it´s possible for you to post it: Jan Hammer Group "Melodies". I have the vinyl but it´s in horrible condition...(the track "don´t you know" is amazing). Thanks for the music. Keep On Blogging!!!



Jaime Antonio Alvarez said...


So many interesting comments... And all of them right from their own point of view.

I'll try to answer very briefly each one

1) To ganjanstar.
I understand your position. As you dislike or do not care much about contemporary popular music my advice would be that you open your ears to things outside that freme. For example: world music (make your own choice), acid folk (Faun Fables, Espers), or contemporary folk itself: Garmarna, Madredeus, etc), modern copmposers (Wim Mertens maybe..), etc, etc etc...

For what you wrote you seem to dislike MTV'ish and mainstreamish modern rock, goth and punk... those are aborted results of genres that had better artists.

But it's ok my friend listen to whatever you want. I am just a voice in the desert and if what I play pleases I'll feel I am doing my job. If not.. well, at least it will be good for you to know in which direction you shouldn't go to look for new music.

2) to Titus Luxor:
Your analisys is very intresting. Sometimes I forget that the history of popular,music is also the history of the Music Industry, and when we forget that we lose part of the picture. Thanks for reminding me that.
I am not sure if you're totally right but I guess that the events during the second half of the 70's that lead to a creativity crisis of sorts were caused by many things, not just one, so I am sure that what you just exposed is one of those causes.


3) Thanks Skaarse.
I sleep better thinking that I have at least ONE faithful listener.

3) To Aveek
I'll do my best to find those albums. Tell us about experimental, avantgarde progressive or psych music in your country. With such a deep tradition in music I believe that sureley many interesting things have happened in India since the 60's...

4) To Punk-Cho
Saludos desde Chavezlandia. Jejeje!

5) To NYC Taxi Shots.
Man your comment is really intriguing..because it is empty.

Greetings to all of you and thanks for listening!!!!

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