Nothing makes me feel like an old fart than the recent announcement that they’re going to quit making recording tape for recording studios. Crimeny, we’ve only been using analog for 70 years! Tape is dead, long live the king!
I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. People with better ears than mine say there is a warmth to the analog recording media [tape/vinyl] that digital cannot reproduce. Who am I to argue with Jeff Tweedy? But hey, I am a dinosaur. I had a cassette player put in my 2000 pick up and traded the GM CD player for a video card! Of course, I have a stock pile of tapes including my cool road tapes from the last 20 years or so, and I KNOW what those car players do to CDs, though now I can burn copies for the car [ahem, for my own private use RIAA spies].
So I told you all that to tell you why I HAD to have [not needed, mind you, but I HAD TO HAVE] Rhino’s Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the ’80s Underground box set.
This is the perfect box set for people my age [In the immortal words of Dennis from Monty Python and the Holy Grail : “I’m 37… I’m not old.” ] who turned away from all the big haired, spandex clad ‘metal’ [and I use the term very loosely] or … geez, I can’t even remember top 40 in the late 80s for something new. My senior year we found Frank Zappa, Beggars Banquet and got turned onto new things by a sophomore: X’s More Fun in the New World, Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper [who’s non-inclusion on this set sticks out like a sore thumb], the Cramps Bad Music for Bad People, the Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and the very harsh first EP by the Butthole Surfers LIVE PCPPEP [which I still have my vinyl import of]. I wish I had paid more attention to that guys collection because I might have found the Replacements and Husker Du before I did and I know Sanford had the Minutemen, Black Flag and the Germs…. things I have to go back and check out again now.
If you’re in my age bracket, roughly graduating high school 1981- 1988, and you had an ear for anything not on the top 40 ‘Classic Rock/Album Oriented Radio’, be it the pop stylings of XTC, Kate Bush, the Smithereens [a later day Cheap Trick] and the Pretenders; the left of center social-political commentaries of X, R.E.M., Gang of Four, Minutemen and the Dead Kennedys [and the also missing Alarm]; the fist in your face of Black Flag, Bad Brains, Ministry, Minor Threat; the slash and burn of Husker Du, Suicidal Tendencies; the acid drenched echoes of Love and Rockets, the Cure, Jesus and Mary Chain and the shimmering, Byrds inspired Paisley Underground of the Raincoats, Dream Syndicate, Lyres, and the general weirdness of the Pixies, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Julian Cope, The Pogues, Cocteau Twins and the Butthole Surfers… you start to see it was a diverse time, though you couldn’t tell from the EMF that was dominating the charts.
If you’re in my age bracket, this set is going to send you searching for your old vinyl copies of Tim and Skylarking and Stone Roses and Sonic Youth CDs and wondering if you really DID leave your Nothing’s Shocking tape at the party where you didn’t know anyone but your roommate and which of your exes snuck off with your Cure tapes. This should be the sampler that sends you off to used vinyl shops looking for the interesting bands that you always heard about but never checked out. Who knew Siouxsie and the Banshees were so… you thought goth was all gloom and doom, like Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration. HA!
If you’re not in my age bracket, this should be a sampler that sends you to the used vinyl and CD stores looking for the bands that influenced the bands you’re hearing now. This is the Original Alternative, when Alternative meant WEIRD, the Alternative for the group going to their 20th class reunions right now. Before Alternative was cool or a lifestyle… but I ask again, if Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden and Red Hot Chilli Peppers sell millions of albums, what are you alternative to?
Granted, I didn’t find everything I remember on this set: no Lime Spiders, no Jason and the Scorchers, no Long Ryders, no Flipper or Fear [they may be on the No Thanks punk set, which will be my IRS return gift to myself now]… AND HOW IS THERE NO FISHBONE ON THIS SET??? But from the booklet detailing some arguments, nobody got what 100% of what they wanted. Still, based on this collection, I think I begin re-exploring my [Sonic] Youth, refinding my 80s roots.