The third installment of anything is usually a mistake (see: Godfather III, Spider-Man 3, Return of the Jedi, etc.), but I can’t help myself from taking one more trip back to the place where I grew up. This suite of songs continues more or less on the theme of the previous installment, i.e. disconnection, alienation, getting lost, etc.
As so often happens, this thing started out small and rapidly grew out of control. But it certainly sounds good to me. You may feel similarly, you may not, how am I to know? In any case, here it is:
Playlist and notes after the jump.
1. Destination > The Church: The idea of having Aussie neo-psychedelic outfit the Church produced by L.A.-based, Stevie Nicks–connected session hacks Waddy Wachtel and Greg Ladanyi did not seem like a good one on paper, but for whatever reason it worked out very well. The 1988 album from which this song is taken, Starfish, is balanced perfectly between ethereal abstraction and some kind of identifiable rock’n’roll. It gave the Church their only U.S. hit, “Under the Milky Way,” but this song is much more on the trippy/spacy side of things.
2. Fade Away and Radiate > Blondie: Truth be told, I had never heard this song until I picked the Blondie Anthology at a thrift shop a couple months back. But it fits in nicely, don’t you think?
3. Hope Road > Anne Clark: This is a real oddball track: A sad tale of romantic disillusionment narrated in a low-affect British accent, with a ludicrously catchy backing track of synthesizers and sampled voices.
4. From the Air > Laurie Anderson: Read a few paragraphs about Laurie Anderson here.
5. Sweet Bird of Truth > The The: I can very vividly remember walking around the UC Santa Cruz campus circa 1986 listening to this song on my Walkman. Did you know that Sony only very recently stopped producing the cassette Walkman? True fact.
6. Never Let Me Down > Depeche Mode: For years there, every time I tried to quit Depeche Mode, they would come out with some new song that sucked me back in again. This song convinced me to buy Music for the Masses, and I can’t say I regret it; it still sounds pretty nice.
7. I Dream of Wires > Robert Palmer: As discussed here, this song is Robert Palmer covering Gary Numan backed by Numan himself. The result is a bizarre but oddly compelling clash of styles.
8. Performance > Tones on Tail: Hard to believe that Daniel Ash, owner of one of my very favorite voices, wasn’t even the singer in his original band (that would be Bauhaus, for those of you keeping score at home). This song dates from his brief tenure with Tones on Tail, which would soon morph into the equally fantastic Love and Rockets.
9. Everything’s Gone Green > New Order: Always the dark atmosphere with New Order, especially in these early days, when Bernard Sumner still sounded like the ghost of Ian Curtis. Yet there’s a kind of joy in those dancing oscillators. Curious.
10. Ghosts on Water > John Foxx: Haunting, in the best sense of the word.
11. The Chauffeur > Duran Duran: I have absolutely no idea what this song is about, but it hints at depths you would not have expected from the Duran Duran we saw partying on yachts with models. They may have been faux depths, but that’s the 80s for you, innit?
12. The Lights Are Going Out > OMD: I rediscovered this song a few years ago and have found a way to include it in just about every mix I’ve made since. A complete cinematic experience in 3:56.
13. Faded Flowers > Shriekback: No trip to the 80s would be complete without a little Shriekback. This song contains the immortal lines “We had some good machines/but they don’t work no more,” which Grandaddy would turn into an entire album in 2000. Also, as far as I know, the only pop song to use the word “anacrusis.”*
14. Driven Like the Snow > The Sisters of Mercy: Watch out for this one. It starts with a quiet intro that seems to be going nowhere, but when the drums kick in around the 1:08 mark, it gets very loud. Careful with your ears and/or speakers.
15. Lost > The Church: This brings us in for a soft landing, right back where we started. The spell is lifted and it’s 2010 again; better check your email.
def. 1: Prosody. an unstressed syllable or syllable group that begins a line of verse but is not counted as part of the first foot.
def. 2: Music. the note or notes preceding a downbeat; upbeat.