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Good idea, narrow scope
on 3 May 2002
With the likes of School Disco, the "Here & Now" nostalgia tour and the recent rash of "I Love 1980-something" TV shows, you could be forgiven for thinking that 1980s music was all New Romantics, MOR dullards and Wham!. Thankfully someone has at last had the idea of putting together a compilation that shows another side to the decade, but it's just a shame they showed so little imagination when putting together the track listing.
The first gripe is that a lot of these tracks are here under false pretences. Anyone who thinks that the likes of Erasure's "Sometimes", the Bluebells' "Young At Heart" or Prefab Sprout's "King of Rock & Roll" are "alternative" clearly needs to get out more. And what the hell are the appalling Blow Monkeys doing here?!
Second gripe is that, whilst some of these tracks CAN be seen as "alternative", the majority of them were commercially successful and, as such, already pretty well-known. Much as I love New Order, everybody has heard "Blue Monday" 100s of times, so it would've been good if they'd picked one of the band's lesser-known songs. The same mistake is made with The Cure ("Boys Don't Cry"), The Clash ("Rock the Casbah"), and The Cult ("She Sells Sanctuary"). For an album claiming to be "alternative" it all sounds pretty familiar.
Thirdly, there are plenty of lesser-known but musically important acts whose inclusion would have made this compilation worth buying, but who have been omitted. No Kraftwerk, My Bloody Valentine, Pixies, Go-Betweens, Nick Cave, Triffids, House of Love, Primal Scream, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Young Gods...I could go on all day. For those of us who were there at the time, loving alternative music and evangelistically trying to get others to do the same, the selection of songs on this CD bears little resemblence to what was actually going on at the time.
Of course, there is some good stuff here; The Cocteau Twins' gorgeous "Pearly Dewdrops' Drops", The Sugarcubes' spine-tingling "Birthday", The Fall's spiky "There's a Ghost In My House", and The Only Ones deliciously strung-out "Another Girl, Another Planet". But it's just a shame that the compilers didn't look beyond the obvious when putting this album together, meaning that the good songs are very much in the minority and leaving the modern listener with the impression that the 80s were less about the house/indie crossover, the birth of hip-hop, the embracing of sampling technology and the limitless possibilities of the humble electric guitar, and all to do with lumpen, grey alternative rock.