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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.
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This compilation contains its share of huge hits, minor hitettes and obscure masterpieces. The title is not quite correct, as some of these tracks date from the late 1970s, e.g. Tubeway Army’s Are Friends Electric? (1978). Besides, bands like The Stranglers produced their best work in the 70s.
The most familiar songs on Disc One are Blue Monday by New Order (a timeless club hit), the brilliant World Shut Your Mouth by Julian Cope, The King Of Rock ‘n Roll by Prefab Sprout and Pretty In Pink by The Psychedelic Furs.
Rock The Casbah by The Clash and Dream Academy’s lovely interpretation of Nick Drake’s Life In A Northern Town were hits too, but my favourites are the Bauhaus version of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and The Fall’s version of R. Dean Taylor’s There’s A Ghost In My House.
On Disc Two one finds electronica in the form of Blancmange, beautiful folk songs by The Pogues and by Kirsty MacColl, great rock by The Cure, early 80s post-punk by The Teardrop Explodes, snappy pop by Altered Images and atmospheric ethereal pop by Cocteau Twins.
Alternative 80’s provides an excellent window on the music that mattered in a decade that also gave us lots of shallow stuff. Other worthwhile acts include Elvis Costello with the catchy Every Day I Write The Book, Lloyd Cole, The Style Council and The Stranglers.
I recommend this CD to all who wish to investigate the unique and original music of the time in various genres. It is worth the price for tracks like Ziggy Stardust, World Shout Your Mouth, There’s A Ghost In My House and A New England alone!
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What a missed opportunity this was! How some of these tracks can be called Alternative is beyond me. Some great tracks in there (The Associates, Tubeway Army, Echo & the Bunnymen) but also some very mainstream pop. Was this compiled by someone who was not around in the eighties and thinks that all eighties music is alternative???
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on 9 December 2013
This is a good compilation of 80's 'Alternative' music, although as previous reviewers point out many of these songs made it to 'Top of the Pops' (R.I.P.). Then again so did The Stones, Hendrix, Pistols, Oasis etc.. But whats nice about this album is the odd few lesser known tracks;e.g The Passions: I'm In love With A German Film Star, and Cocteau Twins: Pearly Dew Drops. Several tracks appear on numerous other albums, hence one star less, but this seems to the case with most compilation albums. Whether the 80's was your era, or you are just exploring this genre there are some crackin tunes on here, I dont think you wil lbe disappointed!
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on 7 June 2016
you would think that when a record company decides to put together an 80s compilation album they would take a look at what similar albums are already out there, how well they sold, maybe read a few reviews and generally do a bit of research instead of dragging out the same tired old tracks that have been released time and time and time again... probably because they are cheap to license... whilst this album isn't completely without merit, infact it's probably one of the better recent ones but as another reviewer commented to call Erasure's "Sometimes", the Bluebells' "Young At Heart" & Prefab Sprout's "King of Rock & Roll" alternative is somewhat misleading.... at the time of this review this cd was for sale at 20p 2nd hand plus 1.26 postage making my total outlay only £1.46 which is the real reason i bought it so i'm not going to moan too much, it's a nice try but could have been so much better...
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on 24 April 2002
A few interesting choices (were Erasure alternative?) but overall some fairly eclectic items have been included on here. Some that you wouldn't think you'd know and some classics. A very refreshing change from the usual pap 80s collections.
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on 27 June 2002
Firstly, the title. Alternative 80s implies that the tracks are a bit leftfield, revolutionary or otherwise not mainstream. Therefore such chart toppers as Sonic Boom Boy by Westworld, Young At Heart by The Bluebells Life In A Northern Town by Dream Academy do not really belong on this album. However as a record of the early part of that decade this is an important item in anyone's collection. Some of the tracks are a tad cliched (Blue Monday, Reward, Shout To The Top, A New England) but it is still refreshing to hear them in context next to The Only Ones' cover of Another Girl Another Planet and the ethereal Bunnymen track, The Killing Moon. I can even forgive the inclusion of the worst ever Clash single, Rock The Casbah in the name of period atmosphere, reminding us that it was an era of change, shuffling the new order (no pun intended) to one side to make way for europop, new romantics etc who in turn made way for the early Britpop and Madchester bands. Tracks I was particularly pleased and proud to listen to again include the incredible Pretty In Pink by The Psychedelic Furs, Bauhaus' supreme cover of Ziggy Stardust, BAD's E=MC2 and Liberator by Spear Of Destiny.
The eighties certainly produced music to cringe to by the ton but, as this CD proves, it also gave us some excellent songs which have aged well and influenced the music of today. I look forward to volume two and hopefully this time the emphasis will well and truly be on "alternative".
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 30 April 2002
'Alternative Eighties' is one of the better Eighties compilations- though the premise that it is either 'alternative' or 'Eighties' is delusive...
Disc One opens with the excellent UK-US hit-single 'Rock the Casbah'- which is great, but about as alternative as Haircut 100...The Lotus Eaters are an interesting choice- pity we couldn't have had more 'obscure' acts like Felt, The Sound or Comsat Angels...As seems to be the case, we get the biggest hit a band had in the 80's- thus we get 'Pretty in Pink'-though not the 'Talk Talk Talk'-original from 1981, but the horrible re-recording for John Hughes 1986 film which took its title from said song...'Brilliant Mind' is fantastic- though other Furniture records ought to be sought out (especially 'The Wrong People')...'Love is a wonderful Colour' is bright and breezy and very Teardrop Explodes; while 'Life in a Northern Town' was the biggest hit by the Dream Academy. Pity we don't get their cover of The Smiths 'Please Please Please' or an explanation why a song about Nick Drake is set in a Northern Town (he came from Warwickshire!)...'Blue Monday' is both screamingly brilliant and screamingly obvious; as is 'The King of Rock'n'Roll'- why not pick something from the classic 'Steve McQueen' album?...'I'm in Love with a German Film Star' is classic, alternative and Eighties; while the choice of 'Digging yr scene' over 'Be this way' is commendable...Bauhaus are a very depressing inclusion, moreso for their karaoke version of 'Ziggy Stardust'. 'She's in Parties' would have been better...Nice to hear the classic Sugacubes debut single- pity we don't get more tracks from 1987/88 like 'Revolution' by Spacemen 3, 'You Made Me Realise' by MBV or 'Love Song from Outer Space' by AR Kane...'Another Girl, Another Planet' is the brilliant single from the Only Ones- who released it in 1978 from their major label debut album!...'E=MC2' is a great song- pity the sampledelic possibilities are left here- what about 'Info Freako', 'Jesus Loves Amerika' or 'Planet Rock'?...'Never Never' was the dull collaboration between Vince Clarke & Feargal Sharkey; better off with Yazoo's 'Situation' or the Undertones 'The Love Parade'...'Crash' is such an obvious choice- as is 'Are Friends Electric?' (aka the one Sugababes have sampled for 'Freak Like Me')...Pity the compilers choose Julian Cope's anthem, 'World Shut Yr Mouth'- brilliant it is- but would have been nice to see the more unfamiliar 'Greatness & Perfection' or 'Sunspots'. Tragic that the mighty Fall are represented by a R Dean Taylor cover- especially when you consider such alt-80's singles as: 'Hit the North', 'The Man Whose Head Expanded', 'Totally Wired', 'How I Wrote Elastic Man', 'City Hobgoblins', 'Kicker Conspiracy' etc Especially when The Strokes' 'Last Nite' sounds like 'Pay Your Rates'!
Disc 2 opens with the goth-tastic 'She Sells Sanctuary', you can taste the snakebite and black, as the make-up runs down yr face ('Spiritwalker' or 'Resurrection Joe' were much better!)...'The Killing Moon' is a fair enough classic choice...'Boy's Don't Cry' is a Buzzcock influenced song from 1979; The Cure did reissue it in 1986- but 'A Forest', 'In Between Days' or 'Just Like Heaven' would have been superior choices...Robert Smith did guest on the associates debut 'The Affectionate Punch'- from said band we get their classic 'Partyfearstwo'. This is from the wonderful 'Sulk', though their Situation Two single 'White Car in Germany' would have made a bolder choice...'Liberator' is sub-Clash bilge; Theatre of Hate's 'Westworld' would have been slightly more bearable...'Reward' and 'Feels Like Heaven' turn up on all these compilations; the former is great- though 'Passionate Friend' was just as great. The latter sucks...'Young at Heart' is vile nonsense; why include the Bluebells but not Aztec Camera or Orange Juice- who did this thing in a more interesting way...'I Could be Happy' is OK, the lovely Clare Grogan still does it for me- though 'I think that i might' betters this...Nice to see The Cocteau Twins included, what about bands like Pixies, This Mortal Coil or Ultra Vivid Scene?...'Sometimes'& 'Living on the Ceiling' are on every compilation; very dull...'This is the Day' is a great pop single from the timeless 'Soul Mining' album...I'll let 'Sonic Boom Boy' go...'Lost Weekend' is a bit of a Lloyd Cole chestnut; though 'Perfect Skin', 'Brand New Friend', 'Forest Fire' & 'Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?' ("read Norman Mailer or get a new jailer") are greater. Seems a bit odd not to see The Smiths being represented!...Costello's wonderful 'Everyday I Write the Book' is welcome- though not close to singles such as 'High Fidelity', 'Man Out of Time', 'I Want You' or 'Tokyo Storm Warning'. Plus, the greatest single of the 80's was co-composed by him- the sadly absent 'Shipbuilding' by Robert Wyatt...'Shout to the Top' was one of the great singles by the Style Council, three words: long, hot, summer?...Next is a dull MOR song from the Stranglers; 'Strange Little Girl' was much better...The Pogues are represented by 'Dirty Old Town' (great), written by the father of the late Kirsty MacColl who covers Billy Bragg's 'A New England'(still lovely...).
Good, sometimes great this compilation is, it's not very alternative or even 80's at times. The bands not represented are ridiculous, such as: Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Cabaret Voltaire, Suicide, Dexys, Simple Minds, Talking Heads (just as David Byrne has a huge hit!), The Specials, Throwing Muses, Big Black, Butthole Surfers, Front 242, The Pop Group, THe Birthday Party, House of Love, Scritti Politti, Talk Talk, Japan, Art of Noise etc etc...So...another obvious 80's compilation to add to the others.
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on 28 April 2002
a great compilation of artists on two cd's, fantastic value for money,your hair will stand out on the back of your neck reliving the 80's in your home once more,you will not refrain from dancing once you start listening to any of the artists. if you need an adrenalin rush then listen to "The Cult". Listening to the original Gary Numan(Tubeway Army) "Are Friends Electric" proves that if it's not broken don't break it.
Once you've listened to it once you have to listen to listen to it again, it is simply one of the greatest 80's compilations ever.
Once you add this cd to your collection you wont be disappointed.
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on 20 February 2015
39 class tunes from the 80s. Excellent audio quality.
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