Welcome to Day Three of my self-indulgent countdown of my 100 favorite albums from the original Golden Age of pop/rock/dance music called New Wave. Technically, those years ran from the mid-Seventies to the beginning of Nineties Alternative Nation. And, although most of us were impressionable kids back when this music was popular, New Wave is considered to be a great era for music. In other words, we were lucky to be alive during this time period, although I personally never want to go back to my teenage years without the wisdom I have gained through my “hard knock life.”
Enough of this! Let’s get to the countdown of Day Three of my countdown of the Top 100 New Wave Albums.
80. Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust (1988). In the wake of U2’s Joshua Tree, artists were making grandiose statements both lyrically and musically. Australia’s Midnight Oil was primed for such a leap in their music when they released Diesel and Dust, which was all about the plight of Australia’s Aboriginal population. The difference with this band was the lead singer actually entered government work in the climate department by helping the country make a positive impression. This is one band who actually put money where their mouths were.
79. Berlin – Pleasure Victim (1982). L.A.’s Berlin represented the USA’s entry into synth pop sweepstakes with the release of their debut album, Pleasure Victim. While the music was pure European, the lyrics of female sexual awakening was purely American. The best songs are “Sex (I’m A…)” and “The Metro”.
78. XTC – Drums and Wires (1979). Before XTC became known for their take on lush Rubber Soul-like pop music in the mid-Eighties and beyond, they were a new wave band with herky-jerky rhythms ripe for Pogo-ing on the dancefloor. Drums and Wires was their finest album of this stage of their career, with the great “Making Plans for Nigel” being the hit song here.
77. The Undertones – The Undertones (1979). Their are two versions of this album. My preference is the re-release of the album because it includes The Undertones’ greatest single “Teenage Kicks”. That song alone is worth the price of admission, but the rest of the album is excellent as well. This album is highly regarded in the UK, where it is often listed at the top, or very near the top, of numerous polls of the greatest albums of the Seventies. Here, The Undertones is a footnote and a cult delight.
76. Men at Work – Business as Usual (1982). This album ruled the American album chart in the second half of 1982, battling John Cougar’s American Fool and Asia’s self-titled debut album for Album of the Year in the States. This is pure pop for the new wave crowd, as the band from down under taught Americans how to have fun again.
75. Katrina & the Waves – Katrina & the Waves (1985). Group leader and lead singer and songwriter Kimberly Rew had been a fixture around London during the punk days of the Seventies, being in and out of bands quickly until she finally formed Katrina & the Waves in the early-Eighties. Their debut album was full of great songs written from a powerful woman’s point of view, not unlike Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. But, they became known for a song that is a slice of Power Pop heaven, “Walking on Sunshine”. It’s not anyone’s fault that the band got reduced to one song, which is a shame because this album is terrific.
74. Echo & the Bunnymen – Crocodiles (1980). When Echo & the Bunnymen hopped on the scene, they were being touted as New Wave’s answer to The Doors. And, the similarities are striking if you go looking for them: deep, gloomy lyrics; lower-registered vocals from the singer; dark musical soundscape. Still, the band was not the second coming of The Doors. No, they were the first coming of Echo & the Bunnymen, and they, along with Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Cure, and the other goths brought some much needed darkness to this pop scene.
73. Rick Springfield – Working Class Dog (1981). I got over the fact that Springfield was acting on the soap opera General Hospital when he released this Power Pop gem of an album. Led by the great singles “Jesse’s Girl” and “I’ve Done Everything for You”, Working Class Dog was easily Springfield’s most muscular album and his most consistent.
72. Bananarama – Deep Sea Skiving (1983). Before Bananarama became New Wave’s own Supremes, they were the female street urchin trio with great songs that sounded as if Motown had nurtured these women. The band did a terrific job of finding the right songs for their debut album, with the highlights being a cover of Paul Weller’s “Dr. Love” and the singles “Shy Boy” and “Na Na, Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)”, a cover of Steam’s 1969 hit.
71. The Waitresses – Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? (1982). The Waitresses burst onto MTV with the video of their first single, the sassy “I Know What Boys Like,” the theme song of all the teases of the day. But, that wasn’t the only song this post-punk band from Akron, Ohio had on their debut album. It was a unique album as the band’s songwriter was a man, Chris Butler, who wrote songs from a strong woman’s point-of-view. He then discovered the perfect vehicle for his songs in lead singer Patty Donahue, who possessed just the right amount of sassy-ness necessary to pull of Butler’s songs. It’s a shame that these two creative forces could not have lasted together long, since they also created the eternal New Wave Christmas standard “Christmas Wrapping”, which, unfortunately, is not on this album. This may be THE lost classic album of the era.
That’s a wrap on Day 3! And, I am looking forward to working on this over the next seven days, before my Spring Break hiatus.