Friday, December 21, 2018

Primal Alt Rock Favorites

I’ve been listening to a lot of 80s alt rock and 1st Wave alt rock lately and I decided to create a list of my favorite early alt rock bands or songs. Some of these bands were basically one hit wonders and some of them turned into superstars, and some are still actively making new music and touring. I’ve seen other similar lists with other bands, but those other bands simply never struck a chord with me. There might even be a few on here you haven’t heard.

I ended up with 67. Why 67? Well, this is how many I found that met my criteria, of being considered alt rock by someone or on a band comparison to someone else on this list, was before 1995 and wasn’t obviously conventional pop. Some of these songs border on pop or more conventional rock. It was hard to differentiate where to draw the line. Many of these bands have multiple songs that I dig, but I just picked one that I really love by that band. The first on this list is a perfect example. This is also not representative of all of the music I listened to back then. I love metal and straight up rock as well as some bluegrass and some country music, but it is very representative of great alternative rock music from that era. There is some incredible alternative music being made today, but these bands set the stage of what would follow, and it is a pretty diverse set. All of these songs are awesome! Links provided for a YouTube song. There are lots of versions for most of these songs.

U2 – Stories for Boys - I found a really old version of this maybe their first video
The Smiths – How Soon is Now?
The Cure – In Between Days
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Cities in Dust
Pet Shop Boys – Two divided by Zero
The Clash – Rock the Casbah
Echo and the Bunnymen – The Cutter
Violent Femmes -Blister in the Sun
The English Beat – Mirror in the Bathroom
Eurythmics – Missionary Man
Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax
Still makes me want to get up and dance!
Modern English – I Melt with You
Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party
Psychodelic Furs - Love My Way
Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence
The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
The Police – Don’t Stand So Close to Me
Talk Talk – It’s My Life
The Call – The Walls Came Down
The B-52s – Private Idaho
Naked Eyes – Always Something There to Remind Me
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground
Billy Idol – White Wedding
The Godfathers – Birth School Work Death
General Public – Tenderness
Yaz (Yazoo in Britain) – Situation
They Might Be Giants – Don’t Let’s Start
Simple Minds – Don’t You
Midnight Oil – Beds Are Burning
Hoodoo Gurus – Miss Freelove ’69
Tears for Fears – Everybody Wants to Rule the World
A Flock of Seagulls – I Ran
Thomas Dolby – She Blinded Me with Science
The Pursuit of Happiness – Hard to Laugh
The Human League – Don’t You Want Me?
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – Grey Cell Green
Big Country – In a Big Country
Haircut 100 – Love Plus One
The Tubes – She’s a Beauty
Howard Jones – What is Love?
Dead or Alive – You Spin Me Round
Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
Wang Chung – Everybody Have Fun Tonight
Gene Loves Jezebel – 20 Killer Hurts
After the Fire -Der Kommissar
Real Life - Send Me an Angel

Monday, December 17, 2018

Riding the 1st Wave

 Birth School Work Death
     I was in the car the other day, listening to Siruis/XM radio, channel 33, 1st Wave, which I adore. The song that come on the radio was Birth, School, Work, Death by The Godfathers. It brought back some good memories. I used to own that album on cassette. Here is the YouTube video: Birth School Work Death
     I was really into music in the mid 80s, I even DJed for a brief time in the spring and summer of 1987. It was the end of the first wave of alternative rock, but there was still great music coming out. This album was just one example.
     Sherman, set the wayback machine for 1988. It was early summer and I had just bought the tape maybe a week before, after seeing The Godfathers on an MTV video; they actually played videos back then. My roommate was from Chicago and we were driving up for the weekend to see what we could get into, two young and single dudes. He was in the driver’s seat as I read a paper which he had acquired earlier that detailed all the entertainment that week in Chicago, and we had just gotten into range to listen to his favorite radio station. Birth, School, Work, Death came on the radio and I mused that it would be cool if we could see somebody like The Godfathers that weekend. I turned the page and voilà, like magic they were playing at the Metro that very night. It was an awesome show and a really cool venue.
     We made a lot of trips to Chicago that summer, but nothing topped the serendipity of that concert. St. Elmo’s Fire had been released a few years before that, and were felt like we were living a little bit like those twenty-something’s in the big city. Within a little more than a year, though, we would both be married and our lives would settle into a different trajectory, but the summer of 1988 was my introduction into adulthood in many ways.
     Thanks Sirius/XM 1st Wave for the trip down memory lane and well done!.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Richard K. Morgan’s new novel, Thin Air, is Hugo Worthy

     I just finished Richard K. Morgan’s latest release, Thin Air. It is gritty SciFi at its finest. Morgan seems to have leveled up in his writing, over already highly regarded and award-winning previous work. Every sentence is crafted with care. It is a Master Class of immersive third person point of view writing.

     I listened to the audiobook version, which was read by Colin Mace, and for me, it was a perfect fit. Mace hit the ball out of the park and became the embodiment of Hakan Veil, the hi-tech ninja of the future and protagonist of what I hope is not a standalone novel. It is a new character and setting of sorts for Morgan. He alludes to his concept of the Mars colony and COLIN (Colony Initiative) in Thirteen, which I have started today. I just downloaded the audiobook.

     This story had me riveted from the word go, and didn’t let go. It is the best science fiction I’ve read since Ancillary Justice, which won the Hugo. This work is certainly good enough to be in consideration, but it has very adult themes (read graphic sex.) Morgan has included this with intention and I hope it doesn’t take him out of the running.

     There is so much to love about this novel. The characters are real and multifaceted. The description is immersive, but not overdone and the word choices are evocative and graphic, and fit perfectly with the landscape of Mars he has painted. Mars itself is a character all its own. It has a well-developed history and a depth that makes it feel authentic, albeit a true frontier and all that comes with that, 300ish years into a colony development that never quite materialized the way the original planners had envisioned. His simile and metaphor are based on these artifices of an old Martian colony and struck the perfect chord to bring the setting to life. The science parts of the fiction are the essence of cool and seemingly plausible, including the pseudoatmosphere of the lamina, a membrane of sorts that covers the dug out Gash, allowing for a localized breathable atmosphere. The prose is wonderful, especially considering that this is a hard-boiled genre fiction piece, great writing implanted within a ruthless noir fiction story.

     Veil is a former Overrider. A last resort corporate security ninja, that is kept on ice in orbit, a sort of ‘break glass in case of emergency’ setup. He has been bred since childhood for this life, adding a backdrop that adds a little sympathy to a character who at times, seems to lack it entirely. He has the ability to stuff all of his humanity into a drawer and do what needs to be done, no matter how hard or how terrible it might be. “The ship must be saved at all costs.” However, something horrible happened on his watch involving important people that forced him out of that life and into one on Mars with no safety net. This is all back-story and is alluded to in snippets but never completely spelled out. There is a flashback scene of his childhood that is heart-wrenching and adds to the depth of his character, if not the empathy we might have for him. He is a hard man to like, but there are moments, glimpses of his wry humor and intelligence, and even warmth for those few that he feels real loyalty for that is enough for me to throw all-in with him. He’s not the world-weary protagonist with the heart of gold. His very nature drives him to violence, but he is smart enough to temper it all with a modicum of self-restraint . . . most of the time.

     He has appetites and a real weakness for women that, if not a blind spot, is at least an extremely hazy area in his field of vision. His onboard AI even reminds him of these things over and over but he wants what he wants and does things his own way, damn the torpedoes. More often than not, though, Veil has an instinct to take the right course of action, even when I am wondering why he isn’t more interested in interrogating someone instead of killing them without a second thought. I came to trust his instincts, and figured he had seen enough of the slimy side of life that he knew what he could discard and what he needed to hold onto. He isn’t infallible, but has a knack for survival.

     Morgan does a great job of taking an ultra-masculine killer, who is definitely self-absorbed, (who wouldn’t be if you were designed to spend months in hibernation or endless hours alone) and lends him a respect for women and the marginalized, giving them a dignity and power all their own, even if those powers may pale in the light of the deadly skills of the Overrider. All of the main characters have agency, whether they be a strip club dancer or a local cop or corporate thug.

     The story is part western, part detective noir but is all parts violent and at times gory. It is generously gratuitive in both violence and explicit sex. The action rarely takes a breath, rocketing constantly forward and all over the settlement of the Gash, from its depths to its borderlands. It kept me guessing who the real bad guys were throughout the story and wondering who Veil could really trust.

      The novel has a satisfying ending, that left me wanting more of Hakan Veil and more of the Martian colony that got interrupted for corporate profit. This book spoke to me like the AI incorporated into Veil’s nervous system. Morgan has become one of my favorite authors. I admire his skill as a wordsmith and his imagination. He has given me another high bar to reach for in my own prose. It has inspired me to redouble my efforts to finish the current project and to increase my word count. Go and get this book now! It is published in the US by Del Rey. Here it is on amazon: Thin Air

His author website: