Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the 80s Underground
This sprawling four-disc set -- something of a bookend to Rhino's encyclopedic punk collection, No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion -- digs deep into the history of what some call post-punk and others have dubbed indie-rock. It's a dauntingly large amount of territory to cover, but the producers have done so effectively, crisscrossing this country, as well as swaths of Europe, and cherry-picking both easily recognizable bands and equally worthy obscure names that might otherwise be consigned to rock history footnotes. The former category yields songs that have become standards -- including R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe" and the Smiths' "This Charming Man" -- as well as surprising, under-aired material, notably the pre-fame Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Hollywood/Africa" and the Cure's "A Forest." While Left of the Dial touches on virtually every subgenre imaginable -- hitting on hardcore with Minor Threat's anthemic "Straight Edge," goth with Bauhaus's "Bela Lugosi's Dead," and second-wave garage rock via the Lyres' "I Wanna Help You Ann" -- the songs are mortared together so carefully that it all holds together perfectly. Even so, there are standouts, mostly those that don't fit easily into any readily identifiable category, thus flaunting the era's sonic variety. The Gun Club's feral "Sex Beat," for instance, straddles Angeleno punk and Delta howl; the Feelies' hyper-kinetic "Fa Cé-La" speeds up Velvet Undergroundstyle sonic grind, adding a heaping helping of buttoned-up suburbiana in the process; and Prefab Sprout's "When Love Breaks Down" is a tip of the hat to Stephen Sondheim (perhaps as adventurous a move as one could muster in the '80s underground). More than anything else, however, Left of the Dial proves that its contents -- particularly the Gang of Four's revolution-funk call to arms "To Hell with Poverty" -- stand up every bit as well two decades on.
Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the 80s Underground 4.3 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
The 80s were a blast, mostly because the 70s just weren't. Bloated and/or tuneless riff-rock bands had dominated a decade until the great 3-minutes-and-your-done eighties happened, where power pop from the likes of The Plimsouls, Paul Collins' Beat, Let's Active, The Photos and others brought the fun back. Besides these great acts, also glaringly missing are Romeo Void, Oingo Boingo and Translator, but I'm sure Rhino did what they could. All in all, this is a far better set than the "Omigod" piece of junk released to represent the 80s previously. Even though U2, The Police and Blondie (even, gulp, Duran Duran) mattered in the eighties, there are a lot of worthy entries here.
More than 1 year ago
If you worked at a college radio station in the mid-80's (like I did), this collection will put you right back in the booth. It's all here...well, almost. There's a few missing nuggets - "88 Lines About 44 Women" (The Nails), "Boy (Go)" (Golden Palominos), "The Walls Came Down" (The Call), and why they left off The Smith's epic "How Soon Is Now", which is the "Freebird" of 80's alternative music, I have no idea. Nonetheless, it's a great collection not to be missed.