Thursday, 8 August 2013

Playlist: The darker side of the '80s

Oh the 1980s, what an interesting decade. Though most people associate the '80s with the birth of synthpop and the rise of the likes of Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, there was so much more going on. Outside the radio playlists there was a huge following for darker music. Whereas in the 1970s the anger was expressed through punk, and the 1990s had grunge to channel angst into, the 1980s marked a prominent time of post-punk music and saw the rise of goth music. Pop music - again, mostly outside the top 40 - was darker than ever before.

It all started from the rise of post-punk. After the first wave of punk had settled down in the late 1970s, bands that emerged from the punk scene started to experiment with their sound, creating the genre that is nowadays known as post-punk. Very logical, innit. Typical for the new style were for example edgy guitars and emphasised drumming. It was also very experimental, incorporating new elements such as the newly invented synthesizers. Gone was the overt aggressiveness of punk as post-punk developed a gloomier sound. The term was first used in 1977 to put a label on the unique sound of the likes of Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine, Public Image Ltd. and The Cure.

The rise of post-punk gave birth to a new sub-genre: goth. Now, what's noteworthy about gothic music is that gloomy as it was, it originally represented the Edgar Allan Poe kind of gloominess. When it started it wasn't all batcaves and bondage and big hairdos. Initially coined as a musical genre to describe the musical direction of Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees (JD's song "Bela Lugosi's Dead" and SATB's album Join Hands were the prime examples), it soon began to inspire a whole new generation of musicians embracing the darkness of goth music. Many of these artists actually loathed the labeling as they felt it was limiting. Though the visual aspect was an important part of the subculture, people often tend to disregard the music itself - goth was a music genre after all.

Looking back at all this music makes me feel nostalgic. No, unfortunately I didn't live in the 1980s but I kept listening to this stuff a lot when I was in my late teens. I guess it was my version of the "black phase", but what's funny is that I never dressed up accordingly. So there you have it, it is possible to appreciate the music as it is. In celebration of this and the darker side of the '80s, I've put together a 12-track playlist consisting of several post-punk and even goth classics. Try it (especially if you enjoyed the Donnie Darko soundtrack, for example), you just might be pleasantly surprised. No backcombing or black eyeliner needed!

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