In 1989, by the time that OMD had thrown in the towel, I had come to a crossroads in the road regarding my affinity for British pop. By the mid-80s all of the band I cherished had either broken up or, if they were still shambling onward, were releasing music that I did not care for one bit. That was bad enough. The ’85-’90 period had brought terrible albums by: The Human League, Ultravox, Bowie, Heaven 17, Simple Minds, Shriekback, and even Cabaret Voltaire! Not to mention our subjects, OMD. On the other hand, house music had become the New Disco Hegemony®. I lost track of how many single by bands I collected who had bolted on de-riguer house beats to their now boring [to me, anyway] remixes that I was not enjoying very much. When some of my very favorite bands called it a day [Ultravox, Shriekback, OMD] I was almost relieved by the news.
During the late 80s, I was delving into the movement of British bands fronted by bleached blonde women. Not my favorite thing, but the music worked. Darling Buds. The Primitives. Transvision Vamp [don’t laugh… I think their debut’s a work of genius]. Another thread was second tier synthpop like Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys, that almost was it for my British listening. Oh yeah, I finally “got” Erasure after hearing “Wild!” in-store and got on their bus for a few years. The few other bright spots were harder sounds than I generally gravitated to: Nitzer Ebb. Killing Joke. Wire had managed to be the first band to reform and continue forward with what was the second phase in their honorable career.
By then the thread of Post-Punk that had begun pre-punk and weaved an ever more slender path through the UK music environment had almost disappeared completely. Only the last three bands [and maybe Depeche Mode] really had a sense of continuity with the brand of art music I had responded to most strongly. Instead I was listening more heavily to bands that I now dub the NWOPJP [New Wave Of British Jazz Pop]. Purchases by Swing Out Sister, Basia, Matt Bianco, Carmel, Black, Everything But The Girl, and Danny Wilson were absolutely dominant in my listening during this time as the old guard had crumbled away.
I had quickly moved out of graphic design and into user interface design at exactly the right time by 1990. It’s hard to believe, but my friend Jayne and I started a music fanzine because we were bred and wanted to have something fun and creative to do. I had access to Macintosh computers to tote home from work and make what we called “R Magazine.” I think there were four issues we’d photocopy [and pay for!] to leave in our favorite record stores. It boggles my mind now to think that we made a fanzine at exactly the worst time in the music marketplace to have such an undertaking. I guess that was why there were only four issues! It would have helped to have had a greater passion for the music of the time, but it was all we had to work with. I remember in one 1991 issue that I had a story reviewing the latest singles from what I called The [Virgin] Class of 1981. Bands that had peaked in that magical year on that label when it could do no wrong.
That issue, new singles by Raintree Crow [ex-Japan], Simple Minds, and a now resurgent [if not truly reformed] OMD were issued as I assessed their value in the now diminished marketplace of music ideas that 1991 held for my now backward glancing interest. All of those releases, as compared to the game-changing chance of finally hearing The Associates when the “Popera” CD was issued had made it abundantly clear that the future of music for me at that point was behind me. The seeds had been sown for the Post-Punk Monk. Yes, OMD was back unexpectedly in a new McCluskey only variant that had the rights to the name. It would remain to be heard how much of the musical DNA he had also absconded with.
Next: …Hits, but at What Cost?