Strangeways, Here We Come

Categories: 1987 and Music.

To say I dislike The Smiths would be an understatement. I don’t hate them so much as I hate the aura around them and this idea that they somehow saved British music from itself (and synthesizers! don’t forget the synthesizers), almost like a younger, hipper Bruce Springsteen (because Springsteen saved rock music from disco, don’t you know). Read More

Music for the Masses (1987) by Depeche Mode

Categories: 1987 and Music.

I agree with the general consensus that Martin Gore is perhaps synthpop’s best songwriter. At least at this “mature” stage of the band’s career Depeche Mode sound most like the band willing to leave the confines of their genre to serve his songs. I find his lyrics to be, on average, significantly better than the average synthpop lyrics. And he has strong melodies – though Depche Mode are sort of positioned as the least commercial of synthpop bands, they have always had catchy songs. Read More

Earth Sun Moon (1987) by Love and Rockets

Categories: 1987 and Music.

I love Bauhaus and, initially, I think I found it hard to get into these guys simply because they are not Bauhaus, which is unfair. It’s unfair because these guys are very much their own band, particularly with the wind instruments. (By the way, that flute solo is hilariously Ian Anderson, who I would have thought was super uncool in 1987.) Read More

Darklands (1987) by The Jesus and Mary Chain

Categories: 1987 and Music.

The UK has a long, weird tradition of hilariously opinionated and antagonistic rock front men who bash other musicians and other people and then make wussy music; the Reids, Morrissey, the Gallaghers (I’m sure there are many more). That shouldn’t matter, really, but I find it harder to accept pop music (and poppier rock) on its on terms when the people make it are assholes and have massive chips on their shoulders which they want the world to know about. I mean, if you’re going to be a dick in the press, make punk music or metal or something fitting… Read More

Bad (1987) by Michael Jackson

Categories: 1987 and Music.

I grew up with “Fat” and have a hard time separating the real song, the title track of this record, from its parody. But I haven’t listened to “Fat” in so long. Listening to Bad for the first time (and to the remaster, no less), I can’t help but wonder, “does “Fat” sound this terrible too?” Read More

Scum (1987) by Napalm Death*

Categories: 1987 and Music.

Full disclosure: my favourite Grindcore band is Anal Cunt, because they are a joke. Grindcore has always struck me as a joke, or at least something easily turned into a joke, because of the brevity of the songs and the over-the-top nature of the music. But there are and have been tons of grindcore bands and lots of people like it. And I believe that there are no bad genres. So, there must be something to grindcore. Read More

Whitney (1987) by Whitney Houston

Categories: 1987 and Music.

This is one of the most commercially successful albums of its era, so I guess that’s why I felt I had to listen to it. But if I learned one thing from this album, it’s that the things that I like about music and the things that most consumers like about music are not the same. (I knew that already, but this just heavily reinforces that.) Read More

Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992) by Aphex Twin

Categories: 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and Music.

I am familiar with electronic music up until a point – that point is somewhere in the very early 80s. I have no idea what happened between then and the music we have today (save for the odd track that gets played too much or turned into stadium music). Read More

Ives: Symphonies Nos 2 and 3; The Unanswered Question (1966) by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Berstein

Categories: 1901, 1902, 1910, 1911, 1935, 1958, 1960, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1987, and Music.

This is a compilation of the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Berstein’s performances of the middle symphonies and The Unanswered Question, originally a piece paired with another but one that has found a lot of attention as a standalone. Bernstein was one of the great champions of Ives once he was “discovered,” but these performances are actually significantly later than the premieres, which were handled by other conductors in the ’40s. Apparently Bernstein made some somewhat radical changes to some of the tempi and these changes have entered the repertoire. That’s not something that necessarily bothers me, though I understand Read More

Blind Idiot God (1987)

Categories: 1987 and Music.

First: one of the best band names ever. This record gets off to a pounding start. Essentially it’s instrumental thrash, so it seems, and you’d have to think that this is an absolutely key step in the development of math rock. I mean, it’s not far from Don Caballero. But there’s more variety than you’d imagine. The tracks in the middle are considerably more traditionally “hard rock” than metal (and there’s that funk metal track thrown in for good measure) and then, out of the blue, comes the dub. What the fuck? Seriously. Certainly one of the most bonkers instrumental Read More

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d: A Requiem for Those We Love by Paul Hindemith, performed by Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Robert Shaw (et al.) (1987)

Categories: 1946, 1987, and Music.

There is a tendency among us humans to celebrate things which in turn celebrate the things we think are important. I guess it’s only natural. This requiem is a Walt Whitman poem set to music for the death of Roosevelt. It’s conducted here by its commissioner so, in theory, this is how it’s supposed to sound. I appreciate the sentiments and I appreciate taste. Though I have never mourned a world leader – and cannot imagine doing so – I understand why many would mourn FDR. And I recognize the merit in commissioning music for his death, especially in commissioning Read More

Angel Heart (1987, Alan Parker)

Categories: 1987 and Movies.

This is an over-stylized but interesting attempt at reviving American Film Noir in a decade in which it could be presumed dead and it’s combined with an interesting genre-mashing twist. There are some obvious problems: For one, the accents are nonexistent. DeNiro doesn’t try a Cajun accent, neither does Bonet (and what’s with the flat female “love interests”?) and Rampling is the wrong kind of French (though at least she’s actually French). Another problem is the soundtrack, which starts out full of ‘80s cool jazz sax, completely fucking with the tone of the movie and momentarily confusing me about what Read More

Missa in Angustiis aka Nelson Mass (1987) by Margaret Marshall, Carolyn Watkinson, Keith Lewis, Robert Holl, Rundfnkchor Leipzig, Staatskapelle Dresden conducted by Neville Mariner

Categories: 1987 and Music.

This is widely considered to be the greatest of Haydn’s masses and, according to some people, the greatest of Haydn’s compositions. For reasons that escape me, I have (mostly) struggled with masses compared to other forms within the classical tradition. Masses always seem more dense to me, more impenetrable. (And this is someone who loves operas and many oratorios, so go figure.) And so find myself kind of now knowing what to do here. It’s far from the first 18th century mass I’ve heard – though it’s probably the only one outside of Bach’s masses, if I hazard a guess Read More

Songs About Fucking (1987) by Big Black

Categories: 1987 and Music.

What probably sounded unbelievably loud (not to mention offensive) has mellowed considerably nearly thirty years later. So much of this record (or the oeuvre, perhaps) has integrated into alternative rock and even some indie rock. Hell, it doesn’t even sound noisy compared to what’s being made these days. But I am not trying to sell this short, not for a moment. Read More

Bowel of Chiley (1987) by Mr. Bungle

Categories: 1987 and Music.

This second Bungle demo is a lot closer to their “mature” sound than the first (if you can call early ’90s Bungle “mature”) but they kind of sound like a metal-influenced Camper van Beethoven on crack here. I guess that doesn’t give full credit to their weirdness – even at this early stage they were significantly weirder than CVB, but if CVB really was an influence on Bungle (and I can’t help but think they were) this demo reeks of that influence more than anything else they ever recorded. It’s way crazier than CVB ever got, but it’s also a Read More

Akhnaten (1984, 1987) by Philip Glass

Categories: 1987 and Music.

This is a significantly more traditional piece of music than Einstein on the Beach. (I have not heard the second opera in this so-called trilogy.) Not being super familiar with Glass, I’m not sure when this change happened, but this is a lot closer to traditional opera (there is evidence, albeit minor, of a plot) than his first effort. And that’s both a good thing (if you care about such things) and a bad thing (if you enjoyed the more radical approach). I like this – I am generally very intrigued by works that clearly mix traditions as this does Read More

Walker (1987, Alex Cox)

Categories: 1987 and Movies.

I think going in that one must accept that Alex Cox made this movie. If one doesn’t like Alex Cox (or Godard, or filmmakers like that) one should probably not watch this film. That being said:Cox appears to rarely get great performances out of his decent to great actors. I don’t why that is, but this is yet another example where the lead performances draw attention to themselves in not so good ways. I wouldn’t say that Harris is terrible in this, but he is curious and I think a better performance from him – and from a few others Read More

Wings of Desire (1987, Wim Wenders)

Categories: 1987 and Movies.

I think that Wenders is perhaps the poor man’s Fassbinder. He clearly has many similar abilities: this film has some absolutely spectacular (and ballsy) shots in it, and has a pretty great sound design, both things Fassbinder was also extremely adept at. But where Fassbinder grabbed you with his very human dramas (despite his characters sometimes being so eccentric as to be unlikeable) Wenders’ films seem to almost always lack the kind of compelling – and often difficult – stories that Fassbinder liked to tell. And this is as true of this film, where Wenders gives us a story about… Read More

Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders (1987)

Categories: 1987 and Movies.

I think that Wenders is perhaps the poor man’s Fassbinder. He clearly has many similar abilities: this film has some absolutely spectacular (and ballsy) shots in it, and has a pretty great sound design, both things Fassbinder was also extremely adept at. But where Fassbinder grabbed you with his very human dramas (despite his characters sometimes being so eccentric as to be unlikable) Wenders’ films seem to almost always lack the kind of compelling – and often difficult – stories that Fassbinder liked to tell. And this is as true of this film, where Wenders gives us a story about…angels. Read More