This edition of Pump Up The Jam features Synthwave (The ‘80s Revival), Blood and Glass, The Cairo Gang, Bogart, Rubella Ballet, and Casper Skulls.
If you know me at all, you will know that I love, to paraphrase Tom Servo, “my precious 1980s.” New Wave, New Romantic, Post-Punk, Hardcore, Goth, Synth-Pop, and whatever else you want to throw in there… I still listen to much of the same music I did when I was in my early teens and tend to gravitate towards bands that incorporate those sounds and styles into current music. I was still championing the ‘80s in the early ‘90s, even though the revival of the decade wouldn’t really catch on for another ten years.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to state that we are in the midst of yet another ‘80s music renaissance. Record label Kiev Beats seems to understand this very well. Music blog Brutal Resonance reviewed their latest compilation, called Synthwave (The ‘80s Revival). It opens with an instantly accessible song from Dana Jean Phoenix called “Le Mirage” which sounds like a lost single from 1983. It’s incredible. There are 17 songs on this compilation; I’m about halfway through listening to it and I haven’t come across a dud yet.
Another retro-inspired band that’s new on the scene is Montreal’s Blood and Glass. After making a big splash touring internationally, this trio of Lisa Moore, Morgan Moore, and Robbie Kuster are set to release their second album, Punk Shadows. Moore’s voice is eerily akin to Cyndi Lauper’s on the title track, while the music feels somewhat similar to Armed Forces-era Elvis Costello, an enticing combination to be sure. “Whiskey” is even more unusual, and has a slight Lene Lovich quality. Punk Shadows will be released on March 24 from Simone Records.
Detroit is home to yet another retro-sounding band, though this one is more on the post-punk/power-pop part of the spectrum. Bogart’s Every Little Thing EP was released on March 10. The “Little Green Men” single has hooks as sharp as a straight razor and great vocals from Douglas Bannerman. It’s also available to download for free. And you can stream the whole album on Soundcloud.
Dark Entries consistently unearths gems from the past and this month is no different. Says the label’s recent press release:
“Rubella Ballet are a gothic anarcho-punk band formed in autumn 1979 by former Fatal Microbes Pete Fender (guitar) and Gem Stone (bass) with vocalist Zillah Minx, and Flux of Pink Indians drummer Sid Ation.”
The band’s Ballet Bag album was originally released in 1980 on cassette; Dark Entries will be reissuing it on March 27. If you want something that scratches your itch for jittery, feminist post-punk/proto-goth, look no further than Rubella Ballet. The only bad thing I can say about this release is that I didn’t know about this band already when I was 14. Think of all the years I could have spent loving them! Thank goodness for Dark Entries. And Happy International Women’s Month!
Shifting things a bit now with The Cairo Gang, produced by Ty Segall and Emmett Kelly (who was one of Segall’s “Muggers” and is also a member of The Cairo Gang). “What Can You Do” is the band’s latest single and it reveals some serious Big Star damage. If you like that sort of thing (and I do), you’re gonna love this track. The band’s tenth release (!), Untouchable, will be out on March 24 through God? Records.
Laconic vocals, nervous guitar riffs, heavy basslines, hooks for days… these are things that can be found in the music of Toronto’s Casper Skulls. Luckily, these are also things that I adore. “Nighthawks,” the B-side to the band’s 2016 single “Mink Coats” is a doozy of a song. The band is no one-hit wonder, either; check out “King Of Gold” from August 2015. You can listen to more selections from the band on Bandcamp.
They are currently playing at SXSW and will embark on a spring tour on March 24. (I’d love to go see them on April 22 at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, but I already have tickets for The Damned that night.)
Casper Skulls remind me a lot of another band that carries a torch for post-punk weirdness: Brooklyn’s Sleepies.
And that leads me this week’s #FlashbackFriday: Sleepies’ Weird Wild World album from 2010.