Friday, 16 August 2013

Is There a 1980s Audio Stamp?

It looks like I’m having a bit of a Polish phase at the moment.  Having reactivated my connection with Pat Benatar (nee Andrzejewski), I have been trawling through the back catalogue of another daughter of Polish immigrants, Judie Tzuke (nee Myers but reverted to Tzuke).

Having always liked her 1979 debut ‘Welcome to the Cruise’, I have been rediscovering her subsequent LPs (and in 2 cases, cassettes – eek!) that have been lying dormant and generally unloved in my collection since the 80s.  And it has been time well spent as her first half dozen albums are well worth seeking out.  Why I haven’t until now brought this stuff into my current playlists is undoubtedly due to their limited availability on CD.  The fact that her first 10 albums were originally released on no less than 8 different labels goes a long way to explaining why there is no box set retrospective or sensible reissue programme.  Many of these labels have changed hands several times with the consequence that no one has been really interested in maintaining their availability.  Shame.

Listening to the likes of ‘Sportscar’, ‘Shoot the Moon’ and ‘The Cat is Out’ is a bit like opening a time capsule.  The general consensus is that the 1970s has a strong aural and visual identity but there is no doubt that the 1980s has its own highly identifiable audio stamp.  Take 1985’s ‘The Cat is Out’ for example and have a squint at the cover – that hair!  Those shoulders!  The music is even more identifiable.  Almost every instrument is a classic example of 80s sounding rock.  It starts with a drum machine and no matter what anyone says, these things were a curse on real music.  You can predict the rhythmic patterns after about the first 8 bars of every song.  At least a human error mixes things up a bit.  Then there is that fat fretless bass sound.  Good grief!  I’m SO glad they died a death.  Most noticeable of all are the analogue synth sounds.  Those chord washes and bell sounds are absolutely typical of the early-mid 80s.  For people who know their synths intimately and I’m not an expert, you can probably guess the exact year of recording on these alone.

Yet despite the 80s aura, the songs are strong and the whole things holds together remarkably well.  I never realised that the 80s were so unique, sound-wise.  Moving on to the 90s I have not yet detected any real defining features – perhaps it needs a bit more distance before these things become apparent?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Personally I love the beautiful 1980x sound of a
fretless bass. However, I do agree with you about
the constant use of drum machines.
Best wishes.