The Real Eighties: Blaze Of Glory

Punk was one of those things that made music critics tingly.  And it made people wanted to be music critics tinglier.  And among whiny adolescents and post-adolescents – like I was, in 1982 or thereabouts – that accounted for a lot of us.

At the roots of Brit punk were…

  • manic energy, and…
  • …an exaggeraged, theatrical nihilism.

And after the first wave of the punks splintered and washed away, they were replaced in Britain by a new wave of kids; they replaced the pretentious nihilism of the Sid and Nancy set with a sense of…

…purpose?  A sense of mission that veered into stridency and bombast that could get just as pretentious as the worst of Malcolm MacLaren’s arty nihilism?

Sure.  But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.

In the wake of the collapse of punk in the early eighties came a wave of musicians that were marinaded in punk rock – but also had missions.  Sometimes very different missions.  And they were British – but not English.

From Wales came The Alarm – who married manic energy and relentless hyperromanticized post-adolescent socialist “revolutionary” rhetoric into a mix that fearlessly walked the tightwire between thrilling…

…and mawkish…

…in that kind of way that still tickles that thrilled, mawkish post-adolescent thirty years later.

And from Scotland, Big Country.  They’re a one hit wonder in the US, and virtually a punch line because of it here…

…but they were a solid mid-level band for nearly 20 years in Europe.  They dialed back some of the bombast, added in some ethnic musical overtones and blazingly sharp musicianship…

…with some more oblique politics than The Alarm…

…although to be fair it’d be hard to be less oblique than The Alarm. But Big Country could turn the amps, if not the rhetoric, to 11 and let it rock too…

And from Ireland?

Well, U2 was all the above and then some.

But we’ll hit that later this week.

3 thoughts on “The Real Eighties: Blaze Of Glory

  1. What? Still no mention of the The Clash? They may have started out in late seventies, but did not hit their stride until the 80’s.

  2. I had a close friend in the early 80’s who was growing to love punk. I didn’t get it. I asked him to explain his attraction to it. I can still remember his body language as he told me, “It’s pure nervous energy. Nervous tension letting itself out. I love it.” He passed away not long after that, but I think of him every time I hear about 80’s punk. Thanks for the memories.

  3. I never did understand why Big Country didn’t have more success here. A lot of acts are too British to translate well in the US, but BC wasn’t really like that. And you are right — they’ve got unbelievable chops.

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