The Top 5 Underrated New Wave Bands of the 80′s


Founders note: Jay doesn’t like my generation. Apparently, we’re “shit-steaks”. So if you grew up listening to 80s music, I have to warn you that this post isn’t very nice to us :)

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Even if you hadn’t yet come into existence, you definitely haven’t escaped the argument that the 80’s were an absolutely wild time for the music scene. Don’t just take my word for it though, instead I’d like to invite you on a journey to your local dive bar. Pick the seediest locale you know; the only one left in town that you’re still allowed to smoke inside of. Go on, I’ll wait. I’m not kidding; get moving.

You there? Great. Scout the crowd, and you should notice a group of 4-5 overweight, unsettlingly aggressive middle aged male office drones, each competing for the attention around a lone, vaguely sweaty beast of a woman. You, friend, are staring at the putrid vestiges of the 80’s, and for the price of only a single round of beer, you can hear all you wanted to know and more about just spectacular the music of this decade was.

That being said, the bands these shit-steaks spout will be doubtlessly awful. After all, anyone who makes the effort to defend Duran Duran should be considered nothing more than a drain of valuable resources from more developed human lives.

Seeing as these people won’t consider any music not produced in the 80’s as worthy of mention, in order to correct their musical existence, you’ll need to know a few different obscure 80’s new wave bands to name drop. In this way, you can integrate yourself into their conversation while still making all of them look like the asshats they are, which is really the ultimate goal of this article. So go, readers, spread yourselves through the world and pursue the noblest of goals: exposing the asshats of society.

5. Planet P Project

We’ll start this discussion with one of the 80’s most overlooked bands, Planet P Project. Sure the group received moderate airplay on MTV, but they never really punctured the public consciousness, probably because of the whole science fiction theme. You see, Planet P Project was Tony Carey’s (of Rainbow fame) dumping ground for his more “experimental” works, which were mostly spacey, prog-ged out rock tunes with strong sci-fi ties.

Planet P Project’s most well received song was “Why Me?”, which analyzes feelings of loneliness and outer space, and chances are your new friends at the dive bar may have even heard this song. However, the tune itself is quite well-written and doesn’t sound nearly as dated as many of the other acts from this era, so the band probably deserves some credit for that.

This group is a fantastic one to bring up in a conversation about the 80’s because of the extreme duality of their tunes. On the one hand, the high level of musical ability present in most of PPP’s tunes makes it impossible to entirely hate on. That being said, the constant devotion to 1980’s style sci-fi themes makes it impossible to take this act seriously. For this reason, you can use a discussion of this band as a type of musical bullshit filter. Anyone who tries to discuss Planet P Project without acknowledging the inherent ridiculousness of the act is someone who’s opinion doesn’t qualify as legitimate.

By the way, if you’re digging that tripped out, spacey sound, Planet P Project has actually reconvened and produced several new albums in the last couple years, to mixed reviews. I’ll let you make your own judgements on the musical validity of these projects, because frankly, I don’t want to take the time to listen to them closely enough to write about it. That’s on you.

4. Wall of Voodoo

Much like Planet P Project, our next specimen of the 80’s new wave scene also draws from a rather unique influence, but rather than pulling from the infinite reaches of space, this group draws from the dusty landscape of spaghetti western films.

To be fair, this group did have a few well recognized hits from their 1982 classic Call of the West, and they even finagled their way into breaking the Billboard Top 50 once during their career (something your bar buddies won’t hesitate to point out to you, numerous times and loudly). That being said, this group is absurd in exactly the same way that Planet P Project is; it’s simply a rather poorly constructed juxtaposition of two unrelated art forms. There’s no doubt this was innovative in its time, but looking back, it can only be described as cringeworthy.

The hypothetical business sloths you’ve met in your dive bar might know the track “Mexican Radio”, which was undoubtedly the group’s most popular tune before their breakup in 1989 (and after the breakup as well, we suppose). For this reason, absolutely do not mention this track when discussing the band. Instead, allude to some of their more unknown tunes, such as “Tragic Vaudeville”. To anyone without a preexisting personal connection to that track, it will be entirely unlistenable, and therefore the perfect song to pretend to like.
Tragic Vaudeville by Wall of Voodoo on Grooveshark

3. The Nails

Regular readers of the blog will know that if there’s one thing we support, it’s people who take the infinite possibilities of time in the public eye as a platform for making sex jokes and double entendres. This is exactly what Colorado based five-piece The Nails used their attempt at a musical career to do, and for that, we must offer them a tip of the hat.

Now, we know that some complete asshat is currently taking to the comments section to inform us that “The Nails were formed in 1976 and therefore are a 70’s band; your article is flawed and you should feel bad.” To this person, we’d first like to point out that two of the band’s three albums were released in the 80’s, and that the band encourages people not to buy the third one anyways, as they won’t make any money of it.

Also, what are you doing arguing about the validity of an article on 80’s new wave bands? Take a moment to consider how you’re spending your life. Are you becoming one of those assholes at the bar we’ve been discussing? Be honest with yourself.

Anyways, The Nails received most of their limited fame due to the track “88 Lines About 44 Woman”, a delightful tune that stays true to its title and basically outlines the sexual (and probably fake) exploits of the band. This is definitely a great one to drop during your fictional conversation with the group at the bar; it had just enough popularity that they might have heard of it, but chances are they won’t, and then once again your knowledge has trumped theirs, so there’s that. Plus, sex jokes.

2. The Chameleons UK

Of all the bands we’ve discussed so far, The Chameleons UK (or just the Chameleons if you’re located outside of the US) probably most deserves the title of underrated and therefore the least effective argument in your bar conversation. The four-piece only recorded two albums before the untimely death of producer Tony Fletcher, which catalyzed the band’s breakup in 1987, but both of their albums at least qualify as “somewhat decent”. 

No, the reason The Chameleons UK deserve to be brought up in this sweaty evening at your local drinking hole is because they are the perfect example of a band that just won’t quit. Despite breaking up in ’87, various members of the group have played gigs under the name Chameleons Vox in recent years. Nowadays, literally only one member of the group was actually there for the original run.

In this way, the Chameleons are much like your friends at the bar. Despite the fact that we’re now 30 years removed from this bewildering decade, it refuses to end. The desperate cling to the culture of the 80’s is so common that the phrase “stuck in the 80’s” has become a recognized idiom in today’s society.

This, friends, is quite saddening to me, as there has been quite a bit of progress since the 80’s. The fact that so many people refuse to recognize this progress is disturbing, to say the last, and should be at the heart of the conversation you’re currently holding at that dive bar (since I know that all your readers actually drove down and had this conversation).

1. The Comsat Angels

Honestly, there’s not much I can say about The Comsat Angels. For an article titled “5 Underrated New Wave Bands of the 80’s”, quite a bit of time was spent ripping on the bands we’ve discussed. For this reason, we’ll end this article with an 80’s new wave band I actually respect and believe are underrated: Comsat Angels.

Despite the fact that their career never quite took off, the minimalistic approach of this English quartet was quite forward thinking, and it’s not too surprising that the group has been extensively sampled from in modern music. Playing in the veins of acts like Joy Division and Interpol, The Comsat Angels were actually quite talented. In order to prove out, check out this video of one of their most popular tracks:

Hopefully, between these five bands, you’ll be able to successfully prove to your new friends that while there certainly was talent in the 80’s, it was often buried behind a filter of ridiculousness so thick that the end product was basically unlistenable. It’s time for the world to move on, and you, my friend, can be a catalyst in the change. Like most everything in life, all it takes is a few simple conversations and some well-timed name dropping to get the ball rolling.

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