A Crash Course in New Wave

20 Tracks to Get You Up to Speed
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She took me to her room and put on a cassette of Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never,” whose chorus “I might like you better if we slept together” laid all the cards on the table. I didn’t know Post-Punk from my elbow, but something about this sound intrigued me. Or maybe it was the message. This music was markedly different than what I was used to, but by the mid-eighties I was already late to the party.

“By the mid-eighties I was already late to the party.”

Cut to years later and I’m still trying to parse New Wave from its SynthpopGothRomantic and Dream Pop offshoots. Some genres are easier to compartmentalize than others. Let’s agree that New Wave followed Post-Punk, pioneered by bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Television, Joy Division and the Talking Heads – all of which get lumped under New Wave regardless. This underground music filled some of the same clubs Punk enjoyed and paved the way for more synthesizer powered music.

While bands like Blondie and Talking Heads are the most frequently discussed New Wavers, most fans embrace artists you may never have heard of, and aren’t too thrilled when everyone from Elvis Costello and Squeeze to Joe Jackson and Duran Duran get thrown in the mix. Feel free to do your own research, which may lead you to deep cuts from Ultravox and Berlin, to more popular picks from Echo And The Bunnymen and The Smiths, to genre benders like Thomas Dolby and The Fixx, and to more commercially successful acts like Eurythmics.

This list, however, attempts to give you an overview of twenty New Wave tracks that share a certain rebellion against traditional overtly masculine corporate rock. To say the very least.

Pop Muzik – M – 1979

“New York, London, Paris, Munich, everybody talk about pop muzik.”

Cars – Gary Numan – 1979

“Here in my car, where the image breaks down.”

Turning Japanese – The Vapors – 1980

“I sit there staring and there’s nothing else to do.”

Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division – 1980

“We’re changing our ways, taking different roads.”

Rapture – Blondie – 1981

“Fab Five Freddie told me everybody’s high.”

Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club – 1981

“We went insane when we took cocaine.”

 Pretty in Pink – The Psychedelic Furs – 1981

“Caroline laughs and it’s raining all day.”

Don’t You Want Me – Human League – 1981

“I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar. That much is true.”

Tainted Love – Soft Cell – 1981

“The love we share seems to go nowhere.”

Never Say Never – Romeo Void – 1982

“I might like you better if we slept together.”

I Melt With You – Modern English – 1982

“The future’s open wide.”

I Ran (So Far Away) – A Flock of Seagulls – 1982

“I ran all night and day. I couldn’t get away.”

Situation – Yaz – 1982

“Nations stand against him, he’s your brother.”

Mad World – Tears for Fears – 1982

“Their tears are filling up their glasses. No expression, no expression.”

After the Fire – Der Kommissar – 1982

“Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?”

Blue Monday – New Order – 1983

“How does it feel to treat me like you do?”

Always Something There to Remind Me – Naked Eyes – 1983

“Every step I take reminds me of just how we used to be.”

Major Tom (Coming Home) – Peter Schilling – 1983

“Earth below us, drifting, falling.”

People Are People – Depeche Mode – 1984

“I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man.”

In Between Days – The Cure – 1985

“Yesterday away from you it froze me deep inside.”

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