The Specials – More Specials (1980)

AllMusic Review: Less frenzied than its predecessor, but more musically adventurous, More Specials was nearly as popular in its day as its predecessor, falling just one chart place below their debut. It kicked off in similar fashion as well, with a classic cover, this time with an exuberant take on Carl Sigman and Conrad Magidson’s 1940s chestnut “Enjoy Yourself.” A slower, brooding version with the Go-Go’s in tow brings the album to a close, taking the place of the set-sealing “You’re Wondering Now,” which brought the curtain down on their first set. But there the similarities come to an end. The rest of the album is comprised of originals, including a pair of instrumentals — the Northern soul-esque “Sock It to ‘Em JB” and the Mexican-flavored “Holiday Fortnight” — as well as a duo of minimally vocalized pieces, the intriguing “International Jet Set,” and the overtly apocalyptic “Man at C&A.” But fans had already been primed for the band’s changing musical directions by the release the month before of “Stereotypes,” its spaghetti western aura filled with the group’s more mournful mood. It’s an emotional despair taken to even greater heights on “Do Nothing,” as the group futilely searches for a future, but musically stumbles upon a cheery, easygoing rhythm more appropriate to the pop styles of the English Beat than the angrier sounds the Specials had made their own. But to prove it’s no fluke, there’s the equally bright and breezy “Hey, Little Rich Girl,” boasting fabulous sax solos from Madness’ Lee Thompson. However, it’s an immortal line from “Pearl’s Cafe” that Terry Hall and the guesting Bodysnatchers’ Rhoda Dakar deliver up in duet that best sums up their own, and the country’s pure frustration: “It’s all a load of bollocks, and bollocks to it all.” It was an intensely satisfying set in its day, even if it wasn’t as centered as their debut. The group seems to be moving simultaneously in too many directions, while the lyrics, too, are not quite as hard-hitting as earlier efforts. —Jo-Ann Greene

Track Listing

Side one

  1. “Enjoy Yourself” (Herb Magidson, Carl Sigman) – 3:39
  2. “Rat Race” (Roddy Byers) – 3:07 – NB: not included on UK release nor Dutch LP
  3. “Man at C & A” (Jerry Dammers, Terry Hall) – 3:36
  4. “Hey, Little Rich Girl” (Roddy Byers) – 3:35 – featuring Lee Jay Thompson
  5. “Do Nothing” (Lynval Golding) – 3:43
  6. “Pearl’s Cafe” (Dammers) – 3:07
  7. “Sock It to ’em J.B.” (Clayton Dunn, Rex Garvin, Pete Holman) – 2:56

Side two

  1. “Stereotypes/Stereotypes Pt. 2” (Dammers, Neville Staple) – 7:24
  2. “Holiday Fortnight” (Byers) – 2:45
  3. “I Can’t Stand It” (Dammers) – 4:01 – featuring Rhoda Dakar
  4. “International Jet Set” (Dammers) – 5:37
  5. “Enjoy Yourself (Reprise)” (Magidson, Sigman) – 1:46

 

Schill Score: 7.75/10

 

 

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The Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight (1980)

AllMusic Review: After recording the material that would later comprise the bulk of Invisible Hits, the Soft Boys recorded their masterpiece, the shimmering neo-psychedelic Underwater Moonlight. Essentially, the band didn’t change their style for the record — they merely perfected it. The Soft Boys don’t hide their influences — whether its the ringing guitars of the Beatles and Byrds or the surreal humor of John Lennon and Syd Barrett — but they assimilate them, resulting in a fresh, edgy take on ’60s guitar pop. Robyn Hitchcock’s subject matter tends to be more explicitly weird and absurdist than his influences, as titles like “I Wanna Destroy You,” “Old Pervert,” and “Queen of Eyes” indicate — even “Kingdom of Love” equates romance to bugs crawling under your skin. But the lyrics aren’t the only thing that are edgy — the music is too. The Soft Boys play pop hooks as if they were punk rock. “I Wanna Destroy You” isn’t overtly threatening like their post-punk contemporaries, but with its layered guitar hooks and dissonant harmonies, it is equally menacing. Furthermore, the group can twist its songs inside out and then revert them to their original form, as evidenced by “Insanely Jealous.” Although the neo-psychedelic flourishes are fascinating, the key to record’s success is how each song is constructed around rock-solid hooks and melodies that instantly work their way into the subconscious. In fact, that’s the most notable thing about Underwater Moonlight — it updates jangling, melodic guitar pop for the post-punk world, which made it a touchstone for much of the underground pop of the mid-’80s, particularly R.E.M. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

All tracks are written by Robyn Hitchcock, except as noted.

Side A
No. Title Length
1. “I Wanna Destroy You” 2:52
2. “Kingdom of Love” 4:10
3. “Positive Vibrations” 3:10
4. “I Got the Hots” 4:42
5. “Insanely Jealous” 4:15
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Tonight” 3:44
2. “You’ll Have to Go Sideways” Hitchcock, Kimberley Rew 2:57
3. “Old Pervert” Hitchcock, Rew, Matthew Seligman, Morris Windsor 3:52
4. “Queen of Eyes” 2:01
5. “Underwater Moonlight” 4:17

 

 

Schill Score: 6/10

 

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The Jam – Sound Affects (1980)

AllMusic Review: Unhappy with the slicker approach of Setting Sons, the Jam got back to basics, using the direct, economic playing of All Mod Cons and “Going Underground,” the simply brilliant single which preceded Sound Affects by a few months. Thematically, though, Paul Weller explored a more indirect path, leaving behind (for the most part) the story-song narratives in favor of more abstract dealings in spirituality and perception — the approach stemming from his recent readings of Blake and Shelley (who was quoted on the sleeve), but more specifically Geoffrey Ash, whose Camelot and the Vision of Albion made a strong impression. Musically, Weller drew upon Revolver-era Beatles as a primary source (the bassline on “Start,” which comes directly from “Taxman,” being the most obvious occurrence), incorporating the occasional odd sound and echoed vocal, which implied psychedelia without succumbing to its excesses. From beginning to end, the songs are pure, clever, infectious pop — probably their catchiest — with “That’s Entertainment” and the should-have-been-a-single “Man in the Corner Shop” standing out. — Chris Woodstra

Track Listing:

ide one
No. Title Length
1. “Pretty Green” 2:37
2. “Monday” 3:02
3. “But I’m Different Now” 1:52
4. “Set the House Ablaze” 5:03
5. “Start!” 2:33
6. “That’s Entertainment” 3:38
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Dream Time” 3:54
2. “Man in the Corner Shop” 3:12
3. “Music for the Last Couple” (Rick Buckler, Bruce Foxton, Paul Weller) 3:45
4. “Boy About Town” 2:00
5. “Scrape Away” 3:59

 

Schill Score: 7/10

 

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The Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980)

AllMusic Review: A hyper-speed blast of ultra-polemical, left-wing hardcore punk, and bitingly funny sarcasm, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables stands as the Dead Kennedys’ signature statement. As one of the first hardcore albums, it was a galvanizing influence on the musical and attitudinal development of the genre, also helping to kickstart the fertile California scene. The record’s tactics are not subtle in the least; Jello Biafra’s odd warble and spat-out lyrics leave no doubt as to what he thinks, baiting his targets of conservatism, violence, overbearing authority, and capitalist greed with a viciously satirical sarcasm that keeps his unflinchingly political outlook from becoming too didactic. The thin production dilutes some of the music’s power, but the ragged speed-blur still packs a wallop, and the hooks cribbed from surf and rockabilly give it a gonzo edge. The songwriting isn’t consistent all the way through the album, but classics like “Kill the Poor,” “Let’s Lynch the Landlord,” “Chemical Warfare,” “California Über Alles,” and “Holiday In Cambodia” helped define the hardcore genre and, thus, must be heard. — Steve Huey

Track Listing:

All tracks are written by Jello Biafra, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Kill the Poor” Biafra, East Bay Ray 3:07
2. “Forward to Death” 6025 1:23
3. “When Ya Get Drafted” 1:23
4. “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” 2:13
5. “Drug Me” 1:56
6. “Your Emotions” Ray 1:20
7. “Chemical Warfare” 2:55
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “California über alles” Biafra, John Greenway 3:03
2. “I Kill Children” 2:04
3. “Stealing People’s Mail” 1:34
4. “Funland at the Beach” 1:49
5. “Ill in the Head” Biafra, 6025 2:46
6. “Holiday in Cambodia” Dead Kennedys 4:37
7. “Viva Las Vegas” (Elvis Presley cover) Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman 2:42
Total length: 33:06

 

Schill Score:  7.5/10

 

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The Cure – Seventeen Seconds (1980)

AllMusic Review: It’s hard to believe that the Cure could release an album even more sparse than Three Imaginary Boys, but here’s the proof. The lineup change that saw funkstery bassist Michael Dempsey squeezed out in favor of the more specific playing of (eventually the longest serving member outside Robert Smith) Simon Gallup, and the addition of keyboardist Mathieu Hartley resulted in the band becoming more rigid in sound, and more disciplined in attitude. While it is not the study in loss that Faith would become, or the descent into madness of Pornography, it is a perfect precursor to those collections. In a sense, Seventeen Seconds is the beginning of a trilogy of sorts, the emptiness that leads to the questioning and eventual madness of the subsequent work. Mostly forgotten outside of the unforgettable single “A Forest,” Seventeen Seconds is an even, subtle work that grows on the listener over time. Sure, the Cure did better work, but for a new lineup and a newfound sense of independence, Robert Smith already shows that he knows what he’s doing. From short instrumental pieces to robotic pop, Seventeen Seconds is where the Cure shed all the outside input and became their own band. — Chris True

Track Listing:

Side A
No. Title Length
1. “A Reflection” 2:12
2. “Play for Today” 3:40
3. “Secrets” 3:20
4. “In Your House” 4:07
5. “Three” 2:36
Side B
No. Title Length
6. “The Final Sound” 0:52
7. “A Forest” 5:55
8. “M” 3:04
9. “At Night” 5:54
10. “Seventeen Seconds” 4:00

 

 

Schill Score:  6.5/10

 

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The Cramps – Songs The Lord Taught Us (1980)

AllMusic Review: Continuing the spooked-out and raging snarls of their Gravest Hits EP, the Cramps once again worked with Alex Chilton on the group’s full-album debut, Songs the Lord Taught Us. The jacket reads “file under: sacred music,” but only if one’s definition includes the holy love of rockabilly sex-stomp, something which the Cramps fulfill in spades. Having spent Gravest Hits mostly doing revamps of older material, the foursome tackled a slew of originals like “The Mad Daddy” and “TV Set” this time around, creating one of the few neo-rockabilly records worthy of the name. Years later Songs still drips with threat and desire both, testament to both the band’s worth and Chilton’s just-right production. “Garbageman” surfaced as a single in some areas, a wise choice given the at-once catchy roll of the song and downright frightening guitar snarls, especially on the solo. The covers of the Sonics’ “Strychnine” and Billy Burnette’s “Tear It Up” — not to mention the concluding riff on “Fever” — all challenge the originals. Interior has the wailing, hiccuping, and more down pat, but transformed into his own breathless howl, while Ivy and Gregory keep up the electric fuzz through more layers of echo than legality should allow. Knox helms the drums relentlessly; instead of punching through arena rock style, Chilton keeps the rushed rhythm running along in the back, increasing the sheer psychosis of it all. — Ned Raggett

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “TV Set” Poison Ivy Rorschach, Lux Interior 3:12
2. “Rock on the Moon” (originally performed by Jimmy Stewart) Jimmy Stewart 1:53
3. “Garbageman” Rorschach, Interior 3:37
4. “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” Rorschach, Interior 3:03
5. “Sunglasses After Dark” (originally performed by Dwight “Whitey” Pullen; contains an interpretation of “Ace of Spades”, originally performed by Link Wray) Rorschach, Interior, Dwight Pullen, Link Wray 3:47
6. “The Mad Daddy” Rorschach, Interior 3:48
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. “Mystery Plane” Rorschach, Interior 2:43
8. “Zombie Dance” Rorschach, Interior 1:55
9. “What’s Behind the Mask” Rorschach, Interior 2:05
10. “Strychnine” (originally performed by the Sonics) Gerry Roslie 2:24
11. “I’m Cramped” Rorschach, Interior, Bryan Gregory, Nick Knox 2:37
12. “Tear It Up” (originally performed by Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio) Johnny Burnette, Dorsey Burnette, Paul Burlison 2:32
13. “Fever” (originally performed by Little Willie John) John Davenport (Otis Blackwell), Eddie Cooley 4:17

 

 

Schill Score:  4/10

 

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The Circle Jerks – Group Sex (1980)

AllMusic Review: Keith Morris once described his brief tenure as Black Flag’s lead singer by saying, “I was the Tasmanian devil, the court jester; I was the dog on the chain who was let out of the cage.” So it made sense that after the beer-swilling frontman decided to move on, he would form a band even less subtle and more obnoxious than Black Flag (who represented punk rock at its most brutal in 1979). Group Sex, the first “album” from Morris’ group the Circle Jerks, barrels through 14 songs in just under 16 minutes, and pretty much defined the state of the art in SoCal hardcore, circa 1980: raging minor-chord guitar bashing (courtesy of Greg Hetson, later in Bad Religion), speedy drumming (Lucky Lehrer punctuates his manic four-four stomp with short, frantic rolls whenever possible), and a bassist (Roger Rogerson) trying to keep up with it all while Morris bellows about sex (“I Just Want Some Skank”), drugs (“Wasted”), politics (“Paid Vacation”), the idle rich (“Beverly Hills”), and his own post-teenage rage (“World Up My Ass”). Some of it’s funny, some of it seems to be serious, and it’s all one not-so-long blast of raging energy. As such things go, it’s tight, reasonably well played, the songs kinda sorta have hooks, and Keith Morris is a pretty good frontman, but if you’re looking for nuance, you’re pretty much out of luck. Then again, if you were looking for nuance in a Circle Jerks album, you’ve obviously been misinformed as to how this punk rock stuff works. — Mark Deming

Track Listing:

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Deny Everything” Keith Morris, Roger Rogerson 0:26
2. “I Just Want Some Skank” Circle Jerks 1:09
3. “Beverly Hills” Morris, Rogerson 1:03
4. “Operation” Lucky Lehrer, Rogerson 1:28
5. “Back Against the Wall” Circle Jerks 1:32
6. “Wasted” Morris, Greg Ginn 0:41
7. “Behind the Door” Circle Jerks, Ginn 1:23
8. “World Up My Ass” Rogerson 1:14
9. “Paid Vacation” Circle Jerks 1:27
10. “Don’t Care” Morris, Ginn 0:35
11. “Live Fast Die Young” Morris, Greg Hetson 1:33
12. “What’s Your Problem” Morris, Rogerson 0:57
13. “Group Sex” Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Circle Jerks 1:02
14. “Red Tape” Morris, Hetson 0:56

 

 

Schill Score:  7/10

 

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Talking Heads – Remain In Light (1980)

AllMusic Review: The musical transition that seemed to have just begun with Fear of Music came to fruition on Talking Heads’ fourth album, Remain in Light. “I Zimbra” and “Life During Wartime” from the earlier album served as the blueprints for a disc on which the group explored African polyrhythms on a series of driving groove tracks, over which David Byrne chanted and sang his typically disconnected lyrics. Remain in Light had more words than any previous Heads record, but they counted for less than ever in the sweep of the music. The album’s single, “Once in a Lifetime,” flopped upon release, but over the years it became an audience favorite due to a striking video, its inclusion in the band’s 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, and its second single release (in the live version) because of its use in the 1986 movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills, when it became a minor chart entry. Byrne sounded typically uncomfortable in the verses (“And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife/And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”), which were undercut by the reassuring chorus (“Letting the days go by”). Even without a single, Remain in Light was a hit, indicating that Talking Heads were connecting with an audience ready to follow their musical evolution, and the album was so inventive and influential, it was no wonder. As it turned out, however, it marked the end of one aspect of the group’s development and was their last new music for three years. — William Ruhlmann

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” 5:49
2. “Crosseyed and Painless” 4:48
3. “The Great Curve” 6:28
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Once in a Lifetime” 4:23
2. “Houses in Motion” 4:33
3. “Seen and Not Seen” 3:25
4. “Listening Wind” 4:43
5. “The Overload” 6:25

 

Schill Score: 9.5/10

 

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Steve Winwood – Arc Of A Diver (1980)

AllMusic Review: Utterly unencumbered by the baggage of his long years in the music business, Winwood reinvents himself as a completely contemporary artist on this outstanding album, leading off with his best solo song, “While You See a Chance.” Winwood also plays all the instruments. Arc of a Diver is the second solo studio album by singer/multi-instrumentalist Steve Winwood. Released in 1980, Winwood played all of the instruments on the album.

Featuring his first solo hit, “While You See a Chance” (which peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States), this was Winwood’s breakthrough album as a solo artist. It peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart, establishing him as a commercially viable act.

The cover artwork for the album is by Tony Wright. He took inspiration from Jazz by Henri Matisse, notably VIII: Icarus. — William Ruhlmann

Track Listing:

All songs written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings except where noted.

Original release

Side one

  1. “While You See a Chance” – 5:12
  2. “Arc of a Diver” (Winwood, Vivian Stanshall) – 5:28
  3. “Second-Hand Woman” (Winwood, George Fleming) – 3:41
  4. “Slowdown Sundown” – 5:27

Side two

  1. “Spanish Dancer” – 5:58
  2. “Night Train” – 7:51
  3. “Dust” (Winwood, Fleming) – 6:20

Schill Score:  6.5/10

 

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Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (III) (1980)

AllMusic Review: Generally regarded as Peter Gabriel’s finest record, his third eponymous album finds him coming into his own, crafting an album that’s artier, stronger, more song-oriented than before. Consider its ominous opener, the controlled menace of “Intruder.” He’s never found such a scary sound, yet it’s a sexy scare, one that is undeniably alluring, and he keeps this going throughout the record. For an album so popular, it’s remarkably bleak, chilly, and dark — even radio favorites like “I Don’t Remember” and “Games Without Frontiers” are hardly cheerful, spiked with paranoia and suspicion, insulated in introspection. For the first time, Gabriel has found the sound to match his themes, plus the songs to articulate his themes. Each aspect of the album works, feeding off each other, creating a romantically gloomy, appealingly arty masterpiece. It’s the kind of record where you remember the details in the production as much as the hooks or the songs, which isn’t to say that it’s all surface — it’s just that the surface means as much as the songs, since it articulates the emotions as well as Gabriel’s cubist lyrics and impassioned voice. He wound up having albums that sold more, or generated bigger hits, but this third Peter Gabriel album remains his masterpiece. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Intruder” 4:54
2. “No Self Control” 3:55
3. “Start” 1:21
4. “I Don’t Remember” 4:42
5. “Family Snapshot” 4:28
6. “And Through the Wire” 5:00
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Games Without Frontiers” 4:06
2. “Not One of Us” 5:22
3. “Lead a Normal Life” 4:14
4. “Biko” 7:32

 

Schill Score: 6/10

 

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