Over the last week, I’ve heard or read references to an “80s sound” that’s usually citing anything with shiny synths, fat bass, and big, brash production. It’s true, there was a lot of that going around back in the day, but just as pervasive at the time were songs like “Isolation Culture” by His Clancyness, painted in muted tones, heavy with mopey atmospheres and idiosyncratic pop melodies.
At the time, bands like The Feelies, Pere Ubu, and Talking Heads (especially on those early albums) sounded like the antidote to all the anodyne ready-for-MTV glossy pop dominating radio airplay. While I’m all for a great hook and cheeky video, we need bands like His Clancyness to dig into the record bins at the back of the thrift shop and find that other kind of 80s pop, angular, mildly passive aggressive, and too smart for its own good. We need songs like “Isolation Culture” that can’t be easily pinned down in just one play through. We need to remember that there was more to that disposable decade than just interchangeable, bleached hair pop; there was substance, too.