Maybe I'll bring it back one of these days (not a Friday), but for now I have an idea for another potentially recurring bit. Welcome to the first Inconsequential Reader Debate! For clarity's sake, the debate is the inconsequential part, not you the reader. As I noted yesterday, this blog needs (wants?) all the readership it can get so each and every one of you is decidedly consequential as far as I'm concerned. Feel good about yourselves. Go ahead, I'll wait.
On to the debate!
Of the following seminal 80s bands, which band is the King of the Seminal 80s Band Hill?
Scoff all you want, but Erasure was the balls. Depeche Mode castoff, Vince Clarke and flamboyantly gay lead singer, Andy Bell had 24 consecutive Top 20 hits in the UK. I remember listening to the radio as a kid and Erasure being sort of an also ran amidst songs by The Cure, Duran Duran, U2, Depeche Mode, and all that ridiculous hair metal, which, strictly speaking, was very much hair and very little metal. But every time I hear an 80s hits compilation, Erasure seems to have at least two or three songs in the mix. As a testament to how awesome Erasure must have been, can you imagine a lead male vocalist in the present day being as comfortably out as Andy Bell is/was and enjoying anything close to the popularity Erasure did? Maybe our country has become more intolerant (God, I hope not), but I have a hard time envisioning it. "Well, maybe he wasn't clearly gay at the time," you say.
"Have a look at this," I counter.
|Does the dude on the far right not look vaguely like Jared Leto?|
Hairspray aside, of the four bands I've chosen for this Inconsequential Debate, The Cure is arguably still the most relevant. I challenge any of the 80s babies out there to produce a Cure free iPod or to not sing along to "Friday I'm in Love" when it comes on the radio during one of those throwback lunch hour shows. I fell in love with The Cure when my mother, in a bold child rearing move, allowed my sister and I to watch MTV (when it was just music videos) reasoning that we were being exposed to the arts and not gratuitous violence or mindless sitcoms. I haven't been the same since I saw Madonna's "Justify My Love" video. Hang on. I need a moment.
[Two minutes later]
Back to The Cure! Anyhow, "Lovesong" was the first video by The Cure I ever saw. Creepy, forlorn, and awesome. I was hooked. And apparently so were a lot of other future musicians my age. You can't read an interview about influences without someone, from Deftones to AFI to 311 to The Killers, mentioning The Cure.
Of the bands in the debate, Depeche Mode is easily the most overtly sexual. Andy Bell was heartbroken most of the time but in a Gloria Gaynor "I Will survive" kind of way and wanted you to know all about it. Robert Smith was heartbroken then in love then heartbroken then in love then just really missed someone then was in love again then was back to being heartbroken. Dave Gahan just wanted to fuck you.
Even today, 25-30 years on, Depeche Mode's songs sound like sex.
Let me take you on a trip
Around the world and back
And you won't have to move
You just sit still
Now let your mind do the walking
And let my body do the talking
Let me show you the world in my eyes
Gahan's baritone, the mischievous and hyper-sexual synth melodies, and driving bass lines were a formula for some massive hits in the 80s and early 90s and, like The Cure, a huge number of present day artists from diverse backgrounds reference Depeche Mode when naming their most prominent influences. Check out this list of acts from "For The Masses," a Depeche Mode tribute album:
God Lives Underwater
Hooverphonic (I had ever heard of them either, but their cover of "Shake the Disease" is awesome)
Meat Beat Manifesto
Rammstein (Can we get a mulligan on Rammstein?)
Tears For Fears
For me, Tears For Fears is the dark horse in this debate. They were big a little before the other three bands and their decided lack of hairspray and black clothing in favor of Cosby sweaters and mullets can't be ignored, can it? Maybe I should have thrown INXS in here instead, but I'm really curious to see who can make a case for Tears For Fears. "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule The World" were huge songs and deservedly so, but they were both from the "Songs From the Big Chair" album and "The Seeds of Love" may be just a touch too saccharine for my taste. But what do I know? Earlier in this post Andy Bell was dancing around in heels and a he-corset and it rocked.
Essentially, Tears For Fears was two dudes who wrote pretty good songs. They're certainly the least processed of the four bands in the debate and are arguably the most cerebral. Admittedly, I know little about them compared to Erasure, The Cure, and Depeche Mode, but I had to have four choices for the reader. Why? I don't know. Three just seemed a little totalitarian.
So there are the contenders. Have at it, small but hopefully growing readership. Leave your comments below. It's OK to be anonymous, just have a reason for choosing whichever band you choose. No one ever won a debate without supporting his/her position. Well, Lloyd Bentsen did own Dan Quayle with that, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy," but you, Reader, are no Lloyd Bentsen.