New Wave, New Romantic, Post-Punk and Old School Goth were my favorite musical genres of music as a teenager, which I fervently collected on vinyl (It was the nineties and LPs were ridiculously cheap as CDs came into favor. My record collection is worth a fortune now.) I hosted a new-wave themed radio program in undergrad called “All Things in Excess” (you can see old playlists here if you’re curious), and still enjoy going out to New Wave/80s dance nights on occasion, though I tend to get bored with the limited selection of cuts the DJs will play, and often joke about how I wish they would “go back and time and make more 80s music.” However, if you’re willing to dig a little deeper, there’s a wealth of amazing late 70s/80s era New Wave that is often overlooked but will scratch that itch for “new” (old!) New Wave to listen to!
1. Masami Tsuchiya and Ippu-Do
When it comes to old school Japanese electronica, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yellow Magic Orchestra deservedly come to the forefront, but Masami Tsuchiya and his seminal Japanese new wave band Ippu-Do are also underrated and virtually unknown in the US. I discovered Tsuchiya’s record “Tokyo Ballet” as a teenager and became immediately obsessed because A. I was a Japanophile B. I was obsessed with David Bowie and C. Masami Tsuchiya looked like a Japanese David Bowie. “Tokyo Ballet” is admittedly a kind of cheesy album, but has a lot of sentimental value and is largely responsible for my decision to study Japanese and a pursue career related to Japan for many years. (Of course, I never admitted that to any of my Japanese colleagues.)
In addition to Ippu-Do and his solo work, Tsuchiya was involved with some other lesser-known (in the US) New Wave artists Japan, Bill Nelson, (who I will discuss more below) and Duran Duran side project Arcadia.
Japan (1974-1982) featured gorgeous frontman David Sylvian (who is perhaps better know for his solo work and collaborations with artists like Ryuichi Sakamoto), influential New Wave bassist Mick Karn, and occasional participation from aforementioned Masami Tsuchiya. The best way I can describe their sound is an artier version of the better-known Duran Duran, though they predated them by many years.
3. Les Rita Mitsouko
I really love crazy French ladies. Especially singer/dancer/porn star Catherine Ringer. Check out the incredible video for “Marcia Baila” (1985), a song she wrote in tribute to her Argentinean dance teacher Marcia Moretto, which looks like a missing scene from Beetlejuice:
I also highly recommend the songs “Andy” and “C’est Comme Ca.”
4. Bill Nelson
Bill Nelson was originally involved with Be-Bop Deluxe (1972-1978), (a group I admittedly don’t know much about) but his solo work is wildly popular with fans of underground New Wave. “Do You Dream In Colour?” is a good place to start:
I found out about English new wave band The Comsat Angels (1978-1995) via Pandora, who kept throwing awesome cuts from the album “Sleep No More” onto my Joy Division themed station. I hate that basically every minor key, deep voiced post-punk sounding band is compared to Joy Division, because I think they really have their own unique form of drone:
Supposedly they were a big influence on Interpol. It can be hard to source their best albums in the US (digitally or in hard copy), but it’s worth digging.
Did I miss any of your favorite underground 80’s bands? Leave me a note in the comments.