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80s versus 90s

August 2009

HAVING been a teenager during the 80s, miserable memories of mullets and manufactured pop muddy the rose-tinted spectacles somewhat. The 90s, with Oasis, Radiohead, Pulp, Manic Street Preachers, Blur... well, surely that was a better time for pop culture?
Now I'm not so sure.
Dig beneath the surface of an era dominated by Stock, Aitken & Waterman's factory of pop puppetry (Cowell karaoke is nothing new) and there are significant subcultures.

The decade opened with the tail end of punk, New Wave. The New Romantics followed soon after. Indie came into its own around the middle of the decade, led by The Smiths, and we saw the first of the goths soon after: Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, et al.

Dance music, which still dominates club life, under the early incarnation of rave boomed in the late 80s; add to that Madchester, where indie fused with dance, The Stones Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets and the like.

What did the 90s give us? In comparison, very little. And it was so backward-looking.
Grunge – which came to a dramatic end with Kurt Cobain's death – owed a lot to US post-punk bands like Dinosaur Jr and Black Flag.

Britpop was sixties-inspired, but was little more than an extension of indie music, albeit with a mop-top.
This weekend's two events at Clumber Park pitch 80s pop against 90s indie.
In terms of the number of hits between them, the 80s stars – Human League, ABC, Go West, T'Pau and Belinda Carlisle – easily trump the combined success of the Lightning Seeds, Supergrass and Super Furry Animals.
They include Love Action, Open Your Heart and Don't You Want Me, Poison Arrow, The Look Of Love and All Of My Heart, We Close Our Eyes, King Of Wishful Thinking and Call Me, Heaven Is A Place On Earth and China In Your Hand.
Tonight will be more fun. Albeit cheesy fun.

But for the chin-stroking muso who can't stomach gleeful pop, there's no question that an evening with the inventive Welsh indie boys Super Furry Animals and Oxford's power punks-turned-anthemic chart-botherers Supergrass, is preferable. Particularly with a boozy singalong to Three Lions thrown in.

I know which I'd rather spend my hard-earned on.
But, decade versus decade, the 80s were better.
Maybe next summer Clumber Park will play host to The Smiths, Stone Roses, Pixies and REM versus Oasis, Blur, Radiohead and Pulp.
Some hope...

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