Tag Archives: New Wave

Robin Lane & The Chartbusters • Many Years Ago: The Complete Collection [CD]

Blixa Sounds has been on a roll with their new wave reissues, and this one is a major release for the label. ROBIN LANE & THE CHARTBUSTERSMany Years Ago: The Complete Collection is a 3 CD set that pulls together pretty much everything the band ever recorded, plus some early Robin Lane solo outings.

Lane got her start in the music world in late ’60s L.A. but eventually found her way to Cambridge (our fair city), MA, where she formed The Chartbusters. They didn’t really do any chart bustin’ but they did make a name for themselves in the nascent new wave scene. By 1980 they’d gotten enough renown to get signed to Warner Bros. Records, where they put out two albums, a live EP and a few singles. This set presents their self-released 45, the eponymous first album, Imitation Life and the 5 Live EP, her solo Heart Connection EP and outtakes from those sessions, along with numerous demos and live tracks. If you’re a Robin Lane fanatic then you’ll want this, as it contains a whopping 28 previously unreleased tracks. Phew! Me, I like the band’s guitar-based “modern rock” sound, but I’m not too enthralled by Lane’s singing voice. I don’t know, she comes off kinda unremarkable to me. Like the Pearl Harbor release I already reviewed (here), Robin Lane & The Chartbusters epitomized the slick new wave vibe that was happening then but all these years later, out of context, they come off as your typical, generic new wave band. There’s nothing wrong with it or them, though, and they’re certainly not bad. But the girth of this 3 CD release is a lot to chew.

2.5/5 (Blixa Sounds ETA 818, 2019)

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Pearl Harbor and the Explosions • Pearl Harbor and the Explosions [CD]

With an era-appropriate band name, PEARL HARBOR AND THE EXPLOSIONS burst out of the late ’70s San Francisco rock scene with a slick, eponymous debut album that epitomized what “new wave” sounded like. Pearl Harbor and the Explosions was, indeed, the sole LP by the band. Warner Bros. put it out in 1980 and here in 2019, courtesy of Blixa Sounds, we have a tidy little reissue with bonus single and live tracks.

Pearl Harbor – who once went by the name Pearl E. Gates – formed the group after landing in San Fran from Germany (she’s of Filipino descent), joining an existing band called Leila & the Snakes and working with the Tubes. The experience led her to think that what she really needed to do was form a group of her own. She did so, changed her surname to Harbor, and issued the band’s debut single on SF’s indie 415 Records label. “Drivin’” b/w “Release It” earned enough local note and airplay to catch the ear of the A&R folks in Burbank and soon the band’s debut album was recorded and released. Both tracks were re-recorded for the nine track album, which also included the single “Up and Over” and “Get a Grip on Yourself” (not a cover of The Stranglers’ similarly titled tune). The four-piece band had a sound at once familiar and just modern enough to stand out. Peter Bilt’s twangy Tele guitar licks were clean ’n’ cutting, while the Stench Brothers contributed a tight rhythm foundation – perfect for Harbor’s slightly Lene Lovich-esque vocals. “Drivin’” and “You Got It (Release It)” are the best known songs from the album, and have appeared on numerous compilations on Rhino and other labels (such as 1994’s Just Can’t Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the ’80s, Vol. 3).

Altogether, Pearl Harbor and the Explosions is a neat little encapsulation of what the era’s upstart bands sounded like, whether from the Bay Area or some other new wave enclave. The sound hasn’t aged too badly, and this reissue is a perfect one to put on even if you’re only drivin’.

3/5 (Blixa Sounds ETA 820, 2019)

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New Wave: Dare to Be Different [Documentary]

“The Story of the Most Influential Radio Station in America” is the subtitle for this documentary about WLIR, a Long Island, NY radio station that championed the new wave music that spewed forth from punk rock. New Wave: Dare to Be Different documents the rise and fall of both the radio station and the music itself by interviewing not only the DJs and other WLIR personnel, but members of many of the bands themselves. Billy Idol, Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), Mick Score (A Flock of Seagulls), Howard Jones and more tell about their experiences in breaking in America thanks to the station’s support of their music.

In the early Eighties new wave music was rarely heard on the radio. When it was, you generally heard it on a college radio station, such as KCMU here in Seattle. (My own radio alma mater at the University of Washington; now it’s called KEXP and can be heard all over the world.) WLIR was one of the few commercial stations playing this kind of music (though Seattle had Stephen Rabow and KZAM), and because of its proximity to New York City and the headquarters of the record labels, as well as the staff’s enthusiasm, the station was instrumental in the early careers of U2, Depeche Mode, Blondie and many more artists. The story itself seems kind of typical: floundering FM station playing the same ’70s rock as everyone else decides to make a left turn and play something else, does so, develops a small but dedicated audience, turns it into something quite successful, and then has the rug pulled out from under it thanks to some seemingly tiny altercation. Years later, someone decides to make a documentary about said station and here we are with a handy DVD to watch it all unfold. Maybe the story seems typical to me because it is very similar to that of KCMU and probably loads of other college and minor league commercial radio stations in America. It’s a Cinderella story, that’s for sure.

To the filmmakers’ credit, they got all the right people involved, from the DJs and staff to the bands (many of them big enough that they don’t need this exposure). It’s a bit peculiar that the movie is called New Wave: Dare to Be Different, and yet in the film itself the DJs talk about how they never referred to WLIR as a new wave radio station. Deciding on a title must have been a marketing decision. (I mean, if you’re gonna produce a documentary you probably wanna make your money back, right?) Regardless of title, it’s a compelling story that has more meaning every day our culture continues to be gobbled up by big corporations and then spewed back at us in handy, easy-to-explain soundbites and nuggets that lack the life force that birthed and formed it in the first place.

3/5 (MVD Visual DBD 100, 2018)

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