The ’80s is the last decade that can be used as fertile ground for retrospectives. By the time we get to the 1990s things are so diced, sliced, and compartmentalized musically, that very little holds together without a struggle. You have New Jack Swing fading out as gangsta rap fades in, grunge grunging along, and a cadre of performers working the folk-pop-adult contemporary edges with collectives like Lilith Faire, and more. Plus, the ’90s saw the birth of the NOW! series, which boxed up those songs long before time had a chance to.
This causes a unique and problematic situation. With music companies great and small jumping on the legacy of the ’80s both by choice and by necessity, there isn’t much you could release that hasn’t been put out a hundred times before. Got your Gary Numan, your Timbuk 3, and your Wall of Voodoo? Check. How about the smaller hits and cult favorites? Yup. The German version of Nena’s — stop right there. The answer is yes.
Indie power pop adherent Dan Pavelich decided to go a different route. He is well-connected to plenty of other performers in the independent pop community, and he remembers the highs and lows of the decade. The notes attached to his latest disc Lost Hits of the 80’s talk about the impact that the music of his high school years had on him. He decided to call upon his friends to help him create a collection of songs that never were, but could have been, part of the era.
Lost Hits of the 80’s is a fun effort that will be appreciated best by those who lived through the Eighties and understands the many strands Pavelich is pulling from. At one moment he is recalling the icy and isolated new wave sound, and at other points is leaning into the New Romantic era. Think early and then late Spandau Ballet, for illustration. He’ll throw in a big, poppy number and then yank it back with a key-laden ballad. And reverb. Man, we loved our reverb back then (and kinda still do). On the whole, it works quite well.
I suspect, however, that the farther you move in time demographically, the more difficult the material may become for those later audience members. That’s because Pavelich and company have tapped into the decade fairly deeply. Do the tunes sound dated? That’s because they’re meant to, as if you uncovered the relics of a record label vault buried deep in the sub-basements of Los Angeles. Several of the tunes on this collection could sit comfortably next to The Flirts’ “Jukebox (Don’t Put Another Dime)” and get away with the ruse. Having graduated high school in 1988, I found myself having as much fun playing the game of “what were they recalling here when they made this song” as I was with the songs themselves. (Pavelich really should have made the set complete with a hair metal track though.)
This disc will, unfortunately, fall into the department of “it’s not for everyone” mostly on that basis. (I remember when a young relative said of a classic John Hughes film, “This is so old. It’ll be funnier when they remake it.” Like a knife in my heart…!) But for those who get where the album’s creators are coming from, Lost Hits of the 80’s is an enjoyable trip to a place that is familiar and foreign at the same time.
You can find Lost Hits of the 80’s at CD Baby by clicking here.