1984 was one of the weirdest years in music that I can think of. In addition to Ricky Martin joining Menudo for Menudomania, we saw Michael Jackson's scalp catch fire during a Pepsi commercial, and the launch of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). As dire as the situation was in the mainstream, there was a wealth of great stuff happening in the nascent digital underground though.
With his Bustin' Out: New Wave To New Beat series, DJ Mike Maguire is chronicling the rise of electronic dance music. The fourth edition has just been released, and focuses on 1984. One wonders what George Orwell would have thought of such willing sublimation of the individual to the machine. Would he have decried it, or recognized such songs as Severed Heads’ “Dead Eyes Opened” as the good, clean fun they are?
Maguire has collected a diverse roster of artists to represent the bleeding edge of electronic music for the year in question. Many of the musical movements that became dominant at the end of the decade were in their infancy at the time, and this set deftly weaves the various strands together.
The Flowerpot Men kick start things with "Jo's So Mean To Josephine." This is a heavily Cabaret Voltaire-damaged slab of proto industrial/ futuristic disco that still sounds great. Speaking of the Cabs, they are up next with "Sensoria," from the classic Micro Phonies album. As always, the band were miles ahead of their contemporaries. Their early industrial roots had been left behind long before, and we find them now deeply immersed in rhythm.
Carrying on the industrial torch, and pointing the way to the sounds it would ultimately be associated with are Skinny Puppy and Front 242, Front's "Commando Mix" is nine minutes of revolutionary mind-fucking that proved to be hugely influential. Canada's Skinny Puppy and their track "Smothered Hope" would also have a major impact on bands such as Nine Inch Nails and Ministry.