David Thomas

A song stylist in the truest sense of the word, David Thomas is one of rock’s few truly one-of-a-kind artists. But The Sound of the Sand and Other Songs of the Pedestrians, the Pere Ubu vocalist’s first solo album, still came as something of a surprise. His lyrics and unusual compositions bring strangeness out of…

Frank Chickens

The two Japanese women (Kazuko Hohki, Kazumi Taguchi) who comprise Frank Chickens are both proud of and amused by their country’s diverse cultural contributions to the world. On one hand, the debut album pays tribute to Ninja warriors and emotional Enka ballads, but the duo also sings with mock reverence on “Mothra,” named for a…

John Cale

John Cale’s musical career in the Velvet Underground amounted to two albums on which his viola-scraping and genuine musical training played a pivotal role. Since then, he’s been a diverse and unpredictable artist, exploring both classical/avant-garde “serious” music as well as more shoot-from-the-hip rough rock. Throughout, the inscrutable Welshman has surrounded himself with able and…

Fishbone

When they were just high-school students riding the desegregation bus from South Central Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley, the members of Fishbone were collectively hooked by the Funkadelic song “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock” and the bold endorsement of musical genre- blending the title implies. It became their manifesto; early…

Virginia Astley

A classically trained pianist and flautist less known for her own work than for the illustrious company she keeps, Astley has played sessions for Siouxsie and the Banshees, Richard Jobson and Troy Tate, among others. Her father, Ted Astley, is an accomplished composer best known for television themes; her brother is artist/producer Jon Astley; her…

D.O.A.

If the order of election to the punk-rock hall of fame were decided on the basis of unwavering dedication to both the elemental sound and the positive rebel spirit of loud- fast-rules, no band would have a right to stand ahead of Vancouver’s D.O.A. in the induction ceremony. For more than two decades, singer/guitarist Joey…

Shriekback

Barry Andrews was a founder of XTC and later the organist in Robert Fripp’s League of Gentlemen. David Allen was coincidentally replaced in Gang of Four by League bassist Sara Lee. Together with guitarist/vocalist Carl Marsh and a drum machine, Andrews and Allen formed Shriekback, a cagey dance band with solid rhythms and insidiously weird…

Shop Assistants

Along with the Jesus and Mary Chain, Edinburgh’s Shop Assistants are part of a trend away from the terribly twee pop coming out of Scotland in the early ’80s. Four lasses and a lad (including two drummers), the Shop Assistants are raw, catchy and utterly without pretense. Their first two EPs combine some of J&M’s…

De La Soul

If you could put a jigsaw puzzle together in such a way that a completely different picture appeared, you’d have an idea about De La Soul’s originality, about how the trailblazing trio turned standard rap elements into something totally unique. Humorous without being too goofy, libidinous without being sexist, and sociopolitically aware while steering clear…

Triffids

Although based in London since 1984, this quintet originally hails from Perth, Australia. Their musical influences, however, are strictly American. Occasionally augmenting standard rock instrumentation with strings, trumpet and pedal steel, the Triffids manage a spacious country blues-meets-Television sound. Raining Pleasure is a lightweight, lilting album with some nice songs and more-than-competent playing, but self-righteous…

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

After Australia’s chaos-wreaking Birthday Party immolated in the early ’80s, singer Nick Cave set out to develop his bleak, twisted ideas about American country music, spiritual music and Delta blues. Backed by the Bad Seeds — featuring bassist Barry Adamson (ex-Magazine), guitarist Blixa Bargeld (moonlighting from Einstürzende Neubauten) and drummer Mick Harvey (the Birthday Party’s…

Jello Biafra

Since the shuttering of San Franciscan political punk provocateurs Dead Kennedys in the late ’80s, Jello Biafra (the onetime Eric Boucher of Boulder, Colorado) has continued to ply his prankster-cum-missionary trade with spoken-word records and numerous intriguing musical collaborations. Until he was set upon by skinheads and seriously injured in the fabled East Bay 924…

Misfits

Although considered part of the hardcore scene, New Jersey’s Misfits date back to the first CBGB and London punk surge. Drawing their sound from the Ramones and the Damned, and their look from horror movies and Kiss, the Misfits began by releasing a string of 7-inches on their Plan 9 label. Two of these —…

King Sunny Adé and his African Beats

Following a decade spent establishing himself as one of Africa’s most prolific and successful pop artists, Nigeria’s King Sunny Adé (Sunday Adeniyi) came to prominence in Europe and the US in 1982. Almost unanimously embraced by critics (if not consumers), he plays juju, a flowing, sonorous musical style which has its origins in the Yoruba…

A Certain Ratio

Manchester’s A Certain Ratio (ACR) was one of the first new wave-era outfits to use horns and other instruments to play a soulful brand of contemporary music that defied prevalent trends but proved significantly influential. The Graveyard cassette compiles ’79 material — half studio work produced by Martin Hannett, the rest live from their hometown’s…

Minimal Compact

Not so much a rock band as a pan-cultural chamber ensemble with rock instrumentation, the members of Minimal Compact are (mostly) Israelis who didn’t see much of a future in their homeland, emigrated to France and signed with Belgium’s Crammed Discs. Their music is tasteful and intelligent but avoids selfconscious artsiness, and they’ve worked with…

Coil

Although its output has been sporadic, Coil is the most consistently excellent of the three groups formed from the dissolution of Throbbing Gristle. After TG disbanded in 1981, Peter Christopherson (keyboards, programming) worked with Genesis P-Orridge in Psychic TV, but split in 1982 to join John Balance (vocals, percussion), who was already recording under the…

Lilac Time

If awards were handed out for foresight, Birmingham’s Stephen Duffy would not likely be considered for one. At the turn of the decade, he parted company with a trendy young new romantic band, saying they were just too reliant on synthesizers for his taste. Never mind that his own subsequent work for a time included…

Freshly Wrapped Candies

Mental health professionals know that it’s healthy to let the child inside you come out and play every now and then. California’s Freshly Wrapped Candies do it in the recording studio. Most of I Like You sounds either like a polite juvenile version of the Butthole Surfers or kindergarten teachers on acid; even when the…

Palais Schaumburg

Palais Schaumburg is an eccentric, intelligent pop band of frequently shifting personnel from Hamburg, Germany. While their eclectic records display obvious oddball/new wave influences, they seem to have also listened to their share of jazz and 20th-century European composers. Das Single Kabinett is a six-track mini-LP of stripped-down, danceable electro-pop, with vocals and synthesizer work…