10 Great ’80s Bands You Didn’t Know Still Existed

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Amongst the various entries on this week’s new release schedule, we were rather chuffed to see a new album by Washington, DC, hardcore progenitors Bad Brains. We’ll be honest and admit we’d rather spaced on the fact that the band’s classic lineup were playing together again — the last piece of Bad Brains-related material we got our hands on was frontman HR’s solo record a few years back — and the news got us thinking about other great ’80s bands whose continued existence is a cause for celebration. Sure, there’ve been a whole heap of lucrative high-profile ’80s reunions over the last decade or so — everyone from The Police to New Kids on the Block — but there are also some great ’80s bands whose renaissance has slipped under the radar, or who just never broke up in the first place. Here are our picks. What are yours?

Bad Brains

Some 35 years after they first got together in Washington, DC, Bad Brains’ idiosyncratic mixture of frenetic hardcore and relatively laid-back reggae still sounds as strange and wonderful as it ever did. Into the Future is their ninth studio album, and in a pleasing touch, it’s dedicated to late Beastie Boys MC Adam Yauch, the band’s sometime producer and general kindred spirit.

The Church

Yeah, OK, so everyone remembers “Under the Milky Way” (Flavorpill has heard it played twice this week already.) But you may not know that The Church still exist — in fact, they fall into the “never actually broke up” category, having recorded steadily since 1980. They have a fantastic back catalog that is a lot more interesting than their big hit — if you’re interested in exploring their work, we suggest you start with 1992’s overlooked masterwork Priest=Aura. They were also in the news recently after notoriously prickly frontman Steve Kilbey threatened to quit the band after getting a royalty check for a whole $400 to cover a year’s worth of sales. Sigh.

Gang of Four

In fairness, it’s not the original lineup that’s getting around under the Gang of Four moniker these days — drummer Hugo Burnham retired in 2006, and bassist Dave Allen left in 2008 — but still, the simple fact that you can still go and see one of the post-punk era’s most influential bands in 2012 is cause for celebration. Last year’s album Content was pretty great, too, and we’re hoping another record will be in the works at some point.

Pylon

The Falukner-quoting, R.E.M.-approved Athens, Georgia post-punk legends have been an active band again since the mid-’00s, when they came out of retirement to headline local music festival AthFest. James Murphy’s DFA Records reissued the band’s ’80s albums Gyrate and Chomp in 2007 and 2009 respectively, leading to a welcome resurgence of interest in their work. Sadly, guitarist Randall Bewley died of a heart attack in 2009, and as far as we know they’ve not played since, but their website seems to imply that spiritually, at least, they’re still a going proposition.

ESG

You could be forgiven for missing the fact that the Scroggins clan are, in fact, still together, mainly because they’ve been involved in the music industry’s equivalent of a final closing-down sale for the best part of two decades. Happily, no matter how many times they promise a “final NYC show ever,” they just keep on keeping on — which is, of course, A-OK with us.

A Certain Ratio

Any band that takes its name from a Brian Eno song is perfectly OK with us, and if they happen to be post-punk legends who’ve been together for longer than your correspondent has been alive, well, that’s just the icing on the proverbial cake. A Certain Ratio are proud members of the “never broke up” club, and although they’ve had several lineup changes along the way, it’s still essentially the same core duo of Jez Kerr and Martin Moscrop who’ve been at the band’s creative center for the best part of 35 years. They only play occasionally these days, so do catch them if you ever get the chance. (We also suggest you check out this video of “Shack Up” from their 33 1/3 anniversary show, which we couldn’t embed. Curses.)

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Given the Reid brothers’ legendary levels of fraternal antipathy, it’s a curious fact that their reunion has been both understated and remarkably non-dramatic — indeed, you could be forgiven for missing the fact that it happened at all. The brothers got back together for Coachella in 2007, and have been playing sporadically since, including a US tour earlier this year. There’s a new album en route at some point, too — as William Reid told music blog Whopperjaw a couple of months back, “we seem to be on the same wavelength to some degree.” Excellent.

The Wedding Present

Another excellent ’80s band who got back together during the slew of mid-’00s reunions, a fact that perhaps meant their renaissance was met with less fanfare than it deserved. They released a rather good new album entitled Valentina earlier this year, too.

Killing Joke

The whole idea of musician-as-eccentric-genius idea is often overplayed, but there’s absolutely no doubting that hyper-talented Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman is a) eccentric and b) a genius. Over the years, Coleman’s done everything from acting as composer-in-residence for the Czech Symphony Orchestra to decamping to Iceland in preparation for the apocalypse, and he’s also gotten Killing Joke back together regularly over the last decade, releasing four albums during the course of the ’00s. This year’s MMXII was particularly good.

The Pop Group

And finally, as anyone who was at ATP in New Jersey last year can attest, The Pop Group are still very much a force as a live entity. They got back together in 2010, explaining their decision as follows: “Let’s face it, things are probably even more fucked now than they were in the early ’80s… and we are even more fucked off!” They’ve not recorded any new material as yet, but here’s hoping that they do.