Arrested Development (the TV show) had one of its best lines in mid-2004, when perennial alcoholic Lindsay Fünke made this offhand remark about fashion: “It’s the 21st century. We should be dressing like the ’80s.” It was ironic at the time, but now, at the tail end of 2009, after surviving an age that resurrected high-waisted jeans, we’ve come to realize she was dead right. Fashion wasn’t the only thing the first decade of the 21st century lifted wholesale from the ’80s.
Presented here are five blatant examples of bands who have begged, borrowed, or stolen from their ’80s predecessors. In the comments, let us know what ’90s sounds will see a revival in the next decade. We’re putting our money on grunge and Limp Bizkit-style nu metal.
’00s: The Raveonettes ’80s: The Jesus and Mary Chain
In the mid ’80s, the Jesus and Mary Chain became sensations for 20-minute performances of feedback and noise that regularly devolved into riots. Their seemingly radical sound was actually dead simple: one part Velvet Underground white noise, one part sugar-coated ’50s melodies. The Raveonettes, thanks to disingenuous rock critics, are typically described as combining the Jesus and Mary Chain with ’50s melodies, which would make their formula two parts Jesus and Mary Chain to one part Jesus and Mary Chain. The Raveonettes are remarkable for not only taking cues from JAMC’s sound, but following their album progression, as well. Both bands started with an album dominated by feedback and noise, and both band’s second albums stripped back this noise, revealing the retro pop songs that were there all along.
The Raveonettes, “Candy”
The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Never Understand”
’00s: Blood on the Wall ’80s: The Pixies
Blood on the Wall, while by no means a groundbreaking band, are also not the worst offenders on this list, and their enthusiastic garage rock isn’t nearly as overtly borrowed as most of the other bands listed here. They’re still on this list, though, and it’s for one simple reason: their voices. When singing, siblings Brad and Courtney Shanks frequently sound like Black Francis and Kim Deal both in sound and delivery, occasionally to an unnerving degree.
Blood on the Wall, “Junkeee… Julie”
The Pixies, “Break My Body”
’00s: Vampire Weekend ’80s: Paul Simon, circa Graceland
Vampire Weekend were one of the biggest success stories of the decade. The band formed while its members were attending Columbia University, and wrote songs about college life and punctuation, dubbing its African-inspired sound “The Upper West Side Soweto.” It arrived atop a sea of internet hype, which, in and of itself, means next to nothing anymore. What was genuinely impressive was that it survived all the premature acclaim unscathed, and emerged as a critics’ darling, with its self-titled album becoming a bestseller in both the US and the UK.
Vampire Weekend, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”
Paul Simon and crew, “Graceland”
’00s: A.R.E. Weapons ’80s: Suicide
One of these bands was so confrontational and ahead of its time that it had everything from chairs to axes thrown at it, caused a riot while opening for Elvis Costello, and was single-handedly responsible for the creation of every synth duo in the ’80s. It also released a song entitled “Frankie Teardrop,” whose titular subject can’t make ends meet, commits suicide after murdering his whole family, and than burns in Hell. It contains the most harrowing screaming ever recorded to vinyl, or any other audio format, and it was also a favorite of Bruce Springsteen. The other band is best known for being managed by Chloe Sevigny’s DJ brother and appearing in the new-wave documentary Kill Yr Idols. A.R.E. Weapons released their latest LP in 2007 and performed at New York’s Santos Party House last month, but these days, you’re more likely to see Suicide live — the band continues to tour and do special performances for All Tomorrow’s Parties.
A.R.E. Weapons, “1999”
Suicide, “Ghost Rider”
’00s: Chromeo ’80s: Cameo
Chromeo really should be paying Cameo serious royalties. They gleefully ripped off pretty much everything about the ’80s funk and R&B band. Their sounds are almost identical, their names are just about identical; even their band fonts are identical. Despite all of this, however, in a video-to-video comparison, Chromeo seems superior, for the simple fact that a single viewing of the 1980 music video for Cameo’s hit “Shake Your Pants” is basically guaranteed to render you permanently insane. “I should cut Hall and Oates a check for every song that I do,” Chromeo’s Dave 1 told Flavorpill in October. Maybe he should save some for the Cameo guys.
Cameo, “Shake Your Pants”