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  • Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground
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Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground Original recording remastered

39 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, October 12, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In his notes for this passionately compiled box, producer Gary Stewart writes, "the diversity from the late-70s punk/new wave scene turned into a full-blown, variety-fueled, genre-busting orgy in the '80s...The music became, in the best sense of the words, more complex, more literate, a bit more serious, and as a result, made astrong impact on mainsteam rock culture." From funk punk to revisionist roots rock to hard-core to smart-ass clever pop-and every musical nook and cranny in-between-Left of the Dial presents many of the '80s' most important tracks. Savor the far more influential flip side of the "Where's the Beef?" decade's musical output!

As a sequel to 2004's similarly packaged Rhino box No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion, this four-disc set tackles the punk/indie/modern rock of the 80s with equal panache. Subtitled "Dispatches from the 80s Underground," these 82 non-chronological tracks play like a great college station from the later part of the decade. Encompassing a dizzyingly diverse musical palate, styles range from the artsy Southern twang of R.E.M., to the sugary pop of Aztec Camera, the blistering hardcore of Black Flag, the ghostly techno of Japan and the chilly, noir dance floor attack of New Order. And that's just on disc one.

Sure, there are some omissions, but the box does a remarkable job balancing more popular acts such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Cure and Echo & the Bunnymenwith cult faves like Green On Red and obscurities from the Lyres and the Three O'Clock . Even those who were radio fanatics during these years will likely find tracks they aren't familiar with, along with getting a flashback rush from those they are. A colorful 64 page book provides track-by-track background information as well as a handful of essays about the decade that approach the music from different perspectives. There are no public service announcements or aspiring DJ's to interrupt the flow and the remastered sound brings the music to life with crispness low powered FM radio could never rival. --Hal Horowitz

Disc: 1
1. Radio Free Europe - R.E.M.
2. Going Underground - The Jam
3. A Forest - The Cure
4. Holiday in Cambodia - Dead Kennedys
5. I'm In Love With A German Film Star - Passions
See all 20 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Message Of Love - The Pretenders
2. Vienna - Ultravox
3. Freak Scene - Dinosaur Jr.
4. The Charming Man - The Smiths
5. Stigmata - Ministry
See all 22 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. The Cutter - Echo & The Bunnymen
2. Pay To Cum! - Bad Brains
3. Birthday - The Sugarcubes
4. Madonna Of The Wasps - Robyn Hitchcock 'n' The Egyptians
5. We Care A Lot - Faith No More
See all 19 tracks on this disc
Disc: 4
1. Monkey Gone To Heaven - Pixies
2. Uncertain Smile (Original 7 Inch Version) - The The
3. Bela Lugosi's Dead - Bauhaus
4. Christine - Siouxsie And The Banshees
5. Straight Edge - Minor Threat
See all 21 tracks on this disc

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 12, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Rhino
  • ASIN: B0002XL2X4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,160 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Erik K on December 26, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Every single song on this collection, all 82, are happy memories of a time before "alternative" hadn't been coopted by MTV and a raw spirit of experimentation and musical excitement was possible amid a sea of mainstream radio dross. Inspired choices abound, along with some that are obvious but also essential in a round-up of this era. I'm worried that I'm becoming trapped in my youth for listening to music, but it's so rare for me to hear new music that has this energy and drive.

Complain all you like about Joy Division being represented by "Love Will Tear Us Apart," that song was emblematic of it's time and essential for inclusion here. So are many others.

There will always be nitpickers who don't appreciate what they've got. Sure, there are things I would have included, and anyone familiar with this era can play armchair record producer. But what the producers have done here is such a joy all around that you hope they simply plan to do a Volume 2 to include more of this material.

Oh, and to the confused fellow who somehow believes that the "Left" in the title refers to a political leaning: You really seem so driven by a political motivation that you simply ignore the origin of the title. This is college radio stuff. College radio stations almost always sit in the FM high 80s through low 90s. On the left of your dial. If some of the material on this collection is of a liberal leaning, that's because the right gives them so much to be disgusted by. But the name originates elsewhere.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Esther Schindler TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 7, 2006
Format: Audio CD
It's obvious from the long list of reviews that purists will quibble over which tracks from which artists represent their quintessential 80ness. But us ordinary folks, who just want a cross-section of the playlist from the alternate radio station we listened to in the 80s, won't care nearly as much. If you like a particular artist from this selection (and there are 82, so you probably do), you probably have several albums by that band or performer. I know I do.

Where this collection of songs shines -- and it does shine -- is in making you feel like you turned on the radio on a very good day. For every artist whose stuff I own (REM, The Pogues, They Might Be Giants, Kate Bush) there were three who made me say, "Oh wow, I hadn't even thought of that band in ages!" The Jesus & Mary Chain? Husker Du? Wall of Voodoo? In some cases, the tracks reminded me why I was willing to forget them, but that's what you get from any anthology.

Personally, if I had a long car ride coming up, I'll grab this set of four CDs and bring 'em along. I don't think I'd be bored for a moment.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By P. B. Reynolds on January 12, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Having been born in mid-1984 and being only five years old when even the most recent of these tracks were released, I never knew most of this music existed. Of course, youth is no excuse for ignorance, and I've always made it a personal priority to seek out great music from before my time, from kitschy lounge sounds and dusty 78rpm relics to the Russian Romantics and honky-tonk troubadours (just so you don't go getting the idea that I'm a music snob, I've sung along to my share of cheesy disco records.)

Older music, especially the rare "underground" stuff, isn't just shoved in front of you, a facet of every popular entertainment medium, bound to get stuck in your head whether you want it there or not. You've got to go LOOKING for it, as if on a hunt for an abandoned relic nobody else can guide you to. In the case of the 1980's, the problem wasn't that I didn't think to seek it out, but that I was under the false delusion that there was really nothing worth seeking. MTV and my local radio stations all lied to me, and many others of my generation. Not a big lie, but enough to shut us off from experiencing some pretty powerful music. We were led to believe the '80s were all about hair metal, pastel-clad yuppies in skinny neckties, and the "Me Generation." Well, the contents of this eye-catching pink box tells an entirely different story, one of boundless creativity, musical innovation, disgust with authority and convention, and unexplored horizons which still haven't been charted by commercial radio or experienced by mainstream audiences. This is the quirky, iconoclastic, progressive, and politically conscious music of the decade that somehow managed to evade notoriety in all but the most "clued in" of music-lovers.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David Sheridan on November 2, 2004
Format: Audio CD
I will probably wind up purchasing this box set because to me it represents a lot of the post-punk era's best work, but it might be too scattered for a lot of people. Great box sets like No Thanks! and Nuggets have unifying musical themes. The closest Left of the Dial has to a theme is that these artists weren't Madonna or Michael Jackson or any of the other zillion-selling money machines of the 80's.

And that's great, but unless you actually like both the Bad Brains and the Cocteau Twins, or Kate Bush and the Cramps, or the Go-Betweens and the Dead Kennedys, this collection might be too artistically unfocused. But if you want to get a good overview of what eventually came to be known as "alternative" because we ran out of other things to call it, there are a lot of classic tracks here that no discriminating record collection should be without. And yes, as one reviewer pointed out, it seems as though there must be a law requiring "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division in every box set this side of Pat Boone, but it is just about the greatest song ever written. I'd like to have seen the Fall, Wire and Cabaret Voltaire included and I can't understand how Prefab Sprout wound up surviving the cut, but I admit that's nitpicking. And sticking in artists like the Raincoats and Throbbing Gristle was a good move, they're the types of bands who often get overlooked for these projects.

Now I'm waiting to see a good box set of '78-'80 skinny tie/pointed shoes new wave pop like the Cars/Knack/Vapors/Split Enz, etc.

Oh, and Amazon, the Dead Kennedys' track is "Holiday in Cambodia," not "Holiday in China." Wrong regime.
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