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Recommended by the Parents

Nuala Swan


Without my parents’ musical influences growing up, I doubt that The Smiths would be my favourite band, that I would have come to the music of The Man in Black and The Thin White Duke so early in life, or that I would have had posters of Pulp on my wall while all my friends were going to Spice Girls concerts.

So, I recently had the thought, “what else have these people got up their sleeves?” They must know a load of artists that haven’t made it into the annals of music mythology in the way that Bowie, Morrissey and Blondie et al have, stuff that I’ve never heard of, or at least never listened to.

I got them both to make a list of a few bands that they felt had fallen by the wayside a bit, or hadn’t gotten the recognition they deserved. After being pleasantly surprised by the promptness (and, in my dad’s case, sheer volume) of their replies, I had a sift through to find the stuff that I liked best, and have chosen two from each list to write about. So here goes.

Mum’s up first. Her suggestions include Magazine, a band active between 1977 and 1981, formed when frontman Howard Devoto jumped ship from The Buzzcocks. My new favourite song is one of theirs: A Song From Under the Floorboards taken from their third album, The Correct Use of Soap (1980). It so happens this song has also been covered by a few artists, amongst them Morrissey. Well, if it’s good enough for him…

Definitive Gaze with its long intro and My Tulpa with its softer sound, both from debut album Real Life (1978) have both made it onto my Spotify playlist, as has Motorcade, from the same album, which reminds you that Devoto was once the vocalist on a rather famous punk band. There are definitely some gems in their back catalogue for anyone who hasn’t heard them before, go now and listen!

The second of my mum’s selection was The The, a band who have been around in one form or another since 1979. This is a band I’d heard of, but had never actually listened to any of their music. There was no way I was going to get through their whole back catalogue, so I picked an album with a cover I liked (don’t judge me!) and had a listen. I enjoyed Icing Up from Burning Blue Soul released in 1981 (technically a solo album from lead singer Matt Johnson, but later credited to the band). Its opening reminded me a bit of Ultravox’s Vienna, and then it kicked into a surprisingly modern beat. Every so often there were some sections that sounded quite menacing. Like three songs in one, in a good way! Other highlights from that album include (Like a) Sun Rising Through My Garden and Delirious.

And so, onto my dad’s musical offerings. After receiving a lengthy email, detailing what he was listening to from childhood onwards, I decided on a few likely candidates, artists that I’d heard of, but had never gotten into before.

First up, it The Tubes, an American rock band that have been around since 1973. I listened to their self titled debut album (released in 1975), falling a wee bit in love with their version of the Mexican song Malagueña Salerosa, sung in Spanish, along the way. Space Baby was giving me some Bowie vibes, which in my case are always appreciated, and Mondo Bondage had a classic rock sound, overlaid at times with some rather spacey sounding tones, which makes for interesting listening. I definitely want to explore their work further after listening to this album.

Television are another American band, this time a punk/new wave one, who had their heyday between 1973 and 1978. They were playing CBGB alongside the Ramones and Blondie, and I’d heard my dad talk about them before, so how is it I never tuned in? Anyway, the loss was definitely mine, as I discovered probably my favourite of the bands that I have looked at for this article. I listened to debut album Marquee Moon (which the NME would later place fourth in its top albums of all time, seriously, how have I never listened to these guys?), which was a bit of a mistake, as I then played it on a loop, slightly distracting me from listening to all the other music I had to get through.  The whole album is pretty great, just stick it on and listen from start to finish; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

So there it is: I have four new bands to enjoy, along with a further list from my dad to work my way through at my own pace. You might be thinking that you knew all or most of these bands anyway, but I didn’t, and I’ll bet your own folks have some musical history that you’re not familiar with. Can they do better than mine? Go ask them, I dare you!