There's always been a yucky nostalgia surrounding the '80s -- Reaganomics, "the decade of greed," and all that -- with the music of the era earning particular ridicule and frequently reduced to punchl

There's always been a yucky nostalgia surrounding the '80s -- Reaganomics, "the decade of greed," and all that -- with the music of the era earning particular ridicule and frequently reduced to punchline-ready kitsch. But the '80s also saw the rise of college rock, independent labels and a continuation of the explosion of creativity inspired by punk and new wave in the '70s. Not surprisingly, this is the niche Grant-Lee Phillips focuses on for his covers album "Nineteeneighties," not the giddy '80s of excess but the '80s of underground innovation and word-of-mouth appeal.

That said, several of the songs Phillips selected have long since become iconic, and choices such as the Pixies "Wave of Mutilation," Echo and the Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon," the Cure's "Boys Don't Cry" and Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way" would be kind of pat were it not for his rootsy (though hardly unrecognizable) reimaginings. More intriguing are complete reinventions of New Order's underrated "Age of Consent," Joy Division's morbid "The Eternal," Nick Cave's "City of Refuge" and the Smiths' "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me" (sung in a falsetto, no less), songs that don't seem particularly suited to the acoustic singer/songwriter treatment but which come off striking in this new context. -- Joshua Klein

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