We all know it and we all complain about it: the internet tends to privilege the up-to-the-second cult of newness in it’s music delivery methods. Blogs killed albums, everything’s a badly ripped leak, and kids these days are all listening to MP3s compressed to shit. Grumble grumble grumble, get off my lawn, etc.
But it’s not all gone to hell. The same gifts of compression, free storage, and sharing have enabled the quiet obsessives, the crate diggers, the mix makers. Case in point: Musicophilia’s 1981 Boxed Set. 10 discs and over 400 bands from that year, documenting the energy and variety of what is very loosely termed ‘post-punk’.
1981 probably wasn’t the peak year for any sort of “pure” cultural or musical strain of what defined “post-punk” as an ethos or as a sound (I’d give that title to 1979). But I chose to focus on 1981 in such depth because it seemed to me the year that that sound and way of looking at music had spread farthest without diminishing in intensity (few would argue, no matter how much they love the music of 1982, that even in that one year later there was not a bit of a come-down, or at least a diffusion into more disparate strains). The heroes of the first wave of post-punk were about to retire (like Wire, Buzzcocks, first-run Pere Ubu) but still hadn’t lost a step, and so many others were at their peak (and still many more greats just getting started).
This is a true labor of love, compiled from the original records and painstakingly cleaned up to take out the pops and hisses. Better yet, each mix has a flow and purpose that makes it less a file dump than a unified listening experience and a true education in the sounds of the era. Gang of Four, John Foxx, YMO, New Order, and Talking Heads share space with lesser known groups like Weekend, Liquid Liquid, and Bush Tetras.
Presently exploring disc 2 myself. Check it out and get educated.