If you’re looking for euphoric, danceable, visceral, even at times aggressive indie rock, then look no further than the music of FAIRCHILD. Their latest release, AA-side ‘Nom De Guerre’ / ‘Hot Rod’ takes polarising turns, the former is a vibrant, guitar-led stomper whereas ‘Hot Rod’ fizzes with venomous intent over a rampant bed of synths. The band bare a heavy love for the sounds of the 80s, so we asked them to delve deep into the archives and to pull out their favourite 80s-era tunes. So over to you, FAIRCHILD…
Everyone has an opinion on ‘music’s best era’ and it’s a roundabout conversation that goes nowhere, should you choose to pursue it. But since I’m having this conversation with myself, let me explain why the 80s was pop music’s Golden Era. Sure, there were some questionable wardrobe decisions and even more disturbing music videos that will leave you confused or somewhat traumatised. But maybe that’s the point. The 80s was a decade of ultimate transition, variety and originality. It was a musical dinner party, introducing classic songwriting to new wave production for the first time. And, mostly, the two got along well. Like many dinner parties some guests arrived late with undercooked dishes and cheap wine, others got a little too intoxicated and made the proceedings awkward by angrily slurring at fellow attendees. Hell, a few didn’t even make it to the end of the night, calling taxis well before the main course was served. But when the dull light of a cloudy 90s morning seeped between the venetians, signaling the end, I doubt anyone still awake at sunrise was unimpressed. I’m sure some guests sobered up cringing, remembering what they said, how they danced. I’m sure some neighbors filed noise complaints, mostly because they were jealous no one invited them. But Springsteen once sang, ‘one day we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.’
See, parties are about stories. They’re about the memories you’ll have tomorrow. And no one ever remembers the well-behaved guest who sat in the corner. No one wants to hear about the night you ate some noodle salad with your friends. The best stories need a little conflict, a bit of divergence. And, to me, that’s what the 80s was all about.
INXS – Never Tear Us Apart
Released in 1988, off the bands most successful album ‘Kick’, INXS are my favourite Australian band. Why? They turned rock music into something that you could dance to. It’s an element many bands today (including FAIRCHILD) continue to strive for – and it’s harder than it looks. Now I know the track I’ve chosen is a contradiction to the above declaration but what this song had over the others was conviction. It is an awfully sad song, delivered beautifully, and the perfect pairing of vocal and melody. Michael was a natural performer; he demanded attention and had the ability to draw listeners into stories. That’s a gift and something that cannot be taught. Plus, it has a sax solo. Every song needs 100% more sax solos.
Queen – I Want to Break Free
If I had a magic lamp and ignored the genie’s stipulation of ‘no resurrections’, Freddie Mercury would be back in a heartbeat. I’m happy to proclaim that he is my favourite songwriter of all time. To be honest, this isn’t my favourite Queen track but I feel it encompasses what the band (and the 80s) were all about. Furthermore, it wasn’t Freddie but bassist John Deacon who wrote the track, somehow managing to condense Queen’s modus operandi into four and a half minutes pure unadulterated bliss. Everything about the song seems untouched and timeless, from Brian May’s soggy guitar solo to Freddie growling ‘I don’t need you’. Thirty years later a room full of drunken idiots still scream along with him. Freddie didn’t need us but we needed him and we still do.
Modern English – I Melt with You
I appreciate how important the 80’s post punk movement is to the UK music scene, which has become more obvious to me since moving to Manchester. A conversation about music isn’t a conversation at all without the mention of Stone Roses, The Smiths or Bez from the Happy Mondays. That sense of pride or possessiveness of a musical style is foreign to me and contributes to why I have never endeavored to listen to anything else written by Modern English. I don’t want to ruin what I loved about this track and the mystery it offers. More specifically, I adore how the song is unashamedly positive, but with sadness bound up entirely within the melody and guitar riff – it’s a song you can dance and cry to. There is something special about how the track is put together and the way it’s performed on the recording – a feeling of ‘liveness’, as though you’re in the studio melting with them.
Dire Straits – Romeo and Juliet
I try to avoid speaking sentimentally when explaining why I like a particular track. It could be a by-product of writing music myself. But in the case ‘Romeo and Juliet’ it’s unavoidable. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Mark Knopfler managed to write lyrics that were, at once, specific and personal but endlessly reinterpretable – the song somehow exacerbates whatever it is I’m feeling when I listen to it. When I’m lonely the song is about loneliness, when I’m content the song leaves me smiling in warm satisfaction. It’s relatable and comforting. Mark Knopfler’s delivery is conversational, like a friend telling a story you don’t want to end. The performance is real; the production is underdone without single skerrick of hesitation. Dare I say the word organic?
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
It’s hard enough selecting 10 songs from the 80’s let alone a single track by Michael Jackson. So the only fair way to explain this decision is by recounting the response Jackson gave to Quincy Jones when asked to cut the intro of the track during recording. “But it’s the jelly! … That’s what makes me want to dance”. And he was right. It is the jelly. A simple beat with that iconic bass line makes for a dangerous display of interpretive dance. I’ll even take it a step further and say it makes you want to be jelly or even eat jelly. And I don’t even like jelly.
Toto – Africa
So you get 2 white guys, put them in a room with congas and zero concept of world music, and get them to write a song about Africa when they haven’t even been there. The result, a summer anthem for the ages! The track is downright silly in its deadpan delivery – a mix of goofy lyrics about blessing rain and epic four part harmonies. It’s certainly one of the most recognizable tracks from the 80s and for that reason it deserves a mention. I personally would like to believe they weren’t trying to write a song so obviously African because it’s kind of insulting to the magic of native African music but whatever. Once that chorus starts, all creditability is restored with its anthemic sing-a-long melody. I give 10 quid to anyone that can sing those high harmonies, in key, for the duration of the track.
Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
Right, let’s talk serious business for a minute. Synthesizers. If we can thank the 80’s for anything it’s the reckless misuse of synths and tacky programmed drums, which were promptly recognised as cheap, shallow and tasteless once the sludgey 90s rolled round. Since the late noughties, however, lovers of all things vintage have been reclaiming these sounds like hand-me-downs – crocheting and macramé-ing synthesized vibes into something that feels inherently new. We have songs like ‘Sweet Dreams’ to thank for this synth resurgence. Without this renaissance of ‘fake sounds’ my brother Nathan (and keyboardist in FAIRCHILD) would be out of a job. What the Eurythmics managed to do was create an iconic, distinguishable sound that would later be labeled as their signature. The topic of ‘sound discovery’ is the elusive Holy Grail for all bands and they managed to establish that from the beginning using only analogue synths, a drum computer and multi-layered vocal harmonies. I’m a sucker for a banging pop track and simple songwriting.
David Bowie and Queen – Under Pressure
I don’t really know how to explain this one without sounding like an A-grade fan boy. Just put David Bowie aside for a minute, the track itself is dynamic, versatile and impossibly elusive – it defies genre and typical song structure. There are segments in this song that, on paper, should not be strung together but somehow your ears are coaxed into the transitions flawlessly. Freddie even starts scatting in the middle of the track with no rhyme or reason. Like all Queen songs, Under Pressure sounds as though it belongs in a musical. What this hypothetical musical’s about, I’m not entirely sure. To me, it doesn’t really matter. This is a pop song that makes me feel good. I don’t know who did the lion’s share of the songwriting but I do know that Bowie was credited for hand claps and finger snaps and I like that.
Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark
‘The Boss’ is another artist who could potentially fill this 80’s list on his own. For me, with this song in particular, the magic’s in the metering of the melody. The rhythm of the vocal line gets it claws in you and it’s almost impossible not to shuffle your shoulders in an outward display of all-American swagger. The minimal chord changes and extended holds in the verse let the melody to do all the work – it’s an important element of good pop songwriting that many often forget. It’s not easy to do. What’s exciting about this track is hearing Bruce embrace synth sounds and all things 80s, despite his clear penchant for folk and Americana vibes. It’s damn near impossible to remember all the verses but a room full of people will still clap and side step in opposing directions regardless, singing their own versions and joining together for the eponymous refrain, ‘even if we’re just dancing in the dark.’
Madonna – Like A Prayer
As we’ve established, the 80’s was all about dance floor anthems and this tune is no exception. I’ve even seen my own mother sing and dance to this track numerous times, which is reason enough to confirm it’s a crowd pleaser. This is an amazingly well written pop song. The lyrics are introspective and grown up (which surprised many at the time – even Madonna). It’s a classic rock tune delivered in a synth-pop package – big melodies, anthemic production, combinations of mismatched genres, and let’s not forget the inclusion of Black Jesus in the music video (at the time considered somewhat edgy and controversial). It will pull you to the dance floor, hands in the air, and your mother will be there before you.
‘Nom De Guerre’ / ‘Hot Rod’ are available now on iTunes.