The music scene was beyond schizophrenic as the 70s turned to the 80s, it was downright Sybillian. Glam and prog had gone underground (where powerpop and boogie were already licking their wounds), and both punk and disco exploded and died. The American radio market was trying to leverage the sure bets like Bruce Springsteen and decide which survivors of the safety pin and skinny tie crowd deserved to get a push. A new station called MTV borrowed an established but tiny-market concept and started airing music videos 24/7. (Yes, kids – the “M” once stood for music!).
In a way it was Darwinian. Well, except for the Machiavellian part.
It seems like a lot of bands got to make two albums around that time; labels from Sire to Columbia to Arista were signing anything with a pulse, throwing a bushel of money at them and flooding the landscape in an effort to nail down a cash cow artist. Some clicked and got a third and fourth if the first two caught a buzz. Others got so screwed by ridiculous contracts that they were buried in debt and indentured servitude and watched their dreams bleed out and die.
Some of those bands, in retrospect, were pretty damned great – and The A’s were one of them. Their first album was punky but chic, a pastiche of affected vocals, funny lyrics and tight musicianship that received regional airplay and landed in my lap. Their second took better aim at radio by smoothing out the edges, but overall the songs were better. Then…poof.
Those two albums, long out of print, just resurfaced as a two-fer. I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy there. Read my review at Blurt Online.