A Bluffers’ Guide to: New Wave

Age? Allegedly ongoing – at any rate, borne from the end of the 1970s. Let’s say
1978 to 1987.

So, what wave? Not to be confused with the Third Wave (late 90’s radical feminism), Human
Wave Attack (offensive infantry tactic) or The Waves (Virginia Woolf novel), the
New Wave is a musical subgenre.

Well, that clears it up a bit. The name of the genre is borrowed from French film movement the Nouvelle Vague (not the atmospheric cover band), with early examples being similarly
experimental and fiercely anti-corporate.

Like punk, then. Think of it as punk’s subtler, huffier older sister: the genetics are the same,
and they might look a bit similar, but the distance between them is certainly no

Okay, so not like punk. What does it sound like?
Oh, a bit synthy; angrier than pop, quirkier than electronic music. Sometimes it’s a bit like ska, sometimes it’s a bit more rocky – sorry, this isn’t helpful, is it?

I seem to remember one of my parents’ friends referring to one of my teenage asymmetrical autocoiffure disasters as ‘a bit New Romantic.’ Yes. Well. We all make mistakes. That does come into it a bit, but New Wave is more reactionary than the flamboyant aesthetics of Adam Ant et al – it started out as a vigorous response to the overproduced, underinspired pop of the 1970s. All the rage of punk, with a lot more glitter, in one easy-to-digest, easy-to-market package.

Right. So it’s not New Romanticism, or post-punk, or synthpop, but sometimes it could be. Yes! Precisely!

And then what happened?

Video killed the radio star. Though initially working to their advantage, the rise of MTV and a host of other music video channels meant that less photogenic groups (sorry, Spandau Ballet) were waltzed right out of town.

Back up your new-found factoids with five bona fide bangers, with a complete Spotify playlist for your perusal available here at A Bluffers’ Guide to: New Wave:

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She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby (1982)
This is The Day – The The (1983)
Dear Prudence – Siouxsie & the Banshees (1983)
Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) – A Flock of Seagulls (1983)
Temptation – Heaven 17 (1983)