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The ’80s get a bad rap. Having lived through the era, a lot of it is deserved. Who could forget the over-the-top hairstyles, the numerous fashion trends and fads like neon-colored clothing and acid-washed jeans, and some disgusting food inventions, such as cheese in a can! It was also the era of the one-hit wonders and during which The Buggles correctly predicted video would kill the radio star (although that is changing with the internet). Some would even say it had some of the worse, if not the worst, music in history, pointing to Eddie Murphy’s “Party All The Time” as Exhibit A (that was really atrocious).
There was some good – o.k. a lot of good – that came out of the decade that born puffy sleeves, popularized perms and big hair, and introduced us to Ocean Pacific t-shirts and Vans shoes. Genres like new wave, dark wave, industrial, goth rock, post-punk, and alt-country started to become more firmly entrenched into the music lexicon. No longer were disenfranchised kids creating music in these areas, but now they were entering the mainstream. Consequently, the legacies of such illustrious bands and artists like Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, and Lucinda Williams were cemented and we revere them today. Their fingerprints can be heard in the songs of Radiohead, Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio, Japandroids, Neko Case, and Wilco, who have further taken music to new heights.
Even today, the influence of the ’80s endures, in all likelihood to the surprise of many. New bands are coming to the forefront to perfect genres that were considered to be far out or experimental. Genres no one thought would last more than a few years – a phase as many had called them. One such group that is reinventing the past is Bootblacks.
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Comprising of vocalist and keyboardiest Panther MacDonald, guitarist Alli Gorman, and drummer Roger Humanbeing, the Brooklyn-based trio is fusing new wave, dark wave, goth-rock, and post-punk into an enticing and delectable elixir as heard on their superb debut album, Veins. Bootblacks, in other words, is this generation’s answer to Joy Division, and likely the closest we’ll ever get to hearing another band play with the same intensity, emotion, and fearlessness as the iconic Manchester band.
Veins is relentless in its energy. It is at times furious, such as on the mind-bending burner “ABC Anxiety” and the dark chasm that is “Low Fantasy”. Then there are moments that almost feel blissful and borderline euphoric, where the trio slows things down and build the drama through wave after wave of synth. On “Past Lives”, Bootblacks have created a cinematic and gorgeous number. Meanwhile on “Drift”, the band has manufactured a scintillating dark track that echoes of The Cure.
There are no shortage of pulsating, dance-inducing songs on Veins. “Always”, which is the closest thing to a love song on the album, shimmers with crystalline guitars and MacDonald’s harrowing vocals. “Decoys” has that intoxicating effect that was heard on Joy Division’s “Shadow Play” and “Transmission”. “Southpole”, though, is the band’s most daring number. It’s a driving, infectious post-punk track that brings urgency yet excitement to this genre. It is the one song where Bootblacks put their own stamp on a classic sound, and, therefore, helping it last another generation or beyond. And maybe 20, 30 years from now, we’ll be acknowledging Bootblacks as one of this generation’s seminal talents.
Veins is out now via on Manic Depression Records.
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