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Friday, February 13, 2009

Music Spotlight: Left of the Dial

Title: Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80's Underground
Artist: Various

If you are looking for something different to listen to that will off-set the routine sounds coming over the radio, then look no farther than Left of the Dial, a 4-disc box set that sifts through some of the best music of the early 80's that never got airplay. Of course, there is a reason for that- most of the stuff here is early punk and thrash music that just didn't fit the mold of Top 40 radio at the time. As the title indicates, this stuff really was "underground" music - primarily getting play on college stations and little else. Despite the limited airplay, the music is still strong and more in line with what you may hear today. Almost.

The artists vary considerably in this set: from bands that eventually found stardom like R.E.M., The Cure and The Pretenders, to groups that never quite caught on to a larger following like Gun Club and Wall of Voodoo. The tracks on all four discs move smoothly between more popular hits ("Radio Free Europe," "Blister In the Sun," "Senses Working Overtime") and more obscure tunes, providing a solid overall sound.

Given a set like this, there is plenty here for everyone, but obviously more for some than others. While The Smiths' "This Charming Man" makes for good listening to most music lovers, tracks like The Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl" and "Goo Goo Muck" by The Cramps are more specific tastes. Nonetheless, Left of the Dial is a great slice of music history and chock full of great tunes that you may be familiar with even if it is from more current sources (as anyone who has played Guitar Hero 3 can attest to the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday in Cambodia").

Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80's Underground is located in rock music box sets: MR LEFT

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