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New Wave music

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New Wave music

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New Wave is a term that has been used to describe many developments in music, but is most commonly associated with a movement in American, Australian, British, Canadian and European popular music, in the late 1970s and early 1980s born out of the punk rock movement. The genre was fashionable during the 1980s, but became somewhat popular again during the 2000s.



The term New Wave itself is a source of much confusion. Originally, Seymour Stein, the head of Sire Records, needed a term by which he could market his newly signed bands, who had frequently played the club CBGB. Because radio consultants in the US had advised their clients that punk rock was a fad (and because many stations that had embraced disco had been hurt by the backlash), Stein settled on the term "new wave." He felt that the music was the musical equivalent of the French New Wave film movement of the 1960s. Like those film makers, his new artists (most notably Talking Heads) were anti-corporate, experimental, and a generation that had grown up as critical consumers of the art they now practiced. Thus, the term "new wave" was initially interchangeable with "punk rock".

Very soon, listeners themselves began to see these musicians as different from their compatriots. Music that followed the anarchic garage band ethos of The Ramones (such as the Sex Pistols) was distinguished as "punk", while music that tended toward experimentation, lyrical complexity, or more polished production, such as Talking Heads, Television, Patti Smith, Devo, and Tubeway Army, among others, were called "New Wave". However, those artists were all originally classified as punk.

Tom Petty has (probably in jest) taken credit for "inventing" New Wave. In the book Conversations with Tom Petty by Paul Zollo (Omnibus, 2005) he says journalists struggled to define the band, recognising they were not punk rock, but still wanting to identify them with Elvis Costello and the Sex Pistols. He also suggests again, probably half joking that the song When the Time Comes from the You're Gonna Get It! album (1978) "might have started New Wave. Maybe that was the one."

Eventually, the term was applied indiscriminately to any punk band that did not embrace the loud-fast playing style, whether that meant that their sound was reggae, ska, or experimental. Thus, The (English) Beat, R.E.M., and The Police were equally New Wave, even though these bands would have as little in common with each other as they would with nominally punk bands such as The Clash.

Later still, New Wave came to imply a less noisy, poppier sound, and to include acts manufactured by record labels, while the term post-punk was coined to describe the darker, less pop-influenced groups. Although distinct, punk, New Wave, and post-punk all shared common ground: an energetic reaction to the supposedly overproduced, uninspired popular music of the 1970s. Many groups fit easily into two or all three of the categories over their lifespan.

When MTV started broadcasting in 1981, New Wave got a boost as many music videos were of this genre. New Wave artists had been innovators in the use of using videos to promote themselves in the years prior to birth of MTV by showing them primarily in clubs. Subsequently, New Wave became strongly associated with the decade, often being seen as the quintessential 1980s music.

New Wave is sometimes considered to have died by about 1986, although it still influenced pop music production up to about 1992. In the late 1990s, the Omaha, NE based band, The Faint, drew heavily upon New Wave to create its debut album Media, which was released on Saddle Creek Records in 1998. In the 1990s, the popular band No Doubt exemplified a new wave style in many ways. In the first decade of the 21st century, the electroclash scene in Brooklyn and London (at clubs like Luxx and Nag Nag Nag) ironically revived the new wave aesthetic for kids born in the 80s. Many other indie rock bands re-popularized new wave sounds with varying success, most popularly Interpol and The Killers.

New Wave fashion

New Wave is also commonly used to describe the style and fashion associated with New Wave music. Examples include hairstyles of the band A Flock of Seagulls and Kajagoogoo, and Elvis Costello's bi-colored glasses poster.

As fashion, there were two major components of New Wave adornment. First, there was an eclectic revivalism. This included iconic revival fashions of the 1950s and 1960s. For example, thin neckties, rockabilly fashions, and mod culture from the 1950s, as well as Paisley prints from the 1960s.

The other part was a desire to embrace contemporary synthetic materials as a protest and celebration of "plastic". This involved the use of spandex, bright colors (such as fluorescents), and mass-produced, tawdry ornaments. As a fashion movement then, New Wave was both a post-modern belief in creative pastiche and a continuation of Pop Art's satire and fascination with manufacturing.

New Wave revivalists are currently very popular in New York and LA (centering around nightclubs like New York's Misshapes and featured in art and fashion magazines like Visionaire). The style has also recently been a major influence in high fashion, for example in the most recent collections of designers like Scott Gerst and Hedi Slimane.


New Wave music styles & related generic terms

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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