A beginner’s guide to C86 music

The short-lived style blended sticky pop melodies with tender poetics

Lacking the cosmopolitan cool of the mod revivalists, the existential ennui of the post-punkers, and the glitter of the new romantics, the rise of the C86 movement in the 80s was sudden and bizarre. In a way, it seemed fitting considering the artists at the style’s core.

C86 was first coined by the British magazine NME in their eponymous 1986 cassette compilation, created with the purpose of unearthing new groups from Britain’s burgeoning indie pop scene. The term served not only as a descriptor for the jangly, overblown pop sound of the groups, but of the shambling and emotionally fickle mentality that existed behind them.

In essence, C86 was more of a movement than a singular musical style. Very much a regional affair, the groups hailed from smaller middle-class communities rather than the metropoles usually associated with the glitter of rock-and-roll stardom. The groups themselves mirrored their peculiar musical upbringing, as the movement was primarily perpetuated by tenderly lovesick middle-class kids with nothing else to do but pour their feelings into song.

Former NME writer Andrew Collins summed it up perfectly when he referred to the movement as “the most indie thing to have ever existed.” Characterized by its healthy use of jangly guitars and superfluous pop melodies draped in a thick blanket of sentimentality, the honesty which sifted through this formula is what gave C86 its charm. This allowed it to withstand time and remain ever-present within the scope of British indie-pop.

The Pastels, a Glaswegian group led by Stephen McRobbie, is the group that best personified the sentiment of C86. As delicate and soft-spoken as they were abrasive and disjointed, this duality was first presented in their 1982 debut seven inch vinyl record Songs for Children. The record would influence hordes of young Brits to pick up instruments and capture the same emotion. While far from their best work, the cultural impact of this seven inch proved immense, becoming somewhat of a cornerstone for the C86 movement to come.

This trend would live on through groups such as the Edinburgh-based band Shop Assistants, whose nervy, black leather pop shined brightest in their charmingly bitter ode to an ex-lover, “I Don’t Want to be Friends With You,” and The Flatmates, a Bristol-based group who broke out at the same time with their dreamy pop anthem, “I Could be in Heaven.” Largely rooted in punk, the bubblegum coated melodies, lo-fi scuzz and 60s girl group influence allowed these groups to deviate from the norm. This approach created an original and contemporary sound which reflected not just the music scene, but the era itself.

Expanding even further into sonic territories were Paisley-natives Close Lobsters. Their debut single, “Going to Heaven to See if it Rains,” released by Fire Records, incorporated a tinge of psychedelia. This influence proved rare in the context of C86, as it drew more from the subtle ethereal tones of contemporary British groups than the acid-soaked psychedelia of the 60s. Still, this dash of dream pop injected the Scottish quintet with a fuller sound and made them one of the most endearing and influential groups of the movement. Their 1987 debut album, Foxheads Stalk This Land, a record chock-full of twee anthems, drew from The Byrds as much as they did from Cocteau Twins. This balance of differing sounds perfectly encapsulates C86, as it stands as one of the few classic LP’s from the movement.

Despite its naive facade, to dismiss the C86 style would be a crime. Many groups, such as the groovily soft-spoken Mighty Mighty and the aforementioned Close Lobsters, integrated outspoken political messages in their music. However, the group that best translated its politics to music was undoubtedly the London-based McCarthy. Sporting an especially shambolic sound, the group incorporated strong left-wing politics in their music. This political slant would consume nearly every one of the McCarthy’s singles released in the five years they were together and cemented the band’s legacy in C86 lore.

The vast influence C86 had on future generations is hard to miss. The cataclysmic rise of Britpop acted as a follow-up of sorts to the movement. This was especially perpetuated by less polished groups like Elastica and Supergrass. The past few years have seen a rise in groups channeling the aesthetics of the heartbroken mid-80s pop kids. Bands such as Alvvays, Girlpool and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart play a crucial role in preserving the C86 style. These bands still incorporate contemporary influences, however, to craft their own sound. And yet, this is added proof that the spirit of C86 still lives on.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Beginner’s guide to thrash metal

Fast guitar riffs, speedy drumming and loud, in-your-face vocals—those are the characteristics that define thrash metal. When metal music came onto the scene in the 1970s with bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, it was a sign that rock music was evolving past the age of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. While Black Sabbath played slower, their sound was dark and mysterious, thanks to down-tuned and distorted guitars. In the early 80s, American bands who were inspired by Black Sabbath continued to push the genre forward by playing faster and increasing the volume. One of the genres that spawned from this technique was thrash metal. Thrash metal has since evolved with some of the best albums in heavy metal history. If you’re interested in the genre, the albums below are a great starting point to get yourself acquainted with it.

Master of Puppets – Metallica

Metallica’s 1986 third studio album, Master of Puppets, is a classic in the world of thrash metal. Not only is it one of their best albums, it’s one of their heaviest. If there was one album that could perfectly sum up the 1980s thrash metal sound, it would be Master of Puppets. From the very start, listeners are greeted by the song “Battery.” It’s a song that begins with a quiet, melodic guitar intro that eventually explodes into an earth-shattering riff, setting the tone for the whole album. The album features multiple nine-minute anthems, like “Master of Puppets,” “Disposable Heroes” and “Orion.” Each song has intricate, heavy riffs that are complemented with drummer Lars Ulrich’s signature double-bass playing. While the songs are heavy, the arrangements are still beautiful. The song “Orion” is an eight-minute instrumental that sounds orchestral while at the same time exhibiting relentless aggression. Overall, Master of Puppets is a must-listen if you’re new to metal. It’s heavy, but still accessible for a first-time listener.

Reign In Blood – Slayer

If you thought Metallica’s Master of Puppets was heavy, just wait until to you hear Slayer’s Reign In Blood. Just like Master of Puppets, the album was Slayer’s third and it was also released in 1986. Reign in Blood begins with the song “Angel of Death” which welcomes the listener with a speedy riff and a blood-curdling scream from lead singer Tom Araya. When compared to Metallica, the music and the imagery is much more violent, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. The lyrical themes on the album include war, injustice and the Holocaust. The music itself reveals the darkness of these themes. For example, the riffs and drumming are faster and Araya’s vocals are manic, with the cadence of a man spiralling into madness. Don’t expect any orchestra-type sounds on this album. Reign in Blood is a relentlessly heavy album that will have your blood pumping in no time.

Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying? – Megadeth

In 1986, Megadeth released their second full-length album, Peace Sells…but Who’s buying? After having been kicked out of Metallica because of his alcoholism, lead singer and guitarist Dave Mustaine brought a unique sound to the world of thrash metal with this album. For starters, Peace Sells, while still fast, is not as speedy as the previous two albums on this list. Instead, the instrumentals on this album are more technical. In the opening track, “Wake Up Dead,” the riff is simple, yet delivered with a precision that bands like Slayer lacked. Megadeth also sets themselves apart on this album by incorporating more bass into the mix. In the intro of the title track, “Peace Sells,” there is a groovy bassline that is quite unique when compared to bands like Metallica and Slayer. Apart from the bass and the riffs, Mustaine’s guitar work on the album is impressive, as his solos hit so hard they’ll practically melt your face off. If you’re looking for a politically charged metal album, Peace Sells is an incredible listen.


Among the Living – Anthrax

Anthrax’s 1987 album, Among the Living, is one of their best and was regarded by the BBC as “arguably their big breakthrough.” Among the Living is probably one of the most progressive albums on this list, as all of the instrumentals contain various beat shifts and melodies. Anthrax demonstrates not just aggression and speed on this record, but shows their humorous side as well. In songs like “I am the Law,” a song based on the comic book Judge Dredd, the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek and kind of make you laugh, all while encouraging you to head bang. Unlike the seriousness of the last three albums, songs like “Caught in a Mosh” can be played at any party and people could get into it. Among the Living is a thrash metal album that doesn’t take itself too seriously which is why it’s a great place to start.


Electro Bear Mountain

Singer-songwriter Ian Bevis shares his love for performing in Montreal

The Canadian indie band Bear Mountain recently performed at Montreal’s Fairmount Theatre on Nov. 18. They are currently on tour for their new album, Badu, which was released on Sept. 9. Badu features a mixture of upbeat 80s electro melodies that will send you running to the dance floor. Singer-songwriter Ian Bevis’ mellow and pleasantly soft voice fits just right with the band’s nostalgic, retro-dance rhythms.

The Vancouver-based band was founded in 2011 by Bevis, who initially started Bear Mountain as a solo project. He invited guitarist Kyle Statham to join in later that year. The band now also includes Bevis’ twin brother, Greg Bevis, who plays drums and keyboards, as well as Kenji Rodriguez, the creative director, who creates the live visuals for the show. He orchestrates a series of 3D visual projections live on stage that correlate to the beat of their music, which allows the audience to visualize the music.

They have performed in Montreal a few times before, but, according to Bevis, their favourite experience was when they performed at Osheaga in 2014. “Osheaga was a blast,” he said. “The energy in the crowd was really good. Everyone was excited and happy to be there… It was just really high energy.” Bevis said Montreal is one of his favourite places to be, which is why he keeps coming back. “I love Montreal,” he said. “I think it’s so unique. There’s nowhere else like it. There’s no other city that I’ve been to that’s like Montreal. It’s got its own thing going on, and it’s always, always fun. And the people too, the people are just really, really, really great.”

The Bevis brothers, Statham and Rodriguez touring across North America. Photo by SATY + PRATHA

Bear Mountain’s newly released album, Badu, took about two and half years of solid work to put together. Due to how much time they put into creating the album, Bevis said he’s very relieved to finally release it. “We just took [the music] as far as we could take it,” he said. According to Bevis, every band member had their own part in the creation process of Badu. “It’s definitely a lot of collaboration,” he said. Bevis said the band’s attitude takes their music to the next level. “I think everybody just brings something different,” he said. “Everyone brings their whole energy, everything they’ve got.”

Bear Mountain has been touring in Canada and the United States since late October, and will finish touring in mid-December. They are performing alongside Aluna George and The Darcys. In Montreal, they shared the stage with The Darcys. According to Bevis, their band has incorporated a new lights show into their performance that people can look forward to. “I think it’ll be a party,” he said.

Travelling for months on end can be hard at times, Bevis said—they’ve spent most of their time driving across Canada. “It can be exhausting, but also we have those moments that are extremely fun, so it kind of balances out,” he said, “Playing the shows makes it worth it. I just like being on stage and playing songs, playing music and creating the energy in the room.” Inspirations for Badu included nature and the cosmos, Bevis said. “[Inspiration] has got to come from somewhere, so you just draw it from your surroundings,” he said. The last song on the album, “On my Own,” is Bevis’ favourite song to play, he said. “I think it turned out really well, from beginning to end,” he said.

Bear Mountain’s sound is constantly evolving, according to Bevis. “Thing’s naturally change a lot,” he said. “I mean, I think you can kind of have an idea of where you want something to go, and you can do your best to guide it in that direction, but ultimately, you know, [the music is] like a river—it’s going to go where it’s going to go, so it’s almost like we’re just along for the ride,” he said.

Bear Mountain is currently on their way to perform in Toronto, followed by stops in London, Ont., Hamilton and Los Angeles. They will be wrapping up their winter tour on the West Coast in Seattle on Dec. 15.

Bear Mountain’s new music off of Badu can be accessed on Spotify or downloaded on iTunes.


Women in old-school hip-hop

Some of the first female hip-hop artists to influence a whole generation

These influential women made it in the game and left more than just their mark behind—they left a hip-hop legacy. Their determination, confidence and raw talent have influenced both male and female artists to this day.

The Fugees- The Score

The Fugees, comprised of Lauryn Hill, Pras Michel and Wyclef Jean, were active in the 90s, and blew fans away with their 1996 album, The Score.  The hip-hop album, Timeless and enchantingly cool, is listed on the Rolling Stone’s “500 Best Albums of all Time” list.  The group’s reggae vibe, as well as the presence of Hill’s enchanting R&B voice distinguishes this group from any other alternative hip-hop trio of the 90s. The album includes Hill’s infamous cover of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” and even an effortlessly cool cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” The trio is one-of-a-kind in the way that they fused soul, reggae and hip-hop, all while maintaining flawless rapping and powerful lyrics.  Hill would go on to have an equally successful solo career after The Fugees split in 1997.  Thankfully, Hill is still active—you might even have seen her at the Montreal Jazz Festival this summer. Both The Fugees, and 90s hip-hop, would have been lost without Hill.

Trial track: “Ready or Not”


Roxanne Shanté- The Bitch is Back

Roxanne Shanté’s 1992 album, The Bitch is Back, is your typical record-scratching, beat-mixing, drum machining, emceeing, hip-hop album. It will remind you of the music of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. It’s the essence of the early 90s— a time when clothing and music were as colourful as Shanté’s style. Shanté’s career was short, but far from tranquil.  The Queensbridge, N.Y. native became known thanks to the Roxanne Wars—a series of rap rivalries during the mid-80s between Shanté and another Roxanne. The rivalry began with a dispute over a cancelled show. The disses began  with Shanté’s track “Roxanne’s Revenge,” produced with the help of New York record producer Marley Marl.  Diss tracks and rap battles have always been an important part of hip-hop culture—a culture where pride and egos are important. “On stage tryin’ to recite like me, but what I really see is Creepshow 3.  I size em’ up to die and pulverize em, so bad her own mother won’t recognize em,’” raps Shanté in her first track off The Bitch is Back, “Deadly Rhymes.”  The Bitch is Back was Shanté’s second and final album.

Trial track- “Big Mama”

Salt-N-Pepa – Hot, Cool & Vicious

If you mess with them, they’ll take your man. They made that damn straight with their very first album, Hot, Cool & Vicious. The album was launched in 1986, making Salt-N-Pepa one of the first all-female groups out there. From Queens, N.Y., the ladies formed a trio with confident and feisty raps. They were the hip-hop feminists of the 80s. If you think you’ve never heard any of their songs, think again. Does this ring a bell: “Push it. Push it real good?” Ooh baby, baby, their hit “Push It” has played in one too many commercials. Salt-N-Pepa’s overall energy during stage performances is remarkable. Their jams from Hot, Cool & Vicious were also great hits in clubs that still play on the dancefloors of today. “Shoop” is a perfect example, as it still plays in dance clubs and is frequently used in hip-hop choreographies in dance studios. These ladies were way ahead of their time in terms of musicality. Hot, Cool & Vicious will definitely get you hooked on the groups vivaciousness. A definite must for all who appreciate the classic hip-hop genre.

Trial Track: “I’ll Take Your Man”

Da Brat – Funkdafied

Da Brat knows how to let the funk flow. If this album doesn’t convince you that she is the badass queen of rap, then you’ll have to listen to her track “Funkdafied” one more time. This was her very first solo album, launched back in 1994, back when the female rap game was still very fresh. Her style is known for mixing R&B rhythms with smooth rap prose. She demonstrates strength and confidence in her verses. Da Brat is 90s hip-hop from head to toe. She brought the funk, and a sleek smooth tone of voice, with lyrically genius content. Not to mention, her 90s house party music videos were the bomb. Her jam “Fa All Y’All” is super funky and cool. The hella cool music video for the song demonstrates her class and poise. She is an inspiration to all female rappers out there. If her jam “Sittin’ On Top of the World” doesn’t inspire confidence, then I don’t know what does.

Trial track: “Funkdafied”

Music Quickspins

MNDSGN- Body Wash

MNDSGN- Body Wash (Stones Throw Records, 2016)

Body Wash is Mndsgn’s second full length album for Stones Throw, and to be quite frank, it is mind-blowing. Their music is a blend of 80s boogie/funk/soul/jazz/fusion wave and—get this—90s R&B. Yet they make the seemingly impossible fusion of music between two eras not only work, but make sense together. The way they mix their psychedelic beats make you feel as though you are being magically transported into the future instead of going back to the past. Their song, Cosmic Masterpiece, is the perfect example of this. It has a funky, yet futuristic beat, and transports you to a whole other place and time. This masterpiece of psychedelic, yet nostalgic music is worth—not only listening—but experiencing at least once in your life. So what are you waiting for?

Trial track: “Use ya Mind (Twentyfourseven)”


Music Quickspins

Roosevelt – Roosevelt

Roosevelt – Roosevelt (City Slang, 2016)

Roosevelt takes the classic ‘80s-electro beats and combines them with soft house music rhythms. His melodies are all feel-good, happy sounds with a touch of nostalgia. His song “Wait Up” has a lounge music feel with that ‘80s influence. It’s a song that you will want your favourite club to blast. The beat makes you feel like you are enjoying the sun in Ibiza. His song “Colours” has a more disco, house feel to it. Roosevelt’s soothing voice peaks through with such softness. It’s a dreamy tune that can put you in a trance on the dancefloor. The track “Hold On” starts off with a beautiful rhythm that calls your body to dance. It’s the perfect song for a house dance choreography. Overall, this album is a beautiful combination of ‘80s electro and house/lounge music.

Trial Track: “Wait Up”



Quickspins + Retroview

Little Chords – Afterlife (Lefse Records; 2012)

When B.C.-based singer-songwriter Jamison is not producing records under his other monikers, Teen Daze and Two Bicycles, he is churning out music as Little Chords, an ‘80s drum-based, lo-fi, indie pop project from Vancouver. His new record Afterlife was released for download on March 20 on Bandcamp.
Chiming guitars, bathed in reverb and delay effects, synths, drum machines and quiet, almost haunting vocals lead the listener through the journey of the record.
It’s a welcome excursion, as some of the songs, such as “Firsts,” seem as if they could come right off the soundtrack of an eighties flick—think The Karate Kid (no, not the one with Jaden Smith). Others, such as “Afterlife,” are quieter introspectives, giving the album balance and contrast.
The record runs just over 36 minutes long and treats listeners to a scenic, pop-psych drive. While it won’t bring back glam rock bands on cassettes, inline skates or Atari games, it will surprise listeners looking for a little something nostalgic.

Trial track: “Afterlife”

Rating: 8.5/10

– A.J. Cordeiro

Mark Stewart – The Politics of Envy (Future Noise Music; 2012)

Mark Stewart has burst back on the scene after a four-year break, with his raw and dangerously sexy album The Politics of Envy. I have a feeling Stewart would spit in my face if he knew what I’m about to say, but here it goes: This album is like TV on the Radio and Nine Inch Nails bonding at a dubstep-fuelled afterparty. Trust me, it’s a good thing. Stewart keeps alive the experimental, industrial, hip-hop sound that he’s been celebrated for since his first band, The Pop Group, split in the early ‘80s. The tunes are moody and rife with anti-“corporate cocksucker” messages and the album features a handful of punk’s and post-punk’s most respected pioneers such as Keith Levene of early Clash fame, Slits bassist Tessa Pollitt and The Raincoats’ Gina Birch. Birch’s deep, robotic voice makes “Stereotype” one of the most haunting pop songs I’ve heard this year.

Trial track: “Want”

Rating: 9.0/10

– Lindsay Briscoe

Tanlines – Mixed Emotions (True Panther Sounds; 2012)

What’s a better way to end the academic year than with something as overtly non-academic as Tanlines?
After years of teasing with endless singles and EPs, Brooklyn duo Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm have finally released their full-length debut album Mixed Emotions. Best described as electro-pop with a tropical flavour, this album is like a piña colada in a test tube: fun and refreshing, but completely synthetic.
At times influenced by Paul Simon’s Graceland, the production has a strong emphasis on dance floor beats and catchy pop melodies, with a heavy reliance on synthesizers and an afropop veneer. Emm’s muffled baritone vocals both accentuate and compliment the artificiality of the soundscape constructed entirely of relentlessly upbeat rhythms and repetitive drum patterns.
Like a coconut-wielding caricature imprisoned in a souvenir shop snowglobe, Mixed Emotions may ultimately be the desperate plea of a man trapped in a kitschy tropical dystopia.

Trial track: “Real Life”

Rating: 7.0/10

– Paul Traunero

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold As Love (Track Records; 1967)

Late legendary musician Jimi Hendrix has never failed to impress with any of his releases. Following the success of his debut album Are You Experienced?, Hendrix was keen on expanding his musical horizons. Axis: Bold as Love, recorded in 1967, combines elements of rock, blues, psychedelic and jazz, creating a beautiful hodgepodge of sound.
Out of the three albums Hendrix recorded, Axis is often the most underrated, largely due to the fact that it was released in between his two most commercially successful albums. With Axis, the late rock ‘n’ roll icon displayed remarkable growth as a tunesmith, asserting his position as a multifaceted and highly-skilled musician.
The album features one of Hendrix’s finest performances on the guitar, as well as his most emotional. “Little Wing,” a two-minute odyssey through sound, showcases his versatility and superior songwriting skills, forging a sound that no other artist could replicate.
All of Hendrix’s albums are definite must-haves for any music enthusiast, but Axis stands out as his most experimental and original record.

Trial track: “Little Wing”

– Gabriel Fernandez


The Box rocks for the young and old

Photo: Andrew McNeill

An impromptu snowstorm certainly didn’t scare The Box junkies away from Montréal en Lumière’s downtown festival site Friday night.
At long last, a festival experience where cigarette toting twenty somethings are outnumbered by miniature humans dressed in technicolor Ewok snowsuits.
Quebecois baby boomers wrapped up their wee ones, lugged them up on their shoulders, and marched through clumping snowflakes to Place des Arts to rock out to the ‘80s New Wave band that once topped the charts and dominated the airwaves.
The Box assembled in 1981 at the hands of Jean-Marc Pisapia, one of the first members of Men Without Hats. The band hit mainstream success in 1987 with their album Closer Together, disbanded in 1992, but reassembled in 2002 to spin out a few new tunes and reunion concerts.
The Box is mom and dad pop-rock in its most uncomplicated format. Its sound is stereotypically New Wave, and dependant on upbeat yet playful male-female vocal harmonies and catchy choruses. Despite its harmless and agreeable disposition, The Box’s sound didn’t survive the turn of the ‘90s, as listeners looked for something darker—and found it in grunge.
But while The Box’s denim cut offs, hairspray, and Jheri curl days are over, they still know how to get the crowd shaking. Friday’s show was for older fans and their obligatory offspring.
The Box knows they won’t be reigning any new converts, but their live show keeps all the energy of late-’80s Canadian New Wave intact. Dragging toddlers out in the snow past bed time isn’t easy, but this was clearly a show families didn’t want to miss.

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