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Jeffrey Morgan’s Media Blackout

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If you’re in a band, there’s a compilation you should listen to if you’re interested in hearing how things used to be done — and done right. It’s on Epic Records and has the exhaustive title Tired of Waking Up Tired: The Best of the Diodes, the Original Recordings: 1977-1979.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, it’s only fair to warn you that you’ll find my name mentioned a few times in the liner notes — once even spelled correctly — but that only proves I was present at the creation and know whereof I speak. Back then I considered the Diodes to be one of the best bands to emerge from the global new wave revolution, and I still feel that way today — especially in light of the 500 or so records I listen to every year, most of which are released by small independent labels.

Paul Robinson (vocals), John Catto (guitar), Ian Mackay (bass) and John Hamilton (drums) excelled at crafting an original and unique power pop sound all their own with a distinct emphasis on both the power ("Time Damage") and the pop ("Tired of Waking Up Tired"). And because they had an uncanny ability to consistently write songs containing a surfeit of catchy hooks and clever lyrics, the Diodes continue to stand above and apart from so many of today’s combos.

With extraordinary prescience, they tackled a wide range of social issues in songs that are more relevant today than when they were first written 30 years ago, including: war profiteers ("Mercenary Flight"), inner-city terrorism ("Burn Down Your Daddy’s House"), gang violence ("We’re Ripped"), upper-class chaos ("Tennis Again"), suburban stress ("Death in the Suburbs"), celebrity ambition ("Midnight Movie Star"), shallow narcissists ("Plastic Girls"), kid actor meltdowns ("Child Star") and dysfunctional family values ("No Right to Make Me Bleed").

So the next time you hear a new band whose only talent consists of artificial rage and stuck-pig squealing, keep in mind that the best groups from this excellent era never whined like spoiled brats. Instead, they carefully studied society’s foibles and then made astute observations about them in a wide array of ways. That’s why the Diodes will still be required vital listening in 2037. Will your band be?

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