New Wave Hits, Vol. 1

1996: Rhino R2 72490

  1. What I Like about You

    The Romantics

  2. Whip It


  3. Cars

    Gary Numan

  4. I Ran (So Far Away)

    A Flock of Seagulls

  5. Chicken Outlaw

    Wide Boy Awake

  6. Pop Muzik


  7. Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)

    Haircut One Hundred

  8. I Eat Cannibals

    Total Coelo

  9. Tempted


  10. My Sharona

    The Knack

Normally I wouldn’t even touch something as ugly as this collection’s cover and the general air of cheapness which pervades it, but the tracklist is only flawed by the inclusion of “Chicken Outlaw” (never heard of it, wish I still hadn’t) and “I Eat Cannibals” (heard of it only in the 1990s, wish I still hadn’t). Other than those two tracks, this is a surprisingly strong compilation.

I bought it because it contained all that other stuff—singles that were solidly present in my radio-informed late-1970s-early-1980s early-teen years. There was much, much more out there at the time, and I wouldn’t call this collection fully representative by any stretch, but it does feature some of the big ones we were aware of at the time (as opposed to, say, “I Eat Cannibals,&148; which probably never was heard outside a fleeting moment and only in the UK).

I wanted to call out one or another track here as being an exemplar of that moment’s musical zeitgeist, or even to say “this was one of the great things we got to hear/experience,” but the fact is that damn-near every track on this compilation was its own startlingly new and wondrous experience for us. “Chicken Outlaw” is the obvious exception.

In 2020, I happened to watch a “reaction video” on to “Pop Muzik;” the well-intentioned lass reacting to the song (and, almost, the video, though she was too eyes-closed into the musical groove to notice what was being shown in the latter) deduced that it was a celebration of pop music…totally missing the point. As quirkily far-from-imperfect as the song’s video was, at least it contained a hefty amount of irony visually and stated things simply enough with the closing visual of 45s being handed through to and from the DJ and cast indifferently onto the floor: utterly disposable and interchangeable crap. The video’s other excellently subversive upending of this whole genre comes in the form of the utterly unglamourous singer recording the backup vocals with a deadpan expression…a touch I find especially effective and arch.