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;Through some of the more narrowed eyes and cocked brows of pop cultural revisionism, the '80s glimmer romantically like beams of space light bouncing off the surface of a monorail to the stars. To some, the decade was all angular Numan-izing and Kraftwerk-ian blippery punctuating a soundscape of utter genius and skyscraper detachment. Sure, it's fun to namecheck The Smiths speeding up into Housemartins socialism, or to dramatically speculate on the Thatcher-ite conflation that evolved a bedsit Aztec Camera into a Blow Monkeys sneer with a bowtie (all by way of ABC's "Poison Arrow"). But, really, philosophical gymnastics of that sort wouldn't carry over into (or onto) a chili dog at the Orange Julius in 1982. For that you would need the cheese.

;;To that end, VH1 Classic and Legacy Recordings team up this month to release a series of matte-finish career retrospectives tied into the former's popular We Are the '80s daily video block and a tour of the same name. Dusted off and rolled out for imminent karaoke approval, Loverboy, Eddie Money, A Flock of Seagulls, Scandal, Bow Wow Wow, the Bangles and Rick Springfield each get the greatest hits treatment that each has already suffered at least three times before.

;;Trying to find a common link beyond the charted rotations in their concurrent frequency modulation is about as tedious as analyzing a long strand of Phoebe Cates' hair (i.e., she may have had a perm here, but not here). More notable, however, is the fact that none of these artists possesses — and never has possessed — any hint of the spark that would inspire any self-respecting music lover to own up to loving them. This is the incidental '80s personified: the music at the mall, in the car, blared in the backward-spun funnel-cake nausea of the county fair. A soundtrack to insignificance.


;From the two-finger keyboard intro of "Turn Me Loose" and its chunky guitar response, Canada's Loverboy knew exactly what audience they were courting. Their progressive bloat into balladry was seemingly a market-created ad campaign for the alcoholic mechanic, one that would optimally give way to a future campaign for trucker-hat hipsters. Similarly, Eddie Money was a Jersey distillation of a matinee icon (here the liner notes promote the notion that "at his best, Money sounded like one of us …"), and even if Ronnie Spector showed up for "Take Me Home Tonight," an 800 on your SAT still won't get you into college, dope.


;For the new wave dish, A Flock of Seagulls and Bow Wow Wow make for some fairly sad sides, best served under gravy (with hair in it). And while the Bangles possessed a heap of girl-group jangle charm, Scandal's cheap take on the Benatar squeaks like a recording booth cassette on the midway. Only Rick Springfield's collection seems to warrant itself in total; its 14 tracks were almost all dumb-guy hits with high cheekbones.


;So much treble, so much tinniness distracts throughout that it's almost hard to remember just where the music industry's head — or, more specifically, left nostril — was at in the early '80s. This sort of manufactured escapism could never happen again, surely not. Oh, wait.


;Hello, Kelly Clarkson. Have you met Patty Smyth?

;;; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
; Rick Springfield, The Bangles, Bow Wow Wow, Loverboy, Eddie Money, Scandal, A Flock of Seagulls ;
; We Are the '80s ;
; (Legacy Recordings) ;

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