Have you read Jian Ghomeshi’s book 1982 yet? It’s a fantastic read for anyone who grew up in suburban Canada in the 80s, struggling to find their place in the the adolescent hierarchy of high school. It’s also an engaging account of one young boy’s musical awakening, his obsession with girls, and being implicated in a possible assault charge against Joan Jett.
Ghomeshi makes reference to a lot of the music that influenced that year in particular for him, many of which tick the same boxes in my own personal history, and it got me thinking about what 1982 meant for me. I was a few years younger than Ghomeshi, but ’82 was a pivotal time for me, too. That was the year I discovered Spoons, a four-piece new wave band from Burlington, Ontario that changed my life. They were my first musical obsession, of which I’ve written about extensively already (*ahem*, here, here, and here), but it all started with their ’82 album, Arias & Symphonies, their sophomore record, and in my estimation, their best.
And that’s saying something about the power and potency of their songwriting from the time, given that Arias & Symphonies’ centrepiece was “Nova Heart” their hugely popular single from the previous year. They built a record that not only found a comfortable home for “Nova Heart” but gave it room and board alongside new-wave classic-in-the-making “No Electrons”, “Smiling In Winter” and the epic, glorious “Arias & Symphonies”. Under the tutelage of UK producer John Punter (whose credits included Roxy Music and Japan and “The Politics of Dancing”), Arias & Symphonies was a masterclass in “snyth-phonics”: keyboard-based new wave music that yearned to be something more than just populist. Credit where credit is due, folks: Guitarist, vocalist and chief songwriter Gordon Deppe was on a songwriting roll, and his lyrical obsessions–technology, breakdowns in communication, youth and escape–spoke to the musical and cultural landscape that was forming around him; Drummer Derrick Ross and bassist Sandy Horne would never sound tighter or more in sync on record (Ross left Spoons after ’84’s Tell No Lies/Romantic Traffic EP); and Rob Preuss, forever the kid in this quartet, coated the whole affair with synth stabs designed to tear up the dance floor.
In the last 30 years, their brand of music has fallen from fashion and then been resurrected from history’s retro dustbin so many times over it’s hard to keep track. A casual flip through your record collection (new releases and otherwise) will tell a different story, though. Younger generations may not be aware, but the sound and style of Arias & Symphonies and Spoons’ contemporaries have been fodder for a new breed of new wavers, and it’s time these pioneers got their due.
Spoons are celebrating Arias & Symphonies‘ 30th anniversary with an extensive digital re-release: 32 tracks over 2 discs that includes the original album, and the complete live recording of a show at Toronto’s venerable El Mocambo from ’82. Deppe and Horne, the only remaining members of the original line-up, will be joined by Rob Preuss for a special anniversary show at Revival (783 College Street, Toronto) on November 30.
The 30th anniversary edition of Arias & Symphonies is available as a pre-order on iTunes now, before it goes on sale tomorrow, November 13, 2012.