New Wave Nostalgia

by Kiko Matsing

I just realized that 2007 passed by without me noticing that it has 20 been years since I graduated high school. Wow. When I returned home to the Philippines last December, I met up with Carl, a former high school classmate I have not seen in more than 20 years. He moved to the US after sophomore high school, and went to UC Berkeley for college and PhD. We kept in touch, on and off, through the years, by letters in long hand, and then by email. We connected through our interests in literature and contemporary music. Carl introduced me to both Pessoa and Messiaen.

Even when I relocated to the US for graduate school, I never got the opportunity to meet up with Carl. He was living in Minnesota, while I was studying in Houston. Last year, he quit his job to go traveling in Canada, and to spend time writing. Between the two of us, the idea came up of him going back to the Philippines to teach for a term in order find time to write. I seized that opportunity for him to teach in Ateneo, and helped him find his way in applying for a position there. It was thus fortuitous (and circuitous!) for us to be finally meeting, after all these years, back home in the Philippines.

All this nostalgia over high school brings back to mind the New Wave music we used to listen to in the 80’s. A lot of them sound pretty dated nowadays–a radio station here started playing the 80’s as part of their oldies repertoire–but there are a few that I still find endearing. I used to record Tears for Fears’ video Mad World and replay it over and over again to mimic Roland Orzabal’s cool dance moves, and mess up my hair to channel the goth edginess of The Cure’s Robert Smith.

These five songs are my top picks from the New Wave era. They bring back memories I was most fond of in high school, without the wincing nor cringing.

Tears for Fears
“Mad World”
(from The Hurting, 1983)

And on both Mad World and Pale Shelter, beguiling hooks and panoramic guitar effects suck the listener into dizzy whirlpools of cleverly synthesized orchestration.
     –David Fricke
       (Rolling Stone)

Some Great Reward Depeche Mode
“People Are People”
(from Some Great Reward, 1984)

Despite People Are People‘s success, Martin Gore considers it to be one of his least favorite songs. He prefers his songs to have subtle meanings so that people can find their own meanings to it, and feels People Are People does not fit that description. It was never played live after 1988.

The Cure
“In Between Days”
(from The Head on the Door, 1985)

I bought a good metal six-string acoustic, and as soon as I picked it up I started playing the chords to In Between Days
     –Robert Smith
       (Rolling Stone)

New Order
“Bizarre Love Triangle”
(from Brotherhood, 1986)

After the death of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, his bandmates became New Order… “We were still alive, so we thought we’d carry on doing it.” New Order wrote their moody synth-pop hits in a Manchester rehearsal room next to a cemetery. Said Morris, “Fate writes the lyrics, and we do the rest.”
     —Rolling Stone

The Smiths
(from Louder Than Bombs, 1987)

Morrissey is modern pop’s most creative masochist. From the start, the Smiths’ singer and lyricist knew how to turn self-loathing into a virtue–by redeeming it with humor.
     –Jim Farber
       (Rolling Stone)