What is New Wave?
Short answer: "New Wave" is a style of music that freshened up the aging rock/pop world of
the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Long answer: "New Wave" means different things to different people. A few samples of
- "The term ... was introduced in 1976 in Great Britain by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren as an
alternative label for what was also being called 'punk'. (Wikipedia)
- "A style of rock music popularized in the early 1980s, marked by the use of synthesizers." (The Free Dictionary)
- "An emotionally detached style of rock music characterized by a synthesized sound and a repetitive beat."
- "Popular music less raw than punk rock and typically including unconventional melodies, exaggerated beats,
and quirky lyrics." (Merriam-Webster's Online
What is not New Wave?
Again, a highly subjective question! As someone who came of age musically during that time — and who
truly was called "New Wave Dave" back then — I have my own notions.
Basically, I see New Wave music as rock with an unconventional, modern [for that era] edge, in both melodies and
I do not view these types of bands as "New Wave":
- Music from other genres that happened to fall into that time period: The Go-Go's (pure pop), Men
at Work (simple repetitious chart-seekers), The Pretenders (straightforward rock), Graham Parker (pub rock [but
- Modernized reggae/ska: English Beat, Madness
- Bands that played overly "arty" rock: Joy Division [too depressing], Roxy Music [too
self-indulgent], The Waitresses [cutesy vibe], etc.
A special shout-out goes to some bands and musicians who helped push the world in a New Wave direction, even if
they weren't making true New Wave music. Right away, I think of Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds (and their Rockpile
collaboration) ... who released rock and rockabilly-ish songs that inspired some New Wave acts.
What is bad New Wave?
Everybody's tastes are different. Here's what I don't care for:
- Most synth-pop: Psychedelic Furs, Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls, Human League. There are
exceptions (for instance, I really liked The Fixx).
- Sensitive Brit-pop: Tears for Fears, Howard Jones, Spandau Ballet (OK, "True" is their only song I
My favorite New Wave Bands
(Click the link to see my page about each
More to come!
Comments/suggestions? Write to