The Undertow: ‘Strawberry Switchblade’ isn’t in your ‘80s playlist, and you should get that fixed

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To say that this decade is off to a rocky start is insulting to rocks. The 2020s collapsed out of the gate, as Australia literally caught on fire right before a once-in-a-century pandemic shuttered the global socioeconomic system. As we sit here staring out our windows, we don’t have much choice but to think about better times. 

From a musical perspective, there isn’t a more poppy and jovial era of music than the 1980s. To be fair, I have some qualms about grouping eras of music together by decade. In any given week, hundreds of artists from every genre are putting music out. It wouldn’t make that much sense to group together them outside of a Spotify-esque “Release Radar” type roundup, so why do we do that in the broader term of decades? I digress, that’s a different column. The 1980s in pop, as varied as it is, are roped together by the mainstream use of synthesizers as electronic music became easier to produce. Many of the bands and artists that brought these sounds to the top of the Billboard charts are familiar to you, I’m sure. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince — you know, the people you’d slur “what a throwback” (vocalized as “wadathrowbag”) to your friends when someone throws it on the Ted’s jukebox. 

Scotland’s “Strawberry Switchblade” deserves as much hype as the more recognizable faces of the ‘80s. Originating out of the European new wave, well, wave of the early 1980s, the Glaswegian duo put out one album in 1985 before disbanding. And it’s great! The self-titled LP is electric from front to back. The lead-off song, “Since Yesterday,” remains the band’s most well-known, and for good reason. It sounds like one of the decade’s most popular songs in some alternate universe, and maybe it is. The album ends with a horribly fantastic cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” that sounds like if Dolly Parton moved from Nashville to a London nightclub before she picked up a guitar. It’s not good but it so is, in the most ‘80s way possible. 

What I find really captivating about the duo is their sense of style. Like many elements of culture, style in the 80s was — as they’d as — off the chain. Clashing colors and technicolor outfits dominated fashion, and musicians pushed the envelope. The two singers performed in polka dots and bows, along with The Cure-esque goth makeup. The audacity of it, even for the time, fits perfectly with the maximalist stuff on their singular album. It all works together perfectly.

This isn’t an album review or anything, it’s just a band that barely existed and is unknown to most, but really shouldn’t be. We all need stuff to cheer us up right now, and it’s fun to think of losing control of your limbs in a nightclub in 1986 to these songs. I mean, at this point it’s fun to think of talking to someone, let alone time traveling to a party before I was born. You get what I’m saying.

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Daniel Cohn is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.cohn@uconn.edu.

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