Various Artists

New Wave Generation: Sign of the Times

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The problem with many new wave compilation albums is repetition; too often the same overplayed singles, such as Modern English's "I Melt With You" and Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," are tossed with one another again. New Wave Generation: Sign of the Times outdoes many of its peers. Instead of merely extracting the hippest tracks from Top 40 radio during the '80s, New Wave Generation: Sign of the Times sinks its claws deeper into the pop underground. While familiar tracks like the Vapors' "Turning Japanese," Culture Club's "Miss Me Blind," and Billy Idol's "Flesh for Fantasy" are included, there's an abundance of little-known artists and songs. The excellent Norwegian band Fra Lippo Lippi never had any of their records released in America during the '80s. Hearing the group's "Shouldn't Have to Be Like That" on Sign of the Times is certainly a surprise; one listen to the track's deceptively playful melodies is all it takes to be hooked on the band. Sign of the Times surveys new wave's stylistic range. From the synthetic funk of Thomas Dolby's "Hyperactive!" to the energetic guitar pop of the Vapors' "Turning Japanese," Sign of the Times doesn't limit its scope. Casual listeners may be puzzled by the obscure names -- Stiff Little Fingers, Belle Stars, Classix Nouveaux -- but they'll learn something if they stick around.

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