One of three initial releases in Rhino's survey of the pop music landscape after it had been redefined by the punk aesthetic. Series producer Jim Neill's goal with each 16-song volume in the series was to simulate "how a typical college radio show might have played out" circa 1979 to 1984.
Left of the Dial concentrates on the architects of dark avant-rock and moody, synthesized new wave. The lineup on this installment omits some key tracks because of licensing snags acknowledged in the liner notes, but the end result is no less enchanting. Key tracks are the original single version of R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe," Wire's "Outdoor Miner," and the Church's cover of Paul Simon's "I Am a Rock," an ideally revised anthem for the disenfranchised underground of the '80s. These songs quietly linger long after they've ended.