Echoes Of The Eighties

Featuring songs by Elvis Costello, Blondie, Bow Wow Wow and Girls Against Boys.

Whether or not you look back upon the early '80s with fond nostalgia or

dismay has everything to do with your particular circumstances during

that much-maligned time. Those of us who were at our physical peak in

those years tend to look at that era with more than a little wistfulness

-- but that could come as much from missing our long-gone nubile bodies

as from any real sense that something exciting was sweeping the cultural

landscape. And of course, those who spent the early '80s careening down

a slippery slide of drugs and depravity might not look back with

anything but a shudder of disgust and a sigh of relief that they made it

through alive. The crowd that was somewhere in the age group ranging

from zygote to kindergartner back then no doubt has an entirely

different take on the whole thing; perhaps they see the era in mythical

terms, since AIDS hadn't yet made promiscuity equivalent to Russian

Roulette.

The new film "200 Cigarettes" takes place over the course of New Year's

Eve 1981, and it's populated with a who's who of up-and-coming actors

including Christina Ricci, Courtney Love and Ben Affleck. Director Brisa

Bramon Garcia falls in the camp that looks back on the time with

affection, admitting, "My vision of that era is clearly romanticized."

This may or may not make for a good movie, but it makes for a solid, if

unsurprising, soundtrack peppered with tunes that evoke the era with the

pinpoint precision of light glinting off the edge of a razor blade.

Nick Lowe's "Cruel To Be Kind" kicks off the record; its bouncy refrain

belies grim sentiments like, "I do my best to understand you, but you

still mystify and I want to know why." It's a conundrum that neatly sums

up the era. The Cars manage to sound fresh and dated at the same time,

perhaps owing to their ubiquity on some so-called modern-rock stations

to this day. While Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" and B-Movie's "Nowhere

Girl" seem to sum up the time period, it's a bit of a cheat since both

were released in 1982. Modern-rock darlings Girls Against Boys' cover of

Earth, Wind and Fire's "Boogie Wonderland," along with Kool and the

Gang's "Ladies Night," seem to have wandered into the wrong bar,

sandwiched as they are between The Ramones' "I Don't Care" and Joe

Jackson's "It's Different for Girls."

Still, those looking to glimpse a moment through an aural mirror could

do worse than picking up this soundtrack, which reflects the charm of

the era without unnecessarily taxing the brain.