In recent years, the decade of the 1980s has become a pop culture whipping boy, reduced to parachute pants, hair bands and John Hughes movies. Which is a shame, because the ‘80s featured a terrific indie music scene, then lumped under the name of “college radio.”
There were several record labels that helped drive the scene. Minneapolis’ Twin/Tone had the Replacements; SST had Husker Du and the Meat Puppets. A number of L.A. punk bands were on Slash.
And then there was International Record Syndicate, better known as I.R.S. The label was created by Police drummer Stewart Copeland’s brother Miles (who was also the group’s manager) and had a roster that was both more mainstream - the Go-Go’s had early pop success - and just as obscure (Nuclear Assault, Suburban Lawns) as the others.
In general, you could trust the label’s G-Man logo to deliver quality: among other acts on I.R.S. were R.E.M., Wall of Voodoo, the Fleshtones, Camper Van Beethoven and the Cramps.
The label was also the sponsor of MTV’s “The Cutting Edge,” a shrewd marketing vehicle for many of its bands.
I.R.S. released its last record more than a decade ago, but now its classic era is making a comeback. EMI, which owns most of the label’s output, is finally releasing the material digitally. Over the next six weeks, beginning today, more than 100 albums will finally be available on iTunes and other services.
So dig out that old I.R.S. T-shirt and prepare for the dB’s, Let’s Active and Dread Zeppelin. You’ll be glad you did.
– Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer
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