February 10th, 2009
02:07 PM ET

Right side of a good thing

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

Filed under: Music

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Michael

    The IRS re-release I'm would like to see most is a DVD re-issue of their video collection "The Beast of IRS". It contains some great low-budget videos from The Fleshtones, The Alarm, The Cramps and the Go-Gos. It also has one of R.E.M's first videos, "Radio Free Europe", made for nothing but still highly creative. The real hot find on the collection, though, is an ultra-rare Lords of New Church Video, "Dance With Me", that's probably my favorite video of all time. It was directed by Derek Jarman and features the late Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys. Thank you for jump-starting some great cassette tape shaped memories.

    February 11, 2009 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. David Ellis

    The 80s had so much more to offer than the hippies of the 60s and 70s care to notice. REM, Metallica, GnR, Madonna, Toni Basil, Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Those are greats among all entertainers!

    February 11, 2009 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. RockerInThousandOaks

    Long live the Mats and Bob Stinson and Steve Foley: rock and roll heroes at a time when rock was dying on the vine, suffering under the weight of dance pop synth, bad hair metal, crap boy bands, Phil Collins and rap and hip hop. The Mats kept me alive through the 80s until rock reemerged in the 90s. God bless the Mats!

    February 10, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. M O

    Long Live Sue Tissue and the Suburban Lawns!!!!

    February 10, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bubba

    OMG Dread Zeppelin – a reggae Led Zep with a fat Elvis singing. They were actually good. "Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely" by Hüsker Dü lives on my iPod.

    February 10, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ivan

    There really has not been a gritty cool sound like the days from SST, Twin Tone, and IRS. The old 688 club in Atlanta featured many of those IRS bands. I rememember seeing the Fleshtones there. They entered the room from the back and came in through the crowd beating trash cans with drum rims and heads mounted on them. It rocked. IRS's Cutting edge with Pete Zaremba followed by 120 minutes rocked as well!

    February 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |

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