This 3-CD set is a musical exploration of the development of British New Wave. While in the U.S. “new wave” was a lose term applied to pretty much any pop that came out in the late ’70s and early ’80s, U.K. purveyors used the term to refer to their deliberate reaction to, if not rejection of, the punk musical aesthetic. It eventually mutated into the Mod Revival–members of which drew greatly from the melody-driven pop of the ’60s–and later to another unique British psychedelic strand in the ’80s. Harmony In My Head examines all these musical threads and, with the help of a set of liner notes and discographical notes that’s 12,000 words strong, contextualizes the era with impressive depth and detail.
On the music front, most of the Power Pop and New Wave heavy hitters are accounted for on this 76-track collection. Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Nick Lowe, and Buzzcocks feature, as do less-successful but significant bands such as The Freshies, The Flys, and The Records. Cherry Red also dug into the proverbial record crates to include rare 45s from micro-labels, many of whose songs have never appeared on CD before. Even on these recordings, the sound quality doesn’t distract or seem out of place next to the more slick and professional productions. So music of all provenance sounds equally compelling, thanks to the work of Simon Murphy at Another Planet Music, who remastered the set with Mark Stratford.