80’s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Cabaret Voltaire


(Note: This post is late in observance of Easter)

Known for its ability to successfully combine dance, techno, avant garde and dada-influenced performance art, the group Cabaret Voltaire, until fairly recently, remained one of the best kept secrets from my 80’s music store of knowledge. I started hearing them played on David Marsden’s show from 94.9 The Rock Thursday and Friday nights about a year ago. Since then, the group has definitely captured my attention.


Cabaret Voltaire formed in Sheffield, England, initially composed of Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk and cabaret-voltaire4Chris Watson. The name came from a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland whose music heavily influenced the group. Although their earliest performances were dada-influenced performance art, Cabaret Voltaire later developed into one of the most prolific and important groups to blend pop with dance music, techno, dub house and experimental electronic music. (Wiki)


In 1978, Cabaret Voltaire signed to Rough Trade Records and released several critically acclaimed experimental singles and Eps, including Extended Play, “Nag Nag Nag” and “Three Mantras.” They also went on top release the albums The Voice of America in 1980, and Red Mecca in 1981.


In 1983, the band took a decidedly mainstream turn with the album The Crackdown coming in at #31 in the UK charts. In 1984, the Cabaret Voltaire unleashed the singles “Sensoria” and “James Brown” from the album Micro Phonies. Code debuted in 1987, followed by the house-influenced Groovy, Laidback & Nasty in 1990. The last Cabaret Voltaire release to feature Mallinder singing was the single, “Colours” in 1990. After that, a series of Cabaret Voltaire instrumental tracks were released in 1993 and 1994.


“Ghostalk” Via YouTube user electrigger:



“Crackdown” via YouTube user neckro23:


“Sensoria” via YouTube user vicoland:



Discography (Purchase Here) cabaret-voltaire1

  • Mix-Up (October 1979)
  • The Voice of America (July 1980)
  • Red Mecca (August 1981) 
  • 2×45 (May 1982)
  • The Crackdown (August 1983)
  • Johnny Yesno (November 1983)
  • Micro Phonies (November 1984)
  • Drinking Gasoline (August 1985)
  • The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (October 1985)
  • Code (October 1987)
  • Groovy, Laidback and Nasty (June 1990)
  • Body and Soul (March 1991)
  • Plasticity (October 1992)
  • International Language (June 1993)
  • The Conversation (July 1994)


6 thoughts on “80’s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Cabaret Voltaire

  1. Oh, absolutely underrated. I only have Sensoria on my iPod right now, but they were a groundbreaking band. Ask kids these days about Industrial, though, and they’ll tell you it began with Nine Inch Nails. Nine Inch Nails! Johnny come lately industrial act Nine Inch Nails!

    Not that I’m hating on Nine Inch Nails, but there was some fine industrial music being made throughout the 80’s by any number of great bands.


  2. You make an excellent point about NIN and industrial. I’m hoping the little blurbs that I provide for underrated 80’s (or thereabouts) bands will strike a chord with some of the younger crowd who weren’t around to experience the cutting-edge bands of the 80’s. Although I am personally partial to New Wave, there was so much more depth to that decade that I am still (gratefully) learning about.

    Thanks for stopping by – you are making incredible headway on your iPod selections. What an undertaking!



  3. Hey Marilyn 🙂

    I’m not surprised their music/performance art appeals to you. They were definitely ahead of their time and absolutely one of the best.



  4. Been a fan since first hearing Seconds to late in an su ‘disco’ around Xmas time 1980.
    It always amazes me how unaware most people are of how incredibly influential they were and still are.
    People have even remarked how clichéd some of the earlier music is, totally missing the point that it sounds clichéd to their ears because it has since been copied by so many others, at the time it was produced it was ground breaking stuff, completely unlike anything else.
    Living legends indeed.


  5. Hey Andy – I completely agree with your assessment of why people think the music is cliched. For me, the same goes for early Gary Numan. People forget that he was a pioneer. The dates speak for themselves. Cabaret Voltaire were unique given what was being pushed through mainstream. It’s a shame they didn’t get the exposure they deserved.

    So many criminally underrated 80’s artists…..so little time.



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