Several years back, I was talking to someone that remarked that the 80s were the nadir of popular music. I simply smiled and made a mental note to take everything the gentleman said about music with grains of salt. While the paradigm of rock'n'roll that bands like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones defined in the 70s didn't continue into the following decade (Have you listened to any 80s Stones' albums after Tattoo You or 80s Bowie albums after Let's Dance?), the spirit of rock didn't die, it just diffused.

Heavy metal split into the two distinct camps of hair metal and thrash; Metallica leading the charge for the latter and Bon Jovi leading the charge for the former. Progressive rock either took a harder edge or became more experimentally electronic. Disco and funk gave way to dance electronica and the advent of modern pop that Prince, Madonna, and Michael Jackson brought to record-breaking heights. Punk rock reached its commercial zenith (Which is antithetical for the spirit of punk but I'm sure The Clash weren't complaining while cashing those checks). Hip-hop broke into the mainstream with the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC. Glam rock gave way to more synth-driven acts like The Cure, Duran Duran, and The Smiths, unafraid to defy societal norms with teased out hair and makeup. The latter New Wave movement serves as the inspiration for the Irish independent film Sing Street which, with this long introduction, I'm trying to say I saw last night.

While America was enjoyed the excess of 1985, Dublin was deep in its own economic crisis; waves of Irish emigrating from a stagnating country. Those that remained got desperate and frustrated; frustration manifesting in self-abuse and abuse of others. And when desperation mixes with dreams, it can go one of two ways: the dreams die out or they burn brighter than they ever did before; a beacon of hope in a world of shit.

But Sing Street isn't Angela's Ashes; despite its gritty setting, its a celebration of music-fueled reckless abandon and a love letter to bands like The Jam and the previously mentioned Duran Duran and The Cure (All of whom figure prominently in the film's soundtrack). Music is the ultimate form of expression and with the flick's main character, Conor, facing bullying, repressive Dickens-level schoolmasters, and his parents' loud, acrimonious march to separation (It was still illegal to divorce in Ireland in 1985), he uses popular music to drown out all that harmful white noise and his own synth and bass-driven tunes flow like water from a paper cup.

Like any good rock band, Conor's inspiration is kickstarted by a crush on a local girl that carries herself older than she is, disguising troubles of her own with heavy makeup and a self-confident swagger but while there is a love story at the film's core it's just as much a coming of age tale harkening back to those high school days where you'd emulate the fashion and sensibility of your musical icons.

A feel-good tale of rising above the turmoil at home and finding your place, Sing Street is a fantastic Irish film boasting a soundtrack split between some of the best songs of the 80s with a rocking original set performed by the movie's cast. A gem of film for anyone that picked up an instrument to escape the bullshit around them growing up, to find their way, or just to get that pretty girl to notice them for a moment.

Category:First Impressions -- posted at: 1:11pm EST

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