A Brief History Of Musical Waves From NEW To NEXT

In case genres weren't confusing enough already...

Jeff Ogiba

Jeff Ogiba

A wave could be described as a pattern of disturbance caused by energy traveling through liquid, air, or matter. It could also be described as one of many musical movements that your older brother's strange friend listened to back in the 80's. Here's a list of some of more recognized "waves" that are out there.

New Wave

When punk rock music swept corners of the globe in 1977, the departure of the phenomenon occurred almost as quickly as it arrived. In as early as 1978, a "new wave of music" had begun to take over the airwaves. "New Wave" was a rebound back to a popular sound that punk rockers originally swore against. Since New Wave was the pioneer of the various waves of music to come, it quickly became more of an umbrella term for an alternative post-punk sound. It gets confusing though, because post-punk and New Wave are not necessarily the same sound, although bands such as Public Image Limited and Wire could be considered both New Wave and post-punk based on the sounds of their various albums. New Wave also became a label used to describe preppy music fans of the mid 80's ("That girl Chrissy is SO New Wave"). Some people say that the infamous "US" Festivals held in San Berdino, California marked the rise and fall of popular New Wave music. The First Fest included greats such as The Ramones, Gang of Four, Talking Heads, The Kinks, and The Cars. Saturday, May 28th, 1983 became ironically known as "New Wave Day." Groups such as INXS, Men at Work, A Flock of Seagulls performed convincing fans that New Wave had taken a new direction. That day also marked the final performance for Mick Jones as a member of The Clash.

The New Wave label could describe anything from the members of the group Psychedelic Furs, to a girlfriend-thieving yuppie character played by Michael J. Fox.

No Wave

Late-1970's NYC rockers who refused to go the popular path their punk rock colleagues were beginning to travel became labeled as "No Wave". The sounds that the groups deemed "No Wave" were producing were discordant and quirky, defying a popular sound and vast audience. No Wave groups had influences and sounds that touched on jazz, punk, experimental, blues and more. The scene was short-lived, but would continue to include performance artists, indie filmmakers, and avant garde fine artists. Many of the originators of the sound can be found on the 1978 compilation No New York, but also include groups/artist such as Bush Tetras, Lounge Lizards, Material, Klaus Nomi, Y Pants, and more.


This is not a style of music, but rather a very popular song by Martha and the Vandellas, as well as a popular British disco-funk group from the late-70's into the 80's. Learn the facts and avoid embarrassment.

R&B disco-funk group Heatwave had an original, popular sound, but have nothing to do with this article.

New German Wave

New German Wave or "Neue Deutsche Welle" is the German sub-genre of New Wave music of the late-70's into the early-80's. The distinct sound of German vocals and rhythms cause this branch of New Wave to occur in a way similar to when Krautrock of the late-60's/early-70's broke off of the generic hard rock and psychedelic rock label of Western European groups of that era. NDW groups include Einstürzende Neubauten, Die Krupps, Malaria!, Trio, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, and many more. To make things even more confusing, A hip-hop label out of Berlin called Aggro Berlin put out a single by rapper Fler titled "Neuw Deutsche Welle." The label and the artist claim the music is part of a new chapter for NDW.

Einstürzende Neubauten - "Autobahn"

Dark Wave

Dark Wave was another late-70's off-shoot of New Wave. The genre contained the gloomiest of the groups, featuring with slower tempos, deeper vocals, and intense lyrical content. Some bands include The Danse Society, The Sisters of Mercy, and Bauhaus. The Dark Wavers still exist, and the popularity of the genre has seen a revival in recent years.

Cold Wave

Cold Wave is a sub-genre of Dark Wave first coined by British writer Vivien Goldman in an article that reviewed the Siouxsie and the Banshees album The Scream. Other popular portrayers of the Cold Wave sound were The Cure on their second LP, Seventeen Seconds, and the entire Joy Division catalog. The genre became popular among groups from France and South Belgium in the early 80's, but has since spread to most continents. The sounds that emerged from regional post-punk influence were frigid, desolate, and hinted at a sense of hopelessness. France's Charles de Goal, Memorial Voice, and Ruth are a good place to start with Cold Wave.

Message - "Dernière Nuit"

Serious Wavers via Now This Is Gothic

Synth Wave

This genre is tricky, because of the widespread common confusion with synthpop music. Synthpop music would categorize groups such as The Human League, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys, and so on. Synth Wave would end up being an afterthought to describe the popular-sounding-but-minimal electronic music of early-80's France. The easiest way to wrap you head around this one is to check out the compilation BIPPP, which contains groups such as Act, A Trois Dans Les, CKC, and more. Synth Wave is another umbrella term that encompasses several subgenres of French electronic New Wave.

Deux - "Game and Performance"

Minimal Wave

A self-explanatory name given to the stripped down Synth Wave, Cold Wave, and Dark Wave bands that first appeared in the late-70's. The genre was only officially recognized as Minimal Wave recently (2005), after the establishment of the New York City record label, Minimal Wave Records.

Chillwave a.k.a. "Glo-fi"

A newer wave (said to have begun in the mid-2000's) that references the electronic sounds of the 1980's has been dubbed "Chillwave." The Chillwave genre is a direct result of internet music and the readily available contemporary and vintage music technologies that allow solo artists and smaller (often two members, at most) groups to create new minimalist electronic indie music. Artists Panda Bear and Ariel Pink are considered early pioneers of the genre, and other current acts such Neon Indian and Twin Sister back this growing, popular sound.

Neon Indian - "Polish Girl"

Tumblr-Wave aka LOL-Wave

Here is one of the most recent "waves" of independent music. Tumblr-Wave, which seems to have begun only a couple of years ago at best, takes its name from the content of indie electronic and hip-hop lyrics, most of which point to similarities in microblogging and fast-paced minimalist rants found in social networking blasts. The players in this genre are countless—possibly as large as the internet itself (no, that's an exaggeration but don't say I didn't warn you). If you want to know more about this meme-able music genre check out this Vice article on Kitty Pryde. Don't forget to LIKE, POST, and REBLOG.

Next Wave

Next Wave is not an actual genre of music, but rather a concept I came up with about ten years ago that plain never caught on. Perhaps, one day, we will look back and say "That Next Wave really changed everything!" But I said that about my Geocities websites at one point too, and well…