Welcome to the year 1979. Nickelodeon officially begins airing to the children of Buffalo, McDonalds introduces the Happy Meal, and three Toronto teenagers bond over their mutual love of “The Police.” Mark Holmes, Joey Ciotti and Ray Bailey are playing gigs all over Toronto composed of a mixture of Police covers and original material under the name “Platinum Blonde.” In 1980, they release their first ever single “No Regrets/Hey You”, a pop-punk Police-Inspired jam.
At this point, Mark is upset with his lack of immediate success and fires the rest of the band. He puts an ad in the paper looking for new musicians and finds Chris Steffler and Sergio Galli. They continue to play around Toronto and in 1983, sign with CBS Records Canada. Their first EP, Platinum Blonde, becomes the best-selling EP ever released by CBS Records Canada. The follow-up album “Standing in the Dark” goes triple-platinum in Canada. Note that Canadian platinum means 100,000 sales, not 1,000,000. They add member Kenny MacLean to the band and get to work on their next album.
In 1985, Platinum Blonde changes the game and goes quintuple-platinum (500,000 sales) when they release their Magnum Opus “Alien Shores.” Perhaps the greatest example of a ’80s New Wave/Power Pop mixture, Alien Shores bounces in between stock Sci-Fi synths and soaring vocals to serve as the perfect time capsule of ’80s. As if the bombastic riffs and copious reverb wasn’t enough, fellow Canadian rocker and Rush member Alex Lifeson was brought on solely for two guitar solos, and they are everything you could ever hope for.
When I listened to this album for the first time, I was stuck in shock for most of it. From the opening rising synth and drum fill of “Situation Critical” to the final drum fill and falling synth of “Hungry Eyes,” this piece of art made me want to dye my hair blonde, grow it into a mullet, throw on a loose clashing suit jacket, and bust out some licks on my axe. Alien Shores lives in a space somewhere between Rush’s “2112” and Def Leappard’s “Hysteria” that so many strived for, but few ever achieved. It’s almost like an alternate dimension where Duran Duran was a Canadian and more pop.
Alien Shores may not be the most popular album of the ’80s, but it is the most quintessential.