The problem with labels is that they tend to bring under one tent animals of totally disparate natures. "New Wave" is rock's over-burdened catch-all, one that can now be retired. Its original value was in providing a context, a conduit for a lot of bands outside rock's maintstream over the last three years. In 1980, what was New Wave is pure mainstream.
What has grown out of New Wave's activism is a wider variety of rock textures, including power pop, art rock, and ska, among others. What England's Jags contributed at the Bayu last night was a straight-forward, elementary rock popism that owed as much to Buddy Holly and the Crickets as to Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. The songs, particularly "Back of My Hand," demanded a ransom of dancing feet. The rhythms were powerfully choppy and Nick Watkinson's slightly rough vocals, sounding like a cross between Costello and Phil Lynott, were delivered with a vehemence only a rock 'n' roll believer can achieve.
California's Cretones, on the other hand, represent an anglicizing of West Coast mythology.Owing more to the Byrds than the Beach Boys, the Cretones nonetheless strip away the sheen, replacing it with organ-driven, angst-powered basics. An atrocious mix overpowered the clarity that graced the group's debut album and drove unfamiliar material into a muddled blandness. Mark Goldenberg's songs "Real Love" and "Mad Love", recorded by Linda Rondstadt, at least had a certain familiarity going for them.
Among the stranger disappointments was Chuck Berry's "Marybelline" done to the melody of Lothar and The Hand People's "Willie and the Hand Jive." The bottom line may be that the Jags are obviously still hungary while the Cretones, thanks to Linda Ronstadt's covering of their songs, have already left the table. Final score, England 1, California 0.