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100 Best New Wave Bands

I have been an online writer for over six years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

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New wave music comprises of a broad spectrum of pop and rock musical styles that emerged in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. Often associated with punk ethos of the ‘80s, the genre has gone onto become one of the most successful non-mainstream styles in the modern era. The DIY philosophy of bands and artists associated with this form of music gives unique characteristic to their sophisticated electronic sound, visual style, and fashion.

The list below showcases a diverse collection of new wave bands from different decades. If you have a view, opinion, or band suggestion, let us know in the comments section.

Top 10 Best New Wave Bands

  1. Blondie
  2. Duran Duran
  3. Talking Heads
  4. The Police
  5. Devo
  6. Depeche Mode
  7. The Cure
  8. Culture Club
  9. Tears for Fears
  10. The B-52’s

What Is New Wave Music?

New wave music can be best described as a quirky amalgamation of pop and rock embellished with light strains of punk. The synthesizer-driven electronic sound gives distinctive identity to acts associated with this genre. Although the term “new wave” was used in the ‘80s to describe pop-rock bands that featured a prominent use of synthesizers in their sound, over the years the term has become an umbrella term that encompasses diverse forms of power pop, synth-pop, ska revival, bubblegum, glam punk, and punk music.

The rhythmic structure incorporated by crossover guitar styles and keyboard sounds gives the genre a sophisticated sonic identity. The synthesized drum beats augmented with texturally lush high pitched vocals identifies with numerous dance-rock acts associated with the genre. The aesthetic visual style and geeky fashion showcased in new wave music videos has become hugely popular in different subcultures. The centrifugal electronic elements in this genre have paved the way for a number of synth-pop and electropop acts in modern pop music.

#11—20

11. The Cars

12. Adam and the Ants

13. INXS

14. Echo & the Bunneymen

15. The Killers

16. Pet Shop Boys

17. A-ha

18. The Psychedelic Furs

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19. Eurythmics

20. Bow Wow Wow

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New Wave Music in the ‘70s

In the ‘70s, punk subculture helped spawn a slew of pop-rock bands with an experimental sound. Many of these bands influenced by diverse forms of punk music started incorporating synth-based sounds in their musical styles. As the sounds of synthesizers became prominent with pop and rock acts of the ‘70s, the collective movement started being identified as new wave. Bands and artists in this decade showcased strong elements of punk laced with pop sensibilities. While the British bands were known for their soft synth sounds, a number of American bands earned a reputation with their hard-edged synth structures.

Although the sounds of disco became epic in this decade, new wave music started garnering a cult following among non-mainstream audiences. The quirky pop-oriented styles with strains of punk and disco became hugely popular with nerd subculture. The nerdy persona of musicians associated with this genre was characterized by eclectic fashion, most notably colorful suits, robotic dancing, and big eyeglasses. The start and stop tempo changes in this genre started being adopted by musicians from different rock genres.

#21—40

21. The Human League

22. Spandau Ballet

23. New Order

24. Franz Ferdinand

25. Men at Work

26. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

27. ABC

28. The Buggles

29. Oingo Boingo

30. Missing Persons

31. Berlin

32. A Flock of Seagulls

33. The Smiths

34. Siouxsie and the Banshees

35. Joy Division

36. The Pretenders

37. Simple Minds

38. Ultravox

39. Madness

40. Split Enz

New Wave Music in the ‘80s

A number of bands and artists associated with new wave had tremendous chart-topping success in the early ‘80s. Many of these bands played a pivotal role in shaping the mainstream sound for the genre. MTV, an American cable television channel promoted new wave acts in a big way on their network. A number of artists from this genre became popular because of regular airplay of their songs on radio stations and music television channels. The danceable rhythmic structure incorporated by bands and artists in their music laid the foundation for the future electronic dance forms in pop music.

As synth-laden sounds of bands became commercially accessible with fans from pop and rock genres, major record labels started signing record deals with emerging new wave acts. Although numerous bands associated with the genre released albums with record labels, only few bands found commercial success. With a number of new wave bands and artists achieving breakthrough success with just one song, bands in this genre started being labeled as one-hit wonders. Despite the criticism in media, the genre became hugely popular with teenagers from different parts of the word.

#41—60

41. Cutting Crew

42. The Go-Go’s

43. Thompson Twins

44. Bananarama

45. Squeeze

46. XTC

47. The Jam

48. Erasure

49. The Knack

50. Metric

51. Yazoo

52. The Specials

53. Roxy Music

54. Modern English

55. The Church

56. Midnight Oil

57. Crowded House

58. The Beat

59. Frankie Goes to Hollywood

60. Soft Cell

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New Wave Music in the ‘90s

As musical preferences changed and new music genres emerged in the ‘90s, new wave acts began fade away. However, certain new wave bands that adopted the alternative sound had a great deal of success in this decade. While alternative and grunge ruled supreme in the ‘90s, few new wave acts transitioned smoothly into the dance rock movement which became epic in the underground music subculture.

As guitar-driven riffs came to the forefront through alternative and grunge, many pop bands with new wave influences surfaced. These bands had diverse punk influences with electronic dance elements structuring their musical style. A number of bands inspired by synth music of the ‘60s and ‘70s mixed indie and electro sounds to create an eclectic mix of electronic dance rock.

#61—80

61. Men Without Hats

62. Til’ Tuesday

63. Mink DeVille

64. The Bangles

65. Talk Talk

66. Alphaville

67. General Public

68. Dead or Alive

69. The Fixx

70. Bronski Beat

71. Generation X

72. Dexys Midnight Runners

73. The The

74. Fine Young Cannibals

75. Tubeway Army

76. The Boomtown Rats

77. Transvision Vamp

78. Big Country

79. The Alarm

80. Divinyls

New Wave Music Post 2000

Post 2000, the musical landscape changed drastically. As post-punk revival and the EDM movement gained momentum, a number of artists started combining new forms of electronic music influenced by new wave acts of the ‘80s. Synthesizer-heavy dance music structured with elements of pop and rock made a big impact on charts. Electropop and synth-pop styles with elements of power pop, ska, pop punk, rave, and indie rock became hugely popular with dance music fans.

This new wave-inspired revival opened pathways for new experimental sounds in the realms of pop and rock music. Bands and artists employing a variety of DJ mixing techniques and scratching techniques came to the forefront. While rock bands incorporated a synth-heavy sound backed with chunky guitar riffs, a number of pop bands added vibrant tonalities to their sound with a blend of synths and multi-layered guitar sounds. Although new wave music has transitioned in every era in accordance with changing trends, the awe-inspiring hypnotic sounds from this genre continue to mesmerize listeners.

#81—100

81. Baltimora

82. Japan

83. The Stranglers

84. Naked Eyes

85. Ian Dury and the Blockheads

86. The Waitresses

87. Johnny Hates Jazz

88. Mr. Mister

89. The Faint

90. Altered Images

91. NYPC

92. Heaven 17

93. China Crisis

94. Hot Hot Heat

95. The Sounds

96. Models

97. Cock Robin

98. Pylon

99. Icehouse

100. The Motels

Other Notable New Wave Bands

  • Fun Boy Three
  • The Avant Gardeners
  • Wang Chung
  • Gang of Four
  • The Organ
  • Dramatis
  • Prefab Sprout
  • Bijelo Dugme
  • Flash and the Pan
  • After the Fire
  • Hipsway
  • Taxi Girl
  • Freur
  • The Bravery
  • Blue Peter
  • The Blow Monkeys
  • Television
  • A Certain Ratio
  • We Have Band
  • Electric Eels
  • Fra Lippo Lippi
  • The Aliens
  • B-Movie
  • Dalek I Love You
  • Toyah
  • Eurogliders
  • The Brains
  • Real Life
  • The Sharks
  • Animotion
  • The Fashion
  • Face to Face
  • The Damned
  • Cocteau Twins
  • The Associates
  • Haustor
  • Book of Love
  • Strawberry Switchblade
  • Kajagoogoo
  • Chi-Pig
  • Buzzcocks
  • The Flys
  • Boa
  • The Long Blondes
  • She Wants Revenge
  • The Units
  • Spoons
  • Mi-Sex
  • The Teardrop Explodes
  • Climie Fisher
  • Martha and the Muffins
  • Tom Tom Club
  • Elektricini Orgazam
  • Azra
  • The Nerves
  • Polysics
  • Fiction Factory
  • Kult
  • Re-Flex
  • Friends Again
  • Translator
  • Blotto
  • Cuddly Toys
  • The Mo
  • When in Rome
  • Suburban Lawns
  • Romeo Void
  • Tin Huey
  • Maximo Park
  • Indochine
  • The Flying Lizards
  • Any Trouble
  • The Method Actors
  • Luna
  • The Wild Swans
  • Sigue Sigue Sputnik
  • Blurt
  • Tuxedomoon
  • Red Rockers
  • Toto Coelo
  • Haircut One Hundred
  • Clinic
  • Nervus Rux
  • The Danse Society
  • Catholic Discipline
  • La Strada
  • The Monochrome Set
  • Skids
  • Urban Verbs
  • Pukka Orchestra
  • The League of Gentlemen
  • The Comsat Angels
  • Film
  • Ebn Ozn
  • The Futureheads
  • Wall of Voodoo
  • The Distractions
  • Human Sexual Response
  • Brygada Kryzys
  • The Suburbs
  • Seona Dancing
  • Images in Vogue
  • Rockpile
  • Editors
  • Toy Love
  • The Vapors
  • Doll By Doll
  • The Room
  • Spizzenergi
  • Plastics
  • Litfiba
  • Comateens
  • The Sinceros
  • Polyrock
  • Aztec Camera
  • Gruppo Sportivo
  • Cetu Javu
  • The Only Ones
  • Ideal
  • The Rapture
  • Fiat Lux
  • The Lover Speaks
  • Bulevar
  • The Nuns
  • The Rakes
  • Single Bullet Theory
  • King
  • Ghram Parker & the Rumour
  • The Call
  • Gleaming Spires
  • Pere Ubu
  • Nine Circles
  • Yachts
  • Secret Service
  • The Crocodiles
  • Delta 5
  • The Lords of the New Church
  • Pointed Sticks
  • Laki Pingvini
  • The Lotus Eaters
  • M
  • The Doll
  • The Photos
  • Erase Rrrata
  • Idoli
  • Pearl Harbor and the Explosions
  • The Swimming Pool Q’s
  • Fischer-Z

© 2021 Ansel Pereira

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