The Outfield never focused much on blazing a trail as an edgy, hip rock band, favoring instead a straight-ahead guitar-based approach that paid dividends in the form of big hooks and mid-tempo accessibility. For some music fans, this was a precise reason to steer clear of the band's work during this period, while many others appreciated the arena rock-oriented authenticity and dismissal of trend-setting pretensions. Ultimately, the group produced some of the strongest melodic rock songs of the '80s, the best of which you're welcome to peruse here - in chronological order.
The Outfield surfaced in 1985 with this lead-off single from 1985's Play Deep, a tasty slab of arena rock-laced power pop that features one of the most energetically satisfying central guitar riffs of the era. Main songwriter and guitarist John Spinks immediately announces himself here as the band's secret weapon, as his harmony vocals help ground the high-pitched dramatics of lead singer Tony Lewis. There were a few hair metal bands of the late '80s that were smart enough to maximize their power pop link, and sadly few mainstream guitar rock bands made the most of a similar connection. Here's a prime '80s exception.
2. "Your Love"
This pop/rock nugget may not be particularly subtle in its delivery of big, luscious hooks, but that's one of the reasons The Outfield found such deserved success in the U.S. The single became a memorable Top 10 American pop hit in 1986 even as it rose only to No. 83 in the U.K., but this is not a negative reflection on its charms. In subsequent years, many artists - including a large number of female singers - have shown affection for the song by covering it enthusiastically. Ultimately, the familiar guitar riff and the distinctive vocals of Lewis transform any current experience of the song into an '80s nostalgic celebration mostly free of both guilt and shame.
Taken together, the first three singles of The Outfield pack a straightforward, melodic punch on par with the efficient power trio dishing them out. As the ultimate of these introductory songs, this track follows the familiar John Spinks pattern of a potent, anchoring guitar riff and bright melodies for Lewis to sing. Of course, this formulaic element may be one of the sticking points highlighted by detractors to justify their disdain for this band, but fans are unlikely to complain. The Outfield operates as if its simplistic appeal is a definite strength, and in this approach the group is certainly on target.
4. "Talk to Me"Though "Everytime You Cry" was released as The Outfield's fourth single from its debut album, the record is more than strong enough to harbor some deep album tracks of considerable merit. This song, for example, utilizes the band's signature approach and exerts an easy-going and pleasant (if not necessarily permanent) impact on an array of '80s rock fans. That may sound like faint praise, but for those seeking sturdy, highly listenable melodic guitar rock, songs like these deliver all that's needed and more. The Outfield would release two more full-length albums before decade's end, but that sparkling debut is the place to linger.
The dense, somewhat metallic guitar riffing of Spinks takes the lead here once again. And although this track was the only one of four singles from 1987's Bangin' to make the U.S. Top 40, it's definitely a highlight of what was quickly becoming the era of hair metal. The group would place a couple more modest pop hits before its initial career came to a close (namely 1990's standout single "For You"), but this track is probably The Outfield's last essential tune of the '80s. Mainstream rock of this era certainly benefited from this band's presence, and its best work has held up well over time.