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'80s nostalgia: hardly a phase 

Long Story Short

First of all, let's acknowledge that '80s nostalgia goes at least as far back as 1990.

And that nostalgia lives on to this day: Forever-hairsprayed '80s survivors flock to see New Wave revival bands, while hipster crowds are coaxed into ironic dancing whenever Michael Jackson, Human League or The B-52s are heard during concert intermissions.

Musicians also play their part: Without Cameo, there could be no Chromeo. Without Gang of Four, no Radio 4. Without Madonna, the Toronto Sun's music critic wouldn't have been able to call Rihanna a "second-rate Madonna."

All of which brings us to this week's cover subject, Z Berg, frontwoman of up-and-coming L.A. dance-pop band Phases. She's pretty much a dead ringer for Blondie's Debbie Harry, down to her black-and-white striped shirt. And the band, in its more '80s-influenced electro-pop moments, adeptly echoes an era when genre-bending acts — like Blondie, Chic and, um, Spandau Ballet — were equally at home on pop charts and dance floors.

The band's best-known song, "I'm in Love with My Life," may be lightweight, but their forthcoming debut album promises to be more diverse. Meanwhile, Berg's surprisingly varied career and insightful observations about music — present and past — are worth reading about.

It's hard to say at this point whether Phases will go on to achieve some kind of permanence. But this Sunday's show at the Black Sheep should be a good indicator.

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