Music, especially rock-and-roll — and more specifically punk and techno — has always been the refuge of nerds. Sure, the punk movement was couched in a violent rebellious ethic, but truly, those who were wearing safety pins in their cheeks and sky-high mohawks were simply nerds looking for acceptance not offered by the norms of society. And the techno-geeks of ‘80s new wave, well if they weren’t the nerdiest bunch to hit the pop music scene, I’ll eat my Roland TR-808.
So herein we present 5 nerd-rockers your children will love to dance to – and you’ll have fun reminiscing about.
1. Elvis Costello
He may be the king of punk-geeks, and it’s a title earned over many years. Since the late ‘70s, Costello (born Declan Patrick MacManus; was there ever a nerdier name?) has written catchy left-of-center pop and, more recently, a dorky kind of twangy pop that still appeals to outsiders and rarely gets airplay. But he packs theaters and everyone sings along.
Though they began as an experimental instrumental combo in the early ‘70s, Kraftwerk quickly turned that experimentation into uber-nerdy techno art. These guys were 8-bit before 8-bit was even a thing. Add to that their bizarre, robotic stage theatrics and their not-so-subtle commentary on the mechanization of society, and Kraftwerk becomes more than a techno band. They are an experience. Turn your kids on to their hit Autobahn. They’ll love it.
Of course, close on the heels of Kraftewerk came Devo, a sort of politically motivated, slightly less (only slightly less) techno version of their German counterparts. Despite its Devolution theme, the band continued to evolve throughout the years, releasing an amazing late-career album – Something for Everybody – in 2010. Great synth-pop for all ages. Bonus: Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh hosts a drawing segment on kid’s show Yo Gabba Gabba.
4. Grace Jones
The ever-bizarre former fashion model has made a career out of weird. From androgynous suits to garish headpieces that make Vegas showgirls wheeze with envy, Jones is a master of character. Though much of her music clocks in as middle-of-the-road R&B, her ‘80s period was geeky as hell. Especially this version of Sting’s “Demolition Man.”
5. Thomas Dolby
What could be nerdier than writing a song called She Blinded Me With Science? Performing it all by yourself surrounded by samplers and computers and synthesizers at a prestigious music college. That’s what. He worked on the soundtrack for “Howard the Duck” and named an album Aliens Ate My Buick. The geeky part of that being the Buick more than the aliens.