100+ Best 80s New Wave Bands – Complete List


The 80s was a decade packed with explosive new wave music that left an indelible mark on popular culture.

From big-name bands like Depeche Mode and New Order to up-and-comers like The Smiths and The Cure, there was never a dull moment when it came to this era’s new wave scene.

In honor of this memorable era in music, we’ve compiled 100 of the best new wave bands of the 1980s. The 1980s were a time of change and a time when music was at its most innovative.

These bands played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of the new wave movement, and their influence can still be heard today.

Top Best New Wave Bands of the 80s

This list is based on nothing but the highest album sales, popularity, and the band’s musical talent.

  1. Duran Duran
  2. Talking Heads
  3. The Smiths
  4. Blondie
  5. New Order
  6. Depeche Mode
  7. Devo
  8. The Police
  9. The Pretenders
  10. The Cure
  11. R.E.M.
  12. The Human League

Synth-Pop 80s New Wave Bands

Synthpop has always been a genre of music that is popular with millennials. Synthpop ( also called techno-pop) is a subgenre of new wave music that features synthesizers as the main instrument.

This genre combines elements of new wave, disco, and electronic music to create a sound that is fun and danceable. The songs are typically short and sweet, with a repetitive beat and synthesizers that play the main melody.

Some of the popular synth-pop – new wave 80s bands include New Order, Depeche Mode, and The Human League.

These bands helped to create an atmosphere that was distinctly synth-pop, and their music has nostalgically influenced modern alternative music genres.

Here are some more top synthpop – new wave bands of the 80s.

  • Blue Peter
  • Ultravox
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  • Yazoo
  • Icehouse
  • Eurythmics
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Erasure
  • Visage
  • Spandau Ballet
  • Pet Shop Boys
  • M

80s New Wave Alternative Bands

The 80s were a time of seismic change in music. Alternative rock and new wave flourished, and the decade saw many iconic alternative bands come to prominence.

From the Smiths to The Cure, these bands helped define an era and influenced successive generations of musicians.

Despite their influence, not all new wave alternative bands of the 1980s were well-received. However, their dedication to creating unique sounds has kept them alive and well in the hearts of music lovers.

Here we take a look at some of the most influential new wave alternative bands that were underrated in the 80s.

  • The Cars
  • Tears for Fears
  • INXS
  • The Dolphin Brothers
  • The Smiths
  • The Psychedelic Furs
  • The B-52’s
  • Simple Minds
  • Soft Cell
  • Squeeze
  • A-ha

80s British New Wave Bands

The British new wave scene of the 80s was characterized by a number of groundbreaking bands, including The Smiths, The Cure, and Duran Duran.

These bands were among the first to break into the American market and bring their music stateside.

What’s more interesting is that their musical style was so different from what Americans were used to hearing. The music featured very strong melodies, poetic lyrics, and a generally more introspective feel than the mainstream pop of the time.

While many bands from this era have since faded into obscurity, there are still a few that remain popular today.

  • Echo and the Bunnymen
  • A Flock of Seagulls
  • Bananarama
  • ABC
  • B-Movie
  • China Crisis
  • Dalek I Love You
  • English Evenings
  • Mobiles
  • Naked Eyes
  • Fiat Lux
  • Scary Thieves

80s New Wave Bands with Female Singers

In the early days of new wave music, there was a lack of female singers.

This void was eventually filled by female-fronted new wave bands like Bananarama and Blondie, who helped to shape the sound of the movement.

These bands have helped to bring new life to old songs and created their own variations on classic new wave sounds.

Their strong presence has shown that women can rock out just as hard as men, and their contributions are sure to continue shaping the future of new wave music.

  • Bananarama
  • The Bangles
  • Delta 5
  • The Motels
  • The Waitresses
  • Blondie
  • The B-52’s
  • The Human League
  • Altered Images
  • The Belle Stars

Alternative Rock New Wave 80s Bands

Alternative rock and new wave collided in the 1980s, creating a unique sound that can still be heard today.

While alternative rock is typically seen as more progressive and heavy, new wave was known for its catchy melodies and electronic beats.

These two genres often blended together to create something entirely new, and while they didn’t necessarily enjoy the same level of popularity, more than a few bands are still recording music today that blends new wave with alternative rock.

Here are some of the popular alternative rock new wave bands of the 80s.

  • Oingo Boingo
  • The Sisters of Mercy
  • Talk Talk
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • Bow Wow Wow
  • Dexys Midnight Runners
  • Midnight Oil
  • Big Country
  • ‘Til Tuesday
  • Men Without Hats

Australian New Wave Bands of the 80s

The Australian new wave scene of the 1980s was a time of great change for music in Australia.

The country had just experienced its biggest rock ‘n’ roll revival with acts like AC/DC, INXS and Midnight Oil, and there was a feeling among some musicians that something new and exciting was needed to keep the country’s musical landscape fresh.

This led to the emergence of new wave bands like Mental As Anything, Men at Work and Divinyls, who represented a different style of rock music that appealed to a wider audience.

Australian new wave bands did not shy away from using synthesizers and electronic drums in their sound, which set them apart from their American counterparts. Their often dark and introspective lyrics also made them stand out from the crowd.

  • Mental As Anything
  • Pseudo Echo
  • Men at Work
  • Divinyls
  • Hoodoo Gurus
  • The Church
  • Crowded House
  • Wa Wa Nee
  • Severed Heads
  • The Go-Betweens

80s English New Wave Bands

  • Duran Duran
  • Depeche Mode
  • The Adicts
  • The Escape
  • The Banned
  • Classix Nouveaux
  • Bim
  • The Blitz Brothers
  • Camera Obscura (duo)
  • The Catch (British duo)
  • The Cherry Boys
  • English Evenings

Canadian New Wave Bands of the 80s

The 1980s were a time when Canadian bands were taking advantage of synthesizers and drum machines to create a more electronic sound.

Groups like Rush, Polaris, and Big Sugar became international stars thanks to their innovative work ethic and catchy tunes.

Canada’s new wave scene has never gone away; in fact, it’s arguably stronger now than ever before. So if you’re a fan of 80s rock music or just want to learn about one of Canada’s hidden gems check out these Canadian new wave bands of the 80s!

  • The Arrows
  • Blue Peter
  • The Box
  • Glass Tiger
  • Images in Vogue
  • Kinetic Ideals
  • Men Without Hats
  • New Regime
  • Nudimension
  • Pointed Sticks

80s Boston New Wave Bands

Boston is known for being a music Mecca. With an extensive history in rock ‘n’ roll, the city has had a hand in shaping some of the most iconic songs and sounds in modern music.

From the Beatles to The Cure, Boston has played a major role in popularizing many different styles of music.

But what about new wave? Is Boston home to any notable new wave bands?

Yes, Boston is home to several noteworthy new wave bands. Some of these include The Cars, Til Tuesday, and The Young Snakes. All three of these bands released seminal albums during the early 1980s, and all three have since gone on to enjoy widespread critical acclaim.

In fact, The Cars were even inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

  • The Cars
  • ‘Til Tuesday
  • Human Sexual Response
  • The Young Snakes
  • Face to Face
  • Ball and Pivot
  • Bim Skala Bim
  • D.Y.S.
  • DMZ
  • Gang Green

With the influx of new wave music in the early 1980s, Germany quickly became known as a hotbed for the genre.

While artists like Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, and The Cure were enjoying mainstream success in England, Germany’s new wave pioneers were pushing the boundaries of electronic music with daring soundscapes and innovative production techniques.

By the end of the decade, Germany had produced some of the most groundbreaking new wave bands in the world, from Alphaville to Celebrate the Nun.

Today, Berlin continues to be a major center for electronic music production, and German new wave fans can still find their favorite artists playing live around the country.

Here are some of the best german new wave bands from the 80s.

  • Alphaville
  • Camouflage
  • Celebrate the Nun
  • Xmal Deutschland
  • Nena
  • Nichts
  • Extrabreit
  • Liaisons Dangereuses
  • Grauzone
  • Hubert Kah
  • And One
  • The Trial

80s Goth New Wave Bands

Goth and new wave are two genres that make up a great blend, and they can be seen as siblings in many ways.

They both have dark aesthetics and focus on emotions rather than mainstream pop trends. New wave is often more upbeat and dance-able, while goth tends to be more moody and introspective.

They are also both rooted in punk rock influences, making them both unique sounds. Although they may seem different at first, their common roots make them an interesting mix indeed.

Here are some Goth New Wave bands of the 80s that you may have missed checking out.

  • Joy Division
  • Bauhaus
  • The Damned
  • Clan of Xymox
  • The Danse Society
  • Killing Joke
  • The Chameleons
  • The Birthday Massacre
  • Gene Loves Jezebel
  • Virgin Prunes

80s New Wave Punk Bands

The new wave punk movement of the 80s was different from mainstream punk rock because it was more melodic and had a softer sound.

This is the sound that most punk music fans who are in their 40s and 50s today grew up on.

Some examples of new wave punk bands include the Devo, Joy Division, and Blondie. These bands not only played punk rock but also added the element of dance to their songs.

Here are some more famous new wave punk bands of the 80s.

  • Devo
  • Joy Division
  • The Jam
  • New Order
  • Ian Dury and The Blockheads
  • XTC
  • The Boomtown Rats
  • Madness
  • Buzzcocks
  • Split Enz

American 80s New Wave Bands

The 1980s were a time of change for music in America. The decade saw the rise of rock and roll bands such as AC/DC, Journey, and Def Leppard, but it was the emergence of the new wave scene that would have the biggest impact.

This underground movement largely confined itself to college campuses where its fans could be found listening to bands such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Talking Heads.

However, over time this scene gradually spread to mainstream audiences who were drawn to its alternative sound.

In the end, the new wave movement had a significant impact on popular music in America and has become an enduring part of pop culture history.

Here are underrated American New Wave bands of the 90s that deserve your attention.

  • The A’s
  • The Pretenders
  • Gleaming Spires
  • The Cold
  • The Del Fuegos
  • Ebn Ozn
  • Oingo Boingo
  • Missing Persons
  • Lucky Pierre
  • Quincy

Chicago New Wave Bands of the 80s

In the 80s Chicago was revitalized with new development and businesses moving in, and the music scene was no exception.

Along with punk rock and heavy metal gaining popularity, there was a new genre of music emerging that would become known as the new wave.

This genre blended elements of punk, post-punk, dance, and funk into its sound, creating a unique style that would quickly become popular across the United States.

While this music may not be as popular today as it was back then, it remains an important part of Chicago’s history and culture.

Here are the top new wave bands of the 80s from Chicago.

  • Ministry
  • Resurrection Band
  • Algebra Suicide
  • Banda Dratsing
  • Bonemen of Barumba
  • Exene Cervenka
  • Hounds

Irish New Wave Bands of the 80s

  • Zerra 1
  • The Boomtown Rats
  • The Undertones
  • The Waterboys
  • Cuddly Toys
  • The Atrix
  • Auto Da Fé
  • Cactus World News
  • The Blades
  • Blue in Heaven


So, there you have it folks, 100+ Best New Wave Bands of the 80s.

These bands not only helped define the new wave scene of the 80s but some of them are still actively recording today and playing live shows.

I hope you enjoyed reading this list as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Please feel free to leave comments below with your opinions on the bands and let me know if there are any bands that you think should have made this list, but didn’t.