Archive for September, 2014

I’ve been a fan of the Eurythmics since their 1983 album Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), which I had mistakenly thought was their debut album. Little did I know that they had actually released their first album, In the Garden, two years prior. I came across the album in yet another search for overlooked new wave music. It turns out the album had very little chart success and had faded into obscurity. It was considered too experimental and didn’t quite find an audience at the time. Not released in the US until 2005, anyone who has an appreciation for electropop music from the early eighties will find this album well worth listening to.

Co-produced by electronic music pioneer Conny Plank, the album is a mix of brooding electronic and psychedelic sounds. The duo had worked with Plank in their previous band, The Tourists, which they left to form the Eurythmics in 1980. Feeling that a fixed band line-up was stifling them creatively, they wanted to form a project that would allow for more experimentation with “electronics and the avant-garde.” They determined that they would be the only permanent members of the group and would collaborate with others musicians based on how compatible they were with their musical vision.

“Never Gonna Cry Again” was the first single from the album, and the first video by the Eurythmics. It’s a moody song with what is described as a reggae-style baseline, which new wave artists were experimenting with at time. The song also features a rare performance on flute by Annie Lennox.

 

Considered one of the album’s more accessible songs, “Belinda” was a commercial failure. It’s one of my favorites from the album and is included regularly on my playlists.

 

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One of my favorite songs from the early ‘80s was “The Unguarded Moment” by The Church. I remember seeing the video on MTV and promptly getting my tape recorder ready in hopes that it would be shown again (that’s how we did things before VHS recorders). There wasn’t much to the video, just the band performing the song on a studio soundstage with very little visual effects. It didn’t matter though, the guitar intro alone was enough to grab my attention. I heard little more from the band until their US success in the late ‘80s. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to track down more of their earlier work to see what else I might have missed.

Most people were first introduced to The Church through their 1988 hit “Under the Milky Way,” off the album Starfish. It was an international hit and peaked at #26 on the US charts. But within their native Australia, the group had been churning out hits since 1981. Formed in Sydney in 1980, the band had an infectious post-punk, guitar-heavy psychedelic sound. The group released their first album, Of Skins and Heart, in 1981 to good commercial success. The album was later repackaged and released in the US in 1982 as The Church. Their second album, 1982’s The Blurred Crusade, performed well in Australia but wasn’t released in the US, as it was considered not radio-friendly enough for North American audiences. By the ‘90s their sound had gone more mainstream, bordering on progressive rock. They continue to tour and record and will release their 25th studio album, Further/Deeper, in late 2014.

“The Unguarded Moment” was the second single released from their debut album, Of Skins and Heart. It peaked at #22 on the Australian charts and led one Rolling Stone critic to describe it as The Church’s “1981 jangling gem.”

 

The song “Dropping Names” is from the band’s third album, 1983’s Seance, which found the group gravitating to more of an atmospheric sound.

 

When I started going to dance clubs in the late ’80s, I’d regularly pester the deejays to play The Damned‘s “Alone Again Or.” It never failed to elicit the best goth moves from the dance floor. A remake of the 1967 song by the group Love, it’s quite faithful to the original version. (The band acknowledged Love as one of their influences). The single is off the album Anything, released in 1986. It didn’t have any chart success in the US, but hit #27 on the UK charts. The video is a surreal mix of desert landscape, horses, motorcycles, trucks, and flamenco dancers.

 

Who’s on Tour?

Posted: September 28, 2014 in Tour Dates

Pixies – through October (Madison, WI, October 12th): http://www.pixiesmusic.com/new/

Social Distortion – through October: http://www.socialdistortion.com/tours/

Sinead O’Connor – through October: http://www.sineadoconnor.com/tour-dates/

The Replacements – through October: http://thereplacementsofficial.com/pages/concerts

Gary Numan – through November: http://www.numan.co.uk/tour/

10,000 Maniacs – through November: http://www.maniacs.com/

The Misfits – through December (Racine, WI, October 17th): http://www.misfits.com/tours.html

Bryan Ferry – through December: http://www.bryanferry.com/tour/?_page=1

I was recently asked to make a list of 15 movies that had a lasting impact on me. At first I thought this would be an impossible task but after mulling it over, I decided to take five minutes and write down the first movies that came to mind. The British film Breaking Glass was one of those movies, not because it was a great film but because it really laid the foundation for my appreciation of punk and new wave music. I remember seeing it as a kid in the early ‘80s (for some reason it was played religiously on HBO) and it really made an impression on me – the hard-driving music, the fashion, and the anti-establishment message was unlike anything I’d seen or heard before.

Released in 1980, Breaking Glass is the familiar story of a band (Breaking Glass) getting discovered in a seedy bar, rising to fame, and then succumbing to the pitfalls of money and stardom. It’s also a tale about the underbelly of the music industry and the ease of how the most artistically earnest of individuals can sell out. The backdrop of high unemployment, industrial strikes, and general discontent only add to the bleak atmosphere of film. The songs for the soundtrack (produced by Tony Visconti) were written by Hazel O’Connor, who also plays the lead singer, making it the first time a female both wrote and performed a film’s entire soundtrack. The album, which was the basis for the soundtrack, went double platinum and reached #5 in the UK. It also produced numerous hit singles. The soundtrack, with its urgent and energetic sound, impressively holds up after all these years.

The song “Big Brother” has O’Connor speaking out about the perils of conforming to a soulless society. The clip below has stills of the movie, which show O’Connor looking very much like a character out of Blade Runner.

 

“Eighth Day” is the final song performed in the film. It finds O’Connor dressed in a futuristic costume (inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis) cautioning of a time when machines and technology will rule the world.

 

“The Killing Moon” is a single off of Echo & the Bunnymen’s fourth album, Ocean Rain, released in 1984. The album marked a change in the group’s music, moving away from their post-punk roots to a lighter sound incorporating strings and piano. The song remains one of the band’s biggest hits – peaking at #9 on the UK charts. The single didn’t make much of an impact in the U.S. and is probably most well-known for its use in the opening scene of the 2001 film Donnie Darko (one of the great marriages between film and song). The video is dark and full of wind-swept images that perfectly fit the mood of the song.

 

New Releases

Posted: September 23, 2014 in News and Events

New releases for the month of September.

Paul Weller: Classic Albums Selection (box set containing Weller’s first five albums)

David Bowie: Sight & Sound (reissue of box set originally released in 1989)

Erasure: The Violet Flame

Information Society: _hello world

James: La Petite Mort (US release)

New Model Army: Between Wine and Blood (US release)

KMFDM: We Are KMFDM (30th anniversary live album)

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Alphaville’s debut album “Forever Young.” With an estimated 2,000,000 copies sold, it was the German group’s most successful album. Besides producing the single of the same name, it also yielded the hit “Big in Japan.” Although quite successful in Europe, the album had little chart success in the US, peaking at #180. The single “Forever Young,” which has gone on to achieve pop culture status, only reached #65 on the US charts. Despite this, numerous artists have covered the song and it’s been used prominently in movies, commercials, and television throughout the years. The video for the song was filmed in a sanatorium in Surrey, England. If features the group performing before a ragtag audience of young and old, and sporting matching jumpsuits, which were quite popular at the time.

 

I recently came across a blog comment about the band Fischer-Z, a British band from the early ‘80s that I had completely forgotten about. The comment immediately jogged my memory and I remembered seeing the video for their song “So Long” back in the early ‘80s. The song had a strong bass line, unusual vocals, and I recalled there was a film noir narrative to the video. I immediately went to Youtube to track it down and then decided to look up more music from the group. They had a sound very much in-step with other new wave artists at the time and I was surprised that it had taken me over thirty years to come across them again. It turns out that the group’s record company decided to forego releasing material in America in the ‘80s. Having virtually no airplay, it’s no wonder they escaped my memory.

Forming in 1976, Fischer-Z started out with an experimental progressive rock sound. By their debut album, World Salad, their sound had evolved into a mix of offbeat pop with a reggae influence. The album had modest chart success, peaking at #54 on the UK charts. Their second album, Going Deaf for a Living, released in 1980, had the band moving to more of a guitar-heavy, new wave sound. It proved to be a greater success and by their third album, 1981’s Red Skies Over Paradise, the group had dissolved with lead singer John Watts pursuing a solo career. Although being the only original member of the group, Watts recorded albums throughout the ’80s and ‘90s under the name Fischer-Z. John Watts’ version of Fischer-Z continues to tour to this day.

The group’s first video was for the single “So Long,’ off the album Going Deaf for a Living. It shows off Watts’ unique, high vocal register. It was their most successful single and still finds regular airplay on stations in Europe.

 

“Marliese” is a single off the album Red Skies over Paradise. It’s a high-energy tune with more of a rock edge. The video clip below finds Watts enthusiastically lip-synching to the track.

 

Many people know Australia’s Divinyls from their early ‘90s hit “I Touch Myself.” But the band had great success in their native country throughout the ‘80s. During that time period, they had a much harder sound, especially in the earlier part of the decade. I first discovered them through their video for the song “Boys in Town,” which received airplay on MTV in 1983. It’s a hard-hitting rock song with an unrelenting rhythm that mixed well with lead singer Chrissy Amphlett’s unique voice and high-energy performance. At the time, Amphlett reminded me of a younger Chrissie Hynde – fringe bangs, and lots of eyeliner and attitude. (In the 80s, Amphlett performed in a schoolgirl uniform and was often referred to as the female version of fellow Aussie Angus Young of AC/DC).

Formed in Sydney, Australia in 1980, the band went through many line-up changes throughout the ‘80s. By time the ‘90s rolled around they were a very different band. They adopted a more glamorous look and their sound moved to mainstream pop. It was only recently, after having come across a story on the band, that I remembered how much of a fan I had been of their earlier work. The group ended up disbanding in 1996 but reunited for a short time 10 years later before finally calling it quits in 2009. Unfortunately, Amphlett died in 2013 at the age of 53, after battling breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.

“Boys in Town” was originally released as a single in 1981. It’s part of the soundtrack for the 1982 movie Monkey Grip, which Amphlett also starred in. The single was also included on their debut album, Desperate, released in 1983. The video finds Amphlett in full schoolgirl garb, aggressively wielding a neon mic stand.

 

One of my favorite tracks off the debut album is “Science Fiction.” It has futuristic sounding keyboards and a robotic vocal performance by Amphlett that warrants the song’s title.