Archive for the ‘Band Profiles’ Category

Besides having an unusual name, Italy’s Gay Cat Park also have an unusual story. Known for the Italo-disco, synthpop classic, 1982’s “I’m A Vocoder,” Gay Cat Park were actually two 14-year-olds obsessed with electronic music. Heavily influenced by Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk, the duo made several home-recorded tracks between the years of 1982-84, but “I’m A Vocoder” would be their only official release. Fortunately, the Medical Records label rescued these tracks and released them in a limited 8-track compilation LP, 2012’s Synthetic Woman.

 

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1980 Daniel Miller electronic project - Silicon TeensThe Silicon Teens were a guise for a solo project of Mute Records founder Daniel Miller. After recording as The Normal (“Warm Leatherette”), Miller launched the electronic, synthpop project in 1980. The fictional group was comprised of four actors who gave interviews under the names Darryl, Jacki, Paul, and Diane. The lead singer, Darryl, was played by Frank Tovey, who some of you may know better as Fad Gadget. The song “Sun Flight” is off the only LP from the project, 1980’s Music For Parties. It’s one of the few original songs on the LP. The rest of the album is made up of synthpop remakes of rock & roll classics from the ‘50s and ‘60s, including a somewhat campy version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee.”                                                                                                                                                                                                              

One of my favorite recent post-punk finds is “Late Night Show” by the short-lived London band The Beautiful Losers. I came across the group while researching UK post-punk bands. Produced by The Sound’s Adrian Borland, their sound was very reminiscent of Joy Division and early post-punk bands of the time. The song was released in 1980, and is one of only a handful recorded by the band, as they soon parted ways. Founding member Philip King would find later success as bassist for the dream pop band Lush.

 

'80s post-punk band Blue In HeavenStrongly championed by U2, Irish band Blue In Heaven never came close to reaching their countrymen’s heights. Starting out as a hard-edge post-punk band in 1983, they soon garnered a cult following and released a couple of singles under U2’s Mother Records. By the time they released their debut album, 1985’s All The Gods’ Men, they had moved to a darker, more atmospheric sound. This is no surprise, as they worked with Joy Division producer Martin Hannett on the LP. They had a few more releases before calling it quits in 1989, only to reform as the Blue Angles in the ‘90s. The song “In Your Eyes” is off the ’85 debut album.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

80s UK indie pop band Treebound StoryI came across the English band Treebound Story while researching indie pop bands from the UK. The group was founded in the mid-eighties by Richard Hawley (who would find later success with the Britpop band Longpigs). In their five years of existence (1986-1990), they released four EPs. The song “I Remember” is off the ’86 EP of the same name. The lovely chiming guitar intro immediately grabbed my attention and the rest of the song did not disappoint. It’s a real indie gem.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

For the second in the series of podcasts on favorite ’80s finds, I decided to focus on overlooked ’80s UK synthpop. Synthpop is one of my favorite genres of music and, needless to say, there was an abundance of great music from this region. I narrowed the playlist down to 13 songs, which was no easy task, so may just have to do a part 2 on this category. As always, I provide a bit of information on the bands/artists, when available. Below is the track list and you can listen to the podcast here. Hope you enjoy!

  • I Start Counting “Letters to a Friend” (1984)
  • Illustration “Danceable” (1980)
  • Henry Badowski “My Face” (1980)
  • Eternal Triangle “Nothing But a Friend” (1984)
  • Pictures Like This “A Night’s Vendetta” (1983)
  • VHF “No Surprise” (1982)
  • Disciples of Spess “Another New Iceland” (1987)
  • Ice The Falling Rain “Lifes Illusion” (1983)
  • White Door “Windows” (1983)
  • Almost Alone “Blue City” (1983)
  • Secession “Touch Part 1” (1984
  • Leisure Process “Love Cascade” (1982)
  • Vision “Lucifer’s Friend” (1982)

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve only recently watched the Depeche Mode documentary 101 (must-see viewing for any Depeche Mode fan). Although I’ve been a Depeche Mode fan since the early ‘80s, looking back I really didn’t give them the attention they deserved. I had also never experienced them live in concert and the documentary was sort of a wake-up call. Since then I’ve been exploring their entire catalog and have gained a new appreciation for their earlier work. I’ve been especially, pleasantly surprised by A Broken Frame – their first post-Vince Clarke album. Released in 1982, it’s largely considered the group’s weakest effort but in my opinion, the LP continues to be unfairly dismissed. It saw the band moving from the upbeat pop of Speak & Spell  to a more dark and melancholy sound, and contains some real electronic gems.

With Clarke’s departure, songwriting duties fell on the shoulders of Martin Gore. And although Alan Wilder was recruited to take Clarke’s place, he did not contribute creatively to the LP. The band felt they needed to prove they could move on without Clarke so Wilder was relegated to studio work and touring musician. (For the record, my favorite DM period are the Wilder years). Even though there are some definite poppy moments, such as “See You” and “The Meaning of Love,” as a whole, the album has a more mature atmospheric and moody sound. By no means their greatest work, A Broken Frame provides glimpses of great things to come.

My favorite song off the LP is the last track, “The Sun and the Rainfall.” From the beginning haunting drumbeat to the lovely chorus, it’s a standout on the album. I’m surprised the song wasn’t released as a single or as a fellow DM fan pointed out, hasn’t been included on some compilation.

 

Another high point is the second track, “My Secret Garden.” It has a great bassline and catchy synth work throughout.

 

After spending so much time digging up unearthed ’80s gems, I’ve decided to do a series of podcasts highlighting some of my favorite finds. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the technical side of podcasts. Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have a technically-skilled friend who did the recording and editing. The first episode is mainly devoted to obscure indie pop, but you may hear a classic or two. I also provide a bit of information on the bands/artists, when available. You can listen to the podcast here. Hope you enjoy the selections!

Following is the track listing:

  1. “A Hundred Words” by The Beloved (1986)
  2. “Forms of Edge” by 33 Tears (1989)
  3. “Say Goodbye” by Weeping Messerschmitts (1986)
  4. “The Invisible State” by Bill Pritchard (1989)
  5. “Heart Happy” by A House (1987)
  6. “Talk About the Past” by The Wake (1984)
  7. “Melt Like Ice” by The Wild Flowers (1983)
  8. “Innocense” by Conspiracy of Silence (1987)
  9. “You Should All Be Murdered” by Another Sunny Day (1989)
  10. “Cincinnati” by HolidayMakers (1988)
  11. “Between Something and Nothing” by The Ocean Blue (1989)

Not many recording groups can say they played live only a handful of times in their whole existence, but System 56 was one of those bands. They were referred to as the Howard Hughes of bands, since they only performed live five times. I came across the band only recently, as I continue on my never-ending quest for obscure new wave bands. I was really surprised to discover that they are American, as they have a sound very similar to early ‘80s new wave bands from the UK. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, they were another band that had an all-too early demise. Fortunately, in their short career, they released some pretty great songs.

Founded by guitarist and lead vocalist Steve Simenic in 1981, the group was often compared to Ultravox. This was primarily due to their ability to create a seamless mix of synth and guitar-driven music. As for the lack of live performances, this was mainly caused by a revolving-door of band members over their three-year run. It seems when new material was released, internal conflict arose and members left. At one point the band was down to two members. Nevertheless, local radio stations, especially college radio, gave the band generous airplay. In all, the band released three singles and one 6-song EP, 1982’s Beyond the Parade. In 2003, a compilation of the group’s music was released, Retrospective: 1982-1984, which contains some previously unreleased material.

The song Metro-Metro was the first single released by the band. It was recorded within a month of the group’s formation. It’s a synth-dominated track with a driving rhythm and signature guitar work. Every time I put this song on a playlist, someone rarely fails to ask “who is this?”

 

In 1983, the band released the single “Life on a Cool Curve.” It perfectly showcases the band’s adeptness at merging synth and guitar. They would go on to release one more single in 1984. Later that year, they disbanded.

 

Like many, I was first introduced to The Plimsouls through the 1983 movie Valley Girl. They appeared as a club house band in the film, where three of their songs were featured. (If only I were so lucky to have had them as the house band at my regular haunt back in the day). The group’s dynamic power pop, garage sound was hard to resist. Well-known on the thriving L.A. music scene for their energetic lives shows, they seemed primed for bigger things but it was not meant to be. Unfortunately, the band disbanded in the mid ’80s due to solo career pursuits.

The group was formed by singer/songwriter Peter Case in California in 1978, after toiling around in two previous bands. They quickly became favorites on the early ‘80s L.A. club scene, and Case was gaining critical attention for his songwriting. They released their first EP in 1980, Zero Hour, which showed promise and received heavy airplay on the legendary L.A. KROQ radio station. Their first album, 1981’s The Plimsouls, managed to capture the vitality of their live shows but had poor sales. They would go on to record the 1983 LP Everywhere At Once, before parting ways due to Case’s pursuit of a solo career. They did reunite in the mid ‘90s and released the album Kool Trash but it received little notice. Case found some success as a folk-rock artist and continues to tour to this day.

Featured prominently in Valley Girl, “A Million Miles Away” was the song that propelled the band into the spotlight. With no record contract in place, the band self-funded the single. After the song was selected for the movie soundtrack, and with a new contract with Geffen, they quickly re-recorded and included on the Everywhere At Once LP.

 

The song “Everywhere At Once” is the reason I bought the cassette of the LP, and played it to ruin. It also appears in the Valley Girl film. From the first guitar chords I was hooked. The song then builds to a rousing, almost perfect power pop anthem.