The Applicators: What’s Your Excuse

 

Format: LP
Label: C.R.A.S.
Country: US
Year: 2002
Price paid: $10
Location purchased: Exchange, Kent Ohio

 

I have a soft spot for all-girl groups. Rarely do they have ‘staying power’ to span multi-decade careers or garner an abundance of kudos from music snobs… but I’ll take them over some dusty old acoustic crooner anytime. The Applicators have released three full length LPs (this is the first) so they obviously have some enough of a fanbase to keep the flame alive.

My primary way of learning about new music is to dive right in and just buy what I don’t know. As I always say- unlike books, you CAN often judge a record by its cover. I mean, just look at it! Adorable.

I was sold when I flipped it over and saw track names like ‘Puke on You’ and ‘She Smells Like Me.’ Pure gold. Their sound is, well, I can probably name a dozen all-girl bands of the last decade that have a similar attitude. Sort of like The Muffs, only sloppier. Perhaps a little X-Ray Spex thrown in. Overall an early 90’s ‘Riot Grrrl’ sound. Here’s a sample:

Applicators- She Smells Like Me

The Teardrop Explodes: Bouncing Babies/All I am is Loving You


Format: 7″
Label: Zoo Records
Country: UK
Year: 1979
Price paid: $2
Location purchased: Square Records, Cleveland Ohio

I knew little of the band before picking up this single, but I really dig their sound here. Similar to some Cure to my ear, playful yet melancholic. This version has a raw bass-heavy feel missing from the more polished LP version.

‘Bouncing Babies’ was the band’s second single. It failed to chart. The song:


The art- This one certainly won’t win any awards in my book. A lousy underexposed B&W photograph surrounded by puke yellow. I’m sure the photograph has some specific meaning (it looks to be an early 20th century Surrealist image) but I’d need time to decipher that. For now the message is as cryptic as the song itself. That being said it has a certain naive low-tech charm.

Zoo Records was formed in order to facilitate the release of singles by the band ‘Big in Japan.’ Other acts on the label include ‘Echo and the Bunnymen’ and ‘Lori and the Chameleons.’ The label quickly folded, having only released two LPs and a handful of singles.

Supposedly the ‘Bouncing Babies’ single was hard to come by, even back in the day. So much so that another band (The Freshies) wrote a song about their exasperation in attempting to locate a copy. As far as I know this is the ONLY single ever released with the subject of the single being another single. Sadly I don’t own this single yet; supposedly it’s rarer than the single they’re lamenting:

The Freshies- I Can’t Get ‘Bouncing Babies’ by The Teardrop Explodes

Voice of the Beehive: I Walk the Earth/This Weak

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Format: 10″ picture disc
Label: London
Country: UK
Year: 1988
Price paid: $3
Location purchased: Jack Wolak’s Rare Necessities

When I think of Voice of the Beehive (VOTB) I always think of England. If I ever wrote a book on the late 80’s UK music scene (something I’ve been tempted to do more than once over the years) I’d be torn whether to include them or not. The sister duo are Californian, BUT the band was formed in the UK, have exclusively UK backup musicians, performed primarily in the Britain, had most of their chart action there, and much of their ‘weirder’ vinyl output (such as this 10″) were released solely for British consumption.

VOTB had no delusions of artistic depth; even though they were known for their clever often thoughtful lyrics, they were perfectly comfortable making jangly aggressive power-pop.

‘I Walk the Earth’ peaked at number 42 on the UK charts. The band had eight top-50 hits in the UK over their three album lifespan, most from their debut album ‘Let it Bee’ (of which this single is from.)

The 10″ itself is a great example of period UK vinyl production. At the time of this single’s release UK vinyl sales in general were lagging so companies pulled out all the stops in an effort to make an impression with the consumer. If you think about it the 10″ is a pretty useless size. I suppose it has its uses… if you’re putting together an EP and need more space than a 7″ but less that a 12″. Maybe. But that’s not the case here as this is merely a 2 track single. The vinyl is clear, but instead of the usual practice of inserting a paper element between two sheets of vinyl, there’s simply two stickers laying on the surface.

Probably limited to 5,000 pressings, this is numbered 4480. The B-side is exclusive to this disc.

New Women in Rock

Author: Liz Thompson (editor)
Format: book
Publisher: Delilah/Putnam/Omnibus Press
Country: US
Year: 1982
Location purchased: 1/2 Price Book Warehouse, Syracuse NY

 

If you don’t know by now female vocalists are my thing. British groups/artists in particular. No one text has had a greater impact on my musical tastes and education than this book- flipping through it now I’m STILL amazed by the sheer amount of obscure data it contains…

‘New Women in Rock’ covers (not surprisingly) female artists that were hot in 1982. So tight is its focus though it could have been easily been called ‘Women in New Wave’ or even- and more accurately- ‘British Women in New Wave’ were it not for the inclusion of a few odd ducks such as Bette Midler and Joan Armatrading.

The biggies you’d expect to find are all here- Lene Lovich, Blondie, and Siouxsie to name a few. Where the book really shines though is the inclusion and equal treatment of all but unknown artists today such as Wendy Wu and the Photos, The Mo-Dettes, and Cherry Vanilla.The book assumes that you- a contemporary 1982 music lover- have at least a working knowledge of the artists covered; the write-ups are more of a ‘slice of life’ than an in-depth history.

Eleven different authors contribute, each with their own approach to their chosen subject. It is unclear if the article-format essays were written exclusively for this book (I assume they are), but the inclusion of writers such as Vivien Goldman hints at a deeper level of commitment to the subject since many are prominent reviewers of the day.

The book itself is gorgeous. Oversized and full-color, it contains many photographs of the artists I haven’t seen anywhere else. The layout is tight and stylish, dripping with top-notch 80’s class right down to the font choices- the slick presentation you’d expect from 80’s Omnibus Press offerings. There’s a rather comprehensive discography included as well; I’m sure hardcore completeness will snigger at the inevitable omissions, but it should keep the layman happy and busy attempting to track down its contents for quite a while.

Copies can still be found rather easily and cheaply today. Highly recommended.

Dum Dum Girls: He Gets Me High


Format: 12″ EP 
Label: Sub Pop 
Country: US 
Year: 2011 
Price paid: $8 
Location purchased: Exchange, Kent Ohio


Until recently I had never heard of The Dum Dum Girls, but they’re quickly becoming one of my favorite groups. I find their sound a fascinating and complex mish-mash of styles, ranging from west coast New Wave to British shoegazer.

I picked this one up on impulse based on the cover and its simple, iconic design. Sup Pop really went all out on the product too- the sleeve is super-thick stock that I haven’t seen commonly used since the 60s; the inner protective sleeve alone is as substantial as many contemporary exterior sleeves. Put together it’s one hefty package! Supposedly this vinyl came with a coupon for an MP3 download of the music which is, not surprisingly, gone. Undoubtedly pilfered by hipsters who bought the vinyl and then threw it away once they realized that they’d rather have the sweet, sweet digital version after all…

2011’s ‘He Gets Me High’ EP includes a cover of The Smith’s ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’:

The Dum Dum Girls are Dee Dee Penny with an oft changing cast of band members. Their name is derived from the Iggy Pop song ‘Dum Dum Boys’ and The Vaselines’ album ‘Dum Dum.’

‘I Will Be’, their debut album released in 2010, was produced by Richard Gottherer, a major player in the New Wave music scene. He had previously worked with such acts as Blondie and the Go-Go’s and co-wrote the 60’s hits ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ and ‘I Want Candy.’ His involvement here hones their sound, evoking images of west coast New Wave (much of which i tselfevoked images of older girl groups of the 50s and 60s.)

Cherry Vanilla: The Punk/Foxy Bitch

 

Format: 7″
Label: RCA
Country: US
Year: 1977
Price paid: $1.50
Location purchased: My Mind’s Eye, Cleveland

 

This is not a punk song, so don’t be confused. It’s a contemporary scathing parody of punk stereotypes… and a damn’ good one at that. So good in fact that if you squint your ears in just the right way it’s nearly indistinguishable from the British punk sound of the time.

Take a listen. Yes, she’s rough around the edges and she could be somebody’s mom. But the song itself is brilliant, the energy infectious, and the band really can play quite well:

Cherry Vanilla herself is quite a character. Most notably she was David Bowie’s high-profile publicist during the early 70’s, going so far as to (jokingly, I think) offer oral sex to any DJ that would play Bowie’s music. She also worked on some of Warhol’s theater projects, including the starring role in the UK production of ‘Pork.’ She’s released three full LPs, five singles, and a tell-all book- definitaly not a flash in the pan despite her laughable stage name and tongue-in-cheek style.

I’ve wanted this single for awhile now. Sadly the condition’s not that good, the sleeve anyway. The sleeve art gets the job done with its cute arresting image of Cherry and shocking red font, but I’d hardly call it ground-breaking design. But hell it’s on RCA, so what do you expect?