Swing Out Sister: Twilight World

swingoutsister_twilight

Format: 12″

Label: Mercury/Polygram

Country: US

Year: 1987

Price paid: $2.40

Purchased at: The Record Archive, Rochester NY

 

Don’t be fooled by love songs and lonely hearts

You’re living in a twilight world

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age. Back in the day I saw Swing Out Sister as little more than a coma-inducing snoozefest. Although that opinion hasn’t changed considerably, I find myself somewhat more receptive to their calming sound and Corinne Drewery’s lush vocals.

I’d never heard of the ‘Sophisti-pop’ sub-genre before researching this single, but the term seems very apt. Other artists falling under this style include Shade, Scritti Politti, and Simply Red. I hear shades of the New Romantics in their sound as well.

‘Twilight World’ is the third single from SOS’s debut album ‘ It’s Better to Travel.’ It reached #32 on the UK singles chart in 1987 and all the way to #7 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary the following year.

The sleeve art is considerably different than the domestic (UK) version. Although simpler in layout and most probably hastily thrown together with it’s near-promo level of design aesthetic, this US version has a bold timeless look that fits the song perfectly. If done right there’s nothing wrong with a few band shots and a tasteful font in my book…

swingoutsister_twilight2

 

Kate Bush: Love and Anger / Ken (special edition)

katebush_loveandanger

Format: 7″

Label: EMI (EMG 134)

Country: UK (German pressing)

Year: 1990

Price paid: $1

Purchased at: private sale

 

Looking for a moment that’ll never happen

Living in the gap between past and future

‘Love and Anger’ was the third (and last) single released from Kate’s 1989 LP ‘The Sensual World.’ It reached #38 on the UK charts and an impressive #1 on the US Billboard ‘Modern Rock Tracks’ (aka- alternative/ indie) chart. It was released as a standard (non-gatefold) 7″, 12″, and CD single. The B-side ‘Ken was used on the British TV show ‘The Comic Strip’ which parodied politician Ken Livingstone.

This ‘special’ version of the single has a posh gatefold sleeve with inset pages and black 7″ slip cover. It was designed by Kind Light Studio and Bill Smith studio. Kind Light was associated with Kate from the early 80s up through the mid-90s and is most probably Kate Bush herself. Bill Smith has an extensive resume of New Wave sleeve design including artists such as Toyah, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, and Inspiral Carpets.

That being said I find the cover rather dull. Sure, it’s Kate Bush so a certain level of understated pretentiousness is expected, but the layout is strictly by-the-numbers. The photos used look to be taken on the set of the video production, they’re awfully grainy and orange in a way that looks more like poor quality photography than deliberate artistic expression.

Adam and the Ants: Antmusic EP

adamant_antmusicEP

Format: 12″

Label: Do It Records (DUNIT 20)

Country: UK

Year: 1982

Price paid: $12

Purchased at: The Record Archive, Rochester NY

 

See a nation needing civilization just like a hole in the head.

The Antmusic EP is a collection of tracks taken from a recording session done at Sound Development (studios) in August of 1979 for their debut album ‘Dirk Wears White Sox.’ Several other A&TA albums were produced since, so by the time this was released some three years later it was all pretty much old news. The band split around the time of this EP’s release with Adam going solo and, with interest at a new high with singles such as ‘Goody Two Shoes‘ his old indie label Do-It might have thought it a good time to cash in on some of those old demos they had lying around.

 

Track listing:

  • Kick
  • Physical
  • Cartrouble (part 1)
  • Cartrouble (part 2)
  • Friends

The term ‘Antmusic’ as used here was a play on the song of the same name from the 1982 LP ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier.’ ‘Kick’ did not appear on the original release of ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’, but was included on the 1983 Epic/CBS reissue. Both ‘Physical’ and ‘Friends’ are non-LP tracks, although they do make an appearance on the remastered 2004 CD of ‘DWWS.’

I’m rather fond of this simple, stark sleeve. As stated, the music on the disc is older material; the sleeve art is rather anachronistic as well, harkening back to Adam’s earliest ventures.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions: I Wanna Be Loved / Turning the Town Red

elvis_iwannabeloved

Format: 7″

Label: F-Beat Records (XX 35)

Country: UK

Year: 1984

Price paid: $1

Purchased at: private sale

 

I guess I’m a victim of loneliness… but why should this be my destiny?

‘I Wanna Be Loved’ is the first single off of his tenth album, 1984’s ‘Goodbye Cruel World.’ It was the highest charting single from the LP, reaching #25 in the UK and #11 in Ireland.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a Elvis Costello fan. I find his voice whiny and just generally unpleasant. I’ve never understood why he’s considered a lyrical genius; perhaps I lack the ability to comprehend some subtle meaning hiding in the subtext somewhere? As a child of the New Wave I can recognize his importance… or at least his popularity. I feel bad that, even after giving him repeated goes over the years, he just doesn’t ‘speak’ to me. My failing in this regard gnaws at my soul, and is responsible for many a sleepless night.

That being said, when life gives you lemons you clone those lemons and make super-lemons.* A bunch of 7″ singles fell into my lap recently, primarily Kate Bush, but a good helping of Costello as well. I contemplated flipping them (the Elvis vinyl, anyway), but at the end of the day decided to hold on to them. I rationalized that ‘they’re good for me’ (aka- they make for a well-rounded collection) and at the price I paid for them I doubted I’d be able to score the same records down the road so cheaply, if I ever had the desire to search them out. I’ll throw very few records out of my bed for eating crackers…

The primary draw with this single is the sleeve itself. The New Wave-iness of the music itself is- to my ear, anyway- debatable, but I have no reservation in saying that the funky design and pink/blue/green color palette shrieks ‘1984’ as loudly as a valley girl screaming with delight at finding a sale on leg warmers at the galleria.

elvis_iwannabeloved2

*Yes, that was a ‘Clone High’ reference. Good show.

Sex Pistols: Pretty Vacant / Sub-Mission

sexpistols_prettyvacantUS

Format: 7″

Label: Warner Brothers

Country: US

Year: 1978

Price paid: $6

Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

“I don’t believe illusions ‘cos too much is real”

‘Pretty Vacant’ was the band’s third single, released in the UK on July 1st 1977 and came in at #6 on the UK singles chart. It would later appear on ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ LP, which saw the light of day in October of the same year.

 

 

I love the sleeve art on this one. It’s unique to the US market and completely different design than found on the UK release… or any release for that matter. There’s a US promo variant that drops the ‘Sub-Mission’ track and replaces it with a mono version of ‘Pretty Vacant’, but the sleeve art is the same. The artwork was recently recycled (with edits) for a UK Record Store Day 2013 release, numbered and limited to 3,500 copies.

The art is by Jamie Reid, of course.

sexpistols_prettyvacantUS2

Primitives: Echoes and Rhymes

primitives_echoesCD

Format: CD

Label: Elefant

Country: Spain

Year: 2012

Price paid: £10

Purchased at: Primitives Official Website & Blog

 

I’m a big Primitives fan, that’s no secret. With their swooping trippy melodies and breathy lyrics they were an integral component of those heady dreamy Britpop days of the late eighties. Those days seem so long ago now…

I’m also a firm believer that everything has it’s own time and place; some things you just can’t separate from their context… without the whole endeavor quickly becoming an embarrassing mess.

If you’re say David Bowie and you stay on the scene slowly transforming into an old fart that’s one thing. But if you disappear from the music scene for decades and suddenly make a go at a comeback ninety-nine times out of a hundred you’re going to come off as a desperate has been fit only to play the tiniest of watering holes and the state fair circuit.

So how did the Prims fare on this, they’re ‘come back’ album?

I thoroughly enjoyed their 2011 ‘Never Kill A Secret’ EP and found it a great return to form, none of the magic had been lost. The promises it contained whetted my appetite for a new LP.

It’s honestly an ‘ok’ album.

It works. And it sure sounds like the Primitives. But I can’t help but still feel a little cheated.

Maybe I was expecting too much. The pent up creativity of the last twenty years spurting forth in some musical orgasm. The second coming of Jesus.

What we have with ‘Echoes and Rhymes’ is sort of a ‘concept’ album consisting of fourteen cover of songs from the 60s and 70s originally performed by female vocalists. Most of the songs are catchy, with the occasional moments that are either wistful or witty in turns. None either thematically nor lyrically different than what you’d expect from the band historically.

But at the end of the day the whole affair just rings hollow to me. As clever as the concept is, it’s just too ‘easy.’ Too safe and lacking in any display of personal growth. Ironic that the word ‘echo’ is in the title- not only are these renditions reverberation of artists long past, but they’re echoes performed by echoes fading slowly through time.

Damn’, the eighties were a long time ago…

primitives_echoesCD2

Just Say Yes Volume 6: Just Say Yesterday

justsayyesterday

Format: CD

Label: Sire

Country: US

Year: 1992

 

It seemed like the early 90s were the golden age of the music compilation album… or at the very least the golden age of music compilations on CD; record stores of the day had a huge selection of them on hand. Not surprising I guess, as this was the the dark Pre-Internet Times when finding new music could often be a crap shoot. The compilation format let you at least sample before you forked over money on a full album.

The ‘Just Say Yes’ series clogged up a fair amount of real estate in the used CD section back in the day. The tone- both in terms of musical selection and package graphics- was fun, irreverent, and more than a little haughty-wannabe. A lot haughty-wannabe actually, so much so that I pretty much ignored the series at the time.There were seven discs in the series, which spanned from 1987 to 1994. Supposedly the tracks are all remixes and non-album tracks by Sire artists, but it appears that at least one artist on this disc (The Normal) were not from that label.

When I found this CD recently at a thrift store for a buck I couldn’t pass it up. Enough time had passed that the haughty patina had subsided somewhat, and there’s actually some good stuff on here. Most ‘Say Yes’ compilations are known for their selections from the alternative (albeit rather mainstream alternative) genre; ‘Say Yesterday’ branches out a bit and presents an assortment of what would had been considered ‘alternative’ back in the 1st New Wave area, had the term existed then.

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B-Movie- Nowhere Girl (1982): This track is taken from their 1980 ‘Nowhere Girl’ EP released on Dead Good Records, it reached #68 on the UK charts. The band milled about for a few years after the EP’s release appearing on various compilations before finally putting out a LP in 1985. They broke up shortly thereafter… with members moving about in complex and delicate patterns… collaborating with everyone from ex members of Bauhaus to Dido. In more recent years they reformed with an album in 2013 and another planned for 2014.

Tin-Tin- Kiss Me (1982): Tin Tin were created by Stephen Duffy, an early member of Duran Duran (who left before the band were signed), along with members of Fashion, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and Bob Lamb (producer for UB40.) Originally released in 1982 and breaking the UK top-ten, a 1985 re-release and re-recording climbed the UK charts to #4 in the spring of that year.

Tim Scott- Swear (1983): Information is scant on this artist. He released a few singles on the Sire label in the early 1980s after a stint with the Rockabilly revival group the Rockats.

Blancmange- Don’t Tell Me (1984): This band was quite the item back in the day, racking up eleven top-100 hits in the UK and five on the US dance charts between 1982-1986. This track is a single from their second LP, 1984’s ‘Mange Tout.’

Madness- One Step Beyond (1979): Major hit in the UK, minor hit in the US… click the title to see its own blog entry.

Plastic Bertrand- Ca Plane Pour Moi (This Life’s for Me) (1977):  By far the most successful and well known of this Belgian artist’s songs, the single scratched the US Billboard Hot 100 at #47. It fared much better in Europe where it was a number one hit in both France and Switzerland.

M- Pop Muzik (1979):  This one needs no introduction I’m sure. Massive hit for Robin Scott, reaching #2 on the UK charts and #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

Specimen- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1983):  Long-surviving British Goth band who’s fashion sense (at least in the early days) helped to define the genre. Guitarist Jon Klein has worked with Siouxsie and the Banshees and Sinead O’Connor.

Dead Boys- Caught With the Meat in Your Mouth (1977): An early American punk band originally hailing from Cleveland, the Dead Boys were encouraged to move to NYC by Joey Ramone, where they became a CBGB’s staple. This track is from their first studio LP ‘Young Loud and Snotty.’

Patti Smith- Piss Factory (1974):  Of all the songs on the disc this one seems the most out of place. It’s just shy of five minutes in length, but this protracted caustic rambling track sure seems a hell of a lot longer wedged in amongst relatively carefree fare like ‘Pop Muzik.’ A seminal work to be sure… but one that drags the flow to a grinding halt like a homeless person suddenly standing in the middle of a subway car loudly demanding attention be paid to his protracted plea for a charitable donation.

The Rezillos- Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonight (1978):  Formed in Edinburgh in 1976, the Rezillos- later the Revillos- were one of those misfit groups that straddled the boundaries between first generation punk and New Wave. This track is from their first LP ‘Can’t Stand the Rezillos’ and is a cover of a B-side from a 1969 single by Earl Vince and the Valiants (Fleetwood Mac in disguise.)  I’m a pretty big fan, so you’ll be hearing much more about them in the future…

Aztec Camera- Jump (1984): Glasgow New Wave artists with a long successful career in the UK, all but of unheard of in the US. This track is a cover of Van Halen’s #1 US hit and can be found on the B-Side of their ‘All I Need is Everything’ single (which reached #34 in the UK.)

The Bluebells- Cath (1983): Scottish group with stylistic similarities to Aztec Camera, the Bluebells had three minor UK hits in the early 80’s (including this singles, which reached #62) before disbanding. They reformed in the early 90s when their 1984 track ‘Young at Heart’ (co-written by Siobhan Fahey, then of Banarama and appearing on that band’s 1983 album ‘Deep Sea Skiving’) was featured in a TV commercial and rose the UK charts to #8. They reformed yet again in 2008 as a supporting act for Edwyn Collins.

The Undertones- Teenage Kicks (1978): Punk/New Wave band formed in 1975. This song originally appeared on the Teenage Kicks 7″ EP, later re-released as a stand-alone single. It reached #31 on the UK charts.

Silicon Teens- Memphis Tennessee (1979): This ‘band’ did not exist in the traditional sense, as they were the creation of Mute Record’s founder Daniel Miller. Actors appeared as stand-ins for the band during promotional events. A majority of their material was rather dead-pan (yet upbeat) covers of 50’s and 60’s tunes, not unlike what the Flying Lizards would produce on their 1984 ‘Top Ten’ album. Note the stylistic similarities to the Normal’s ‘Warm Leatherette’…

The Normal- Warm Leatherette (1978): The poster child for British experimental New Wave and the first single released on the seminal late 70s Mute label. A CD reissue of the song came out about the same time this compilation was released; click the title to see its own blog entry.