Label: Mute (001)
Warm leatherette melts on your burning flesh
You can see your reflection in the luminescent dash
What is New Wave?
Is it a style, a look, a sound, a moment in time? Obviously it’s all of these in varying degrees, depending on the band in question.
That being said, if I had to pick one single to exemplify what the New Wave me means to me this would be it. It not only hits all the ‘quadrants’ of the genre, but the degree of New Wave-ness in each facet is surely off the charts. If i were to compile a list of the top ten 7″ singles the NW&B vinyl collector should have in collection ‘Warm Leatherette’ would certainly be right up there alongside the likes of ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘God Save the Queen’, and ‘Vow’ (metal sleeve version.)
The Normal were a short lived project constructed by Daniel Miller, who founded Mute Records in part to facilitate the release of this single, of which this is the first issued on the label. The song reached #20 on the US Dance Music/Club charts, but it’s unclear if this was upon initial release or sometime in the 90’s with a CD reissue. The initial pressing was limited to 2000 pressings and sold out quickly, exclusively through Rough Trade Records. It was re-released in 1988 by Restless Records as a 12″ and again by Mute as a 7″ in September of 2013.
Both ‘Warm Leatherette’ and ‘T.V.O.D.’ are stunning examples of early Industrial post-Punk electronica. Like some stripped-down minimalist Kraftwerk, their stark haunting sound and imagery speak to the undercurrent of creative conceptualism that flowed beneath British pop.
The sleeve art is quintessential. Low-tech and lacking in color, with unashamed DIY use of found imagery and clip-art, it perfectly intones the monotonous (and somewhat scary) plodding nature of the single. Somewhat tame by today’s standards- in no small part due to the over 35 years of Indie music history that’s happened since- visually it was undoubtedly a potent and confrontational package when first released.
‘Warm Leatherette’ has been covered by many bands over the past quarter century including Duran Duran, Chicks on Speed, and most famously Grace Jones.
*Fun Fact- The song is a distilled version of a loose film script based on the book ‘Crash’ by J.G. Ballard