Devo: Fresh / What We Do

devo_fresh

Format: 12″

Label: Warner Brothers

Country: US

Year: 2010

Price paid: $15

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

So fresh it almost makes me want to cry

So fresh it’s givin’ me a second life

A Record Store Day exclusive, the blue vinyl twelve inch was released in advance of the 2010 album ‘Something for Everybody.’ Despite generous press coverage and appearances at such varied venues as the 2010 Winter Olympics and ‘Live! with Regis and Kelly’ the album only managed to squeak in at #30 on the US Billboard 200 (#164 on the UK Albums chart) and ‘Fresh’ failing to chart at all… but Devo’s brilliance can’t really be conveyed chart placings or how many records sold.

If not as immediate and crucial as their early 80s work, ‘Fresh’ is at least on par with their ‘Shout’-era output (1984) and certainly surpassing anything that appears on the lackluster ‘Smooth Noodle Maps’ (1990.) Witty, sarcastic, and consciously disposable. The B-side ‘What We Do’ is arguably the stronger track of the two; the video is an impressively efficient spoof of the band’s most iconic motifs…

Speaking of iconic motifs, the sleeve art is a slick minimalist treat, literally upending the energy dome and reducing it to a vessel for phallic fruit, a delightful bastardization of the band’s most recognizable counterculture emblems. Well played.

Oh, did I mention it’s on blue vinyl?

 

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Spice Girls Cadbury wrappers

SGwrappers

Format: candy

Label: Cadbury

Country: Canada

Year: 1997

 

“On and on with the girls named spice.

You wanna get with us then you’d better think twice.”

Whoring out pop stars for a quick buck is nothing new, it”s been going on since the birth of rock and roll. The Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson. Hell, even Devo hawked Beta-max players back in the 80s.

With the exception of maybe NKOTB, there were no greater 90’s corporate shills in music than the Spice Girls. Pepsi, Tesco, and Polaroid were three of their largest collaborations, but they slapped their mugs on what seems an endless stream of crap. Slippers, party balloons, bean bag chairs, dolls, video games, jigsaw puzzles, perfumes…

Certainly one of the sweetest deals they ever made would have to have been with Cadbury chocolates. Unlike the rancid lollipops and other inedibles churned out by Chupa Chups, these candy bars were actually quite tasty. Not too surprising I suppose as Cadbury have always been a real class act.

I bought these examples in a Toronto hotel gift shop in 1998. I wanted a Scary and Ginger to complete the set, but alas they were sold out. I ate the chocolate almost immediately, but was amused enough by the packaging to hold onto the wrappers for all these years. You can still buy sealed bars on sites like eBay UK today, but after a decade and a half they’re probably none too palatable.

The bars came in ten designs, two for each girl,, and were sold worldwide. Or at least in a variety of English-speaking countries such as Australia and England.

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Sic F*cks (self-titled EP)

sicfucks

Format: 12″ EP

Label: Sozyamuda Records

Country: US

Year: 1982

Price paid: $5

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

Lots of Tacos, lots of kreplach

You’re a man now so baby let’s rock!

I must admit I knew little of the Sic F*cks before picking this up. Oh, I’ve knew of their name for decades now, so naughty that you couldn’t even spell it correctly in mixed company. I wasn’t sure what to expect… or how listenable it could actually be.

Upon spinning the disc for the first time I was pleasantly surprised. Grinding, screaming death metal? Hardly. Ok Russell Wolinsky’s voice is a bit rough, but this is rather melodic and entertaining. Sort of a cross between the Rezillos and Rocky Horror with a healthy dose of Cramps. Campy and fun, tongues firmly in cheeks. The backing of vocals of NYC icons (and sisters) Tish and Snooky Bellomo* go a long way towards tempering what would otherwise be more like a wino and a set of drums being thrown down the stairs.

sicfucks3.jpgTracks:

  • (Take Me To) The River
  • Insects Rule My World
  • Spanish Bar Mitzvah
  • Rock Or Die
  • Chop Up Your Mother

What can be said about the album artwork that can’t be gleaned by even the most casual observer of the provided images? Both classy and trashy, charming and alarming. I’m not sure why this (admittedly obscure) vital piece of NYC punk was relegated to the five-dollar bin- so new it looks like a reissue- but I’ll take it!

*Fun Fact- In 1977 Tish and Snooky opened the store ‘Manic Panic’, a boutique specializing in punk clothing. A variety of musicians from Blondie to Cyndi Lauper have worn their designs. Their store brand alternative hair coloring of the same name has graced the heads of countless counterculture trendsetters.

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Adam Ant: Vive Le Rock, Re Mixed!

adamant_vive

Format: 12″

Label: Epic

Country: US

Year: 1985

Price paid: $2.50

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

You’re scratching records but you won’t be scratching mine

Don’t give me chish-chash in rinky-dink time!

‘Vive Le Rock’ is the second single from Adam’s third solo album, ummm, ‘Vive Le Rock.’ It was his second-lowest charting single in the UK, coming in at #50. It fair better on the US Dance Charts where it rose to #29.

The single and album launched Adam’s new ‘Rockers in Space’ persona/philosophy, moving away stylistically from his early eighties pirate motif. This change in direction wasn’t popular with fans nor the public at the time, but I must admit I rather like it. In the greater scheme of¬†British New Wave things it works well as a bridge between the first half of the decade and the development of the futurist/sci-fi aesthetic taken on by artists such as Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Westworld, and Transvision Vamp.

The sleeve art as well hints at the direction British album design would be heading in as the decade progressed. Slick production values, modern ‘contemporary’ fonts, and playful dynamic composition. This 12″ contains the ‘Remix’ and ‘Instrumental Dub’ mixes of the single. The art is similar to the 7″ version (UK, US, etc.) with the most notable difference being that Adam’s face is blue instead of pink.

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Talking Heads: Road To Nowhere / Give Me Back My Name

talkingheads_roadtonowhereFormat: 7″

Label: Sire

Country: US

Year: 1985

Price paid: $2

Purchased at: The Bop Shop, Rochester NY

 

Well we know where we’re goin’

But we don’t know where we’ve been

‘Road to Nowhere’ was the second single released from Talking Heads’ sixth studio album,1985’s ‘Little Creatures.’ It charted a modest #105 in the US, but #25 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. It fared better in Germany, Ireland, South Africa, and the UK where it rose to #6, but charted highest in New Zealand at #5.

The main sleeve art was designed by Reverend Howard Finster, a pop-influenced naive Georgian artist born in 1916. Finster also designed the art for the iconic ‘Little Creatures’ cover, as well as other Talking Heads releases such as the ‘And She Was’ and ‘The Lady Don’t Mind’ 7″ singles. His nervous fussy swirling imagery helped to define the look of the Heads during this period, Although there is no direct connection, it’s interesting to note that the Tom Tom Club (Frantz and Weymouth side project) also used a roughly analogous (or at least equally fastidious) outsider/naive artist (James Rizzi) several years prior on releases such as ‘Pleasure of Love.’

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Nina Hagen: Universal Radio

ninahagen_universalradioFormat: 12″

Label: Columbia

Country: US

Year: 1985

Price paid: $2.50

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

Hey brothers and sisters from the universe we’re drowning in a pot

Universal Radio Radio release your soul from mental pollution and mental activity

Of all the Nina Hagen songs I’d have to say this one’s my favorite. In part because it was my first, heard on what passed for college radio way back in 1985. For a kid used to nothing more exotic and Joan Jett and The Go-Go’s it totally blew my mind. Well, if not that, then I certainly found it strange indeed.

I also find it one of the most listenable of her songs. More structured than what came before, more immediate and ‘vital’ than what would come later. Nina and her most Hagenish. As a bonus it’s got a beat and you can dance to it.

‘Universal Radio’ was the first single from her fifth album (fourth if you’re only counting solo work independent of the ‘Nina Hagen Band’) ‘In Ekstasy.’ Amazingly it rose to #39 on the US dance charts. More amazing still this was her THIRD top-fifty entry on the US charts, but sadly her last (to date.)

This 12″ includes the ‘Universal Dance Mix’, album, and dub versions.

The sleeve art is as bold and bright as the woman herself, a potent target design that in its simplicity lets the bizarre visage of Nina speak for itself.

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Bubble Yum Bubble Gum Pink Flash! volume 1

pinkflash

Format: 12″

Label: CBS

Country: Canada

Year: 1981

Price paid: $3.50

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

Either a promo or mail-away premium for Bubble Yum Bubble Gum, I must admit I bought this one pretty much for the cover. I was sold when I saw Adam and the Ants made an appearance, hoping that (despite the inclusion of Cheap Trick and Journey) there might be a hidden gem in the otherwise rather obscure Canada-heavy mix. Alas only Adam delivers the goods in the New Wave department, with most of the other tracks being dull energy-free rock ballads of little note. But what a cover!

There was never a volume two.

Track listing:

Adam And The Ants: ‘Dog Eat Dog’– This single is from the band’s second album, 1980’s ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier.’ It peaked at #4 in the UK and #15 in the US.

Harlequin: ‘Innocence’– Blasting out of Winnipeg in the mid-70’s, Canada’s Harlequin swooned listeners in the great white north for decades, eventually being inducted into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

Powder Blues: ‘Doing It Right’– The Powder Blues were a Canadian blues/jazz band formed in Vancouver in 1978. This single, their first, reached #40 on the Canadian charts in 1980 and was taken from their 1979 freshman album ‘Uncut.’ It has a vaguely ‘Huey Lewis’ sound to my ears…

Cheap Trick: ‘Dream Police’– This song is from the band’s fourth studio LP of the same name. It reached #26 on the US charts; it’s Canadian chart ranking is unknown, but the album itself went to #4 and stayed on Canada’s charts for 20 weeks.

Randy Meisner: ‘Hearts On Fire’– Randy was a founding member of both Poco and the Eagles, having wrote and sang ‘Take It to the Limit’ for the later. This single reached #14 on the US Mainstream Rock chart in 1981. Yawn.

Journey: ‘The Party’s Over (Hopelessly In Love)’– The only studio track appearing on their live album ‘Captured’, this single made it to #33 in Canada and an impressive #2 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. Yawn.

Loverboy: ‘The Kid Is Hot Tonight’– From their 1980 self-titled debut album, this song was released as a single,but never saw any significant chart action.

Teenage Head: ‘Let’s Shake’– Perhaps Canada’s greatest punk band, Ontario’s Teenage Head released eight studio albums (and one live album) over a twenty-five year period. This vaguely-Rockabilly sounding single reached #88 on the Canadian charts in 1980.

Rough Trade: ‘Fashion Victim’– Canadian rock band that may be marginally known to American listeners through their 1981 single ‘All Touch’, which reached #58 in the states. This single is from 1980’s ‘Avoid Freud’ and reached #25 in Canada. Bland, slow, and uninspired.

Doug And The Slugs: ‘Too Bad’– Another Vancouver powerhouse formed in the late 70s, DATS lasted into the early 90s, racking up ten top-100 singles in Canada (most of those flying south of the top-50 mark.) ‘Too Bad’ was their first and highest charting single, coming in at #20.

 

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Starstruck original motion picture soundtrack

starstruck

 Format: LP

Label: A&M/OZ Records

Country: US? Year: 1983

Price paid: $5

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

 

Well those Hollywood hearts, watch them a flutter

You can’t make a star of a girl gorilla

2The New Wave era in music (1978-1985)- with it’s often larger-than-life artists, heavily theatrical fashion sense, and all-around garish aesthetics- was a natural subject to be adapted to the big screen. Several big screen musicals were produced including ‘The Great Rock and Roll Swindle’ (1980), ‘Breaking Glass’ (1980), and ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains’ (1982.)

3‘Starstruck’ (sometimes ‘Star Struck’) was a 1982 Australian movie about a quirky female singer and her rise to stardom from humble beginnings. The running time’s only 105 minutes, but although a rather slick package and VERY Australian the film wears out it’s welcome after the first 45 minutes. A bomb at the box office (it cost $2.7 million Australian, but only made $1.5 million Australian), it nonetheless got heavy airplay on basic US cable in the US- cementing its cult status with the Gen-X crowd.

The lead protagonist was played by Jo Kennedy. Kennedy was primarily active as an actor during the eighties and garnered a Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 35th Berlin International Film Festival in 1985 for her work on the film ‘Wrong World.’ She sings many of the tracks on this soundtrack; the single ‘Body and Soul’ (written by Tim Finn of Split Enz) made it to #5 on the Australian charts in 1982.1

The sleeve art is typical for a soundtrack of the period, consisting of a montage of stills and modified poster art. That being said it’s an attractive well designed package of pastel pinks and baby blues.

starstruck2

 

 

Toyah: Rebel Run / To The Mountains High / Baptised in Fire

toyah_rebelrunFormat: 12″

Label: Safari (SAFE LS56)

Country: UK

Year: 1983

Price paid: $1

Purchased at: CNY Regional Market, Syracuse NY

 

Praying to the silent man

A new day dawns

‘Rebel Run’ was the first single released from Toyah’s fifth studio album, 1983’s ‘Love is the Law.’ It reached #24 on the UK charts but failed to register elsewhere. It is her seventh highest-charting single to date.

I give Toyah props for having the creativity to constantly reinvent herself. This post-apocalyptic skater look wasn’t one of her more memorable guises, however. The term ‘only in the eighties’ gets thrown around a lot these days, but seriously, only in the eighties could someone get away with such non-ironic post-punk neon kitsch without their head exploding in a cloud of bloody camp confetti-

The sleeve art is nearly identical to the 7″ version, with the inclusion of info on the 12″ bonus track ‘Baptised in Fire.’ The imagery is of Toyah wearing the outfit that appears in the video for the single. Simple, understated, Toyah.