Shakespears Sister: Cosmic Dancer

 

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Format: CD

Label: SF Records

Country: US

Year: 2011

Price paid: $11.98

Purchased at: Amazon

 

‘When you think the night has seen your mind… that inside you’re twisted and unkind…’

There are certain artists who’s voices transcend their context. Crooning warbles so luscious that I’d listen to them read the ingredients off the back of a cereal box or sing about paint drying for hours of end. Enya and Siouxsie are two that spring to mind. Siobhan Fahey certainly makes it onto this short but sweet list; her rich seductive voice evokes images of dark city streets shiny with rain, cold dark ocean depths, and brooding forests thick with moss.

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I must admit I prefer my Shakespears Sister (not a misspelling, look it up) with Marcella Detroit, as I felt she was the perfect lilting counterpoint to Siobhan’s sulky nature, but its been twenty-one years since the split so I should really just get over it and move on. ‘Cosmic Dancer’ is their fifth studio album (the third sans-Detroit), a glorious expression of what the evolved face of New Wave looks like in the 21st century.

 

shakespears_cosmicdancer2It’s primarily a cover album, but so precise were the decisions for song inclusion and subtle the mastery of their execution that the experience is truly unique. It festers and bubbles with leisurely acoustic grace. Songs include ‘Baby It’s You’ (the Shirelles, the Beatles), ‘Dancing Barefoot’ (Patti Smith), ‘Wish You Were Here’ (Pink Floyd), ‘My World Is Empty Without You’ (the Supremes), and ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ (the Velvet Underground, also covered masterfully by the Primitives back in 1989.)

 

The CD art is basically a showcase for Fahey’s sultry pouty beauty; no objections here. What a long winding road from the ditant perky BananaramaWorld she has traveled…

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Like, Omigod!: The Totally 80s Pop Culture Box

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Format: CD (7) boxed set
Label: Rhino
Country: US
Year: 2002
Price paid: $20
Purchased at: The Sound Garden, Syracuse NY

 

I have this theory, one amongst many, that when it came to American popular music the eighties were a decade of opposites. One could argue that a line could be drawn in the sand in any decade and the tea leaves unearthed easily read with multiple interpretations, but just go with me on this…
NW1The 80s had two faces. On the one hand you had the valleygirl-filled wonderland with shopping malls on every corner, pink Izod-clad preppies roaming the halls of shiny high schools fighting competitive clique warfare, and moms in Day-Glo leg warmers sweating to a Jane Fonda workout record. This was perhaps maybe two percent of America. It existed… I saw it on a trip to Los Angeles in 1986 and it was full-on rad. But for the vast majority of us it was a rather dire grey time with no cell phones or internet. Hell, growing up my house didn’t even have a microwave, VCR, and cable TV until halfway through the decade. This compilation clearly fits into the former, distilling the decade down to a hot pink Mohawk.

 
NW2Now that I think about it there’s another level of eighties stratification. On the one hand you had the glistening pop sphere that dominated the charts. Bubblegum and other generally squeaky-clean genres that said little… but said it loudly. And then there was that subterranean world that flowed darkly and deeply below the surface, a nameless entity that pop plundered periodically for its style. So vast, it had no name, no cohesive single style that one could hang a hat on. Towards the end of the eighties this undercurrent became more codified… more marketable… and began to be known by names such as ‘Indie’ and ‘Alternative.’ This compilation without question fits into that first camp, the likes of Siouxsie and Concrete Blonde need not apply. Although Robert Smith managed to sneak in somehow.

 
NW3And then there’s the whole early eighties/late eighties thing. Stylistically there’s a sharp difference between the two, and that division can be drawn pretty much at the half-decade mark. Early eighties was dominated by New Wave (capital ‘N’ capital ‘W’) with its fondness for synthesizers and neon, but by 1985 that style was swiftly falling out of favor, to be replaced by a leaner and far less fifties-style kitsch aesthetic. The gulf between Devo and New Kids on the Block (both appear here) is vast; they have nothing in common save for appearing on the head and ass ends of the decade, respectively. This compilation (thankfully) spends a vast majority of its time in the pre-1985 big hair period, with only a spattering of crap like Bobby McFerrin and later-day B-52’s.

 
And then there’s, well don’t get me started on the heavy US bias on display here. I guess that’s to be expected since this IS an American product meant for consumption by Americans, but it paints a weird and highly exclusive picture. Suffice it to say you won’t be finding any Toyah or Kate Bush in this collection, while artists like Bananrama and Thomas Dolby are pegged as One-Hit Wonders at best…

 
The packaging is exactly what you’d expect, sizzling like a radioactive avocado and nail polish. So many eighties’ design clichés are packed per square inch that the whole affair threatens to collapse in on itself in a riot of neon at any moment. At this point in the game, some 30 years on, even a blind chimp knows enough of the decade’s style to throw together a passable design. Where the package really shines though is in its excess- hefty gatefold multi-chambered case, seven garish CDs, and a colorful (if not remedial) square-bound booklet that sizzles with style over substance.

 

 

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The tunes themselves are a mixed bag, but at 142 tracks there’s more than enough to go around. They range from predictable yet good (‘Whip It’, ‘Mickey’, ‘867-5309’), to the slightly surprising (‘Pac-Man Fever’, ‘Genius of Love’, ‘Voices Scary’) to the downright crappy (‘Sister Christian’, ‘Keep Your Hands to Yourself’, ‘Let’s Hear it For the Boy’.) There’s also more than a few soundtrack/TV show themes thrown in to spice up the mix a little, but with ditties like ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Theme from the Greatest American Hero’ I would have been happier with a few more B-list songs.

 
Overall I’d have to call this a great little set for what it is. There’s more than enough good stuff on here to entertain for hours on a long car trip and I think ultimately I think that’s what Rhino were after- a disposable glimpse into a disposable decade. Totally.

 

 

The massive track list:

Disc 1 (21 tracks)
1. “Whip It” — Devo 2:39 (1980)
2. “Video Killed the Radio Star” — The Buggles 3:27 (1979)
3. “Empire Strikes Back (Medley)” — Meco 3:03 (1980)
4. “Another One Bites the Dust” — Queen 3:34 (1980)
5. “Celebration” — Kool & the Gang 3:43 (1981)
6. “The Breaks (Pt. 1)” — Kurtis Blow 4:09 (1980)
7. “Let My Love Open the Door” — Pete Townshend 2:44 (1980)
8. “Call Me” — Blondie 3:32 (1980)
9. “Keep on Loving You” — REO Speedwagon 3:22 (1981)
10. “Turning Japanese” — The Vapors 3:44 (1980)
11. “Lost in Love” — Air Supply 3:54 (1980)
12. “9 to 5” — Dolly Parton 2:46 (1980)
13. “I Love a Rainy Night” — Eddie Rabbitt 3:10 (1980)
14. “Sailing” — Christopher Cross 4:16 (1980)
15. “Just the Two of Us” — Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers 3:58 (1981)
16. “Cars” — Gary Numan 3:57 (1980)
17. “Ah! Leah!” — Donnie Iris 3:43 (1980)
18. “Sweetheart” — Franke and the Knockouts 3:49 (1981)
19. “Shake It Up” — The Cars 3:34 (1981)
20. “General Hospi-Tale” — The Afternoon Delights 4:01 (1981)
21. “The Stroke” — Billy Squier 3:37 (1981)

Disc 2 (20 tracks)
1. “Dancing with Myself” — Billy Idol 3:19 (1981)
2. “Working for the Weekend” — Loverboy 3:41 (1981)
3. “Jessie’s Girl” — Rick Springfield 3:15 (1981)
4. “Genius of Love” — Tom Tom Club 3:30 (1981)
5. “Centerfold” — The J. Geils Band 3:38 (1982)
6. “At This Moment” — Billy Vera & the Beaters 4:14 (1986)
7. “Harden My Heart” — Quarterflash 3:37 (1982)
8. “Hold on Loosely” — .38 Special 3:55 (1981)
9. “Theme from ‘Greatest American Hero’ (Believe It or Not)” — Joey Scarbury 3:14 (1981)
10. “Take Off” — Bob and Doug McKenzie 2:43 (1981)
11. “Super Freak (Pt. 1)” — Rick James 3:20 (1981)
12. “867-5309/Jenny” — Tommy Tutone 3:47 (1982)
13. “Bette Davis Eyes” — Kim Carnes 3:45 (1981)
14. “Time” — The Alan Parsons Project 4:32 (1981)
15. “Gloria” — Laura Branigan 4:52 (1982)
16. “Maneater” — Hall & Oates 4:32 (1982)
17. “The Theme from Hill Street Blues” — Mike Post 3:14 (1981)
18. “Valley Girl” — Frank Zappa with Moon Unit 3:48 (1982)
19. “Da Da Da (I Don’t Love You You Don’t Love Me Aha Aha Aha)” — Trio 3:25 (1981)
20. “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” — The Gap Band 4:03 (1982)

Disc 3 (21 tracks)
1. “Hungry Like the Wolf” — Duran Duran 4:05 (1982)
2. “The Look of Love (Pt. 1)” — ABC 3:31 (1982)
3. “Tainted Love” — Soft Cell 2:42 (1981)
4. “Rock This Town” — Stray Cats 2:40 (1982)
5. “Lies” — Thompson Twins 3:14 (1983)
6. “Words” — Missing Persons 4:24 (1982)
7. “Don’t You Want Me” — The Human League 3:58 (1981)
8. “Love Plus One” — Haircut 100 3:37 (1982)
9. “Down Under” — Men at Work 3:43 (1982)
10. “Steppin’ Out” — Joe Jackson 3:47 (1982)
11. “I Want Candy” — Bow Wow Wow 2:46 (1982)
12. “Come On Eileen” — Dexys Midnight Runners 4:14 (1983)
13. “Mickey” — Toni Basil 3:27 (1982)
14. “Twilight Zone” — Golden Earring 4:51 (1982)
15. “You Should Hear How She Talks About You” — Melissa Manchester 3:58 (1982)
16. “Key Largo” — Bertie Higgins 3:07 (1982)
17. “Pac-Man Fever” — Buckner & Garcia 3:55 (1982)
18. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” — Bonnie Tyler 5:35 (1983)
19. “Africa” — Toto 4:19 (1983)
20. “Goodbye to You” — Scandal 3:47 (1982)
21. “Puttin’ on the Ritz” — Taco 3:25 (1982)

Disc 4 (20 tracks)
1. “Jeopardy” — The Greg Kihn Band 3:47 (1983)
2. “She Blinded Me with Science” — Thomas Dolby 3:42 (1982)
3. “Electric Avenue” — Eddy Grant 3:49 (1982)
4. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — Eurythmics 3:36 (1983)
5. “Our House” — Madness 3:23 (1982)
6. “The Salt in My Tears” — Martin Briley 3:30 (1983)
7. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” — Cyndi Lauper 3:53 (1983)
8. “Talking in Your Sleep” — The Romantics 3:57 (1983)
9. “Major Tom (Coming Home)” — Peter Schilling 4:12 (1983)
10. “Always Something There to Remind Me” — Naked Eyes 3:41 (1983)
11. “In a Big Country” — Big Country 3:55 (1983)
12. “One Thing Leads to Another” — The Fixx 3:24 (1983)
13. “Der Kommisar” — After the Fire 4:08 (1983)
14. “Suddenly Last Summer” — The Motels 3:42 (1983)
15. “Karma Chameleon” — Culture Club 4:08 (1984)
16. “Let’s Go to Bed” — The Cure 3:34 (1982)
17. “Too Shy” — Kajagoogoo 3:36 (1983)
18. “Maniac” — Michael Sembello 4:11 (1983)
19. “Sister Christian” — Night Ranger 4:21 (1984)
20. “Cum on Feel the Noize” — Quiet Riot 3:27 (1984)

Disc 5 (20 tracks)
1. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” — Yes 3:51 (1983)
2. “Mr. Roboto” — Styx 4:49 (1983)
3. “I’m So Excited” — The Pointer Sisters 3:50 (1984)
4. “Back on the Chain Gang” — The Pretenders 3:53 (1982)
5. “I Want to Know What Love Is” — Foreigner 5:00 (1984)
6. “Sunglasses at Night” — Corey Hart 3:54 (1984)
7. “Missing You” — John Waite 4:02 (1984)
8. “99 Luftballons” — Nena 3:53 (1983)
9. “Tenderness” — General Public 3:31 (1984)
10. “They Don’t Know” — Tracey Ullman 3:01 (1983)
11. “Heaven” — Bryan Adams 3:58 (1985)
12. “White Horse” — Laid Back 3:53 (1983)
13. “Let the Music Play” — Shannon 4:31 (1983)
14. “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” — Deniece Williams 4:10 (1984)
15. “Cool It Now” — New Edition 4:09 (1984)
16. “Ghostbusters” — Ray Parker, Jr. 4:00 (1984)
17. “Footloose” — Kenny Loggins 3:44 (1984)
18. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” — Twisted Sister 3:39 (1984)
19. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” — Scorpions 4:12 (1984)
20. “The Glamorous Life” — Sheila E. 3:42 (1984)

Disc 6 (20 tracks)
1. “Obsession” — Animotion 3:58 (1985)
2. “Shout” — Tears for Fears 4:06 (1985)
3. “Take on Me” — a-ha 3:47 (1985)
4. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” — Simple Minds 4:20 (1985)
5. “Walking on Sunshine” — Katrina and the Waves 3:59 (1985)
6. “Voices Carry” — ‘Til Tuesday 4:23 (1985)
7. “Weird Science” — Oingo Boingo 3:49 (1985)
8. “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” — Dead or Alive 3:17 (1985)
9. “Miami Vice Theme” — Jan Hammer 2:27 (1985)
10. “Life in a Northern Town” — The Dream Academy 4:17 (1986)
11. “Kyrie” — Mr. Mister 4:15 (1985)
12. “Everytime You Go Away” — Paul Young 4:16 (1985)
13. “We Built This City” — Starship 4:56 (1985)
14. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” — John Parr 4:10 (1985)
15. “Addicted to Love” — Robert Palmer 4:01 (1986)
16. “Axel F” — Harold Faltermeyer 3:01 (1985)
17. “Rhythm of the Night” — DeBarge 3:54 (1985)
18. “You Look Marvelous” — Billy Crystal 3:58 (1985)
19. “Heartbeat” — Don Johnson 4:17 (1986)
20. “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” — Wang Chung 4:11 (1986)

Disc 7 (20 tracks)
1. “Venus” — Bananarama 3:50 (1986)
2. “Walk Like an Egyptian” — The Bangles 3:23 (1986)
3. “Paranoimia” — Art of Noise and Max Headroom 3:18 (1986)
4. “If You Leave” — Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark 4:26 (1986)
5. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” — The Georgia Satellites 3:24 (1986)
6. “What You Need” — INXS 3:35 (1986)
7. “Walk This Way” — Run-D.M.C. 3:39 (1986)
8. “Rumors” — Timex Social Club 3:33 (1986)
9. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” — Crowded House 3:57 (1987)
10. “Holding Back the Years” — Simply Red 4:12 (1986)
11. “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” — New Kids on the Block 3:57 (1989)
12. “Tuff Enuff” — The Fabulous Thunderbirds 3:23 (1986)
13. “Since You’ve Been Gone” — The Outfield 4:13 (1987)
14. “Only in My Dreams” — Debbie Gibson 3:52 (1987)
15. “Never Gonna Give You Up” — Rick Astley 3:32 (1988)
16. “La Bamba” — Los Lobos 2:54 (1987)
17. “Wild, Wild West” — The Escape Club 4:06 (1988)
18. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” — Bobby McFerrin 3:55 (1988)
19. “Right Here Waiting” — Richard Marx 4:25 (1989)
20. “Roam” — The B-52’s 4:04 (1989)

Primitives: Echoes and Rhymes

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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…

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Just Say Yes Volume 6: Just Say Yesterday

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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.

Devo 2.0: DEV2.0

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Format: CD/DVD 2-pack

Label: Walt Disney Records

Country: US

Year: 2006

 


The true genius shudders at incompleteness, and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be. – Edgar Allan Poe

It’s my hope that- if nothing else- this blog will occasionally provide a service, bringing music to the attention of those that may have inadvertently overlooked a real gem. This is one of those gems…

The Devo 2.0 project was straightforward in concept- Take a bunch of kids, give them Devo songs to cover, throw a bunch of Disney’s money at it, and watch the whole mess crash and burn under its own ridiculous weight.

dev20fSimple, right? Except something went horribly wrong… or horribly right, depending on your point of view. The music is actually GOOD. Well produced and executed, the vocals are more than competent. The songs are catchy, family friendly (gasp), with a generous spattering of delicious subversive irony that old school Devo fans require.

Speaking of the older hardcore fans- where were they when all this was going down? You’d think they’d be all over this shit like Oprah on a honey baked ham! Yet I never hear Devo 2.0’s named mentioned; looking at Amazon there’s a scant FIVE reviews of this album. I don’t get it.

Maybe people thought this was a joke, or at best Devo sticking it to ‘the man’ by working hand-in-hand with Disney and churning out dumbed down mainstream swill suitable only for tween radio filler in the process? Ironically they would be right… but that’s only half the equation. Admittedly I haven’t delved deeply into the copious amounts of interview footage on disc two where Devo (the original) wax poetic and get all conceptual. For the purposes of this review I don’t find it necessary. I get it.

Devo 2.0 are a delicious, bubbly, extremely listenable slap in the face to pretentious music snobs everywhere. Perhaps calling it a ‘challenge’ would be more accurate- if you embraced the heady conceptualism of the Devo treatise back in the day, then Devo 2.0 must be welcomed as well. Their mere existence taunts you with a catch-22 that demands your participation and questions your very integrity as a Devo fan.

Coming back down to earth…

It was touted at the time that the music was actually performed by the kids themselves, but even then it seemed highly implausible. The original Devo provide the actual music with the exception of vocalist Nicole Stoehr. The lyrics of the classic Devo songs were changed often and freely. This was done to make some of the more ‘adult’ themes of the classics more family friendly, but to me the unique lyrics are an amusing alternative and a cute breath of fresh air to songs I’ve been listening to for twenty plus years.

Disc one is audio:

  • That’s Good
  • Peek A Boo
  • Whip It
  • Boy U Want
  • Uncontrollable Urge
  • Cyclops
  • The Winner
  • Big Mess
  • Jerkin’ Back ‘N Forth
  • Through Being Cool
  • Freedom Of Choice
  • Beautiful Choice

Disc two is video:

  • That’s Good
  • Big Mess
  • Whip It
  • Freedom of Choice
  • Uncontrollable Urge
  • Peek A Boo
  • Cyclops
  • Beautiful World
  • Boy U Want

Plus DVD bonus features:

  • DEV2.0 Interviews
  • DEV2.0 Photo Gallery
  • Why DEV2.0?
  • Original De-evolutionists
  • DEV2.0 Animations
Singers Mark Mothersbaugh and Nicole Stoehr discuss the craft

Singers Mark Mothersbaugh and Nicole Stoehr discuss the craft

So you get an audio disc, a DVD with nine full videos, probably close to an hour’s worth of bonus interviews (many with original Devo), still galleries, and an ‘animation’ section which features all of the slick animated backgrounds used in the videos. The videos themselves (see example above) are bright, colorful, and a real joy to watch, bringing an extra layer of infantile subversion to the proceedings. Graphically the package design itself is a work of art, staying true to the Devo design aesthetic while updating it for this most special mutation.

Considering this set can be had on Amazon used for about four bucks there’s no excuse not to get one. If, after picking one up, you fail to see the brilliance here you clearly have no sense of humor nor irony… or just don’t grasp what Devo was all about in the first place.

Fun FactDevo 2.0’s keyboardist was Jacqueline Emerson, better known as Foxface from ‘The Hunger Games.’

Fun Fact 2Supposedly this album concept- with cutsie kids taking the reins of a well-established pop group- was meant to be an ongoing Disney project. The Go-Go’s were the next band slated to get the tweeny treatment, but alas it appears this never came to fruition…

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Shampoo: ‘Special DJ Copy’ CD 2-Pack bootleg

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Format: CD (2X)

Label: Toshiba EMI

Country: Japan

Year: unknown, probably 1996

 

Suicide bomber

All dressed up like Madonna

And they say she’s ‘really cute’

But in inverted commas

Shampoo were a mid-90s British female duo, all but unheard of in the US. They had six top 50 hits in the UK and were also big in Japan, where they had four songs in the top 100. They put out three albums between 1994 and 2000, sadly each release met with diminishing returns…

But oh man, for a few years there they seemed to be the darlings of the UK music scene- brash, young, and trendy. A whining, nose-picking indie version of the Spice Girls. Loathed by their feminist contemporaries the Riot Grrrls, they nonetheless conveyed a positive female-empowering bubblegum punk spirit similar to what Fuzzbox had done a decade earlier. Anarchists in ponytails- what I’ll humbly deem ‘Brat Rock.’

This two CD set is a compilation of their first two albums ‘We Are Shampoo’ (1994) and ‘Girl Power’ (1995/1996, released in Japan as ‘Shampoo or Nothing!’) The discs are also packed with B-sides and extended mixes from various sources, adding up to a staggering 39 tracks. The labeling as a ‘DJ Copy’ means just that, these were sent to radio stations as promotional items.

Shampoo’s style was image-heavy and cartoonish, a fact not missed when marketing the group. All of their product had a bright, exploding, juicy dayglo feel to it- heavy on pinks and bright yellows. They even released several vinyl singles in a period when the medium was all but dead. Just for the ‘art’ of it… or gimmick, depending on your viewpoint.

I can’t convey how crude these things are.The artwork is taken from the proper releases… only overlaid with hastily added text in what looks to be Photoshop 4.0. The CD ‘art’ are affixed stickers. The printing quality of the inserts is lousy- although on cardstock, the colors are blown out and obviously scanned at a rather low resolution. The whole affair’s so rough that this may actually be a bootleg. From what I can find online this DJ set comes in a single white double case, the interior track listing isn’t nearly as crude, and ‘disk 1’ does not appear on the sleeve art. Why bootleg? Legitimate copies sell in the $75 range…

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