Monday, May 22, 2006

Dance for a better tomorrow

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It's funny to hear serious political sentiment in music that may sound otherwise playful and cartoonish, like being on the Small World ride and getting lectured by the smiling robots in their small world voices about the pitfalls of being a consumer pig. Heaven 17, ex-Human Leaguers and founders of the British Electric Foundation, epitomize this kind of contrast, bringing the classic cartoon synthpop sound that was the hallmark of drunken 80's triviality and occasionally sobering it up with criticism of American-style consumerism and fascist conservatism.

These songs sound too fun to take seriously, but in 1981 the British government actually banned "Fascist Groove Thang," which likens Reagan to Hitler and conjures up the image of a fascist dance party that needs to be snapped out of its groove. "I'm Your Money," a chugger with a scratching Kraftwerkian beat and needly synths, is equally critical of rampant consumerism and a society in which money is the impetus behind every action -- Bob Sagat would probably say that the deliciously sour synth line after the breakdown is, waiiiit for it, money.

Heaven 17 - Fascist Groove Thang (We Don't Need This)
Heaven 17 - I'm Your Money (Extended Mix)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

His intentions are good but he sits idle

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It's difficult to make writhing and screaming like a feral child under the voodoo spell of a snarling beat sound precise and musical, but not so difficult if that beat is as locked-in as rigor mortis. That's right, artful screaming and rigor mortis beats, the Blackouts, one of the most criminally under-appreciated band of the post punk era. The release of History in Reverse, an anthology of their stuff, by K in 2004 didn't have the earth-shattering impact that it should have. Fans of Wire and Bauhaus and the darker side of post punk should have been going ape shit over this unusual stateside addition to the post-punk diaspora. Those of you who have heard this stuff know what I'm talking about, and for those of you who missed it, here's four tracks from '80/'81 that give all those endlessly exalted british bands a run for their money.

The Blackouts - Probability
The Blackouts - Dead Man's Curve
The Blackouts - Young Man
The Blackouts - Industry

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Bill Rieflin's drumming makes my pants tight. In an interesting turn of rocknroll genealogy, Rieflin and the rest of the band, save for singer Erich Werner, were absorbed into Ministry after the Blackouts disbanded in 1985.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I wanna see you dance

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Minny Pops is one of the lesser known post-punk/darkwave/avant electro acts to be associated with the Factory/Factory Benelux labels. Forming as The Tits in their native Belgium in the late 70's, Minny Pops became Minny Pops (named after a Korg drum machine) in 1978.

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In 1980 they opened for Joy Division at a several dates in Belgium, catching the fancy of the folks at Factory. They were invited overseas to play at the Factory I/Russell Club in Manchester, and shortly thereafter were recording the Dolphin Spurt/Goddess single (FAC 31) with Martin Hannet. This single is what usually comes up when talking about Minny Pops, but in my opinion it's not as strong as Secret Story/Island (FAC 57), their other single with Factory, or some of their demos (it's just the "Hannet Factor" at work). Anyhow, "Secret Stories," released on CD by LTM in 2003, compiles both Factory singles as well as some unreleased demos and compilation tracks.

Below is the Secret Stories/Island single as well as two unreleased gems from the period between the Factory singles and their second and best album, Sparks in a Dark Room (FBN 15). All four tracks contain Minny Pops' characteristic motorik beats, left-field electronics, and gloomy vocals. Influences and similarities are immediately apparent -- Middendorp's dark, unadorned, gregorian vocals are strikingly Curtis-esque, and the Body Language demo smacks of early Cure, especially that guitar riff.

Minny Pops - Secret Story
Minny Pops - Island
Minny Pops - Time (12" mix)
Minny Pops - Body Language (Demo)

Secret Stories and Sparks in a Dark Room are both available on iTunes, or you can Buy direct from LTM here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The boys and the blues

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I saw Namosh a few years ago at Club Nasti in Madrid. It was amazing, and I'll pee my pants the day he comes to LA. These recordings don't quite do this crazy motherfucker justice, but they're still good, and fun for dancing. Don't write this stuff off as electroclash, even though it might smell like a duck and walk like a duck. "Coldcream" was apparently Bjork's favorite song last year, and Bjork wouldn't endorse just any old trashy electroclash act now would she?

You can get his first 6 song EP released on Bungalow from iTunes. "Picked up Floozy" was also featured on Berlin Insane, a compilation of random stuff from Berlin's scene (also on iTunes). For newer stuff and vinyl, including this thuper remix by Whomadewho, go here.

Namosh - Action and Words
Namosh - Cold Cream
Namosh - Pulse (whomadewho remix)
Namosh - Picked up Floozy