“Dawn of the Dead” is built on a melody that sounds like a European ambulance siren, a steel drum, and a grunting background chorus—three things that have no real place in pop music. Yet this band, with its name that should also be tossed out for bad taste, seems to make them all work together. And not only that, but make it all sound truly fantastic.
I’m not completely certain this is the best possible follow-up to “Atlantis to Interzone,” but I feel pretty good that it’s the best possible conclusion to the volume. It has a certain finality to it, whether via the broken relationship described in the lyrics or the zombies of the title. As we’ve incorporated a lot of synthesizers into the last third of the volume, I wanted to end it in a slightly more humanist and warmer place, ruminating on what’s come before and ready to travel to whatever comes next. And perhaps the presence of the steel drum will inspire Mr. Smigielski to make it an all-Hawaiian volume.
I’m a real sucker for dance music that’s played like rock music. Music that is undeniably hedonistic and unselfconscious but with the passion, anger and presence of punk rawk. The Mercury Prize winning Klaxons give us a delicious dose of it on 2006′s Atlantis to Interzone. Stuck inside all of it’s bombast are some nice juicy details—in-unision harmonized vocals, rave inspired sirens and samples and a very undisco, abrupt composition change at the 1:00 mark. Enjoy where this takes us.
Surprise! Bet you came here thinking this was going to be an LCD Soundsystem track, right? How could it not be, with those glorious cowbells, guitars, and snotty chants? Aesthetically, that would’ve been the wise choice. But it wouldn’t have been as emotionally fulfilling for me. Plus, I’m convinced that most everyone who checks in on this mix is already overly familiar with That James Murphy Sound, so I would rather try the shock of the new instead of the comfort of the familiar.
So may I present “The Architect,” simultaneously the best ode to Buckminster Fuller ever made, and the greatest thing to come out of Belgium since Stella Artois. dEUS (caps accurate) has been kicking around Europe since the mid-90s but came to America only occasionally. This 2008 gem was not released here, which blows my mind a little, as it could easily top critics’ lists or soundtrack a car commercial. It’s one of my all-time favorites, starting with that wonderful Fuller soundbite (“Nevermind that outer space stuff, let’s get down to earth”), building into the chanting chorus and electronic flourishes, and a perfectly understated use of tambourines. If this doesn’t get us all—Mr. Smigielski included—up and dancing as we run wildly toward this volume’s finale, nothing will.
Via Urban Dictionary:
To “Robocop” is to bet with complete assurance that you will complete a task to the point that if you fail you must shave your own head to look like Robocop’s for a period of no less than 24 hours (reverse monk in case you don’t know what his hair looks like)
To “Kraus” is to do something amazing, and brilliant at the same time.
Not sure where those definitions get us. But this is one of those bands that I’ll admit I really only noticed at first because of it’s name. It’s both ridiculous and awesome at the same time. Maybe that’s what the definitions are telling us. On top of that this track is amazing, brilliant and so assured of itself that it just might shave your head just for looking at it funny.
From their 4th LP, German post punk rivivalists Robocop Kraus play In Fact, You’re Just Fiction with a combination of brainy compositional flair and thugish danceability. I mean this song could have gotten to the heart of the matter instantly but ends up waiting a full 3 minutes to bring out the big anthem potential, meandering their way through a variety of verses, bridges, codas and builds. And bless his noodley appendage for it.
Since Scotsmen are a dour folk, anytime you can wrestle a happy-sounding track out of them, you have to pair it with a second before things get moody. Recorded in 2005, released in the UK in 2007, and brought to the US in 2009, “Year of Explorers” is as informed by the fun and tasteful recklessness of the ‘80s as “Watch the Lines,” though more overtly anthemic.
Wait, that’s maybe the word I was searching for: anthemic. Scottish bands make killer anthems—songs that sound like kings, songs that sound important. Which is why many of them are so clearly influenced by the ‘80s, when the stakes of saving the state of pop music were life-and-death. And which is why I like almost every one I encounter.
Amidst visions of multicolored Cosby sweaters, let’s shift gears slightly. I have tried but alas cannot let the pursuit of sweet, sweet ridiculous horns dictate the aesthetics of this mix. The depth of my musical well just can’t continue the supply to meet the demand. At least not in a manner that would maintain the bubbly fun we are having. Perhaps, they’ll come back in the reprise.
I am leading with my gut here in also switching to a track more electronically focused than previously explored. But I think it maintains the overall tonal continuity. In that it makes me want to dance. And I don’t dance.
I may be many things, but “guy who stops the party” isn’t one of them. So I’ll hold off on more experimental tracks for a while and see where this ride takes us.
“Funky Instrumental” is a wordless version of “You Can’t Be Funky,” arguably the best and most remarkable track Bush Tetras produced in their short lifespan. Released on one of the band’s few EPs, it’s produced by The Clash’s Topper Headon and designed by future sleeve design superstar Neville Brody. To my knowledge, this is the only Bush Tetras track that features a horn line—I can find no credit anywhere of who’s actually playing it here. But no matter. Like its original, it finds a wonderful groove and ends abruptly, making it endlessly replayable.
I’ll admit my confusion. Not sure how we got to Mack the Knife from Warrior in Woolworths. I get the impression Mr. Joosse is testing me somehow. Horns? Sure. Timeline relevance? okay. It’s all jangle and hustle. But no pop. No fun. I’m not ready to give up on fun yet.
Regardless, I can appreciate this as a place to continue the narrative. So how about the Au Pairs. Finally, right?! I bet you were wondering when that card might get played. I particularly like how this track toes the line between the early post punk vibes (monotone vocals & jangly guitars) and gothic-dancism with it’s precision percussion/samples and dark “siouxsieness”.
And yes horns continue to thread through the mix. Though I am fearful of where this horn fetish will lead us. “You mess with the bull, you get the horns”.
1. It’s crazy-dark, taken from a ‘20s opera written by Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht, turned into a happy-go-lucky Bobby Darin cover, then returned to the bleak European winter by the Psychedelic Furs. To my knowledge, they never had any other covers in their repertoire. Recorded at a Peel session, this version is only available on Should God Forget, the first comprehensive Psychedelic Furs compilation made, from 1997.
2. This was the first Psychedelic Furs track I ever really liked. I asked for, and received, this compilation for Christmas that year. I must’ve seen some commercial or read some review that said this was an essential purchase, so on the list it went. I didn’t know the Furs and I definitely hadn’t seen Pretty in Pink yet. (Yeah, yeah. I bloomed late.) So the band’s context and poppier songs were still ahead for me. For whatever reason, I gravitated to this song above all others on the compilation, and it sounded like nothing else I was liking at the time. I had no idea how out of character it was for the band—raw, primal, groovy as fuck. It may be the only time they ever achieved this level of atmosphere and is definitely the only time they ever sounded this menacing and confident.
3. I realized while listening to the X-Ray Spex track that my tendency is always to go faster. Whatever Mr. Smigielski puts forth, I somehow feel like I need to pick up the tempo, even when it’s already fast and reckless. I suppose I do this because my default mix setting is getting up and running right away. So I wanted to try slowing it down significantly and seeing what would happen after. This track is unhinged and relaxed, taking its sweet time getting to a wonderfully trippy drum solo and full band outro. With a sax—the official mascot of Vol 07—winding its way in and around and behind everything else.
What can I say? What People Do For Fun is a mesmerizingly good song. And those are distinctly hard to follow up. I hang my head in shame that it was completely unknown to me. Songs that good should be written into our DNA.
In the vein of pseudo-adolescent snarkisms from the era, I had little choice but to break out one of my all time favs, X-ray Spex. What they lack in spindly new wave instrumentation, they more than make up for with rambunctiously goofy but equally genius use of horns in punk rock music. And Poly Styrene’s voice is utterly unique and she remains one of my favorite vocalists.
Admittedly this post was delayed by the sheer task of deciding which ONE song from the Spex I was going to use, knowing full well I could never dip back into that well again. This isn’t necessarily my favorite but it’s up there and I felt it would lead us in interesting directions.
Mr Joosse, you’ll run my well dry of this era soon enough.
The Suburbs are one of my favorite examples of a band I had to stumble into—no one around me told me they had existed or that they were the missing Minneapolis link between Prince and The Replacements. Their albums are sorely underrated and, as Mr. Smigielski’s seen, now hard to find. So I wanted to follow his example and utilize another powerhouse you’re not likely to have heard of.
Martha and the Muffins were Canada’s entry in the post-punk Olympics, and had filled out by 1983’s Danseparc album to incorporate warmer guitars and polyrhythms alongside their original spindly synthpop sound. Though I wanted to employ a track with horns, and though there are horns elsewhere on Danseparc, “What People Do For Fun” doesn’t have any. But it makes a fine companion to “Rattle My Bones,” with its Talking Heads guitar, automaton chant, rubbery bassline, and combination of childlike rhymes (“Eeny meeny miney mo”) and adult content (“they dance until two, fuck until four”). It continues pulling this mix square into the realm of that most excellent of pop music: the serious fun.
As soon as I heard Be Stiff, I pretty much I knew how I wanted to respond. It has a awesome new wave swagger to it while also being spotty with flourishes that are outright goofy. In the best possible way. From the in-unison chanting to the saxophone counter melody, the song just can’t help from being equally cool and nerdy.
Thus I give unto the mix a hell of a tune in Rattle My Bones. It’s absolutely infectious in it’s rhythm. But not without it’s own nerdiness with it’s cringe-worthy “neck connected to the hip bones” lyrics and boogie-woogie piano solo. But none of it matters with a party jam this good.
I also recognize that it’s been a ridiculously long time waiting for this post. I only had this song in MP3 as a muddy live version that I just couldn’t hamper the quality of the NEIMT with. I searched all over the interwebs for an MP3 of the original, only to be ultimately foiled (thanks Arcade Fire). So I ordered the out-of-print CD version. It still hasn’t arrived in the mail. So I did what I should have done a week ago. Asked Mr Joosse. Enjoy.
Somewhere between Talking Heads and Devo lies this 1978 version of “Be Stiff,” the latter’s famous single. Liner notes in the Lene Lovich best-of I pulled this from call the original a “label anthem” for Stiff Records. Stiff was something of a music world B-team, full of almost-weres, also-rans, and oddballs of the late ‘70s and ‘80s. Lovich was one of Stiff’s most visible weirdos, though with her sound it’s clear she was never planning on overtaking Siouxsie Sioux in anything but the crazy-hair-vocal-tic department.
Like most from the label, she came and went pretty quickly, and I didn’t really discover her until a few years ago. According to Wikipedia, Stiff loved Devo’s song so much that they asked a number of their acts to cover it in the same afternoon and in their own styles. Lovich’s version is a lot of fun, the franticness of the original replaced by a joyously gruff backing chorus, an electric piano, and a Roxy Music sax solo. Like what “Love -> Building on Fire” was to post-punk, this track is to the Devo original: softer and warmer. Instead of being angular, you might say it has charmingly rounded corners.
I cannot predict where Mr. Joosse wanted to go with first pick, and I am trying hard to avoid the “track 2 wtf” moment. Sometime’s I think the second pick has more power in defining the threads ultimate direction than the first. Because the second determines the context of the first. It refines it’s direction. From there it is all about pushing it forward. But right now it’s about steering the ship. Unless of course track three chooses to ignore track two’s steering. Which has happened in the past.
Anyway, at this time I will simply bestow upon the mix one of the finest spindly art songs ever composed. Awkward and unnecessary horn section included free of charge.
One of the great pleasures in being obsessed with music is learning about what a band was like before they made it big. And there’ll probably be no better period for this kind of discovery than the early ’80s. Dozens of bands made it big when they turned their sound from an idiosyncrasy to a novelty, sacrificing what’s often a long and interesting career to a flash in the pan, all in the name of radio airplay and MTV fame.
A great example of this is Dexys Midnight Runners—before Ms. Eileen came along, before they dressed like Irish rednecks, before there was a fiddle-drenched “Celtic soul” sound, the band looked like Cockney bootblacks and thugs and were primarily influenced by Stax Records. In 1980, anyway, they were occupying a particular niche between the punk sounds of what, for example, The Jam were, and the lighter indie pop of what The Jam of “Ghosts” became.
One of my very favorite Dexys lyrics goes, “Sing me a record that cries pure and true. Not those guitars, they’re too noisy and crude.” On “Dance Stance,” the band’s sure-footed debut single, they’re pushed to the background while the horns are gloriously front and center. It does sound a little like it’s lacking a good low end—my only real gripe with “Ghosts” because of how excellent The Jam’s rhythm section was. But I wanted to turn that disadvantage into an advantage here, kicking off this volume with a spiky, joyous call-and-response hidden gem from an underrated and overexposed band of young soul rebels.
Every couple of days, one of the NEIMT authors will post a song that is in some way a reaction to the previous song posted by another author. Every 15 songs will be packaged up with cover art and presented for download as a complete mix. The only rule is that no artist can appear more than once in the same volume.
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