Tuesday, 23 November 2010

I Love 1980 - 26

Spandau Ballet - To Cut a Long Story Short
And yes it was 30 years ago this week, about, that five grown men in kilts, tablecloths and floppy fringes made their way onto Top of the Pops to perform their first single. Emerging from The Blitz scene which had been bubbling in London's underground clubs and things during the past year or so, this was the first hit single of the genre generally known as New Romantic, whatever that means, meant or was meant to mean. Some may argue the re- vamped Ultravox preceded and indeed inspired everyone else and Bowie's Scary Monsters album simultaneously drew from and fuelled the movement both in fashion, attitude, ....oh and the music, although Spandau Ballet are generally considered to be the first of their kind to hit the big time with several others to follow, including Brummy rivals Duran Duran who were still sweating it out in frilly blouses on the Midlands club circuit.

Sad in a way that the Spans soon abandoned the dish-cloth style and bold, rhythmic, electro-based music which first brought them onto the scene, preferring a more MOR "soul boy" approach within a couple of years with True and all that, suited though it was to the upcoming wine bar culture (itself the logical consequence of the Blitz scene?).
We immediately loved 'em just as they were, bringing in something new and exciting, and - as far as I was concerned more importantly than the kilts - vaguely electro (even tho the driving synth line had been mixed down vis à vis the original demo versh). It was foppish but laddish at the same time, a pint of lager with lipstick on the rim, epic poetry for the dancefloor ....listen to the sound of the Spandau Ballet..

To Cut a Long Story Short - chart stats
Spandau Ballet's first mention in Smash Hits (p.15)

Monday, 22 November 2010

Night night people

"..get around town, get around town, where the people look good, where the music is loud.."

The Human League present Night People .. and it's 1981 all over again.. Add your voice..

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

No files on me

I was horrified to discover that those "nice" people at fileden had suspended (ie. exterminated) my account over there without even a word of warning. This means that not only do I lose my files on there but also the player and relativetracks which I painstakingly incorportaed into this 'ere blog no longer werk .. Lost in Music is now lost without music.
I suspect this all came about after somebody requested that a post of mine featuring the new David Sylvian and Ingrid Chavez albums on Samadhi was also "suspended" because it contained an "offensive" link .. wtf??? I can only take that as referring to the fact that there was the Sylvian track "Therapy" in the player at the end of the post, the file of which was duly hosted by...fileden.
So all this beacuse I went out of my way to give a free plug to Samadhi bleed' Sound and the bloomin "new" Sylvian and Ingrid Chavez albums.
Gah! So much for free advertising..
Seriously considering giving up on blogger next year.

PS this post contains no links or files whatsoever ..

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

I Love 1980 - 25

Organisation - Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Organisation. An album from a faraway age when a band could be obscure, enigmatic, industrial, experimental, interesting, moving and still get to number 6 in the charts. Although it had come just months after their debut, Organisation was light (or dark) years away from the garage prototype synthpop of OMITD. The move to Advision Studios, the conscription of prog-musician Mike Howlett as producer , a "good haircut" and radical change of wardrobe did wonders for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, making them one of those rare outfits which suited both NME and Smash Hits.

It's hard for me to be objective about Organisation, such was its impact way back in the dark winter of 1980. To paraphrase others, men of mystery and imagination came crashing into my little world and nothing would ever be the same again.
But let's try.......The grey and black sleeve, the bleak cover picture, the semi-dark portrait on the back all served to give an indication of what this record was going to be like. You felt angstful just owning the thing.
The upbeat, already-a-hit single Enola Gay, albeit with a darker message, was there sure enough as the opening track but with its placing at the beginning of the opus the message was clear: Ok, that's the hit out of the way, let's get on with the album proper.
Indeed, it's the gloomy chimes of 2nd Thought which really get the Organisation ball rolling. "The order in our lives left some time ago, along the way" softly sings McCluskey to a steady electro beat and synthetic choral track which was to become their trademark. It’s typical of the album: soothing yet disquieting at the same time. Angst you can dance to.
The more angular VCL XI (get the hidden Kraftwerk reference?) brings us back to the Manoeuvres' more experimental mode with treated piano, irregular thrashing electronic percussion and lyrics which, to this day, remainincomprehensible . With Motion and Heart - briefly considered as a single - we're back in the pop mode and, although a more disciplined affair compared to it's Peel Session predecessor, it remains one of their most mysterious tracks.
The melancholic and heart breaking Statues closes side 1. Allegedly a tribute to Ian Curtis RIP ("The way you, move, I can't explain"), his suicide and the Closer album are said to be heavy influences on Organisation. Statues goes beyond that and lines like "I tried to care and understand" and the final cry "I can't imagine how this ever came to be" and fade-out have as much anguish and suffering as the Mancunian's "When routine bites hard" or "..people like you find it easy". Warning: this song may make you cry.

End of side one.

Side Two fades in with The Misunderstanding, a track rescued from McCluskey & Humphrey's The Id days and dutifully darkened for Organisation. Anger, confusion, frustration. It's all there.
The cover version of Warren & Gordon's The More I See You is often seen as the black sheep of the Organisation herd, a track which both McCluskey and Humphreys have since derided and regretted, but the dark twist on the original is perfectly in line with the album, and its minimal synth and drum pads make for top geeky dancing and air-drumming. Believe me.
Humphreys' atmospheric Promise (singled out by OGWT to promote the album) is a hardly an adequate match to McCluskey's solo efforts, (he would fare better with Souvenir the following year), but it's a perfect lead into the final, over-six-minutes long Stanlow, the album's crowning glory; moving, industrial, masterful, majestic and, yes, it's a love song about an oil-refinery on the Wirral.

End of Side Two... end of Organisation.

An interesting addition to the LP however was a four-track EP of a live performance of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Eric's Club in 1978. The unique performance's experimental instrumentation and atmospheres are well suited to Organisation, like Electricity, Messages and Enola Gay had never happened. Titles like Introducing Radios and Distance Fades Between Us again give us an idea of the band's combined ethos: the experimental and the sentimental.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - a decent haircut did them a world of good

Friday, 5 November 2010

Human Monster People

The Human League have finally got the ball rolling on new material with an official site, mailing list, and a countdown to the release of the new single "Night People". The track was premièred in Berlin on 4th November at the Electronic Beats Festival. (spoiler video here)

The new album Credo is out "early next year" has been produced by fellow Sheffield electro-citizens I Monster.

IMonster myspace