Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Requiem For Nena

Whenever possible, I try to play imaginary producer. I pick a couple of musicians and imagine what it would be like if I could pair them together in a studio, or in the case of Nena, if I could just rescue her from herself or whoever has been in charge of her career.

Unfortunately, Nena is known primarily for 99 Luft Balloons and not much else. That's because there isn't much else - some middling synth-pop also rans on her first album, and then some dreadful late-90s dips into the Euro-trash and pop-rock pool that did nothing to present her to a new generation.

And maybe that's fine for her... I think in North America, within my social group, the default thinking about European mores goes that the continent is an enlightened little space full of progressive types wielding their pens against globalism (if you're Naomi Klein-inclined - okay, I'm not really friends with those people), or against philistinism (if you're, uh, my friends), forgetting that there is a gigantic lumpen-proletariat that's perfectly content to live on a high-starch, high-carb diet and, um, fight and fuck and lose their teeth just like American hillbillies. I know this, because I've seen them represented in Danish and Dutch movies filmed in digital video.

So, maybe Nena can hustle and do great business on the retro circuit, playing county fairs or whatever the German equivalent is - OktoberFest country fairs.

But, God, her voice! She has such a great throaty, evocative voice - a voice that, had she been born many years prior, would have been used as some siren-like German version of Tokyo Rose... I would have defected, jumped out of that B-52 with a parachute and made it across the Ruhr to Berlin to find it. It's such a shame that we've got 99 Luft Balloons (a great song, don't get me wrong) and nothing else of value to show for those pipes. I mean, at least a Neneh Cherry & Nena duet, rather than (God!) Nena and Kim Wilde?

Too Lazy To Blog: Stop Ou Encore Interview

Monday, May 10, 2010

Savage Furs: Throne of Satyricon

Former Vancouver resident Jack Duckworth (A Luna Red, Radio Berlin) continues to pursue his idiosyncratic musical vision, this time across the Atlantic in his adopted home of London. Consistently one of the most talented musicians I've had the pleasure of knowing, Jack in this latest post-punk exploration by collaborator Delaney Jae (Silicon Vultures, Crystal Wrists), as they cut a swath through all of the clueless revivalist landscape with a sound that's equal turns sinister and endearing.

Buried beneath the crushing slabs of post-industrial production and over-driven paranoia are some actual pop chops - vocal melodies and hooks that you might find in the Human League or on Simple Minds' Reel to Real Cacophony... While these are only demo tracks, I'm glad to say that Savage Furs are a continuation of Mr. Duckworth's stellar discography (well into its second decade now), and also an interesting departure point.

Also, I know there's a fair contingent of readers who'd be interested in this, but Mr. Duckworth has recently been sorting through old records and put up a new mix on his blog, titled Dye Your Hair Black and Absorb All Waves. This encompasses just about everything I was listening to back in those days, Antioch Arrow, Satisfact, 6 Finger Satellite, Brainiac, The VSS, GoGoGo Airheart, The Audience (das?), Ex-Dead Teenager, The Rapture, Trans Am, Glass Candy, and much more. If you don't want to take the time to walk down memory lane, it's worth it for the tags he's assigned to it alone ("Discussions about that die-cast Locust belt buckle, black "highwater" Wrangler trousers") Oh, and the Long Hind Legs song: damn, that's good. (LHL were a side-project of the Unwound guys).

17 Veins

I was talking last night to Tom Smith & Chris Clark about how you evaluate a press-release when it ends up in your inbox. Tom ignores anything press release with an all-caps title. I scan the subject, the title, look for other band names or musicians highlighted in bold (that they've worked with, no "influenced by", thanks) and then look for the download button. Seventeen Veins might not have highlighted other band names in bold, but outside of that, it was a perfect press release made all the better by my actually appreciating the music.

Seventeen Veins are two: Cristina P.B. and new Montrealer (via Tunisia and Paris) Neil H, both handling production and vocal duties on a variety of remixes (Noob & Brodinski, Riva Starr) and original productions. A lot of 17 Veins' work is more harder-edged than I'm accustomed to (I didn't grow up with a techno background), but in instances like the track above, Añoranza's twisted, doomy synth melodies won me over. Check out the Seventeen Veins website for more crisply produced tracks.

September 7, 1980: New Order's First Demos

Giasco Bertoli, Maryon Park (2007)*

Only a few months after Ian Curtis' suicide, even less time after their debut at the Manchester Beach Club, and six days before I was born, New Order recorded these songs (along with three others) at Cabaret Voltaire's Western Works studio.

* Thanks, Mike Chui!

Thursday, May 06, 2010


I've been trying to maintain a regular pace to my posting, but then I re-discover a song like this and because of the weather, my bonhomie and friendly feeling towards this blog's readers, I've got to post it. Pitch-perfect power pop, with that sense of urgency they share in common with the Feelies. This is the first track from their debut album Stands for Decibels, written by Peter Holsapple, who would go on to play with R.E.M.

La langue glorieuse de notre collectivité quatre!

La langue glorieuse de notre collectivité trois!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Jeep Beach Party

Lyrical profundity was never Freestyle's strong suit, which is why I generally resist playing it out when the temperatures are many, many degrees away from balmy.  Also, I think the syncopated rhythms and electro bass-lines can be a bit jarring for a dancefloor in the middle of the winter in Montreal, when even the most skilled pop and lockers suffer from creaky arthritic joints.  However, now that summer's around, it's the perfect time to bust out Debbie Deb, Lisa Lisa and other mixtape classics you'd find in the cassette deck of your older cousin's Jeep after she got back from the beach.