Tuesday, January 15, 2013

the trouble with internet as archiving system is that it tends to offer the diachronic view (history, biography, chronology) but be not much use if you are trying to re-establish a synchronic view -- all the things happening at one moment -- a week, a month... even a year, it's not that easy to get the total-spectrum view, the simultaneity of parallel events and narrative strands intersecting and clashing

 i was reminded of this when hearing "Favorite Shirts" by Haircut 100 and remembering that there was a moment  - a season, a year or so -- when you had a lot of almost-funky records by British groups  - records often with patches of weak rapping in them - and where funk was understood as a sort of flustered take on Chic  + hand percussion + a certain kind of  rubbery, disco-walking bassline + maybe some horns

Funk was the big buzzword of that year (1981, i think) although there'd been murmurings obviously  before with Delta 5 and Gang of Four and Pop Group and "Death Disco"--  but i distinctly remember in late 81 as a freshman having a brief earnest conversation with a trendy-looking fellow student in which he said "bass is so important" and I replied "yeah, and percussion". Both parrotting talking points we'd absorbed from NME probably. Or The Face, in his case.

But, as executed by the bands above,it was already a lagging-behind-the-times idea of funk - black music had moved on - it was the time of the crunch-thwack snare and the beginnings of postdisco and boogie and electrofunk - horns were disappearing, and hand percussion, and Bernie  bass and Niles guitar were already fading out of black music (the Niles sound would drag on for years of course in non-black music: Let's Dance, The Power Station) in favor of synth bass and drum machines

the sharper Brits would keep up (the leap from "Sex" on Songs To Remember to the "Wood Beez" / "Absolute" / Cupid & ; or from "Poor Old Soul" to "Rip It Up")

but that led to some diabolical records too, also including crap-rap

Ah here's some thoughts i jotted down for the Rip it Up Esoteric Discography some years ago:

Sub-trend #1 within New Pop was “Funk”. Basslines, percussion, and horn sections suddenly began very crucial indeed. Dropping their synths for all three, Spandau Ballet produced the almost-great “Chant #1” (several minus points though for the “rap” mid-song about clubbing at New Romantic nightspots like Le Beat Route). Their ghastly second LP Diamond (Chrysalis, 1982) came packaged as four 45 rpm 12 inch singles (one better than Metal Box!), with five of the eight tracks remixed for dancefloor action.  Despite making a better go of dance music than Spandau, posh boys Funkapolitan got flak for not fitting the W/C soulboy template. Black Britfunkers Linx and Junior Giscombe  were ultrahip, but other mainstays of the real working class dance underground, such as Beggar & Co and Light of the World, never quite shook off the taint of jazz-funk. Fashion-world operator Perry Haines (style adviser to Duran Duran and Visage, co-editor of iD, etc) caught the moment with his single “What’s Funk?” (Fetish, 1982), featuring his own weedy attempt to chant James Brown style. You can find a version of it, “What’s What,” on Sex Sweat & Blood (Beggar’s Banquet, 1982), a very Zeitgeist-attuned comp (subtitle: “The New Danceability”) featuring everyone from punk-funkers Maximum Joy, Medium Medium, and 23 Skidoo to future Scritti member David Gamson to Zeitgeist-attuned New York band The Dance (of “In Lust” semi-fame) to Chicago’s very own New Romantics Ministry. Nothing by Stimulin, the band Haines managed, though. They were one of those classic UK music press phantom groups, virtually a figment of discourse. Trigger/pretext for yet another classic New Pop manifesto from Morley, Stimulin released nary a disc.

Sub-trend #2 within New Pop: “Salsa”, shorthand for Latin rhythms in general, in vogue off the back of Kid Creole & The Coconuts. Zoot suit troupe Blue Rondo A La Turk were the big hype, but it was Modern Romance (formerly punk jesters The Leighton Buzzards) who scored with heinous hits like “Everybody Salsa” and “Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey.”

Stimulin! You can actually find MP3s of their terrible Peel session online.

The singer was Alix Sharkey

1 comment:

  1. Nice summary, Simon. I remember Stimulin as a band that the NME went on endlesslyabout, but were apparently a London-only concept. Blue-eyed funk pop replaced the punk-funk of the likes of 23 Skidoo and the Pop Group. 1878-81 were key years for me, some great DIY post-punk, as exemplified on the Messthetix compilations. Hyped2Death.