Monday, September 29, 2014

"barely left a singe mark" - late Seventies pomp pop

Massive for a moment, but barely left a singe mark on Rock-Pop history


The Motors - formed by former members of Ducks Deluxe  and Bram Tchaikovsky - got to #4 with "Airport" in 1978

They were sort of considered New Wave (two John Peel sessions) but they weren't really - more like pub rock, bloating slightly into pomp pop, like a less studio-savvy, less witty 10 c.c.


City Boy -  " moderately successful English rock band in the late 1970s, characterised by complex vocal arrangements and heavy guitars", often accused of leaning too heavily on Queen and 10 c.c. for inspiration

This was their big hit.

This was their small hit.


Sniff 'n' the Tears - okay, not really Massive, but Radio One deejays supported this one quite heavily. And it was a hit in other territories, including the US where it got to #15. 

Sniff 'n' the Tears specialised in sexist and sometimes creepily disturbing record covers.  

It's coming from the same place  - late 1970s adult pop, cleverly arranged, cleanly produced, keyboard-hooky -- as things like Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" and Manfred Mann Earth Band's "Blinded By The Light", both of which are genuinely splendid, whereas you feel a bit wet for half-liking "Driver's Seat"


Sad Cafe - this lot are just cloying 

Sad Cafe made me think of Cafe Society, who weren't massive, but whose Tom Robinson went on to be a bit massive as TRB

On the Kinks's ill-fated label Konk

Here Tom drops the New Wave for a moment and reverts to pre-76 self, with a song co-written with Elton John

""The song appeared on Elton's 1980 album "21 at 33", but this is actually the original version! Sung and released as a single by Tom Robinson (famous for "Glad to be Gay") already in 1979. Robinson's version is openly gay, using only male pronouns, while Elton's version surprisingly disguises the orientation by using "she".

6/ Bethnal - not massive at all but they got a lot of press at the time, signed to a major label - considered New Wave but really more like The Who - the Seventies Who, mind, not the Who that inspired Jam and mod revival

I mean, just look at their album artwork - the whiff of Old Wave fair comes off it. Looks like it might have been done by someone on work experience at Hypgnosis

And they had a violinist in the band for Christ's sake

That barrel-chested Daltrey-esque vocal...

The clincher - a cover of "Baby O' Reilly"

7/ Fischer-Z

Their one hit, "The Worker" -  in the genre of  "Mr Jones", gently-mocking-the-office-drone-suburban-conformist type songs. Perhaps related to "What A Waste" by Ian Dury, "The British Way of Life" by The Chords, and, tenuously, "The Diary of Horace Wimp" by ELO and "Making Plans for Nigel" by XTC.

Not pomp pop, but clever-clever.

8/ And finally... the biggest of all the late Seventies pomp pop bands who have left barely a singe mark on history - THE BOOMTOWN RATS

Springsteen-retooled-as-New-Wave, keyboard-dominated.... they had two number ones, a whole bunch of other big hits....  yet few groups are less remembered, spawned smaller. 

Barefaced attempt to follow up "I Don't Like Mondays" with another song based on a real-life story of nihilistic youth tragedy 

Where they copping UB40 at this point? Minds blown by "King" and Signing Off? Or perhaps "Dreadlock Holiday"....

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wipes Away Syndrome

Heard this on the radio, shocked by how good it was. An original sound, at a time that abounded with original sounds.

Never actually listened to the whole of the album it's from

Underrated band, Simple Minds.

Another candidate for "Drops Away Syndrome".

But in their case, an example of how the latter half of their career almost completely erased the critical stature - even the memories - of the first part of it.

For a long time I just forgot about the existence of this masterpiece.

What a striking sound  -- somewhere between Low and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, but fronted by a de-bluesed Jim Morrison and with some "Working the Midnight Shift"/"Beat the Clock" worked in there too. Yet ending up sounding completely its own thing, to be neither followed up by the group or imitated by others

Then they started to get into their stadium stride. Never really got to grips with the Sons and Fascination / Sister Feelings Call  double slab of  sound - but loved these singles

"Sweat In Bullet" the first one I bought; the other two taped off Stubbs

And then this brace of beauties (although I think I only bought "Glittering Prize" - funds were tight!)

Even the next album had its moments, "Waterfront" and "Catwalk"

"Alive and Kicking" is where it's getting a bit overblown / positivity-bombastic. But "All The Things She Said" is quite nice - and you gotta oddly admire their unabashed uncool in the video

But then... oh dear

When they were bad, they were so very bad - hence the retroactive partial eclipse of their own prior majesty

So perhaps "Wipes Away Syndrome"?

(further reading - "from plateaux to platus: a tale of decline" i.e. my 1990 review of a Simple Minds box set)

Monday, September 15, 2014