So for the first blog of 2013 I’m going back to the start of the alphabet, and also keeping it close to home. The Allies were one of the “biggest” bands in the emerging Seattle new wave scene (such as it was…. which really wasn’t all that great), and they recorded 1982s Allies at a studio in Woodinville, Washington, which is only a few miles from my house. It doesn’t get much more local than that for me. They were a sort of an interim band, bridging the gap between locally popular arena-style-rockers Bighorn and the later project The Brandos, who moved quickly past new wave and into Americana style music.
The Allies almost made it big. Their most popular track was entitled “Emma Peel”, and it was a rather creepy song about one man’s obsession with the character from the TV show The Avengers. If you’re not up on your English television, Diana Rigg, the actress who portrayed Emma Peel on the show, also played the character James Bond marries in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (and she was super attractive to be sure). “Emma Peel” made it as far as MTV when it won a Basement Tapes contest, but it wasn’t enough to put the band over the top and get them signed to a major label… and they quickly faded away into obscurity (though Allies was re-released in 1999 on CD, much to the joy of many Eastsiders and Seattleites who remembered seeing them live).
I’m in love with Emma Peel,
Smooth as ivory, hard as steel,
I wanna to know the way she feels,
Wanna touch her.
She appears upon the screen,
She’s a two dimensional dream,
Are you really what you seem?
Am I crazy?
The house is empty,
My girlfriend left me,
I don’t go out,
I’ve got no friends.
But I’ve got a TV,
Emma you move me,
I feel good,
Til the rerun ends… til the rerun ends.
The 14 tracks on Allies provide ample music, but there isn’t a whole lot on here that’s particularly noteworthy. A lot of it simply doesn’t hold up very well. While many would say that’s true of new wave in general, I disagree – I think quite a bit of it is still enjoyable. That being said, The Allies may have actually been a bit ahead of their time, with some tracks capturing an embryonic version of the early college radio-alternative-hipster sound that became so popular in the early 1990s in competition with grunge (and which I hated at the time, since I was still stuck in “I only like XXX type of music” mode).
My favorite song on the album is actually the straight-ahead rocker “The Best Night of My Life” that closes out side A. And then they open side B with “Animal Attraction” and lose their momentum entirely (I roam the streets just like a jungle cat / my mind sees red and I’m not sure if that / is such a good idea when I am all alone / I am so tempted to be stealing in your home / when you are all alone) with something that sounds like mid-1980s Ted Nugent (i.e. terrible, a la Nugent and Penetrator) but without the good guitar work. Ugh. The side gets better with the very CCResque “The Fanatic Rag,” including the Fogerty-style raspy vocals, before regressing once again with a song about Jack the Ripper called “Jack’s Back”.
Allies isn’t a bad album, but it is disjointed. The Allies seem to be all over the place musically, and the whole thing feels kind of thrown together. There are some worthwhile tracks, and nothing is blatantly bad musically. More importantly, Allies is an important snapshot of the developing Seattle scene, and for that reason alone it’s worth a listen or two.