Ixtoc-1 – “Gut Ist Was Modern Ist” (1982)

It may be a bit odd to name your band after an environmental disaster, but it isn’t without precedence. I wonder, though, if perhaps West Germany’s (seems hard to believe there were two Germanys there for a while, doesn’t it?) Ixtoc-1 was the first, naming themselves after a 1979 undersea oil drilling accident in Bay of Campeche that dumped somewhere in the neighborhood of 130,000,000 gallons of liquified dinosaur bones into the Gulf of Mexico. Trying to come to grips with that number is, frankly, difficult. But since a million gallons fits into cube that is about 51.1 feet on each side, some back-of-the-envelope math tells me that 130 millions would be required to fill a pool that is roughly 2/3 of a mile long, 100 feet wide, and 50 feet deep. Which, let’s be honest, doesn’t really help that much either. Let’s just say it’s a ridiculous amount and call it that.

As for the German band Ixtoc-1, as near as I can tell they formed in 1979 and lasted until around 1985, with the half dozen song Gut Ist Was Modern Ist (“Good Is What Is Modern”) being their only contemporary release, though they had songs appear on a handful of comps (and many more since they disbanded). Punk in attitude, there are definite elements of early, experimental new wave here on songs such as the title track, replete with laser-like synth blasts and breaks that bounce from style to style. At it’s more Clash-like we get elements of reggae and dub infused into the jams as we find on the A side’s second track, which the jacket reverse lists as “Fremde Schreie” but the label indicates is “Leben”.

Definitely enjoyable, Gut Ist Was Modern Ist is also fairly reasonably priced for what was likely a fairly small print run from the period – there’s a US seller with a VG copy for ten bucks on Discogs at the time of this writing, and some folks in Europe have it at around €15. Very much money well spent.

Kliktrax – “Kliktrax With Foofi” (1984)

If you can’t figure out why I bought this record, scroll to the bottom of the post and check out the cover. It’s OK, I’ll wait.

See? This flat-out SCREAMS early 1980s. I picked this up a few weeks back when Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane and I staged a COVID jailbreak of sorts, heading over to the Olympic Peninsula and spending a couple of nights at a little vacation rental. Just getting out of the house after 15 weeks of work-from-home felt luxurious. And of course I checked our route on the off chance there were any record shops worth checking out, and lucky for me there was one – Quimper Sound Records in Port Townsend. When we walked in I looked around and assumed it would be mostly mainstream rock, and while there was plenty of that the selection of early 80s new wave and pop was strong as well, so I walked out with a bag full of stuff including Kliktrax With Foofi.

I found very little about this online other than a small ad placed in the December 22, 1984 issue of Billboard. That seems like such an odd thing to do today, but, you know, 36 years ago that was basically the only way to potentially get info about your band out there into the world if you weren’t on a major label. I also found a few more recent articles about Kilktrax member Danny “Colfax” Mallon (who is credited on the album as “Danny Mallon, aka Flex Tempo”, which is tremendous), but that’s pretty much it.

So how about the jams? The opener “I’m Not That Kind Of Girl” is the high point, its blend of simple synths and basic electronic drum beats anchoring it to the time period and giving Foofi (Marion Harriss Mallon) the chance to show off her voice a bit. It’s the spaciest song on the record, after which things settle into a bit more of a typical synth-based pop-rock album. The cover of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” is an odd choice there than that Foofi sounds a bit like Clark, and “Mannequin” does the best job in showing off Foofi’s range. I feel like pretty much any of these songs would have fit well into a John Hughes movie as part of some kind of supercut featuring a high schoolers going to class, or at the mall, or doing the other things they used to do before cell phones and the internet.

Clearly Kliktrax With Foofi is only going to appeal to fans of a certain style of 80s music, but if that’s you, then know that this is better than a lot of the major label stuff that came out around the same time, so don’t hesitate to pick up a copy.

Young Executives – “Honey, I’m Home!” (1982)

Young Executives, both with their band name and the title of their four-song EP Honey, I’m Home, captured the suburbian homogeneity that was (and to some extent still is…) Bellevue, Washington in the early 1980s. On the other shore of Lake Washington, across from its big sister Seattle, Bellevue managed to fully capture the dullness of non-urban residential enclaves. It had a notable mall (two if you count the older Crossroads) where is where we usually wanted to be taken by our parents. It also had the roller rink that was home to a lot of live shows by local rock and metal bands, kids looking for ways to alleviate the boredom of living on “the Eastside”. I never actually lived in Bellevue, though I did go to high school there for three years, right across the street from the mall, a school comprised of a hodge-podge of buildings, none of which were in great shape and which was eventually torn down and replaced with a nice park, which was a win all the way around. If I ever get lung disease, it will be from the three years I spent in those ancient buildings with their crumbling ceilings.

Honey, I’m Home opens with the ska-meets-Elvis-Costello-ish “Original Sin”, an upbeat jam expressing the desire to break free from what is expected, to do what you want to do. That’s followed by the early-new-wavish “Ice Age”, a fairly sharp change in direction – clearly Young Executives aren’t going to be boxed in by a specific genre or style. The B side opener “Body Waves” stays on the new wave side of the spectrum, flirting with post-punk, particularly in the chorus. The closer, “She Don’t Want It”, brings a different vocal cadence, a sort of staccato as the lyrics “She don’t want it” are repeated over and over.

This is one of the better early-to-mid 1980s Seattle-area private press records I’ve heard.

Strypes – “The Difference” (1986)

This is another of the 1980s Seattle-area records I picked up a few weeks back from Hi-Voltage Records. Hailing from Tacoma, Washington, the Strypes had a decently long career as a popular touring band throughout the 1980s, apparently particularly notable for their fanbase in Asia. The Difference was their only full-length record, one the band self-released in 1986 after having put out three 7″ singles during the first half of the decade.

The Difference reveals a band that is quite tight – the songs are cleanly recorded and everyone clearly knows their place. Much of the material has that mid-80s pop-rock sound about it, that absorption of new wave into the mainstream. That being said, they do have some edgier moments, most notably on “Dead Stop”. Holly and I were talking the other day about whether one can listen to an album for the first time and identify “the hit”, and “Dead Stop” is actually an example of this – I latched onto that jam immediately the first time I heard it, and when I subsequently did some research learned that it was originally released as a single-sided 7″ the year before and was the only one of their prior singles that Strypes included on The Difference, so clearly they thought it was great and recognized the need to put it on the album. I don’t share this to imply that I’m some kind of music savant, because I’m clearly not. But it does support the idea that a better-than-average song is quite often immediately recognizable as such.

Is The Difference dated? Sure, to some extent. I mean, while there are still bands making 80s style hard rock and metal, poppier fare tends to move on without a lot of looking back. Strypes did a reunion concert as recently as 2014, and given the opportunity to see them live in the future I’d certainly consider going.

Moving Parts – “Moving Parts” (1983)

This is another of the local records I picked up a few weeks back over at Tacoma’s Hi-Voltage Records. Their section of Northwest bands was a treasure trove of mostly-forgotten Seattle-area music from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, before grunge changed everything.

I wasn’t familiar with Moving Parts and suspected that finding anything about the band would be challenging, but the second Google link revealed an interesting and insightful band history written by some of the former members. You can check it out HERE, as well as catch up on their current project Empire of Sleep. Like so many bands, the fickle hand of fate turned success into defeat for Moving Parts, when their contract with Epic was halted at the very last minute after Sony took over that business and killed it. They simply never recovered and couldn’t get any other interest after that.

Moving Parts put out a 7″ in 1982 and followed it with a five-song 12″ the next year, which is the record I’ve been spinning. Their sound fits nicely into the period, a slightly more post-punky new wave a little reminiscent of Wang Chung when they were still Huang Chung. I know, I know… that’s lazy blogging right there, saying “this band reminds me of this other band that you’ve heard of”. Sorry. “Cities Return to Me” best captures the mood of the record as a whole, though the more up tempo “Princess and the President” is the most intriguing. I’ve been trying to figure out how to best describe James Irwin’s vocals – melancholy isn’t the right word because there really isn’t any sadness here. Indifferent implies he doesn’t care about what he’s doing, so that doesn’t fit either. His voice has that sort of Generation X (the generation of people, not the Billy Idol band)… resignation, perhaps? It’s that feeling of “we’re not going to get too up or too down here”. It’s even there when he shows more range as he does on “Nothings Gonna Bring Me Down”. His voice sounds like how many of us felt then, and there’s a lot to be said for that.