Shöx Lumania is another of those bands I learned about recent via Richard Boch’s book The Mudd Club. They sounded interesting and I was surprised to find their 1981 cassette Live At The Peppermint Lounge for a reasonable price, so I bought it.
This is an intriguingly fun tape. The style is fast-paced new wave with a sense of humor, maybe a cross between Weird Al and Devo but played fast, or some kind of twisted version of The Vaselines. The songs are fairly basic and the vocals are used very much like additional instruments, providing more flavor and nuance to the otherwise straight-forward compositions. If you’re a fan of early new wave, this is definitely worth your time. It’s the only “full length” the band ever put out, with their only other release a two-song 7″, and since both songs from the single are also on the tape, it’s basically their entire recorded output.
This collection documents the current Chicano Musical Renaissance. Each of the bands have incorporated various fusions of traditional Latino and contemporary rock music to develop their own unique sound. However, what truly sets this LP apart is most of the bands’ strong commitment towards the inclusion of social commentary in their music.
That blurb from the jacket of Los Angelinos – The Eastside Renaissance probably sums up this record better than I can, and this this blog about it on Amoeba’s website gives it a bit more historical context. For me it was a seemingly cool pickup from Denver’s Twist & Shout Records, and I was not disappointed. The Plugz and The Brats each contribute a pair of punk-meets-new-wave tracks, most notably The Brats’ very Ramones-like “High School”. But it’s not all punk, nor even rock. Con Safos closes out side A “c/s” with a sort of spoken word history of race relations in California, all laid over a funk jam. The B side is a little more chill, with The Plugz giving us the reggae-esque “Electrify Me” and the salsa-like “La Musica” by Califas.
I was particularly taken with The Brats, and while originals of their limited output are expensive I was pleased to find that in 2017 the replaced a 2XLP compilation of all their music, including previously unreleased material. At $27 this was a more economical way to get more of their stuff, while still having it on vinyl. It’s available from Amazon and a number of other online sellers.
So first things first. In 2016 Rolling Stone put out a list of the “40 Greatest One-Album Wonders”, and this record came in at #38. Here’s the summary:
Had they become a Gorillaz-level success, this fictional group could have made The Big Chill soundtrack for the Blade Runner generation. Silicon Teens were marketed as a quartet of teenagers performing rudimentary pocket calculator-sounding synth-rock, blipping out cheery ca. 1962 Dirty Dancing nostalgia like “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Let’s Dance,” “Do You Love Me?” In actuality everything was performed by Mute Records founder Daniel Miller, with Fad Gadget’s Frank Tovey providing a “face” for the accompanying music video and press photo. The project’s “chip ‘n’ roll” sound was a perfect Venn diagram of deference to pop history, deadpanned punk pranksterism and embrace of an emerging electronic revolution. Early fans of the project would include Depeche Mode, who soon signed to Mute themselves and — presumably — monopolized whatever time Miller would have had for a follow up.
So you have a fictional band that may, in fact, have invented chiptune. And do so with a series of covers and early-rock style songs. Their cover of Manfred Man’s “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”? Pure genius. (♠) “You Really Got Me”… “Sweet Little Sixteen”… in fact I think there are only two originals on this whole album. is the whole thing just a giant “piss take” or secretly brilliant? I don’t know. I bought this as a shot in the dark, but it turned out to be an amazing pick-up, one about three decades ahead of its time.
If you like chiptune, check this out because Silicon Teens, joke or not, may be ground zero for the genre.
(♠) Holly 100% disagrees with this assessment. You could hear her eyeballs rolling around in the back of her skull like they were little marbles when the song started.
I was very excited to find this gem over at Osaka’s Time Bomb Records during our recent trip to Japan. I love these late 1970s/early 1980s comps from other countries, which generally feature bands that to me are obscure or completely unknown. And Tokyo New Wave ’79 delivers, with five bands contributing a dozen songs. Of the five, I think that only 8 1/2 ever released a proper album of their own. A live CD from a 1979 performance by 自殺 (Jisatsu) eventually saw the light of day in 2004, but otherwise these bands were pretty much relegated to the odd track here and there on comps.
Sex opens the record with a pair of live tracks that are much more punk than new wave, though in 1979 those lines were certainly blurred. Next up is another pair of live songs, this time by 自殺. The first of these, “ゼロ” (“Zero”) sounds awfully familiar, though I can’t quite place it, and both of their contributions feel less punk than Sex, leaning more towards Rolling-Stones-inspired rock. Pain close out the A side by taking us back in a punkier direction with a pair of catchy jams, the latter of which “リフューズ·ナイト” reminds me of the punk that would be coming out of Iceland within a year or two.
8 1/2 opens side B with a trio of good songs, even if the organ sequences on “暗い所ヘ” sound a whole heck of a lot like the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off Of My Cloud”. Their third number, “シテイー·ボーイ”, is probably the most new wave thing on Tokyo New Wave ’79, with some crazy synths and sequence changes that are a bit reminiscent of bands like Devo. Bolshie close things out with a trifecta of their own, defined by their low, growled vocals that would be just as home in the world of metal as they are on these angst-ridden tracks.
I read on line that all 12 songs were recorded live at the same concert. Unfortunately I can’t read the relatively extensive liner notes because they’re in Japanese, so I can’t verify this. It would make sense though – everything has roughly the same sound quality, which is actually remarkably good for being live punk in 1979, and you can catch some crowd noise here and there (and the crowd sounds small).
If you have any interest in early Japanese punk/new wave, I highly recommend Tokyo New Wave ’79.
I bought this over at Osaka’s Time Bomb Records thinking it was something released only in the Japanese market, but later that evening I realized it was actually put out in a number of different countries. “Oh well,” I thought. “At least it’s got the cool OBI and Japanese-language insert”. Turns out, though, that there are two Japanese versions of No Wave, both from 1979, and fortunately for me I ended up with the rarer of the two. My version has 16 songs while the other Japanese pressing has only 12, but what’s really weird is that there are songs on the 12 song version that don’t appear on the one with 16 songs. I feel like there’s a story here that I’m not going to get to the bottom of. What’s even weirder is all the other versions pressed in other countries also have 16 tracks… so not sure what’s up with the shorter version.
Anyway, let’s get something out of the way right up front – none of these bands qualify as being “No Wave”. Sure, the comp came out only a year after the seminal and genre-defining No New York, but let’s be real – these artists are more new wave, or simply rock, than no wave. The Police? No wave? C’mon. No wave was an anti-movement, one that pretty much ceased to exist as soon as the first copy of No New York sold. The moment someone tried to define and sell something the entire spirit of it imploded leaving behind nothing more than a few copycats that record execs tried to package as some kind of hip outsider movement.
But back to No Wave. There are some decent tunes here and a number of bands/artists I haven’t heard before – Klark Kent (who was actually Stewart Copeland of The Police), David Kubinec, Bobby Henry… and all of it is quite good. Squeeze brings us a pair of solid tracks, most notably the synth-driven “Take Me I’m Yours,” my favorite song on the comp. In fact all three of their contributions to No Wave are killer – I may need to keep my eyes peeled for Squeeze records from now on.
There’s plenty of good stuff on No Wave, though I’d probably suggest you just stick with one of the much less expensive UK versions if you’re just in it for the music.