Record Review: The Monochrome Set – The Independent Singles Collection UK CD [part 2]

The Monochrome Set when our story begins…
the monochrome set he's frank cover art

The band’s first single made a splash on Rough Trade in 1978. “He’s frank” was all uncomfortable “Dutch” angles over a repetitive guitar figure that coiled and uncoiled throughout the brief song. that only spilled over into indie jangle for its bridge and coda. The nonchalant phrasing of vocalist Bid was perfectly modulated; particularly on the line “but now the red’s in his eyes, he’s no longer a prize, there he goes…” where his delivery was the perfect poise of arch minimalism. The single has an iconic heft to it. As Post-Punk era debuts go, it should be figuring higher in the canon than it does. This was a band that that could perhaps cite Roxy Music as inspiration but did not actually try to sound like them across any of their phases. Perhaps it only comes across in the Post-Modern synthesis that the band would investigate. Vocalist Bid was a smooth crooner but not in the Ferry style. The song’s relentless drive was more of its era than any Roxy Music pastiche.

the monochrome set eine symphonie des grauens cover artThe next single was a radical shift from anything remotely touching Punk orthodoxy.  The orchestra tuning up gave quickly away to Latin scratcher percussion and a vibe that seemed to have been lifted whole cloth from Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World.” The abstract lyrics were particularly impenetrable as Bid sang a duet with himself. The marvelous instro B-side, “Lester Leaps In,” gave the spotlight to guitarist Lester Square with a frenetically happy slice of New Wave bop with a handy sideline in frantic drum fills and fingerpops.

the monochrome set - the monochrome set coer artThe band’s eponymous single “The Monochrome Set” finally gave me insight as to the band’s name. It was referring to the UK parlance for black and white TVs. The shift to color was a few years behind the US market, and no doubt the band had grown up with the titular monochrome set throughout the 70s. The lyrics here examined the influence of television from the perspective of the device itself. The hard panning of the guitars in the middle eight made headphone listening a treat. As did the double tracking of Bid’s breathless vocal.

Its B-side was the unsettling “Mr. Bizarro.” Yet another dive into the Latin rhythm pool as the percussive attack and timbale flourishes of drummer J.D. Haney set the tune firmly in the cha-cha camp while the lyrics seemed to posit a transexual figure who was an extreme character who was …reviled by one and all [“who doesn’t hate Mr. Bizarro?”]? After a few seconds of silence at its end, the sound of a laughing bag prank provided over half a minute of uproarious canned laughter to finish the track. Leading one to believe that the whole song was a put on.

the monochrome set - he's frank [slight return] labe art“He’s Frank” also showed up as a second 1979 7″ put out by the band themselves. The version here was called called “He’s Frank [slight return]” and featured a very different recording. As produced by the Roiugh trade team, there was more midrange and bottom end, so the thinner, trebly sound of the first version was cone. Bid’s vocal was double tracked for a fatter, more “rock” sound. The guitar solos were very similar, but the thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was the lyric change. Subtle, but immediately noticable when the lyric “but now his skin is slack, he shows a certain lack” becomes “but now his skin is black, he shows a certain lack.” Tectonic plates shifted with that single letter. It is counter-intuitive that the demo version was released after the other recording, but I prefer the thinner, flatter non-demo version for the frissons of Bid’s performance, though the unfettered lyric in the demo really makes an impact.

The B-sides to this one were the surreal and impenetrable “Silicon Carne” but the thing that immediately struck me was how Lester Square’s guitar evoked the tone of Phil Manzanera on “Amazona,” one of my favorite Roxy Music songs. So maybe I was hasty in proclaiming the band to be free of Roxyism. I thing if we dig, it will manifest.

There was a second B-side to this 7″ EP and “Fallout” really makes me wonder if the song had any connection to the song “Fall-In” from Adam Ant’s B-sides days when Square and Bid were playing with Adam Ant. There seems to be a slight overlap in the melodic structure of each song’s verses. Hmmm. I can almost hear it.

Next: …Smoke ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em

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Record Review: The Monochrome Set – The Independent Singles Collection UK CD [part 1]

the mnochrome set - the independent singles collection cover art
Cherry Red | UK | CD | 2008 | CDMRED350

The Monochrome Set: The Independent Singles Collection – UK – CD – [2008]

  1. He’s Frank
  2. Alphaville
  3. Eine Symphonie Des Grauens
  4. Lester Leaps In
  5. The Monochrome Set
  6. Mr. Bizarro
  7. He’s Frank [Slight Return]
  8. Silicon Carne
  9. Fallout
  10. The Mating Game
  11. J.D.H.A.N.E.Y.
  12. Cast A Long Shadow
  13. The Bridge
  14. Jet Set Junta
  15. Love Goes Down The Drain
  16. Killing Dave
  17. House Of God [live]
  18. Sweet Death
  19. Forever Young
  20. Hurting You
  21. Little Noises
  22. I Love Lambeth
  23. Kissy Kissy
  24. All Over
  25. Closing Time

This review has been a looooooong time coming. The Monochrome Set have been active variously, for 42 years, barring some stretches where they group were tabled for a time. I first heard the band in ’82’-’83 [whole careers into their run] on the “Dindisc 1980” compilation album. But apart from seeing the band perform “Jacob’s Ladder” live on The Tube a few years later, I’d only heard that and the two tracks [“405 Lines,” “Apocalypso”] on the Dindisc comp. They have always been a “group I needed to look into” while also being rather thin on the ground here in darkest America. They were a late-in-life obsession for my friend Ron Kane, but remained on my “to do” list until my old friend chasinvictoria took it upon himself to send me this finely compiled compilation, recently.

Their earliest waxings were on Rough Trade for a year before getting plucked from indie stardom when Carol Wilson’s Dindisc Records came calling. From that point onward there was certainly label interest but rarely solid sales, so that saw them see-sawing between various larger dalliances only to find a platform on the indie label circuit every other period. That meant that there were many singles that were indie releases that never saw the light of day on major labels like Dindisc or Blanco Y Negro.

The biggest chunk of the band’s releases were down to indie icon Cherry Red; who would always give the band a port in the storm. So it made perfect sense that Cherry Red in 2008 compiled this action packed disc of almost every indie single A/B side the band had issued up to then. Truth in labeling laws compel me to state that for the record, the 2nd B-side to the astonishing “Jet Set Junta” single of 1983 [“Noise (Eine Kleine Symphonie)”] is missing from this set. All ten indie singles that fell through the cracks between their album career are here. Ranging from humble Punk era 7″ singles all the way to ultramodern [yet curiously abandoned] CD-5 singles that didn’t play with a stylus… but instead a laser. Let’s dig in… tomorrow, as we’ve run out of time today.

Next: …Singles Getting Heady

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A Young Person’s Guide To Shock’s “Angel Face”

Shock hit The Big Apple in 1981

I posted a brief “Song of the Day” post on Shock’s “Angel Face” way back at the dawn of this blog, and now that I finally got the 12″ single of the electro classic, as well as the 2010 remix of its B-side, The time is nigh to turn our lens on to this one again for re-examination!

shock angel face cover art
RCA « UK | 7″ | RCA14 | 1980

Shock: Angel Face- UK – 7″ [1980]

  1. Angel Face [3:15]
  2. R.E.R.B. [2:59]

Having the track produced by Glitter Band producer John Hudson, who by 1980 was working closely with Midge Ure and various New Romantics who were building a technological structure on the foundations of Glam Rock made absolutely perfect sense. After all, it was an early hit for the Glitter Band to start with. Though the lyrics sound like grooming in the #metoo era! Thank goodness we ignore the lyrics and focus on the sound.

With drummers Richard James Burgess of of Landscape and Rusty Egan of Visage contributing to this single, it certainly didn’t want for rhythmic power! Its pulsating synthesizers were fat and powerful while sibilant whorls of white noise added pneumatic percussive force to the synthetic glitterstomp. The synthetic drum fills really give this song a kick that makes me want to work up a sweat.

There’s little melody here save for the toplines of the vocals and the catlike, portamento synth yowling in response to the beat. The rhythm is the lead here. Even the backing vocals, consisting of the ladies singing “comin’ at ‘chaaaaaaa…” function like high-hats of sibilance in the song. The middle eight dropped out the synths for the beat to strut like “Rock + Roll [part 2]” for a few bars before ramping up the intensity into the red zone with a screamed “angel faaaaaaace!!!” and a bass synth swell that would knock the walls down half a beat behind it. When it ended on a reverbed Simmons prototype that Burgess had in his bag of tricks, it was a statement. And that statement was: “play me again, immediately!”

The B-side, “R.E.R.B.,” was only different in that it was an instrumental track written/performed/produced by Burgess and Egan. But it slotted right into the A-side anyway! What sounded like the same BPM tempo coming from the glittering heart of Glam Rock, but more stripped down than the A-side was. This beast was lean and hard. Relentless. The bass synths and the drum track pummeled the listeners long their swift trajectory while the brittle high notes of electric piano, inhumanly echoed with delay added crystal tension to the track that was finally broken by tattoos of Simmons Drums.

Underneath it all was a sustained choral patch that got the spotlight in the middle eight as it began to modulate; turning from synthetic voices to approaching synthetic horns. Then there was the scantest of a string patch to better stay out of the way of the beat colossus while the decadent tinkling ivories of a Fender Rhodes added the slightest of textures in the coda. It was easy to see how this one became dance floor fodder in its own right, but really… both songs traded in the kind of MoroderMotorik Europulse that gave them a mutant strain of “I Feel Love’s” famous juddering energy. Albeit with a harder, more masculine feel.

shock - angel face UK 12" label
RCA ‎| UK | 12″ | RCAT 14 | 1980

Shock: Angel Face – UK – 12″ [1980]

  1. Angel Face [12″ remix] [6:28]
  2. R.E.R.B. [ext. 12″ ver.] [5:40]

I have wanted a 12″ remix of this song ever since getting a copy in 1981. After a 39 year wait, I finally sourced an affordable copy of the “Angel Face 12″ single, which I bought last May in one of those lovely mass purchases that see 15-20 desirable discs coming at once for a song. The 12” mix opened with a drum breakdown over the big beat that took it much closer to Glam Rock territory. This could be mixed into “Rock + Roll [part 2]” quite easily. But The Glitter Band didn’t have Syndrums at their disposal. And white noise cymbal crashes were still years in the future.

After nearly a minute of skeletal buildup, the vocalists heralded the crux of the song, but the EQ and mix was much more spacious. The mix was a little more laid back in contrast to the more frantic sounding 7″ mix. Song elements were aired out more and that seemed to dissipate the pent up energy I was familiar with from the 7″ version. The middle of the song was the chorus aired out with a little more space. It almost reached the intensity I was used to but the portamento synths seemed to be further down in the mix here.

Fortunately, the percussive breakdown in the middle eight did a lot to regain my respect. The sequencers dropped out leaving only the glam stomp for a bar, before the dubbed out drum fills took this to another plane. The brutal tattoos before the sequencers returned. Then the portamento synths really got the spotlight; getting right in your [angel] face before the vocals came ripping back with the scream of the title and the door-busting synth swell that roared to life even stronger than before.
The coda dropped the vocals for an instrumental climax punctuated by reverberant Syndrums that stopped on a dime.

At first I was not entirely convinced as the buildup was at odds with the frantic, thrashing energy of the go-for-the-throat 7″ version, but by the song’s midpoint I was enjoying the percussive action and if the vocalists were sidelined a bit here in comparison, it was made up for by the creativity of the remix, which for a 1980 single, was phenomenal! This song was reconstructed from the ground up using the same elements of the original in a very different manner than we were accustomed to. In terms of its peers, this remix was years ahead of its time. It had the vitality that most of the rather tentative 12″ remixes of 1980 [and even up to, let’s say… 1982] clearly lacked. Amazing.

I was thrilled to see that the B-side had also been extended as well, but the 7″ was clearly an edit of the full length as on this 12″ single. The differences happened at the 3:00 mark as the fade we were used to didn’t happen. The choral patches, bass synth and delayed piano keys circled back for another go at the motif of the song, which was what this circular energy clearly needed to do for a few more minutes. But instead of a fade, the song got a proper coda where the drums dropped out to leave the choral patches skidding ahead for a few bars. Nothing radical, as was the A-side, but where “R.E.R.B.” was concerned, can there ever be too much of this monster of a track?

Blitz Club Records ‎| UK | 12″ | BZCR001 | 2010

Rusty Egan Presents Shock: R.E.R.B. – UK – 12″ [2010]

  1. R.E.R.B. [orig. ext. ver.] [5:40]
  2. R.E.R.B. [2010 ext. ver.] [7:43]

Not really! Which is why 30 years later, in 2010, there was a new remix of “R.E.R.B.” that was the first manifestation of the Blitz Club label that ultimately saw Visage returning from deep freeze. But first, it was time for a revisit of this consistently popular club electro classic. I might point out that by 2010,, i became aware of the 12″ single of “Angel Face” on Discogs, but the $50 and up price point moderated my intake. In that environment, it made perfect sense that the track might get a much-needed reissue. And they threw in a Post-Modern mix of the track for good measure. Would they desecrate a classic?

Not really! It still had the same stomping beat that was its essence. And into that beat went drop ins of the drum fills from “Angel Face” which we noted was at the same tempo, so this was a seamless fit that worked like crazy. I also liked the phased sequencers panning until the Syndrums dubbed out into dubspace.

The delayed piano was still there adding crystalline energy. The bass synth was EQed differently and the string patches were all there and accounted for. As were the holy choral patches. And it was two minutes longer! So what we have here is now, for my money, the ultimate mix of “R.E.R.B.”

The drop where the synth patches bottomed out and the sequencers were phased as the elements dropped back in made this even better. The new coda was a phased version of the original end of the 12″ from 1980.

As buying this 12″ was always expensive due to the UK shipping, I dawdled, and now it will set one back as much as the original did 10+ years ago. Fortunately, the track was still on iTunes as a DL so that’s what were’re rocking today. Though the 12″ is still on the want list of course.

With a mime troupe as the “band” it’s a wonder that Shock managed to release two records in their brief career, but Tik + Tok records as well as more of Tim Dry’s oeuvre beckons to me and one day, I must capitulate. When the records of a New-Ro mime troupe are this dynamic and powerful, it could be a Marcel Marceau record and I would still want this glorious electro-trash goodness in my Record Cell.


Posted in A Young Person's Guide, New Romantic, New Wave Compilations, Record Review, The Great B-Sides | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Ryuichi Sakamoto Faces Second Cancer Diagnosis

five days after his 68th birthday Mr. Sakamoto has revealed new cancer treatment

Terrible news today. I had gotten an email from commenter Tim on the subject of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s 68th birthday on Sunday the 17th. As we’d just posted recently on the “Bamboo Houses”/”Bamboo Music” CD3, I demurred on a congratulatory post for the gent’s birthday. Even though my spouse is a big fan of the Sakamoto sound.

sakamoto coda film oosterSuch that we kept trying to get the Moogfest or Big Ears Festivals to book Mr. Sakamoto in the last decade, to no avail, alas. When he was treated for throat cancer in 2014, that created an understandable shift in his ability to tour and travel to perform. The year after his treatment was a difficult one for the artist and since then, we have been treated to the film “Coda,” by Stephen Nomura Schible in 2018 that examined the period of relative inactivity and introspection that came with his healing process following his cancer treatment. Largely in the form of his anti-nuclear activism which was further impacted by the Fukushima disaster.

I was reading The Guardian today and saw the terrible news that Mr. Sakamoto has reported that he has now been treated for bowel cancer. He has said that the surgery was a success and he is currently undergoing treatment. All of this made more difficult by the Covid-19 impact on healthcare. The artist makes his home in New York City so he’s in America, where the impact has been highest.

At the artist’s he has prepared a letter discussing this hardship and he closes it with the conclusion:

“From now on, I will be living alongside cancer.
But, I am hoping to make music for a little while longer.”

A sentiment that I can only agree fervently with. We look to Ryuichi Sakamoto and hope that his quality of life improves and that he is delivered from discomfort and suffering. His extant body of music is profound and wide ranging. Any music he chooses to share with the world onward will be greeted as a friend, and will be seen as a gift above and beyond what he has already created in over 40 years of top flight musicianship.


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DEVO Reissues Amazing Garment That Sold Out In Record Time

Now available [NOT!] in cool 100% cotton instead of sweaty TYVEK®

We had some other vintage music review planned for today, and that can wait. I just got an email this morning from the DEVO mailing list and – boy howdy – the band have decided to reissue their infamous leisure wear shirt that was originally made from thin, unbreathable TYVEK® …and sold for nine 1980 dollars. Only this time that have taken the care to make it something that you might went to wear more than once. TYVEK® was designed for single use industrial purposes back in the 60s and was not washable [even though it was plastic].

The new shirt was 100% cotton with a button-down collar. Crisp. And the band enlisted Middle Of Beyond to manufacture and sell the goods. They are a popular culture manufacturing and sales company new to me [I don’t get out much]. The email stated and I quote:

“We predict this first batch will sell out quickly, and it will take at least a couple months for another batch to be made, so act now!”

And how. I received the email at 9:31 EST. By 11:15 EST I finally opened the email to see that the entire run of the shirt was… ‘ow you say… “sold out.” What do they think when they make something like that available again after half a lifetime of [obviously] pent-up demand? Old timers like me or chasinvictoria will remember buying our copies of the band’s 1980 “Freedom of Choice” album and almost as entertaining as the classic wax was, was the inner sleeve featuring all manner of desirable DEVO consumer-goods was almost even better. To wit:

The band helpfully sent this zoom of the 19890 inner sleeve showing the original pitch.
Heavy on the kitsch Klip-art®

The $55 price [it seems appropriate to me, given the going rate on just t-shirts] was no impediment to it selling out, obviously. The fabric used had a “step and repeat” print meaning that each shirt was unique in the way the pattern covered it. The one identical trait was the custom DEVO pocket; always sewn onto the shirt to show the “Duty Now For The Future” print image. They were only for sale at the Middle Of Beyond webstore. The band’s own webstore did not sell them, though the band were the first group I saw making band-branded PPE way back at the dawn of time, in March of last year.

the beautiful DEVO Energy Dome PPE shield

That delightful little combo came about from some bright thinker at the plastics manufacturer where the Energy Domes® are made also making PPE shields and having a firm grasp of the band. If you want to make a defiant statement with your choice of PPE, it will set you back $49.98. Spuds on a budget [aren’t we all?] can opt for just the Energy Dome® at $31.98 or the PPE shield at $19.98. Ironically, any of this PPE proved a non-event to Prime Spud Mark Mothersbaugh who ultimately caught Covid-19.

So the amazing shirt sold out in minutes today. Maybe you might want to keep an eye cocked to the band’s mailing list so that when there’s a second run you might have a fighting chance to grab one.


Posted in Want List | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

JAPAN Ultrabox of “Quiet Life” Finally Scheduled for March 2021

BMG | UK | LP + 3xCD [+ CD] | 2021

For over a year now, advance word had been leaking out about a Boxed Set Of God version of JAPAN’s seminal “Quiet Life” album of game-changing import. Beginning in late 2019 and pointing to an early 2020 release date; the new year came and went as Covid-19 impacted the entire world, much less the music industry. The hard part is the remastering. It’s the one factor most affected by lockdown and social distancing. But now it’s on track for a real street date.

On Match 5th, the new mastering of “Quiet Life” will consist of a single CD of the straight album, a new LP, and where our attention is going… to an ultrabox with the LP and a 3xCD edition in a 12″x12″ presentation box as shown above. What’s on tap? I’m glad you asked.

LP – Quiet Life

1. Quiet Life (2020 Remaster)
2. Fall In Love With Me (2020 Remaster)
3. Despair (2020 Remaster)
4. In Vogue (2020 Remaster)

1. Halloween (2020 Remaster)
2. All Tomorrows Parties (2020 Remaster)
3. Alien (2020 Remaster)
4. The Other Side of Life (2020 Remaster)

CD1 – Quiet Life

  1. Quiet Life (2020 Remaster)
  2. Fall In Love With Me (2020 Remaster)
  3. Despair (2020 Remaster)
  4. In Vogue (2020 Remaster)
  5. Halloween (2020 Remaster)
  6. All Tomorrows Parties (2020 Remaster)
  7. Alien (2020 Remaster)
  8. The Other Side of Life (2020 Remaster)

CD2 – A Quieter Life: Alternative Mixes + Rarities

  1. European Son (Steve Nye 7” Remix 1982)
  2. Life In Tokyo (Steve Nye 7” Special Remix 1982)
  3. Quiet Life (Original German 7” Mix 1980)
  4. I Second That Emotion (Steve Nye 7” Remix 1982)
  5. All Tomorrow’s Parties (Steve Nye 7” Remix Version 1983)
  6. European Son (John Punter 12” Mix 1980)
  7. Life In Tokyo (Steve Nye 12” Special Remix Version 1982)
  8. I Second That Emotion (Steve Nye 12” Remix Version 1982)
  9. All Tomorrow’s Parties (Steve Nye 12” Remix Version 1983)
  10. European Son (Steve Nye 12” Remix Version 1982)
  11. Quiet Life (Japanese 7” Mix 1980)
  12. A Foreign Place
  13. All Tomorrow’s Parties (John Punter 7” Mix 1979)
  14. Life In Tokyo (Theme Giorgio Moroder Version 1979)*
  15. Deviation (Live In Japan)
  16. Obscure Alternatives (Live In Japan)
  17. In Vogue (Live In Japan)
  18. Sometimes I Feel So Low (Live In Japan)

CD3 – Live At The Budokan March 27, 1980

  1. Intro
  2. Alien
  3. …Rhodesia
  4. Quiet Life
  5. Fall In Love With Me
  6. Deviation
  7. All Tomorrow’s Parties
  8. Obscure Alternatives
  9. In Vogue
  10. Life In Tokyo
  11. Halloween
  12. Sometimes I Feel So Low
  13. Communist China
  14. Adolescent Sex
  15. I Second That Emotion
  16. Automatic Gun
  • “Life In Tokyo” CD of versions
  1. Life In Tokyo (Original 7” Mix 1979)
  2. Life In Tokyo (Original 7” Mix Part 2 1979)
  3. Life In Tokyo (Original 12” Version 1979)
  4. Life In Tokyo (‘Assemblage’ 7” Remix 1981)
  5. Life In Tokyo (‘Assemblage’ 12” Remix 1981)
  6. Life In Tokyo (Steve Nye 7″ Special Remix 1982)
  7. Life In Tokyo (Steve Nye 12″ Special Remix Version 1982)
  8. Life In Tokyo (Steve Nye Theme 1982)
  9. Life In Tokyo (Steve Nye Theme ‘Correct Pitch’ 1982)

If you’re like me, then the full box is where it’s at. The LP and single and LP are available separately if all you want is the album in physical form. The box naggingly contains the LP as well as three CDs, so format redundancy is baked in to the proposition. Personally, I’ve not had an LP of “Quiet Life” since 1986 and my discovery of the JPN 1st CD pressing of this amazing title in the bins of Digital Sounds; the futuristic, mid-80s CD only music store in Central Florida.

The second CD is where things heat up. There are three mixes of “European Son,” two mixes of “Quiet Life,” three mixes of “Life In Tokyo,” two of “I Second That Emotion,” three of “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” and the “Live In Japan” EP with the non-LP B-side, ‘A Foreign Place.” I have made a my own box of JAPAN rarities in 2009, and all of these songs are in that box, but two tracks from this period that are missing here. The garden variety 7″ UK mixes of “European Son” and “I Second That Emotion.” All of the alternate mixes are here.

Then there’s a third CD of a live concert in Japan from 1980, but this concert was a little tricky. It was taken from a radio broadcast, but the show was recorded from within the audience, like typical bootlegs. In other words, not a soundboard show. Not a mobile truck show. This means that punters in proximity possibly predominate the proceedings. This is troubling considering that their producer John Punter himself mixed their live shows of this period; so enamored was he of their performance quality.

Until I heard of the provenance of this live recording, I would have been strongly considering this for purchase. Now, I am less inclined to drop the considerable coin necessary for this box. It would set me back $66.50 at [your home for all things JAPAN] not counting the 2-3 lbs of shipping from the UK. Ouch. But that’s not the only game in town.

There’s an official JAPAN webstore set up at Townsend Music [where else?] to retail this direct from the UK and they have a further bait for a direct sale from the band. Buyers who opt for the official webstore will get a 4th CD with their box. A 9-track “EP” with every mix of “Life In Tokyo!” In other words, “Life In Tokyo” the Motion Picture. I have almost all of these in my box as well. I’m only missing the “Life In Tokyo Theme [corrected pitch version]” but that’s really splitting hairs. I have a computer so I can correct the pitch of the bizarre slowed down instrumental mix on my own if need be. But it IS thorough, and we applaud such things here @PPM! Of course, my box has all manner of earlier and later rarities, being comprehensive, but that’s not the scope of this one. This is all about the “Quiet Life.” But such attention to detail comes with a price, the official exclusive store box is priced at $89, so one has to really want that “Life In Tokyo” disc badly. As that’s $89 plus UK shipping for 2-3 lbs.

I might have gone for the box at another vendor for the live album in a different world where there were higher quality recordings at play. It’s hard to believe that Punter didn’t record the shows in reasonably high quality, but he’s been consulted for this box, along with Rob Dean and it is what it is. I can admire this from afar but I can’t pony up three figures for this right now… or even later on. The album and the material on disc two [and four] is crucial, and if you don’t already have a plethora of JAPAN material in your own Record Cell, then you should dig deep and luxuriate in this game-changing album of delightful despair, by clicking below.

post-punk monk buy button


Posted in BSOG, Core Collection, New Romantic, Records I Used To Own, Want List | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

OMD’s “Enola Gay” Given Coats Of Remix Paint For 40th

OMD modern era
Andy + Paul have managed to release music while in lockdown in the remix fashion

We last visited this topic a month ago when the record was preordered but had not yet arrived. Lots has happened since then [including an attempted insurrection of the United States government], but the record finally arrived and I have subsequently bought the second DL remix, so we’re finally ready to dispense thoughts on OMD’s remixes of “Enola Gay.” For a song that had famously been released in 1980 without the then-trendy second remix version on 12″ or even 10″ single, this represents a bit of having cake and eating it too for the band. Technically, that means that these will all be Post-Modern Remixes; the topic of which has been a scourge for PPM with their 1998 attempts in this field of endeavor being among the very worst remixes I’ve ever had the displeasure to hear. But the band’s own 12″ mix is reputed to be an “old school” style extended version. Can they avoid the guillotine 22 years later?

OMD enola gay 2020 cover art
EMI ‎| UK | 12″/DL | 2020 | 3511309

OMD: Enola Gay 2020 Remixes – UK 12″ + DL [2020]

  • Enola Gay [Extended Remix]
  • Enola Gay [Slow Mix]
  • Enola Gay [Hot Chip Remix]
  • Enola Gay [Theo Kottis Remix]

The band’s Extended Version began with the distinctive drum machine toms and the bass synth isolated for a classic 12″ buildup lasting almost a full minute as one by one, the rest of the song’s elements join in on the crescendo. It sounds exactly like what we were all expecting in 1980 when we bought the 12″ single but didn’t get. All of the elements here were from the master tape and there aren’t any modern elements that stick out like a sore thumb. If they cheated then they did a great job of it.

The only part where it rankled me is in the drop before the middle eight. First of all, The Drop was not an established part of the remix vernacular at that time. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was something that came much later in dance music. And the sound fo the song putting on the brakes like that to stop cold was jarring. The middle eight itself was less convincing than the original was with the chilling bomb blast drums of the original dissipated into less monolithic force. I did like the winsome synth leads at the end of the middle eight, though. And McCluskey’s vocals were doubled with chorus on the coda for a different feel. Overall the mix and EQ didn’t vary drastically, which meant that this “Enola Gay” still had the DNA of what we all know and love.

The “Slow Mix” was as its name implied, a radical Post-Modern Remix of the song by the band as someone else would do it today; basically re-constructing the song with a different arrangement, tempo, and even lead vocal. The slow, stately pace was very OMD, but the vocal was vocoded throughout. It might even be a new vocal by Andy given the treatment. The glockenspiel was a delicate touch. I would not be surprised. The melody was constructed here as a methodical rondo which was pretty catchy. The bomb blast drums and the drum machine toms made a re-appearance in the middle eight here, for the only call back to the original mix.

Hot Chip have been one of “those bands” who I’ve heard their name bandied about for 10-15 years without actually hearing. The mix was superficially closest to the original, at least at first, but with a really obnoxious, super busy drum loop loosed in the mix; making it fight the original rhythm box for supremacy. While the droning hum of perhaps a bomber engine assumed the front and center spotlight. it sounded like the mix was fighting itself. And that busy drum loop at a much higher BPM than anything else in the song was flat out wrong. Worse, the drum loop itself sounded dangerously close to the “bongo feet” sound used to indicate running in Scooby Doo cartoons!

At least Andy McCluskey was still in the mix, but his vocal sounded like it may have been a re-recording. Once Andy started singing in the mix, there were new shimmery tremolo synths that sounded as if they were playing the melody from the middle eight of “Good Vibrations” dropped into this hot mess. This mix was pulling in several different ways simultaneously and I can’t listen to it and hear anything worth recommending. It only sounded good as compared to the sheer atrocity of the 1998 Micronauts remix of “Electricity.”

The Theo Kottis remix was just the thing… if you needed to hear “Enola Gay” brought to its knees in a House Mix that flashed me back to 1994. The song featured an echoey Andy McCluskey amid the heavy 808 and I swear that all but the band’s own “Extended Version” used a new vocal track as this one sounded somewhat different to the performance from 1980. It’s not uncommon for “remixes” to be new from the ground up, including vocal, and this one sounded like just that. The accelerated crescendoes of drum machine fills were particularly galling. But not so much as the notion that McCluskey and Humphreys signed off on this mix! Then again, those guys also green-lit Micronauts, so there’s that.

All of these mixes were available in the usual download stores, but my copy of the OMD mixes were from the oxblood 12″ single that I pre-ordered from the UMG web store and was released on November 27th. European copies from the OMD web store in the UK came with a DL voucher and I thought that they all would. But no WAV files was the price I paid for saving a bundle on postage from the US UMG web store. Postage was free in The States. The other upside was that unlike the CZ pressed “Roxy Music” Steven Wilson 2.0 remix LP I got in August, this German [Optimal Media GmbH] pressing sounded perfect! If they have to make me buy vinyl, at least let it sound this good. Since I am interested in buying modern OMD on physical single format I was thrilled that I did not dawdle. This record is now shifting hands at around $50 a pop.

Overall, these mixes run the gamut from almost good to negligible. The band’s mixes are best, and if push came to shove, I’d recommend the band’s “Extended Version” as the one to get as a DL since it almost did the neat trick of sounding like an unheard 12″ mix that got caught in a wormhole and leapt forward in time for 40 years. The rest? Missable, though your mileage may vary.


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