Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 73]

Paul Humphreys + Andy McCluskey rock the suits; Andy wins.

[continued from last post]

Where OMD carry forth from the point where they are now is still an unwritten potential future. With “English Electric,” the band were of the opinion that it could be their final album. It was not without reason that the album concluded with a track called “Final Song,” but OMD were known to be wracked with bouts of self-doubt. They ended their first album with “Pretending To See The Future;” a song outlining their ambivalence about their new job as musicians with a song shot through with cynicism and self-deprecation. It was not for nothing that they took their advance from Dindisc and built a recording studio with it instead of doing something more rash. Their thought at the time was that when it all ended [and they fully expected the end to come quickly] they would at least have a studio to show for it.

Their best selling album, “Architecture + Morality,” concluded with “The Beginning + The End,” a delicate ballad that expressed their ambivalence about continuing forward as a band. At the time they wrote it they were not thinking about continuing further, but the 3,000,000 copies of “Architecture + Morality” sold convinced them to do otherwise.

The pivotal experience for the band, which affects them to this day, was the huge inversion of sales that occurred as “Architecture + Morality” and the attendant sales + popularity cut off immediately as if a switch had been thrown upon the release of “Dazzle Ships.” That was the critical juncture where the band had an idea of enormous success and abject failure in a cheek-by-jowel fashion. The effect of such fortunes snapping their necks one way and yet another without so much as a eyeblink in between must have traumatized the band.

It certainly forced them to retreat into survival mode; actively chasing the pop charts for the first time in their career. Until then, they had simply made music exploring any topics and themes that had appealed to them, only to watch them quickly maintain a lock on the charts for a full two year period. It may have come down to the synthetic elephant in the room, Gary Numan. When Numan appeared, seemingly out of nowhere [to the general public] to spearhead popular synthesizer music in 1978, the halo effect around Numan served to make other bands using synthesizers very trendy and we saw labels signing anyone with a synth in the hopes of cashing in. Numan hand picked OMD to open up for his “Pleasure Principle” tour, citing them as the perfect band to split the bill with, presumably due to their synthetic palette.

Following that tour, OMD released their third single, the re-recorded] “Messages” form their first album and saw it hit the top ten in the UK. A place where their next four singles had a lock on as well. Though OMD rode in on electropop with the likes of “Messages” and “Enola Gay,” songs like “Souvenir” and “Joan Of Arc [Maid of Orleans]” were analogous to little else out there. In the case of the latter, it sounded more akin to military drum corps music with a Prog chaser. It not only didn’t sound like anything else in the 1982 British charts, it actually sounded like music from a pre-rock era.

I maintain that the band may have rode in on Numan’s coattails, but their facility with imbuing abstract and esoteric thematic material with plenty of hooks and a memorable arrangement probably sold them to an audience beyond that of teenaged science geek Kraftwerk fans like myself – probably their ultimate target demographic. OMD sold bucketloads of what is actually a fairly esoteric album and discovered two year later that the pop audience is enormously fickle.

Following the “Dazzle Ships” failure in the marketplace, the band members, who had only recently moved out of their boyhood rooms, came to the quick understanding that if they didn’t seriously shift units again, they would be in a dire fiscal problem. With that they started actively aiming for an audience, instead of letting one find them. This meant writing love songs. Writing about relationships in the most common way possible. Writing about emotions instead of facts. In short, becoming a pop band. This was to their detriment as their cachet evaporated over the course of three albums that increasingly saw them trying to crack the US market. Because we have the largest pop audience in the world, the monetary reward is considerable if bands can actually manage to tap into it.

Synthesizer pop was never much of a thing in America. Only freak malcontents like myself and my friends were OMD fans. The vast bulk of American music fans preferred the likes of  Asia and Journey in the 1981/1982 market timeline. Against all odds, they actually managed to get a commercial foothold here with some of their weakest material ever. I suspect that they sweated bullets in the writing of material like “So In Love.” Then they signed on with satan, er John Hughes, for the all important iconic movie tie-in hit single that the 80s were totally about. The band managed two Top 40 US followups to “If You Leave,” insuring that they would have some cachet going forward to keep them out of that “one-hit-wonder” ghetto.

But it was significant that as soon as the band had gone into the black and repaid Virgin’s signing advance in 1988, following the release of their greatest hits album, that the band broke up with first Humphreys leaving due to the material they had been writing, with Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes following him out the door soon afterward. Obviously, the band were not enjoying this and had only persevered until their responsibilities were behind them before calling it a day. But these years of compromise would continue to resonate with the members for decades onward.

Next: …Out Of the Frying Pan And Into The Fire

Posted in Core Collection, Rock GPA | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 72]

[continued from last post]

So after eight months and lots of travel interruptions, live concerts [including a fantastic OMD gig – my favorite ever, in April], and the occasional off-OMD post to break up the logjam, we stand atop the summit of Mount OMD and behold the vista before us! What, prithee, is the Rock G.P.A. that 22 albums [some OMD off-branded] and 39 years bring to us? In spite of four 4.0 ranked albums, the end result here was a solid B- average, at 2.8. Slightly better than Simple Minds had achieved on the previous Rock G.P.A®, which also lasted into over 70 posts. I promise that this won’t happen again, unless I tackle acts like Bowie, Roxy and Foxx. In all honesty, after his death, I spent three months on Bowie without even discussing his albums in detail at all!

It looks like a pretty typical graph for a band of OMD’s heritage who have been around for that long. Most of my favorite bands have a severe dip in quality in the middle of their careers followed by slow, steady progress, one handhold at a time, onward and upward. If they are lucky. Then there’s Duran Duran who just seem psychotic. Fortunately, OMD were smart when they reformed. They admit to having enough income [at least the main two writers] from their hits to not absolutely need to be recording albums and touring. They got back together at first for the novelty of it [German TV was putting them up first class to have them lipsync to a song or two] and then reminding themselves what it was like to be a band again. They wisely avoided most of the pitfalls that befell them the first time. Having a degree of financial independence instead of debt to Virgin Records, surely aided their decision not to let their career run riot over them as it did in the mid-80s, when they were lashed to the album/tour/album annual treadmill.

That forced activity sapped their youthful passions and interests in about 3-4 years, leaving them bereft of inspiration yet needing to produce product and grind it out like sausages. In the ten years that OMD have been reactivated, they have wisely released only three studio albums. They have also released four live albums; something they never troubled themselves with in their first or second phase. That’s about two more, really, than they should have supported, but at least three of them served to document special one off gigs and tours, so I understand the thinking. For two of them, I was certainly glad they made the effort.

Next: …Career Overview

Posted in Core Collection, Mid-80s Malaise, Rock GPA | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 71]

OMD – The Punishment Of Luxury | 2017 – 4

[continued from this post]

There have been a handful of world class OMD songs on the band’s modern albums. Several songs that were absolutely at the top of the stack for me. “History of Modern [parts 1/2].” “New Holy Ground.” “The Right Side?” “Our System.” “Final Song.” I feel that these stand with the best from their first four albums, but “Ghost Star” is in another realm altogether. It rubbed shoulders with the band’s absolute acmes with songs like “Souvenir” or “Stanlow.”

The song began with suspended drone chords that had the sound of curlews and lark song on it as what the band called “Vangelis chords” added drama to the delicate cloud of sound. These harkened back to the string patches from “66 And Fading” with added pneumatic sibilance and choral sounds mixed into the dense cloud of sound. It all ended up like a vast steam powered organ adding drama to the mix. This was an imposing, almost epic sound thus far and when McCluskey added his vocals to the song, the contrast was profound. This widescreen sound was the backdrop for as intimate a vocal sound as he’s ever committed to mic.

In this way the personal intimacies that informed the song were translated into a piece of art that sounded monumental in its scope and import, yet was the concern of ultimately just two people. Had you have been one of the people that this song was about, it would have felt exactly like that. McCluskey managed to make this song suspend time for the first three and a half minutes as the sustained chords underpinning this one sat motionless until the second part of the song began.

The band revealed that the first 3:30 of “Ghost Star” was a song McCluskey was developing on his own [originally called “Birds”] that he established on his own, not knowing how to take it any further. Meanwhile, Paul Humphreys had a song he was working on that he felt might be a good was to finish the job. Let me state that Humphreys had excellent instincts since the first 3:30 of “Ghost Star” acts as an amazing, sustained introduction to the final 2:30 of the song, where the rhythm and melody blossoms into something elegant and beautiful in a fully complimentary way to the intimate stillness that McCluskey had created earlier. The two song fragments were conflated into something far larger than the sum of their parts by the instincts of these two men who have known each other for over 50 years.

With “Ghost Star” they have achieved a new, climactic triumph of a song.

Then, after this rarefied plateau was reached, the album needed a suitable coda. “The View From Here” was a string laden ballad with buttery, tremolo bass guitar adding a touch of soothing respite to what were fairly devastating lyrics.

“Climb the mountain of your fear
You should see the view from here
Walk with me until we’re done
Take the long road don’t go home

As the knife goes deeper in
Nothing remains of where it’s been
Pull the petals one by one
Finally they’re all gone

Sliding backwards down the slope
Clinging desperately to hope
Watching you untie the rope
Cast away and couldn’t cope

Climb the mountain of your fear
You should see the view from here
Climb the mountain of your fear
Easy said and done from here” – “The View From Here”

The added scorched earth of “The View From Here” to the already painful rumination of “Ghost Star” show that this band, if anything, have only added to their abilities in crafting songs of melancholic devastation from within the confines of a beautifully contrasting melody. I can’t help but notice that there was at least one song with the word “fear” in it on both “History Of Modern” and “English Electric.”

I found that “The Punishment Of Luxury” hit a sweet spot of OMD for me. I liked the sonic scope of “History of Modern” even as it encompassed ideas that I felt were best left on the cutting room floor. “English Electric” was harder, darker, and more focused. The sound palette was a bit too focused for my taste. There was a homogeneity to it that was not as inviting as “History Of Modern” had sonically been. “Punishment Of Luxury” had great songs with an overriding theme that still had room to flow down some different musical tributaries without losing their focus and failing to gel as a whole.

The band’s reliance on soft synths limits how good any of this can sound; particularly when compared against the sonic footprints of their earliest four albums. Those albums just sound unique and apart from the world around them. Particularly “Organisation” and “Architecture + Morality.” I realize that this band will never take the pains to sound so unique and powerful again. They are too used to a life of digital ease of use and compromise. That said, Paul Humphreys is the musical bricklayer who expertly fills the grout in between the space in the songs. He has taken the same technology that everyone else uses to make music these days and has at least consistently explored the established OMD sonic tropes [while managing to add one or two late in the game] and has crafted an engaging and diverse album that has no boring spots with “The Punishment of Luxury.”

Next: …We Begin the Conclusion [this could take a while]

Posted in Core Collection, Record Review, Rock GPA | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Dickies + The Queers @ The Grey Eagle, Asheville 6-6-18 [part 2]

The Dickies [L-R] Stan Lee, Leonard Graves Phillips, Adam Gomez, Eddie Tatar, Ben Seelig (c) 2018 chasinvictoria

[continued from last post]

The first song was scuttled by a terrible mix with singer Leonard Graves Phillips inaudible for its duration, but the sound was repaired by the second number. Thank goodness. I suspect Phillips had some monitor problems since he sang the whole show with his finger in his ear, but any issues I had with hearing him were tabled. It sounded fine. Which was important since I was crossing another band off of my bucket list and that doesn’t happen every day!

Any trepidation at the back of my mind about two guys even older than me leading a punk band evaporated immediately as The Dickies were not your ordinary punk band. First of all, their goal is to be funny; goofy even. While playing incredibly fast. This they still do as effectively as when… when before the other three gents to the right side of the photo above were probably born. The indelible classics were rolling off the stage as fast as an assembly line stuck in high gear.

The 80 second songs I had waited 39 years to finally hear live were amazing. The obnoxious props and puppets I’d read about were… still there. Both of these threads united when, be still my beating heart, the band tore into the fast and stoopid classic “Poodle Party” complete with a dog’s head puppet from Phillips, who had the puppet lip synching the song to the audience. It was a blitzkrieg of fun. As with The Queers, a mosh pit happened up front not too far into the mayhem. The only downside was one woman in the frontline shaking/crushing a tallboy can of PBR over her head; thus spraying us with tiny droplets of [ugh!] beer! Well, it beat the dreaded open plastic cup of beer being spilled by any means.

The speedpunk tritone classic “You Drive Me Ape [You Big Gorilla]” had Phillips donning the same plastic ape mask the DEVO wore in their “Secret Agent Man” video. He really had the rotating parade of cheesy props down to a science by now. Scuba mask and inflatable “date” for “Waterslide.” The infamous penis puppet for “If Stuart Could Talk.” Thank goodness that last one was actually cute. Well… as cute as a penis puppet could ever be. Having heard about it, I had much darker visions.

The insane 90 mph cover versions were coming through loud and clear! Black Sabbath’s protopunk “Paranoid” was never an embarrassment, but speed it up by at least 40% and it’s even better! How I loved adding backing harmony vocals to their reanimation of the previously turgid “Nights In White Satin.” This was finally happening 20 feet in front of me. It’s my happening and I’m freaking out! They performed almost half of “Incredible Shrinking Dickies” but the sophomore album also got some love. “Fan Mail” and the brilliant ode to the Pep Boys, “Manny, Moe + Jack,” was a true highlight. I can never tire of “(I’m Stuck In A Pagoda With) Tricia Toyota.” The song has now outlasted the L.A. TV news anchor who’s the subject of their ardor in the song by about 20 years, I’m guessing. A hundred years from now no one will know about her, but I’ll bet The Dickies will still be remembered by malcontent misfits of the future.

About a third of their set was material I was not familiar with; not having the post A+M albums except for “Second Coming,” from which they played …nothing. I recognized their ode to the Toxic Avenger from the 90s, and there were a few new songs introduced into the set that Phillips duly noted in his introductions. “I Hate Punk Rock” sounds like a stone cold classic to these ears.

The five piece unit performed the songs exceptionally well. We quickly came to understand what the drummer for The Queers was implying since Adam Gomez, The Dickies drummer, walked onstage in a crisp white dress shirt with suspenders and a bow tie. He looked like he was ready for a jazz set, but effortlessly powered a fast paced [and how] punk rock show. Without breaking a sweat from the look of it. I had learned ages ago that the best drummers could power any show without expending needless energy and make it all look easy. Mr. Gomez was one of those stone cold drummers that any band would give its metaphoric right arm for.

The band blistered through their set and broke for a brief spell before the encore beckoned. What would we hear first? I had been hoping for “Where Did His Eye Go;” their skewed ode to Sammy Davis Jr., but chasinvictoria had opined that he’d be up for “Rondo [The Midget’s Revenge]” as we had entered the club. I didn’t think we’d hear that astonishingly long 3:12 near-Prog instrumental opus at what was clearly going to be a punk rock show… but I was wrong! That’s exactly what they returned to the stage with to our astonished delight. Then, the next song could have only been the yellow colored elephant in the room. Yes, I could die and go to heaven now. The sugar-frosted amphetamine buzz of “Banana Splits” brought down the house this night. I had reserved energy to pogo furiously during this song [thus attaining nirvana] but the fact was that it was impossible to pogo fast enough to be on beat for this one. Then it was all over, and we left sated that we had seen The Dickies 39 years later, and it was still fantastic.  There are still a few dates with The Queers in America in the next few days, with the next several months seeing the band hit the shores of Europe for some 40th Anniversary quality time. Miss them only if you hate punk velocity, irreverence, with stoopidity and clever wit in roughly equal amounts.

The Dickies | 40th Anniversary World Tour | 2018

JUN 13 | The Kingsland | Brooklyn, NY
JUN 14 | Middle East | Cambridge, MA
JUN 15 | The Loft | Poughkeepsie, NY
JUN 16 | Voltage Lounge | Philadelphia, PA
JUN 21 | O2 Academy | Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
JUN 23 | House Of Blues | Anaheim, CA
JUN 30 | Mosswood Park | Oakland, CA
JUL 18 | The Fleece | Bristol, UK
JUL 19 | The Hairy Dog | Derby, UK
JUL 20 | Underworld Camden | London, UK
JUL 21 | O2 Academy 2 Newcastle | Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
JUL 22 | Brudenell Social Club | Leeds, UK
JUL 24 | Hafenklang | Hamburg, GER
JUL 28 | Goldmark’s | Stuttgart, GER
JUL 29 | Sedel Luzern 6 | Switzerland
AUG 02 | SECRET PLACE | St. Jean De Vedas, FRANCE
AUG 04 | Lewes Con Club | Lewes, UK
AUG 06 | Robin 2 | Wolverhampton, UK
SEP 08 | Whisky A-Go-Go | West Hollywood, CA
SEP 28 | Marty’s On Newport | Tustin, CA

– 30 –

Posted in Record Review, Tourdates | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Dickies + The Queers @ The Grey Eagle, Asheville 6-6-18 [part 1]

I go back a looooong way with The Dickies. It was 1979 when my new friend chasinvictoria was soaking up the various New Wave Samplers that labels were issuing to general neglect from the unwashed masses. Among the music geeks like us though, these were seen a gospel. None moreso than the sacred “No Wave” sampler from A+M Records! Chasinvictoria made it a point to buy every album from the artists associated with it as we  soaked up the new sound with a sponge. He quickly bought both Dickies albums released in 1979 and we reveled in their goofy lyrics, irreverent “punk” covers of sacred classic rock canon, and mainly their blinding velocity! I had a compilation with Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” on it and The Dickies cover was even faster than the original played on a turntable at 45 RPM. I know, I tried.

We have kept an eye on the stately progress of The Dickies, as the band have soldiered onward against sometimes difficult circumstances, to have a body of work that stretches back for 40 years; against all odds. I have loved this band and hold their first two albums as mandatory examples of the sheer pleasures of Punk Rock that can withstand the passage of considerable time. I have bought any and all releases that I have come across over the years. For me, their seminal apex of form and content was their insanely fast cover version of the “Banana Splits” kids show theme. It was among the very first 7″ singles that I bought when presented with the mind-expanding notion of mail order record catalogs in the mid-80s; courtesy of another friend, Mr. Ware.

In the ensuing 39 years I had never had even the ghost of a chance to catch this brilliant band in concert… until last week! Better still, the show was happening when chasinvictoria  [who normally lives in the capitol of British Colombia, Canada] was in a perfect position to swing by from visiting his brother a few days earlier in Atlanta, before heading off to a Dr. Who con gig [he’s the sort of elder geek who has 40+ years of Who fandom and now officiates panels at these things] that was happening a few days after the concert. So of course we made room in our tiny home to accommodate the guy who introduced me to The Dickies, lo, those many, many, many years ago! This was definitely going to be fun as well as a long time coming.

It got even better as my wife asked me the day before the show if I had thought to invite Tom. He’s another close friend from that far back, who we see many concerts with, and he lives four hours away. My wife was right – curse me for the novice! I immediately hit that email and against all odds, with about 32 hours advance notice, he managed to not only get his supervisor’s approval to duck out for a day, she told him he had to go! Yes! The music geek A-team from my high school daze were going to see The Dickies in concert. Finally!

After eating a tasty meal of Indian street food at Chai Pani, we headed over to The Grey Eagle by 8:15 to see things were still waiting to happen, so we got our “will call” stamps and retired outside to catch up and chew the fat. The bill had this as a joint tour with The Queers opening. My wife and I had actually seen the tail end of a Queers show in the mid 90s at the Alachua Music Harvest, which we were attending to see George Clinton +  The P-Funk All-Stars. That should work like a charm with The Dickies. Locally, there was a third act added to the bill that we didn’t know about; Pleasures of the Ultraviolent. As they started up our ears were assaulted by a painful wall of noise; outside of the club! Okay then. We were definitely sitting this one out as we were catching up together for the first time in six years. Though we had earplugs, this sounded like a total miss.

The Queers offered lots of speed and force with some good melodies to get it across

We remained outside chatting as Stan Lee of The Dickies came by and was greeted by some fans wanting photos with him, which he obliged. We saw he was checking his phone for messages, so we left him alone. Then we heard The Queers kick off and we thought that this was when the fun began, so we made a bee-line to the stage and the rapid fire tuneage of The Queers. I remember hearing them in the 90s on college radio, and I had no idea that they had begun as early as 1982, making their origins in line with the hardcore movement; though their strong use of melody would keep them apart from the sheer loud/last/rules crowd. Unlike the kranked up mayhem of the first opener, the sound for The Queers was perfect! The songs were loud [without being painfully so], fast, and clear as a bell. There was a mosh pit at the front of the room but the floor was roomy enough for us old timers to scoot back a little. I can’t remember the last time I attended a show with a most pit but it had to have happened in the 90s. Definitely not since I had moved from Central Florida to Asheville.

Like The Dickies, The Queers also had a sense of humor driving their tunes. Less surreal than The Dickies, but who wouldn’t be? They played a full set of about 80 minutes and it felt good to get some punk rock laced with pop into the bloodstream for the first time in ages. Their drummer looked like an octopus in concert! His arms were a furious cloud of beats. Then it was over and we drifted back to the merch table to peruse the offerings. The members of The Queers were there there and we chatted with their drummer, offering praise for his over the top percussion force§. He bounced right back and said “wait until you see The Dickies!”

§ – did you spot the second Cabaret Voltaire reference in two days?

I was flabbergasted to see that the T-shirts were a flat $15 each… except for some Lookout Records shirts The Queers had in tow for…$5.00. The Queers sued Lookout for non-payment of royalties and got their masters back so this was a little extra payback. Chasinvictoria and I had to have the black “Gigantor” Dickies shirt and I opted for a Dickies button featuring a banana. Tom bought his supervisor a signed, framed [glass and everything!] Dickies tour poster as a thank you. That was only $25! Talk about jamming econo! I have to love Punk Rock On A Low Budget [that’s got to be a blog concept right there]. I was not planning on buying merch as I am trying to save for two trips in the next few months, but at those prices it would be insane to pass it up. We took our merch to the car and resumed our chat outside the club until we heard The Dickies taking to the stage.

Next:…Do The Dickies Deliver?

Posted in Concert Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Shock’s Robert Pereno Crafts A Musical Biography With Logan Sky

[L-R]: Logan Sky + Robert Pereno

I recently got the advance word that the perpetually busy synthesist Logan [Visage] Sky was not merely content to issue albums every few months with his musical partner Steven Jones. He was also linking up with a name from the New Romantic past to craft a new branch of growth on his post-Visage carer tree. Robert Pereno was a member of the mime troupe/recording act [surely some legendary paradox…] Shock. Now he’s collaborated with Sky on a musical biography that saw the actor/promoter/dancer/poet/celebrated polymath approach similar music territory to what Grace Jones achieved on her “Slave To The Rhythm” album. In other words, a life set to music, but it differs in a few key ways.

Etrangers Musique | UK | CD/DL | 2018

Per/Eno: Aftershock UK CD/DL [2o18]

  1. Birth Here
  2. Aftershock
  3. My Name Is. Chaos.
  4. Let Me In [Steve Strange]
  5. Mask
  6. Shadows
  7. She Sings
  8. Don’t Be Too Sure Mother
  9. Dollar Days
  10. Summer
  11. Golden Sand
  12. Still Is
  13. Aftershock [edit]
  14. Mescalina [fragment of time]

When “Birth Here” began, it was hard to shake the feeling that I was not listening to a new Steven Jones + Logan Sky album instead. Robert Pereno was working sprechgesang vocals not entirely dissimilar to the vibe that Jones proffers on some of his Jones + Sky vocal work. The track kept to the abstract side of the fence. Not really gelling into a song, per se.

That couldn’t be stated about the fantastic title track! From all of the music here, this was the cut that came the closest to being the big fat hit single of this somewhat esoteric release. The arrangement was all stately synths of melancholic disposition. The deft music bed suggested that Depeche Mode of 1982 took a peek into next year and linked up with Some Bizzarre Cabaret Voltaire to hit some sort of sweet spot between the two approaches. I put this down to Mr. Sky’s laser-like focus on the last generation of analog synth tech before digital synthesis changed everything, but perhaps he’s simply brooded for years about creating the perfect fusion of “My Secret Garden” and “Just Fascination?” Either way, your ears are the winners.

Mr. Sky’s penchant for John Carpenter synthwave film music manifests early on in “My Name Is. Chaos.” The heavy action cinema beat and Mr. Pereno’s voice over free verse posit some sort of fusion between soundtrack music and performance art. As if Laurie Anderson had more of a dance floor focus than she ever had.

Pereno poses with his work

Mr. Pereno had a storied life that saw him promoting for the club Camden Palace, which brought him further into Steve Strange’s orbit than just releasing New Romantic records in 1981. Strange hosted the club from its rebranding with the Camden Palace name in 1982 for two years. As Pereno set the stage lyrically I appreciated the distant sample of Strange’s distinctive hyena laugh haunting the scene. The dark night synths suggested rain slick streets here as Pereno danced around the events of November 1983 in definitely oblique terms. Something significant happened then, but it’s difficult to parse the free verse lyrics to see the hidden kernels of truth.

Pereno’s mother was a pop singer

The next track, “Mask” was singular for having the first guitar I’ve ever heard on a post-Visage release with music by Mr. Sky. David Nath added a cleanly articulated tone that added a rolling, rhythmic inertia to the song, but the spaced out synth meltdown in the song’s middle eight managed to be more jarring that the string instrument in the context of the song. The dark, clubby edge to much of this material befit a creature of the night like Pereno, but they manage to find space here for a portentous piano ballad in “She Sings” to broaden the scope of this project. The song was a tender look back at the mother who gave Pereno his first exposure to music; singing in both Italian and English to the young boy. Not unusual for a mother, but Pereno’s mother Rica was not just a mother who sang to her young child, but also to the Italian public at large as a pop singer with a recording career.

This album contains the first cover of any of Bowie’s “” material I’ve yet to hear. The powerful “Dollar Days” got a minimal synth makeover here, but the poet Pereno was out of his depth here as he struggled to bring life to the conspicuously verbose and awkward lyrics of the song that Bowie effortlessly gave flight to. A song like this was virtually “cover-proof” since it was written by Bowie for his own performance with no regard as to the viability of the song in another’s mouth. It took a David Bowie to get a song like “Dollar Days” aloft as it was. Mr. Pereno’s attempt just stood out as clumsy, if daring, in its appending of the Pereno penned “Glass/Life” coda that doubled the length of the song. Not just anyone would dare such a move, but at least Pereno fared better with his own free verse.

The album plateaued with “Still Is,” a song adapted from a Charles Bukowski poem that proclaimed “life has been a beautiful fight… still is… still is.” I have to admit that I have never read any of Bukowski’s poetry and would not have recognized it but for Pereno working the phrase “hashtag Bukowski” into the performance, tipping me off in a most novel way. The album had two “bonus tracks” following this. A very tight single edit of “Aftershock” and the abstract, meandering “Mescalina [fragment of time],” an appropriately psychedelic tone poem that was fully impenetrable. Any and all of these tracks may be sampled/purchased below.

The album is for sale today and can be had on CD and DL at the Etrangers Musique Bandcamp page. This one is a different kettle of fish. It’s like a mashup between a spoken word poetry performance, a synthetic film soundtrack, and at times, a technopop album. The biographical aspect here differed strongly from the facts and figures approach of a similar project like “Slave To The Rhythm.”  The latter was much less impressionistic than the more poetic lyrical content of “Aftershock.” Much of Pereno’s lyric content remains tantalizingly opaque, and with all poetry, this allows the reader to bring something of their own to the interpretation. So it becomes biographical in the most ambiguous way possible.

The lyrics and performance of Pereno often plays to the beat of his own drummer; lending the results a skittish, random feel as the meter and rhythm of his delivery occasionally comes into conflict with the steady progress from the synths and drum machines of Logan Sky. There were three or four tracks which become a form of pop music. The rest of it seems to be a poetry reading with music added. A non-integrative exercise that intrigues and fascinates yet ultimately fails to gel into a cohesive whole. Mark this journey as a new shoot branching off of the Logan Sky tree of music which may be the seeds of a new strain or an evolutionary dead end. Right now it’s too early to tell for sure, but buying the DL for the title track alone is well worth the £4.00 asking price.

– 30 –

Posted in New Romantic, Record Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 70]

OMD – The Punishment Of Luxury | 2017 – 4

[continued from this post]

“Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang” might have been called “Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang Bloc Bloc Bloc” since it represented a second example of Andy McCluskey making a song with a stream-of-consciousness lyrical structure, just as he had in 1985 with “Bloc Bloc Bloc” on the “Crush” album. The music here was far more interesting, though. Instead of bland, guitar pop, this one was precious and poised crystalline synth pop with a fussy, elegant arrangement. One that ultimately contrasted against the stream of lyrics that intimated a sense of hostility by the time that McCluskey dropped the F-bomb with a deceptively ironic tone, completely bereft of aggression in his delivery. I guess the second time was the charm, since I really hated “Bloc Bloc Bloc” and don’t have many problems with “Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang.”

The look backward with revisionism continued with the perfect pop of “One More Time” being the type of song that OMD were making [badly] on the likes of “Crush” or “The Pacific Age.” The lyric was a look back at a love affair that ended badly with a degree of wistfulness for the good times mixing with the regret. Had it been written thirty years earlier, it might have ended a failure. Instead, the wisdom that comes with lessons hard-learned, made this tune a shining example of a pitch perfect 3:00 pop song that gave an injection of light to an album with a morose undertow. The elegant melody of the music bed also gave way to a great chorused synth solo on the middle eight.

La Mitrailleuse 1915 Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson 1889-1946 Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917

The first song teased from “The Punishment Of Luxury” was the deceptively outré track “La Mitrailleuse;” based on a viewing of British Futurist Christopher Nevison’s 1915 painting, on view at the Tate Museum in London. Although The Futurists were obsessed with the allure of the coming machine age, Nevison’s experience as an ambulance driver in World War I soured him on the the mechanization of all things, in particular, war. He expressed this through his painting; depicting four men [one dead] hunched into a deadly communion with a machine gun. McCluskey simple repeated a single phrase throughout the 2:00 song fragment. “Bend your body to the will of the machine.”

The music bed was hyper minimal here. Only spectral choral patches at near-subliminal levels of sound, with the foreground given to a smattering of artillery and gunfire samples which almost, but not quite, coalesced into something resembling music. It was a fantastic representation of musical futurism. It seemed like the ultimate representation of what Luigi Russolo had proposed in his manifesto, “The Art Of Noises.” Which in itself was the inspiration for ZTT/The Art Of Noise. But even on their purest release, the “Into battle” EP, AON had never attained the purity of form that OMD achieved here with “La Mittrailleuse.” The manipulated sound of strictly artillery here is as pure a Futurist composition has ever been achieved. Russolo had posited a time when pure noises could be manipulated instead of the regressive and Romantic traditional instruments of the orchestra, and a century later, OMD have achieved that goal, as illustrated below by the animation of Henning M. Lederer for the song.

Next: …Apotheosis of OMD

Posted in Core Collection, Rock GPA | Tagged , , | 2 Comments