I first encountered Shock on the RCA “Blitz” compilation of 1981. I took an instant liking to their trashy New Romantic electro vibe. To put it mildly. What made Shock an intriguing part of those zany, carefree new-ro daze is that they made no bones about it; they were mimes. Actors. Frauds. They didn’t play a lick of the music; that responsibility they left to the capable hands of Richard James Burgess [Landscape] and Rusty Egan [Rich Kids, Visage]. If you saw a Shock performance it would be tapes with mime and dance routines by the six member team offset by live vocals. It was all part of that fin de décennie, je ne sais quoi that saw the New Romantic movement erupt out of the punk movement. After all, both were about having an arresting look to set one apart from the pack. Art/fashion/music/theatre are always hotbeds of artistic crossbreeding even at the most staid of times; and this period was definitely not that.
I had their appearance on the “Blitz” album with the A-side “Angel Face” and years down the line, managed to pick up the amazing “Terpsichore [Silly Not To]” compilation which contained the single’s B-side, “R.E.R.B.” In between I also found a trashed copy of the UK 7″ just to have the actual artifact, albeit in banged up form. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that they had produced a second single, “Dynamo Beat,” before calling it a day for Shock. Of course I kept my eyes open and when I trekked up to Yesterday + Today Records, in Pikesville, Maryland in 2002, I found a mint copy of “Dynamo Beat.” Since I’ve turned over a new leaf, I felt that it had sat unplayed on my racks for long enough and set about righting that cosmic wrong.
Shock: Dynamo Beat UK 7″
- Dynamo Beat
- Dream Games
I just discovered that in between “Angel Face” and “Dynamo Beat” that the band had reduced from a sextet to a quartet. Also of note was the fact that member Tik had co-written the tracks with Burgess, and that Egan was firmly ensconced in Visage by this point in time and unavailable. The difference is bracing. It almost sounds like a completely different “group.” Most notable are the rapidly sequenced sixteenth notes which are strongly redolent of Wendy Carlos’ seminal soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange. You could scratch almost any of the punks that eventually made it through the crucible of that period to become post-punks or New Romantics, and they’d positively bleed A Clockwork Orange!
The song extols the virtues of being a bright young thing who spends all of their time in chic dance clubs grooving to electobeat music. Can’t argue with that logic! The chorus is the catchy “new people need new vices/new people need new beat” as intoned by the ladies of the band, Barbie Wilde and Carole Caplin. The track is cut like a brilliantly faceted diamond and the touch of vocoder adds just the right Kraftwerkian feel. Of course, Kraftwerk were ascetics and this is decadance music.
The flipside, “Dream Games” is much less frantic and structured than the A-side. The lyrics are intriguing for predicting just how far video games would come to define the culture in the coming years. The tune is set to a slow, methodical, glitchy, goose-stepper of a beat. It sounds a distant cousin to The Associates “White Car In Germany” or Propaganda’s take on Throbbing Gristle’s “Discipline.” Both of these cuts, while not being the electro-glam of “Angel Face” or the virtual Visage of “R.E.R.B.,” hold much fascination for me 30 years on. As I have come to discover, minor gems of that era take on the status of Dead Sea Scrolls just a few decades later. While it’s a crime that Shock never managed to record more – the quartet fissured after this single; the gents went on to form the electroduo Tik + Tok and this single has effectively acted like a gateway drug to put them in my sights for acquisition. And soon.
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