Record Review: Just Say Yes!

Sire | US | CD | 1987 | 9 25665-2

Sire | US | CD | 1987 | 9 25665-2

Various Artists: Just Say Yes… US CD [1987]

  1. Depeche Mode – Never Let Me Down Again (Remix) – 9:31
  2. Echo & The Bunnymen – Lips Like Sugar (12″ Mix) – 6:44
  3. The Mighty Lemon Drops – Out Of Hand (Extended Version) – 5:25
  4. James – Ya Ho – 3:31
  5. The Smiths – Work Is A Four-Letter Word – 2:45
  6. Figures On A Beach – No Stars – 4:40
  7. The Wild Swan – Young Manhood – 3:46
  8. Ice-T – Somebody Gotta Do It (Remix) – 3:27
  9. Ramones – I Wanna Live – 2:36
  10. The Replacements – 3:02
  11. Throwing Muses – A Feeling – 3:07
  12. Aztec Camera – How Men Are – 3:38
  13. The Casual Gods – Cherokee Chief – 4:30
  14. Erasure – Hideaway (Remix) – 7:12

rockaway-beachSince we’ve been invoking this seminal Sire Winter Sampler left, right, and center in recent days, I thought we’d take a closer look at it for those who just joined in. Back when CDs still had a sheen of novelty, the labels all tried their hands at the mid-priced sampler game. Sire, being the label that birthed New Wave [Seymour Stein favored the description over the inflammatory rhetoric that was ‘punk rock’] had a better records at doing this sort of thing and they livened up the Winter doldrums for seven years with their “Just Say…” series. The first one got released in 1987 sporting the classic Bugs Bunny skatepunk cover that explicitly referenced the John Holmstrom cartoon illo for “Rockaway Beach” on the inner sleeve to “Rocket To Russia.” Inside were tastes of 14 bands not selling at the level of Madonna for the mother label. Hence, this sampler.

It helped that this comp was salted with rare remixes, but not the lead off Depeche Mode track. Fans of the band who were hip to newfangled CD singles and had access to imports [raises hand], already had the long, 9:31 extended remix of “Never Let Me Down Again” that popped up here. It’s still overlong to my ears, with little in the way of remixing for my tastes. Another 12″ mix came next for the appealing, but slight “Lips Like Sugar” single by Echo + The Bunnymen. It sounds weird hearing the band subjected to a typical ca. 1987 12″ mix with Pete de Freitas ironically replaced with beatbox. The sepulchral drama favored by the group had been dissipated for disco varilites by this time in their history. It’s not a compelling turn of events.

Next came The Mighty Lemon Drops, or ‘Echo + The Bunnymen, Jr.’ as some wags would maintain. [raises hand] The extended version of “Out Of Hand” included here only got a promo release on 12″ wax in America. The result is not quite adroit with the extension sounding arbitrary and perfunctory. But I still have the first two Mighty Lemon Drops albums, and took pains to catch them in concert as well! I was never that convinced by Manchester’s James. They never managed to raise my interest beyond the “Born Of Frustration” single, which had those riveting expression vocals that hooked me bad. “Ya Ho” is merely vague, acoustic pop rock. Pleasant and forgettable.

A rarity by The Smiths [“Work Is A Four Letter Word”] appeared here posthumously as the band had split probably between the scheduling of this track and the time it reached buyer’s hands, judging by the breathless liner notes assuring one and all that “mommy and daddy still love you Smiths’ fans.” Can’t say much about it since I am allergic to The Smiths and I have always skipped the track. When Figures On A Beach appeared next with “No Stars” it more than made up for the inclusion of Morrissey in the flow. “No Stars” is a paradoxically soaring post-breakup song. A rare bird, indeed, present here in the straight album cut, thought there was a commercial 12″ with remixes to plunder.

Wild Swans always seemed like and effort to clone The Smiths by Sire with a slightly less irritating singer, albeit inferior lyrics. “Young Manhood” was a missable track. If this album were a Monty Python episode, at this point John Cleese would have popped out of a window and said “and now for something completely different.” I have to hand it to Sire, they tried to sell Ice-T to the “alternative” crowd from day one, what with West Coast hip hop not having reached any kind of critical mass yet at this point in time. But Ice was moving forward. It was only a matter of time. The 12″ remix of “Somebody Gotta Do It” is really funny, but the inclusion of hop hop sticks out of this Brit-centric melánge top loaded with effete nancy boys [barring the US-based acts] like the quintessential sore thumb. Points for chutzpah, though.

Sire foundation act Ramones offered up a single from their then current “Halfway To Sanity.” The Daniel Rey production sounds a little lightweight given that the late period of The Ramones had begun in earnest eleven years into their career. They would have one more album and a live kiss off before parting the Sire mothership for their manager’s new label, Radioactive. The next album [“Brain Drain”] would have tough Bill Laswell production and “Mondo Bizarro” would feature the return of Ed Stasium behind the boards. Rey was not up to that league yet, though his co-writing with the band was a good presence moving forward from this period. The return of Rey to the producer’s chair for “Adios Amigos” allowed him to attain the necessary seasoning to get the Ramones sound down right.

I’ve never been anything but resistant to the charms of The Replacements, and the inclusion of “Can’t Hardly Wait,” didn’t change that scenario. Similarly, Throwing Muses were one album away from crossing that line in their sound where they stopped being repellent to me and actually began to draw me in. They weren’t quite there yet, though. “A Feeling” from “The Fat Skier” featured Kirsten Hersh warbling like a mosquito on the anti-hook chorus. Aztec Camera always had a songwriting rep that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. “How Men Are” sports a soporific Russ Titleman/Tommy LiPuma production that puts it in the same box as forgettable mid-period EBTG. Feh. I need a little more fiber than that in my music.

I loved, and I do mean, loved, the first Jerry Harrison solo album, “The Red + The Black” from 1981. So much so, that I was hesitant to sample the Harrison-led Casual Gods for years. “Cherokee Chief” is a great song from a very different proposition for Harrison. The Casual Gods were a step away from what Talking Heads were doing in their late period; thank goodness. I eventually bought all three Casual Gods albums and they’re worth the investment.

Finally, Erasure collectors have a reason to buy this disc since it sports a fine extended Phil Harding remix of “Hideaway” that appears nowhere else. It should have been a single in at least five territories if you ask me, but I guess that Mute had already pulled too many singles off of “The Circus” for the band’s comfort. Looking back at my assessment, it doesn’t seem like I had too much love for this comp. Which makes sense if you know how I came to buy it. It wasn’t until the second volume in this series, “Just Say Yo,” that I bit and bought while it was new, and the high quality sauce on that disc, and its follow up, “Just Say Mao,” got me thinking that maybe I had missed something on volume one, which hand not motivated me in stores; even at a $7.98 list. I would ride the “Just Say” train forward through volume six, but volume seven lost me when they included Sire cash cow supreme Madonna!

– 30 –

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7 Responses to Record Review: Just Say Yes!

  1. tim says:

    Just Say Yo…..#2…..that was the dope one of the series. It was $5.99 where I bought it and it was the first “Just Say” sampler that I bought. I think that I went out and bought every album on there that i didn’t already have.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – You and me both! “Yo” was indeed the bomb. I spent $40-50 because of that sampler. And I still don’t have the A House album! If only because I can’t imagine an album full of material of the caliber of “Call Me Blue.” Not, at least without bursting into flames!! I can’t even remember why I bought it after missing volume 1. Maybe the Depeche Mode remix?

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      • tim says:

        I bought #1 because I liked #2 so much and bits of #3 enough to be sure that #1 would be equally good. By this point of the 80’s I had accepted that a lot of the bands that I liked in the first half of the decade were either drowning in coke and supermodels or past their creative prime and just turning out turgid silhouettes of what they were once capable of. #2 sounded fresh and wow there was a whole lot out there that i wanted to hear more about.

        Shortly after the Just Say series I pretty much gave up on a lot of 80’s band, by 89 I was plunging into YMO and playing Seven Degrees of Sakamoto with my record buying. By the early 90’s I gave up on the lot of it and was listening to jazz, folk and ambient. Just Say 6 and 7 never even showed up on my radar and grunge pretty much killed any interest I had in going near a radio or MTV type offerings for some time.

        One of the joys of the internet has been finding things on it about these old bands. I found one site some time back that enthused about the Wild Swans to the degree that you did for Figures on a Beach the other day. Amazing the staying power that an album is able to have over a fan for the years.

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  2. Echorich says:

    Nice rundown of Just Say Yes. Never Let Me Down is one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs and it could be extended for 45 minutes and I wouldn’t tire of it. As you can imagine, I am a over-dyed in the wool Bunnymen fan, but The Bunnymen’s eponymous titled (also called the Gray Album), which at first disturbed me, has grown on me more and more over the past 27 yrs. Lips Like Sugar certainly sounds like an attempt at an American chart hit, but it is a valiant attempt. I agree the remix is very out of band character. I feel completely the same as you about The Mighty Lemon Drops. Bunnymen Lite certainly, but at a time in the 80’s when there was so little to enjoy musically, that was welcome. Throwing Muses never grabbed me, and hasn’t since (same goes for The Pixies). I have always enjoyed Tim Westerberg for his lyrics, but The Replacements never really lit a fire for me. Ramones were no longer on my radar by 87. James had such promise while they were on Factory – Hymn From A Village is brilliant…nothing ever matched that track for me. Totally disagree with your assessment of the Aztec Camera track. While the production may not really be the best choice for the artist, and LiPuma did over produce The Language Of Love for EBTG, it’s a great song in my books. I like The Smiths track, but they were at their creative end. Have to disagree with your assessment of The Wild Swans as well. Paul Simpson and company have kept me wanting more and more for more than 30 years. They are Liverpool royalty to me. The Casual Gods track got me to be a fan.

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  3. As you know, Monk, I have a fondness for 80s sampler albums … the blueprint of the iPod shuffle! I have all of the “Just Say Yes” series (at one time — possibly still — I even got the overwrought “Just Say Roe”), and just re-bought a copy of “Just Say Mao” in LA because it was two bucks, and my original CD is in storage.

    I think I’m kinder to this original collection than most because they clearly didn’t quite know what they were doing, as evidenced by throwing Ice-T and the Ramones into a bunch of fey UK tracks, but I agree with a lot of the assessments (Echorich and I are passengers on the “Throwing Muses and Pixies are way overrated” train). My wife likes James more than I do but they are pleasant for the most part, and FOAB and Wild Swans (at least on this track) fall into the same category. I’m afraid I’ve never cared for Roddy Frame, even his most popular tracks.

    I seem to recall that my main interest in this one, apart from its Sire sampler status, was for the Erasure mix (I was a HUGE Erasure fan at the time, still am really) and the other remixes, which I would later use to great effect when dj-ing dance parties at Visage, Sunset Strip and Big Bang. As a fan of the Smiths and Morrissey (and suffering from increasing cognitive dissonance because of it), I like the Smiths track here but that’s because its a cover of the eponymous Cilla Black/David Warner movie, and indeed this song (and Morrissey’s insistence on recording it) is blamed for the breakup of the Smiths, in fact!

    Even though I’m fond of only maybe half of this, it did serve its purpose of exposing people (in particular, college radio programmers) to Sire’s other acts, and the series was undoubtedly responsible for some of them attaining mainstream or cult status. The later entries (2 and 3 in particular) were some of the brightest lights of the dismal late 80s and thus I’m sentimental over the whole lot. :)

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – So true about volume 2 + 3! Two of the best samplers I’ve ever bought. I was actually planning to blaze a new trail and do a Rock G.P.A.® on the full “Just Say…” series in toto, but when I looked closely, I realize that I never heard volume seven!

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  4. Like most of the others, about half of it is good-to-great, the rest meh or ugh. The Madonna track on it is apparently a rare (and better) version of her “Up Down Suite,” not that I care. David Byrne, Ride, Danielle Dax, The Farm, John Wesley Harding and the Judybats are all good. I can’t remember the rest of it.

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