Corn-Fed New Wave: System 56 – Metro Metro

Detour Records | US | 7" | 1982 | 5602

Detour Records | US | 7″ | 1982 | 5602

System 56: Metro-Metro US 7: [1982]

  1. Metro-Metro
  2. In The Old World

In a word… Wow!  Wow!!! My friend JT hipped me to this incredible Cleveland band that was active for only a few years from 1982-1984 and it’s a crying shame that I wasn’t all over this like white on rice back in the day. It pushes all of my Monk buttons… even 33 years later. And it pushes them hard. The band was initiated by guitarist and vocalist Steve Simenic and after he rounded up the other three members of the band, they recorded this debut single in Simenic’s 4-track studio after only a month together. They were obviously in thrall to Ultravox in the best possible way.

By this time period, I was used to hearing US acts saying that they were influenced by Ultravox, but what was usually delivered was Berlin; hardly comparable if you ask me. But this single is far better than anything that UIltravox ever released after this came out!  The lush synths of Kevin Lytle interplay with the frankly awesome guitar of Simenic every bit as vitally as did Billy Currie with Robin Simon. Meanwhile the rhythm section of Vince Scafiti [drums] and Chuck Ryder [bass] kept it urgent and powerful without particularly emulating the distinctive motorik of “Vienna” era Ultravox.

“Metro-Metro” has a title that evokes Berlin’s single of the previous year, but this track has it all over the competition. The tune’s complex intro evokes a little of Polymoog era Numan, before the steady beat comes to the fore and paves the way for Simenic’s stentorian vocals to enter the song with their almost heraldic tones as the uneasiness of the intro was dissipated for the confident and propulsive chorus to take the song to the next level. This makes for an audacious debut single, but the best is yet to come!

The B-side, “In The Old World” is if anything, an even stronger tune cut from the same cloth as the A-side. On this track Simenic’s phenomenal guitar playing really takes the song by the throat and his playing here is as powerful as anything that Robin Simon achieved on “Systems Of Romance.” And brother, that is saying a lot. This is full on Euro synth rock with dark undertones of the Old World [apropos, you’ll admit] shot through the track for a fully satisfying emotional chiaroscuro. When the track faded on another hot Simenic solo at the song’s end, I felt cheated. Almost as badly as only hearing this music half a lifetime later. The only thing holding this record back, and even slightly, was that it was, in effect, self-recorded 4-track demos recorded in a home studio. Simenic’s vocals got somewhat buried in the mix and sound a little remote but the mind boggles at what this band could have achieved with, let’s say, Conny Plank at the boards. With their talent and Conny’s genius of sound…[whistles]. Midge who?

This single was successful enough in the time of its release, that a 2nd pressing was made, but this is still a record that commands a selling price out of my comfort zone. With the boom in “minimal synth” records, this 7″ now is changing hands on Discogs.com for just under a hundred smackers. Ouch, the pain! Fortunately, Simenic has made this music available by download [Amazon and iTunes] and CD, and this has been recently joined last year by LP courtesy of Rave Up Records, for those inclined to get it on vinyl while it’s less than three figures. He’s also put the entire story up at an informative System 56 website that highlights the brief, but shining history of the band. I desperately need to order a CD from this gentleman. This is some absolutely wonderful music that I’m ecstatic to have finally heard. I am as excited about this as I was with the Visage album from last year.

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8 Responses to Corn-Fed New Wave: System 56 – Metro Metro

  1. Echorich says:

    I discovered System 56 a few yrs back when I was looking up a System 7 track which I honestly can’t remember. They had some great Moog meets Guitars songs. The singer had a fantastic affected vocal. The opening track of their album Beyond The Parade – Brave New Toys is really fantastic. The b-side track of Metro Metro, In The Old World, is probably my favorite. Some of their songs remind me of early B-Movie.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – B-Movie + “better” = Ultravox! And I do think that System 56 trumped B-Movie. Good call. System 56 could cover “Remembrance Day” and no one would complain. It would probably sound better!

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      • Echorich says:

        Poor B-Movie, they had a lot of promise in the beginning but the ambition of Hovington and Statham to be a chart topping pop band put the kibosh on that. Losing Rick Holiday on keyboards was probably the beginning of the end. Statham would go on to be a great fixer through the 80’s and 90’s – shoring up Peter Murphy, Dido and Kylie Minogue as well as production with Pascal Gabriel. I saw B-Movie with the original line up play Peppermint Lounge in NYC in 82 and thought they fit right in with Soft Cell and other Some Bizarre acts. But when they finally got around to an album in 85 it was a bland mess.

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  2. The very thought of John Foxx covering “Brave New Toys” makes me want to force these guys at gunpoint if necessary to reform and record new stuff (after re-recording this stuff)!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Ah, but we know that any attempt to re-record these in higher quality would probably completely miss the mojo that makes them so magnificent. We’ve heard such squandered attempts before. But really, this is the kind of music that I live for.

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  3. zoo says:

    I found a few of their songs on You Tube. Listening to “You’re Only Dreaming” now. If I suddenly heard this song playing in a record store, I’d think it was a B-side or unreleased track from The Garden or The Golden Section. Sounds A LOT like Foxx and Simon…but good nonetheless.

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