CD-3 Files: Fuzzbox – International Rescue

WEA | UK | CD-3 | 1989 | YZ347CD

WEA | UK | CD-3 | 1989 | YZ347CD

Fuzzbox: International Rescue UK CD-3 [1989]

  1. International Rescue
  2. Raining Champagne
  3. Barbarella
  4. Love Is The Slug

When We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It manifested for “difficult” album #2 [so difficult, that there was no album #3!] it was with a radically stripped-down name [formerly, they were We’ve Got A Fuzzbox, And We’re Gonna Use It] and a dramatically overblown style. The leadoff single “International Rescue” showed that the quartet of Brummie “punk” girls signed to WEA’s Vindaloo subsidiary were now fully fledged WEA Product. I had immediately bought the UK 12″ of this title and was shocked to hear the band release what sounded for all the world like a Frankie Goes To Hollywood 12″ opus on ZTT… a good three years after such efforts were rendered  unfashionable by the inexorable march of time.

If Fuzzbox had to have their name on a FGTH knockoff, at least this one came by its sound honestly. Producer Andy Richards came straight from Trevor Horn’s Theam [or before that, The Strawbs] so if any keyboardist knew how to craft a larger than life explosion of Fairlight keyboards and session musicians, it was he. Richards was not the only technician roped in to make this record. The song shared writing credits between the three writing members of the band and Liam Sternberg; the Stiff house writer who had aided and abetted Rachel Sweet and had thus gotten branded with a “girl writer” stamp that saw a long stream of XX types paired up with him.

“International Rescue” was a pastiche of the Barry Gray theme song to the Brit sci-fi puppet show The Thunderbirds. I’ve never seen it, and wouldn’t care to, but the theme is beloved by generations of UK pop music types and the countdown theme intro is undeniably stirring. I’ve long missed its use on the CD of the live Rezillos album after it had been lopped off of the CD to avoid playing Gray royalties for a 12 second recording they used before they came onstage. For some reason, the sleeve of the 12″ version was a mashup of  60’s kitsch sci-fi “Barbarella” while this CD-3 made up drummer Tina O’Neill to look like one of Gerry Anderson’s marionettes.

Since I had the 12″ and ordered this CD-3 from a music catalog in the late 80s, I was disappointed when the CD arrived and I found out that it only had the 7″ version of the A-side on it, in spite of the fact that the long 12″ mix could have still fit on the disc. Good thing that the two non-LP B-sides here were top quality. “Raining Champagne” was another Sternberg song co-written with lead singer Vickie Perks that easily trumped most of the material on the later to come “Big Bang” album. That “Champagne” was produced by the producer of their earlier material [Robert Lloyd] probably had something to do with it. It’s still more polished than the early singles, but the arrangement sounds crisp and clear with less ZTT “sonic cholesterol” injected in to the final product. It remained a refreshing, catchy pop song that the band may have actually played instruments on.

The second B-side evoked the 12″ packaging with a spot-on fantastic rendition of the trippy-yet-MOR “Barbarella” theme song that did not stray very far from the Bob Crewe original production. It helped immensely not having a smarmy man [Mike Gayle of never-were psychpop combo The Glitterhouse] singing the vocals as on the original. I much prefer Ms. Perks efforts here to the original, thought the music bed seeks to faithfully re-create the song to the best of its budget.

Finally, the last song here was the impeccable “Love Is The Slug” to make and WGAFAWGUI* fan pop for this if they ever wanted to hear that amazing first album material on CD. It shamefully remained until 2013 [!] before their debut album, “Bostin Steve Austin” made it to the shiny, silver disc. There would be a further three CD-3 singles released from the sophomore Fuzzbox effort. I’ve previously discussed “Pink Sunshine,” but this was qualitatively the best of the lot.  Notably, all four of the CD-3 singles were salted with earlier singles [and even B-sides] to rope in those not convinced by the glammed up makeover the ladies had submitted to.

– 30 –

* We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It, of course!

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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6 Responses to CD-3 Files: Fuzzbox – International Rescue

  1. nick says:

    well, to say i’m suprised will be an understatement ! Never-in-a-million years would i have said this was your ‘bag’, way too poppy for you ! Have to agree that the 12″ is such an adventure – i love it !
    I don’t have the cd so can’t comment on those and this is my one and only Fuzzbox 12″ too.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      nick – Wha…?!! I love pop! Prefab and otherwise, depending on my mood. Though the early Fuzzbox is unimpeachably great, “International Rescue” was the best of their “tragic sell-out” phase. I remain guarded and ambivalent at best and casually dismissive at worst regarding the “Big Bang” album.

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  2. Jon Chaisson says:

    Having been a HUGE fan of BSA, I was a bit surprised myself when I put Big Bang into the tape player for the first time and heard Jem and the Holograms instead. Still…there was something about it I loved despite having done a complete 180 in sound and look. It wasn’t until a few years later that, after overdosing on anime one evening, I realized that BB is actually a *perfect* anime soundtrack. Which made me love it even more. :)

    Also, the video for IR is quite hilarious. :)

    Those 2013 reissues are boss, though. They did an excellent job with the mix on them.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jon Chaisson – You hit an impressive nail right on the head there with your Jem + The Holograms allusion. Jem + the Holograms as produced by ZTT yet with room for a Yoko Ono cover. “Big Bang” was certainly a weird album. Not surprising that it was their swan song. It’s only a sell out if it moves copies. I only saw the US released videos for this back in the day. Actually, all we got was “Self” as I recall. I do treasure my videotape of the band on the [gasp] Joan Rivers Show ca. first album! Great live version of “Love is The Slug.”

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  3. Echorich says:

    Fuzzbox’s makeover is still a head shaking experience for me. I remember the first time I saw them live in NYC and the debut album was out. It was just wonderful chaotic show that gets a “remember when” mention all the time among my friends that attended.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Head shaking. Troubling, even. They started out incredibly then they banalized [is that a word!] themselves into pop puppets. Given the provocative feminist ideas on album number one, their adoption of the mantle of entertainment [even occasionally entertaining entertainment] was disappointing.

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