January 10, 2014
Sometimes, you just have to give in to a record and buy it because it just looks perfect. My friend Tom and I ran into such a record one day while perusing the bins at Murmur Records some time in 1984. Kiss® famously thought that “if one Alice Cooper was a sensation – then a whole band of Alice Coopers would rule the world!” This looked like a duo made up of women with the aesthetic sensibilities of Lene Lovich. I can’t remember if it was Tom or myself who saw the sharp black and silver cover, but upon examining the record a bit more closely, we both ended up taking a copy home that afternoon. The band were named Strawberry Switchblade, the cover was beautifully printed in black ink on silver paper, and as if to whack our skulls with a 2″ x 4″ the pressings we bought had stickers proclaiming “FREE POSTER” inside. At that time I think an import 12″ at Murmur was still $5.00. How could we not try it?
Strawberry Switchblade: Since Yesterday UK 12″ 
- Since Yesterday
- Sunday Morning
- By The Sea
When the needle hit side A we were immediately rewarded with an ebullient rush of perfect synthpop [digital style] and an overflowing euphony of vibrant melodies. Best of all, the giddy vibe of the production was totally at odds with the downbeat breakup lyrics; giving those frissons of contrast and paradox that mark much of my favorite pop music. This was one of those singles that we bought because it looked promising, and we couldn’t have imagined how perfect it actually was once we played it.
Better still, the B-side of the record had two tracks that were light years away from the sugary pop sound on the A-side. The venerable Velvet Underground classic “Sunday Morning” was given a sensitive, introverted performance that was completely acoustic. We love it when artists can drive on the electronic or acoustic road with equal aplomb. This was the bonus track on the 12″ single with the remaining song, “By the Sea” also on the 7″ of this title.
“By the Sea” was another song in the vein of “Sunday Morning.” It was an introverted little song. As modest and shy as the A-side was bold and brassy. Together, all three songs marked Strawberry Switchblade as the kind of talents that blended incredible harmony and melody brought together with an introverted sensitivity that was belied by the sound of the production on the A-side. Euphoria cheek by jowl with introspection and getting on like a house on fire.
“For I hate the trees
And I hate the flowers
And I hate the buildings
And the way they tower over me
Can’t you see
I get so frightened
No-one else seems frightened
Only me, only me” – Strawberry Switchblade
Strawberry Switchblade became a new obsession with any and all releases targeted and four the Record Cell. “Since Yesterday” was their major label debut. We quickly backpedalled and bought their debut single, “Trees + Flowers” and were rewarded with the most beautiful song about agoraphobia possible. We stayed on the Strawberry Switchblade bus for the 18 or so months that it lasted before the inevitable acrimonious split. Their final single was their great hi-nrg electro production of Dolly Parton’s weeper “Jolene.” Unbelievably, that was the first time I ever heard that song but certainly not the last.
At least their album got a release before the end happened, but “Since Yesterday” was a top five UK hit and the album and follow ups all underperformed, but in the 80s, bands were known to break up when their single hit #36 instead of #4. It was the Thatcher era [sighs]. What we’d all give for a #36 in 1984 that sold 100,000 copies versus a top ten today that clears 20,000, eh? Still, all of the 12″ers as well as the album/Japanese CD [and even the Canadian remix CD] have a berth in the Record Cell. Rose McDowell went on to perform with Current 93 but I never picked any of that music up. However, I did buy the Ornamental 12″ single of “No Pain” which was a brilliant mashup of Strawberry Switchblade and Sugarcubes with Einar duetting with Rose on the magnificent dance number… but that’s a record for another day.
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