REDUX: Corn-Fed New Wave: System 56 – Metro Metro

April 1, 2014

Detour Records | US | 7

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 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.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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7 Responses to REDUX: Corn-Fed New Wave: System 56 – Metro Metro

  1. Gavin says:

    Wow-great stuff.
    Just listening on a well-known video sharing site.That b-side sounds like it was straight from “Systems of Romance” to me-even the Foxxy vocal inflections!
    Love the artwork too.What a find.


    • Tim says:

      You could stick that in with a bunch of old Ultravox singles and the casual crate digger would probably think it was all the same act. The font is the same used on the early Hurting era Tears For Fears singles. These guys were clearly using some clever packaging. I haven’t heard any of their music yet but will seek it out this weekend. Thanks for the heads up.


  2. Logan Sky says:

    Thanks for sharing this discovery.. you’ve dated it 1st April, so hoping it’s not an April Fool!
    If not, I’ll have to keep a look out for a copy of this..!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Logan Sky – That download is a treasure, yet it vexes me that I still have not bought my own copy of this absolutely wonderful music. Sad, I know. At least I have spread the good word amongst the readership here.


  3. JT says:

    Wow, Monk, you didn’t get the CD yet?

    For my money, “A Man Needs a Motor” is the best thing this band did (I think I included that track in the sampler I sent you years ago). That one used to get a lot of airplay on Cleve-O college radio when it was current.

    PPM readers will do well to look that one up too!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – Yes, you did include “A Man Needs A Motor.” I have not gotten the CD yet because I am lame. And I have a low entertainment budget. I also travel too much and am often busy saving for fine dining when I would also like to be buying music I want.

      It bears pointing out that the band are selling both DLs [Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby] and CD-Rs [at CDBaby] for those who want the best quality sound.


  4. Vlad says:

    This band is my favourite “hidden gem” of the whole US newwavenewpoporwhatchacallit. Maybe I’m exaggerating right now, but their music impressed me in a really big way and I can’t help getting emotional. It was like hearing Ultravox again – something hair-raising. And they didn’t hold back on this influence, yet also did something of their own, familiar but distinguished, this interesting, somewhat mystical world I’m drawn to like a magnet. I really wanted to write to Steve Simenic through the band’s site but I struggle to put into words the whole range of emotions his music generates and without that why bother. But still, maybe I should, hope he’s alive and well.

    You rightly pointed out the quality is closer to demo – but that’s something which gives this kind of music its kick (or at least adds to it immensely), this raw burst of sound. In fact I think that in professional studio they may have lost that energy and power so it’s for the better.

    Everyone here cited their favourite song by them, mine’s “Life on a cool curve”. Though that’s only relative and I love everything they did. The CD sold from their site has three unreleased-at-the-time songs – and they’s as impressive as the ones they got out, maybe more guitar-oriented but with this caliber of songwriting sound focus is not that important.

    Maybe it’s good they didn’t go to bigger things – this music is like a hidden treasure, only for special people, undiluted by commercial pressures etc. Though I’m glad you wrote about them, more people should hear this stuff, it’s too good to be swallowed by obscurity.


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