Record Review: Au Pairs – Diet/It’s Obvious

021 Records | UK \ 7″ | 1980 | oto – 4

Au Pairs: Diet/It’s Obvious UK 7″ [1980]

  1. Diet
  2. It’s Obvious

Wow, I really remember seeing the debut album by the Au Pairs all over every import bin in town back in late ’81-early ’82. Considering that the band were on minor UK indie label Human Records, it’s staggering to me now to realize that the label somehow exported what seemed to be a truckload of the LP to the USA. By its ubiquity, I had assumed that this was undoubtedly a big thing in the UK music scene. By the same token, I never managed to hear Au Pairs at all. Not the first note, so I never took the bait.

Au Pairs live 1981 from Urgh! A Music War

It was down to my making a DVD of a ßeta video of “Urgh! A Music War!” that I finally heard Au Pairs in 2012 and determined that I should have their music in the Record Cell. It so far has come down to their 1980 single here. Both sides were included on their debut album, but since I don’t have it yet, I’m not certain if they are the same versions. “Diet” opened with a spare, minor key guitar figure not a million miles away from B-52’s same gambit on “Quiche Lorraine.” But in service of a song that was diametrically opposed to the B-5s’s world of fun. Lesley Woods pained an incredibly bleak portrait of a woman desensitized completely and eroded by her role of a wife and mother. the plodding march beat was enlivened only by the tension of the thin, trebly guitar. The sound here was not far from the ground zero of early, TVLKING HEVDS ca. their debut. But there is no sense of any of the joy or abandon that crept into the margins of Byrne’s songs. The subject here needed to be tranquilized. Not only did she not have any political views; she had no views at all. Devastating stuff.

The B-side, “It’s Obvious” was a longer, slightly more upbeat track that flirted with latent ska energy as it examined gender roles in a modern relationship of equality with a more ambiguous bent. The chorus only concluded “we’re equal, but different [it’s obvious],” as the chorus repeated in the cods many times before coming to an abrupt, cold ending.

Not surprisingly, the band covered David Bowie’s congruent “Repetition” from the previous year’s “Lodger” on their own album. Lesley Woods had a lot to say about the roles of women in relationships and society at large. The music that accompanied this was similarly enervated as with Gang Of Four, but their lyrical stance was far less didactic. I feel that the music hit closer to the TVLKING HEVDS end of the spectrum. It’s much less groove oriented than either of the other two bands.

One fascinating aspect of these songs was how Au Pairs baked feminist thought right into the band itself, formed here by a pair of women and men. It was interesting noting how guitarist Paul Foad supported the lead vocals of Woods here in much the same way that countless women have sang backup on a male singer’s songs. Foad contributed something closer to spoken word echolalia for the dominance of Woods lead vocals. And he was mixed down low to add his part with much subtlety. I’m very impressed [39 years late] by Au Pairs, much to my chagrin. I need to buy this sooner than later.

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8 Responses to Record Review: Au Pairs – Diet/It’s Obvious

  1. Mel Creighton says:

    Playing with a different sex is a stone cold classic. They went downhill after that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bpdp3 says:

    Good god Monk, you never owned a copy of the ’Urgh’ soundtrack? This is where I first heard so many groups that I further explored and ended up loving: au pairs, x, cramps, OMD, magazine….
    …actually shocking to me now, seeing that list, that Urgh was my entry point. Reminds me how little money I had as a young teen, and I probably saw that album as an affordable way to heat the bands I’d been reading about in TP, Creem and the like.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Bpd3 – I only bought a copy of the LP a few years back for me just for the OMD/Toyah collections. This was after I made the DVD of the movie. I just never got around to buying it back in the day for some reason. The CD was edited down so I shied away from that.

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    • JT says:

      *Urgh!* was indeed fairly seminal. It played the midnight movie circuit for a bit. My pals and I saw it *in theaters* half a dozen times in the middle 1980s, complete with the Numan footage that never made it to the cable tv airings.

      Liked by 1 person

      • postpunkmonk says:

        JT – I bought a copy of Urgh! [on ßeta, no less] in the late 90s. A very clean copy, with only one 10-sec dropout during The Police, so it was okay. I made a very nice dual layer DVD of it. But I think I watched it when Night Flight was showing it probably around ’84-ish. Either that or Mr. Ware might have rented it at Retro Records and brought it over one night, now that I think of it. Sound familiar, Mr. Ware?

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  3. slur says:

    ‘It’s Obvious’ is the shorter Single edit here, imho any release of the Au Pairs is worth to hold on. But as said above, at least ‘Playing With A Different Sex’ should find a way in every home.
    As for the bonus tracks I’d suggest getting the RPM Reissue CD, but for the artwork and the original running order I keep coming back to my LP as first choice… so make of this what you want.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      slur – Wow, even as a single edit “It’s Obvious” is 5:45! Only 30 seconds shorter than the album version. So they changed the running order on CD? Shades of the Boomtown Rats scenario. Yeah, the cover image was very striking for its time. I always saw it and wondered what it was like. I also see that there was a BBC sessions CD in the mid-90s that’s probably a good thing, though it’s a bit pricey.

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  4. slur says:

    The BBC collection is actually worth every penny I’d say (having this bought new when it came out). There are some tracks on it which never made it on the proper Albums and all versions of known titles are more than interesting. It was made as a labour of love, gives a great overview and works as.a enjoyable listen from beginning to end.
    It’s also nice they left of the last session which misses Jane Munro and showcased half ready songs for the cancelled third album so you really get only the classic Au Pairs here.

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