Slow Children – Mad About Town | 1982 – 3.5
(…continued from last post)
“Vanessa Vacillating” opened deceptively, with acoustic guitar strums before the energy of the song took a drastic uptick with a jittery synth ostinato that was doubled with delay for a touch of the old Mororderspace sound. This one was definitely a throwback to the New Wave sound of their debut album; right down to the textbook cold ending that came out of nowhere.
Then, all bets were off as the band took a plunge into the waters of acoustic blues!! The sound of “Suspense” was only acoustic guitar and a solitary, plodding beat that sounded like a boot stomping the floor. Eventually some spectral synths joined into the song to add a touch more of the song’s requisite fatalistic air. Through it all, singer Pal Shazar kept her laser-like focus on articulating her sense of unease that was the push and pull of all of her songs. Seen through that lens, her [successful] dalliance with The Blues here was not only not a shocker, but thoroughly right and proper. That didn’t stop the tune from having another of their great cold endings as the music bed dropped away on the final line “this suspense is making me siiiiick…” with all of the arid dryness that the production could muster.
It was obvious to me that the director of A+R for this band was really stuck on “President Am I” becoming the hit single that was latent in its pop perfection, since the extended 12″ mix of the song from the previous album was included on this, their subsequent album as well. We’ve written extensively about the remix before, but the take away here is that the inclusion of a dancefloor vibed track like that in the middle of this album of songs was somewhat ill-conceived. It really didn’t belong here on an album that was branching out and away from their New Wave roots. I’m guessing that this track from the band’s Soundcloud page might have been the original 10th song on “Mad About Town.” Sample below.
“Respective Sides” was a song that I can always hear and find that it sounds new and exciting each time. The dramatic drumbeats and percussion juxtaposed with guitar chords, coupled with the filtered effects on Ms. Shazar’s vocals lent it a dramatic urgency. The hook-laden “Skill of A Caveman” sported a very memorable melody that could get caught in my cranium for long hours of the day. The repeated rhythmic guitar hook steamrolled right through the entire song and gave a foundation to the fantastic multipart harmonies by Shazar and Chinich.
If a track like “Suspense” was pushing far past the former boundaries of this band’s comfort zone, then the hyperkinetic “Missing Missiles” was New Wave “discomfort food.” With a frantic tempo of stop-start beats cheek-by-jowl with urgent drumrolls, an explosion of lyrics, and all of it underscored by wailing air raid siren synths announcing doomsday. How could it end any other way but suddenly and coldly… following this panicked two minute warning.
The closing “East Berlin By Rail” offered an unsettled ending to this typically anxious Slow Children album. The cinematic lyrics outlined a third person storyline for a change of pace. One got the impression that all of Ms. Shazar’s songs were projections of her own persona. The tritone synth figure wailing throughout the song seemed to echo on the sounds of the preceding “Missing Missiles” with the focus of the song’s angst being tightly centered on the Hans in the song’s lyric, instead of the millions of people at risk the the previous song. And the real standout here was the distorted, metallic noise guitar solo in the middle eight. Where did that come from?
Slow Children in America ended up making a big plash in 1982 with two albums in a short window of release that led one to expect that more would be forthcoming from the pixilated duo, but alas. It was not meant to be. The band had two albums but after RCA was pushing for the follow up to this album to be an EP, the band sensed that the label was not smelling any hits and was in retreat. The band were cut free and unraveled, which was a disappointment for me as I had no sightings in the wild for either Chinich or Shazar for decades.
Ms. Shazar ended up as the partner and wife of Jules Shear, which was interesting. They lived briefly in my city and I once saw a gig where they played together in a favorite local club almost 15 years ago. By that time Ms. Shazar had a thriving solo career of several albums of material out on various labels, but in 2010, she reconnected with Andrew Chinich and the songs began happening again. There was talk of a long-awaited third Slow Children album manifesting.
Next: …Cotton Candy