The Return Of Corn-Fed New Wave: A Look At Chicago’s Combo Audio Legacy

Combo Audio L-R: John Kellogg, Rick Neuhaus, Angus Thomas

I remember reading about Combo Audio in the America Underground pages of Trouser Press. I think I might have caught their video once on MTV in the 1983 salad days of that channel. But once was enough! When I saw a copy of the four track EP in the bins at Crunchy Armadillo, I bought it and it’s been in the Record Cell ever since.

The video in question was for the band’s breakout indie hit, “Romanticide.” A stellar Pure Pop song with crisp production by Ian Taylor of Psychedelic Furs/early Ministry records. The EP was recorded at The Cars Syncro Sound studio and retains that perfect Cars gloss that went a long way in reassuring labels back then. The glimmering keyboards and soaring vocals of John Kellogg found their perfect counterpoint in the rhythm section of bassist Angus Thomas and drummer Rick Neuhaus.

EMI America |US | EP | 1983 | DLP-19005

Combo Audio: Combo Audio – US – EP [1983]

  1. Romanticide 3:10
  2. Military English 3:28
  3. Hi-Fidelity Situations 4:09
  4. Shadow Occupations 4:29

I’ve got the song “Romanticide” committed to memory. It’s that great! But I’ve yet to actually play the entire record, so I’ve not really heard the other three tunes! What’s really pathetic, was that I specifically sat down a couple years ago to digitize the EP and only had enough time to get through side A before it was time to go to bed and the topic was apparently abandoned. Owing to the usual dearth of time to carefully play records I’ve owned for possibly longer than you’ve been alive.

I’ve given some thought to compiling a CD series of New Wave EPs that would cover a lot of ground, but as I investigate, Combo Audio likely have sufficient material to make a full disc of their music. The early 1982 version of “Romanticide” is about 30 seconds longer and is undoubtedly an earlier recording. The disc is affordable and I should grab one soon.

Secret Records | US | 1982 | CA-10051

Combo Audio: Romanticide – US – 7″ [1982]

  1. Romanticide 3:42
  2. It’s A Crime 2:36

The band were signed to EMI America for their EP but got quickly cut free, and three years later they were giving it another shot on an indie CHI label, Windy City Records. Who managed two releases according to Discogs. This being half of the label’s output. The label showed credits shared between Kellogg and two other musicians, so the lineup was obviously fluid.

Windy City Records | US | 12″ | 1986 | WCR-1202

Combo Audio: Stand! – US – 12″ ]1986]

  1. Stand! [Action Mix] 5:40
  2. Stand! [Radio Mix] 3:40
  3. Stand! [Dub Mix] 5:23

So that’s about 35 minutes of music. Thin, for a CD but fate intervenes and there is a Combo Audio page in Bandcamp where…gloryoski! John Kellog has re-recorded/remixed the EP songs to own a master and a cursory listen showed that he hit pretty close to my memories. He’s certainly lost nothing vocally. The Bandcamp DL has ten tracks, including some binaural headphone mixes of the EP and even a new Kellogg sing, “Day By Day.”

I might just be able to fit this all onto an 80 minute CD-R, making the Compleat Combo Audio, because somebody’s got to do it! But first I have to buy a few records which, for a change, won’t break the bank. Come back in seven years to see where we stand on this one.


About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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2 Responses to The Return Of Corn-Fed New Wave: A Look At Chicago’s Combo Audio Legacy

  1. (breathing changes)

    Compleat Combo Audio? SOLD, American!!

    Sure, there wasn’t anything they put out that was quite the perfect pop confection of “Romanticide,” but everything I ever heard from them back in the day was quite pleasing, well-sung, and well-played. Amazing to me that they didn’t get as far mainstream-wise as The Fixx.

    Maybe it’s because they only got one video (that I know of) …


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