REDUX: The Mid-80s Malaise: 1983 – The Year David Bowie Became Fallible

July 22, 2013

Bowie '83 in: flesh, film, plastic

Bowie ’83 Triptych: flesh, film, plastic

What was it about the mid-80s that made it the harbinger of artistic disaster for so many artists that I had previously thought the world of? By 1985, there seemed to be a perfect storm of political and social currents conspiring to hammer all of the square pegs that didn’t quite fit into round holes come hell or high water. Of course, those square pegs were beloved by me for exactly the reason that they did not fit into the prevailing molds that were never of interest to me from the very beginning. Nevertheless, even artists as great as meta-influence David Bowie succumbed to this wave, though tellingly, he managed to stumble first, in 1983. As usual, Bowie was always ahead of the pack.

Until March of 1983, David Bowie could do no wrong. Sure, he released the odd track like “Under Pressure” that was far from being prime Bowie, but that seemed like a lark done on the spur of the moment. By 1981 following the masterful “Scary Monsters” album, Bowie had become a genre unto himself as scads of New Romantics all pounced on various fragments of his past artistic personae and elaborated on them to power dozens of careers. Aping Bowie was good business for nearly a decade, but in particular, his “Berlin Trilogy” served as artistic grist for much of the best that Post-Punk had to offer. So it was until that fateful night in March when MTV premiered his new video, “Let’s Dance.”

If you are old enough, you may remember that MTV was one of the first cable channels to simulcast in stereo. If you split your cable input and ran the lead into the antenna terminals on your stereo, you could tune the FM dial until you were receiving MTV in [poor quality, on my cable system] stereo. In preparation for “Let’s Dance,” I made sure that a cassette was recording in my deck so I could listen to the song until the actual record was in stores to buy. At the fateful hour, amid the pomp and circumstance of a World Premiere Video®, the clip ran as did my VCR and cassette tape, only the next day I really didn’t want to hear it again.

What greeted my ears was inconceivably mainstream pablum of a low order indeed. The record sounded stupid, something that I couldn’t have said about any Bowie releases I’d heard before, not even “The Laughing Gnome.” At least that record had a sense playful sense of fun that buoyed it happily along as it overdosed on gnome puns that even managed to reference Mick Jagger’s education! This single, in comparison, sounded not only lobotomized, but actually evil. It proffered fascist disco; as if Leni Riefenstahl had made a 12″ single instead of a film. The heraldic horn figure that acts as the tune’s hook was relentless and charmless. The arrangement sounded like tanks crushing bones underneath as their inexorable lurch forward could not be stopped.

The next day at college my friends all discussed our disappointment and wondered how Bowie could have made this record. The wait since “Scary Monsters” had been three long years; an eternity in pop [at the time]. Bowie clones had come and gone during that time and he remained the eminence gris behind several pop trends and movements that had moved forward in his absence. This record was not the challenging art rock that we had expected by then. Not by a long shot.

What we could not have known at the time was that there had been very practical reasons for Bowie’s three years of inactivity as well as his naked grab for cash with “Let’s Dance.” His exploitative contract with Mainman Management had been overturned and his sitting out the years of ’81-’82 were for practical reasons. He was free to earn much more than he ever had before on any new recordings released after his agreement with Mainman had ended on the terms specified. Bowie had been bled dry by Tony Defries and by 1983, was free to earn some real money.

So Bowie felt the need to really make some cash. He blew off Tony Visconti for Nile Rodgers; causing a nearly 20 year rift between himself and his longtime producer. Nile Rodgers, for his part, was expecting to make an intriguing, artistic David Bowie album, only to discover that he was being hired to facilitate hits. So hits were delivered. As lead guitarist, Bowie hired Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was on the cusp of stardom himself by that time, but the Texas blues rocker was a poor fit with the remorseless “dance” music being crafted in The Power Station studios. As much as Vaughan’s own music is a good time, that can’t be said of the resulting Bowie sessions.

When the second and third singles were peeled off of the “Let’s Dance” album like hundred dollar bills off a pimp’s roll of filthy lucre, they only served to elaborate the story that we’d lost David Bowie. Thus began a five year [?] period of attempting to ignore the painful releases by an artist who once could command our attention effortlessly. That time felt like a scar upon me. It was an inconceivable notion that had become a horrifying reality. Not so much a reality as a living nightmare. The fact is, that I never even heard the full “Let’s Dance” album until 1999; over sixteen years following its release.

The worst thing about the “Let’s Dance” album, is that the singles were by far the best that it had to offer! The rest of the material was either completely unmemorable filler [“Without You,” “Ricochet,” “Shake It”] or vastly inferior covers of tunes done better the first time [Bowie’s own “Cat People” and Metro’s “Criminal World”]. And yet, it sold over ten million copies. It fattened Bowie’s coffers, and in the only good karma the record engendered, kept “Criminal World” writer Peter Godwin in clover that was richly deserved, but at what cost?

The karmic blade twisted exceedingly sharp at the compromised artist himself, resulting in his EMI years being a long dry period. All of his other albums for EMI, for which he was handsomely advanced a huge sum of money, sold middling to poorly. Bowie himself felt trapped with an audience that he could not fathom, much to his dismay. After those three albums, Bowie can be said to have never truly recovered from the price they extracted from his artistic soul.

While I have enjoyed albums he has made after 1988, there is the pall of his “Let’s Dance” years, hanging over them like some Ghost Of Bowie Past, hobbling his feet and extracting their vengeance from whatever artistic strides he has genuinely attempted to make. For all of the good to great work he’s done in the years since, the seismic effect of the EMI years has cast a huge shadow over his later years. Somehow, the notion that if he just hadn’t made “Let’s Dance” he might have weathered the thirty years that followed the 1970s in much better artistic health is an unshakable suspicion.

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Posted in Blast From The Past, Bowie, Core Collection, Mid-80s Malaise | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Maybe Now It’s Time To Complete That ‘Classic Cars’ Collection?

The Cars: working that Red + Black action years before Duran Duran

We’ve not often mentioned The Cars here; I was never an enthusiastic raver. The first album was played to death on the FM-Rock I listened to at the time of its release, so it was easy to ignore them, though they were the first of the New Wave to mine platinum. They were about the only New Wave band that was able to cross over to FM-Rock, somehow. I remember how Rolling Stone referred to them as the “American Roxy Music.” Well, if by Roxy Music you strictly mean “Siren,” then perhaps yes. If Greg Hawkes and Ric Ocasek weren’t such odd ducks [see above for proof], I suspect no one who frequents this blog would care too much. I think at one point I perfunctorily owned the first three Cars albums, but never played them much, so they were let go very early.

<insert 29 year gap here>

And thus it was until December of 2014, when my wife brought home the 1999 DLX RM of the first album by The Cars. She had been saying for years at the gym we attend how she wanted to hear more Cars when they would play on the sound system. I guess “The Cars” is like craft beer; the Cars album to have when you’re only having one. Since most of its tracks were airplay staples if not actual singles, it does play like a greatest hits album. The extensive liner notes humorously revealed that even the band jokingly called it this. My wife bought this DLX Rhino edition for a tiny fraction of the going price for said entity at the local mega Habitat For Humanity shop, which actually has an internal record store, manned by Warren (Govt. Mule) Haynes little brother, who should have known better than to price it at $4.00, but I digress. The second disc is packed with almost the whole album in demo form and a lot of unreleased songs. Pretty good listening that revealed that most of what Roy Thomas Baker broought to the plate was his penchant for tight backing harmonies. Lately I have been thinking, maybe now was the time to complete the trilogy of “classic Cars” with copies of “Candy-O” and “Panorama.” My timing could not be better.

Elektra Records | US | CD | 2017

The Cars: Candy-O DLX RM US CD [2017]

  1. Let’s Go
  2. Since I Held You
  3. It’s All I Can Do
  4. Double Life
  5. Shoo Be Doo
  6. Candy-O
  7. Night Spots
  8. You Can’t Hold On Too Long
  9. Lust For Kicks
  10. Got A Lot On My Head
  11. Dangerous Type
  12. Let’s Go – Monitor Mix
  13. Candy-O – Northern Studios Version
  14. Nights Spots – Northern Studios Version
  15. Lust for Kicks – Monitor Mix
  16. Dangerous Type – Northern Studios Version
  17. They Won’t See You
  18. That’s It – Let’s Go B-side

“Candy-O” is the recent 2016 Ocasek approved remaster from the “Elektra Years” 6xCD boxed set with an added seasoning of seven bonus tracks. I was wondering what they had in the vaults to make similar expanded editions like the first album, and while this is not a 2xCD set, the one non-LP B-side is here along with alternate mixes and one unreleased track [“They Won’t See You”]. For the rate these are going, it makes sense to buy these instead of a cheap copy of “Candy-O” in the used bins; my usual, stingy M.O. Besides, I have been jonesing to hear the magnificent Suicide in-dub madness of “Shoo-Be-Doo/Candy-O” for decades now. How I wish that The Cars could have been that brutal on a regular basis! I might have been a bigger fan.

Elektra | US | CD | 2017

The Cars: Panorama DLX RM US CD [2017]

  1. Panorama
  2. Touch and Go
  3. Gimme Some Slack
  4. Don’t Tell Me No
  5. Getting Through
  6. Misfit Kid
  7. Down Boys
  8. You Wear Those Eyes
  9. Running Up To You
  10. Up and Down
  11. Shooting For You – Previously Unreleased
  12. Be My Baby – Previously Unreleased
  13. The Edge – Previously Unreleased
  14. Don’t Go To Pieces – Don’t Tell Me No B-side

It’s funny, but just looking at the track listing for “Panorama,” I can recall each of these songs after a seriously long time having not heard them. I guess that’s a testament to the quality of this album, which only went 1x platinum in the day, as opposed to their first two albums. No demo versions here, but three of the four bonus tracks are unreleased songs [better] and the sole non-LP B-side from this album period. These beauties ship on July 28th and retail for a pittance. Amazon has the CDs for $11.99 each. Amazon DLs will cost you 50¢ more!  There is also neovinyl with all of the songs spread out across three sides with an etched side four of LP #2. No word on what has been etched onto the dead wax. Even those are not stupidly priced; a reasonable $22.49 each at Amazon. If you want to order any of this, they should be widely available at your choice of retailer.

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Posted in Want List | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

A Different Sort Of Subscription: OMD 12″ Singles From New Album

“Isotype” is available soon with two more singles to follow

We were all on board with “The Punishment Of Luxury” being the upcoming OMD album available via Pledge Music. Since that announcement, it’s often been in the top 10 chart at Pledge Music. I’ve heard the music video for the first single, “Isotype,” had been released, but that entailed watching a YouTube clip on their Facebook page; so non-Monastic! I’ll assume the single has the goods. [thinks to sample clip on iTunes store] Oh, yeah! That feels grrrrreat. Less of a Kraftwerk pastiche [from the 90 seconds I heard] than I’d been led to believe. I love how it’s 400% [maybe 500%] superior to what the Ghost of Kraftwerk® are now capable of; the essential OMD melancholy was delightfully in effect here. But the single isn’t released until July 28th, so we still have almost two months wait for physical singles [the iTunes store will sell the 6:15 track to you now].

With that in mind, OMD’s Pledge Music store is offering the new single in 12″ format; complete with a non-LP  B-side, as usual, “Skin.” The single may be pre-ordered at their Pledge Music store. £10 nets you the disc [plus shipping]. What’s fascinating is that OMD are selling a reduced rate “combo pack” of all three planned 12″ singles from “The Punishment Of Luxury.” Well, that’s consistent. Thus far, each of their modern albums has had three singles released from it. Four, from “English Electric,” if you count the scarce RSD “The Future Will Be silent” 10″ pic disc …which I don’t. You can pledge just £25 and get all three singles, each with non-LP B-side delivered when they are released, and the store reveals the marketing plan. Single #2 [tbd] ships in September with Single #3 following in November. Click the banner below if you’re of an ordering disposition.I have to admit, that apart from the aforementioned pic disc, which I’ve never seen for less than $30+ I have every vinyl single from OMD post-2010. That includes the following singles:

  • If You Want It UK 7″
  • Sister Marie Says UK 7″
  • History of Modern [Part 1] UK 10″
  • Metroland UK 12″

I also have the following CD singles:

  • History Of Modern UK CD5
  • Dresden UK CD5
  • Night Café UK CD5

The CD singles have remixes [pretty good] and all of the B-sides [excellent]. I also have a remix bundle of the “Metroland” single/remixes. I do not have the remix bundles of “If You Want It” or “Sister Marie Says” for reasons of different mixes available in different territories. There is no legal way to buy them all, so I have bought none. Works for me. Besides, “If You Want It” was an awful song; conversely, the remixes might sort of salvage it… maybe.

Whether I pledge for the OMD 12″ singles to be released this year is kind of a moot point. I have all of the modern OMD vinyl singles; why stop now? They are a core collection band, and I think they are doing solid work, but I am curious to see of they release any more creaky old [superior, for me] CD singles of any of these releases. So far, mum’s the word on that thought. And the 12″ of “Isotype” presumably contains the long album track and the B-side. Just like the “Metroland” 12″ I own, but have never needed to play. No mention of any remixes, which I suspect will be DL only, sigh. Can you sense my ambivalence? And really, OMD are among the best bands I love active and still bothering to release physical singles of any kind, so I guess I should be thankful [he said through gritted teeth]. I suspect the CD singles will not be forthcoming in the fresh new hell of vinyl only singles and a Tr-mp pr-s-d-ncy we must now face. At any rate, it’s good to know that OMD are going into an album campaign with a plan, as per usual. That they have revealed this much months in advance is more than fair, I guess. At least buying early nets a discount.

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Record Review: Laurie Anderson – Mister Heartbreak [part 2]

[…continued from previous post]

Anderson maintained her usual sprechgesang vocals that were closer to narration; leaving the melodic singing to the trio of Dolette McDonald, Michelle Cobbs, and Brenda Nelson. When Anderson says “and the little girls sing” before the backing “Oooooooooeeeee’s” I cannot shake Lou Reed’s “And the colored girls sing” out of my mind. For what it’s worth. I love how the narrative and the music bed seem to suggest a conflict between nature/instinct and civilization. Sharkey, the song’s protagonist, seems to be trying to commune with the elemental forces around him but is not doing so well at the task.

“And Sharkey Says: all of nature talks to me. If I could just figure out what it was trying to tell me. Listen! Trees are swinging in the breeze. They’re talking to me. Insects are rubbing their legs together. They’re all talking. They’re talking to me. And short animals – They’re bucking up on their hind legs. Talking. Talking to me. Hey! Lookout! Bugs are crawling up my legs! You know? I’d rather see this on TV. Tones it down.” – Sharkey’s Day

But Sharkey is so confused he doesn’t know whether he’s feeling love or fear. And he’s inundated by encroaching middle class technocratic blandishments; mechanical trees that chop themselves down when they reach their full height. “Paging Mr. Sharley. White courtesy telephone please.”

Anton Fier’s drumming is zesty and vibrant here, and I love how the backing singers hold the first and last “Oooooooooeeeee’s” of the song for a quarter of a minute. They are the guides in and out of Sharkey’s world. When Jane Siberry first surfaced with her second album, the song “Mimi On The Beach” got pegged as being influenced by Anderson. The synth pulse was more than a little reminiscent of the “ha” loop used on “O, Superman.” And there was Siberry’s way of delivery that perhaps spoke of Anderson’s delivery. What is fascinating about “Sharkey’s Day” is that there is a part of the fifth verse that goes:

“Sharkey says: All of life comes from a strange lagoon. It rises up, it bucks up to its full height from a boggy swamp on a foggy night. It creeps into your house. It’s life! It’s life!” – Sharkey’s Day

For exactly this part of the song, I cannot shake the feeling that I am listening to Jane Siberry and not Laurie Anderson. Both this album and Siberry’s “No Borders Here” were released in 1984, so I can’t state that one artist didn’t influence the other or not. But in 1981, Siberry was a just a Canadian folksinger no one outside of Toronto had ever heard of, and Laurie Anderson was having a #2 single in the UK, so let’s assume that the startling transformation between 1981’s “Jane Siberry” and 1984’s “No Borders Here” was down to Siberry encountering Anderson in the time between and re-inventing herself as a multi-faceted art rocker. Still, the resemblance of Anderson’t delivery of that stanza simply reeked of Siberry’s mature delivery. It’s eerie.

“Langue D’Amour” was a strange, schizophrenic cut. The music was completely Anderson on her own, using samples described in the liner notes as “electronic conches.” Hmmm. The rhythm bed for this one was fascinating. What sounded like a completely random rhumba rhythm was running through the entire six plus minute song with seemingly no repetition occurring. At least it sounded that way. The first movement was the minimal music bed consisting of the seemingly irregular rhythm with some scant synth patches blowing across the landcape and the “electronic conches.” Anderson related an eden-like fable for the first half of the song while the second movement dispensed with her narration for vocoded vocals… in French.  Strangely enough, the only other musician on this cut was Peter Gabriel, singing backing vocals, but he would more significantly figure elsewhere.

Laurie Anderson had wanted to adapt the book “Gravity’s Rainbow” into a musical theatre piece [good luck with that, Ms. Anderson] only to have Thomas Pynchon acquiesce to her request only if she scored it entirely for banjo. Bowed, but not broken, she wisely wrote a single song called “Gravity’s Angel” instead. The insistent bell rhythms that began the track were played by Anderson and they form a compelling cadence of the sort we don’t usually hear in pop music. Anderson actually sang this song, for the first time on this album, in a high airy register with backing vocalist Peter Gabriel adding a much deeper counterpoint. Percussionist David Van Tiegham played acoustic and Simmons drums as well as plywood bowls with some startling, lurching rhythms that kept my interest taut throughout.  It made for an exciting six minutes and in a better world, this could have been a single.

“Kokoku” traffics in Nipponese mystique with a chorus sung by Connie Harvey and Janet Wright in Japanese while Atsuko Yuma [and Phoebe Snow!] handled the non-Japanese backing vocals. The instrumentation was dissolute and vague with sampled breath rhythms punctuating the song with a paradoxic urgency as it floated along like a cloud.

I remember seeing an episode of the PBS series, “Alive From Off Center” in January of 1984 with a special collaboration between Anderson and Peter Gabriel. They produced a video with video artist Nam June Paik for the song “Excellent Birds” and the song also figured both here and in a different version on Gabriel’s “So” album of the next year. I much prefer the version here since it’s not on a disappointing album that’s all over the quality map as it were. It was a concise three minute art-pop song with the singers on Synclavier and Bill Laswell on bass with… Nile Rodgers on guitar! I imagine that Gabriel and Rodgers were in the middle of recording their great single “Walk Through The Fire” [that Rodgers produced for the “Against All Odds” OST] around the time of this recording, so Rodgers came along for the ride. He would go on to produce the wonderful track “Language Is A Virus” on the next Laurie Anderson album, so a round of drinks for everybody, please! Again, why was this track not green-lit for single release at least in the UK, where Gabriel had some commercial heft even before “Sledgehammer” hit?

Another random-sounding, almost rhumba-rhythm figured again in the hazy “Blue Lagoon” with phoneme samples used extensively while the rest of the music bed resembled nothing so much as “The Carrier” from “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.” Very strongly, though Anderson’s lyrics excerpted from both “The Tempest” and “Moby Dick.” Finally, the album wrapped up with a cameo from Anderson’s compadre William S. Burroughs, with whom she recorded her first albums in the pre-“O-Superman” era. “Sharkey’s Night” reprised the brilliant opener to very different effect with the preternaturally middle-aged Burroughs sounding like a grizzled nightwatchman in a New York flophouse recounting the day’s surreal events. This would not be the first time that hipsters enlisted Burroughs for a transgressive frisson on their album, but it’s one of the best attempts.

This album has a circular vibe that flows well from track-to-track in a way that make me want to play it on repeat. Laurie Anderson can be verbose, visual, or musical, and on this album, she found the perfect middle-ground between her traditional performance art and music, with elements of her “United States” opus showing up on a few tracks, but the new material written especially for the album insured that this did in no way resemble a serving of “United States” also-rans and it very successfully avoided the dreaded sophomore jinx syndrome. So much so that this for decades has been my go-to Laurie Anderson album, and I don’t foresee that changing. Especially since I have them all. But the balance between art, rock music, and art rock itself being cooked to perfection here, in spite of the gumbo of producers responsible for the seven tracks, seriously endears itself to me. Later albums would have Anderson really singing [she took lessons before doing this] and they are fine albums, but the all-important quirk factor got buffed smooth on the later albums. On this one she was fulfilling the promise of “O, Superman” in spades.

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Record Review: Laurie Anderson – Mister Heartbreak [part 1]

Warner Brothers | US | CD | 1984 | 25077-2

 Laurie Anderson: Mister Heartbreak US CD [1984]

  1. Sharkey’s Day
  2. Langue D’Amour
  3. Gravity’s Angel
  4. Kokoku
  5. Excellent Birds
  6. Blue Lagoon
  7. Sharkey’s Night

I was certainly sensitive to Laurie Anderson’s move from the art world to the dirty business of “rock and roll.” I’d bought her “O Superman” single when it was more widely available on Warner Brothers Records in 1981, but I had never bought a copy of her debut album, “Big Science,” until I bought the DLX RM CD of it in 2010. That does not make much sense because I immediately bought her second album, “Mister Heartbreak” upon its 1984 release. I was not far behind in buying the CD of it, either. Probably no later than 1986 by my reckoning.

It was one of the sought-after WEA “target CDs” called such for obvious reasons, as seen by the photo at left. [Memo to self: I should blog about this tributary of the great CD river one day.] I’ve owned this album basically from the point of release, in one form or another. And I quickly bought her next studio album, “Home Of The Brave” on its release as well. Then for reasons that make no sense, I waited for over 20 years to complete the Laurie Anderson collection. And even that was down to my wife’s belated discovery of how interesting her record were [she had hated “O Superman” from back in the day and only changed her mind on Anderson after her fave internet radio station exposed her to more] and blossoming into an actual Laurie Anderson fan. Looking back, maybe her long gaps in releasing new music after “Home Of The Brave,” Three years spanned the gulf between her next one, then five years became sort of the norm… if you were lucky.

I had first gotten wind of “Mister Heartbreak” in the form of a Warner Brothers trade ad printed somewhere [Trouser Press?] that claimed that it was an upcoming EP of Anderson, but obviously plans changed between then and the time to market. While seven tracks is a bit large for an EP [they prosper at 4-6 tracks, usually] it could have happened, if the timings were right. Seeing as how this album is a reasonably full 4o+ minutes, then that’s certainly not EP material.

The first track remains my all time favorite Laurie Anderson track. I had seen the music video for the single “Sharkey’s Day” maybe once or twice before buying the album. Probably on Night Flight’s “Take Off.” It was a curt, 4:10 edit of the more expansive 7:41 album track. The track was awash in new technology and the cream of art rock as Anderson made her bid to meet music at a halfway point or better from her traditional performance art ghetto. The talent on the track was prodigious. Adrian Belew of King Crimson on guitar. Anton Fier of The Feelies on drums. Bill Laswell of Material on bass and in the co-producer’s chair.  Anderson stuck to her shiny new Synclavier, and the secret weapon on the cut may have been Daniel Ponce on an array of African percussive devices. The end result was a rambling, roiling, almost biological concoction teeming with what seemed like thousands animal calls surrounding Belew’s wheezing guitar with a tropical density bordering on feverish.

Next: …Gabriel’s Last Gasp

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Franz Ferdinand @ The Orange Peel 5-26-17 [part 2]

The offering of the guitar…or is that a metaphor, Mr. Kopranos?

[…continued from previous post]

What was interesting about the tour was that when it was announced, I assumed that a new album was in the pipeline, ready for release either a week into the tour or right before. I searched and only saw that Franz Ferdinand were curating a compilation, with a new track on it type of thing, but no. Their last FF album was 2013’s “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action.” The sole disc of theirs I’ve not heard, so three songs in when I heard a song I did not recognize, I assumed it was from the 2013 album. At the end of the song Alex Kaproyas named it as “Paper Cages.” Now I comprehend the tour without an album. It seems that Franz Ferdinand are road-testing new material across North America right now.

I have to say that I’ve since researched their recorded canon and compared posted setlists to see that FF have slipped four new belters into the flow that evening. I’m here to state that everything made perfect sense live. There were no jarring moments that broke the flow. The show was mostly their stock-in-trade tight, hooky pop rock with a leftfield Post-Punk slant that works for me. Before buying “Tonight,” I had read some commentary that the last two albums moved into dance territory, but I really didn’t hear it when playing “Tonight” the several times I have since buying it. Nothing about this concert was dance oriented, though the floor was packed so tightly that any grooving was nearly out of the question.

Nope, this show was all about polished pop rock played for maximum effect. Mostly upbeat, but with a select few ebbs of energy to impart a sense of movement. Ten singles, four deep cuts and four new ones. I mentioned earlier how there was a bit of a bass problem, that was corrected as the show began. Other aspects of the show were exemplary from the get-go. Here’s the Orange Peel setlist:

The Orange Peel – May 26, 2017

  1. The Dark of the Matinée
  2. No You Girls
  3. Paper Cages
Do You Want To
Love Illumination
  6. The Fallen
Walk Away
Huck & Jim
Darts of Pleasure
Lazy Boy
  13. Take Me Out
  14. Ulysses
  15. Goodbye Lovers & Friends
  16. Always Ascending
  17. Jacqueline
  18. This Fire

One of the things I find ingratiating about FF are the vocals by Alex Kopranos. There’s a hint of Billy MacKenzie’s phrasing [if not range] which meant that his teaming with Russell Mael two years ago made perfect sense. He’s an inventive vocalist who makes certain to vary his phrasing and attack widely throughout his performance. There’s something about his delivery that pulls me in. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the band were chopped liver. Far from it! One of the delights of this concert were the rock solid backup harmonies that all of the band [save for holdout, bassist Bob Hardy] contributed throughout the show. It’s not every band that can have their drummer contributing good backing vocals throughout a show, but Paul Thomson pulled it off, as did new members Julian Corrie [lead guitar] and Dino Bardot on keys and guitar.

Following the new “Lazy Boy” which Kopranos the title of afterward, the show kicked into high gear for the wrap. The always welcome “Take Me Out” served notice as FF’s calling card as it hit the charts worldwide, but there’s a reason for that beyond payola, yes? I really appreciate how this band were actually a band; one with an actual drummer in this era of samples and loops. The shifts of tempo that occurred in “Take Me Out” were something of a manifesto for this band as they are not afraid to make something as currently esoteric as tempo shifts a calling card for their career in pop. I’m guessing that not to many bands that use changing tempos within a song bother the charts very much. Especially these days.

End of the line for this night

The set closed with the superb “Ulysses” from “Tonight” being an excellent stab at an epic range show closer as they dramatically took the three minute number to easily twice that length. The full house had been clapping along with much of the show all evening, but at The Orange Peel, with its wooden floors, the crowd clapping and stomping for an encore didn’t have to wait long. The band quickly returned with the unfamiliar “Goodbye Lovers + Friends” followed by the completely unfamiliar [as in new] “Always Ascending” before returning to solid classics like “Jacqueline” and a rousing “This Fire” which of course got the crowd singing along as they stretched it out for climactic impact.

With that, the show was over and I walked out into the cool night air having just been reminded what well-balanced, commercially successful music derived from Post-Punk that manages to pay fealty to its stylistic antecedents and sell reasonably well sounded like. This is what we want rock music to sound like, but it seems so difficult to actually achieve. That Franz Ferdinand have achieved this in the last dozen years, and seem on track to keep achieving it for the foreseeable future is cause for guarded optimism from this old cynic.

But Kopranos needs to cut that hair.

Franz Ferdinand | Summer Tour | 2017

North America
31st May | House Of Blues | Cleveland, OH
02nd Jun | Danforth Music Hall | Toronto, ONT
03rd Jun | Metropolis | Montreal, QBC
04th Jun | Governors Ball | New York, NY
05th Jun | Warsaw | Brooklyn, NY
07th Jun | College Street Music Hall | New Haven, CT
08th Jun | Pearl Street | Northampton, MA
10th Jun | Live 105’s BFD | Mountain View, CA
11th Jun | Oceanside Pier Amphitheater | Oceanside, CA
12th Jun | The Regent Theater | Los Angeles, CA
14th Jun | Rams Head Live! | Baltimore, MD
15th Jun | Jefferson Theater | Charlottesville, VA
16th Jun | Firefly Music Festival | Dover, DE
17th Jun | Alternative Buffalo’s Kerfuffle | Buffalo, NY

12th Jul | Electric Castle (12th – 16th July) | Cluj
21st Jul | Truck Festival (21st – 23rd July) | Steventon
22nd Jul | Welcome To The Village Festival | Leeuwarden
27th Jul | Kendal Calling (27th-30th July) | The Lake District
28th Jul | Low Festival (28th – 30th July) | Benidorm
03rd Aug | A Summer’s Tale (3rd – 5th Aug) | Luhmuhlen
05th Aug | Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival | Inverness-shire
12th Aug | Rock Oz’Arenes | Avenches
25th Aug | Rock En Seine | Paris
26th Aug | Cabaret Vert | Charleville Mezieres
27th Aug | Victorious Festival | Portsmouth
29th Aug | Paradiso | Amsterdam
30th Aug | Rivierenhof | Antwerp
01st Sep | Beat Festival | Empoli
02nd Sep | Arena Alpe Adria | Lignano Sabbiadoro
05th Sep | Den Atelier | Luxembourg
07th Sep | Tohu-Bohu Festival | Veyras
07th Sep | Ocean Climax Festival (7th – 10th Sept) | Bordeaux

– 30 –

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Franz Ferdinand @ The Orange Peel 5-26-17 [part 1]

Alex Kopranos airborne during the Franzy at the Orange Peel…

Sure, sure. I was late to the Franz Ferdinand party. Quite frankly, I gave the entire early naughties New New Wave Of New Wave [?] a big miss figuring that I’d heard it all in 1978… then heard the reboot in the 90s as well! So I never heard The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, The Editors… did I miss any of the usual suspects? Oh, I did buy an Interpol album at a thrift store: not bad. Of all of them, FF had by far the biggest profiles in The States.

Still, I managed to live my mundane life without hearing them… just the way I like it. It takes a very powerful force to pierce my veil of privacy. You would not believe the numerous performers of the last 30 years whom I have never heard a note of. It’s a prodigious list of some of the biggest names in music. Taking care of my hearing is one thing; I always use hearing protection at concerts. I started at the Jane’s Addiction concert in 1990 since it was being held in what amounted to a metal box, and I have not looked back since. Taking care of my brain is even more important! So I judiciously limit what gets in. You can’t unhear anything, after all.

It wasn’t until 2015 and the debut album by F•F•S, the Franz Ferdinand/Sparks teamup album, that I finally took the bait and bought the DLX 2xCD of FF’s debut album. Finding it enjoyable, I’ve been adding the rest of their oeuvre to the Record Cell. When they turned up on The Orange Peel’s concert calendar a month or two ago, buying a ticket was a no-brainer. The only difficulty was in finding parking for the show that was free. The budget is  currently tight, but last weekend kicked off Beer Week [insert foghorn SFX] in Asheville, so the scant street parking had all of the meters under the dreaded red hood. I ended up walking across downtown to see the show.

Omni – more than just a hotel in Atlanta

At 9 sharp, the opener Omni, took to the stage. I had not heard of the Atlanta trio before, but FF sure knew how to pick ’em. The synth-free trio capably knew their way around a Post-Punk roadmap, with left-field chops aplenty and the mightiest of drummers giving their sharp, spiky tunes maximum freedom. The rhythmic complexity gave these songs an exhilarating kick that was very welcome to an old hack like myself. That their short, vibrant songs mostly tended to have cold endings was their only seeming achilles heel. Otherwise, if you were a fan of Wire or Television [raises hand] there was a lot to appreciate here! They quickly won over the three-quarters capacity crowd packing itself into The Orange Peel as well. Speaking of “Wire,” why not sample below?

After a suitable interval, it was Franz Ferdinand to the stage. This was their first US tour without founding member Nick McCarthy, but since I had never seen them before, I can’t say it mattered. Singer Alex Kopranos took o the stage clad in rock star black and was… uh oh, sporting shoulder length blonde rock god locks! Now there’s something I don’t usually see in concert. They dove right in to the debut album with the infectious “The Dark Of The Matinée” opening the set. Sound for this number dipped into the red for the bass guitar of Bob Hardy; leaving the sound skirting the ragged edges of the dreadful bass fracking for the first handful of numbers. Omni had excellent sound but openers usually get less wattage. Fortunately, by the fifth number in, the sound had been corrected by an engineer who was earning his pay that night.

The Orange Peel looked at near capacity with no much room for dancing once they began playing. It’s really unusual for me to be at a concert that’s sold out, or close to it. Usually, bands I like play to scant audience, so this was a really different concert experience for me. Case in point, I had just seen The Blasters with The Delta Bombers at The Grey Eagle the night prior. Maybe 200 people were there at most for the night of rockabilly and roots rock. This night’s show was on a completely different level. Kopranos was every inch the rock entertainer working the crowd to the last row of fans against the back wall.

Next: …Road Testing


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