Themes From Great Cities
It might have come to your attention that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you will just have to get used to. I will however, have bursts of creativity where I move completely randomly from post to post with no rhyme or reason. I have recently posted a few singles (7 & 12”) and the odd bootleg which have been received very well by all who visit. More of the same will continue as you, dear readers, seem to be enjoying them.
Some of the rips are my own, but many more are from other blogs and I’m just sharing the wealth. If other bloggers out there wish to share the rips from my posts, please as I do, host them yourself. To combat this, the FLAC files that are over 6 months old will be replaced with MP3 files.
Finally I am happy to re-up old posts where the link has expired. Please comment in the relevant posts comments box.
Flesh For Lulu were no more nor less than a pop/rock band, forever cursed by their post-punk past. Born a decade too late, the group were condemned to the corners of the indie scene and the edges of the U.S. charts. In 1985, following on from their released from Polydor, the band signed to Hybrid Records and released the mini LP, Blue Sisters Swing, which was produced with Craig Leon. The cover image of two nuns kissing resulted in the mini-album being banned in the United States and Europe. Flesh For Lulu then joined Statik records, who released Big Fun City later that year. Virtually neglected by the American rock masses that were their natural audience, the British indie kids took them to heart, but Big Fun City deserved so much more than that. Having shaken off their cobwebs on Blue Sisters Swing, The Lulu’s came to NYC (thus the new album's title) to record with producer Craig Leon. A less sympathetic producer would have destroyed this record, either by foisting a thoroughly '80s slickness into the mix, or lazily permitting the group's retro sound to run rampant. Instead, Leon respected the group's vision, creating a modern album that remains a tribute to rock's rich past. A motherlode of riffs are the song's sturdy foundation blocks, mostly mined from a rich R&B vein. The Rolling Stones are an obvious influence, although The Lulu’s never plunder directly, instead creating the best riffs Keith Richards never played. Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground also played a major role in the members' youths. Thus the band touches all the major rock roots before tossing them into their own indie blender. There again, even the Velvets in their heyday would have thought twice about recording "Death Shall Come," a brilliant piece of experimental foreboding that slithers slide guitar against a booming beat, drops surrealistic sound effects into the mix, then shrouds it all in an ominous atmosphere. On the other end of the spectrum were perfect pop rockers like "Baby Hurricane" (a British Top Ten indie hit); the boisterous "Seven Hail Marys" and "Vaguely Human" both slamming rock riffs and anthemic choruses into punk frenzy; and more sedate, but equally upbeat numbers like "Let Go," which showcases some of the guitarists' best work. The rhythm section's own proficiency is evident throughout, pulling off rock-solid, but never tiresome, rhythms regardless of tempo or genre, as impressive on the softer, slower numbers as the pounding rockers, while anchoring the more experimental numbers. Perhaps The Lulu’s were just too adventurous for the rock community, too willing to take chances, too energetic, too pop, and too different. Too bad for the rockers missing out on such a classic record. This CD release also includes the Blue Sisters Swing mini-album as an added incentive.
Simple Minds' astonishingly rapid ascent from humble and derivative post-punk to platinum and transcendent art pop is just as remarkable as the descent that followed it. More remarkable is the fact that a fair portion of the band's fans have such a strict discographical line drawn in the sand (right at the chart-crashing masterpiece that is New Gold Dream) where both sides overlap but don't dare cross. While fans of the band's earlier work essentially drop off with that record (and choose to live in blissful denial that the band existed after that), those on the other end are more or less oblivious to what's on the other side. So what's on that other, earlier side? Five studio albums released within the span of three years. Five studio albums that range from safe to bold, from impenetrable to accessible, from strange to puzzling, and from good to pee-your-pants phenomenal. Life in a Day, the first of the five records released during this fascinating pre-fame period of Simple Minds' career, is easily the least of the first five. Despite the growing pains, this is a skilled and assured assemblage of guitar-heavy post-punk, with Jim Kerr's over-caffeinated voice taking the lead role. The arrangements are full, direct, and sharply executed. The high points: the teeter-tottering title track and the J. Geils Band like swagger (honestly!) of "Someone." The low point: "Pleasantly Disturbed" an epic Velvet Underground inspired limp that lasts eight very long minutes.
The birth of a child, never as dark and cold…
It’s just so dark. Throughout the record there’s a lack of hope for the world and apathy for humankind strewn across the futuristic electro warbles and detached vocals and lyrics heard on virtually every track. On paper, that sounds unpleasant, but in reality it’s a well formed brand of synth-pop that doesn‘t care for commercial approval. It has its own flavour; its own sense of style and a clear idea of what it wants to be - cold futurist music, deployed using (at the time) cutting edge synthesisers to create a danceable, yet moody form of electronic music for those outside the realms of pop’s rose-tinted glasses.
Sure, 'Dare' is a masterpiece and, when it comes down to it, it’s probably a better record than 'Reproduction'. But just because their début didn’t aim for the charts, doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Whilst the music isn’t as hooky or digestible as it would grow to be; it is infinitely more interesting and thought-provoking. The opener 'Almost Medieval' pounds along with its despair filled beat and subtle background melodies to make one of the tensest tunes on the album, and despite the overall tone, one song managed to find its way onto the UK charts back in the day ('Empire State Human') - almost unbelievable considering its odd chorus: "Tall, tall, tall, I wanna be tall, tall, tall, as big as a wall, wall, wall".
Really, it’s a matter of taste. People who mainly enjoy, easy-to-stomach pop hooks and generic lyrics won’t see the appeal, and would be better off sticking with 'Dare', but those with a penchant for darker and more challenging music will find themselves a ground-breaking record they might actually prefer to the pop-leaning tendencies on later 'League' albums. It’s best to approach these songs with an ear for curiosity. If you’re looking for a simple pop fix like you’d get with 'Dare', you’ll be disappointed, but if you’re looking to hear The Human League at their earliest and most artily inventive, 'Reproduction' might just delight more than you expect.