Once again, an outstanding John Maus track, being a remastered version of a previously untitled demo. An ’80s vibe so well done that it sounds like Joy Division performing from the International Space Station.
Posts Tagged ‘post-punk’
With one month left to go, looking back one thing is clear: the year 2011 has been a very poor year in indie music. Seriously: while 2010 had lots of musical highlights, from the albums High Violet by The National and Before Today by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti to The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, and from all kinds of energetic electronic-indie and synth acts like Crystal Castles, Delorean, Phoenix and Two Door Cinema Club, to chillwave (which was okay for a while, with Neon Indian, Teen Daze, Luftwaffe), the past year I’ve heard almost nothing that blew my mind like those acts did.
This can mean two things: either the indie/hipster scene in 2011 is really in its dying phase, and depraved of originality – I really can’t stand every next Brooklyn retro-1980s synth-pop outfit with a “vintage” video clip; or I have heard it all and am getting old. Even the acts that are supposed to be at the top of today’s scene, like The Naked and Famous, M83 and the likes, to me in all honesty really sound like poppy rip-offs of stuff that used to be better and more original.
Last year, I had trouble putting together a ‘best of 2010′ list, because the supply was so big. In 2011, I’ll be having trouble filling it because almost nothing really cool or original came out. The one highlight I can think of is Cut Copy’s Zonoscope, and even that wasn’t exactly a game-changer.
I wonder what the next decade hype will be, actually: since every 1980s niche has by now been plundered, my bet is on either retro-1970s or retro-1990s music and trends. We’ll probably never see something new anymore.
But okay. Here’s a new 2k11 track that I actually do like. Yes, it’s synth once again… but this harks back to those early-1980s post-punk bands with an expansive sound, like Siouxsie and the Banshees and early U2, which is a niche that hasn’t been recycled that much yet. If you’re a sucker for “big” sounds, like I am, listen to this:
Listen to this. It sounds like it was produced on a laptop yesterday, and could be played at some underground art festival or rave, possibly in Berlin or Amsterdam.
Yet, it’s from 1981 and it’s coming from Nijmegen! It’s part of the oeuvre of the New Wave/experimentalist electronic band Mekanik Kommando, that was formed in 1980 and released albums until late in the decade. How’s that for digging up some obscure shit?
Mekanik Kommando was part of the Ultra movement, a Dutch variety on the post-punk/New Wave/early electronic wave that had been developing in Germany and Great Britain since the late 1970s, with of course Joy Division being the most prominent example.
I find it very remarkable how fresh and modern the tracks by Mekanik Kommando sound (dig their name too). It they’d release stuff today, Pitchfork would be on to them. Listen to this, it’s all great:
I particularly like this track.
Clever song by LA 1970s band Sparks from 2009, about a guy who’s unlucky in love because his girlfriend thinks he doesn’t live up to Morrissey. Note: they’re mutual fans.
Morrissey, by the way, recently compared the slaughter in Norway to what happens daily in KFC… So yeah, he definitely needs to lighten up.
She won’t hang out with me no she won’t hang out
‘Til my biting wit bites like his
She won’t hang out with me no she won’t hang out
‘Til my quick retort’s quick as his
So lighten up Morrissey?
Lighten up lighten up
Lighten up lighten up
It only rarely happens that you immediately fall in love with a track. This is such a case. British band The Horrors have been around for a while, but as they seemed the umpteenth Joy Division / New Wave / post-punk influenced band in town, I ignored them.
This turns out to have been a mistake. Unlike many of their peers (Editors, Interpol, White Lies, The Bravery), The Horrors actually pull it off! Tracks like the three posted below not only show their love of Joy Division, but also incorporate 1970s Krautrock and Kraftwerk influences in a very cool manner. Makes for really dark, gritty psychedelic stuff.
Still Life (epic)
Sea Within A Sea (lots of early 1980s, lots of Kraftwerk):
U2 is the only band that I consistently own all the records from (albeit a small minority only in digital format). I know a lot of people just hate them, and those people are right. They’re pretty much insufferable, don’t really stand out as individual musicians, and what they’ve produced and done the last ten years is highly shitty (the last three albums basically suck totally, except for ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘Vertigo’, which are awesome tracks). I particularly dislike the whole commercial peace-love-understanding vibe that they’ve gotten into, and Bono’s lyrics are getting progressively worse. Plus, they’re a bunch of millionaires, and they know it.
Nevertheless: everything they produced before 2001′s All That You Can’t Leave Behind is simply fantastic. The early post-punk new wave albums are piercingly forceful and enthusiastic; the more ambient albums after that are beautiful; the Joshua Tree stuff tops everything in greatness; and their 90′s music is dark and original. The Rattle & Hum concert video, by the way, is the single best music video thing ever, maybe except for the Woodstock dvd. Compare that to other bands like The Rollling Stones, which got into ridiculousness way earlier and sooner than this band did.
So, being such at an adept, even though months can go by without listening to even a single track, I’m always happy when material pops up that I’m not familiar with. Case in point here is U2′s “lost” single, ‘A Celebration’, which was released as a single in March 1982 (between the October and War albums), yet never appeared on an album. I do remember seeing it on MTV once, but completely forgot about it had it not been for this Dangerous Minds post recollecting the history of the track, in addition to a nice interview with Bono about it.
It’s actually a pretty decent track with a very nice guitar riff. The clip was shot in Kilgainham Goal (a former prison for political prisoners in Dublin, which hosted some well-known Irish revolutionairies), where I happened to be just a couple of months ago. Here it is:
For more about this, check this blog post. Here’s a part of a 1983 radio interview with Bono about why the group disliked the track and started to ditch it:
Interviewer: I wanna play the other side of that, which is ‘A Celebration’, since we have no hope in the world of hearing this tomorrow, since the band’s forgotten it we’re gonna play that. This is a terrific track, is it ever going to appear on an album?
Bono: No…(laughs) I don’t think so. It ah -
Interviewer: Do you not like it?!
Bono: No I do like it actually, I’m… sometimes I hate it, I mean it’s like with a lot of music, if I hear it in a club it really excites me, and I think it is a forerunner to War and a lot of the themes. It was great in Europe because… A song like ‘Seconds’ people thought was very serious -- on the LP War ‘Seconds’ -- it’s anti-nuclear, it’s a statement. They didn’t see the sense of humour to it, it’s sort of black humour, where we were using a lot of clichés; y’know It takes a second to say goodbye, blah blah, and some people took it very seriously. And it is black humour, and it is to be taken sort-of seriously, but this song had the lines in it, I believe in a third world war, I believe in the atomic bomb, I believe in the powers that be, but they won’t overpower me. And of course a lot of people they heard I believe in a third world war, I believe in the atomic bomb, and they thought it was some sort of, y’know, Hitler Part II. And Europeans especially were (puts on outraged French accent) Ah non! Vive le France! and it was all like, all sorts of chaos broke out, and they said, What do you mean, you believe in the atomic bomb? And I was trying to say in the song, I believe in the third world war, because people talk about the third world war but it’s already happened, I mean it’s happened in the third world, that’s obvious. But I was saying these are facts of life, I believe in them, I believe in the powers that be BUT, they won’t overpower me. And that’s the point, but a lot of people didn’t reach the fourth line.
Check out this brutal techno/dubstep cover of Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control’ by South African artist Spoek Mathambo (previously featured here).
There’s also an interesting video with it, directed by photographers and cinematographers Pieter Hugo and Michael Cleary.
Well well, listen to this track by the obscure late-1970s Manchester New Wave band Gerry & The Holograms. Does it remind you of something? Maybe of the great 1983 club hit Blue Monday, by Manchester phenomenon New Order?
Dangerous Minds engages in a bit of musical history:
Championed by Frank Zappa during a 1980 BBC Radio 1 guest disc jockey stint (as well as 1979 radio spot on WPIX in New York and The Dick Cavett Show), Gerry & the Holograms (who consisted of a guy named John Scott, and CP Lee of Manchester-based 70s comedy-rock group, Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias) put out this Residents-influenced piss-take on the synthpop bands that would have been emerging then, like Soft Cell or The Human League.
Zappa referred to Gerry & the Holograms as “the hottest thing to come out of Manchester in at least 15 minutes.” The duo’s second record, “The Emperor’s New Music” came glued to the picture sleeve.
Gerry & the Holograms was later remixed by Diplo, in a manner, that somewhat amplifies the question about the “inspiration” behind a certain massive-selling worldwide dancefloor hit of 1983. Coincidence? You decide!
Pretty brilliant: the Kleptones mash up New Order (“Blue Monday”), Nirvana (“On a Plain”), The Cure (“Hanging Garden”) and Bruce Springsteen (“57 Channels”). And it sounds perfect, with interesting video footage as well.
Today it’s 30 years ago that the frontman of one of the best bands of all time, Joy Division, took his life. Ian Curtis hanged himself in his Macclesfield home in the early morning of May 18, 1980, after an argument with his wife about an extramarital affair. And of course the band became legends afterwards… And rightfully so. The darkness, the persistent drums, the eerie synthesizers, Curtis’ haunting voice, Peter Hook’s bass lines, Bernard Sumner’s guitar work… it’s all brilliant.
So here’s their most famous song, as a tribute:
Also see this live version of “Transmission”, which shows the epilepsy-induced intensity of Curtis’ performance:
The band went on afterwards to become New Order, which is, by the way, also fantastic.
And finally, of course, go see Anton Corbijn’s movie Control about Curtis’ life story.