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Erik Michalski's -- All of the albums you 
should have in your collection... but probably don't.
Last Updated: December 15, 1996

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DEVO
OH, NO! IT'S DEVO
Originally released on Warner Bros., 1982.
Reissued on Infinite Zero/American Recordings, 1995.

NOTES:
Mark Mothersbaugh: Vocals, keyboards.
Jerry Casale: Vocals, bass.
Bob Mothersbaugh: Guitar, vocals.
Bob Casale: Keyboards, guitar, vocals.
Alan Myers: Drums, percussion.

Produced by Roy Thomas Baker.
c.p. 1982 Warner Bros. Records Inc.
c.p. 1995 Infinite Zero.

Ah, yes, it's too bad that most people only remember Devo from "Whip It," because there's much, much more to the band than that. Oh, No! It's Devo marked the return of the spuds as being quite simply, a fun and intelligent band. Devo's previous two albums, Freedom Of Choice and New Traditionalists were great records, but the seemed to lack the spontaneity and humor of the band's first two recordings. Oh, No! brings it all back full force.

At first listen, the album could be dismissed as being light, techno fluff - a rather big departure musically from the band's previous guitar-driven work, but it makes a great party record anyway. Guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh is clearly buried in the mix this time around, but he still can be heard noodling in "Explosions" and "Speed Racer," and rocking out in "Peek-A-Boo!." With tracks like "Peek-A-Boo!" and "That's Good," Devo penned the last of their commercial hits, but the rest of the album still deserves a mighty big listen. Ther record mainly showcases the ability of singer/synthesist Mark Mothersbaugh and bassist/singer Jerry Casale to write infectious tunes, like the irresistible dance-pop sature of "Explosions," with it's unforgettable "Yes...Oh Yeah" chorus, or the staccato-driven "Big Mess."

However, no Devo album would be complete without something bizarre, and Oh, No! is full of such oddities that are strictly Dev-O: The supercool whirring noisis in "Out of Sync;" the darkly comic "Speed Racer;" or "I Desire," which has lyrics lifted directly from would-be assassin John Hinckley's love letter to Jodie Foster - this album simply has it all. It was out of print for a long time, available only on Japanese inport, but Infinite Zero Recordings put it back on the shelf with all-new packaging, a digital remaster, liner notes by Soundgarden's Kim Thayil and six bonus tracks. Regardless of what one thinks of synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines, Oh, No! It's Devo comes highly recommended, so jput on your dancin' shoes and those Spud-Ring Collars.

We like ideas that change the world for good.




PYLON
GYRATE
DB Records, 1981.

NOTES:
Vanessa Ellison: Vocals.
Randy Bewley: Guitars.
Michael Lachowski: Bass.
Curtis Crowe: Drums.

Produced by Bruce Baxter, Kevin Dunn and Pylon.
Copyright 1981, DB Recs. All rights reserved.

Hey kids...do you like rock 'n' roll? 'cause there's more to the Athens, GA music scene than R.E.M. and the B52's. Gyrate, Pylon's second release gives you chiming guitars, and airtight rhythm section, and vocals which...well, are an acquired taste. Released in 1981, Gyrate is a prime example of the urgency present in the music following the punk explosion.

Part of the album's success is Vanessa Ellison's vocals, which sound like a cross between Patti Smith and Mercedes McCambridge from The Exorcist. Take for instance the startling "Feast on my Heart," in which Ellison literally screams "I didn't choose your sorrow/I don't need your worry" presumably at some anonymous partner from a past relationship. She does have the ability to "sing" in the traditional sense, as on "Recent Title," bit it doesn't happen very often. Keep in mind, this stuff is about fifteen years ahead of Alanis Morissette - and it's the real deal.

The bare bones production showcases the band's ability to push rudimentary melodies to the limit. With songs like "The Human Body," and "Volume," the band attacks each riff with unexpected ferocity. Bassist Michael Lachowski and drummer Curtis Crowe provide a formidable backbone to Ellison's antics, and guitarist Randy Bewly comes up with some of the catchiest riffs around without a fuzzbox. Check it out. You might actually like it.

Only problem is, I don't know if it's still available. You might try writing to DB Recs. 432 Moreland Avenue NE Atlanta, GA 30307. There's also a number on the back of the album (404) 521-3008.

Don't be afraid.




WIRE
PINK FLAG.
Originally released on Harvest/EMI Records, 1977.
Reissued on Restless Retro, 1989.

NOTES:
Colin Newman: Vocals.
B.C. Gilbert: Guitars.
G. Lewis: Bass.
Robert Gotobed: Drums.

Produced by Mike Thorne.
p. 1977 c. 1989 EMI Records, Ltd.

The Sex Pistols? Who are they? Pink Flag marked the debut of Britain's now- legendary punkers Wire, who have since developed into some kind of bizarre techno outfit entitled Wir, or all things (their drummer left the band, complaining of not having enough to do, since drum machines were the percussion of choice). Although lost in the shuffle of the more popular "punk" acts (even though the band has earned some notoriety recently for letting Elastica sample their songs), Wire stands out as being quite an interesting and influential band - with real British accents.

Pink Flag, their rawest album to date, runs the gamut of pure punk, experimental rock, and even light balladry - but the main reasons to pick it up are: 1.) You'll find yourself humming the songs to yourself for days; 2.) You'll realize that the lyrics (if you can actually figure out what Colin Newman is singing) are witty and intelligently written; and 3.) You'll begin to spot the band's influence upon the modern music scene.

Wire's greatest strength is pushing two and three-chord melodies to the absolute limit, rivaled only by, perhaps, The Ramones. Punk addicts will shit themselves over "1 2 X U," "Surgeon's Girl," "Mr. Suit," and "It's So Obvious" - all of which the band run through at lightening speed. Pink Flag is not without its surprises, though. Take "Strange" (which R.E.M. covered on 1987's Document LP) with its distorted, hypnotic guitars and eerie flute passages, the affecting lite-rock balladry of "Fragile" and the undeniably catchy instrumental "The Commercial."

The record's other high points lie in Newman's hilarious lyrics. The range from the nonsensical "Three Girl Rhumba" ("Think of a number/Divide it by two/Something is nothing/Nothing is nothing"), to the witty "Lowdown" ("Another day from A to B/Again avoiding C, D, and E/Because E is where you play the blues") - and thankfully, there is little talk of anarchy. Plus, producer Mike Thorne cranks B.C. Gilbert's guitar into the mix so high that it's hard to hear much of anything else - Rock and Roll.

Salute.




WALL OF VOODOO
DARK CONTINENT.
I.R.S. Records, 1981.

NOTES:
Stanard Ridgway: Vocals, keyboards, harmonica.
Marc Moreland: Guitars.
Bruce Moreland: Bass, keyboards.
Chas Gray: Keyboards, synthesizers.
Joe Nanini: Percussion

Produced by Jim Hill, Paul McKenna and Wall of Voodoo.
Copyright 1981, International Record Syndicate, Inc.

So, you think that Wall of Voodoo are just another has-been from the 80's and they should be doomed forever to countless appearances on compilaiton albums with the likes of Men Without Hats, Haircut 100 and A Flock of Seagulls (because, you know, they all sound the same anyway)? Wrong. Dark Continent marked the first full-length realease from the underrated band whose previous 1980 self-titled E.P. (recently reissued by Restless Records with eleven bonus live tracks) showcased an overwhelming departure from the New Wave sound with primal rhythms, weird sound effects and inventive guitar work. However, with Continent, Wall of Voodoo finally hit their stride, and there really hasn't been anyone before or since that has sounded remotely like them.

Musically speaking, the components of the band don't seem all that creative: a drum machine, synthesizers, one guitarist, etc. But it's what the band does with their equipment that makes it all so intriguing. Stanard Ridgway's barking vocal style is a key component, and he's more apt to sing about animals, fixing cars and going to work; in fact, he's obsessed with the oppressive nature of employment. His lyrics on the subject range from the campy "Two Minutes Till Lunch" ("Just then I heard my foreman call/'Don't touch that you'll blow this place up'"), the hysterical back-and-forth banter between a hapless employee and a dictating boss in "Back in Flesh" ("Well, I'd rather go bowling/'The lanes are closed'/Maybe a little tennis?/'Your racket's got a hole'/How about some baseball?/'The field's are rained out'"), or the stark "Me and My Dad" ("He's telling me how he died to live/Working hard labor").

The driving force behind the band is undoubtedly Joe Nanini, the percussionist. Using a primitive drum machine as a backing device, he utilizes temple blocks, triangles and cowbells to further define the band's unique sound. However, the real find lies in the extremely inventive guitar style of Marc Moreland (who now plays in Pretty & Twisted). He plays somewhat like a cross between Poison Ivy of the Cramps and Johnny Cash. With songs like "Call Box," "Tse Tse Fly," and "Crack the Bell," Moreland's unique fingerpicking style, and intense rhythmic sense gives the band a distinctly Western sound - another theme they are seemingly obsessed with.

Furthermore, Wall of Voodoo pepper the album with weird ambient effects, and an overt sense of humor. Take for instance the frenzied synthesizer effects in "Me and My Dad," and "Back in Flesh," and the truly bizarre instrumental passages that pop up in between songs. Overall, it's quite interesting to hear the band right before they invaded the airways a year later with "Mexican Radio."

If I were you, I'd consider picking this puppy up, because you probably haven't heard anything like it before. It might be difficult to find, however, because it's out of print - so check those used record stores.

This modern world deserves a modern attitude.




All reviews Copyright 1996 Erik Michalski.

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