“23 (Tunes) and Me (A Musical DNA)” by Richard F. Yates
I have a pretty extensive music collection---milk crates full of records and CDs, stacks of old cassette tapes (including mixes that I made going as far back as the early 1980s), and 7” singles from obscure bands I saw one time in concert and dropped a couple bucks to help them pay for gas to get to their next show, and thousands of digital downloads (many of those RE-buys of tracks I already own on record… I USED to own an Ion USB turntable---if I’m ever rich again, I’m going to get another one---and I used that particular machine to rip rare cuts from my vinyl collection onto my computer---particularly tracks that are no longer available on CD or for purchase as digital downloads; you know, music from weirdo bands, like The Jetsons, God-Bullies, Arbeid Adelt, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and a;GRUMH… All wonderful bands, but tough to find outside of scary record stores or overpriced conventions!) In short: I’ve got a LOT of music.
So when Christmas rolls around each year, everybody knows I love MUSIC, but they have NO IDEA WHAT MUSIC TO GET ME! (My wife does, but she’s unique.) In the minds of most folks, I either like stuff that people haven’t heard of---OR---they don’t know if I already OWN this or that album. The solution to this problem---wanting to get me music but not knowing what music to get---is usually solved by GIFT CARDS. I get TONS of gift cards, and I use those to DIG (in a digital sense) into the nooks and crannies of digital download services. (To be completely honest, I mostly haunt iTunes and Amazon---even though they are big, evil corporations bent on either controlling or destroying the world. But Mr. Yates NEEDS his tunes, and these two entities have a LOT of what I’m looking for.) And this year was no exception. I think I ended up with $75.00 (USD) in iTunes credit alone (and a further $50.00 (USD) on Amazon.) With that stack o’ credits, I went shopping… Below, you will find 23 cuts that I acquired with my Christmas cash, along with mini-reviews for each track, AND a link to a playlist (on the YoooTooobs) where you can listen to these tunes, should you be interested in doing so. (Most of these songs are too obscure to have videos---and one of them was too weird to even have an audio rip, so I had to substitute a different version…but I’ll mention that in the notes for the song itself. The songs are good, though---kind of creepy, almost all of them, but interesting, through and through!)
My mood for this holiday season floated between weird “oldies” (sort of creepy, psychedelic and/or pre-punk cuts), New Wave (including some post-punk / industrial-esque songs and a few NEWER songs by established New Wave performers remixed by modern producers), and straight up electronic dance music…because I ALWAYS love electronic dance music and HAVE LOVED it since I first discovered synths and drum-machines in the early 1980s. Okay? You ready for this? Let’s go…
LINK TO THE PLAYLIST: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLs63s4axWwN-1Maua351dzKBwdvblHgPZ
“23 (Tunes) and Me (A Musical DNA)”
[Approx. 1 hour and 37 minutes]
- Human Sexual Response – “Cool Jerk”
- A Certain Ration – “Shack Up (7” Version)”
- The Neon Judgement – “Tomorrow in the Papers”
- Alan Vega – “Wipeout Beat”
- Iggy Pop – “Funtime”
- Servotron – “The Image Created”
- bis – “Rulers and the States”
- Moby Grape – “Omaha”
- Uffie – “Weed & Drum Machine”
- Haujobb – “The Cage Complex”
- Massiv in Mensch & Individual Totem – “Green (Green Hill Mix)”
- Lead into Gold – “Lunatic Genius (Remix)”
- The Velvet Underground & Nico – “Venus in Furs”
- The Dead Milkmen – “Methodist Coloring Book”
- Jilted John – “Fancy Mice”
- Erasure – “Don’t Suppose (Country Joe Mix)”
- Torch Song with Daniele Baldelli & Dionigi – “Prepare to Energize (Baldelli & Dionigi Mix)”
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “One More Time (Fotonovela Version)”
- Blondie – “Long Time (Hercules & Love Affair Remix Edit)”
- Gotye & Ocelot – “Hearts a Mess (Ocelot Mix)”
- Empire of the Sun – “High and Low (Tommy Trash Remix)”
- Gray – “Doktor Dhoom (Todd Rundgren Remix)”
- Roxy Music – “In Every Dream Home a Heartache”
- Human Sexual Response – “Cool Jerk” (1980) – This is just a fun new wave song. There were a bunch of bands back in the 1980s that had one or two great cuts, then disappeared, like Total Coelo, Barbie and the Kens, Killer Pussy, and Landscape---bands that I mostly only know from compilations of ‘80s music! Interestingly, “Cool Jerk” wasn’t even by Human Sexual Response. It’s a cover of a track by The Capitols from 1967! Regardless, I like the song---fun, poppy, weird, self-deprecating, and upbeat. A great cut!
- A Certain Ratio – “Shack Up (7” Version)” (1980) – “Shack Up” is a great, funky, skronky cut from Factory Records (the folks that brought us Joy Division and New Order and so on.) It’s a solid post-punk track, with a groovy bass-line, skittering guitars, and horns, with the lyrics delivered in a dry, nearly monotone, uninterested voice---and weird little percussion hits, whistle bleats, and the occasional half-hearted female moan thrown in for fun. As funky as Factory could get, in my opinion, and my favorite ACR track by a mile!
- The Neon Judgement – “Tomorrow in the Papers” (1985) – The Neon Judgement are a band that I believe should be much more well known than they are, at least here in the states. (Although, to be fair, I did learn about them back in 1988 or 1989 from MTV! The Sunday night show, 120 Minutes, played a track by them called “Kid Shyleen,” which is a very fun song!) Hailing from Belgium, Neon Judgement are one of the pioneers of what used to be called “Electronic Body Music,” which was a dance-floor friendly industrial / darkwave / goth blend, which I found INCREDIBLY enjoyable when I discovered it. (Other folks who are often dropped into this category are Front 242, DAF, and A Split Second.) This track, “Tomorrow in the Papers,” has a strong, galloping beat, layers of synths, and dark, almost goth vocals (similar, stylistically, to Andrew Eldritch of Sisters of Mercy.) It’s a LISTENABLE track, spooky and unnerving, but also something that you could easily sway to at your local goth-industrial night down at the club!
- Alan Vega – “Wipeout Beat” (1983) – Alan Vega is from the seminal New York synth-punk band, Suicide. Here we get his great, rough almost screamy vocal delivery, a fantastic stompy beat (a “wipeout” of beat for sure!), and synths that sound a lot like surging guitars. The song is funny and catchy, and I have no idea why it wasn’t a smash pop hit, as it’s easily as good as similar tracks by a band like The Cars, but with more TEETH! I love this song…
- Iggy Pop – “Funtime” (1977) – From the album, The Idiot, recorded with David Bowie and Brian Eno, this is a buzzing, crunchy, strange track. It combines keyboards and guitars into a powerful wall of sound, not unlike what Billy Idol would ride to fame in the early ‘80s when he left his punk band, Generation X, and went “new wave,” except Iggy was doing this in 1977, when most punks were still trying to copy the Sex Pistols’ primitive rock. “Funtime” is disturbing, danceable, interesting, AND it rocks all at the same time. I don’t know for sure, but I could easily see this album being a huge influence on all those punk-rock kids who got tired of smacking each other in the face at concerts and decided they wanted to go off in different directions, whether goth, industrial, new wave, synthpop, or post-punk. “Funtime” may be a touchstone for ALL of these styles.
- Servotron – “The Image Created” (1996) – Servotron were a fun, weird, gimmick band (not meant as an insult---I LOVE gimmick bands) whose personas where based on the premise that they were all robots who had decided to revolt against the human race. As a result, all of their songs are about how robots are superior to humans and how they plan to destroy the human race. The MUSIC is almost a cross between early Devo and a more aggressive B-52’s, with male and female vocals, keyboards, buzzing guitars, and an obsession with robots. Hilarious band. I love everything I’ve heard by them!
- bis – “Rulers and the States” (2013) – bis is cool. They are a Scottish band, and they have moved in a lot of different directions over the years, playing everything from twee pop to electro-clash to this cut, “Rulers and the States,” which is a cool electro-synth-punk. The vocals are male and female (like Servotron) and frantic, but have smooth, sing-along choruses, with pleasing harmonics. It’s weird to have a buzzy, dancy, sing-along, punky, pop song, that is both frantic and crunchy AND sweet and dreamy at the same time… I’m not sure how they do it, but I’m glad they do!!! (Interestingly, I also have a COVER, by bis, of the track by A Certain Ratio that I mentioned above! The bis version is on an electro-clash collection that I have by Larry Tee! What a small world…)
- Moby Grape – “Omaha” (1967) – Time for a psychedelic classic! I first heard this track on a documentary about comics, called Comic Book Confidential. The track was used to punctuate a montage of underground comics images from the 1960s, and it really stuck out as a REALLY great song among a bunch of great songs! It’s a quick track, only about 2 and a half minutes long, but it REALLY moves, and the elements all work brilliantly together---the jangly guitars, the rapid-fire drumming, the layered vocals. The song just MOVES! Like a couple of bikers in leather jackets, flying down the freeway on a summer evening… Give it a listen, and see what a really GOOD psychedelic track actually sounds like.
- Uffie – “Weed and Drum Machine” (2019) – Speaking of psychedelic, here’s a newer single by Uffie, who I thought was French because she was on a French techno label, Ed Banger, but who is in fact from the U.S.! Who’d have thought!?! Uffie makes a lot of different KINDS of music, from fast-talking rap to a cover of Siouxsie and The Banshees’ “Hong Kong Garden,” and I usually enjoy whatever direction she decides to explore. In this case, she’s made a short sketch of a track, buzzy and heavy, but soaked in a narcotic (or, I suppose THC based) haze. I don’t indulge in the pot, personally, but I have no qualms with people who do enjoy, and if THIS is the type of track that smoking the HERB can produce, I wish MORE folks would light up, because I really and truly love this song. I’ve listened to it a dozen times already (in the week or so that I’ve had it) and it hasn’t even STARTED to get old yet. It’s a nice HEAD track, that makes you feel all floaty---but that you can still dance to if you want to... Actually, you almost HAVE to dance to it!!! It's so good! Looking forward to whatever else Uffie might bring us in the next few months!
- Haujobb – “The Cage Complex” (1996) – This is an odd one. Haujobb is a German band, and they combine a ton of different stylistic elements into their music. This cut has sinister, almost new age sounding synths, heavy percussion, with a lot of SPACE in the sound that lets the individual elements breathe, bleeps and squelches and electro blurps, and an almost trip-hop beat---but then there’s this wailing saxophone (like the one on Bowie’s “Neuklon” or “Subterraneans”)---and the vocals are closer to a goth / darkwave smoothness, as opposed to a growl or the distorted vocals you might normally hear from an industrial band. Is this still industrial music??? A friend of mine called bands like this (and VNV Nation, Wolfsheim, Seabound, etc.) “Future-Pop,” and I’m not sure if that’s a real genre or if he was just pulling my antenna. Whatever this is, it’s brilliant. You could dance to it or just listen to the layers and textures. I love Haujobb, and this is one of their best tracks…even if I don’t know what it actually is…
- Massive in Mensch & Individual Totem – “Green (Green Hill Mix)” (2009) – Brilliant! I don’t know much about Massive in Mensch, but I have two or three singles by them and enjoy what I have, and Individual Totem had a brilliant album back in 2002 or 2003 that I still love to this day. Put these two industrial acts together (the track is from a remix collection of MiM tracks) and you get sheer and utter heaven. The song is first and foremost a dance song, with a pummeling beat that just PUSHES this song forward. There are also some fantastic buzzing synths and a fuzz-crunch sound that’s either a heavily distorted guitar or a keyboard turned into a buzz-saw. Meanwhile, the vocals are kind of pretty and dreamy, while still being delivered with the usual, low male voice. This isn’t a growl or a grumble---it’s somehow more like an industrial lullaby, meant to calm and hypnotize you for a long journey by train---or perhaps a rocket to the stars. INDUSTRIAL for sure---futuristic, progressive, fantastic. Great song.
- Lead into Gold – “Lunatic Genius (Remix)” (1990) – Here is some vintage Wax Trax! Chunky percussion, thumping bass guitar, but an almost rock-and-roll vocal, this is the Wax Trax that I really miss. It’s not just a carbon copy of every other industrial-metal track out there, but a genuinely good song, performed in the old-school industrial style. Think Revolting Cocks or Twitch era Ministry for similarities. I wish more bands were this good… (AND I wish I could get my hands on “Idiot” by Lead into Gold, but it’s still not available on iTunes, for some reason. I’ll probably have to pay collector price for the CD single one of these days…)
- The Velvet Underground and Nico – “Venus in Furs” (1967) – From the self-titled V.U. album (the one with the iconic, Andy Warhol “Banana” cover), “Venus in Furs” is a disturbing ode to S&M, with tortured violin stabs, a hypnotic, swirling rhythm, Lou Reed’s sweet (but completely evil) vocal delivery, and the need for a shower after listening. This had to have freaked folks out pretty badly back in 1967. It’s still an unsettling song today, and one of the most brilliant cuts by a fabulous band---foundational to punk, goth, post-punk, and anyone who loves a little bit of the whip…
- The Dead Milkmen – “Methodist Coloring Book” (1990) – Punk! The Milkmen are one of my favorite punk bands of all time, and this track exemplifies exactly why. The song is funny and buzzy, a biting satire, and the vocals are as tortured and harsh as anyone could possibly stomach---but by all the GODS, I love this track. We have the record that this song comes from, but I wanted to be able to play the song in the car, so I bought it again in digital. It was worth it…
- Jilted John – “Fancy Mice” (1978) – This is great stuff. With a strange, cheeky, speak-sing style vocal, Jilted John tells these hilarious stories in song form. This one is about a young kid who is having a hard time going through puberty, so his doctor suggests he get a hobby, like breeding fancy mice… Seriously. That’s what the song is about! I love this type of thing, and I wish there was a lot more like it. (I’ve discovered a few performers like this, such as Television Personalities, Yeah Yeah Noh, and John Cooper Clarke---all worth listening to!!!) If you just want a fun, quirky, weird song to listen to, that maybe recalls a little bit of Monty Python with your pop-punk tunage, give Jilted John a listen!
- Erasure – “Don’t Suppose (Country Joe Mix)” (1988) – I first heard this song in high school, when I bought the cassette single for the classic Erasure track, “Chains of Love.” (I still love that song, too, but I don’t have the single anymore… [Sad face.]) Anyway, I finally got a digital copy of this track, which makes me happy. It’s a weird mish-mash of Vince Clarke’s synths, a nice little beat, Andy Bells’ soaring vocals, and this odd twanging banjo! In a WAY, the song reminds me of “This is the Day” by The The, which came out a few years before “Don’t Suppose.” I wonder if Vince was influenced??? Anyway, it’s a sweet, feel-good song. You COULD dance to it, if you wanted to, but it’s more of a swaying and listening tune, in my opinion.
- Torch Song with Daniele Baldelli and Dionigi - “Prepare to Energize (Baldelli & Dionigi Mix)” (2016) – I can’t actually find much info on this song… I have the ORIGINAL version, by Torch Song, on vinyl, and I love that track. I first heard it in the bad, old Tom Hanks’ comedy, Batcheler Party, in the scene with the dancer lady and the donkey… (Really!) And I loved that track, but it took me almost two decade to track down the 12” single---which I eventually found at a record convention in Portland, Oregon. A digital download for the original version is STILL not available on iTunes, though, for reasons I’ll never understand, but this remix is pretty great. It kicks a little more energy into the drums, modernizing the percussion a bit and “housing it up” a bit, but the remixers also kept a lot of the original blurps and bleeps, which I love from the ‘80’s version of the song. It has cascading synths, spacy atmospherics, and an Italo-disco propulsion to it, that I find very enjoyable. Until I can get the original, I’m happy to listen to this version! (Oddly enough, there ISN’T a YouTube version of this remix, so I included the version they used in Batcheler Party in my video playlist!)
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “One More Time (Fotonovella Version)” (2018) – This cut originally appeared on the 2017 OMD album, The Punishment of Luxury (which I haven’t actually heard---although I SHOULD, because this song is great!) If you like OMD, you’ll enjoy this song. It’s got all the synths and dreamy vocals and lovely feel of every classic OMD track…(exactly the same elements that newer bands, like Cut/Copy have tried to emulate!) In addition, there are more than a few notes of early OMD, (in the vein of “Messages” or “Electricity”), in this bouquet, which solidifies that nostalgia surge, while still being a certifiably new track. Great stuff!
- Blondie – “Long Time (Hercules & Love Affair Remix Edit)” (2017) – First, I want to remind everyone that Blondie is one of my top ten favorite bands of all time. I LOVE Blondie, so when they come out with something new, I try to give it a listen…but I missed this one, somehow. The track “Long Time” comes from the album, Pollinator, which I’m going to have to get. This track is WONDERFUL! I’m also a fan of Hercules & Love Affair, who I’m sure helped give this song a lot of the propulsion and dreaminess. It’s a synthpop song, for sure, but with a heavy, thumping beat that would make it a KILLER on the dancefloor! If I ever get a chance to DJ in a club again, this will DEFINITELY be in my set-list. A nearly perfect Blondie song and a brilliant dance track at the same time!
- Gotye & Ocelot – “Hearts a Mess (Ocelot Mix)” (2007) – Most people probably remember Gotye’s hit single, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” which was a great track, but this song was also a solid cut! I like this mix better than the original, though, with it’s chopped vocals, killer percussion, buzzing and growling noises, and just STOMPING beat. Ocelot knows his shit. Gotye’s voice is great, and with this vicious production underneath, the song would still be a serious threat at any club a full twelve years after it came out!
- Empire of the Sun – “High and Low (Tommy Trash Remix)” (2016) – Empire of the Sun is a great band. They’ve been putting out cool, weird, highly expressive tracks for about a decade now, and they never fail to interest me. Part of what I like about this band are the quirky vocals, which seem to have an ANDROID quality to them, in my opinion. (They remind me quite bit of Gary Numan, actually, both thematically and sonically.) This track, remixed by Tommy Trash, is glitchy and punchy, but the vocals are kept strong in the mix, which I like. The song has a dreamy, futuristic feel to it, and the percussion and synths and other noises all work to make ME feel like it should be heard in some SPACE DANCE-CLUB orbiting Saturn sometime in the near future. I hope you’ll all be there with me!!!
- Gray – “Doktor Dhoom (Todd Rundgren Remix)” (2019) – Here’s a REALLY weird one!!! Gray was a noise project that painter and icon Jean Michel Basquiat was involved with back in New York in the late 1970s. They played at places like The Mudd Club, and they made unholy noises that sounded like a mix between jazz, industrial, punk, and sound-collage. The funny thing about THIS cut, which comes from a newly released retrospective of the band, is that the original was only a quick sketch of a tune, only about a minute and a half long, but a brilliant proto-industrial-funk cut. HERE, though, Todd Rundgren (who some of us will remember from pop classics, like “Hello It’s Me,” “I Saw the Light,” and “Bang the Drum All Day”) goes all DUB-STEP on us!! (??? WTF ???) And, HONESTLY, the track is brilliant! The skeleton of Gray’s old funk-punk noise piece is still here, but Rundgren has rebuilt it as an absolute bionic CLUB CRUSHER! This is a MONSTROUS BEAST of a track, crushing and crunching and insane. I absolutely love it! And I don’t understand what happened to Todd since the ‘70s, but...DAMN….
- Roxy Music – “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” (1973) – From the brilliant album, For Your Pleasure, this is the creepiest, weirdest, most insane love song ever written to a plastic blow-up doll. This is gothic sleaze, jazzy S&M, church music for the deranged, with Bryan Ferry’s vocal croon dripping with vampiric lust, and Eno’s keyboards flitting around the track like evil little bats with glowing red eyes. And, for some reason, there’s a sax player on THIS track, too… What’s with all the saxophones in the music I’ve been digging lately? Kind of weird. Anyway, this song is wonderful… Grandiose, decadent, and beautiful…
And that’s it… As I sit here, I just realized it’s after midnight, so I MISSED posting anything on January 4th! Bummer. I’ll try to get another post up before bed tomorrow (Sunday the 5th), so you won’t miss out on any content. Just have to deal with two posts in one day instead of one each day. Dang. Got busy helping the younger daughter this afternoon---and, of course, writing this took MUCH longer than I thought it would! Oh well! Them’s the breaks!
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!