Metric Play “Combat Baby”

Listen to this track by Torontonian nu-new wave musical quadrangle Metric. It’s “Combat Baby” a single released at the end of 2004, and eventually featured on their second record Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? the following year.

It’s quite a statement to make. But, I feel that Metric is most interesting band in Canada, and in a great of deal of other countries too, to have grown to prominence in the 2000s. So, take that Arcade Fire. They certainly don’t appear to be running out of creative steam, going from strength to strength. “Combat Baby” is one of their earlier singles, and just listen to it; full of post-punk texture and pure pop hooks, while somehow not betraying one aesthetic over another. Magic.

Another thing that it notable about this band is that even if they follow a number of existing musical threads, there is something about how they process them that allows the band to come off like they are cutting their own trail through the indie wilderness, rather than regurgitating what has come before for an audience that may be unfamiliar with the source material. In this alone, they are in a league by themselves. And how do they prove that here? Read more

Bow Wow Wow Play “C30 C60 C90 Go”

Bow Wow WowListen to this track by taboo-bating, industry-undercutting, Malcolm McLaren-abetted punk-pop band Bow Wow Wow. It’s “C30 C60 C90 Go”, their 1980 single that stands as an ode to creative music collecting.

The song showcases the band as an amalgam of punk, pop, and Burundi drumming, which (Adam & The Ants notwithstanding) was something of a unique approach by the early ’80s. But, they also managed to incorporate surf music, and Latin American music into their songs, all of which were aimed at a pop audience. They had a sound of their own to say the least.

The band features then 14-year old singer Annabella Lwin, which adds a bit of realism to the tale of a young record buying fan who, tired of the records she wants not being accessible to her, chooses to (!) tape them instead. This song would represent one of many controversies that the band stirred up during their relatively short initial run in the early 1980s.

But, is this song a really a political tune made to stir up controversy? Why would an up and coming band record a song about not buying music unless they were trying to shoot themselves in the foot?

Why, indeed? Read more

XTC Perform “Chalkhills and Children”

XTC Oranges and LemonsListen to this track by superlative Swindonian pop trio XTC. It’s “Chalkhills and Children”, the closing track as taken from their 1989 record Oranges & Lemons, which was their official follow-up to the high-watermark Skylarking album, and their ninth overall not counting the Dukes of Stratosphear releases, their alter-ego band.

The new record was to be released after a stunning Stateside success with the “Dear God” single, which had been added to US versions of Skylarking. It was crunch time for the band to come up with the next big thing. That’s the deal for the not-quite-widely-accepted band. It’s not much of a draw for someone like singer-guitarist and songwriter Andy Partridge who writes great songs, but isn’t interested in getting caught up in the gears of the star-maker machinery.

“Chalkhills and Children” catches Partridge right in the middle of this situation. Partridge and the rest of the band were on a journey further upward toward the next echelon of fame after a successful single in “Dear God”. All the while, they were still on tenterhooks when it came to being secure in the world of showbiz commerce.

So, how does this song reflect all of that? And what does it deliver outside of the life of its writer? Read more

Wildlife Perform “Bad Dream”

Listen to this track by returning champions of epic-scale indie rock Wildlife. It’s “Bad Dream” as taken from the band’s second record On The Heart, just released this past Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

The new record is their full-length follow up to 2010’s Strike Hard, Young Diamond, which I had the pleasure of reviewing when it came out, specifically their song “Move To The City’, which dealt with big themes, and expresses them in ambitious musical terms.

And now I have a similar pleasure with this song on this superlative record that is built upon that earlier release, which dealt with formative feelings, and of being naive in a big world. This new record is about coming to terms with the fragility of one’s own heart, and growing up in spite of it. This emphasis on thematic and stylistic continuity is what bands who are building momentum of all kinds do when they’re building a lasting body of work.

Wildlife the band

In this case, they’ve been building it with the help of producer Peter Katis (The National, Frightened Rabbit). During the recording process, they spent time in the producer’s home, eating soup, taking care of cats, and making post-punk flavoured rock music to be appreciated on a grand-scale, of which “Bad Dream” is a highlight.

Trading on a Johnny Marr-like rhythm that kicks the song off, it starts with the classic, Springsteen-eqsue “this is the story of two lovers…”.  This is a love story as remembered after many rivers have been crossed, with many mountains climbed. This song is filled with longing, and even deeper regret. It’s love as viewed in retrospect, from eyes that have grown older if not wiser. It is the sound of love as experienced by the pristine hearts of youth as an all-encompassing, irresistible force. But, it’s sung out by a voice that embodies the immovable object of  dinted maturity.

Musically, this song lives in a hyper-post punk 21st century spectrum, with guitars-bass-drums filled in with electronic textures to unify the whole. With that mix, there’s a lot of room for subtlety to balance the anthemic drive found here. Maybe the best example of that is the single bass synth line that lingers after the other instruments have put the chairs on the tables and turned out the lights. Like a memory of a painful relationship, it hangs around longer than you expected.

For more information about the band’s two releases so far, investigate the Wildlife Bandcamp page.

And be sure too to take a look at the band’s video for their song “Born To Ruin”, as another example of the quality of the new record.

Enjoy!

Catlow Sings “Remorse Code”

Listen to this track by Vancouver-based electronica and post-punk popist concern Catlow, a solo project conceived and led by singer-songwriter Natasha Thirsk, known for her work with the Dirtmitts. It’s “Remorse Code”, recently featured on the Catlow Facebook Page with a video using crowdsourced images made by and submitted by fans.

A while ago, we featured a piece on Natasha Thirsk, and a track off of her newest EP Pinkly Things. The song; “House Arrest”.

I love that track!

And, I love this one too, less guitar driven than “House Arrest”, and touching on an ambient dance feel instead. Yet, that post punk feel is a thread that runs through both tunes, and the rest of Pinkly Things, too.

Anyway, I wanted to get the word out in this special edition post here on the ‘Bin, just because Catlow is one of four acts to be featured at Vancouver’s Railway Club on December 21, 2012 as a part of D Trevlon Band album release.

Catlow

For all of you local Vancouver readers, or out-of-towners looking for a reason to come to Van City,  you can find out all of the details on the Facebook Event page above, and then come see Catlow play live, and up close.

And don’t forget to ‘like’, as they say, Catlow on Facebook.

Once you’ve done that, you will be able to watch the video for ‘Remorse Code’ too.

Enjoy!

Dexy’s Midnight Runners Play “Geno”

Listen to this track by British post-punk by way of soul music collective Dexys Midnight Runners. It’s their second UK single and first number one hit “Geno”, as taken from their 1980 album Searching For the Young Soul Rebels, their debut.

A few years before their Trans-Atlantic, and worldwide hit “Come On Eileen” for which they are best (perhaps solely) known outside of the UK, it was this song that made their name, eschewing the usual post-punk textures of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Instead, this tune embraces Northern Soul and ’60s mod-scene flavouring instead. Guitars, bass, and drums were therefore augmented by Hammond organ, and big horns – classic and essential soul elements, all.

Clearly there were links to the burgeoning second wave of Ska in Britain as well, with bands like Madness and the Specials using a similar approach, instrumentally speaking. But, in some ways, Dexy’s provided a stronger tie to music as created and championed in Britain from the mid-60s.

“Geno” is exhibit A, a tune that is named after Geno Washington, an American soul singer based in Britain around this same mid-60s period. Washington was the frontman to The Ram Jam Band, a popular showband who’s audiences were made up of US servicemen (like Washington himself had been), and British soul and R&B fans alike.

But by 1979-80, what was it that Dexy’s were saying about the state of musical play by the time this song came out? Read more

The Church Play “Under The Milky Way”

starfish_albumListen to this track by Antipodean post-punk quartet The Church. It’s “Under the Milky Way”, their breakthrough single in the North American charts as taken from 1988’s Starfish. The single would be released in February of that year, scoring #24 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song and the record off of which it comes was recorded in Los Angeles, produced by stalwart session guy Waddy Watchel (Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards) and Greg Ladanyi (Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon). Maybe the backgrounds of these two slick and professional L.A mainstream rock guys didn’t exactly match up with the post-punk, neo-psych, laid-back sensibilities of a band who’d come out of Australia like the Church.

Yet, the record would be the Church’s most commercially successful record to date, and with this song a big hit. It would appear in an episode of Miami Vice – surely a sign of late ’80s mainstream success!

But, the song was born out of a place that was largely the opposite of the euphoria of success. Read more

Soft Cell Perform “Bedsitter”

Listen to this track by Tainted Love men and synth-pop vectors Soft Cell. It’s “Bedsitter”, a single as taken from 1981’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. This song was a part of a set of songs that explored landscapes of anonymous club liasons, drugs, and all around seediness that reflected the environments responsible for them; New York, where the record was made, and London, the city in which Soft Cell were based at the time.

Even if the times and places in which this song was made were influential on how the music came out, then so was the mood and emotional states of singer and lyricist Marc Almond. This is not a happy tune, with fun times out at the clubs on Saturday finding the song’s narrator at home alone on Sunday morning. Is that any kind of place for a pop star? Well, therein lies the genius of this song. It’s not about the pop star; it’s about the audience.

Besides the scenes and themes of indulgence of course, we get a whole point of view that sheds light on, or perhaps casts shadows on, the mindset of a whole subset of music fan listening to the radio, or watching Top of The Pops in 1981. Read more

Modern English Play “I Melt With You”

Listen to this track by British new wave concern Modern English. It’s their 1982 smash-hit “I Melt With You”, an effervescent tune that lit up the charts, several movie soundtracks of that era, and ones to come.

The song appeared initially on their After The Snow album, their second on the now legendary and still-active 4AD label, released in May of 1982. But, from the label that would champion artists that existed initially on the fringes, this song scored a placement on Billboard’s Hot 100 that year. It would be the theme of the movie Valley Girl (starring a very young Nicolas Cage), where it gained its audience, and would appear in many other films besides, and with a number of cover versions from artists from Bowling For Soup to Jason Mraz.

It would certainly ensure Modern English’s place in pop history, being one of the most tuneful pop songs of the decade.

But, apart from the clear roots in post-punk that this band had when they formed in 1979, what cultural nerve did this song hit to make it so popular? Read more

Simple Minds Perform “Up On The Catwalk”

Simple Minds Up On The CatwalkListen to this track by Scottish post-punk and eventual stadia-ready music proponents Simple Minds. It’s “Up on the Catwalk”, the third single from their last-of-its-kind 1984 album Sparkle In The Rain, the band’s sixth record.

This would be one of the songs for which the band is most associated in the first chapter of their career. It was put out near the end of an era for the band, and before a new direction would carry them into the second half of the decade, which included a top 40 mainstream hit in “Don’t You Forget About Me”.

That tune’s smash success was helped along by its inclusion in the era-defining John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club. This was the song that placed them in a pure rock/pop top 40 sphere, and in the record collections of those who’d perhaps not been familiar with them in their earlier incarnation as dark and spiky post punk purveyors.

Yet  before that more mainstream success, “Up On The Catwalk”, would capture the band at the height of their post-punk roots, and perhaps at the tail end of that era for many bands contemporary to them. Read more