Musicophilia

[1981] – ‘Fire’ Mix (2005)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on March 31, 2009

1981-fire

One element of post-punk that’s generally overlooked in the prevailing narratives (grey overcoats, “art school,” edgy guitars, politics) is that it directly countered the lockstep of punk by vastly expanding, if not exploding, the rhythmic possibilities of “rock” music.  Gone was the polka-like punk stomp, gone was the prog 20-piece-kit pomp; and in their place, a cultural pluralism of percussion, groove, shake, surf, shimmy, disco, jazz, skank, and free-form funk.  You might call it renewed cultural imperialism after 20 years or so of rock-whiteyfying; but perhaps Malcolm Mclaren-touched projects aside (think Bow Wow Wow), the sound to me is one of liberation, not domination; honor, not theft; it’s exploration, not usurpation, in earnest joy.  As evidence, here is the 8th mix from the 1981‘ Box Set: ‘Fire‘.  This is perhaps the most generally encapsulating mix of the broader zeitgeist of post-punk (at least as I see it) after the first mix posted six months ago, ‘Feet;’ and both share a prevailing danceability and buoyant pace, making this another good mix to share with your post-punk neophyte friends.

Loosening up the beats across 24 tracks and 80 minutes are plenty of well-known names: New Order (from their underrated debut, the gloom already beginning to lift); David Byrne going solo and mirroring his contemporaneous work with Brian Eno, along with Talking Heads and beside the Tom Tom Club; The B-52s; INXS (telling you something about just how vibrant 1981 was by being actually quite decent); Wire, in one of their last first-run releases; Prince, already stirring up controversy.  Then there’s queen Banshee Siouxsie in her fantastic polyrhythmic side project Creatures; David Thomas really going all out like a parade, from his first solo album, and sounding about as far from contemporaneous Pere Ubu as you could imagine; The (English) Beat; The Specials with their all-time great and post-Specials Fun Boy Three; Japan with Mick Karn’s singing bass; and A Certain Ratio demonstrating Factory’s shifting modus oparandi.  Rounding it out are Fad Gadget, the Raybeats‘ surf stylings, Loung Lizards‘ snake-skin jazz, The Suburbs, indefatigable Lizzy Mercier-Descloux, Bauhaus, The Raincoats marching to their own drummer (in this case This Heat’s Charles Hayward), and a barn-burner from my favorites, Family Fodder.  And that leaves one more to go–the counterpart to this mix, ‘Ice,’ so keep on the lookout soon.  Full tracklist and download link at the “more…” link.

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[1981] – ‘Convertible’ Mix (2005)

Posted in Mixes by Soundslike on October 31, 2008

The second posted mix from the ‘1981′ box set, the ‘Convertible’ compilation showcases a side of the post-punk sound that usually gets the least attention: its poppy, melody-oriented, hummable, playful persona. Some of this gets lumped under “New Wave,” but for many that term connotes a synth-based sound that ascended later in the decade. The sounds on this mix in some ways reflect a more traditional, sometimes even pre-psychedelic, singer-songwriter-oriented “pre-punk” or “un -punk” approach to songwriting. Some of it foreshadows the late-80s rise of “indie rock” as an ‘antidote’ to excessive perceived synthetic-glam, but in 1981 there’s not much of the anti-artrockist twee feeling of 80s indie. This is simply catchy pop music, a continuation of a long tradition, with a feeling that is nevertheless uniquely informed by the heady musical freedom in the underground of the era.

I put ‘Convertible’ together as further evidence that post-punk was fun, for those under the looming cultural shadow of Joy Division and the other dark-side mopers. The music found here isn’t nearly as “cool” as a lot of the other stuff on the ’81 set, but it simply doesn’t need to be: it’s just right the way it is, simple, well-crafted, cleanly produced. As usual, there are big names (Costello, REM, Go-Go’s, TheRamones, Pretenders) and less so (Go Betweens, Pylon, The Suburbs, The Stranglers, and the Necessaries, featuring Arthur Russell, transitional Scritti Politti, pre -Everything But the Girl Marine Girls), but to my ears again the remarkable thing is the parity, the consistently high quality of the era’s broad zeitgeist, between those who received lots of attention at the time or went on to become mainstream acts, and those who never came close (or never wanted to). More information about the ‘1981’ box set in general (as well as the first mix in the series posted toMusicophilia) can be found here. Keep your eyes open for more mixes from the ‘1981’ set in upcoming weeks, including synthy goodness, weirdo careening, and the very height of 1981 “cool”. Full tracklist and download link after the “more…”.

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[Miniatures Series] – ‘Post-Punk No.1’ (1977-1983)

Posted in Mixes by Soundslike on October 15, 2008

Designed for those days when your messageboard- and text-message- and blog-addled attention span is particularly hyperactive, the ‘Miniatures’ series feature all songs less than two minutes in duration, and mixes under forty minutes. Despite their brevity, every track tells a full-scale musical story-no mere interstitials here. Above all, fun is the name of the game.

So, the kinetic, herky-jerk, anything-went playfulness of the post-punk period seems the perfect fit to kick it off. So here is the first of three post-punk-themed mixes in the ‘Miniatures’ mold, featuring favorites like the Swell Maps, Scritti Politti, the Slits, Young Marble Giants; as well as lesser-knowns like Industry, the Homosexuals, Dif Juz, Voigt-465 and 100 Flowers. Full tracklist and download following the “more” link.

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