Thursday, July 3, 2008

This is not an exercise, but could it end up with ABBA?

Wire - The Ideal Copy
This is generally considered the beginning of the end for one of the better groups surviving the punk/new wave collision. Hopelessly polished and warm and radio-friendly, The Ideal Copy is practically a Depeche Mode record, and doesn't hold up that well (unlike it's more acoustic follow-up A Bell is a Cup Until It is Struck) except for the jagged electropop joy of "Ahead," the pointilist breeziness of "Madman's Honey", the Throbbing Gristle redux of "Feed me" .....

OK maybe it does hold up.

The best song on the CD is one that was not on the album proper, the monolithic magnificent "Drill." Endless variations and remixes have been made of this song, in fact Wire released a whole album of them, but the simple elegance, poise and mannered aggression of the single version is not to be denied.

In the 80's, Suzanne Somers had a very short-lived late show, and Wire was the musical guest. I was home for the weekend from college, and was watching it with my dad, unbelievably stoked (as only a college music fan of the 80's could be) that my new favorite band was going to be on national television. My dad was nonplussed about the musical merits of Wire and "Drill", but at least noted their stamina, and that drummer had just a hi-hat and a kickdrum. That's commitment to vision anyone can respect.

I thought this was one of those TV moments I made up and wanted to be real, like when Culture Club was featured as a hapless country band on an episode of The A-Team and one scene involved and interchange between Mr. T and Boy George in the men's room. They shared mutual appreciation of each others' outfits. Video evidence of that has not emerged. Maybe it was an SNL skit?

But, here is Chrissy from Three's Company introducing, witnessing and subsequently trying to make some headway with Wire.

Throbbing Gristle - 20 Jazz Funk Greats
This album contains no jazz, no funk, no "greats" and only 11 tracks in the original release. Throbbing Gristle followed in the footsteps of Marcel Duchamp in combating the mercantile culture of give-it-to-me-as-advertised existence through brilliant misinformation. Duchamp told everyone that he'd forsaken art for chess at he height of his fame while secretly slaving away at Etant Donnes for years; TG delivers the vaguely sinister precursor to the Wax Trax electro dance thang, filtering their demolition of language and society through homespun robot disco, Crowley and Burroughs interpretations and, most importantly, ABBA worship.

Drew Daniel of Matmos just penned a book on this album for 33 1/3 which I have not read, but I'll venture that he touches on all of that and then some in staggering detail.

"Convincing People" is the TG/Psychic TV stuff I like: Genesis P-Orridge flatly intoning and echoing his view on the masses over a throb.

There's one way though
That you'll never convince people
And that's when you try

To be someone

Who's not telling

And who's not trying to compel

Who's trying to tell you

What you ought to be

Convinced of

So there's several ways

And there's several days

To convince your people

And you are the people

only to descend into a dryly hilarious, hypnotic chant of We don't want to convince people

ABBA - Arrival
And what is the connection between England's most hated art provocateurs and Sweden's perfectly formed pop master group? Chris Carter, the synth expert in TG was an ardent ABBA fan, even including the un-ironic hommage "AB/7A" on DOA: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle, and the bands operated concurrently. ABBA released Voulez-Vous in 1979, the same year 20 Jazz Funk Greats came out, and both records have as their backbone an marked understanding and capitulation to disco. Sure the rockers were busy yelling "Disco Sucks" but no one heard them over the syncopated beat. Both group used their own compelling sonic technique to bend disco to their purposes and to express themselves through it.

For my money, this is the non-compilation ABBA album to have, where they bridge diva anthems, syrupy Nashville country and Scandinavian design ideals. Plus it has "Dancing Queen." I know it's become a trite thing to quote Muriel's Wedding on this subject, but who doesn't want their life to be as good as "Dancing Queen?" Consider this came out in 1976, when the Sex Pistols were raking up dissent in Olde England, the United States was enrapt in the mirror of it's own bicentennial, Vietnam was fresh wound on everyone and all us children were half-convinced the missiles were going to come any day now and ABBA rose above it all like a disco ball in the sky.

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