Sunday, February 11, 2018

Oblivious in the late 1970s

I recently watched, for the first time, the DVD of Blondie playing at CBGB's in 1977, which is included with their 40th anniversary package released in 2014. What struck me was the way this music was almost punk, almost new wave, in 1977, when in my high school world, pretty much all I knew was what we now call classic rock. I knew disco existed because of the top 40 hits from the Bee Gees, ABBA, etc., and I liked them okay but didn't buy any of that music. I was aware of the punk group Sex Pistols having appeared on the scene in Britain and the all-girl punk band The Runaways in the USA (Joan Jett & Lita Ford were members), but it was nothing more than some kind of awareness; I don't think I'd even heard any punk at that point.
So while I was in my classic rock bubble, for the most part unaware of other kinds of rock -- and for many years afterward associated the 1970s with classic rock -- in 1977 new music was brewing. Blondie had this new music going, with two albums out already by 1977. Ultravox, a group I didn't learn about until 1982, released their first two albums in 1977 (which I didn't even realize until last year). Joy Division (precursor to New Order) and Human League released their first albums in 1979, when I was heavily into disco and funk, and still the only rock I knew about was classic rock. It kind of bugs me that I was missing out on this exciting new music while it was emerging.
But in 1979, I began to become aware of some new sounds. First was the electronic stuff like "Pop Muzik" by M; a hilarious album of 50s hits re-done in playful electronic style by The Silicon Teens; and "Video Killed The Radio Star" by The Buggles (virtually unheard of at the time, but when MTV debuted with that video as their first song ever in 1981, then it became a big hit). 
My first album of the 1980s, which I got just before the new decade, was the debut album by The B-52's. I got my first punk album, an intense album by The Plasmatics. And soon New Wave burst onto the scene, and the early 1980s was awash in fresh new music. But in 1977, I was oblivious to what was brewing.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Raves: Where I'm In My Element

Last night at a rave, while I was taking a break from dancing and people watching, suddenly the thought hit me: I am really in my element here.  I feel very comfortable in this environment, and I am so happy to have the opportunity to be a part of it.  This is a fairly recent thing for me -- I attended my first rave in December 2011.

Of course, the biggest reason I like raves is because of the music!  I liked electronic dance music long before it had such a term.  For example, side 4 of the 1978 double album Bad Girls by Donna Summer (produced by Giorgio Moroder, who was responsible for the sound) was always my favorite side of the album: all of the songs were electronic.  One of my favorite dance songs of 1983 was "I Love You" by Yello, a song in which I can hear clear foretastes of today's pulsating EDM.  The music has evolved since then, and it's even better than ever, so I am definitely enjoying the music these days.  The only kinds of EDM I know I don't like is Drum'n'Bass, and some kinds of house.  My favorites are trance (especially melodic vocal trance), dubstep, and happy hardcore...but again, I like pretty much all of it except Drum'n'Bass and some house.

Another reason I like raves is because of the colors and lights!  This, too, goes way back for me.  Back in the 1960s, I loved the psychedelic colors and designs that were popular then, much of it associated with the music known as psychedelia, and some with acid rock.  The stage performers would have behind them a big backdrop of psychedelic colors in ever changing patterns.  In the late 1970s, dancing in a disco provided the experience of colored flashing lights, though at first it was mostly lighted dance floors and mirror balls -- very primitive by today's standards.  Now at raves, there are fabulous laser lights and the newer amazing LED dance lights, providing awesome colors, designs, and visual excitement.

In addition to the colors of the dance club lights themselves, there are the bright colors provided by the PEOPLE!  On the dancefloor, people bring their glowsticks, LED finger lights and other kinds of colorful flashing devices.  Plus, many people wear brightly colored clothes, which is right down my line, because I like to wear bright colors on a daily basis.  A number of girls wear brightly-colored knee-high fur boots (even now, in the heat of summer), accompanied by other brightly colored clothes.  Even many guys wear bright colors -- which, since normally I am very much the oddball for wearing bright colors, is one of the reasons I feel like I'm in my element at a rave.

Last night I was thinking also about all the different kinds of things people wear and have with them.  There was a couple where the guy had on a bright yellow hooded sweatshirt, with the hood being a Pokemon head, and the girl wore a Japanese schoolgirl uniform.  Another guy that was there last night, who I've seen at raves before, has a Pokemon backpack that he wears.  It's not unusual to see Hello Kitty attire.  I saw other cartoon head gear, including one girl wearing a dinosaur head piece with the ridges of the dinosaur's back going halfway down her back.  Girls often wear tutus.  At the other end of the spectrum from the cute stuff, I saw a guy with an army helmet on, and another one wearing a gas mask.  I saw a guy dressed like a hiker carrying a big walking stick.  I saw a guy dressed in a kimono.  Some couples were dressed in attire that seemed to be based on something from literature.  But not everyone dresses up in something special like this.  Others wear lots of general outlandish clothes that I love -- bright colors, shiny or vinyl clothing, lace, and bold designs. Still others wear normal clothes, of varying styles, from plain old jeans and t-shirt to something nicer looking.  What I like most of all: Anything goes.  You can wear outlandish costumes, or you can wear normal street clothes -- it doesn't matter what you wear, you fit in.  That's something I noticed last night that I really like about raves.

I also like their comfort with various toys or gadgets.  I've already mentioned the glow sticks and LED finger lights; there are also glow bracelets and necklaces, and other things with flashing LED colored lights.  One item sometimes seen is something like a long, tubular wig that lights up and flashes.  There’s a girl who comes to many of the raves and has a lighted hula hoop, which looks awesome in action. Last night I saw someone with a flashing LED pacifier.  People have toy guns, swords, and other items that light up with all kinds of colors.  Candy pacifiers and lollipops are not at all unusual.  Last night I was appreciating all this, savoring the fact that with these people, you can have fun in a childlike way and not be ridiculed, as is too often the case in the rest of society.

Lighted hula hoop in action

This anything-goes freedom applies to the dancefloor too.  Rave dancefloors tend to have a guy-to-girl ratio of about 10-to-1, which is completely different from the ratio of any other kind of music environments I've been in, where female dancers are clearly the majority.  Some of the guys are fabulous dancers, able to move their feet incredibly fast, and they're amazing to watch.  Other guys barely move on the dancefloor, just swaying a bit to the beat.  And there's everything in-between...and nobody cares.  Nobody cares how you dance; there's no pressure to be a good dancer as in some other music environments.  So this is another way I really appreciate the rave community.

Finally, I have found that people at raves are mostly really nice.  When I first started going to raves, I was apprehensive, afraid I wouldn't be accepted or would be viewed as the freak because I was 20 to 35 years older than everyone else there.  But I quickly found out that people did not treat me differently, but struck up normal, friendly conversations with me.  I've even gotten some compliments.  Last night, upon arrival, as I was walking through the group of people smoking outside the doors, one girl who was not conservatively dressed said to me enthusiastically, "I like your shirt!"  I smiled big and replied heartily, "Thank you!"  That put my night off on a good start!  Outside afterward, one guy said, "You're a good dancer," a compliment I've received from time to time in various word forms.  My favorite version of the compliment ever was the guy who said, "Man, you rave like a mofo!"

Yes, even though I've known since my first rave in December 2011 that I love this environment, last night it really hit me how glad I am to have the opportunity to experience being in a place where I feel so comfortable.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: "Decade" by Paradoxx

Decade is a compilation album by the Australian Christian electronic alternative music band Paradoxx, including tracks from their two studio albums, their remix album, and a couple songs not found on any other Paradoxx albums. The new Paradoxx song on Decade is “Rocketship,” of which there are two versions appearing here, and the other song never before appearing on a Paradoxx album is Miss Angie’s song “Not Enough,” which Paradoxx remixed.

My experience with Paradoxx goes back to 1998 when their song “Romantic” was released on the Electrapop various artists compilation album. It was one of my favorite songs on the album, and it made it on to one of my favorite mix tapes of the era. (Yes, it was still the cassette era for mix tapes!) Despite how much I liked “Romantic,” due to various circumstances, I didn’t end up getting Paradoxx’s debut album New Devotion, which came out in 1999, until 2005, and it became my #1 album of 2005. In 2006, I got their sophomore album Atomika, released in 2004, and it made my top 10 of 2006. I also have their remix album Contamination, which didn’t resonate with me as much as remix albums generally do, but it still makes its way into my CD player on a fairly regular basis.

Electrapop, the compilation where I first heard Paradoxx, and their three albums from which Decade’s material was derived.

Since I have all 3 Paradoxx albums that were released before Decade, I already had all the songs on this CD, except for “Rocketship.” (I already had Miss Angie’s album Time And Space, which includes the original version and the Paradoxx remix of “Not Enough,” so for me, “Rocketship” was the only song I’d never heard.) Thus, the only way I can review this CD is, what do I think of their song choice and sequencing? I cannot review it as one who has never heard them, or hasn’t heard all their songs, so I can’t give an angle for people not familiar with Paradoxx.

The album starts with the new song, “Rocketship,” featuring Andy Labb of Syrian. This song is straight out dance music, in the camp of European melodic vocal trance. I loved this song immediately -- this is right down my line musically, and as soon as it began playing, I was like, “Yeah! More of this!” It’s been quite awhile since the last Paradoxx album of new songs, and sometimes when a band is not recording for a long time, their sound can go in surprising new directions. While I wouldn’t call this quite a surprising new direction -- their album Atomika went more for an electronic dance beat than the predominantly electrogoth sound of their debut New Devotion -- yet there is nothing on Atomika quite in this vein.

Following “Rocketship” is a killer dance track, “Catwalk,” from Atomika. In my last car, I had a fabulous stereo system, and “Catwalk” was the song I used to show off my system. This is Paradoxx at their musical and recording quality best. The song begins with reverbed electronics, then the clear and powerful bass kicks in, along with a crisp, thumping drum beat. This song begs to be played at high volume on a high fidelity sound system.

“Romantic,” a dance track with a pulsating bass line and steady beat, appropriately follows. This one has a bit of 80s Depeche Mode sound. “Submission,” also from New Devotion, comes up next. These two songs are my favorite full-length songs from their debut. “Submission” is reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s “Master and Servant” both musically and lyrically. I find these lyrics fascinating, putting the God-and-human relationship in S&M terms.

The next song is pulled from Atomika, “Alien,” a fast-tempo dance song about not belonging to this Earth. The beat gets slower and a bit heavier with “Radium Lover,” from Atomika. Following that is “Vampyr.” The original version of this song was on Atomika, but the version included here is one of the remixes from Contamination, though strangely it is not identified as such in the CD insert. This is Anita Blake’s Nightmare Mix, which is my favorite of the three versions I’ve heard of this song. The Creta Mix of “Vampyr,” also found on Contamination, is also on Decade, finishing out the album. That one is properly identified as a remix.

After “Vampyr,” the Miss Angie song appears. The original version of this song is a slow piano piece. A major line in this song is, “Nothing’s too hard, no pain’s too deep for You to heal me.” Paradoxx has done an absolutely beautiful job of remixing it, turning it into a flowing electronic dance number, without ruining the mood of the song. When I first heard this on Miss Angie’s album, I was like, “Paradoxx should do a whole remix album of Miss Angie songs!” The added electronic riff dominant at the end of the song is gorgeous.

I am a big fan of both Miss Angie and Paradoxx, so I was delighted to see them collaborating. The acknowledgements on the two albums of this song are a little perplexing, though. On Miss Angie’s album, it says, “Remix by Paradoxx.” On Paradoxx’s album, it only says, “Featuring Miss Angie,” and it lists Paradoxx band members as songwriters along with Miss Angie, whereas Miss Angie’s album does not mention any additional songwriters. (For ancient CCM people like me: This reminds me of the “Christmas Time” attribution differences on Randy Stonehill and Larry Norman albums....)

(While I’m on the subject of mysterious attributions, I found it odd that in the liner notes the songs from New Devotion are dated 2001, and the songs from Atomika are dated 2005, because on the CDs of those original albums, New Devotion is dated 1999 and Atomika is dated 2004. And as I noted above, “Romantic” first appeared on a 1998 compilation album, so it’s even older. Why were different dates listed for these songs on Decade’s liner notes?)

All right, back to the music... After the beautiful “Not Enough,” the album lurches into intensity with the churning industrial guitars of “Teknologi,” from Atomika. Next is the Solar Mix of “Rocketship.” This version is slightly longer and has a stronger dance beat, which I like, but the electronics in it are more subdued, a negative for me, so all in all the two versions even out and I like both about equally.

The remaining songs on the album are remixes found on Contamination: The Philadelphia Mix of “Atomika,” the Curie Mix of “Radium Lover” (a very strange mix, in my opinion), the Bound & Gagged Mix of “Submission,” and the Creta Mix of “Vampyr.” “Atomika” is an extended version of the original without a lot of changes (which is fine with me). I really like the Bound & Gagged Mix of “Submission,” particularly as a supplement to the original, not as a replacement. I made a mix CD that had the original version of “Submission” near the beginning, and a reprise with the Bound & Gagged Mix near the end--so perfect!

A photo collage of the band found on the CD insert

The issues regarding a compilation album for a purchaser are: 1) Did they choose the songs I like best? and 2) Did they sequence the songs in a way that makes the album good even though it’s a hodgepodge of songs from different albums? I have had plenty of albums that don’t pass the test in #1, but Decade passes the test. I would have left out “Technologi” and included “In My Dream” from New Devotion instead, but I’m sure band members also disagreed among themselves on some of the final choices to include or reject. As for point #2, I think the sequencing was done well, for the most part. “Technologi” right after “Not Enough” is a bit shocking, and “Vampyr” seems like a strange song to end the album with--“Submission” would have been much better, in my view. Anyway, other than those two little quibbles, I think the sequencing was excellent, giving the album a coherent flow. One little thing I found annoying was that they cut off the last half minute of “Radium Lover” (the original version). Perhaps there was not enough room on the disc, and perhaps they figured since there was a remix of the song also on the album, it would be one to cut.

In summary, if you are Paradoxx fan and do not have all their albums, but would like to have something from all of them, this is a good collection. For someone who does not have any albums from Paradoxx, I think Decade is a good representation of their music. And as should be evident from my enthusiasm for their music, I consider Paradoxx to be a group that turns out quality music.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this CD in exchange for a review. But being the big Paradoxx fan that I am, the review wouldn’t have been any different if I had not received a free copy in this manner.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tony Wilson & Joy Division

I just watched a movie on Comcast On Demand called 24 Hour Party People. It was about Tony Wilson, somebody I had never heard of, who started Factory Records, was involved with promoting Joy Division, and had a famous club in Manchester called Hacienda, which I had never heard of.

Joy Division

What was really striking to me in the movie was the scenes in the beginning showing clips of bands performing music in the late 1970s that was not in any way the music I associate with the 1970s. And yet, it was in the 1970s that these bands began. In 1977, Joy Division was playing a kind of music that I associate with the 1980s. I mean, in 1977, the music in my world was all that big, artsy amphitheater rock like Boston, Kansas, Styx, and Queen, plus harder rock outfits like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. But while that was all the new music I knew at that time (in terms of rock, anyway), on the other side of the big pond in a town called Manchester, a whole new music scene was emerging that I would not become aware of until 1982.

I think there are two particularly memorable periods in pop music, two 5-year periods when the pop music scene was bubbling with astounding creativity. The first was 1964-1968. The second, which occurred when I was in college, was 1979-1983. I wrote a blog article about that period, called “1979-1983: From The Death Of Disco To The Rise Of Alternative.” It was amazing all the new sounds that came out during that time.

I knew Joy Division existed in the late 1970s, but I was not familiar with any of the band’s music, so it never stuck with me. Tonight in the movie was a clip from Siouxsie and The Banshees, a group I didn’t discover until 1988. In the 1990s, I bought a CD of theirs, a greatest hits from the late 70s to early 80s, and that’s where I learned they had been around that long. I have a record by The Human League from 1980, but it wasn’t their first album, so they were making music in the 1970s too. There were other bands mentioned in this bit of the movie that I knew, but had never thought of as existing in the 1970s. It really struck me how this new kind of music that I didn’t discover until 1982 was already in existence when I was completely oblivious, in my world of what is now called classic rock.

After the lead singer of Joy Division committed suicide in 1980, the band re-formed under the name New Order, still recording for Factory Records, which Tony Wilson founded. I got my first New Order album, Low-Life, in 1985, when I was living in the coal mining hills deep in eastern Kentucky. In 1988, I got their double-CD compilation of 12” singles called Substance. I also have six 12” singles by New Order. It was interesting to see in the movie tonight some history behind this music I’ve enjoyed for years.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Hot Summer's Effect On Music

Hey, that last posting was absolutely painless. It was easier than doing the writing directly in Blogger. I like this MacJournal program already!

Here in Michigan, a lot of summers are basically two months long--from mid-June to mid-August. But this has been a long, hot summer already, with hot weather arriving in May. There is music I tend to play during the hot months of July and August, but this year I was playing it in May because it had already been hot awhile.

My hot weather music tends to be shoegazer, that lazy, floating music with fuzzed out guitars and ethereal vocals. I got started with this back in 1991, with music by Curve, Lush, My Bloody Valentine, and Slowdive. (Not all of that is shoegazer, technically, but I tend to listen to them with each other.) Another band I discovered that summer and still associate with summer is Throwing Muses.

Last decade, my main summer music consisted of Broomtree, Miss Angie, Morella’s Forest, Royal, and Viva Voce. Of those artists, only Viva Voce are still around. So as much I loved those bands, I can’t buy any new music by them, and I’ve played them to death. Also, lately I’ve been having trouble finding new artists (a topic for a future entry).

So what I’ve decided to go back and buy some of that old music from the early 1990s. This week I bought a My Bloody Valentine album I never got back when it was popular. I got the EP Tremolo in 1991, which has one song from the album Loveless, but never the full album, so at last I now have the whole beautiful album. I also bought a Curve album I haven’t had, their 1998 Come Clean.

But there is one recent one that I’ve bought, which is of a similar style of music. It’s the third album by Asobi Seksu, the 2009 release Hush. Their second album, Citrus, was my #2 album of 2006, and still mesmerizes me, but it will be nice to have another set of songs to listen to by them.

I’ve been very poor this year. Normally I purchase CDs regularly throughout the year, but this year, this is my first CD purchase, and that was done by getting money from selling something on eBay. I guess I’ll need to find more things to sell. I can’t believe I didn’t get my first new music of the year until July!

Coming Back

Coming Back

I see I haven’t posted on this blog for almost a year. I now have a new blogging software program (MacJournal), so I’m thinking I will get into the groove on this blog. This entry is mostly a test entry to see how MacJournal will work with Blogger. I know virtually nothing about either MacJournal or Blogger, so if it doesn’t work, I’m sure it’s my ignorance more than anything else. Okay, here goes...let’s see if this posts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Website

Like my blog, my website has things from a lot of different topics.  But in my website is a section on music.  I have some links there to my annual music awards (last completed one is 2005, unfortunately), my favorite CCM albums of the 1980s, and my "Music Hall Of Fame," which lists some of my favorite musicians.  Until I get this blog going, the website should give you some idea as to what my musical tastes are.

Also, I am a member of of, which was started for fans of CCM magazine, then they killed the magazine (go figure).  Well, technically the magazine still exists, but it's online only now, and I don't like the online version at all.  The community was pretty decent when the magazine still existed because they tied the online content to the magazine.  Then they scrapped the MyCCM site and replaced it with a Ning platform; ever since, participation has not reached critical mass--there are only about 1000 members.

I never listen to the radio.  I rarely like anything mainstream enough to reach the radio airwaves. I have plenty of my own CDs to play, so I can always play something to fit my mood.  If I want new music, I use the web to find new stuff.

So anyway, that's a bit of random stuff about me and music.