It’s been a few weeks since I last shared something on this blog (that Spiff record is one of my recent favorites though). So I think the third “Commercial Music” collection of odds and ends – obscure B sides, demos, or good songs on otherwise mediocre albums – is certainly called for.
This one is by far my favorite of these compilations. It’s the most diverse, and almost every song is solid, whether it’s an unheard demo song demo, a new band, or classic post punk. Here’s what’s in store for you:
Atoms for Peace were a Gainsville, FL based new wave band who self-released one album in 1985 and then.. nothing. The record is pretty obscure, and for the most part it has not held up as well as other new wave records. But the second song on the album, Pictures, is a total classic that builds intensely from a few acoustic guitar strums to a crashing Bunnymen-esque post punk song with some pretty cool vocal delays during the refrain.
Next is an extremely obscure Belgian band who self-released one LP in 1987 on the ominously-named “Mahomet’s Holy War” label. Apparently only 50 copies of it were pressed, and it has been pretty unknown (obviously due to its scarcity) for many years. But their sole record is becoming more and more of a holy grail, and this song is a killer post punk song that sounds very similar to the great Dutch band Mecano – huge thanks to Lesypersound for this rip!
Next up is a forgotten UK new wave band. This song is the B side of their sole 12 inch from 1985. While the A side is really nothing special, the B side is excellent and falls squarely in the Flock of Seagulls vein of synthpop (admit it, you like it).
Work of Fiction released one song on one of those hundreds of local band compilations that were so prevalent in the 80s. They were from upstate New York. The vocals are quite cheesy (imagine Robert Smith crossed with Rick Astley), but the great synths on the song make it worthwhile.
Next up is a Missouri-based band who released one 12” EP that contained three pretty standard AOR pop songs and one quite good new wave song with a nice repetitive synth rhythm.
That new wave song is followed up with a Florida-based goth band who had a few songs on various compilation records but have otherwises remained quite obscure. These guys were unapologetically, humorlessly goth. And while their earnestness may sound a bit cheesy now, this song inexplicably holds a place in my heart. My cold, black, unbeating heart.
Many of you will be familiar with the next band, whose style of industrial is heavily influenced by early Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, et al, with all the leather fetishism that comes with the genre. This song is from one of their extremely limited (13 copies only!) demo CDs that were sold on a 2008 west coast tour, when the "band" was just one person singing and thrashing around to prerecorded music.
We follow that song up with a Detroit band who, had one song on a completely unknown compilation the late 80s, and that’s pretty much it. It’s a shame, since this track “You Make It Hard” is a pretty great synthpop track somewhat in the vein of late-80s Depeche Mode.
Next is another Michigan band, Clambake, who recorded a couple extremely limited cassettes (including a Christmas album!) and faded into obscurity. Their music was synth-heavy and somewhat industrial, sounding very similar to bands like Gelatinous Citizen. This song became better known after it was re-recorded by the industrial band Shock Therapy, with whom they collaborated.
Jezebel and the Nudes were your average female-fronted new wave/disco crossover band. They had one 12” EP in 1983 that has three somewhat forgettable songs, and then ends with this great dramatic disco-wave song chock full of synths and electronics.
The next band was a trio active in the early 80s who released two very limited albums (only 500 copies were pressed of their debut, from which this song Chasing Moroder was taken). For the most part, they played a mix of new age and improvisational jazz, but analog synth nuts will absolutely freak over this song, which features a steady kr-55 rhythm and pulsating, gurgling and crashing electronics and stabs of effected guitar noise. It truly sounds like its namesake – if Moroder was being chased in his nightmares.
After a deranged electro song, what's more polar opposite than an extremely underrated Manchester indie band active in the early 90s. Their music was a mix of Britpop, shoegaze, and bits and pieces of the Madchester sound. Virtually everything in their small catalog is excellent, and this is one of my favorites.
Next is a Texas band who released a very obscure 7” that contained one somewhat bland bar-rock song, and this song, a blistering and absolutely killer blast of post punk fury that sounds like an aggressive version of For Against or Lung Overcoat. VERRRRRRRY great
Next up is another new-ish band with many hats. Some songs are industrial dance, some are more electro, but this song (my personal favorite), taken from their demo CD, is a post punk tour de force with a wonderfully thick bassline.
The next band released a demo tape in the mid-80s, with songs that paid a generous homage to The Cure. It’s not too surprising, as the band would soon change their name and release an entire album of Cure-esque goodness. This song was exclusive to the demo tape.
Day & Age were a San Francisco area band from the mid to late 80s who self released one LP full of midtempo jazz-pop songs and one great (but definitely cheesy) synthpop song. Their bio states that they were proud to announce that it was played on Live 105 during a midday program, so perhaps SOMEONE else out there heard it.
After that is a UK new wave band who released a couple extremely obscure and LPs. Their first one was a dark, if amateur, Joy Division-inspired album; their second LP (from which this song was taken) found them a lot more matured but still with a dark edge. I’m only sharing one song of theirs because you can buy their entire recorded output at CD Baby –it is highly recommended!
Unless you collect Christian ska compilations , you’re quite likely to have missed the next band's only recorded output. Contrary to the rest of that compilations, this band played a dramatic and quite dark synth-heavy post punk full of reverb.
The last band is filed under “freestyle” pretty much 100% of the time they are mentioned on the net. Freestyle fans apparently know a good thing when they hear it, but I have to say that this is “freestyle” the same way that 90s synthpop bands like Cause and Effect or Red Flag were “freestyle”. Which is to say… not really that much. But no matter how you want to label this song, it is pretty much the best synthpop song of the early 90s – an absolutely beautiful, epic, melodic and perfect synthpop masterpiece. HUGE thanks to Lesypersound for this one!
Where can you hear this treasure trove? Right here!