Category: Friday Classic Dark
We’re not going too far back in time in this week’s edition of Friday Classic Dark. Just to 2008, when Vancouver’s Kellarissa released her first album Flamingo. Standout single “Tiny Things” is a seriously sweet indie pop tune with some extremely clever vocoder use. Kellarissa went on to make another album, Moon of Nepture in 2011, she’s still active, and also started Fake Tears.
In this week’s dispatch from the long long ago we’ll be having a cursory glance in the direction of Kinetic Ideals, scritchy scratchy postpunkers from Mississauga, Ontario. Their relatively brief career spanned just three EPs and a one off single but they put out some excellent Factory Records inspired post punk including this gem, the pyrotechnic In A Second, the final track on their final release, 1983′s A Personal View. It gets heavy.
This feature seems to have been spending a lot of time in Vancouver recently, but Images in Vogue are worth the trip. Formed in 1981 Images in Vogue made icy, synth driven new wave, propelled by the golden voice of Dale Martindale, who was initially asked to join the band because he looked like the drummer in Japan. The band also originally featured percussionist Kevin Crompton, better known for his work with his other project, Skinny Puppy. They had some chart success with their 1983 single Lust for Love, accompanied by the spectacular video you see above. So many haircuts! So many wonderful haircuts. It’s a pretty weird little pop single, being both quite slow and sparse, and featuring some interesting vocal production. They have a tendency toward the experimental, especially with the instrumentals and the triumphant first single Breaking Up, a slow burner that takes a throw-it-at-the-wall approach reminiscent of early Human League. A super interesting group with a relatively brief discography that’s well worth diving into. Also, hilariously enough, they had a song on the soundtrack of Being Erica.
Oh man why did it take us so long to get to this one? Vancouver’s Strange Advance were a fairly major Canadian synthpop band and above is the video for their big swaggering, poofy-haired 1985 hit, We Run. I say hit. It reached No. 28 on the Canadian Pop singles chart, but its awesome. A triumph of icy digital synthesis, pretend pizzicato strings and all. Their 1982 album Worlds Away was a Canadian gold record and while its singles didn’t sell as well as We Run its a solid synthpop record, its tendency toward lazy 80s balladeering notwithstanding. In its nobler moments it recalls The Human League’s Dare, to which it owes an obvious debt, and Love Games should have sold a million units. The band never managed much success outside of Canada and their discography is certainly hit and miss but when it hits it really hits. So let’s all pop the collars on our leather jackets, make sure our perms are in perfect order and play DX7s with one hand 4ever!
Here we are again with another dispatch from the long long ago. This week’s subjects are Vancouver’s Pointed Sticks, a collection of West coast nearly men who very very almost made it with their winsome brand of Buzzcocks inflected New Wave in the late Seventies/early Eighties. The band were briefly signed to Stiff Records but money issues at the label meant that nothing was ever released under the imprint. They released a couple of singles and one full length, 1980′s Perfect Youth, an album that should stand shoulder to shoulder with The Undertones self titled first record and The Buzzcocks A Different Kind of Tension as a true classic of the genre. It traffics in the same kind of teenage nostalgia as The Undertones, with the lyrical content largely concerning girls, being young and being young around girls, but occasionally betrays the influence of their pub rock label mates at Stiff, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, especially in the Steve Nieve-like organ swirls on When She’s Alone. Out of Luck, which was featured in Dennis Hopper’s Out of The Blue, is a propulsive delight, and the albums title track, a charmingly literate reflection on aging out of a scene, is an absolute gem. It also contains the lyric “face front you young Canadians/This time is yours to spend the way you choose” which made me laugh out loud. I promise you want this band in your life. They will improve you. That is all.
Another Friday another forgotten Canadian classic. This week we’ve got Wayne St. John, Toronto disco king with a voice oddly reminiscent of a latter day Tom Jones and a killer string section on this minor 1977 hit Something’s Up (Love Me Like the First Time). There is not much about him online except for this track, the amazing picture above (he’s the one on the far left in the suit with the beard, next to the guy in the cowboy hat with the mustache), and this completely insane website where he also identifies himself as “Wayne St. James” and may or may not have anything to do with our Wayne St. John. The mystery, so typical in this period of disco, makes it all the more exciting. This song is great.
For this week’s FCD we’ve brought in a special guest. Mr. James Lindsay, co-founder of the wonderful Pleasance Records, regular contributor to Weird Canada and courageous protector and preserver of all that is right and true in the Toronto music scene.
When they write the book about the Montreal disco scene of the 70s/80s, there will surely be a chapter dedicated to the dynamic duo of George Lagios and Pat DeSerio. Lagios is primarily know for his work with CanRock all stars April Wine, while Deserio was a prolific disco producer and had worked with synth-pop originals Rational Youth. Together, they were an intriguing ying-yang of disco-rock, working together on several projects for other artists, and a few of their own, most notably The Bombers, Top Secret, and Bob-a-Rela.
Firstly, let’s talk about the record sleeve, since that is what hit me right away. Sometimes, just by looking at a record, without knowing anything else, you know it will be good, and the cover of this LP promised nothing less than hot sex on wax. As I soiled my hands while flipping through filthy, dead people’s records at an Etobicoke Good Will, I was suddenly taken by one of the greatest behinds to ever grace a sleeve. I take a lot of chances when buying thrift store records, but I knew this was a good thing; the purple electricity shooting out of this topless woman guaranteed it.
Sure enough, the a-side is perfection. “Spend the Night” starts off sounding like a lost Dinosaur L track, with a woozy siren and heavy cowbell, before patiently building the beat—accentuated by a prominent, scratchy guitar —that meets up with a playful, bouncy bass. Bold soul vocals (unknown in name, as is typical in disco) go head to head with deep, cosmic electronics. Indeed, many of Bob-a-Rela’s strongest moments tend to nod towards Italo’s influence. Not surprising, considering Montreal’s, and DeSerio’s, Italian roots.
Closing up the first half is “Stop”, a sinister slow-jam and a great example of early modern soul rubbing shoulders with disco. Minimal and sad, the song burns on the backs of a crystalline electric piano, striped down back beat, a guitar solo that wouldn’t be out of place on the rock radio of the time, and a wild stallion of sax, the “Careless Whisper” kind that can’t be contained.
Side B opens with the albums strongest track, “Why Does it Rain,” a lost dance floor anthem with some seriously spacey flirtations. What starts as an unhurried stomper, introduces a melancholy mood before taking the beat up a notch, to somewhere funkier, as if to say everything will be OK. “I gotta feeling/something inside is just not right/I gotta feeling/you wont be home with me tonight” mourns the singer in this song of loss and confusion. But by the chorus, we’ve gone somewhere else, to a place of acceptance, where there are no answers, but that doesn’t matter because by this point the music has swelled to the heavens on wings of a lamenting guitar whine and an unrelenting, pulsing beat that drives the song up past our problems, ultimately emancipating us from the hurt of the past, not by pandering to tell us that there are other fish in the sea, but fully losing itself in the post-love chaos and reveling in it.
I’m not going to lie and say that there aren’t any weaker moments on this disc, because there are, though they are not with out their own merit. The second and third cuts of the b-side are acknowledgements of Lagios’ rock influences done up with disco theatrics. “Tobacco Road” has never been a favorite tune of mine. Often covered, rarely interestingly, I never paid much attention to it, but the more I listen to Bob-a-Rela’s version, the more it makes sense to me. Their electric-Northern-Soul spin makes it sound like something Roxy Music might have done in their early career, complete with a snaky sax that does its best not to be over powered by the plucky bass. On the other hand, their take on Pink Floyd’s “Money” has more intelligence to it. Keeping much of the originals odd time, the vocals scream Betty Davis style, re-envisioning it as hard funk, all itchy with groove and yelling at you about it.
Canadian disco has a lush and diverse history that is well worth digging into, and, as is typical of too much of our musical heritage, relatively unknown outside of a dedicated few. The records can still be found in dollar bins around the country, dusty and ignored, but more and more of the world is beginning to take notice and appreciate this illustrious part of our past. The last few years have seen the critical books “Treat Me Like Dirt” and “Perfect Youth” shining a celebratory light on the extensive history of Canadian Punk, hopefully, in the near future we will be seeing similar works dedicated to the wealth of electronic and dance music that this country has produced.
Pop music! Pop music from the past! This well won’t run dry(its totally going to run dry)! Today’s under-loved act of yesteryear are a husband and wife duo from Montreal. Comprised of Denis and Denyse Lepage, Lime had a couple of hits in the early 80s, most notably the US Dance #1 Your Love. It’s an absolute gem. Propulsive dance pop prominently featuring Denyse’s weird squeaky alien voice. Amusingly, the couple were deemed too unappealing to represent the group in public and so were replaced in live performances by a younger and more attractive couple. They have since divorced and Denis still performs as Transexual act Nini Nobless.
This week’s Classic Dark brings you the mysterious italo stylings of Pluton & The Humanoids. Propulsive electronica with vocals wreathed in early vocoder swirl. Mumblings advising humans to beware. Somehow this sounds believably as though it were composed by an alien race. The band themselves are similarly mysterious. The one off single was a modest international hit in 1981 and consensus seems to be it is the brainchild of Pierre Perpall, one of the first black pop performers in Quebec. Beyond that they are an enigma. We’re more than willing to entertain the possibility they have returned to the planet from whence they came.
Not much information online about Tapps other than they’re from Toronto and feature on a lot of gay disco and Hi-NRG compilations. That should probably be enough really. Lets all pretend it’s 1983 for 7 minutes and 32 seconds.