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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Baumann - Strangers In The Night

Name: Baumann
Album: Strangers In The Night
Year: 1983
Style: Electronic Synth Pop
Similar Bands: Devo, Gary Newman, Buggles, OMD, Thomas Dolby, Inflatable Men, Erasure
"One Word" Review: Sugary-Slick-Electro-Robot-Pop
Based Out Of: Berlin, Germany / NYC
Label: Portrait, CBS
Baumann - Cover & Sleeve front
Baumann - Cover & Sleeve back
Baumann - Record
Strangers In The Night (1983)
  1. Strangers In The Night 3.53
  2. Metro Man 3.53
  3. King of the Jungle 3.47
  4. Be Mine 3.27
  5. Time Machine 3.25/
  6. Taxi 3.13
  7. Cash 3.23
  8. Glass House 4.15
  9. Ground Zero 3.35
  10. Welcome 3.25
Album Rating (1-10):
9.0

Band Members & Other Groups:
Peter Baumann - Synths, Moogs, keys, Etc, Producer, Cover Concept (Tangerine Dream)
Eli Holland - Lead & Harmony Vox
Rich Teeter - Simmons Drums (Dictators)
Ritchie Fliegler - Guitar
Bruce Brody - Prophet 5, Polymoog & Roland Vocoder+
Robert Clifford - Producer & Engineer
Bob Ludwig - Mastered
Janet Perr - Cover Design
Robert Lewis - Photography
Recorded @ Cronex Media Studios, NYC
Elliot Sears - Management

Unknown-ness: I'd never heard of Baumann. From the cover, I actually passed up purchasing it the first few times I saw it. Based on the cover with pastel geometric shapes hovering over a stark grey landscape, I assumed it to be similar to ELO or a bad late 70's early 80's easy-listening rock album. Even the handwritten font, for some reason made me thing of Alan Parsons Project. The picture on the back did not give very much evidential help. But I saw it again at a different store, and decided to take the 97 cent challenge on it.

Album Review: Since my reserved, tentative purchase of the album, I've listened to it many times. It is really really good. It is amazingly catchy, with just enough mechanical, electronic and pop combinations to make it a perfect 80's stylized record. Doing a little more research, I found out that Baumann is really Peter Baumann of Tangerine Dream. I've heard of TD but I don't know much about them. TD is supposedly very unlike the sound on this record. But this has me interested in them, too, and I will be looking for some TD records to pick up in the future (but I will not review them, since I will be picking them up with a purpose).

"Strangers In The Night" begins with a basic electronic drum beat. Then the synthesized, somewhat disco bass comes in to match the drumming. The synthesized vocals remind me of Thomas Dolby's hit "She Blinded me with Science." This song is just like that, where it is very different, non-representative from the rest of the album, yet still the radio-hit. The song borrows the lyrics from Frank Sinatra's song of the same name and recites them melodically over the electronic backing music. Check out the video for the song with the hovering geometric shapes! If you like Devo at all, you will absolutely love "Metro Man." A quick drum beat and an crystalline synthesizer hook begin this song, the mechanical, robotic vocals come in ripping Devo off completely, but incredibly well. They proceed for two verses separated by the beginning synthesizer hook. Then the catchiest bit, the chorus, comes in. It presents perfect anticipation and delivery song structure (my favorite "structure" in all music). The song is even a bit like the soon-to-be hit Compu Man, which, I'd say is a rip-off of this song, had I heard this one first. The next song, "King Of The Jungle," sounds like an electronic, laid back 'Eye Of The Tiger.' The music & talking-vocals in the beginning verse have a dark undertone. It possesses a "Girls Vs. Boys" (Blur) bouncy bass line which drives the song along. Then synthesized chorus brightens everything up with is upbeat, assured and excited delivery. More Devo synthesized keyboards begin on "Be Mine." This time the vocals are exactly the same as Devo in sound & style. A simple beat is laid down, followed by a bass & kick drum 2-note beat to begin the song. The chorus is incredibly upbeat, catchy, powerful and dense. A twinkling stardust keyboard accompanies the vocals. This is the type of chorus that makes you excited to wait for it's return. And the song thankfully fades out with the chorus repeating over and over again. More Devo style keys and vocals make up "Time Machine." It is slower and more thoughtful. It is even more mechanical than the songs that have come before it, with an electronic surge sound in the background. This is the futuristic song that bonds aliens of alternate worlds together with its politeness and genuine friendship. Echoing verses of "When I Was Young, Life Was So Simple" over lap and fade out to end the first side.

"Taxi" begins the second side with a twinkling electronic loop (think Erasure). The same 2 beat metronome drumming makes the mechanism, which is the song, progress. Odd oceanic ambient sounds dot the soundscape throughout the song. This is the next evolutionary step after disco: blending the danceable beat with more pop, electronics and less string. The chorus is a mocking sing song uttering of 'taxi, taxi, hello, hello.' "Cash" sounds a lot like XTC's "Down In The Cockpit." In fact, you could lay the phrase from this song "Cash In The Pocket" over the chorus "Down In The Cockpit," you could be singing in the style of either song. This is another song in the great style from Devo's peak period. Again, moved along with metronome accuracy of the drum beat, the electronic guitars and keyboards mimic the melody of the main verse. "Glass House" is slower and mysterious in its execution. Satanic synthesized vocals overlap individual words throughout the song. Although not a hint of reggae in the music, the tempo of the song is identical. "Ground Zero" is more of a pop song, and less robotic than anything else on the album, but it is still very much along the lines of Devo. The keyboards and bass are very happy and bouncy. The vocals are less robotic than most of the other songs, and there is real guitar tucked in the back of the chorus. There is a sense of holiday cheer with heavy bells rung toward the end of the track. A quick jittery video game keyboard loop begins the final song "Welcome." Anthemic Devo lyrics welcome the listener to the 'city life, modern age and the dream machine' throughout the song. This is the only song where we get to hear some robotic instrumental music. Swooping electronic sounds and thick bells make up most of the music. This is what makes the album fit into a prog category, although on the whole, I would not have categorized this album as such.

Although basically a rip off of Devo, it is an amazing album. When there are not an extraordinary amount of groups that can make Mechanical Synth music as well Devo, any others that come close are welcomed into the genre. It is not as much of a rip-off as an interpretation. Especially knowing that Baumann has a past that pre-dates Devo with electronic experimentation (with TD); this album seems to be more of a bonafide original than a copy-cat artist.

Stand-Out Song:
Metro Man

Links:
Peter Baumann Prog Archives

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