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Monday, July 27, 2009

Gruppo Sportivo - Mistakes

Name: Gruppo Sportivo
Album: Mistakes
Year: 1979
Style: New Wave/Post Punk
Similar Bands: Blondie, Delta 5, Human Hands, ? & The Mysterians, The Daves, Berue Review, Brian Ritchie, INXS, Kinks, B-52's, Beatles, Sugarplastics, Bonzo Dog Band, Ween, Mosqitoes
"One Word" Review: Awesomly-crafted-new-wave-oldies
Based Out Of: The Hague, Netherlands
Label: Sire, Warner Bros.

Mistakes - Cover & Sleeve
Mistakes - Back & Sleeve Notes
Mistakes - Record
Mistakes (1979)
  1. Mission A Paris 4:17
  2. Dreamin' 4:17
  3. Henri 4:21
  4. Hey Girl 2:25
  5. I Said No 4:14
  6. I Shot My Manager 2:50 /
  7. Blah Blah Magazines 2:01
  8. Beep Beep Love 2:54
  9. P.S. 78 3:00
  10. Superman 6:22
  11. One Way Love (From Me To You) 3:07
  12. Bottom Of The Class 2:04
  13. The Single 1:13
Album Rating (1-10): 10
Members & Other Bands:
Hans Vandenburg - Vox, Guitar, Producer
Peter Calicher - Keys
Eric Wehrmeyer - Bass
Max "Climax" Mollinger - Drums
Josse Van Iersel - Grupettes, Backing Vox
Meike Touw - Gruppettes, Backing Vox
Robert Jan Stips - Producer (the Nits)
Aad Link - Engineer
Jan Schuurman - Engineer
Robin Freeman - Engineer
Young & Ugly - Art Direction
Dorien Van Der Valk - Design & Photography
Anton Corbijn - Design & Photography
Van DeFruits - Writing
John Van Vueren - Management

I’ve never heard of these guys before. From the cover and nice condition of the record, I though the band was going to be a wacky 80’s college radio band with their goggle-eyed picture on the front. But the date on the record is 1979, so that was what really stood out. It could be something really good. With their potentially foreign background, I was really not too sure what I was going to be listening to. But the whole packaging, the minimal template front and back image & text was appealing.
Album Review: Grupo Sportivo is somewhat of a silly inspired new wave act from the Netherlands. This is a US release of the “best of” compilation from their first two non-US albums, which date back to 1976. Apparently the main singer still holds some variation of the band together to this day. After listening to this album the first time for recording purposes I knew I liked this album.

“Mission A Paris” begins with a great new wave organ and a jittery bouncy “96 Tears” style melody. The female vocals lead us in a monotone singing, like Delta 5 or Blondie. The chorus is absolutely grand. And the verse and rest of the song is like an incredibly garage psych trip. There are buzzing kazoos that accent the melody. This is the perfect bit of new wave pop I could dream of, including the reworked sections where the bass has a watery rubber band effect added. The harmonized Wooos in the background add the perfect pop touch.
“Dreamin'” picks up a different aspect of new wave, where the driving melodic organ is transplanted with rhythm guitar franticly strummed, and a bass groove that both calm and shift as the vocals begin. The vocals are similar to the masculine vocals of Human League or Brian Ritchie from the Violent Femmes. They, like the female vocals in the background are sung with a monotone. Once the synth is added, the female vocals repeat a selection that together, gives the song a disco vibe.
“Henri” is like an oldies, side-to-side ballad. It is sung in female falsetto, and the loving and simultaneous longing for Henri is palpable. The vocals come down to a more aggressive singing in the “chorus,” which really functions as a bridge back to the verse, without a chorus. It is a very pretty song, even if it has twangy alt-countryish guitars in the background. A sax or two are brought in to enhance the mourning and sad vibe that this slow-dance is trying to evoke. It folds nicely back into the swaying verse, and smoothly ends in a falsetto held note.
“Hey Girl” is a nervous energy pop song, that is part 80’s synth (I say this remembering that this is like 1978, well before bands like INXS perfected the style). In fact this whole album so far is way before its time by a good 6 years or so. It is not a very complicated song, and the brass and sax just heighten the nervous tension, rather than breaking it.
“I Said No” begins with vocals and bouncy piano only, like a Billy Joel song, and picks up with a darker stomp beat with guitar and bass playing in sync. More horns are added. The vocals here remind me of the Kinks. The vocals are part sung and part spoken. But the boldness of the chorus is what really mimics the Kinks. It is supported and harmonized by the female backing choir. The female “whoooo’s” end the track.
“I Shot My Manager” is a spoken/sung verse, where the male and female leads take turns and overlap in the chorus. The style is very folk-pop, I’d say again like Brian Ritchie. Then, all of the sudden, once the song reaches the song title, the tempo slows down and it becomes parody of “I Shot the Sherriff.” There is a constant organ note held throughout the background that raises or lowers in pitch as the song progresses.

“Blah Blah Magazines” is back to the jittery new wave. The vocals are light and seem unsure of themselves. The lyrics seem like they are just thrown off without too much care or thought. This song’s pace is maintained not just by the staggered drum/bass beat, but by the piano whose individual notes stand out, as if the song is being played with children’s play instruments. The keyboard sound on the synth is bright and fun.
“Beep Beep Love” blends seamlessly from “Blah Blah” with the same jittery piano, but the lyrics are about a future lover, and you know the new song had begun a while ago. The chorus is a very funky, near disco female sung section. The melody of the Beatles “All You Need Is Love” is borrowed for a section of the verse. But there are many individual sections all blended together with the bouncing bass and guitar that it all makes perfect sense, like a song with ADD, it cannot remain on a single section, but it is the changes that make it so perfect. Both of these tracks are fantastic. “All you need is Beep Beep love. Love is such a Beep Beep feeling.” Some great lyrics: there has got to be a metaphor there somewhere. The song has a couple of fake endings. Both times the chorus brings the song back for a couple more go-rounds, and it is completely fun, repetitive chorus that could continue forever
“P.S. 78” borrows a lot of energy from Blondie’s disco style and the surf vibe of the B-52’s. This again, seems to be their formula. Take an oldie rock n’ roll melody and modernize it with fun, upbeat synth effects, and sing the vocals with high energy that seem to beg for listener participation. The song slowly devolves into a greaser rock n’ roll tune complete with cheerleader chanting of the chorus.
“Superman” follows up with that oldie surf vibe that actually reminds me quite a bit of the Beatles soundtrack work. Female “La La La’s” are added and at first appear to be the only vocals in this simple catch a wave tune. Many of the effects are famously used in older songs (think Palisades Park). The vocals finally begin, and it completes the image of a bad boy cool singing to his pack of fawning female admirers. They capture that 50’s poodle skirt and cig-pack sleeve rolled greaser quite well. At any moment the song could turn into the Monster Mash. The last 30 seconds the song breaks form and the vocals become bombastic, outrageously entergetic, like the cool, calm hip boy is defending his honor and wants to be the chick’s superman.
“One Way Love (From Me To You)” is a quieter, less confident ballad. It needs to be since the topic is unrequited love. The vocals remind me of the LA band, the Sugarplastics, and even the melody does as well. This song is yet another oldies inspired ballad. But it has more character and substance than a throwaway forgettable ballad with its only use to coerce a slow dance from some victim. It has a lot of minimal elements that make it a fun song to listen to and a complicated production.
“Bottom Of The Class” is a soft, minimal story-song featuring metronome percussion, and the light geeky, non-offensive vocals. The melody of the vocal is instantly catchy, and rolls up and down so familiarly that it feels natural, almost like home in a song. The voice reminds me a lot of the male singer from the band the Mosquitoes. It is the main carrier of the melody, as the bass and guitars gently plow underneath. The end of the song, the verse is accompanied by a choir of children, singing “Do your homework and your parents love you” It is a Beach Boys positive school song.
“The Single” is a barely over a minute long instrumental jittery surf song, a surf song that places you down in the south, rather than west coast. It kinda feels like a throwback or b-side to one of Ween’s 10 Golden Country Hits. Actually, it sounds remarkable like a Ween b-side called “I’m Fat.”

Stand Out Track: Mission A Paris



  1. Could someone please send me the lyrics to Mission a Paris? There are some lines in that song where I absolutely cannot figure out what they're saying. Please send to:

  2. Everybody says they sound a lot like the B-52's and all that. But in fact it's the other way around. They released those songs way before the B-52's released their first album. Just to be historically correct.