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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Be Bop Delux - Drastic Plastic

Name: Be Bop Delux
Album: Drastic Plastic
Year: 1978
Style: Art Rock, New Wave
Similar Bands: Talking Heads, Jonathan Richman, Tubes, Television, XTC, Split Enz
"One-Word" Review: Synth-Glam-Pop
Based Out Of: Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England
 Drastic Plastic - Cover, Liner Lyrics, Record
Drastic Plastic - Back, Liner Lyrics, Record
 Drastic Plastic (1978)
  1. Electric Language 4:47
  2. New Precision 4:39
  3. New Mysteries 4:44
  4. Surreal Estate 4:59
  5. Love in Flames 4:08/
  6. Panic In the World 5:02
  7. Dangerous Stranger 3:04
  8. Superenigmatix 2:10
  9. Japan 2:34
  10. Possession 2:33
  11. Islands of the Dead 3:43
Album Rating (1-10): 8.5
Members & Other Bands:
Bill Nelson - Producer, Bells, Cabasa, Composer, Cowbell, Drums, Finger Cymbals, Guitar, Mandolin, Marimba, Mini Moog, Oscillator, Piano, Synthesizer, Tambourine, Train Whistle, Vacuum Cleaner, Vocal, Whistle (Global Village, Messengers, Gentle Revolution)
John Leckie - Producer, Audio Engineer, Engineer
Paul Bailey - Whistle
Dylan Bendall - Voices
Haydn Bendall - Tape Machine
Kevin Cann - Design, Text
Cipher - Artwork
Andy Clark - Keys, Electric Bass, Moog, Piano, Synth (The Skuzzies, Clark-Hutchinson, The dB's, Washington Winds, David Bowie)
Simon Fox - Bottle, Drums, Drum loop, Tom-Tom, Whistle (Jack Green)
Geoff Halpin - Graphic Design
Chloe Leckie - Voices
Chris Leckie - Food Stylist
Unknown-ness:
I’ve seen the name in passing, but never heard or really know who they are. But with this album cover, album title and back band picture, this looks like pure new wave. The modern art cover and the TV heads on the back hint at the disconnect with modern technology and society that only jittery new wave can offer. The rhyming title also paints a picture of nervousness with cold futurism, which only adds to the mystique. And 1978 was a good year for the genre. It would seem not much could go wrong.
Album Review: 
So apparently, this was one of the band’s last art-albums, fully transitioning from Glam to electronic new wave, but done well, keeping some of the older elements. Bill Nelson is widely known (just not by me) as one of the finest guitarists in British rock, unfavorably (by Nelson) compared to David Bowie in style and song.
“Electric Language” begins with a stomping bass and drum, but is quickly overtaken by quirky, almost Chinese electronic synth tones. The melody is nicely fluid and catchy, with semi deep but smooth vocals roll up and down over the melody. From what I’ve read about this band, this being the first song seems like it was not a mistake to put a synth heavy song as a compass of how they were changing from a guitar centered band. The effects of the vocal wash through an echo and bounce around as if they are sung from the back of a cave. There are guitar moments, but they are easily forgotten with how bold the synth is. At the end of the song, the main hook repeats as it fades out in echo, and is pushed to the back behind mass produced electronic and guitar flourishes, finally ending with a repetitive down scale keyboard section.
“New Precision” begins with a steady drum beat, picked up by what sounds like a synth bass, and reminds me of the 2-bit music from the Atari game Reactor. The melody reminds me a lot of talking heads, with the slight nervousness in his voice reminding me of David Byrne. And the guitar work in the background reminds me of early pre-ant music Adam Ant. The overall tone of the song is dark and steadily driving.
“New Mysteries” carries along the David Byrne sounding vocals with an equally dark song, almost sounding like an unsure dream sequence with the atmosphere the chorus creates. The verse is a 4 note bass line accented by a squealing guitar.
“Surreal Estate” begins with a Victorian piano section, but quickly changes direction (still carrying the piano as the underlying melody) as something that would be directly off of later XTC albums like Big Express of Skylarking. There is lots of pleasant clanging and clinking and horse clopping effects making up the percussion. The verse is very pleasant and no-threatening, and overall, very sweeping and grand. The chorus is a great slow and steady hook that is very reminiscent of a slowed down version of The Meeting Place. A friend told me they were a big influence on Andy Partridge, and I can see why from this song, since XTC was still in their early punkier phase in 78, from here, one could draw a straight line to where they were headed. The ending instrumental feels much like the production of Big Express, human and train whistling included.
“Love in Flames” harkens back to where XTC was at the very time. Once the drum beat finishes in the intro, the song feels like it will launch into Radios in Motion. But it takes a darker turn with an evil sounding bass line, and the vocals begins, also sounding like XTC, as they are sung fast, trying to fit all the syllables within the musical boundaries. The punk and pure fast driving beat feels smoother and more calculated than a care free and perfectly neurotic XTC song, but the song is incredibly fun. Halfway through they bring in a new melody which takes the song to a whole new level and direction. Overall, the song is bounded together with the fast-played organ that offers all the urgency you could ask for. There is also fast guitar work at the end that gives it one last boost of energy before it winds down in true pub rock fashion with all the instruments finale-ing at the same time.

“Panic In the World” is a more straight forward rock song. There is s twittering synth line just under the surface of the guitar driven song. The harmonized Uh-Oh chorus really gives it an everyday-joe sort of feel. Also the power pop guitar hooks drive home the blue collar image. This feels kinda like an A’s song.
“Dangerous Stranger” sounds just like I fought the Law, then it relaxes on the angsty authority and pucks up a Buddy Holly / Roy Orbison 50’s rock feeling. The song employs a weird vocal distortion that I heard on the Ebn Ozn album (in their cover of Rockin’ Robin), the one that is deep and grotesque, also used in Ween’s son I’m Fat. I just don’t like the sound to the vocal, because I feel like it is really distracting from the song.
“Superenigmatix” transitions right out of the previous song with light guitar and piano playing, then it picks up with a fast sung verse that is bold, yet non-threatening and reminds me a little of Devo. That leads right up to an abrupt but welcome genre change into pure Power Pop on the Glam side. It comes off just feeling like a very silly song.
“Japan” features just that, very Japanese sounding synth effects, and a very Japanese melody. It moves forward with a slow, steady march. The chorus features an overlapping yet harmonized vocal section traveling down scale of the word Japan. Apparently, this song replaced the song “Visions of Endless Hope” on the American version, since Japan was a single over in the UK, but not on the album.
“Possession” Is a disjointed pop song and the vocals remind me of Jonathan Richman or Television (I think) They are full of energy, and a little bit of Adam Ant in the way he finishes some of the lines. The song has a very dark, almost metal vibe about the chorus, even if the verse and bridge are catchy and power-poppy.
“Islands of the Dead” is an album ending power ballad with some picked acoustic guitar and sad, respectful melancholy that borders on country.
Stand Out Track: Surreal Estate
Love In Flames


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