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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Phil 'N' the Blanks - Lands and People~, Head Screwed On*

Name: Phil 'N' the Blanks
Album(s): Lands and Peoples~ Head Screwed On*
Year(s): 1982~, 1983*
Style: New Wave
Similar Bands: Blondie, B-52's (minus surf), Cucumbers, Robin Lane, Go-Go's, Midnight Oil, Devo, Gary Numan
"One-Word" Review: Energetic Bleakness
Based Out Of: Chicago, IL
Label: Pink Records
Lands and Peoples - Cover & Record
Lands and Peoples - Back & Record
 Head Screwed On - Cover & Record
  Head Screwed On - Cover & Record
Lands And Peoples (1982)
  1. The National Dance Contest 3:49
  2. See You 2:51
  3. Lands And Peoples 3:47
  4. Meadowlands 3:29
  5. The Forest's On The Move 3:43/
  6. You Can't Call Me 3:46
  7. Exercise 3:28
  8. Cold Love 3:33
  9. Punctuality (Is A Virtue) 3:29
  10. Babble On 2:40
  11. Condition Red 2:44
Head Screwed On (1983)
  1. Head Screwed On 3:26
  2. Pockets of Pleasure 2:25
  3. A Space Traveler's Manifesto 3:15/
  4. Dance Dance 4:00
  5. You Look Like Someone 3:18
  6. Johnny Bit 3:54
Album Ratings (1-10): ~7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Phil Bimstein - Vox, Guitars, Piano, Organ, Synth~*(Blue Haiku, Red Rock Rondo)
Blanche - Vox, Percussion~*Jacket Design* (Paisley Blacke)
Eric Kister - Guitars, Album Art~* (Cause or Effect, Johnny Moe & The Return, Vidiots)
Bill Hyland - Bass, congregation~*
Roman Zabicki - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vox~* (Slip, Vidiots, Norma Jean, XLR8, Hightones, The Pheremoans, )
Rick Canoff - Sax (Flock Horn Section)~
Tom Webb - Sax (Flock Horn Section)~
Frank Posa - Trumpet (Flock Horn Section)~
Fast Frank - Sax (Bohemia)~
Balkan Rhythm Band - Introduction~
Jim Hines - Linn LMI~
Nancy Austin - congregation~
Craig Williams - Producer~*
Kane Engler - Producer~*
Howie Weinberd - Mastering~
Greg Calbi - Mastering *
Michael Lapin - Cover Photo*
Scott H. Bank - Live Photos

Unknown-ness: I never heard of this band. But I found both of these albums together in a cheap dollar bin at the same time, and could not let them get split up. I liked their Gary Numan-like portraits on the second album, and the consistent pink, black & white art direction for both. The play on words name and 82-83 dates made want to pick these up. Assuming it is going to be Cars-like New wave…perhaps B-52’s with a female singer, so here we go.

Album Review: So the lead singer went on after this band to become Mayor of Springdale, Utah, promoting environmental activism, including speaking in front of congress supporting Utah’s wilderness. Blanche keeps up the website with info and links. The music is definitely new wave.

“The National Dance Contest” has a repetitive jangley guitar followed by a basic drum beat and even horns that echo the lead guitar. The first lyrics are that of the chorus. The vocals are typical new wave style: energetic and nasally. This feels like it was a really great live song, that loses a little translation onto vinyl. There are soaring guitar breaks, and the horns try to add depth to the song, but it still feels one dimentional. Later, there is an echoey female led chorus that reminds me of Sugarcubes. Then the male & female vocals duel it out, with the female vocals sounding a little like Belinda Carlisle. The song ends the same way it starts: with the chorus, just with a sudden stop.
“See You” is all bass at the beginning, and the rhythm guitar acting more as timed percussion than anything else. This features female lead vocals that are dark and wavering. The vocals are layered in parts, with a delicate harmony. But the song itself is driving, rattling, and dark. There is a little emotion to the delivery that reminds me a little of Sleater-Kinney.
“Lands And Peoples” has a bit of a world music vibe as it starts out with a jazzy section, that quickly transitions to dark bouncy bass. Male vocals start out the song with a cold, monotone rhythm. The song drives a long like a bored call and response Adam Ant song. When it hits the chorus, the female vocals come into the song, singing the chorus in the round with the male vocals. There are some sax squeals in the instrumental sections too, giving it a slight appeal to Madness fans. But over all, this has a dark, sterile B-52’s feel to it.
“Meadowlands” fades into a bouncy and jangley song, with a sly dark alley/sinister vibe. The lead guitar sounds like a forlorn video game melody. This is the crux of the song that repeats over and over again. The song follows the instrumental path, with only a flowing string of haunting and melody paralleling “Ooo-Ooo’s.” The male counterpart “Ohhhh-Ohhh’s” follows up taking over for the female vocals. The song fades out in the same mirror image of how it began.
“The Forest’s On The Move” is a driving guitar song, picking up right where the previous song dropped us off: in a dark and bleak, yet energetic nature. The male and female vocals take turns in the verses, coming together for a nice Celtic harmony for the chorus. Both seem a bit tense or angry. There is a big cut off to end the side of the album, just as the song is building
“You Can't Call Me” starts off with a fun power-pop guitar lick, and the female vocals are nervous and bouncy, with a smooth chorus. This is just a good song, again reminiscent of the B-52’s. There is a spoken, complaining breakdown, where the female lead is complaining to her love interest for not calling when they should. And of course, the song ends with a busy signal
“Exercise” begins with watery guitars and a deep bass beat, reminding me a little of the Violent Femmes. The nervous male vocals are like a monotone Gary Numan, and take turns with the female vocals. The chorus is just a fast paced repetition of “Ex” then “Exercise.” This simple song would, actually be pretty good to exercise to, with a good pace, and repetition. And it ends with an exhausted breath of air.
“Cold Love” has a steady, driving rock guitar lead, and the song skips along, chugging out the guitar and rhythm support. The song kind of feels like a Midnight Oil song. It is, however, somewhat one dimensional and forgettable.
“Punctuality (Is A Virtue)” starts with tick tock vocals, and is a side to side, pogo-ing, neurotic song. It features jangley chords and a simple structure that leaves a lot of lo-fi room, which in this case is a good thing, propelled by the bass line.
“Babble On” drives right from the get-go with electric guitars and a two kick drum beat. The song is much lighter than the other dark tones on the album. It is slightly arena rock, with some hey-hey-heys and loud guitars. And it fades out.
“Condition Red” starts with a shout out of “red” in this wavering male vocal led song. There is a cold dark tone buried down in the driving guitars and steady drums. The female vocals echo and along with a vibrant harmony, take care of the chorus, and the guitars re quite angular and even sound like early XTC at times. Well, maybe just once. It is the harmony that ends the album
“Head Screwed On” starts out sounding like Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover.” Then the dark synth is added in low, and the driving new wave song takes shape. The song kind of feels like it is on a treadmill, and features only female vocals. This song is already more electronic than the first album, but it is still cold, slightly eerie and calculated. The layering v vocals at the end leads to a fade out.
“Pockets of Pleasure” is synth electronic right away with a fast, sinister pogo beat and a nasally near-computerized and monotone male vocal. This is a good dance song, and must have been fun to see live. There is a breakdown, explaining about all the sorts of pockets they are talking about, the whole time, there is a female angelic vocal in the background “Ahhh-Ahhhing” through to the fade out.
“A Space Traveler's Manifesto” employs more synth as the stand out instrument after a standard driving intro. After the initial section, a following bit simulates floating in space with held synth notes. The next part has the fvemale vocals explaining how the final frontier is space, and the sung vocals that follow are enhanced with echoing effects, which gives the whole song a bit of a feeling like a sped up Major Tom

“Dance Dance” starts out real familiar like, with a synth melody that is actually upbeat, and increases in tone. The crystalline melody creates an icy, yet optimistic outlook. The female vocals then start in, and this feels like a electronic and antiseptically pure, updated version of their first song from the last album: “National Dance Contest.” This feels like something that could have been out of the movie Solarbabies (which came out 3 years later).
“You Look Like Someone” feels like the same song, just with a little jitterier synth sound (out of a video game like Mega Man). The male vocals have a little more of sunnier side to them, but are still monotone and remind me a lot of Devo. The electric guitars level out the sterile feel that the vocals and ultra basic drum beat project.
“Johnny Bit” is a new wave synth version of a power pop song. There is a lot of crystal twinkling in the song and the song drives along, as all the songs do, on the kick drum beat. Also, it is very Devo-ish.

Stand Out Track(s): ~You Can't Call Me
*Pockets of Pleasure

Blanche's Blanks Site
Phil's Wiki page
Phil's website
Blue Haiku
Starkland Records
'87 Chicago Tribune article
Chicago Reader Blanche's letter to editor
AZ Local
Rate Your Music

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