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Friday, August 22, 2014

(the) Nobodys - No Guarantees

Name: The Nobodys
Album: No Guarantees
Year: 1984
Style: New Wave
Similar Bands: Bolshoi, Foreigner, Mick Smiley, Fad Gadget, Howard Jones, Talking Heads, Thomas Dolby
"One-Word" Review: Creepy-bleak-Spanish-cop-procedural-synth.
Based Out Of: LA, California
Label: Capitol, EMI
 No Guarantees - Cover & Record
No Guarantees - Back & Record
No Guarantees (1984)

  1. No Guarantees 4:02
  2. I Scratch 3:14
  3. They Didn't Offer Me You 4:10
  4. Just One of Your Legs 3:13
  5. What Can I Do? 3:16/
  6. I Am Helpless Without My Computers 4:25
  7. Drops of Water 4:05
  8. The Gang on Fortune Hill 4:00
  9. I Don't Mind 5:20
Album Rating (1-10): 5.0

Members & Other Bands:
Safeway Goya - Vox, Producer (Squid)
Alex Blanc - Guitar, Keys, Vox (Squid, Poe)
Eric Garcia - Bass, Guitar (Poe)
Ken Ypparila - Guitar, Violin, Keys
Timex Burke - Drums (Woody Herman)
Sarco - Engineering

Unknown-news: I’ve never heard of this band. I don’t remember where I picked this up, but I think it was in a stack of thrift store records early on in my collection. Their logo is simple and clean: white on black forms a recognizable image, with a bar across the eyes preventing theoretical identification, to match their generic and anonymous name. I thought the band photo on the back, even though it is a little dark, was a good enough reason to pick up the album. 1984 was not a strong year, but still proved to be worth a discovery for a dollar.

Album Review: The band itself produced general new wave with keys and emotion, even rising to a level of notoriety most bands could only dream of. Their single and album title track was featured in the movie Firstborn, starring Peter Weller & Teri Garr in 1984 and it was in an episode of Miami Vice (#27, "Buddies,"). Yet after the one album, the band disbanded, and the singer (brother to bandmate Alex Blanc [de Rafols]) is now teaching Spanish at the University of Nevada Reno, and has reverted to his original name Fred.  The stage name was taken to represent his Spanish-American roots, with the grocery store Safeway and Spanish artist Carlos Goya comprising his background.

“No Guarantees” is the supposed single that appeared on the big and small screens. It feels right out of Miami Vice, and I would have probably noted it if it wasn’t true. The bouncy synth bass has a sleek 80’s yacht wealth of a sinister kind feel to it. There is a dark keyboard hook too that adds to the creepy underbelly of crime vibe. The lyrics paint a sorrowful, negative picture of life and future to add to the shady nature of the music.
“I Scratch” is a jittery synth bass line and drum beat that is full of drive. The guitar strums and his Bob Dylan style vocals don’t blend very well to the song style, until they become cohesive in chorus: “I Scratch, but you don’t itch.” Again, this song, too, is kind of creepy in production, but is much catchier than the first song. I’m reminded of a poppier version of the song “Magic” from the Ghostbusters soundtrack that plays after the ghosts are re-released. There are plenty of synth effects layered over, like bells and groundswells, the bass / drum line never gives up or changes, except for one full-stop pause.
“They Didn't Offer Me You” has an even deeper and darker pulsating synth bass note, and it is overlaid with optimistic twinkling synth notes. The singing is dark and monotone. A jangely guitar picks up, and creates a bleak, tundra-like songscape. The song has a sort of U2/Midnight Oil anthemic quality to the chorus. The song feels like it goes on for a little too long.
“Just One of Your Legs” starts with a synth ballad like production. I’m talking about the mid-evening slow song at a 1986 middle school dance. This might be a Phil Collins Easy Listening song, with a Howard Jones / Thomas Dolby delivery. Then the lyrics are creepy: the guy just needs one leg to help him get through…something. After a minute 20, the song picks up with a steady drum beat and soaring guitar. And this change makes the song much more enjoyable. And the song ends letting go of the rock mid-section, and reverting back to the beginning ballad
“What Can I Do?” brings the dreamy 80’s synth love song vibe back, but couples it with a dark bass groove, and the song transitions into a sort of salsa tempo, and is later exaggerated with Spanish lyrics and a brass/trumpet section. The song creates a nice tempo and fun Spanish flair, done up under a new wave bow.

“I Am Helpless Without My Computers” has a funky groove to it, starting out with a four beat kick. This song is a good 10 years before the internet took over all of our lives, and before the true home application for a computer was envisioned. I remember the Married with Children episode where the computer nearly took over AL’s life, and he was all get off my lawn, computers are a waste of time. That was a good 5-7 years after this song. So just for that, this is a very interesting concept and song. The execution has a bit of a choreographed dance to it, but the tempo and outlook of the song feel quite organic and pleasant. He even references a Social Media of sorts: “I am helpless without my computer / How Can I relate / All the social madness / gone to waste.” The verse to chorus build up is a pretty good build and deliver one-two punch. It is not as strong as other great example of the anticipation and delivery song structure, but it is good. Toward the end of the song, there is a much darker breakdown. It becomes sinister and brooding, before it breaks free from the dark grip into the proclaiming, lighter chorus.
“Drops of Water” has a Talking Heads dancy guitar and dark bass combo to get the song started. The guitar balances out for the verse and is replaced by a piano as the driving melodic force. It comes back in the bridge between verses, and is added to with other darker synth production elements. The chorus has a light, simplistic Thomas Dolby feel to it. There is an islander breakdown with bongos and deep synth tones. Mixed with it is an Dark Americana guitar section, giving this song a ominous feel. The song kind of just ends
“The Gang on Fortune Hill” starts with Spanish guitars and feels like a folk version of a specific dance style song. Other effects and tempos to the song give it an island feel too, but there is a fine line between the forms. This would be the story song that would introduce a band back out onto the stage after the full set. Low lights shining up from behind the members through a thick veil of fog, casting big, black shadows on the walls while the faceless figures, cast in darkness, play their parts on stage.
“I Don't Mind” is a mix between a cop show (LA Law) montage and a late period Talking Heads middle album track. The song carries with it a knowing, importance, and stomps around childishly trying to not prove its point in a straightforward fashion, but to communicate it through osmosis. Again horns help out support the melody, as well as a lonely back-alley sax. The song takes all these sections, and puts them on repeat, really overstaying its welcome.


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