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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mi Sex - Computer Games~ & Space Race*

Name: Mi-Sex
Albums: Computer Games~, Space Race*
Year: 1980~*
Style: New Wave
Similar Bands: Ultravox, Men Without Hats, Yes, Ween, Split Enz, Clash, Buzzcocks
One Word Review: Power Synth Fiction
Based Out Of: Hamilton, New Zealand
Label: Epic, CBS, CBS Records
 Computer Games - Cover, Sleeve, Record
 Computer Games - Back, Sleeve, Record
Space Race - Cover, Sleeve, Record
Space Race - Back, Sleeve, Record
Computer Games (1979/1980)~
  1. Computer Games 3:55
  2. Graffiti Crimes 3:49
  3. Wot Do You Want 2:55
  4. Not Such A Bad Boy 2:43
  5. Stills 5:50/
  6. But You Don't Care 3:58
  7. A Loser 2:55
  8. 21-20 3:15
  9. Camera Kazi 5:28
  10. Inside You 3:18
Space Race (1980)*
  1. Space Race 3:44
  2. Pages and Matches 2:30
  3. Living in September 2:41
  4. I Don't Know 2:27
  5. Slippin' Out 3:08
  6. It Only Hurts When I'm Laughing 4:14/
  7. People 3:49
  8. Good Guys Always Win (Satire) 3:17
  9. Ghosts 3:42
  10. Burning Up 3:35
  11. Ice Cold Dead 4:16
Album Rating (1-10): ~8.0
*8.5

Members & Other Bands:
Steve Gilpin - Vox (Father Thyme, Fragments of Time, Under Rapz)
Kevin Stanton - Guitar, Vox (Fragments of Time, Die Laughing)
Don Martin - Bass, Vox (Fragments of Time, Bird Sisters, Yazbek, Brian Jackson, Kingdom Heirs, The Caroling Company, )
Murray Burns - Keys, Vox (Rockmelons, Rob Hirst & Ghostwriters, Joel Gion, Olivia Newton John, Basil Poledouris, The Angels)
Richard Hodgkinson - Drums, Guitar
Peter Dawkins - Producer
Dave Marett - Engineer
Janet Perr - Front Cover Design~
Paula Scher - Front Cover Design~
Arnold Rosenberg - Cover Photo~
Greg Penniket - Back Cover Photo~
John Sayers - Engineer*
Joe Barbario - Mix Engineer*
Bobby Gordon - Second Engineer*
Jack Skinner - Mastering*
Graeme Weber - Photography*
Ian McCausland - Cover Art*
Bob Yates - Management*

Unknown-ness: I had never heard of this band. I remember buying both records at the same time in a dollar bin in Austin a few years back. The major appeal was the name, coupled with the album title and art work of Computer Games. I thought that this had to be some super electronic, new wavey band with lots of bips and bops and catchy synth melodies. Had I just seen Space Race, I would not have had the same premonition, nor would I have probably bought the albums. But the albums had to come together. What if one was really good, and then I would have missed out not having their other album?

Album Review: So the first album was actually released in 1979 as Graffiti Crimes in Australia, and then retitled Computer Games after the single with the same name became more a hit. The band was pushed in the direction they eventually embraced to be used as an example to their then label, EMI’s, new sound. One of their biggest stories was political in nature, where their album sales were taxed at 40% by the then Prime Minister due to Mi-Sex being “one of those horrible pop groups” that was not cultural.

“Computer Games” became a #1 hit song in Australia in 1979 (#2 in Canada), and before the album was released in the US the album name was changed to reflect the popular song. It starts with a Kraftwerk / Men Without Hats pulsing synth line, and adds on an echoing carnival-ish power pop guitar hook. It is a driving, hiccupping song, with urgent vocals, actually sounding a little like Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” in the chorus. The power guitar chords take away from the sterile element of the synth beat, and they tend to meander in the instrumental. But it is still a solid danceable song with some oddball vocal yips.
“Graffiti Crimes” was the original title track before the opening song gained popularity. After a calm cold open, the guitars and drum kick right in for a driving power-pop new wave tune. The vocals owe a lot to snotty punk rock in their delivery. The bridge into the chorus is a fantastic power pop hook, but it is not capitalized upon with a chorus of the same melody. At the end of the song, the chorus repeats in the background while dialogue is spoken over top, somewhat angry punkish, with fits of laughter at the end.
“Wot Do You Want” is a pub rock song, with an urgent piano/keyboard beating into the background. The vocals have an aggressive energy about them, and the chorus is mostly just a smooth, soaring synth hook. The end of the song is the power-pub rock hook & piano building with a combination of harmonized chorus and lead vocals chanting the title over and over.
“Not Such A Bad Boy” is a punk-like guitar played a note at a time (like Gang Of Four) but then a progressive, Yes-like keyboard is brought in, as if to prove that the punk style is not the defining style, and the singer is not such a bad boy, as the title suggests. The chorus is made up of a queen-like call and response between the lead singer and chorus of harmonized vocals. The instrumental is rocking out electric guitars, and the song reverts right back into the power pop verse, which is quickly replaced with the Prog keyboard melodies.
“Stills” starts off with a three chord progression on guitar. Then an electric guitar playes a Steve Bartek-like melody over top of the song. The vocals are spoken during the verse, and only find melody by the time the chorus hits. The song turns into a spacey-new age Ween song with a transition to a slow motion head bang for a couple measures before changing back to the mystical verse. This song is going in many directions in turn, and it makes for a jarringly chaotic song, tied together with the thinnest melody. The long song continues in prog-rock style, clocking in with some heavy guitar at the end to finish off very thematically.

“But You Don't Care” was a single. It is a twinkling synth song, sung with the dream of being a metal hair band. Heavy chords carry the intro. The song then begins with soaring vocals that don’t quite match the combination synth and power rock melody. It is a hero’s montage theme song, one where the hero loses all ties and responsibilities and just does what he wants.
“A Loser” begins with a dark chord progression, then turns into a driving bass stomp. The vocals hop along with the bouncy tempo. But once it gets to the chorus, it takes on a swirling Led/Sabbath slow-down. It transitions back and forth between the two paces, throwing in an electric guitar solo over the instrumental breakdown.
“21-20” starts off with more classic prog rock keyboard intro, and then it snakes into a more sinister melody with a Clash-like guitar & bass combination as the vocals begin. But the chorus hook is very clean and catchy. It is simple and has a great power-pop delivery after a solid bridge from the verse. The chorus alone makes this song.
“Camera Kazi” begins with balladeer formula of a strummed acoustic and fanciful vocals. The synth  trickles in for a moment, and power pop chords combined with power vocals, and this rock operatic song comes together by the chorus. A introspective storyteller begins with dialogue over the pumping bass in a very medieval style. Soaring sound effects pepper the song as an old radio show uses metal or glass to stand for wind or an accident.  This story-song also picks up different stylistic sections that bring with them a different emotion that supports the lyrical progression. And it ends with an extro of the same balladeer’s performance.
“Inside You” takes us back to a straight forward guitar rock song. A stair stepping, twinkling synth is added, and the vocals invoke a charging march-tempo. Cheesy whistling sci-fi space melodies are used to enhance the robotic themes as the vocals are distorted slightly through a tinny echoing chamber.

“Space Race” was a single. It starts the album with a zoob tube filling up, and then some guitar chords and another dark, sinister hook that is slightly black metal. The production is bombastic and still quite theatrical, exaggerating emotion. One guitar section reminds me of Metallica’s “Unforgiven.” I’m guessing this song painted an outsider’s view of the US-Russian race for space domination, as it ends with a marching drum beat that quietly fades out.
“Pages and Matches” begins with an electric guitar hook that reminds me of modern bands like the Killers. The song has a back and forth playful melody, with a bit of a horror/Halloween quality in the bass & synth section. I like the instrumental four chord chorus.
“Living in September” rings in with a Christmassy synth section, and then drives straight ahead once the drums and guitars kick in. It has a punk ideology with the way the vocals are delivered and the supporting music follows along.
“I Don't Know” follows along the ska-side of the punk aesthetic with a funky bass line and 2-beat guitar melody. The chorus takes more of a prog-metal turn in melody alone.
“Slippin' Out” is a straight up new wave song with the synth sound mixing perfectly with the guitar and drum beat. The catchy hook that follows the chorus, which also introduced the song is very familiar.
“It Only Hurts When I'm Laughing” was a single. A heart beat pulse and chugging guitar kick off the song quietly as the song creeps in. It is building to something, and after a couple of verses in the tense holding pattern, the vocals take off emotionally for two syllables, but the song fails to follow. Instead the guitar soars, and the song maintains the slow pulse. For a glimmer of a moment, the music speeds up void of vocals, but it returns to the quiet melody. The second time around, the verse gains some emotion and the guitars pick up. Everything merges together on cue this round, and the song shuffles ahead on trilling synth sections and the continued singular bouncy bass notes. But the heart beat intro also takes us out of the song.

“People” was a good charting single from this album. It possesses whistling, space-effects for the intro, and it becomes an angular new wave song by the time it hits the chorus. After two sections, the breakdown is a memory inducing soaring guitar section with spoken work snippets sampled overtop. This bleeds back into the angular chorus, which continues through to the end of the song. Eventually the chorus of vocals is mixed down, and the synth and drums come to the forefront.
“Good Guys Always Win (Satire)” is another 80’s futuristic sci-fi b-movie theme song with the synth and theatrical melody. At one point, the instruments are stripped away leaving the bopping piano melody the only accompaniment to the vocals. After a couple of measures, the instruments come back in for support.
“Ghosts” starts with cold-yet-positive synth and more Clash-like guitar. And a bit of a Jam-like melody. With all of those positive elements, the song does not hold its place as an honorable collaboration. The song itself is silly, featuring dialogue like “what kind of ghost did you see?” There is a bit of urgency in the tempo of the song. The end of the song has more dialogue spoken over the music.
“Burning Up” starts with a straight forward, quick tempo-ed bass metronomic beat. A ziggy synth is overlaid, with a crisp guitar mixed down, which becomes more fuzzed out as the song progresses. The synth line is pretty catchy. The vocals would benefit to have a female voice as the lead.  
“Ice Cold Dead” creates the perfect image for the beginning of the song, as it is a cold, sterile beginning. The song feels like it is going to build into something fast and strong, but the prog chorus chooses a different, bolder, anthemic direction. The verse is driving and the synth is steady, paralleling the beat with a interweaving melody. The second trip through the chorus finds more energy. The spoken vocals over the instrumental chorus remind me of Adam Ant. This prog song with time changes and pace intensities feels like it would have been more at home on the first record, as its diversity was underrepresented here. 

Stand Out Track: ~ Computer Games & 21-20
*Living In September

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