Friday, 27 July 2012

Remastering my Childhood - a recent Amazon Bonanza

Ok ... I'm back on the Codral slide ... so I guess its as good a time as any to catch up on some draft posts including this one about my recent Amazonian Bonanza, where in one fell swoop I covered off a major part of the soundtrack to my childood. And don't let them fool you with all that soldiering palaver, today has not been productive at all.

There's no better way to start this off then when Electronic music hit the big time with the release of The Human League's Dare. Punk rock and disco morphed into New Wave at the start of the 80s. Well it was called New Wave down our parts, a blanket term that covered any band with an assymetric haricut, eye liner and a two tone shirt - whether they jangled round the edges of post-punk funk or danced elbow to knee behind a bank of synthesisers  - it was alles der Neue Welle!

Dare was not the first purveyor of experimental electronic music obviously. Dusseldorf was happening several years back. Dare was however the first to hit it big in the world of Pop. And in many ways was my initiator in the world of electronic music ... a journey that has taken me round the world and round the decades from OMD, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode through to Kraftwerk, Stockhausen and beyond. In essence my love affair with cold teutonic beats never died, although we took a break to explore options once High NRG hit the airwaves and the dancefloors.

So Purchase No.1 - no brainer, especially since this version includes the Fascination EP (as opposed to Love and Dancing in a previous format) which has my favouritest Human League song - (Keep Feeling) Fascination. Nothing new in terms of sound quality on this remaster  ... I'm still more partial to the vinyl edition ... it sounds a little too pristine on CD ... needs a flatter edge somehow.

A couple of years down the track, with the onset of the AIDs epidemic, all that early androgyny became politicised and in stepped Jimmy Somerville and his Bronski Beats in chinos, polo shirts and loafers, all disco falsetto and earnest declarations set to a Hgh NRG beat.

In our current relatively "enlightened" age, its hard to put into words how songs like "Smalltown Boy" and "Why" touched closeted teenage hearts the world over. Locked in our bedrooms and shouting out "Run Away, Turn Away, Run Away" at the ceiling, dancing our gay little hearts out. And boy could we dance!! And strike a pose well before Madge told us to get to it. And didn't we all rush out and buy Polo shirts in every conceivable colour to wear with our straight cut Levi's and Topsiders ... ok maybe not everyone.

Inside that black sleeve with the bold type and pastel highlights we found acceptance and validation, so far removed from the reality of the world outside. And even though I no longer fabricate a life in order to navigate life's unchartered waters, there is an ever so slight tightening of the chest even now as I type these words on the screen. I guess the insecurity and shame (yes I am going to own this!) never really goes away.

The Remastered Age of Consent comes with the "Hundreds and Thousands" remix Ep ... which is probably one of the earliest Remix Eps ever put out. And its pretty darn good. Not just isolated breaks for DJs to sequence, but actually revisioning some of the tracks of the original album.

Bronski Beat morphed into the Communards, a sort of proto-type Arts collective. You know the kind ... poetry reading at a dingy pub with a big haired woman decked out all espanol playing the violin in the background ... possibly a piano player with a jaunty hat or a woman with a severe fringe emoting some english folksong with her eyebrows over the top. And I'm sure there would have been a pamphlet of some description ... there's always a pamphlet with a manifesto!

Anyhoo, still all very gay. But this time a little bit more grown up - singing about the heartache and joys of real relationships experienced. Particularly second album Red ... that is heartache in a box ... as my friend Safuan can attest to. In fact Red is a particular favourite of mine. You didn't have to see past the irony of covering old disco tracks as on their debut release, these were songs plainly felt and plainly sung.

Loads of amazing extras with these remasters and well worth the $15 spent for each including postage!

Then there was Everything But the Girl - the early incarnation of which was vastly different beast to the darlings of the dancefloor and chill out compilations they eventually became.

Forming the vanguard of the 80s infatuation with all things Jazz, promotional shots started appearing in all the right quarters of the music press ... and everyone was buzzing about their version of Night and Day (don't try too hard to hunt this down ... its a little meh) ... and they looked ever so cool ... flat topped Ben and his pork pie hat and cotton shirts, Tracy with the haircut I so desperately tried to emulate and her summer dresses. Draped in University chic, their jazz-lite tales of lovers lost and won spoke directly to my fey pseudo-literary heart.

I wanted a spotlight in a jazz dive somewhere with a jaded far-off look from under my fringe and a matter of fact tone to my voice. I still love Eden the best, and I had to get Idlewild for their other successful cover, "I don't want to talk about it" which is part of the extras on the remasters.

Out of all the purchases I made here, the EBTG remasters are easily the most beautiful. The packaging is outstanding. Each of the CDs comes in a sort of Booklet with amazingly produced photos and a mountain of extras.

Thank you to the Remastering gods for taking me on a trip down memory lane. I'm sitting tight for my Blur boxset which is going to be amaaazzziingg!!!


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