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It’s time for another hypothetical mix CD! Like the most of them, this is another themed compilation — none of these songs were, as far as I could research, originally released in the US. Mostly, they’re from Japan-only and UK-only releases, but there’s a few exceptions. A few of them have been released in the US, but most of them haven’t; regardless, they’re all from cool sources that I’d recommend picking up if you ever come across them.
- Don’t Believe What The Papers Say/The Bride Of Fortune – M (from The Official Secrets Act)
- This is from the UK CD-reissue of the second M album, The Official Secrets Act. It wasn’t released until that CD package, and I’ve heard that it wasn’t actually recorded until 1986, a few years (and two albums — only one released — after) Official Secrets came out. The female vocals are credited to “Agent Sarah”, instead of his normal vocal partner (and ex-wife) Bridgit Novik. “The Bride of Fortune” was co-written with Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer and friend of Robin Scott‘s (a/k/a M). On the Official Secrets Act CD, the two songs segue; while “The Bride of Fortune” has shown up on other non-US compilations (mainly the self-released best-of Life Class ), it is always without “Don’t Believe What The Papers Say”. I’ve always really liked the pairing of the two songs, so I joined them together for this compilation on one track.
- Baby Bias – Polysics (from Now Is the Time!)
- This was the teaser single from Polysics‘ album, Now Is The Time!. It’s a little on the poppier side, similar to the For Young Electric Pop album, and I really love it. It’s one of the handful of albums that was eventually released in the US, though, like many of them, it’s gone out of print in this country; the Japanese edition is still in print. In the meantime, if they come near you, you must go see them — the rest of us can keep up with their English Language Tour Diaries. Even though this one is out of print, their newest record, We Ate The Machine IS available in the US, so get that one too. (And they’ve got a Japan-only — so far — live record, called We Ate The Show. (After a history of buying the Japanese editions as they come out, only for them to be released in the US, I haven’t picked this one up yet. Which will, of course, guarantee it remains Japan-Only.)
- Sex Machine – The Flying Lizards (from Top Ten)
- The Flying Lizards have shown up on a lot of these hypothetical compilations, and for good reason. This is from Top Ten and was one of the singles from that record. It was the first song from Top Ten I’d heard, and one of the ones I enjoyed playing for other people; it’s probably the cleanest and best execution of the concept of the album; experimental, jagged and sparse while still being relatively accessible and, most of all, funny. I love the metallic clanging and the utterly emotionless rendition of the “Shall I take them to the bridge” conversation from the James Brown original.
- Eleanor – The Fluffy Kittens (Unreleased)
- The Fluffy Kittens are another band that show up here a lot, although I think this might be the track I would be the mos
t wishing would get released; mainly, that would probably mean that they were back together, or, at the very least, they were acting as songwriters for people. (Ben said that, ideally, The Ditty Bops would somehow hear this song and decide to cover it. And I agree, I could hear them doing an excellent version of it.) I got an mp3 from Matthew Amster-Burton a while ago when I asked if the band was still together (which is, sadly, no); it was recorded live at the AS1 Benefit Show in Seattle, which happened to be the very first time I’d seen them live and, if I recall, their second show ever. I went for the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, who were great as always, but the Fluffy Kittens were one of the earlier bands, and I basically fell in love with them — and particularly, this song. So I’m glad to have a recording of it, because this is SUCH an excellent song that everyone should hear.
- Les Mannequins – Kraftwerk (From the French single)
- Everyone probably knows that Kraftwerk records an English and a German version of every album after Autobahn starting with Radio-Activity (aside from Tour de France Soundtracks , which only has the one version… though strangely enough, the recent live album, Minimum-Maximum has an alternate version as well). However, from time to time, they would record versions of their songs for other countries as well. “Dentaku” is probably the most known — their Japanese version of “Pocket Calculator”, and to a lesser extent, people may know about the Spanish version of Electric Café , but not too many people know about the French version of “Showroom Dummies” from Trans-Europe Express , released as a single from that album. (This wasn’t the only French song Kraftwerk re-recorded; “Tour De France” also was recorded in that language.) It’s very similar to the original, but it’s still interesting, and, hey, Kraftwerk IS magnificent, so why not?
- Elysium – Madness (from Wonderful)
- Madness‘ most recent album is The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1 album of ska covers, but in 1999, they released a new album of pop songs called Wonderful that never made it out in the US. That’s really too bad, as Madness’ pop songs are exquisite and Wonderful was just as good as anything else they’d ever released. When I got to see Madness live, I was a little disappointed they didn’t have copies of Wonderful for sale (although they had plenty of the new record, which is, indeed, very good). I wish Madness had a better hold in this country; the release of Dangermen has only slightly improved the state of Madness bins in US Record Stores; where they used to be made up of a bunch of compilations with different titles but the same tracks, now they’re made up of those compilations and a copy or two of Dangermen… Little steps, little steps. (Speaking of which, though, sometimes you can find copies of Keep Moving in bins as well — if you see it, pick it up; particularly the US edition on the Geffen Goldline label. Not only does it have a couple more tracks than the UK version does, it also retails for something like $6 or $7 new. You can’t beat that with a stick, and it’s my favorite album of theirs, so, hey.)
- Fabie (1, 2, 3 Beat It) – Takako Minekawa (from Athletica)
- A Takako Minekawa track, this one from the Athletica EP, another Japanese-only release from 1997, recorded between Roomic Cube and Cloudy Cloud Calculator (both albums are — or at least were — available in the US and SO worth getting). The sound is similar to those records, but a little bit more experimental; EPs as a rule tend to be a less serious affair than full-length albums, and as such, they tend to have a bit more leeway with what gets included. The Athletica EP also has another version of “Fabie”, but it’s pretty different.
- If Only – The Lightning Seeds (From Tilt)
- This is from the last (to date) Lightning Seeds album, Tilt, recorded in 1999. It was a bit more dancier and electronic than the previous records, but it was pretty good. The Lightning Seeds always tended to have a slight Pet Shop Boys tendency to me, and this sort of highlights it even more so. But considering that I love the Pets, that’s definitely fine in my book.
- Immortal Invisible – Neil Innes (From Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues/How Sweet To Be An Idiot)
- This is from Neil Innes‘ How Sweet to be an Idiot/Recycled Vinyl Blues (the latter being a “best-of” that’s just the former with some bonus tracks). I’ve always liked this song quite a bit, and I like the idea of there being nothing holier than absurdity. I’ve noticed that I kind of need to diversify the artists lists on these compilations, as most of them have appeared on two or three of these sets, and I’m running out of different things to say about them!
- Life Goes On – Love Psychedelico (From Love Psychedelic Orchestra)
- Love Psychedelico is one of those bands that I’ll be a little surprised if they stay Japanese-only. Especially with a small-level indie-rock fad of Japanese groups (i.e. the success of Puffy over here), I figure Love Psychedelico would be really popular too. Particularly since whenever I play one of their songs for anyone, they end up really liking them; even folks who aren’t typically into Japanese pop music. This is from Love Psychedelic Orchestra, their second album. It’s got a little bit of a country tinge, too, but not nearly as country as they can get. A US Label, Hack Tone, has FINALLY realized that there might be a market for really good music from Japan, and has released This Is Love Psychedelico, a best-of — which, unfortunately for folks like me who bought all the Japanese issues and would still like to support them in this country, has no exclusive tracks. Still, though, it’s a pretty good mix of songs, so I’d definitely recommend picking it up.
- The Tens – Mankind Liberation Front (From Mankind Liberation Front )
- This is from the first, self-titled, unreleased Mankind Liberation Front album. It was one of those albums — and this happens far more often than you’d like to think — where the album was completed, artwork was made and promo copies were distributed to reviewers and radio stations, but somewhere between that and the release date, it got shelved. Sometimes the album finally comes out anyway (in the case of the second Nada Surf record or Volumizer by 2 Skinnee Js) with some re-tooling, but in this case, the album never came out, and the band re-recorded a new “debut” album, Automind without any repeated tracks. A couple of singles made it out from this album; there were a couple of EPs for ” Center of the Universe” and ” Dope Dreams” (the latter of which also appeared on the soundtrack for Ron Mann’s film Grass), but that was it, which was too bad, as it’s a very good album. We had a copy at my college station, which I enjoyed listening to a lot, but then I recently found a sold-off promo copy in a used bin at Tower Records for 99 cents, so I bought that happily, since I didn’t think I’d ever find this record again. (Strangely, a few hours before, I’d seen one of the “Center” EPs in a pawn shop…) While the MLF is no more,
sneezes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=166:interview-h3rwig-maurer&catid=20:interviews&Itemid=29″>H3rwig Maurer has a new project, New World Revolution, which is pretty dang rad too — you can find out more from the interview I did with H3rwig, linked above.
- Commerciality (Signal Ad) – Mr. Partridge (XTC) (From Explode Together)
- This is one of those forgotten XTC records, but I actually love it. In the early 1990s, Virgin compiled a CD credited to XTC called Explode Together: The Dub Experiments 1978-80 out of two releases: XTC’s Go+ EP and Take Away/The Lure of Salvage by Mr. Partridge (a/k/a Andy Partridge, of course). The tracks on these two releases were all taken from the session tapes of Go 2 (for Go+) and Drums and Wires (mostly) for Take Away, with Andy making “dub” versions (they don’t really seem to be true Dub, but that could just be that dub typically uses reggae music for its source tapes instead of angular post-punk) by twiddling knobs and dials on consoles and whatnot. Go+ was a bit more like an experiment, being closest in sound to, say, a dance-mix EP, although with Take Away/The Lure of Salvage, Andy was building completely new songs out of the bits of old ones. This particular track, however, was a bit of an anomaly on that record — it’s the only one to have a non Drums & Wires era source. In fact, it’s the only one with a source that wasn’t released! It’s taken from the recordings of a White Music outtake called “Refrigeration Blues”. Unfortunately, this does take away a little bit of the fun of the album of spotting the source song, but it’s also a really good one, so I hope it’s OK. Andy’s said they probably won’t do any more of the dub experiments in the future (though I’d love an Apple Venus dub album…), but they occasionally returned to this technique for B-sides; “Over Rusty Water” came out of “Snowman” from English Settlement.
- There He Goes – Supersnazz (From Invisible Party)
- This is from Invisible Party, the 6th album from Supersnazz, and one of the Japanese-Only releases. This one (as is Rock-O-Matic) is a little more 50’s influenced than their US releases Superstupid! and Diode City, but they’re still clearly the same band. Unfortunately, the recording quality doesn’t seem to be quite as consistent on these records — the vocals are mixed a little on the low-side, but the songs are still strong and they’re a lot of fun to see live. I wish the albums were released state-side, or, at least, easier to find as imports. I was only able to get two Japanese ones I have from a one-off show they played in Seattle, and I’ve never seen the other albums around at all.
- The European – bis (from fukd i.d. EP)
- bis is famous for doing the ending theme to The Powerpuff Girls, but they did a lot more than that. They were particularly popular in England with the single “Kandy Pop” and became the first unsigned band to appear on Top of the Pops. As with most bands that get popular too quickly, there was a popular press backlash (mostly in the form of jokes made about Manda Rin’s weight, leading to some bis songs like “Monstarr” from The New Transistor Heroes), though they still had a relatively strong fan base, though probably more of a cultish one. Their appearance on the various Powerpuff Girls CDs did help their popularity, particularly in the US, leading to a push behind their second album Social Dancing, which was more electronic. Their third and last album, Return to Central was much more electronic than the poppy Social Dancing, tending towards longer songs with very little guitar. This comes from a limited edition EP put out by Chemikal Underground as part of their fukd i.d. series. The EP was much more experimental than bis typically got, although one of the songs ended up on the Plastique Nouveau remix compilation. bis broke up after the release of Plastique Nouveau, and John and Steven formed the electronic outfit Dirty Hospital, which has put out a few 12″s, and Manda formed The Kitchen with her then-husband, which put out an awful single and an excellent album . Manda’s marriage and new band fell apart, and recently, the members of bis have reformed as Data Panik, which put out a 7″ on Rough Trade and promptly broke up; the single is definitely bis-like, but a return to the more pop-song format; it’s probably the most similar to the Music for a Stranger World EP recorded between Social Dancing and Return to Central, and it’s excellent. Recently, Manda Rin’s put out a solo album — which is good news, as it’s hard to break up with yourself!
- TV Lizards – Chris Morris (from Blue Jam)
- “TV Lizards” from Blue Jam is a track I typically like to reference when I write about comedy; it really is one of my perfect examples of the division between dark comedy and mean-spirited comedy. The linked essay goes much more in depth on my feelings on why this sort of thing works, and I recommend people read it, but the basic gist is that in mean-spirited comedy, it’s just an exchange of insults and abuse without any actual repercussions resulting from it; in dark comedy, there may be abuse and insults, but the writer of the comedy allows the characters enough humanity and dignity to actually be HURT by the abuse. In “TV Lizards”, the straight man reacts the way someone REALLY would in a situation like this (absurd as it might be), he’s terrified and enraged that not only is he in an unpleasant situation through no fault of his — he’s being openly mocked because of it! In a mean-spirited piece, you’d just get an escalation of cartoony abuse, but in this piece you actually get real emotion. That’s why this stuff works — Chris Morris loves his characters enough to allow them to be hurt.
- M.Y.T.H. – Frank Chickens (from Club Monkey)
- This is a cut from Frank Chickens‘ 3rd album Club Monkey; this is actually taken from the remixed version of the album. I don’t like the remix of the album quite as much, but this particular track is pretty similar to the original mix of the song, and it’s also the only version of the album that’s readily available on CD. The album is, depending on your point of view, a concept album or a re-recorded soundtrack for one of Kazuko Hohki’s plays. The story is an allegory of imperialism from the occupied’s point of view; the brief story on the sleeve reads:
The Story Behind Monkey King
Once upon a made-up time there were Monkey People who were happily organizing parties in Club Monkey, collecting dead bodies, burning them and reviving them as Kyonshies (Chinese ghosts). Their favorite drug was dog. Then the English Lord took power and banned the use of dogs and made up some laws to oppress the Monkey People. The Monkey People started to dream of revolution and the re-incarnation of the Monkey King — their saviour… will he be like Jackie Chan the famous Hong Kong Kung Fu film star
(It should be noted that this album came out 1988, before Jackie Chan really rose to the level of world-wide star that he is now, and was more of a cult icon outside of China and Hong Kong cinema.) This song is near the end of the album/story, and takes place before the revolution being dreamed of in the story; the first side of the album is more setup; “Club Monkey” sets the scene and describes the club; “Waiting for a Dog” explains the concept of dogs as drugs; “Burn that Body” is about the Chinese Ghosts. “Revolution” is about the beginning of the actual story, but at that point, it’s still just an idea or dream, nothing concrete yet. “Night Drain” is another number that takes place at the club, providing a bit more atmosphere. “Feed Me” is about the culture that is lost by the new laws. In “Jackie Chan”, the concept of Chan-As-Savior is introduced, but in the next track, “Shaken By God’s Hand”, it turns out he wasn’t all that was advertised, and in “M.Y.T.H.”, they’re angry and feel betrayed that he turned out to not be the savior, and realize they need to take things into their own hands and revolt if they’re going to get anywhere and take back their culture. “Hey Dead” is about the failure of the revolution, and “Club Monkey (Reprise)” shows that things are back to normal as they were at the beginning of the record; the English Lord is still in power, and they’re still treated as second-class citizens with their culture reduced to basically a minstrel show for the ruling class. (It should be noted that this track is completely different on the remix and original mix; the remix is the Japanese bridge of “Club Monkey” that was chopped out of the original mix of the song; the original mix of the reprise is just a 10 second clip of the percussive dance-club-parody opening of the song.) Of the Frank Chickens records, Club Monkey is definitely my favorite, and also my first, thanks to Sasha!
- Miniskirt – The Young Fresh Fellows (from Gleich Jetzt)
- It wouldn’t be one of these compilations without a track by the Young Fresh Fellows, so here goes. This is from the Japanese-only CD Gleich Jetzt, and this is one of the tracks that only appeared on this album. A few possible translations of Gleich Jetzt have been offered: The one I’m throwing my lot in with is “Right Now” (which may or may not be confirmed by the Japanese liners, as the phrases “Right Now” and “Gleich Jetzt” are seen in relatively close proximity to one another, separated by some Japanese text), but there’s also “Now It’s The Same”, and Babelfish suggests “Equivalent Now”, which admittedly does have a ring to it. This was one of the first tracks recorded when Kurt joined the band, recorded at Reciprocal in 1989 produced by Conrad Uno & the Fellows with Jim doubling on guitar (instead of his usual bass duties) and Evan Johns on lead guitar. (Strangely, Evan Johns’ site says it was an “Uncredited guitar solo recorded in Seattle, WA after an H-Bombs gig. Evan played and found out later who they were,” recorded in 1987.) It’s a pretty cool track, and unavailable elsewhere.
- Teenage Victory Song – Weezer (from Island in the Sun)
- I probably don’t need to tell anyone who Weezer is. This is from the Green Album era, and appeared on a Japanese Island In The Sun EP. It’s sort of surprising this was just a B-side; particularly such an obscure B-side — it’s a really good song. It’d fit in on Green really well, actually. (And I don’t get why everyone keeps slagging that record, I thought it was really good. Unless they’re slagging it because it’s barely a half-hour long. I can see slagging it for that, particularly since their label seems to think that 17 bucks is a fair retail price for an album that short with no liner notes or anything to speak of. Hope Interscope’s not going broke putting THAT one out…)
- Go-Go Kiosko – Motormark (from Pop-Up)
- Motormark opened for bis’ last ever show, and after seeing them mentioned, I decided to check them out; they’re pretty cool, really. This is from their first album, Pop:Up. Neither album has been released over here — not sure if they ever really will be, though, but I have seen the Pet Shop Boys tribute record they’re on over here, so at least they’ve got SOMETHING out over here, I guess. They’re not the best band in the world, but they’re pretty fun, and they seem to be a cut above a lot of Electroclash bands — although I’ve ranted on Chicks On Speed and their seeming propensity to just putting out Top Ten over and over again only minus the wit, point, humor and British Accent. And don’t even get me started on Peaches. Blegh. (I guess Ladytron are classified as being in the Electroclash bin sometimes, but, I don’t know if I really agree; their records sound a bit different than a lot of the Electroclash stuff I’ve heard. I suppose I should like a genre of music so half-assed, but…)
- It’s a New Find (English – I’ve Gone Berzerk Mix) – Shonen Knife (From It’s a New Find)
- I love Shonen Knife and it makes me sad that there’s a lot of their stuff that’s never made it out over here. The main thing I typically point to is their excellent album Strawberry Sound , but the It’s A New Find EP was excellent, too. It was a teaser EP for Brand New Knife, although none of the tracks appeared on that album. The original mix tends to pop up sometimes on Greatest Hits compilations (like the excellent (though I think Japanese only… despite being all English versions) Millennium Edition), but this remix, by John X, is pretty fun, too. A lot more electronic than you’d typically expect for Shonen Knife, but their remixes tend to be so. I’ve got no idea who John X is, and a Google search only brings up Pope John X, and I have to admit it’s hard to believe that a pontiff who’s been dead for 1000 years remixed a Shonen Knife song. Although, if he did, I suppose I might be all turned around on spiritual matters.