A Nightcall From The Crypt

Strange Boutique – Quicksand Minds

I had never heard of them before last week, but Strange Boutique is a band that rose out of the ashes of the Washington hardcore scene. Because before Strange Boutique, there was Madhouse.

Madhouse was playing punk and death rock. They later transformed into a much more melodic and atmospheric type of music. One of the reasons was their bassist’s talent, who sounded a lot like Mick Karn from Japan. After their punk years, in 1987, Madhouse sold their name to a jazz ensemble, which was on a major label (This was the band of Eric Leeds, the Saxophone Player most known for his collaboration with Prince at the time). With the addition of a new bassist and a new name, Strange Boutique was officially born. 

Strange Boutique was performing a lot, and they sounded great live. Singer Monica Richards sounded like a tough Kate Bush while the band played massive melodies behind her. They did so well that they became supporting act for Killing Joke in Washington. The two bands struck an immediate friendship, and Killing Joke gave Strange Boutique the support slot for their next U.K. shows.

Having never performed out of the U.S. (let alone the East Coast), the band took the chance and flew to London. Customs took hold of their equipment and E.P.s, so the band was forced to rent and borrow instruments. Killing Joke was amazed to see that Strange Boutique had shown up to the first show in Manchester and warned the crew not to let on that they were Americans, due to the Killing Joke audience’s aggressiveness.

During this time, they managed to build up a sizeable audience. Strange Boutique again entered the studio in 1991 to record their long-awaited debut album “The Loved One.” This album is a true goth rock masterpiece, and it is also the album that the song “Quicksand Minds” is on. However, only a few years later, in 1993, the band had a challenging year and started to fall apart. All band members experienced personal hardships, and the strain of performing and recording became apparent. After having shared the stage with Xymox, P.I.L. Lush, and many more, they had their farewell performance in 1993.

Crocodiles – Groove is in the Heart / California Girls (Sleep forever, special edition, 2011)

In the Cover Me! Section

After various adolescent-fueled projects together, the San Diego high-school friends Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell formed Crocodiles in April 2008. They are still alive and kicking as a band. The San Diego shoegaze & fuzz-rock band make sun-kissed noise pop with the classic sound of guitars drenched in echo.

I love this two-song cover because they manage to fit two songs together that I would have never associated with each other. Also, I love both original songs, and I like what they’ve done with them very much, so it gives you a new chance to listen to a couple of favorites, done in an entirely and refreshingly different way.

There is a hint of The Jesus and Mary Chain in here. They do have their take on that sound, though. They recorded this in a studio in the Mojave Desert with British producer James Ford, who is also a Founding Member of Simian and Simian Mobile Disco and the regular producer for the Arctic Monkeys, and together with Alex Turner, one of The Last Shadow puppets.

Anyway, Crocodiles may come from Southern California and even tip their hat to the Beach Boys, but don’t mistake them for swimwear wearing surfer boys, as they made clear in an interview with Exberliner.

Charles: “We were rebelling against anything that was surf or Southern California or trendy. We wanted to be in a city surrounded by buildings, wearing dark colours, having grey days, rather than wearing flip-flops and sitting at the beach with your shirt off.  Brandon adds: “San Diego’s really mellow and conservative, so you find the one transvestite bar in San Diego, and that’s where you hang out because it’s much more interesting than surfers. I’d take transvestites over surfers any day.”

Now here’s a fun story; In the session for the same album, Crocodiles recorded an instrumental song, “Kill Joe Arpaio.” Arpaio is a controversial anti-immigrant Sheriff from Arizona who called himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and led “Immigrant Round-Ups” near the Southern Border of Arizona. Arpaio heard the song and responded using Twitter, saying, “Msg for the San Diego band ‘Alligators’ who wrote a new song called ‘Kill Joe Arpaio’: BITE ME..”

Crocodiles responded via Spin Magazine, saying, “What we are attacking is the attitudes and policies he represents. In reality, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that his much-deserved heart attack comes soon; the world can always use one less racist.”

Arpaio was the defendant in a decade-long lawsuit in which a federal court finally barred him from conducting further “immigration round-ups.” Only that didn’t stop him. A federal court subsequently found that Arpaio continued to use racial-profiling after the order was issued, unfairly targeting Hispanics and detaining them for further investigation without reasonable suspicion. He lost his office to a Democrat in 2016, and finally, in July 2017, he was convicted again, but afterward, President Donald Trump pardoned him.

Play Dead – Burning Down

Anyway: This U.K. band was active from 80 till 85 and played rock, combined with post-punk influences. Another under-rated band from my favorite musical decade. They didn’t waste time and were very productive in the studio. Their first two releases got the attention of the legendary U.K. disc jockey John Peel, for whom they recorded their first national radio session in January 1982.

They soon broke the top 20 indie chart with Shine’s song, which I also had on vinyl. It was another gamble; I didn’t buy it because of an intriguing album cover this time, but because of the ominous-sounding band name. And I got rewarded. Shine is a pure Goth Rock power piece.

Also, because of their success with Shine, they could now do some extensive U.K. touring. They used a lot of smoke on stage, the singer wore sunglasses, and their guitars were also drenched in plenty of chorus and reverb. Just the way I like it:

Talking about their touring: Guess who they were a supporting act for? Yes indeed: Killing Joke. That certainly solidified the reputation of Play Dead.

Play Dead’s career only lasted five years. But during those years, some amazing music was made. While the passage of time has not been kind to much music of this era, most of Play Dead’s repertoire is still exciting and vital when you listen to it today. You can hear hints of funk-metal and electronica, years before those genres became popular. Even in the “retro” conscious 21st century, the band has never been popularly rewarded or valued for its achievements.

So, Play Dead remains one of the best-kept secrets of the 1980s. I think they struggled to compete with all the tremendous other bands at the time.

Saraband – Corpus delicti (Sylphes, 1994)

This is our Insta Outcast, even though this song is from a 1994 album

During the second wave of cold and darkness that swept through rock in the early 90s, Corpus Delicti came to life in Nice, France – a city yet better known for its beaches than its music scene. Corpus Delicti was the exception!

Amid a dark wave revival, the quartet made a strong impression with their first album “Twilight” in 1993: carried by its distinctive voice – in which Bowie’s influence is evident, but you can also hear echoes of Bauhaus, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Christian Death and The Cure.

Corpus Delicti did have a great sound and excellent songs and had a lot of style and personality. Visuals and their look worked out, with the iconic Roma on drums and the lead singer Sebastien’s charisma making them stand out.

They made three remarkable albums (“Twilight,” then “Sylphes” in 1994 and “Obsessions” in 1995), and toured Europe and the United States, together with Rosetta Stone and some others. But finally, Corpus Delicti broke up in 1997 due to conflicts between the members.

So how can this band be our Insta Outcast? Well, it turns out that the band’s music never was forgotten. In 2020, Corpus Delicti has more than a million views on Youtube, and they average 20,000 plays per month on Spotify.

Strengthened by this evidence that the music of Corpus Delicti has never ceased to fascinate and the world is still interested, the original members of Corpus Delicti (Sebastien on vocals, Franck on guitar, Christophe on bass guitar, and Roma on drums) have returned to the rehearsal room. They are quite active on Instagram as well. You can follow them there to see many excellent pics of their glory days and hear more news of their reunion.

Automelodi – La Poussiere (2019)

I’m torn today, torn between two great bands from Montréal Canada. Those are Automelodi and Police des Moeurs. I decided to go with Automelodi this week and will save Police des Moeurs for another time.

As the current wave of retro bands that want to emulate the 80’s sound has shown, there are many ways to go about making “synth” music since the revival of Post-punk since 2010. Just take a laptop, get a good Digital Audio Workstation, and some VST plugins. And a good dose of talent, of course, or else it will not work.

They started with various synthesizers and band members that would play guitar and other instruments. After releasing some self-burned or recorded C.D.s in the late 90s, the two founding fathers (Arnaud and Xavier) started over in 2009 and chose a different sound described as a chilly and fresh sounding take on synthpop.

The beats from La Poussiere are from the Roland TR 808, I think. And they are layered with warm and organic sounding synths and a simple guitar riff. The French vocals function as an additional flowing and dreamy instrument in the mix.

Even though they are painting a bit of a dystopian picture of the world we live in, criticizing the constant flow of bright neon light stimuli, constant sounds that are penetrating your home and head. The music will have you dancing in no time.

Nightcall, Kavinsky (Nightcall, 2010)

This is simply one of my all-time favorite Synth Wave / Retro tracks. It sounds so classic, and that is logical since the entirety of the album was written and recorded on a Yamaha DX7, which was famous and notable for the synthpop sound of the 1980s. Several artists have covered this song, some of them quite brilliantly.

Kavinsky is a character made by Vincent Belorgey that has a striking resemblance to Vincent himself, but his backstory is different. Kavinsky’s story is that after crashing his Testarossa in 1986, he reappeared as a zombie ten years later, in 2006, to make electronic music.  Kavinsky’s songs help tell his story; vincent claims in an interview that ‘Night Call’ is about the zombie guy who goes to his girlfriend’s house ten years after the crash and says, “okay, I’m not the same, we need to talk.” Sadly, after Kavinsky goes back, he finds his girlfriend has moved on with her life.

Kavinsky is French. He achieved greater mainstream recognition after this song, “Nightcall,” was featured in the video games Gran Turismo 5 Prologue and Grand Theft Auto IV and used in the 2011 film Drive.

THE BIG PICTURE – Drive

The film is about a Getaway driver that falls in love. That’s my summary in one sentence. To provide some more colour: It views like a Western movie by Sergio Leone. It is a slow movie, with a lot of eye for style and atmosphere. With Drive, instead of horses and cowboys, we get fast muscle cars and ruthless gangsters.

Our hero is a man with no name, played by Ryan Gosling. An actor not known for having a very dynamic range in facial expressions, which fits this film perfectly. He doesn’t talk much either but looks like a charismatic guy. And his calm demeanor can break out into violence at any moment when he wants to protect those he cares about.

There are some very suspenseful car chase scenes in which our hero tries to outsmart his pursuers. The movie does have some plot holes and, as I mentioned, is relatively slow. It is style over substance in this modern Film Noir.

The soundtrack is a pure joy with Kavinsky, College, Electric Youth (all French guys), and The Chromatics, which we briefly mentioned last week while discussing the Twin Peaks soundtrack.

In the show we discussed some other Gosling movies as well and promised to share all the trailers with you, so here we go:

NUMBER 1 RECOMMENDATION: Blade Runner 2049
Don’t let Goof’s remark in the show fool you 😉 the story is fantastic and intense:

Having seen the Original 1982 Blade Runner movie recently before watching this is not necessary, but it helps to understand what’s going on:

More great Gosling movies we discussed:

The Big Short:

The Ides of March:

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