dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Haling from 1985, you'd think that Marti Jone's Unsophsticated Time would be full of synthesizers, synthetic clothing, and pop magic, all on a background of robot drummers. Yet, in the college radio days, this wasn't true.

Hell happened to music in the 80's. With the creation of hard rock vs. soft rock stations, anything that didn't fit into those categories, which was most of popular music at the time, wound up in musical exile or college radio. It's in this place that the big acts of the late 80's simmered and stewed, ready to wreck havoc in the late 80's and early 90's. It is into this sphere of unfitting that Unsophisticated Time lived. Marti could not have been long away from Color Me Gone, a band that she performed with just a few years earlier.

In her first solo album, Marti, along with her producer, Don Dixon (who she would marry), produced a perfect pop album for the wrong decade. Low key, sparse by 80's standards, underproduced, and full of naturalistic sounds, with songs that only an introvert could love, and I did love them, Unsophsticated Time brings to us a clever, intelligent, playful, and sweet collection of songs.

The album opens with "Lonely Is (As Lonely Does)", a college radio hit. With a strong, but subdued rift, mildly jangly guitar, and a soft synth, Marti delivers a melancholic tone combined with introspection.

This track is followed up by "(If I Could) Walk Away", another college radio favorite. Don introduces the song with a slide-sounding guitar, beefing up Marti's understated tune. The tune itself is one of desire and ambivalence, about the desire to leave one relationship for another.

Perhaps the best song of all is the unremittingly sweet and unabashed "Follow You All Over the World." In an interview, Marti related how her audience knew all the words despite the song having no repeated lyrics, so my high opinion of this tune is shared by many. This song is not sweet in the saccharine manner, but in an emotional manner. Despite the backup playing the track, every instrument is held back, with Marti's acoustic guitar playing taking front stage, and in truth, that's all the production that this tune really needed.

There are times when the album feels like an acoustic version of a heavily machined 80's track, with it's steady manual drums, steady keyboards, and upbeat intensity. Fortunately, none of that impacts Marti's emotion. Her vocal performance always comes through. Sometimes, the arrangements feel right out of 1977, more in line with the Nerve and Blondie, and the early days of punk-pop.

Although I don't think that the arrangements all hold up equally well 30 years later, I can't fault their overall production choices. Don delivered the production that these songs asked for, which is why I still love this album so well. Thank you, Marti and Don.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
In 1983, Yes brought us 90125, an album that garnered them both critical acclaim and financial success. That album sold well, rescuing Yes from obscurity, introducing them as a fresh band, as fresh as any band in the early 80's. With this album, they emerged a band reborn, producing a sound unmatched by any other act out there.

90125 was powerful.

In 1983, metal was doing its best to claim the throne of rock, asserting that no other form was worth calling rock. Punk had run its course, having failed in the fight. It was still around, but it had clearly lost its momentum. New wave was peaking, with synth sounds. In colleges, REM was the new darling of the day, and knowing them was proof of your coolness. On top was the revitalized Michael Jackson, just coming into his own. Into that, Yes, with their magnificently mixed arrangement of guitar and synth, along with their complex human drums, created a sound that created a place between and apart from all those other forms.

I was 17 back then, reading Glen Cook's Dread Empire series, wondering at Robotech, dealing with all my newly emerging teenage emotions, and finding an echo in "Owner of a Lonely Heart." With such strong feelings, no gentle, Oprah style delicate listening would do. No, hard guitars and raging drums expressed my pains and anxieties far better. I wasn't alone. "Owner of a Lonely Heart" rocketed up the charts.

90125 didn't stop after one song. I wouldn't be here writing this retrospective if that were the case. For one song after another, ambivalent lyrics, both hopeful and resigned, knowing and naive, overpowering and supportive, emerge from every tune. These lyrics do not pander to their audience, they acknowledge their audience. They say, "Your fight is real, and we've been there, and your passions are real."

What strikes me most about this album, on this re-listening, are all the emotions that come through the tunes. These songs are not filled with mono-emotions, but with mixed emotions. Anger, hope, fear, frustration, delight, love, frustration, insecurity. All these emotions emerge, supporting us as the flawed human beings that we are. In this powerful music, we males had a space for weakness and heartache, failure and disappointment, endearment and affection.

At the end, I must call this an optimistic album, perhaps the last great optimistic album of the rock age, before cynicism became the hallmark of 80's culture. In the midst of all the turmoil present on the songs, men older than us told us that we would make it through, succeed, transition, adapt, and continue on. We weren't going to come out of this turmoil unchanged, nor unmarred, but we would come out of it strong.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
There is love, there is Love, and then there is LOVE. The album "All Over the Place," by the Bangles, for me, was total love and remains total love.

I can't tell you when I began hearing the Bangles on the radio. They played pop song son a background of pop songs, but some stood out more than others. It wasn't until I was at school that I put together "Hero Takes a Fall" with Bangles, and then I put that together with the bands that were in town LAST WEEK. So, in my first week of school, I missed the Bangles, in their full paisley underground glory, playing a small venue in town. I still rue that day.



I recorded this album onto tape, then listened to it every night while going to sleep. I must have done that for a month. The songs of this album got so familiar to my brain that even now, I have trouble hearing them because I listened to them so much. They become part of my comfort background, where everything is made right.

The sound of the Bangles was eventually associated with the paisley underground, a group of LA bands who looked back to the 60's for musical inspiration. They also fit under the category of jangle pop, which is another love of mine. I didn't know those words back then, so this was my one piece of happiness in circular form.

In this way, I understand the Bronies and I envy them. They have this thing that they love, with both connects them with others and isolates them. Much of my music back in those days did the same thing for me. It game me an emotional connection that I adored, but at the same time, since I listened to the sorts of music that none of my friend did, isolated me. I shared, but there was not fun in the sharing. My musicl got labeled as weird. Boys are dicks that way.

Much to my disappointement, the next album by the Bangles was not LOVE LOVE LOVE. It was good, but it wasn't the same. They had lost the very thing that I most loved about them, that understated yet exerberant musical cheer. Their recordings were now overproduced, intended to produce hits on the radio, which they did. I don't blame them for success, but I do resent being left behind.

The Bangles also revealed in me my love for all girl or girl-dominated bands. To this day, I would rather listen to women sing, and I rather enjoy the songs that they write.

I did end up seeing the Bangles. I saw them once back in 1987 when they rolled through Radford. I caught them again somewhere in the early 2000's playing the 9:30 Club. Both shows were fun enough.

I'll leave you folks with "Going Down to Liverpool."

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