Tuesday, August 20, 2013

P046: Cabeza de Vaca – Low-fi indistrial pop

A bit of an ambiguous title for this week’s Cabeza de Vaca show over at Scanner FM, but its hard to know what to call this motley collection of tracks culled from releases over the last 7 to 12 months with two classics thrown in for measure. Certainly the aim was to go Low-fi, although the second track Kasm and SuhniSea’s clear light/straight line remix of Skyscaper’s "Noctilucent Clouds" is an obvious exception. “Pop” was a useful addition since there was an emphasis on looking for vocal tracks too, though Shifted almost strips away the human presence from “I only see the lights” (and almost sounding like Regis in the process), whereas James Holden and Zombie Zombie don’t really need vocals at all. While on the later, I forgot to mention that the Arkestra, or what remains of it, will be playing this week in Barcelona and is the subject of another show this week on Scanner FM. Certainly the influence of Sun Ra continues to be felt across the board and especially in electronica where at surface level you would anticipate less influence than rock, but that is before considering his later excursions into electronic jazz.

The return of Cabaret Voltaire to vinyl is also long overdue. There is a box set due later in the year  and more next year. You never know, maybe a reformation gig or two?

Suicide open the show with one of my favourite tracks of theirs. It captures the really early, dirty druggy sound and is frighteningly proto-techno. “Mr Ray” originally appears on the duos second album and its subtitle dedicates it to “Howard T.” I cannot say who this man is and whetehr it is Howard T. Ray who comes up first in Google searching (check it), an ex-serviceman with a long record in Vietnam and more. The kind of all-American guy that Suicide would love to interpret and unravel. Indeed, it is hard to ignore how American and anti-American Suicide is at the same time. “Ghost rider” famously intones “America, America is killing its youth” just as the punk sun makes its first dawn in 1977. Then there is the album “American Supreme” that came out just after 9/11 and in something of a homage/parody of it and the notion of “heroes” that was dominant at the time. Then there is all the “Jukebox baby” 50s doo-wop influence, that knife twisting in the heart of the American dream.

The importance of Suicide to the idea of America may only need two examples to prove its significance and both are covers. One is none other than The Boss. No, not Tony Danza, but Bruce Springsteen who covered “Dream Baby Dream”. Then there is REM (see also last post) who covered “Ghost Rider”. The irony here is too “American idols” reconverting the electronics back into the guitar, the good old meat and veg instrument of “old time rock n roll” as Bob Seger would have it. That is, REM and The Boss tell us quite clearly that Suicide is just another folk band with all-American roots. REM's "Orange crush" single in the end turns out to be one of the great American singles, much like The Beatles "Penny Lane/Strawberry fields" was all-English in its day. On the B-side you have "Ghost Rider" whereas the A-side mixes imagery from American capitalist imperialism (the Orange crush drink, complete with advertising slogan lyics) and pure American imperialism in the war in Vietnam and Agent Orange. One cannot forget that it arrived at the dawn of the first Gulf War and just as the pro-American "art" propaganda of Vietnam war films and psycohological studies was reaching its pea at the end of the ugly yuppie decade that was the 80s.

Finally, they don’t appear in the trailer and no clear mention on the soundtrack listing, but presumably Suicide don’t appear in the forthcoming movie about CBGBs that is not a documentary, but a film with real actors.

“Mr Ray” also comes around the same time that Suicide recorded a live version of the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” that would, like “Mr. Ray” go on to influence that famous Spacemen 3 track that was also meant to feature Alan Vega on vocals, although according to legend he never showed up at the studio to record with them.

And finally, apologies to The KVB as I accidentally changed the speed to 45 RPM and completely made a Chipmunk version without realising it. Will try to make it up to you!

Mr Ray (Live At CBGB'S 1977)
Blast First
1977 / 1998
Noctilucent Clouds (Kasm Remix Feat. SuhniSea)
Ghost Sounds
I Only See The Lights (Shifted Version)
Old Life
Blood Music
Rare earth material
Zombie Zombie
Versatile Records
James Holden
The Caterpillar's Intervention
Border Community
Public Information
Cabaret Voltaire
Red mask
1981 / 2013
The Cyclist
Leaving Records

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