NWT: Electric Light Orchestra’s “Time”

2 10 2007

ELO Time

Fans of Midnight Juggernauts and Cut Copy’s disco-rock beats, sweeping synths, Beatle-esque harmonies, vocoders and laser beams: we need to talk about Electric Light Orchestra. And not the ELO who brought you “Evil Woman” or even “Don’t Bring Me Down”, but specifically their hugely influential and yet under-the-radar 1981 synth-heavy experimental space-disco/rock concept album, “Time.” So I asked Ken Robin, a S.F.-based attorney, to talk about it, because he is my dad. He wrote this:

“When I first heard of Electronic Light Orchestra in the ‘70s, I immediately pictured polka playing Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers. What else was one to think of in the early to mid 70’s when one’s idea of rock was anything but an “orchestra”? The whole idea of what became known as “symphonic rock” was not just a little bit off-putting to those who thought of the Beatles and Stones as something quite different from their parents’ music. But there was simply no denying the infectious nature of ELO and the genius that was Jeff Lynne.

ELO Live

So what was one to make of “Time” when it came out in ’81? Certainly this was a ”concept album” that had some “central theme” — but what was it? Space travel? The world changing so fast it was becoming unrecognizable? The dark side of technological advances? And was it more silly than academically stimulating in its presentation? I saw ELO perform the album live in the Oakland Arena when it first came out and it started with a midget sized robot doing the Prologue on stage as the band itself arose from under the stage in a huge plastic bubble. But we in the audience did not laugh or jeer. We were astounded. We cheered and yelled out in joy. Does this mean we were naïve? Unhip? I don’t think so. Nonetheless the passage of a quarter century forces one to pause and ask: Was it silly?

This video for Electric Light Orchestra’s “Twilight” conveys a bit of what it must have been like to see that laser-riffic 1981 show – shades of Daft Punk at Coachella, anyone?

Most people would likely include very few “Time” songs on their “ELO’s Greatest Hits” list, other than “Hold on Tight”. So what makes the album stay with me? Maybe it’s just a recognition that the ‘80s were here and we were not who we had been in the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s and that this new 80’s decade, which would bring us PCs and glam rock and the rest of its “look at me” cultural icons, had changed us forever. In a wistful look at the situation, Jeff Lynne invited us to see a future of IBM computer robot lovers (“Yours Truly, 2095”) and other technological tools for escapists (“Twilight” and “Ticket to the Moon”) and to try to envision that world with both its possible benefits (“21st Century Man”, “Here is the News”, “The Light Goes Down”) and detriments (“Rain Is Falling” and the probing question of “The Way Life’s Meant to Be”).

“Time” didn’t prevent war or ensure justice but it was a decent and memorable effort, all the same.

Thanks Dad!

Fans of Midnight Juggernauts’ “Into The Galaxy” should definitely check out “Here is The News”:
MP3: “Here is the News” – Electric Light Orchestra

My favorite song from “Time” is the opening track “Twilight”, with its huge, simple synth line, massive, bombastic drums and crazy falsetto harmonies:
MP3: “Twilight” – Electric Light Orchestra

This next one is for all you vocoder lovers – the story of a man in love with his new IBM PC:
MP3: “Yours Truly, 2095” – Electric Light Orchestra

The album’s biggest hit was essentially a 50’s blues/rock song with updated production (but then again, that pretty much describes The Ramones entire catalog). This song was also used in a bizarre series of jittery commercials in the 80’s, the theme of which was “Be a Coffee Achiever!”
MP3: “Hold on Tight” – Electric Light Orchestra

You can buy ELO’s “Time” on iTunes or Amazon.

Baron von Luxxury


Blonde Redhead: Another Clue

28 09 2007

Blonde Redhead

Music is a time machine. It puts events, things, and feelings in a tangible vessel. Today the Proustian madeline is working its devastating magic on me with this band.

We went to a Blonde Redhead concert at the Knitting Factory. It was probably 1996. Ian Svenonious was there too I think. We went backstage. It made me think about fame. Jeremy was still friends with James. But he didn’t trust me yet. I bought La Mia Vita Violenta.

My friends Ari and Ethan are twins. Devin uses an MPC. My childhood idol, the Svengali, has fallen from favor. Spencer and I plan on punching him in his traitorious mouth at the opening next month.

This band is so beautiful. These songs makes me cry.

MP3: “Violent Life” – Blonde Redhead

MP3: “In Particular (Baron von Luxxury Edit)” – Blonde Redhead

Theresa and Blake

Buy Blonde Redhead Music Now.

Baron von Luxxury is my Fake Name

Gucci Soundsystem

28 09 2007


 Gucci Soundsytem might be known to a lot of you as the guys that brought you the awesome remix of Tiefschwarz’s “Wait and See”.  This joint, “Acarpenter”, is a bit different.  Let’s call it minimal disco.  This record sounds like Moroder teamed up with (insert something stupid here) and made a record in this modern day and age. 

“Acarpenter” came out on “Bugged Out” in 2006, but James Murphy, of DFA and LCD Soundsystem fame, loved it so much he picked it up.  As a bonus, the new Joakim remix is included.  If you thought the original was dated from the start (in a good way), then wait until you hear this one.

 MP3:”Acarpenter” – Gucci Soundsystem

MP3:”Acarpenter (Joakim Remix)” – Gucci Soundsystem

Buy the “Acarpenter” at Pure Groove.


The Workout LIVE 2nite @ House of Shields SF

28 09 2007



Johnatron’s Edit Wednesday #26

27 09 2007

martin.jpg fauxrock.jpgdigitalism.jpgarthurbrown.jpg

Hello friends. I have some help this week as I am busy making my apartment inhabitable for a human baby.

First up is Faux Rock’s rendition of Digitalism. You may remember him from his remix of the Toxic Avenger’s “Superheroes”. This one does not disappoint either. Your own personal rave right inside of your headphones.

MP3: “FCKING DIGITALISM (Faux Rock Remix)” – Digitalism

This next one is from a guy I know very, very little about. His name is is Martin Gowans and he posts on the Erol Alkan forum a lot. If you like that shaky disco sound, this one is for you It is his remake of Arthur Brown’s “Fire”.

(EDIT: Martin is from Inverness, Scotland and his myspace is here.)

MP3: “F.I.R.E. (Martin Gowans Reconstruction Edit)” – Arthur Brown

Enjoy these this week. Just know that by this time next week, I might have a baby girl with me.

Buy “Idealism” by Digitalism at Amazon.

Buy “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” by Arthur Brown at Amazon.

Visit Faux Rock’s myspace here.


Zippy electro beats with classic songs

25 09 2007

I think I’m in love. Pocketknife and Cousin Cole are teaming up as “Flagrant Fowl.” They’re taking classic songs by Nico, Bruce Springsteen, Iron & Wine and others. I think what I like most about the remixes, from what I’ve heard, is that they are gentle like the originals. They just add a little more effervescence and modernity to the tracks that somehow makes them a little more tranquil. I’m really quite sad that these aren’t released yet, but a blog post on Pocketknife’s myspace says that they should be released by the end of September on vinyl and cd. I can’t wait. Here’s also a minimegamix Cousin Cole posted on his myspace;

MP3: Flagrant Fowl – Minimegamix (Mixed by Cousin Cole)

– bearbaby

NWT: Hybrid Kids

25 09 2007

Hybrids Kids was a ‘compilation’ released on Cherry Red Records in 1979. It was supposedly a collection of songs made by a number of bands from Peabody, Kansas. However, In actuality all the songs on the album were created by British keyboardist Morgan Fisher, who was best known for his time spent in glam rock band Mott The Hoople.

“Recorded while Fisher was still in Mott, Hybrid Kids is an affectionate demolition job of pop classics”. And that it is! Fantastically experiment and almost whimsical covers of seminal pop songs. Fisher casts aside any formula or structure the original tracks were supposed to contain with wanton abandon, leaving only his musical musings intact.

I stumbled on these ‘Hybrid Kids’ tracks many a years ago and had no clue that these twelve songs were not made some angst filled teenage Kansans and I’m not sure which story is more incredible, the fallacy or truth.

MP3:  Hybrid Kids – British Standard Unit – D’ya Think I’m Sexy

MP3:  Hybrid Kids – R.W. Atom – You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

From 1968 to 1970 Morgan Fisher played with pop band The Love Affair. Between 1972 and 1973 he formed the progressive rock band called Morgan. From 1973 to 1976 he joined Mott the Hoople, who were initially produced by David Bowie. In 1980 Fisher conceived and produced the unique Miniatures album (51 one-minute tracks by various popular bands of the time). In addition he played with Queen on their 1982 tour of Europe.

Fischer now resides in Japan and works as a keyboardist, producer, composer, film scorer, and photographer.

In 1997 ‘Hybrid Kids’ was re-released on CD and sometimes you can find a copy on Amazon, but right now there aren’t any available. But that’s okay, because you can find the original vinyl on gemm. One in Very Good condition goes for $136.00! Not bad for an album that was made on a 4 Track for 25 pounds.