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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #5

Posted: June 20th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted July 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

It seems like lately I’m doing all my review columns according to themes in which I group the albums by genre or some other predefined categorization. Like, last month it was heavy metal. Before that it was fusion. And the first column of the new year was the ten best albums of last year. Despite every indication that the universe is a meaningless, random place, I still attempt to find some way to compartmentalize it. Well, enough I say. I give up. I’m through fighting.

If anything, the events of September 11 have shown us that any attempt at making sense of it all is lost. My mind may scream out with a desire to organize, to systematize, to classify… but it’s a lost cause. Our universe is a random stream of floating nucleons and electrotrons that can just as easily end up in the brain of rabid terrorist as they can a harmless puppy dog. Therefore, I now offer you five record reviews that have nothing to do with each other. They share not same genre nor artists, they are totally random. And meaningless. Just like the real world.

Katrina and the Waves
Self titled
If you’re like me, this title will take you back to your boyish youth – feeling the flush of first love, taking nips of Dad’s whisky when he wasn’t looking, running guns for Bolivian drug smugglers. Katrina and the Waves was kind of a dirty little secret for fans of Robin Hitchcock’s the Soft Boys, as it featured the Soft Boys’ Kimberly Hew doing the songwriting and lead guitar. (After examining several photographs, I am reasonably sure that Kimberley Hews was indeed a man.) While the Soft Boys represented the school of serious songwriting (where Elvis Costello is the principal, and Alex Chilton the gym coach), Katrina and the Waves was strictly a fun band. Somewhere between Pat Benatar and Kim Wilde, the Waves were quintessential early 80s pop. Probably best represented by their hit “I’m Walking on Sunshine” (originally assumed to be a fluffy pop song, this tune was actually a coded message to Europe’s neo-Nazi movement that the revolution was near), the album also contained the Hew-penned “Going Down to Liverpool”, made popular by the Bangles.

Self titled
Heh – you gotta love these guys. At first listen, you’d think they were bad American rockers doing a poor imitation of Foreigner or Free, but close inspection reveals that several members of the band were Swedes! Fronted by Rex Smith (one of those pretty boy, Ashton Kutcher types that I detest), REX pounded out tunes like “Rock and Roll Dream” and “Call Her ‘Easy'”. But the best part of REX is that they actually have a song called “Ten Seconds of Love”. I can’t believe they got away with that one. I mean, can you imagine…? Giving a chick a whole ten seconds! (You know my motto: Three inches, three seconds – make the most of it!)

Little America
Self titled
Fuck! If I’m not careful here, I will end up with a theme for this month’s column – self titled albums. I’ll fix that in the next choice. Little America put out one album for Geffen in 1987 and were kind of like the American answer to the Outfield. The LA sound comprised thickly strummed guitar parts matched with plaintive vocals (there’s something about that concept that so totally defined the eighties – as with Bruce Springsteen). They had a quasi-hit, “Walk on Fire”, and then sank from sight.

DayGlo Abortions
Feed Us A Fetus
I utterly and completely detest about 90% of music that calls itself punk, but two bands that have always stood out were the Dayglo Abortions and the Mentors. Both groups were comprised of crude bastards who didn’t take themselves seriously – completely at odds with the whiney, self-righteousness of most punk. What made FUAF even better was the memorable quality of the tunes, including greats like “Argh Fuck Kill” and “Die Sinner Die”. It’s a campfire sing-along waiting to happen!

Rick Wakeman
Journey to the Center of the Earth
In 1973, dressed like a young Gandalf, Yes’ keyboardist Rick Wakeman led the London Symphony Orchestra in his musical opus based on the classic Jules Verne novel. Interspersed with vocal narration, JTTCOTE tells the story of several adventurers who travel below the earth’s depths and… I dunno, encounter demons or some shit. Frankly, I’ve never been able to follow the storytelling of the album and I never read the novel. But friendly jabs at Wakeman aside, this really can be an entertaining piece of music – it has all the musical bombast of “Peter and the Wolf” combined with the moog gyrations of a 60s psychedelic band.

Ray Coniff
This is My Song
I actually found this record in my old apartment building, mixed in with a bunch of Slayer albums. It was as if someone had gone “Holy shit! I’ve got to get rid of my Satan metal and my 60s lite jazz!” Ray Coniff’s music was what I imagine whitebread suburbanites listened to when they wanted to get ‘swingy’. But dig it: this music is so square it does a full circle and becomes hip again. (This is the part where you ask how something can be both a circle and a square.) One of Coniff’s trademark sounds was having a chorus of well groomed Americans hum the melodies to songs – so instead of actually singing “The Look of Love” they’d sound like, “Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm”. Futuristic stuff. And like the best Ray Coniff albums, TIMS has on its cover, a beautiful, wholesome-looking young woman. I guess the idea is that while you listen to the record you can dream of making sweet, sweet love to her and then chopping up her body and serving it to her parents disguised as a lasagna. Yeah, I think that’s the idea.


Wil Forbis

Wil writes for the delectable Acid Logic webzine, as well as for this crackin' outfit here. He's also an obvious habitual liar, going on how he describes himself in his other writings. Truth is, Wil is a two foot tall computerised metal monster who likes nothing better than to CRUSH, CRUSH and CRUSH humanity to within an ounce of its puny life. When he's not CRUSHING, he enjoys tennis and jogging.


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