When I have written articles here, sometimes I go beyond the press releases, biographies, and other information I am given directly, and explore what is being said elsewhere, including articles at other music blogs. Sometimes this research is about the artist or group, and sometimes it's concerning the genre of music. I found The Same Mistakes, however, just wandering around YouTube. It covers post-punk, new wave, and minimal synth, which is quite to my taste.
Be forewarned: this blog is at Blogger/Blogspot. We don't favor that platform as the look is just awful. If you haven't noticed, I will say look is important to Vu (he favors the Vimeo player over YouTube). I have to give him credit for that because he's made a lot of my articles look much better than I could have ever done alone with some slick HTML coding and careful formatting, which I just can't do. But I have to break ranks and say that I think content is king. There's no doubt that content in a good package is more appealing, just like good frosting compliments a cake or beautiful wrapping makes a gift more exciting. But I doubt anyone wants just wrapping or to eat straight frosting, and if the cake or the gift is already really bad, even the best covers or toppings won't hide that. (The cake analogy will make even more sense in a moment.)
Reading David Byrne’s latest release, I have to ask, “What hasn’t this man done?” Currently, the co-founder of The Talking Heads is working with Fat Boy Slim, creating a musical collaboration on the life of Imelda Marcos. He recently completed a commission to design artistic bicycle racks for New York City. He also took some time to publish his fifth book, Bicycle Diaries, a passing view on two wheels.
The B-52's are usually described as a party band, but I think "Crash The Driver" (the article's author) is correct in placing their beginnings with the New Wave movement of the late 1970's. Although New Wave is closely associated with punk, this was not the harsh, pounding sound of music labeled as punk (Sex Pistols, Ramones, etc.) It certainly shared the do-it-yourself ethic of its progenitor, but was more characterized by a kitschy, twitchy, danceable pop sound. Consider R.E.M., which came out of Athens, Georgia, as the B-52's did, and note their beginnings in the punk circuit; perhaps you'll see what I mean. But the new decade of the '80s brought another response to punk, simply called "post-punk". Although most media associates the beginning of MTV with New Wave acts, I'd say that these music videos are better identified with post-punk, which was in some ways an antithesis to the harsh, aggro sound of punk. Think Visage, David Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees; and devotion to Art Deco and pop and performance art (not to mention Andy Warhol appearing on MTV, as well). More on point, the B-52's hired David Byrne to help them explore a post-punk sound, and Crash suggests it was with the hope that Byrne would bring them the same sort of success Brian Eno had brought to the Talking Heads.
But it was not to be. "It was adventurous, challenging music," Crash writes, "but perhaps more reflective of Byrne's private preoccupations of the time than the interests of the band or its record company." The recording sessions were abandoned, but six of the most fully formed tracks became Mesopotamia to recoup costs. All were remixed eventually to remove Byrne's influence, but some initial copies survived on the Island Records label in the UK and Europe. I grabbed these tracks to listen for myself.
I think Crash put it kindly. I could see why the group was dissatisfied and I certainly did not agree that Byrne's mixes of "Cake" and "Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can" were superior, as the article suggested. Generally, I thought the Byrne versions wandered like jam sessions reminscient of '60s acid rock. I could hear a few seams in the edits, which in Byrne's defense, would probably have been fixed had he been allowed to stay on. But the cartoony sound effects of "Throw That Beat" were just too much. If I were a producer, I think these mixes might have been okay for 12" and other singles releases, where longer dance mixes and edits are usually placed anyways.
Obviously, the B-52's did go on to mainstream success with Nile Rodgers (of Chic) and Don Was (Was Not Was), who produced Cosmic Thing and Good Stuff. And of course, I'll note they are still going strong today. Last Christmas, I picked up an offering on Amazon from Fred Schneider's side group The Superions, which was an amusing song about fruitcake.
Anyways, if you can forgive and overlook the jarring look of Blogger/Blogspot, The Same Mistakes is a fun, thoughtful, and retrospective look at a genre of music close to my heart.