Stuck in my head this morning, last night, and most of today: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s “Genetic Engineering” (off their largely unheralded 1983 Cold War concept album Dazzle Ships). A bouncier bit of toy-piano / Read’n’Spell fluff I cannot imagine. “Genetic Engineering” exhibits that puzzling tendency manifested in early 80s pop where the music is upbeat and full of cheer while the lyrics are fathomlessly cynical (think Heaven 17’s “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thing” with its cartoonishly frenetic bass fretwork and sneering disdain for Ronald Reagan). This song has one of those 4-note arpeggiated major-chord melodies that jackhammers itself inextricably into your skull. Back when I used to do a lot of long-distance cycling, I’d get this exact kind of song stuck in my head during long slogs, and would want to never, ever hear them ever again by the time I finished the ride. Under less extreme conditions, though, it’s a super-fun companion to have for a day or two, and a useful counteractive to the bleak and dour stuff I’ve been listening to lately.
For indie rockers with very long memories, one of the only covers of this song was released by Washington, DC’s Eggs on a TeenBeat 7” in 1995. It’s faithful but sort of ramshackle and unravelled, but that was what Eggs were about in the first place, so it’s endearing, if nowhere near as charming as the original.
In the alternate world where thudding European techno is (still) being dropped on heaving, roiling dancefloors in American Legion halls in small towns across the Midwest and every major city has a Technodrome right next to the basketball coliseum expelling crowds of sweat-soaked, euphoric clubbers every Sunday morning, Clark’s “Volcan Veins” (released today on his new album, Turning Dragon, on Warp) is entering the charts at #1, where it will tenaciously hang for the next six weeks. Good gravy, I didn’t think anyone was still making music like this. Sounding like nothing so much as an exceedingly messy yet propulsive blend of Jackson at his nastiest and Speedy J’s from-out-of-nowhere heavy techno flawed-masterpiece Loudboxer, “Veins” also reminds me of Neil Landstrumm’s “Gigolos Trapped in Retro Hell”, Kiki’s “Gas126” and some of User’s more alarming Moroder-on-bathtub-speed disco loops. Which is to say that it’s a grainy, oversaturated chunk of High NRG disco-loop fury, and is exactly the sort of thing that makes me regret having hung up my slipmats. This is some seriously whacked-out dancefloor business and it ends the only way it could – by collapsing into a murky black hole of distortion and echoes.
Don’t believe me? Listen to the second track in this album sampler. I already tried to buy the whole album through Bleep (the samples make it sound fucking fantastic, but I sort of expect that from Clark at this point – his last album, Body Riddle, was a nearly flawless slab of loud bedroom techno), but they sent me a ZIP file containing only the liner notes. Thanks, guys.