30 March 2005

Intaferon - Steamhammer Sam

Chrysalis Records
7 inch CHS2750

(I've included the back of the cover so you get a decent picture of the band)

Having picked up a fair bit of airplay for the debut Get Out Of London but sold sod all copies, the commercially smart thing to do would be to put out another record with the same energy and sound, but different hooks.

But not Intaferon. They went back into the studio and recorded Steamhammer Sam.

They kept the principle of their first single - to merge disparate threads of musical styles into something intriguing, catchy and contemporarily relevant - but stylistically it's another world.

Where Get Out Of London's lyrics were a ratatat of paranoid imagery, Steamhammer Sam is a straightforward narrative story.

It was 1983, Thatcher's talons were tearing deep into the social fabric of the UK, and mass unemployment was a prime symptom. Steamhammer Sam was a topical story of a man who'd worked his whole life in heavy industry, got made redundant and became hopeless, directionless and alcoholic, ending his days alone in prison. Cheery surefire radio-friendly hit there.

Musically, the electropunk drive of Get Out Of London is nowhere to be seen, as Steamhammer Sam is driven by a piano-based sort of rhythm that could be termed The Madness Two-Step, the kind of thing that provides tha basis for tracks like The Size Of A Cow by The Wonder Stuff, or Grimly Fiendish by The Damned.

There are snatches of Glam Rock guitar (as I've said elsewhere, by 'Glam Rock' I mean the 70s stuff, not 80s poodle-metal), but the peculiarity really kicks in with the addition of a full colliery style brass band, and towards the end a choir of children do a sprightly singalong chorus, in stark contrast to the mood of the lyric.

As if to underline the bizarrity, the B-side is The Continuing Story of Steamhammer Sam, an instrumental version played entirely by that brass band.

The 7 inch came shrinkwrapped with a free 3-track cassette and sticker. I still have the sticker, but the cassette disappeared years ago and I can't even remember what was on it. It must've contained something not on the Get Out Of London and Steamhammer Sam singles, though.

As with its predecsssor, the single sold next to nothing, and after the subsequent Baby Pain they were never heard of again.

[downloads removed due to needing the server space for new postings]

29 March 2005

Intaferon - Get Out Of London

Chrysalis Records
7 inch CHS2715, 12 inch CHS122715

Well it seems the obvious place to start. As the Lost Bands Of The New Wave Era post about Intaferon's Baby Pain was my nudge to start this blog, let's get going with those other two singles. First up is the debut, Get Out Of London

I remember this coming on the radio and finding it thoroughly arresting. We were just out of New Romantics time, and this had all that dark brooding tone from that, but with a bristling propulsive power that hadn't been on the airwaves for years. The lyrics are a frantic and volatile, if somewhat oblique, breathless rant. I've stuck them on the MP3 for those of you who use players that can read all the extra info.

The cover is cool too - the dynamism of the track complemented by the black and red lettering, the urgency of making the title all one word in capitals, and the desperate lunge of the picture.

Although the more cynical among us could point out that even if they managed to grab hands, the guy at the back is going to get dragged along the road. Also, a Routemaster bus isn't the prime method for getting out of London, more like for getting around it.

Intaferon were a duo - Simon Fellowes and Simon Gillham - named after a cancer treatment drug. They were produced by Martin Rushent, at that time a Very Big Name. He'd produced all those early Buzzcocks classics, but then went all electronic and produced the Human League's Dare album (the one with Don't You Want Me and all those on).

You can see both elements combining on Get Out Of London, romping synth basslines and strident guitars melding together brilliantly.

Rushent was also a pioneer of the 1980s style 12 inch remix. Most of these were total rubbish; just half the song, then a drum machine and bassline noodling on for a couple of minutes, then the other half of the song. Complete waste of time and vinyl, a cynical marketing ploy.

Over on my Strawberry Switchblade site there's a hilarious discussion of such mixes. The band, both their managers and both their producers all deny responsibility for them. One manager, Bill Drummond, explains

At that time the whole idea of a remixer as being somebody special and somebody you pay a whack of money to go and do it, and this is an actual job, it just didn't exist in those days. You made a record and, as you said, you had to have a twelve inch and so you'd just sit around and think, 'OK, we'll double the length of that drumbeat, double the length of that,' and you'd got a twelve inch. It's like asking me who made the cup of tea.

Rushent's remix is a lot more busy and worthy than the overwhelming majority of 80s 12 inches, and keeps the kinetic fizz of the 7 inch mix, though it does still sound a tad dated nowadays. That heavy use of Paul Hardcastle style sampler stutter hasn't really sounded much good since, well, Paul Hardcastle.

Check back in a few days for the follow-up single, Steamhammer Sam.

[downloads removed due to needing the server space for new postings]

28 March 2005

lend me your ears and I'll encode you a song

I've been really liking several MP3 blogs. They've made me relisten to tracks I've not heard in years, given me background info on bands and songs I'd never known any details about, and put music my way that I'd otherwise never have found.

Seven Inches of Joy was uncanny for digging out records I'd bought in my early teens. Surely we were the only two people who had singles by Cindy & The Saffrons or, appropriately enough, by Two People.

So I was dismayed to see Seven Inches of Joy's recent closure. Around the same time, I stumbled across Lost Bands Of The New Wave Era posting Baby Pain by Intaferon. They had no solid info about other Intaferon records. I, however, have both of their other singles.

This all combined to make me think fuck it, I'll do a MP3 blog meself. I've enough lost gems and oddities that warrant a small airing, usually with some bit of info or considered opinion to go with it.

It's going to be a right old mix. There'll be punk and pop and soul and weirdness. There'll be greatness and there'll unintentional comedy. There'll be peculiar cover versions and one-hit (or no-hit) wonders. It will range from the 1950s to the 1990s with, I suspect, a bias towards 1980ish-1992ish, my prime record buying years.

I'll add summat new once or twice a week. That's the plan, anyway.