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I had just finished reading THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION when JG Ballard died, and it kind of lead me down a path to finding out about the WARM LEATHERETTE 7″, the real relevance of Mute Records, some Cabaret Voltaire (upping some soon), Adrian Sherwood’s work, and just a bunch of the better industrial/synth/aggressive dub stuff I feel like I missed out on when I was kneedeep interested in Wax Trax! records during the 90s. -Ian!

A short-lived outfit whose existence is conveniently documented by a lone 1978 single, the Normal was an alias for Daniel Miller, owner of Mute Records. Through the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget, and Depeche Mode, Miller’s label was responsible for opening thousands of minds to the possibilites of electronic music. Despite the Normal’s low profile and minimal output, their “T.V.O.D.”/”Warm Leatherette” single added its own significant contribution to the then-new electronic pop playing field. The B-side, written in tribute to J.G. Ballard’s auto-wreck fetish novel Crash, carried relentless pulsing, clinical snapping, and detached vocal chants; it’s since become a classic in the realm, having been covered by the likes of Grace Jones and Chicks on Speed. As the Normal, Miller also contributed to an experimental live EP with Robert Rental entitled Live at West Runton Pavilion; Miller briefly dedicated himself to synth-pop covers of classic rock songs as the Silicon Teens as well.

A pivotal, early release of electronic new wave, this single oddly gained more notoriety for its B-side, “Warm Leatherette.” Amidst jolting zaps, pops, and blipping skips, Daniel Miller robotically intones about the pleasures of car crash as foreplay: “A tear of petrol is in your eye/The hand brake penetrates your thigh/Quick — let’s make love/Before you die.” The track sounds like a darkly cartoonish version of a malfunctioning dot matrix printer: clinically pristine, minimal, and sinister. A brief flash that caused countless ripples, it sounds just as fresh two decades after its creation. “T.V.O.D.” is no slouch either, commanding the tube owner to cut to the chase and stick the aerial antenna into their arm.

Who would have thought that the same gent responsible for the Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” would follow it up several months later with a small clutch of singles covering ’50s and ’60s rock classics? And who would have thought that it would lead to a full LP? Inspection of the artwork fools you into thinking that the Silicon Teens are a quartet of Darryl, Jacki, Paul, and Diane. Though it sounds like a group of enthusiastic youngsters bent on giving straight-faced, faithful synthpop renditions of tunes like “Memphis, Tennessee” and “You’ve Really Got Me,” the concept of the group is illusory. There’s actually one Silicon Teen — Mute honcho Daniel Miller. Music for Parties is an undeniably fun record in its complete lack of irony and shameless giddiness. The covers aren’t jokes; it sounds like a group of kids having a blast with classic rock & roll. It’s well produced, well played, and well intentioned — no winkie winkie here, à la Moog Cookbook. There’s a handful of originals as well; “T.V. Playtime” is sinister, sounding like a commercial for a board game; “Sun Flight” is hallucinatory with Darryl sounding like a cross between Gizmo and Darth Vader. The sound is dated after all, but with the mid- to late-’90s resurgence of the ’80s synth sound, one could definitely think it to be a product of modern times. Acts like the Rentals and the Pulsars (who even devoted a song to the Silicon Teens) certainly took a cue from this. There’s more life in this record than plenty of guitar-based efforts of the era. Four months after the release of Music for Parties, Miller/Darryl signed a group of waif-ish youths by the name of Depeche Mode.

-Andy Kellman, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
The Normal-TVOD/WARM LEATHERETTE 7″ & Silicon Teens-MUSIC FOR PARTIES (1978/1980)
320kbps

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2 Comments

  1. Haha! I own that the Normal 7”. I laugh every time I look at it/hear it.

  2. I own that 7″ too .. bought it for 50c at a used bookstore in Indianapolis a few years ago.


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