November 21, 2013

Swell Maps - Jane from Occupied Europe (1980/2004)

In many ways, the early post-punk movement was a reaction to the overly simplified aesthetic (as well as ideology) of a UK punk scene that had quickly become a caricature of itself by the end of the 1970s. While the term "post-punk" has, over the years, become synonymous with the moody, scratchy, dub-reggae and funk-influenced approach of bands such as Gang of Four, the movement was/is actually quite diverse. This is best exemplified by Swell Maps, who integrated the original Punk D.Y.I. aggression with more "arty" influences such as kraut-rock legends Can, and did so while casting a thick layer of cheeky irony over everything. While their debut, A Trip to Marineville, wasn't always able to integrate these different sonic palettes together seamlessly, their follow-up and swansong, Jane from Occupied Europe, stands as one of the most singular-sounding albums of "The New Wave." From the first few seconds of "Robot Factory," the lead track, it is clear that we have entered uncharted territory. With eerie psych organ, strange clicking effects, and distant mumbled voices, the song sets the tone for what's to come. Standout track "Cake Shop Girl," with its combination of guitar crunch and Kraftwerk-style synth-lines practically writes the book on integrating punk and pop, a book bands like The Meat Puppets would be memorizing soon enough. Though it proved to be the end of Swell Maps, Jane from Occupied Europe is, without a doubt, an essential document of post-punk's first wave. Bassist Jowe Head: "The best Maps experiences included the thrill of feeling empowered by our realization that we could seize the means of production without needing a deal from a conventional record company or management. Also, we had a hell of a lot of fun together! We used to laugh so much it hurt sometimes."

Jane from Occupied Europe (1980/2004)
 1. Robot Factory
 2. Let's Buy a Bridge
 3. Border Country
 4. Cake Shop Girl
 5. The Helicopter Spies
 6. Big Maz in the Desert
 7. Big Empty Field
 8. Mining Villages
 9. Collision with a Frogman
10. ...Vs. the Mangrove Delta Plan
11. Secret Island 
12. What Happens Next...
13. Blenheim Shots
14. A Raincoat's Room
-Bonus Tracks-
15. The Stairs Are Like an Avalanche
16. New York

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  2. Wow. A real nice blog. You talk about Jacobites and I m looking for their Robespierre'cd. I saw you've posted it on your ancient blog but the links are dead. Could you please re-up it here. Thanks a lot.