Friday, June 10, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 9)

Here's another band I imagine will split the audience. Hopefully you're closer to the crowd that cheers... rather than jeers. I have the first four albums from China Crisis, plus assorted singles from the same period, but it's the long player 'Working With Fire And Steel (Possible Pop Songs Volume Two)' that keeps me coming back. I'm attracted to the same synth-heavy new-wave sounds found on their debut, 'Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms - Some People Think It's Fun To Entertain', as well, but I think it took the fellas an album to perfect it. With that in mind, for today's selections, I'm sticking with my favorites from the 1981-1984 period. All of them will be ripped from my 12" singles. I'll also include how these songs fared on the UK chart. This might not be the first band that comes to mind, but it must have been a terribly exciting time to be a part of the vibrant Liverpool area music scene in those days.

China Crisis went through a pretty significant change in sound after the second album. If the interest is there, we may listen to selections from the next two albums later this weekend.

"African and White" (Remixed and Extended Version) (No. 45, 1981)
"Christian" (No. 12, 1982)
"Fire and Steel" (Mix) (No. 48, 1983)
"Hanna Hanna" (Extended Version) (No. 44, 1984)


Echorich said...

China Crisis is a foundation band of the 80's for me. There are a number of pop bands I was happy to hitch my wagon to for their journey through music in the decade - Prefab Sprout, ABC, Everything But The Girl all provided me with great travels, but China Crisis is one that felt like they invited me on that journey. From the wide eyed, yet introspective beauty of Difficult Shapes + Passive Rhyhtms, to the maturing, adventurous sounds of Working With Fire + Steel, China Crisis proved that synth pop could be much more that faddish or unmemorable. Christian, African + White, Hanna Hanna, The Soul Awakening and the tremendous Tragedy + Mystery (my favorite track by the band) and Wishful Thinking all sound as special today as they did more than 30 years ago.
When they changed gears with Flaunt The Imperfection, they certainly lost some fans and critics, but picked up new ones ready to hear what they were attempting. With production by Walter Becker of Steely Dan, it's easy to say that the band was giving into another familiar, successful sound at the expense of their own, but I never heard it that way. Listen to the gorgeous synth lines of Bigger The Punch I'm Feeling or the quiet beauty of Black Man Ray and you are hearing China Crisis displaying another level of maturity and feeling in their pop music.
The next album, What Price Paradise is sparkling gem of sophisticated pop craft. I may have been miles away from their debut, but I think we expect our favorites to stay exactly the way we discovered them. Fans are much less difficult to please than artists themselves. The opening It's Everything and second track Arizona Sky stlll has some of the playfulness and "synthiness" of the early records, but also the sound of a band that has grown.
China Crisis closed the 80s with Diary of A Hollow Horse sort of looks back down the musical road the band travelled, while still moving forward. I love the closing track Back Home because it opens recalling some of the band's earlier darker pop but turns into an affirmative, confident track. In Northern Skies isn't miles away from the sound of the second album and opener St. Savior Square is just pure pop.
There would be more music, just, and then a long time before 2015's Autumn In The Neighborhood which is just amazing to these ears. It's a shame that Gary and Eddie haven't found a way to get it distributed further since their Pledge Music campaign closed.
Hope that was enough of a "CHEER" Brian...

George said...

"I have the first four albums from China Crisis". Now THAT'S something you don't hear many people admit to!

kevinpat said...

Sorry guys. No jeers but I'm no fan of that pop synth sound unless Siouxie is railing about some evil doll that has come alive and is chasing her through dark hallways or whatever she rants about. She knows how to create that drama, building crescendos, drawing you into her creepy world. Like "Israel". This stuff makes me wanna listen to Siouxie. Sorry. It doesn't seem to go anywhere for me. Roller coasters over merry-go-rounds.
It's just me. But thanks!! Enjoy.

Speaking of....check out Siouxie & The Banshees track "Stargazer". I think it's amazing. But I digress.
(Damn spellcheck won't let me write Siouxie!! Ha!!)

Echorich said...

The best thing about being a fan of music from the era is that you CAN love a good Siouxsie And The Banshees song, a New Order Track, a China Crisis track and a classic Bowie track and feel like it was all your music. As much as there were dozens of "genres" of music from the 80s, you didn't have to just like one over another the way things seemed to align previously.

kevinpat said...

Absolutely Echorich. There was lots of great music out there from that era, and yes, one can like more than one band. Sometimes I guess I'm just too much a purist. But sometimes I find the synth sound a bit impersonal or sterile and the vocals plain. New Order was warm and inviting, Gary Numan played off that sound, creating a character. It can work. After college because of illnessI got docked at my parents house on Long Island. I was listening to the "Afternoon Show" on WNYU. The playlist was full of these bands. along with more avant garde kind of stuff like Birthday Party, Pigbag & Essential Logic. It all sounded good together. (I actually taped a bunch of shows which I like to listen to in my car, which is old enough to still have a cassette player in it!!The news is all about Reagan too as an added bonus....No fan of that! Ha!) Because of your comment I will give China Crisis another track.Thanks for setting me straight.

The Swede said...

China Crisis were one of those bands that more or less passed me by while I was looking the other way. There's nothing at all to dislike among these tunes, though nothing that truly grabs me by the ears. The only records I ever owned by the band were the singles 'Black Man Ray' and 'King in a Catholic Style', while the 'Flaunt the Imperfection' LP got a few spins in the shop at the time. I look forward to revisiting that one if you pull something from it next time around.

Echorich said...

KevPat - ahh WNYU Afternoon Show!!! With Evan Funk Davies who was also the drummer for The Bush Tetras!! That was my connection to the outside world when I was in High School. I can trace my love for bands like The Fall, Au Pairs, Gang Of Four (really anything on Rough Trade) as well as the NYC No Wave like James White And The Blacks and Teenage Jesus And The Jerks to that 3 hours of wonder!!!

kevinpat said...

Echorich PABLO DUGAN!!! Yes!! Yes!! Yes!! Dead Kennedys, Psych Furs, Konk.........!!! hahahahahaha. Yay!!