04 March 2009
With many of the bands of the eighties, it's difficult to separate their post-punk promise from their later commercial success. For some people, the Simple Minds will always be remembered for "Don't You Forget About Me," OMD for "If You Leave." Appearing on the soundtracks to popular films, and becoming perennial fixtures on oldies radio stations and at eighties club nights the world over, these songs sometimes seem to be almost synonymous with the bands themselves, eclipsing the artistic achievements of their earlier, more experimental efforts.
For Montreal-based synthpop group Men Without Hats, the albatross they could never quite get from their necks was "The Safety Dance," an insanely catchy confection of sequenced bass lines, playground melodies, and obtuse lyrics, vaguely warning about the dangers of nuclear war. The song spent four weeks at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, and was also a major hit in the UK and many parts of Europe. But before the dwarfs danced and the peasant girl twirled, the band released a 10" ep of lo-fi electronica, four songs taking their cues more from Iggy and Bowie's Berlin period than from the singles charts of the time.
Folk Of The 80's referred to lead singer Ivan's sense that synthesizer music would become the new folk music of the period, expressing the everyday hopes and desires of the common people. It was recorded in the summer of 1980 at Studio A in Montreal, and released on the band's own H.A.T.S. label. It was subsequently picked up by Stiff Records and a further 16,000 records were pressed for the US market in the twelve-inch format. Apart from a rerecording of "Antarctica," however, these songs did not appear on the band's debut album of 1982, Rhythm Of Youth, nor on any of the band's many greatest hits collections that have appeared since. Even the seemingly endless cd-r collections of minimal synth rarities have failed to pick up on this forgotten gem, perhaps because their compilers haven't thought to look beyond "The Safety Dance." This is too bad. These songs deserve a place in any list of minimal synth classics, merging a perfect pop sensibility with a singularly skewed view of the modern(e) world.
Here then are Ivan Doroschuk (vocals), his brother Stefan (bass), and Jeremie Arrobas (drums & electronics), from the original 10" vinyl. Tell me if "Security" isn't the best song Depeche Mode never wrote.
--Crash The Driver