04 March 2009

Folk Of The 80's by Men Without Hats

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


Men Without Hats - Folk Of The 80's

01 Modern(e) Dancing
02 Utter Space
03 Antarctica
04 Security (Everybody Feels Better With)

Canada 10" EP H.A.T.S. [HATS-001] 1980


  1. Hm...
    Your words:
    ,,For some people, the Simple Minds will always be remembered for "Don't You Forget About Me," OMD for "If You Leave."

    Simple Minds - OK, but OMD for me remembered with song ,,Enola Gay" :D

    Sorry for my english - is not perfect (blush)


  2. I hate Men Without Hats! I cannot stand their snide attempts at humour. The piss-takes performed by Johanne Bruno Shayne were much funnier. And "The Safety Dance" is the most inane tune I have ever heard. They even managed to rhyme "dance" with "dance"... and then went on to pretend it was really all "clever clever" and postmodern. No, hate to break it to you guys. You're not postmeodern. You're just idiots.

    But, yes, I am forced to agree that this is an item that deserves to be rescued from minimal synth obscurity. And I concur that the outstanding track is "Security"

    But, but, but...

  3. Putting aside the cliches such as post modern / punk etc. The safety dance is one of their greatest tracks, utterly catchy, and one of the best sounding electronic tracks I have ever heard. But they do have better tracks, which probably don't belong in bubble-gum pop world, but belong the true fans of the hats sound and belong rightly so on the albums. Folk of the 80's, messiahs die young, and the fantastic not for tears amazing tracks. That being said, there is no such thing as a good or bad song as music is completely subjective anyway!

  4. What an excellent Blog, your correct they did much better stuff than "Safety Dance"

  5. MWH was a punk oriented band back then in late sevnties in Montreal... Untill one of the brothers Dorochuck left the band and Marc Durand walked in as producer. The 1st pressing of the 10 inch was 3000 copies and was done in NYC. To pay for that, Durand took the money his parents put aside for his marriage! And there goes the story...

  6. Rapidshare seem to have deleted the file. Shame.

  7. For those hating on "Safety Dance," it's worth remembering that this was not a viable commercial song when it came out; it was actually seen as just this side of avant-garde. In New York City, it wasn't played on rock radio or Top-40; it got played on the handful of R&B stations playing hip-hop, likely for the minimalist beat and Ivan's largely monotone delivery. Back then, Top 40 radio usually limited synths to the likes of Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You." With the passing of time, today "Safety Dance" might seem like a sell out, but back then, it was minimalist art that opened a lot of 14-year-olds' eyes.

  8. Can you possibly repost?

  9. Sorry about the dead link. It's the only one on our site that Rapidshare has received a complaint about and we don't want to anger the MWH Gods!

  10. Utter Space is the best when you're walking home in the middle of winter.