16 June 2009
If the idea of New Wave bands in the the UK brought to mind serious-faced young men in skinny ties, chopping away at guitars, or staring intently at Korg synthesizers, in Los Angeles and its environs, it seems to have been associated with camera-friendly female vocalists often supported by jobbing session musicians looking to cash in on the latest craze. What is most surprising is how enduring some of that music has proved to be.
Take for example Missing Persons. Like Berlin, or SSQ, they had the requisite fashion-forward singer in Dale Bozzio, a former Playboy Bunny who had previously provided backing vocals for Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage album. It was during those sessions that she met drummer Terry Bozzio, whom she married in 1979. Together with another Zappa alum, the wildly talented if occasionally overly showy guitarist, Warren Cuccurullo, they formed Missing Persons, recording their debut EP in Zappa's brand new Utility Studios. Released on the Kosmos label in 1980, it showcased Dale's distinctive vocals, somewhere between a dreamy observer of modern life and a ticked-off Valley Girl whose parents won't let her borrow the car. Dale's partner, Terry, provided not only some inventive drumming, but helped out with the swirling, bubbling battery of synthesizers that gave the music a deep gloss sheen. Local alternative station KROQ put the second track, "Mental Hopscotch," into regular rotation and the EP sold some 7000 copies, mostly in the Los Angeles area. Capitol re-released the EP in 1982, and it went on to rack up a further 250,000 sales, an amazing achievement when one considers that the record was already two years old, and an indication of just how far ahead of the curve the band had been when they first formed. The subsequent album, Spring Sessions M (an anagram of the band's name), yielded a further hit single in the oft-covered "Walking in LA," but to my mind their finest moment remains here, buried away on the b-side of the EP, after a not entirely unsuccessful cover of The Doors' "Hello I Love You." "Destination Unknown" is one of the most perfect slices of synth pop ever committed to vinyl, the percolating arpeggiators and gently propulsive beat blending perfectly with Bozzio's girlish voice, the lyrics reflecting on the utter strangeness of the journey we find ourselves on in the modern era. The descending bass synth variation that comes in as the song fades into the distance is an especially nice touch.
Here then is the Missing Persons EP, as it was first released on Kosmos records, newly ripped from a pristine vinyl copy.
-- Crash the Driver
Labels: Missing Persons