Friday, June 1, 2007

Radio Heart

In terms of culture, the 80s didn't suck. I can attest to that because I was actually old enough to remember things from that era. It was a curious time when the collective conscious of the U.S. was beguiled by Ronald Reagan (and mystified by Reaganomics), drawn to Molly Ringwald's homely come hither looks, obsessively buying little pink M.U.S.C.L.E. Men, etc. But life was hard. In 1981, fresh from the refugee camps in Malaysia, my family and I lived in the East Side San Jose projects on Poco Way and we were on welfare - shopping in grocery stores with food stamps and purchasing non-perishable items that only had the yellow generic label on them. We never ate well and we certainly never ate breakfast. Is there life without breakfast?

Curiously enough, also in 1981, Posh Boy released San Francisco's Los Microwaves sole LP. This album would presume the continuity of life without breakfast but would query what came after it. Life After Breakfast, was a synth record that deviated from Posh Boy's typical Orange County punk scene fare (but see also PB's release of the Gleaming Spires' Songs of the Spires). It's out-of-print now, and original copies show up on eBay if you're not patient enough to stumble upon it in your local record store. eBay sellers have inflated the price and value of this album and are preying on people who want to buy something that makes them look cool during the current and next rehash of 80s chic. It's not like it's an original Black Randy & the Metrosquad's Pass the Dust, I Think I'm Bowie on vinyl. That I will pay a considerable sum for if it ever shows up on eBay (note: apparently my CD version of Black Randy's album costs a pretty penny too - I feel so hip).

In retrospect, Life After Breakfast is a standard keyboard-driven new wave album - nothing too exciting nor surprising. Bassist Meg Brazil and keyboardist David "Microwave" Javelosa's vocals are catchy but don't deviate from the era's new wave trappings of self-conscious brattiness/spunkiness. Thus, the vocals are tiresome at times. Especially Meg's. If you've ever seen the movie Smithereens and remember its annoying lead character ("Wren"), then you've got a pretty good idea at who Meg reminds me of.

Although the record is made buoyant by lofty arty goals, some moments in the album show that the music is stuck in the morass of its own artsy pretentiousness. The tracks "Time To Get Up", "TV In My Eye" and "Reckless Dialogue" are mostly turds of songs that suffer from this problem. This sort of stuff in these tunes were latter done much better by Ann Magnuson et al's Pulsallama (or Bongwater for that matter). However, though somewhat repetitive, "Radio Heart" is an instant hit and I imagine it was played to death by Rodney On the ROQ back in the day (along with Red Kross' "Annette's Got the Hits"). And "Forever" is nice tune to end side one with cool swirling keyboards and sung partially in Spanish by David.

Life After Breakfast is an album that I assume has been repeatedly mined and absorbed into the amorphous hipster credentials beast. But it's still worth a listen to even if people with angular haircuts and day-glow clothing are annoying. And if those people weren't even around during the era they're emulating - well, like I read on a sticker somewhere: "You can't be old school if you weren't even in high school back in the day." I wasn't in high school back in the day when Life After Breakfast came out and no I was not old enough to be hip to it (I was in the first or second grade) - but at least I was born before the 80s.

Fast forward a bit on your top loading VCR and take a gander at what I looked like in 1985/1986. Off welfare, and living and working with extended family has done my family good. I was now able to bully my parents into supporting a skateboarder's lifestyle. First thing I did was to force my parents to dump my old Ninja skateboard and get a real setup. Note how I am wearing a Bones Brigade t-shirt. Sure, at this time I was probably more poseur than real skate rat. I was probably trying to listen to JFA, the Faction and/or McRad but not getting it. To this day I can remember the board I was riding at the time: Powell Peralta Per Welinder street deck with OJII wheels probably 97s (with German bearings), Schmitt Stix rails, a Bird lapper and a Powell Peralta Tail Bone. All purchased from Go Skate in Almaden. Gawd damn look at the attitude I'm displaying. I'm wearing cargoes before they became Aberzombified & Bitched. And I'm pretty sure they were pegged! And I was still into D&D at the time! But I stopped collecting stickers when I started skateboarding (I swear). Except for the scented ones. Those will always have a special place in my heart. Punk as fuck.

In case you're interested David Microwave played recently at the DNA Lounge in S.F., and will be back in the L.A. area performing this month in June 2007 (06/02 at Head Salon in Venice and 06/13 at Good Hurt in West L.A.). He plays electronica - I guess what would probably be labeled IDM. Apparently he's really into skydiving. Find out more about him and the rest of Los Microwaves here.