Friday, September 2, 2011

Social Climbers...more weird-ass stuff from Indiana

I've been revisiting my Hoosier roots lately, in the weirdest possible way, through music. Caveat: when I actually lived in Indiana, the only music available was the commercial dreck then in heavy play on top 40 radio stations. But since then, I have learned that all kinds of interesting stuff was going on, then and now, in the margins of, perhaps, the blandest, most fiercely anti-intellectual state in the union. Here are some bands/artists I have discovered in the last few years from Indiana: Zero Boys, John Wilkes Booze Explosion, Happy Thoughts, Apache Dropout, Circuit Des Yeux, Jookabox, John Hiatt, Liz Janes...there may be a few more.

Social Climbers is probably really a New York band, but New York in that classic sense of an outsider from elsewhere finally finding a place to be himself (herself). In this case, that person was Mark Bingham, a sometime Glenn Branca collaborator who founded oddball, disco-punk-lo-fi Social Climbers, whose only recorded output has recently been re-released by Drag City.

My Dusted review ran yesterday and said...

Social Climbers’ sound was, in some ways, classic no-wave post-punk, relying on indifferently tuned, synthetic keyboard sounds for manic, double layers of abrasive bass for its punch. The band used a drum machine most of the time, its uninflected beats giving the music a jerky, robotic feel. Yet unlike, say Devo, who also played with de-humanized, mechanized rhythms, Social Climbers incorporated a good bit of disco funk into their formula. (It was, after all, the age of Studio 54 as much as Lydia Lunch.) “Chicken 80,” for instance, filters tangled funk guitars and twitchy bass through a homegrown, anxiety-addled aesthetic. It is, unquestionably, the most anthemic of the band’s songs, but even so, a bit arch and italicized, a commentary on its post-punk and funk influences, rather than a thing in itself.


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