Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Silver Gun

Day 3 of music from the post-punk era ('78-'84)...
Robert Palmer would not be the first name on your lips if you were asked to name a post-punker. Musically he never wrote anything that resembled the post-punk of the era, but his willingness to experiment puts him on a par with his musical peers. In 1980 he released his album Clues, and it was the beginning of a most musically adventurous period for this established, bluesy r'n'b singer. Despite living and recording in the Bahamas he proved to have an ear for what was happening in Europe, particularly in the realm of electronic pop music and new wave. The record contains several collaborations with Gary Numan, who was part of the vanguard of the burgeoning synthpop movement. The album had (IMO) one of Robert's best tunes on it, the single Johnny & Mary, which criminally failed to make the top 40. The album was a critical success, but didn't do much in the way of sales, especially in the US. His next proper album was 1983's Pride, a further exploration of all kinds of music. The title track took in African juju and Caribbean beats, he covered NYC electro act The System's You Are In My System and even a Kool & The Gang song. It was on the b-sides from this album's singles that he really let his freak flag fly. Pride's b-side, Parade Of The Obliterators, is pummeling electronics and noise. It's the b-side of his version of Kool & The Gang's You Can Have It (Take My Heart) that is one of his greatest experiments. The Silver Gun is a sleek, electronic dance track that features sampled strings, killer sponge-y bass, scratchy guitars, Indian instrumentation, and Robert singing entirely in Urdu. It sounds horrific, but it's actually quite remarkable, with Robert pushing his voice in the style of Eastern mystics or a mullah's prayers. Of course this kind of experimentalism failed to impress the record buying youth, and ultimately led to a shift back to the mainstream, and the successes of the late '80s and early '90s - you know, The Power Station and Addicted To Love. At the time I accepted the shift to power rock with dance-y beats, but looking back it is this brief period of experimental works of the early '80s that remains my favorite.

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