Music

The Fever: Pink on Pink EP

Stephen Haag

The Fever

Pink on Pink EP

Label: Kemado
US Release Date: 2003-06-17
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The 1980s are back in vogue, for better or worse. With bands like Interpol garnering critical success for aping Joy Division, Duran Duran earning a Lifetime Achievement Award at the recent MTV Video Music Awards, and the ubiquity of VH1's I Love the 80s, you'd think there was a Bush in the White House. Oops.

New York City's the Fever have caught the retro '80s zeitgeist, but rather than evoke that decade's doom 'n' gloom, the band revels in its fabulousness. The debut EP, Pink on Pink, is full of (for five songs at least) glammy, sleazy synth-pop that could have been beamed directly from 1986. It's a thin line between genuine appreciation of campy new wave and an eviscerating parody thereof, and the Fever try to have it both ways. Those looking for send-up of the '80s almost-pornographic levels of excess will find Pink on Pink hilarious, while others hoping for a rollicking revisit to the era of the keyboard-drenched rock album won't be disappointed . . . though Pink on Pink is occasionally too arch and bloodless for its own good.

A wiser man than I once said brevity was the soul of wit, and to their credit, the Fever turn in four sharp originals and an inspired cover of Sheila E's 1984 smash "Glamorous Life"; however, one fears they've only got enough material to sustain the joke for five songs. That said, what they have works. Sanchez Esquire's (everyone in the band uses a nom de rock) sloppy, sleazy guitar work is a perfect match for keyboardist J's organ and Geremy Jasper's rough-hewn vocals on "Ponyboy" and "Ladyfingers". One gets the sense that the band has seen '80s NYC drag scene documentary Paris Is Burning a few dozen times.

"Ponyboy" and "Ladyfingers" won't spur you to buy old Square Pegs episodes off eBay, but "Bridge and Tunnel" and EP centerpiece "Pink Paganz" very well may. The former, described by the band as the inverse of Tom Waits's "Jersey Girl" (Jasper's narrator pines for the hustle and bustle of the city), is all bassist Pony's pulsing bass and Esquire's nervy guitar keeping pace with Jasper's very fast, very faux-British vocals. The tune doesn't have much to say -- "The devil collects token when God is on your side", to sample one line -- but to these ears that bespeaks an understanding of '80s style over substance.

Meanwhile, "Pink Paganz" is Pink on Pink's standout track. Musically, it's a synth-pop burlesque waltz that calls to mind California-era Mr. Bungle. Jasper snarls a commentary of '80s excess -- "The faker the fur / The heavier the pet" -- then turns the chorus over to a synthesized computer voice. Good stuff, and they end strong with a thematically apt cover of "Glamorous Life", whose final line sums up the worth of all the fabulous materialism: "Without love / It ain't much".

Picking on '80s culture -- a popular activity now because culture seemingly is doomed to repeat itself every 20 years or so and because there's an army of ironists out there who love to do so (see every talking head on I Love the 80s) -- might as well be shooting fish in a barrel. Fun as Pink on Pink is, and I must admit that the Fever do a fine, fun job lambasting a decade ripe for just that, I can't shake the feeling that they'd have had just as much fun playing it straight, instead of with eyebrow arched. There's plenty of silly, cheesy, disposable '80s tunes that will be remembered long after the Fever hang up their legwarmers.

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image