Monday, September 03, 2007

Stockholm Monsters - All At Once (Singles 1981-1987)

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Stockholm Monsters, "Happy Ever After" (YSI link)

Stockholm Monsters, "How Corrupt Is Rough Trade? (12")"
(YSI link)

Stockholm Monsters, "Militia" (YSI link)

Stockholm Monsters, "Partyline"
(YSI link)

I can't think of a more appropriate post for Labor Day than one dedicated to the music of Manchester, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, early home to the labor movement and site for Friedrich Engel's great work, The Condition of The Working Class In England In 1844. Of course, it's also a great example of the devastating effect of deindustrialization, conservative goverments and disinvestment. Factory Records came out of this latter period, forming in 1978, on the prescipice of the Thatcher years, at the end of Labour's dominance; it's a key context, imo, to understand the sounds that came forth from the label, especially in its earliest days.

Stockholm Monsters are a great example of how fertile the Manchester scene was; they are a great way to follow the progression of that city's sound from its post-punk beginnings to Madchester end. Often labeled a Joy Division and/or New Order clone, the band is far more interesting than that tag might lead you to believe. Les Temps Modernes collected all of their singles on one nice package a few years ago, Singles 1981-1987. It shows a band that developed their sound over the years, moving away from the stark, stripped down post-punk sound to a more dance-oriented one that prepared the way for Machester and the Happy Mondays. Most of all, this release gives you a chance to actually hear the band, move them out from under the comparisons. You will hear a band that eludes the Manchester tag with its horns, its electro-styled drum machines, its 80s keyboards, its huge, slinky basslines, its soul. Sure, there's anger and despair and coldness here too, but that's not all. You'll hear a band that can write a concise pop song and a long, experimental track that would kill a dancefloor. Most of all you'll hear a band that had the courage to follow its own path, regardless of the success or critical treatment.

I highly recommend picking up this singles compilation. It looks like it's still in print, although sometimes I can't tell with Amazon. It's a great choice for anyone looking to dig deeper into the music we've discussing recently, for fans of Joy Division, New Order, the Happy Mondays, for fans of the post-punk period or the pre-acid house days, for people who just love to discover those bands that came and went without much of a bang but made amazing music nonetheless.

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