Friday, June 17, 2011

The days of cocaine funk

Posted By on 06.17.11 at 02:54 PM

Just an average day for Robert Palmer ca. 1980
  • Just an average day for Robert Palmer ca. 1980
My friend Jeremy is a poster artist and DJ in Ann Arbor whose fearlessness when it comes to buying crazy-looking shit out of record-store dollar bins has earned him an expert knowledge of some of pop music's odder nooks and crannies. Currently he's fixated on the couple of years where the 70s became the 80s, culturally speaking, and all day he's been IMing me examples of artists from the former decade attempting, with various levels of success, to ride the stylistic tides that would come to define the latter. Like for instance the album of weird proto-electro-pop that teen heartthrob Shaun Cassidy recorded with Todd Rundgren, or Alice Cooper's own very Gary Numan-esque synth jams. He credits new wave's ascendency with pushing popular artists away from deep-groove posthippie rock and into twitchier, more tightly wound modes. I imagine Talking Heads had a particularly big influence on a lot of these artistic reinventions, considering the amount of nervous funk in the tracks Jeremy has been sending me (as well as their proximity in time to the band's first record). There's also the ubiquity of pure, high-quality cocaine in the recording studios of the time to consider.

One of the highlights of today's listening comes from Robert Palmer. Still a few years away from smoothing his R&B-laced pop into the chart-demolishing monster we're all familiar with, "Looking for Clues" (from his 1980 album Clues) is about as anxious and funky as shit got back then. It also has a video that looks like what some guys with a modest budget, a tight deadline, and an eightball would come up with.

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