Transmission

There’s an article about 808 State in the latest issue of Electronic Sound which opens with a paragraph about the enduring appeal of their breakthrough song Pacific State, a genuine crossover tune and hit record in 1989. The writer describes the song as ‘plucked from that golden age between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11’ (adding that it is something we need ‘to embrace more tightly now in the age of austerity, Brexit and the divide and conquer politics of populism’).

It’s interesting to see the 1990s described as a golden period. Politically the collapse of the Soviet Union was famously declared by US historian Francis Fukuyama as ‘the end of history’, the triumph of western liberal democracy meant that little could prevent it from being the only desirable form of government and the only way to structure society. Fukuyama has rowed back on that since- as you might expect given the War on Terror, the Arab Spring, the financial collapse of the global economy, the right wing populism of Trump and Farage and the swing to authoritarian regimes from Hungary to Turkey. I found myself wondering whether the 1990s really was a golden age. I was 19 when the decade started and 30 when it ended. Your twenties should be a golden period in your life, old enough to do what you want as an adult, young enough not to be weighed down by it all. I remember various attempts to brand the 90s as ‘the 60s upside down’ and there was a tendency at the cusp of 1990 to promote a more spiritual, optimistic spirit for the forthcoming decade. Positivity was much mentioned. Bands went dance, loosened up, wore white, the music was filled with a sense of openness. The Poll Tax was defeated. Thatcher went. Bush followed. The Labour Party and the Democrats were resurgent.

But much of what’s wrong now can be dated to the 90s. Liberal, centre left governments seduced by the power of the market, the blending of public and private in state provision, the sale of assets like the railways to the private sector, the destruction of the social housing stock, the idea that ‘we’re all middle class now’, the belief that commerce would solve all problems, all date from the 90s. The first Gulf War too and the horrors in the Balkans. Balance it up with the freedoms gained by the people of Eastern Europe in 1989 and 1990, not to mention what was happening in South Africa at the same time. In the UK there was a genuine sense that music and youth culture were capable of creating community. Many people commented that acid house/rave was partly a response to Thatcher’s declaration that ‘there is no such thing as society’. Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. I don’t necessarily disagree with the 808 State article and it’s author (Ben Willmott), I like the idea of golden ages, they’re seductive, and I like the idea of one that I lived through and was part of, but the truth is always more complex. Maybe for Ben Willmott and the people he describes responding to Pacific State in 2017, it’s more about nostalgia, memories of youth. For the record, he says it isn’t just nostalgia but something else- futuristic optimism plucked from that time and re-purposed in the present. I think I’m going round in circles now.

You can’t wrong this can you? Wildlife noises, blissed out synths, synapse busting toplines, the rattle and thump of the drum machine and that sax part.

Pacific 202

808 State’s new album Transmission Suite was recorded in the transmission suite at the old Granada Studios building at the bottom of Quay Street in town, the room filled with consoles and equipment and a wall with eighty television screens and the lingering presence of Tony Wilson. The album is fifteen tracks of finely tuned, precision engineered electronic Mancunian dance music, Detroit techno clearly part of its DNA but with an eye on the future and the next step. Futuristic optimism.

 

In Yer Face

In 2016 Bicep remixed 808 State’s 1991 In Yer Face, taking the almost ambient two chord synth part and looping it (with that vocal sample slowed down). It gets busier in the second half, an updated version of ’91, fine tuned for modern times with Bicep’s trademark warmth. I can imagine it going down very well in the right places.

I’m not sure 808 State always get their dues when Manchester bands are ranked, rated and discussed. They made records that were as much part of the place as many of the more famous guitar bands and many of them have stood the test of time too. Here’s the original version of In Yer Face from Ex:El.

In Yer Face

8

Morning. If it is morning when you’re reading this. Hope you’re feeling alright. On January 1st 2010 I published my first post here at Bagging Area. Today, 3441 posts and 9727 comments later, the blog turns 8. Thank you to all of you who read it, thanks especially to those who comment, and here’s to a few more. I never really set a deadline or expiry date when starting out. I’ll keep going as long as there is something to write about I  suppose. Like this…

Songs with 8 in the title aren’t numerous. This is a 1985 R.E.M. song about a passenger train running through the southern states. The chorus goes ”and the train conductor says ‘take a break driver 8, driver 8 take a break, we can reach our destination but we’re still a ways away”. In 2008 Michael Stipe introduced Driver 8 live by saying ‘this is a song that represents great hope and great promise, a song that represents the dream of the United States of America’. So it’s about that too.

Driver 8

This is from 1990’s still stunning 90 album this is a song that pays tribute to a drum machine. An attention grabbing intro followed by rave synths and beats with a great breakdown section.

808080808

In the days when football teams were numbered 1-11 number 8 was always a central midfielder- not the flash captain figure of the number 7 shirt and not the centre forward of number 9 but in between, a gutsy, hard tackling midfielder, someone who did the simple things well and chipped in with the odd goal. In the 90s Paul Ince and Nicky Butt were the number 8 shirt wearers at United. In the 80s the shirt belonged to Gordon Strachan and Remi Moses (and for a season apiece Ashley Grimes and Ray Wilkins). In the picture below Remi is to the left of Diego Maradona in a European Cup Winners Cup second leg at Old Trafford, one of the greatest games I’ve attended. Diego barely got a look-in all night. The first leg had finished 2-0 to Barcelona. The return leg was won 3-0 by United, with goals from Bryan Robson and Frank Stapleton, but the end to end performance of Remi was behind it. In the next round he marked and tackled Michel Platini of Juventus out of the game. Injury forced him to retire in 1988, aged just 28.

Do Not Attempt To Speak! It Will Serve No Purpose…

‘…since I know why you have come! But your quest is in vain! You cannot save your world from being ravished by Galactus!’ The colour, vibrancy, movement and energy in these Jack Kirby frames is something else.

The opening track from 808 State’s 1989 album 90 is the first track on the memory stick in the family car at the moment. I can’t get past it, hitting replay time after time while running around- the melodic intro, then the breakbeat and busy bass, synths in technicolour and Vanessa’s spoken/sung vocal…. ‘come with me and have no fear, just close your eyes and disappear’. Dead stop.

Magical Dream

Cobra Bora

Back in 1989 808 State released Ninety, one of the first UK house albums. Ninety is chock full of summer of ’89 acid house filtered through a group of four men all trying to get all their ideas onto every song- crashing drums, vocal samples, mad and delirious synth lines, songs with mulitple melody parts playing at the same time, sirens, everything. I had it on cassette and remember well driving to Glastonbury in June 1990 , arriving at the site with Ninety on the car stereo. We pulled up, opened the car doors to get out, Cobra Bora thumping away. A hippy crawled out of the hedge right in front us, said hello, asked us if we wanted to buy ‘anything’ and then shambled off.

Cobra Bora

Party People

Inside this giant mobile mirror ball is Graham Massey, once/currently of 808 State. In front of the mirror ball are a New Orleans style marching band called Mr Wilson’s Secondliners accompanying him on brass and percussion as he spins house classics through the streets of Manchester, as part of yesterday’s Manchester Day parade. Now in its eighth year the parade was played out this year in standard Mancunian weather- blazing sunshine, thirty-odd degrees heat. Even just standing still was a sweaty business. As the parade finished in Exchange Square, Massey and his band kept the party going a little longer with a wonderfully ramshackle version of Planet Rock.

Planet Rock

Lift Going Up

A couple of weeks ago I posted 808 State and Bjork’s Ooops off 1991’s Ex:el album. Ctel then posted a recent remix of In Yer Face from the same album so I went back and listened to the whole thing for the first time in ages. 1991 has been all over the internet in the last few days, mainly because September 1991 saw the release of Screamadelica, Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque, Nirvana’s Nevermind and A Tribe Called Qwest’s Low End Theory amongst others. Not a bad month all things considered. In November My Bloody Valentine put out Loveless. Ex:el came out in May so pre-empted the autumn rush but what a good album it is. Both Bjork songs are superb, In Yer Face is techno heaven, then there’s the Bernard Sumner sung Spanish Heart, Cubik, Olympic and the spooky Nefertiti. It also uses the Willy Wonka Gene Wilder sample- ‘we are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams’. Tucked away inside Ex:el is this, Lift, a wonderful, uplifting, updating of Kraftwerk with rave drums.

Lift