Joup Friday Album: The Teardrop Explodes-Kilimanjaro

Teardrop Explodes

As much as labels on art frustrate me they do indeed serve a purpose. One could say that a band sounds like melting plastic and I would know exactly what it means but to most folks it is not specific enough. Bands from the 1980s have labels like Synth, New Wave, Post Punk and Neo something or another and such labels never much appealed to me as a young Midwestern boy. The stuff that I grew up knowing as New Wave usually squeaked from my sister’s pink Panasonic jam box. My sister, three years my elder was into bands like Depeche Mode, New Order and Duran Duran. My bedroom was adjacent to hers but my sound system was much louder and I was usually blasting The Stones, AC/DC or Led Zeppelin. I was a rock- head and to me if it was not heavy music it was never going to penetrate my soul.

So now flash forward from the mid 1980’s to the present day and I’m older, cranky, angry and very tired of classic rock however as a contrast I have become much more sensitive than I ever was and I certainly never say never anymore. I don’t know how my anger increased while my emotions have grown softer but here I am sitting in my living room on a Sunday morning drinking coffee and listening to The Teardrop Explodes album Kilimanjaro. This album is not heavy by any means but it is off kilter and was defiantly recorded under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs so to me there is some hope to it.

Hallucinogenic drugs are tough on our bodies but the deconstruction of our minds on such drugs gives way to a greater level of spiritual awakening and understanding for some. The other end of that spectrum is complete madness and as alluring as that can be it is not the desired effect for most people who take hallucinogenic drugs. If negative five is madness (Yoko Ono screaming) and positive five is normal or safe (Toto) The Teardrop Explodes album Kilimanjaro is zero. The reason for the zero rating is because the band had really sharp pop sensibilities but the narratives and delivery of the songs are a little trippy and at times sounds like melting plastic. They meet in the happy middle on the scale. I guess you can say that this album perfectly unique because the music, studio effects and lyrics caters to the stoner in me and at other moments the driving drum beats and sing along choruses are danceable and very poppy. It is a good crossover for sure.

To return to the notion of labels on art The Teardrop Explodes is labeled as Neo Psychedelic and as much as that tag can be off-putting it does indeed give way to the idea that this band was really into late 60’s groups like Pink Floyd, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Love. But they had no intention of copying twenty-minute improvised guitar jams and they certainly did not wear fringed suede jackets or tie dye shirts. These guys were not your parents drugged out acid casualty rock stars of yesteryear. They were the newer 80s brand of melted musicians coming out of the UK and they defiantly had their own sound to match the era.

The production value of Kilimanjaro has an over compressed 80’s sound with horns that sound like Casio tones (they actually had real horn players on the record) and probably some gated reverb on the snare drum but the songs shine through the faux paux production. I am not saying the production quality is bad in anyway it just sounds to me like a typical production style of the early 80’s which can be generic but like I said the songs cut through it and they resonate in my head. Apparently I was not the only one who felt this way. Kilimanjaro was a top 40 record in the UK upon its release and the songs “Reward”“Treason (It’s Just a Story)” and “When I Dream” were pop gems that charted well in the UK and beyond but they were still a tough sell in America whom in 1980 was celebrating artists like Air Supply, Styx, Lipps Inc. and Satan himself, Kenny Loggins. The album Kilimanjaro never had a chance in America stalling at 158 in the charts but that is OK because right now over thirty years after the fact one really picky, rock-headed guy in Chicago gave it a chance and liked it.

Happy Post Thursday

Sonny Vitkauskas

Tag: Joe


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