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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"down in the depths / hidden from sight / my secret identity…"

Being the total music geek that I am, I can tell you the first CD I ever bought. Well, make that the first two CDs I ever bought, since they were purchased at the same time from the same shop. In 1987, the Arcade Shopping Center in downtown Cleveland saw the opening of a store exclusively devoted to nothing but CDs – I believe it was called CD World or some such – which was a radical concept in those days when vinyl and cassettes still ruled. I was working my very first advertising job while still in high school, responsible for paste-ups (ah, those pre-computer days) and running general errands which took me to the big city. Those trips were looked forward to with great anticipation, since I could go CD shopping.

I didn’t even have a CD player until 1988, but I was happy to buy CDs and record them at my buddy Jeff’s house onto high-quality metal (!) cassettes, since they sounded so much better. In the dawn of the CD era, record companies didn’t just release everything on the new format – they picked and chose the titles carefully, thinking this expensive, high-end format would appeal to more esoteric and varied tastes. The thinking was, Stacey Q fans weren’t going to spring for a CD of “Two of Hearts”, but REM fans? Oh, yeah.

That’s why the first two CDs I ever purchased were the Bolshoi’s “Friends” CD that also featured the “Giant” EP tacked on, and the band’s follow-up, “Lindy’s Party.” I was a big fan of the band since picking up the “Giants” EP in 1985 after seeing the video for “Happy Boy” in the wee hours of MTV’s “120 Minutes” show. From there, I got the “Friends” LP (I always thought the title was “Friends or Fiends” based on the typography of the cover – if you have it, you can see what I mean), and I was ecstatic to see that both of these were available on one CD. I hadn’t purchased “Lindy’s Party” on any format yet, so that was a nice bonus.

Anyhooooo…the Bolshoi formed in the early 80s in Leeds, England, headed by vocalist/guitarist Trevor Tanner who possesses one of those voices, like Morrissey, Lloyd Cole or Robert Smith – you either love it or hate it. The man drips smarm, snark and sarcasm with each syllable. I, of course, loved it. Why are the Bolshoi featured during my spooky Halloween week? The lyrics. Dark, foreboding, yet there’s a hilarious line or aside tucked in here and theres. For example, “A Way”, the lead single from “Friends”:

”Money's scarce, but family honour

Brings it home, brings it home

And down the shop, the tongues they snicker

TV dinners - beer and liquorrrrr, yeah

Skeletons fall out of cupboards

Curtains drawn - fall open - to allow

The light - shows up the dust

That plays around your face

A Way

Yes you get by

(sing that last part with a high, whiny falsetto for maximum effect)

The earlier “Happy Boy” is even creepier with the lines:

”such a happy boy today
blew my family clean away”

which makes you think, “uh oh, someone got a .45 in the face,” until you hit the next line:

”going to university
whaddaya think now?”

So, what’s it all about? I’m not entirely sure, but I love it.

You may recognize “Lindy’s Party’s” first single, “TV Man” – MTV played the video quite a bit on “120 Minutes” back in the day. “Lindy’s Party” was a little more acoustically focused than their debut, with unsettling quiet passages, but still plently of hooks.

After “Lindy’s Party”, the Bolshoi went their separate ways, to be Lost in the ‘80s. However, both albums are still in print as imports (except now the “Giants” EP is gone from the “Friends” reissue – WHY???). If you like what you hear here, by all means, check them out – they’re uniformly good stuff.

Download “Happy Boy”.
Download “A Way”.
Download “T.V. Man”.

Neither album charted.

Get Bolshoi CDs at Amazon.
posted by John, 4:46 PM