Smiths Complete - Available at Rhino.coma-ha "Hunting High & Low" and "Scoundrel Days" Deluxe Editions Rhino Handmade raids the vault!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

This Christmas, shower me with Jules Until December.

Okay, I’m a bad music blogger. No update since November?? Awful. I’m here to make up for that today, with not one, not two, but three Lost in the 80s artists. Let’s not just get busy – let’s get biz-zay.

Kicking things off is a group that sounds timely and seasonal, but that’s just the name they happened to choose. Christmas was a trio from Boston who were kicking around the then-called “college music scene” for a few years until being snatched up by the hopelessly ironically-named RCA Records imprint Big Time, a label with the distinct talent for making excellent albums instantly vaporize upon release.

Christmas’ major-label debut “In Excelsior Dayglo” is interesting because it sounds like the Pixies – a LOT like the Pixies – before the Pixies. Now, the Pixies were formed in Boston in 1986, the same year “Dayglo” was released. I’m not saying anyone ripped anyone else off – the Boston Sound at the time was just that – a distinctive, recognizable sound – but boy, listen to "Big Plans," Christmas’ “hit” that got some MTV play and tell me the likenesses aren’t uncanny. Christmas went on to record two more albums, then morphed into the more lounge-influenced Combustible Edison.

Keeping with the seasonally named theme, San Francisco-based Until December scared me in 1986. I remember a brief article about them in Star Hits magazine (my New Wave Bible), where they talked about the “homoerotic underpinnings” of their songs accompanied by a pic of the band in various leather harnesses, chaps, studs and S&M drag.

Until December's Adam Sherburne with legendary KITS DJ Steve Masters. Work, gurls!

I was attracted and repelled all at once. However, finding anything by the band in my local Ohio record shops proved to be tough, strange considering they had major-label distribution from CBS Records. I was finally able to snag a used promo copy of their single, “Until December” (by Until December from the LP, “Until December”) at a record swap meet. Very Giorgio Moroder, very Depeche Mode, very good. After one LP, Until December dissolved, but band leader Adam Sherburne went on to form the more industrial-based Consolidated (whom I never cared for as much - sorry).

Jules Shear doesn’t have a holiday-themed name, so he’s totally ruining the flow of this post, but after writing so many great hits like “If She Knew What She Wants” by the Bangles and “All Through The Night” by Cyndi Lauper (although he recorded them first), we can excuse him and blame my clunky writing instead. Jules’ solo career is an exercise in frustration, as he recorded album after album for label after label, coming close to hitdom several times, but never truly making it.

Starting with Jules & the Polar Bears (alongside future New Wave producer/icon Stephen Hague), then solo, Jules packed his albums with plenty of hooks, spectacular production (especially from Todd Rundgren on 1983’s “Watch Dog”, only to see them sink with nary a trace. In 1983, his current label EMI released an EP called simply “Jules” that featured tracks from “Watch Dog” on one side and a stab at club play called “When Love Surges” on the other. MTV picked up the simple video featuring stock footage of dancers cavorting around and it looked like Jules might have a crossover hit of his own, finally. But it was not to be. Two years later, “Steady” would peak at #57 on the Hot 100, and that was that for Jules’ Top 40 dreams. Shear still records and releases albums, they are still uniformly great and they still don’t sell.

A special thanks to Eat Sleep Drink Music for the shoutout today – and I know I may be a little late to the game here, but I’ll be damned if Jefitoblog isn’t the best damn music blog out there. Check ‘em both out.

None of these singles charted. Sad, really.
posted by John, 12:08 PM