Sweet Madness — Made in Spokane 1978-1981
(Light in the Attic SMLP008, 1981/2013, LP)
by Jon Davis, Published 2014-02-25At the end of the 70s, as the importance, popularity, and artistic viability of ambitious progressive rock waned and stripped-down punk and electronic styles started capturing interest and commercial success, it seems natural that talented musicians (those capable of playing more than three chords) would find ways to apply artistic creativity to the new music. So we have XTC, Devo, Talking Heads, and others, sometimes referred to as "art-punk." Sweet Madness hailed from Spokane, Washington, a city 300 miles east of Seattle that often seems like it's in a totally different world, sitting between vast areas of farmland and the sparsely populated forests of the Inland Northwest. Somehow this group of kids came up with a frenetic artistic brew full of driving rhythms, futuristic angst, and weird chord progressions, all mashed up into something that superficially resembles early New Wave. Early Devo and XTC are probably the best comparisons. Made in Spokane is full of surprises: first, that it exists at all is strange; second, that it sounds as good as it does considering the age of the recordings; third, that the music is so inventive. Even on the earliest of these tunes, the aesthetic is established, with titles like "I Need Electricity," "Assembly Line," and "Mechanical Things" giving a clue to the themes of alienation and commodification that recur. Within the confines of short tracks, most of which are quite energetic, there's a lot of quirky invention. Bits of surf guitar, 60s combo organ, chaotic bursts of noise, taped voices, unexpected chord changes, and more lift Sweet Madness out of the morass of dumber-than-thou thrashing that typified many bands of the time, especially in smaller markets outside the main cultural centers. Some of the members of Sweet Madness eventually became a band called Next Exit and relocated to Seattle, where they went through a variety of personnel and name permutations (Variant Cause, Koo Dot Tah), always one of the quirkiest and most artistic bands on the scene, no matter what they called themselves. This collection is a treasure trove for music historians, but beyond that it's just a hell of a lot of fun to listen to.
Related artist(s): Sweet Madness / Next Exit
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more
Adelbert von Deyen RIP – Word reaches us that German electronic musician Adelbert von Deyen has died. His recorded legacy reaches back to 1978, when Sky Records released Sternzeit. Von Deyen, who was born October 25, 1953 in Süderbrarup, was also known as a painter and graphic artist. » Read more
Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more
10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more