Documentary Evidence www.documentaryevidence.co.uk

Silicon Teens

Music For Parties








Music For Parties | Memphis Tennessee (single) | Judy In Disguise (single) | Just Like Eddie (single) | Red River Rock (single)

Silicon Teens 'Music For Parties' LP artwork Silicon Teens 'Memphis Tennessee' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Judy In Disguise' 7" artwork Memphis Tennessee 'Just Like Eddie' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Red River Rock' 7" artwork

album // Music For Parties

 

mute records | lp stumm2 | 09/1980 | track listing
cd edition cdstumm2 | 1993

After launching Mute Records with his single 'TVOD / Warm Leatherette' as The Normal, few would have expected Daniel Miller's next musical move to be an album of (mostly) covers of old rock 'n roll songs. But, then again, if you believed the liner notes Music For Parties by Silicon Teens wasn't by Daniel Miller at all. Rather, the album was made by Paul (percussion), Diane (synthesizer), Jacki (synthesizer) and Daryl (vocals) and produced by Larry Least (a pseudonym Miller would use again as a producer for Missing Scientists and Alex Fergusson). Erics Hine and Radcliffe engineered the LP. Not having been aware of Daniel Miller, Mute or anything close when this was released (I was four years old), I'm not sure if anyone was suckered in by the ruse at the time – by the time I fell in love with Mute in 1991, the secret (if it ever was one) was already out; Biba Kopf's Documentary Evidence pamphlet made it completely clear that Silicon Teens was the work of one man and one man alone, Daniel Miller. Apparently, at the time, actors playing the fake quartet would be deployed for interviews.

Anyone familiar with 'Daryl's particular brand of singing (nasal, a definite punk-informed delivery) would detect that this was a Miller project from the first lines of opener 'Memphis Tennessee'; anyone familiar with his electronics work before and after would spot his unique synth work in the chirpy sounds and harsh dissonant interruptions. Anyone who didn't, but was listening closely to the lyrics of one of the four Miller compositions here, 'TV Playtime', may have finally got the connection with the line 'TV OD, video breakdown' delivered in a wobbly voice during one section of that track, while behind the watery voice malfunctioning synths not dissimilar to those deployed on Fad Gadget's 'Ricky's Hand' flutter and bleep.

To my shame, I only bought this recently, though I had bought the album's three main 7" singles years ago. I picked up a CD copy of the album last year from Rough Trade East and happened upon it in the 'punk' section; I scoffed at first, until I remembered that when I'd played 'Memphis Tennessee' to my dad - an avowed Chuck Berry fan - back then, he screwed his face up in disgust, as if the generally polite sounds of Miller's version were somehow abrasive on the ears or that making an electronic facsimile copy of a rock 'n roll track was like sacrificing a holy cow; it's how I'd seen footage of people in punk documentaries reacting to the Sex Pistols, so perhaps Music For Parties was punk after all. Certainly, in 'TV Playtime' there is a dimension which evokes the uncompromising sound of Suicide and in turn the pre-Dare sound of Human League at their most uncompromising.

One of my favourite tracks here is Miller's take on The Kinks' 'You Really Got Me', where the proto-punk / garage rock central riff is replaced with a buzzing synth delivered over a simple motorik beat. If this had been released as a single it could potentially have been chart-bothering, compared with the slightly more bouncy 'Just Like Eddie' which apparently did reasonably well as a single. 'Do Wah Diddy' and 'Do You Love Me' again are brilliant; these were two tracks that I absolutely detested as a child when they cropped up on radio. The latter is frankly among the most manically joyous songs I own, even if it doesn't start out that way. The album version of 'Let's Dance' sounds like Depeche Mode's 'Photographic' in its Some Bizarre Album incarnation; like Soft Cell did with their 12" version of 'Tainted Love' mixed with 'Where Did Our Love Go?', you almost long for someone to hitch the Teens and Mode tracks together. Irrespective, it's very danceable, with some quite tasty big fat synth notes as well. The Ramones also covered 'Let's Dance' for their début; when rendered on Ramones as amphetamine-fuelled speed-punk it made complete sense alongside their own 'Beat On The Brat', 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' and 'Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue'; here too, as a piece of high-energy synthpop, it likewise makes complete sense and the link to The Ramones' version comes in as Miller snarls the '1, 2, 3, 4' intro.

Aside from the abrasive 'TV Playtime', Miller also contributes three other compositions to Music For Parties. 'Chip 'n Roll' is an insanely upbeat synth pop gem, lots of handclaps and hissing hi-hats, as well as a gloriously twee main riff. It's like Martin Gore's 'Big Muff' only way more poppy. 'State Of Shock (Part Two)' begs the question as to whether the Mute archives will ever turn up, or indeed if there ever was, a part one; this is a clanking, vaguely dark instrumental track with a stuttering rhythm and some squelchy sounds muttering away in the background. I'm not entirely what party you'd play this at; probably some dark, moody place where you'd be as likely to hear Kraftwerk nestled up alongside Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. Miller's 'Sun Flight', originally a B-side to the 'Just Like Eddie' 7” and included here as a bonus track, is again reasonably dark and mysterious, the distorted chorus intonation of 'Come to the sun' and some snatched radio conversation sounding like a course of action filled will danger, even if the main keyboard riff is singularly both captivating and entirely of its time.

Would an album like this ever get released today? Hardly likely. Music For Parties taps into a sense of kitsch excitement surrounding the relatively (then) untapped potential of the synth in a pop context. Prior to this, and other albums released at around the same time, the synth was mostly deployed by po-faced Progsters with lavish budgets to spend on huge modular synth behemoths. Music For Parties' most punk achievement was to take these songs from yesteryear, remodel them as cheeky pop tunes and inject some tradition-baiting lightheartedness.

One gripe is that this probably needs a bloody good remaster as the sound quality sounds a little circumspect at times. The other, in the context of having heard some snatches of 'Warm Leatherette' covers by other early Mute artists (Fad Gadget, Yazoo, Nitzer Ebb) would be a cover of that track by this purported 'quartet'; now that would be fun.

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lp/cd:
1. Memphis Tennessee
2. Yesterday Man
3. Do Wah Diddy
4. TV Playtime
5. You Really Got Me
6. Chip 'n Roll
7. Do You Love Me
8. Let's Dance
9 . Oh Boy
10. Sweet Little Sixteen
11. State Of Shock (Part Two)
12. Just Like Eddie
13. Red River Rock
14. Judy In Disguise

extra tracks on 1993 cd edition:
Let's Dance (Single Version)
Sun Flight

Music For Parties | Memphis Tennessee (single) | Judy In Disguise (single) | Just Like Eddie (single) | Red River Rock (single)

Silicon Teens 'Memphis Tennessee' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Music For Parties' LP artwork Silicon Teens 'Judy In Disguise' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Just Like Eddie' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Red River Rock' 7" artwork

single // Memphis Tennessee


mute records | 7" mute3 | 08/1979 | track listing

Review forthcoming.

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7":
A. Memphis Tennessee
B. Let's Dance

Music For Parties | Memphis Tennessee (single) | Judy In Disguise (single) | Just Like Eddie (single) | Red River Rock (single)

Silicon Teens 'Judy In Disguise' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Music For Parties' LP artwork Silicon Teens 'Memphis Tennessee' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Just Like Eddie' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Red River Rock' 7" artwork

single // Judy In Disguise


mute records | 7" mute4 | 01/1980 | track listing

Review forthcoming.

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7":
A. Judy In Disguise
B. Chip 'n Roll

Music For Parties | Memphis Tennessee (single) | Judy In Disguise (single) | Just Like Eddie (single) | Red River Rock (single)

Silicon Teens 'Just Like Eddie' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Music For Parties' LP artwork Silicon Teens 'Memphis Tennessee' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Judy In Disguise' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Red River Rock' 7" artwork

single // Just Like Eddie / Sun Flight


mute records | 7" mute8 | 07/1980 | track listing

Review forthcoming.

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7":
A. Just Like Eddie
B. Sun Flight

Music For Parties | Memphis Tennessee (single) | Judy In Disguise (single) | Just Like Eddie (single) | Red River Rock (single)

Silicon Teens 'Red River Rock' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Music For Parties' LP artwork Silicon Teens 'Memphis Tennessee' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Judy In Disguise' 7" artwork Silicon Teens 'Just Like Eddie' 7" artwork

single // Red River Rock


mute records | 7" sili1 | 08/1988 | track listing

This 7" single from Daniel Miller's Silicon Teens project was released eight years after the album Music For Parties as part of the soundtrack to the John Hughes comedy Planes, Trains And Automobiles starring John Candy and Steve Martin. I've read that the late Hughes personally selected Miller's version for the soundtrack, though you'll have to listen very carefully to find anything more than a fleeting burst of the track during the movie.

Ostensibly a mad dash home across the States for Thanksgiving, Planes, Trains And Automobiles is a classic US road movie, albeit one tinged with a distinct sense of sadness at the very end. Nevertheless, road movies need driving soundtracks, and 'Red River Rock' works perfectly as a backdrop to the frustrating journey that the uptight Martin and the crude, hapless Candy find themselves on. Miller's reworking of Johnny & The Hurricane's rock 'n' roll hit is undeniably pop of the highest order, a fast-paced instrumental that has a shamelessly euphoric edge. The central melody chimes well with an electronic beat and buzzing rhythm track and one can hear the genesis of almost every synth instrumental that Vince Clarke has recorded since departing Depeche Mode. To the uninitiated it may scream 'novelty', but it probably captures the futurist leanings of many Fifties teenagers better than the original. It's also a huge amount of fun. The Planes, Trains And Automobiles version, whilst the sleeve doesn't mention this, is different from the version on Music For Parties; it is clearly updated, more digital than analogue and a whole lot crisper, but it's still just as gleeful. I'd all but given up hope of tracking down this single, and I thought I was doing it purely for completist reasons; finding out that this was an alternative version was a pleasant surprise when I finally got hold of this.

The B-side 'Chip 'n Roll' is also available on Music For Parties and also formed the B-side to the second Teens single, 'Judy In Disguise'. It's a darker, more motorik affair whilst still showing all the hallmarks of 1981 electronic pop and effectively provides the bridge between the industrial clang of Miller’s more famous and Mute-launching alter-ego, The Normal, and the early electropop of Depeche Mode.

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7":
A. Red River Rock (Planes, Trains And Automobiles Version)
B. Chip 'n Roll

(c) 2011 MJA Smith / Documentary Evidence