Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #94

[All throughout the month of November, all NW4NW entries will be based on requests made by you, dear readers. Because of the amount of requests coming in, there will often be more than one entry per week during this month - I recommend signing up for email alerts on the left-hand side of the screen so that you don't miss any of the fun! If you wish to make a request, you may do so either in the comments section of this post, on Twitter, or on the Facebook Fanpage. Don't be shy - tell me what band you want to see featured!]

One of the more underrated bands of the "MTV Era" was found among those listed by my friend and high school classmate Tim Ellis when he submitted his request.  Tim, by the way, makes some pretty nifty music himself along with his wife.  You can check out their guitar-and-drums White Stripes-ish glorious noise at their YouTube page - you'll be glad you did.

There was quite an interesting group of bands playing in and around San Francisco in the early 1980's.  In the midst of a futuristic electronic synthpop boom, Frisco bands like Romeo Void, Wire Train and Red Rockers were going semi-retro, sticking with the classic guitar/bass/drum/vocal recipe and filtering old folk-rock through the Punk/New Wave sieve.  One of the strongest of these bands was Translator.

Signed to Frisco-based indy label 415 Records, Translator took their initial bow in 1982 with an outstanding album filled with ringing guitars, literate lyrics, and a somewhat off-kilter atmosphere, Heartbeats And Triggers.  MTV jumped on the video for the first single from the LP, "Everywhere That I'm Not," and moved it quickly into high rotation.  The song's nagging, shuffling melody proved irresistible, and the chorus sent many folks scrambling to open their atlases and locate Nova Scotia.  Among an album full of shimmering jewels, it shone most brightly (although "Necessary Spinning" comes darn close to equaling it).

The following year, Translator delivered No Time Like Now. Once again, it was an album that mainly supported one wonderful single.  This time, it was the sunny "Un-Alone" in the role of lead single.  A bit more awkward lyrically than "Everywhere," "Un-Alone" still has the strength to stand among the band's best tracks.

The self-titled third album appeared in 1985, and by now the Translator recipe was pretty well entrenched: lots of pretty, airy, but basically interchangeable songs supporting one or two crown jewels; in this case, the incredible "Gravity" led the pack, with "O Lazarus" as this record's "Necessary Spinning" right behind it.

After three very good but very similar albums in three years, the band made an ill-advised move by messing with a working formula.  1986's Evening Of The Harvest takes a very talented group and reduces them to the level of B-grade bar band.  Avoid.

For those who are not familiar, a handy best-of, Everywhere That We Were, makes a fine jumping-in point.  It collects all of songs mentioned here and a fairly representative sampling of album tracks.  Still, Translator will be forever best remembered for that first outstanding single, which made picking the clip for "Everywhere That I'm Not" a no-brainer for this entry.  My great thanks to Tim Ellis for this fine request!

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