Monday, July 18, 2011

New Wave for the New Week #129

It is temptingly easy to write off The Rezillos as simply "the UK's B-52's."  Certainly the similarities are obvious:  fun, kitschy party music; sixties-inspired yet futuristic neon costumes and hair-dos; male/female call-and-response vocals - that they were cut from similar cloth is clear.  But The Rezillos (along with their equivalently-named succesors The Revillos) occupied their own space on the music continuum, saw much greater immediate chart success at home than their American counterparts, and unfortunately disintegrated relatively quickly.

Formed in 1976 by a wonderfully-named contingent of Edinbugh art students (Eugene Reynolds, Fay Fife, Jo Callis,William Mysterious, Angel Patterson, Hi-Fi Harris, Dr. D.K. Smythe, and Gale Warning), The Rezillos set about creating a visual and sonic attack with strong ties to both the early-70s Glam scene and the late-60's girl-group sound.  Though they quickly aligned with the growing Punk movement, their happy outlook and cartoonish presence never quite seemed to fit that categorization.

After making their name on the club circuit, The Rezillos self-released their first single in 1977. "I Can't Stand My Baby" caught the ears of the folks at Sire Records, and after undergoing a minor change in lineup the band was signed and rushed into the studio to record their debut album.  Can't Stand The Rezillos, released in 1978, is one of the most wonderful artifacts of its era.  The lead single, "Top Of The Pops," was a Top 20 hit in the UK; the album itself also reached the Top 20. Zany originals like "(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures" and "Flying Saucer Attack" sit alongside well-chosen covers both known ("Glad All Over") and obscure ("I Like It"), and there ain't a clinker in the pile.  It may surprise more than a few to learn that one of The Rezillos' best-loved tracks from the album, "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight," was not an original, but in fact a cover of an obscure 1969 b-side from - of all bands - Fleetwood Mac (!) goofing as the imaginary Earl Vince and the Valiants.

At the end of 1978, The Rezillos - after yet another change in personnel - issued a non-LP single, "Destination Venus," which charted just under the Top 40.  Internal pressures in the band were too much, however, and The Rezillos blew apart, leaving behind a live LP, Mission Accomplished But The Beat Goes On, which basically recapitulates the album with a few surprises thrown in ("Thunderbirds Are Go!" is worth the price of admission alone; a cover of Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" is both expected and enjoyable).  Both albums and both sides of the "Destination Venus" single, sans one cut from the live LP, are collected on the essential Can't Stand The Rezillos: The (Almost) Complete Rezillos CD.  If you do not own it, you need to.

In 1980, Reynolds, Fife and Harris were back with a new crew and ready to pick up where they left off.  Legal wranglings made it impossible to continue to use the name Rezillos, so they changed a letter and became The Revillos.  The first LP under the new name, Rev Up!, proved that they hadn't lost a step.  The title track, "Scuba Boy Bop," and "Voodoo" all could have fit well on Can't Stand The Rezillos; the concurrent non-album single "Where's The Boy For Me?" copied that sound even more precisely.  Other tracks saw the band moving in a more sixties-pop direction: "Motorbike Beat," "Bobby Come Back To Me" and "Yeah Yeah" evoked memories of AM radio hits of an earlier era.  Another fun, must-have album.

The Revillos then unleashed a string of singles that presaged a second LP: "She's Fallen In Love (With A Monster Man)," "Bitten By A Love Bug" and "Scuba Scuba" (not to be confused with "Scuba Boy Bop," mind you) were all nifty enough, but the album, Attack!, floundered, and again the band went their separate ways.

In the years since, the band's popularity has given them cause to reform and tour on occasion, and in 2008 they released their first new recording in 26 years, "No. 1 Boy."  Another Rezillos album would be quite welcome, but nothing more has been heard from them to date.

For this week's NW4NW entry, here's a collection of clips: The Rezillos performing their hit "Top Of The Pops" on, of course, Top Of The Pops; The Revillos' clip for "Where's The Boy For Me?;" and the newest Rezillos recording, "No. 1 Boy." Enjoy!

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