Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Wave for the New Week #154

Holland's Gruppo Sportivo has been making music since 1976, but in three and a half decades and over the course of numerous albums released in several variations across the globe, they have achieved little more than cult status.  Their following, however, is a rabid one, and keeps the band active even today: they are currently touring throughout The Netherlands, where they have seen their greatest commercial success over the years.

Gruppo Sportivo writes and sings mainly in English because, as founder and frontman Hans Vandenburg once explained, "no one else outside Holland speaks Dutch and we want our songs to be heard and listened to everywhere."  In their initial incarnation, their sound fit very much into the punky New Wave mold of bands like The Rezillos or The B-52's, despite having a strong '70s Europop flavor.  The occasional awkward phrasing as they tried to translate from Dutch to English gave their music an offbeat feel; their witty lyrics and tendency towards satire won them many fans on the underground scene.

Their first two albums, 10 Mistakes and Back To 1978, were distilled into a single LP, Mistakes, for the American market in 1979.  Distributed with a bonus 7" EP (More Mistakes), it was a great introduction to the band then and remains the place to jump in to this day.  The package contains many of their best moments, including "Beep Beep Love," "I Shot My Manager," the wonderfully scathing "Disco Really Made It" ("It's empty and I hate it...") and the nearly perfect "Girls Never Know."  You will seldom find the LP and EP together in used record bins these days, but each turns up separately now and again and are well worth picking up.  (Many years later an import-only CD again combined the first two records and the 6-song American EP into Back To 19 Mistakes, adding a then-current cover of Wall Of Voodoo's ""Mexican Radio" to the proceedings.)

1980's Copy Copy suffered a bit from having stronger ideas than songs ("The Unusual Soup Recipe Blues" has to rank among the greatest song titles ever!),  but the catchy hooks were back a year later for Pop! Goes The Brain.  Still, the band seemed to be running out of gas.  Design Moderne followed in 1982, issued in a shopping bag over the album's cover - original copies with the bag go for big money on eBay, but that's more for the artwork than the music.  1984's SombreroTimes effectively brought Gruppo Sportivo's first era to a somewhat disappointing end.

Like many other bands, Gruppo Sportivo came back together a few years later, and have continued to record and release material in their home country, but for this week's NW4NW entry, I celebrate the wonderful early New Wave days of the band with two of their best.  First up, enjoy the video for "Disco Really Made It."  Then, an audio-only clip of "Girls Never Know." Enjoy!

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