by Nik Rainey
If the seventies were one long hedonistic orgy of overindulgence, the eighties were the shame-faced morning after. Punk and disco, the two opposing poles on either side of the late-seventies pop world, throbbed and/or pounded with bodily fluids of all descriptions - but then the eighties had to burst in like an angry mother, screaming "Clean up this mess and play nice, you two!" Embarrassed at being caught, they obeyed, which led to the cold, antiseptic, latex-sheathed music of new wave, post-punk, and other styles offered up by people who resembled airbrushed Bryan Ferrys with no feeling below their waists. Which is why I find it bizarre that this neutered, manicured exquisite corpse is being jump-started again - you may as well defibrillate a replicant. It's amusing to see the inhuman league mustering its forces again, but let's be frank, I'd rather be held hostage in Iran than have to listen even once more to "I Ran." As Mr. Lydon said on one of the few punk/disco hybrids that actually worked, "This person's had enough of useless memories." No need to blow the cobwebs off the VIC-20 when you've got a PowerBook, y'know? On the other hand, those old parts can still be put to use if you know what to do with them. Satisfact and Future Bible Heroes, while vastly dissimilar to one another, both benefit from orderly collations of modern indie stylistics and old-art-school calibration. Hailing from underground music's worst-kept secret, Olympia, Washington, Satisfact gladly wears its artificial heart on its sleeve. Their self-titled sophomore effort integrates their influences into a far more individualistic robo-goulash than their debut, The Unwanted Sounds of... (Up!), which was impressive, even exciting, but had a personality grafted together wholly from its antecedents (electronic noises over Gang of Four-ish agitpop and cold, agitated vocals like Phil Oakey imitating Ian Curtis), and the seams tended to show. Anterior motives still apply to Satisfact, but this time 'round, their most egregious retro move is merely lifting an old Elvis Costello song title ("Moods For Moderns"). Otherwise, it's a major advance, showing what post-punk might have become if it had progressed to the present day without succumbing to MOR alternative pabulum.
Future Bible Heroes, on the other hand, take their cues straight from the percolator-pop peccadilloes of the no-guitar crowd on Memories of Love. Considering that Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields and the 6ths is involved, that's not much of a stretch, but his involvement is restricted to penning the appealingly cheez-romantic/B-movie lyrics and sharing vocal tasks with lovely triller Claudia Gonson. The (literally) unsung Hero of the band is multi-instrumentalist/ Boston club DJ Chris Ewen, formerly of Figures on a Beach, who renders songs like "Lonely Days" and "Hopeless" into pop-art art-pop objects that swoon and giggle like lost college radio hits from another realm. And with a puzzle-book lyric sheet (including a pencil!) enclosed, the darn thing's even educational. Go to.