Blogging at the intersection of urban studies and popular music

dance with me while they sleep: the 7" singles of Martha and the Muffins

dance with me while they sleep: the 7″ singles of Martha and the Muffins

Let’s start with the obvious: Martha and the Muffins were never a ‘singles band.’ The musicians in Canada’s greatest new wave band came of age in the 1970s, a time when the rock album was the format of choice for mass audiences and (in the case of the young Muffins)...
the story of DinDisc Records

the story of DinDisc Records

OMD were a perfect fit for what I had in mind for DinDisc — they had a serious, artistic side with real depth, as well as a commercial, pop side. That duality was reflected in all the early DinDisc signings, like Martha and the Muffins, and then the Monochrome Set....
how the Queen Street West scene began, pt. 1: the Thornhill sound

how the Queen Street West scene began, pt. 1: the Thornhill sound

THE EVERGLADES are ambassadors of the Thornhill Sound, a sound long fermenting in the rec rooms and condo apartments just north of STEELES AVE. Among its proponents include: Martha and the Muffins, Johnny and the G-Rays, the B-Girls, and the now defunct Dishes, Cads, E-Static and the legendary Oh Those...
in exile: the rootless cosmopolitanism of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club

in exile: the rootless cosmopolitanism of Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the Gun Club

I’ve never quite understood why the Gun Club, one of the all-time great Los Angeles bands, had an estranged relationship with their city of origin. It seems to me no local critic or serious music fan can deny their impact on L.A.’s music legacy. One of the great cult bands...
putting the Hudson Valley on the musical map: Basilica Soundscape and O+ Festival

putting the Hudson Valley on the musical map: Basilica Soundscape and O+ Festival

Over the last month I’ve been writing for Sound It Out, a new music blog that covers adventurous new music from a snark-free, consumer-friendly point of view. “The music may be evil, but we’ll try not to be” is the motto. Most of my writings there are basic reviews and...
the greatest reinventions in pop-music careers, #50-41

the greatest reinventions in pop-music careers, #50-41

Today I take up a question of pop-culture history: which performers made the most unexpected left turns with their careers?  I farmed this question out awhile back to readers of this blog, and today I start filing the results based on my own subjective assessment.  Debate and criticisms are welcome...
Martha and the Muffins: a book project in musical urbanism

Martha and the Muffins: a book project in musical urbanism

This summer I begin in earnest a new research project on the Canadian new wave group Martha and the Muffins.  I’ve blogged about them extensively already, focusing on the mixed-gender approach and geographical sensibilities that inform their work.  The book I intend to write will incorporate these into a new...
sound in 70 cities: the European urbanism of Simple Minds

sound in 70 cities: the European urbanism of Simple Minds

Dream, dream, dream It’s the eighties’ youthful theme Loving the city A theme for great cities And loved ones And love – “Wonderful In Young Life” (1981)   Americans know them mostly as “that Breakfast Club band” from the 80s, but Scotland’s Simple Minds have carried on in one form...
musical suburbanism, pt. 1: Kidz Bop and the commodification of kids' listening

musical suburbanism, pt. 1: Kidz Bop and the commodification of kids’ listening

Last summer I took a family roadtrip and was driven slightly insane by the heavy rotation of Kidz Bop CDs on the car stereo.  In a rare moment of solitude carved out of a frenzied week, I sent out these missives via Twitter:   1. if one promise of musical...
studying the college music scene and beyond

studying the college music scene and beyond

Remember the bands that formed in college?  You heard them at dorm parties, frat parties, apartment parties, the campus bar, battle-of-the-bands competitions, and impromptu outdoor settings.  They practiced in dorm rooms, dorm basements, conservatory and theater rooms, backyard sheds, and laundry rooms, amusing/irritating neighbors and passers-by.  Many college rockers and...
Tito Larriva: the hombre secreto of L.A.'s culture industry

Tito Larriva: the hombre secreto of L.A.’s culture industry

As a central destination for musicians, actors, filmmakers and artists, Los Angeles has more than its share of unsung, forgotten or behind-the-scenes figures who have made a significant mark on the city in the course of their careers. In this category, one of my favorites is Tito Larriva, who readers...
living the urban crisis at the new wave rent party

living the urban crisis at the new wave rent party

I recently downloaded the reissued Human Switchboard album, Who’s Landing in my Hangar? Anthology 1977-1984, which set me off again obsessing about a subgenre of new wave that I’ve never really seen recognized.  I don’t even know how best to name this subgenre, although I’m convinced it has a musical coherence. ...
looking for the Hudson Valley hipster

looking for the Hudson Valley hipster

In the town where I live, there’s been a lot of chatter over a recent NY Times article which reports how Brooklynites (an apparent synonym for NYC’s mobile, creative types) are descending upon the Hudson Valley area some 75 miles north of the city to live, visit, consume, and generally do...
musical urbanism: statement of a scholarly project

musical urbanism: statement of a scholarly project

It’s promotion review time for me, and in writing a research statement for the three anonymous sociologists evaluating my work, I’ve had the occasion to compile and synthesize my thinking on musical urbanism into a single essay.  Think of this post as a users manual for understanding what I’ve been...
how Joy Division came to sound like Manchester

how Joy Division came to sound like Manchester

[Update: this blog post has been expanded and revised into an article for the Journal of Popular Music Studies.] I’m always puzzled when I hear how Elvis Presley or Mick Jagger “sounded black” when they first appeared on the radio.  Back in the 70s, when I was a kid listening...
just stay put: an alternative vision for arts-based urban revitalization

just stay put: an alternative vision for arts-based urban revitalization

Here are some thoughts about a different way to think about arts-based urban revitalization, written in the form of a suspiciously confident manifesto.  These ideas are completely pie-in-the-sky and fly in the face of the prevailing wisdom in this field, but I’m fine with that if it reveals some fallacies...
Latest entries
Martha and the Muffins – "Was Ezo" b/w "Trance And Dance" (DIN 27)

Martha and the Muffins – “Was Ezo” b/w “Trance And Dance” (DIN 27)

“Was Ezo” b/w “Trance And Dance” DinDisc Records DIN 27 (UK) Released on October 30, 1980 Produced by Mike Howlett More than any other Martha and the Muffins single, this feels like the one that got away. Like every single they released in 1980 after “Echo Beach,” this made no impact on the British charts....
Martha and the Muffins – "Suburban Dream" b/w "Girl Fat" (DIN 21)

Martha and the Muffins – “Suburban Dream” b/w “Girl Fat” (DIN 21)

“Suburban Dream” b/w “Girl Fat” DinDisc Records DIN 21 (UK) Released August 29, 1980 Produced by Mike Howlett This is the second single that Martha and the Muffins issues in advance of their second album Trance and Dance. Upon its release, the lineup it features had already begun disintegrating with the departure of Martha Ladly...
Martha and the Muffins – "About Insomnia" b/w "1 4 6" (DIN 19)

Martha and the Muffins – “About Insomnia” b/w “1 4 6” (DIN 19)

“About Insomnia” b/w “1 4 6” DinDisc Records DIN 19 (UK) Released on July 4, 1980 Produced by Mike Howlett Things were moving rapidly for Martha and the Muffins by June 1980. Metro Music had spent six weeks in the UK album charts, so the Muffins’ label DinDisc/Virgin were preparing the debut album’s global release...
Martha and the Muffins – "Paint By Number Heart" b/w "Copacabana" (VS 1115)

Martha and the Muffins – “Paint By Number Heart” b/w “Copacabana” (VS 1115)

“Paint By Number Heart” b/w “Copacabana” Virgin/DinDisc Records VS 1115 (Canada) Released probably in summer 1980 Produced by Mike Howlett Like the rest of the world outside the UK, Martha and the Muffins’ home country Canada took longer to embrace “Echo Beach” for the simple reason that Virgin proposed a wait-and-see approach and delayed the...
Martha and the Muffins – "Saigon" b/w "Copacabana" (DIN 17)

Martha and the Muffins – “Saigon” b/w “Copacabana” (DIN 17)

“Saigon” b/w “Copacabana” DinDisc Records DIN 17 (UK) Released on April 11, 1980 Produced by Mike Howlett Woe betide the band choosing a follow-up single to “Echo Beach,” the unexpected smash hit for Martha and the Muffins and a commercial breakthrough for their label DinDisc as well. “Saigon” didn’t repeat that success, and the band...
Martha and the Muffins – "Echo Beach" b/w "Teddy The Dink" (DIN 9)

Martha and the Muffins – “Echo Beach” b/w “Teddy The Dink” (DIN 9)

“Echo Beach” b/w “Teddy The Dink” DinDisc Records DIN 9 (UK) Released on January 25, 1980 Produced by Mike Howlett As the new decade began, Martha and the Muffins had a debut album in the can when they released their second British single. Written by guitarist Mark Gane, “Echo Beach” is exactly the same recording...
Martha and the Muffins – "Insect Love" b/w "Cheesies and Gum" (DIN 4)

Martha and the Muffins – “Insect Love” b/w “Cheesies and Gum” (DIN 4)

“Insect Love” b/w “Cheesies and Gum” DinDisc Records DIN 4 (UK) Released on November 3, 1979 Produced by Mike Howlett Once more, with feeling: Martha and the Muffins re-recorded “Insect Love” for their first release on DinDisc Records, a boutique label established by Carol Wilson under the Virgin UK umbrella. What a difference a producer...
Martha and the Muffins – “Insect Love” b/w “Suburban Dream” (MM 001)

Martha and the Muffins – “Insect Love” b/w “Suburban Dream” (MM 001)

“Insect Love” b/w “Suburban Dream” Muffin Music MM 001 (Canada) Released in February 1979 Produced by Martha and the Muffins This is a self-released single under the band’s DIY label, Muffin Music. The tracks were taken from a June 1978 demo of five songs (the other three recordings are “Teddy the Dink,” “Trance and Dance,”...
favorite music of 2019

favorite music of 2019

This year marks the first time that some end-of-year favorite albums were enjoyed on streaming platforms only. That probably tells you all you need to know about my old-man embrace of the contemporary listening experience.   Cate Le Bon – Reward The daffy “it girl” from Wales finally recorded an album with deep emotional resonance,...
100 albums for the 2010s

100 albums for the 2010s

Ranked in approximate order of what I would consider most essential listening, these albums comprise a decent playlist of what my decade of new music sounded like… at least from the perspective of the final year. (I see that at least one 2018 album included here didn’t make my end-of-year favorite music of 2018 list...
the shape of the Vassar College music scene: guest blog by Nicole Lipman

the shape of the Vassar College music scene: guest blog by Nicole Lipman

[Nicole Lipman has been my undergraduate research assistant for three years and has helped me immeasurably by transcribing interviews, scanning and indexing press clippings, and doing other work that my book project needed. Nicole is also a musician and music writer, so before she graduated in May, I asked her to update me on the...
the curious case of Mariya Takeuchi’s Plastic Love: guest blog by Thomas Calkins

the curious case of Mariya Takeuchi’s Plastic Love: guest blog by Thomas Calkins

[I’ve wanted Thomas Calkins to write something for this blog since well before I served as external adviser to his University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee sociology dissertation on the life and death of urban record stores. While that project currently evolves into academic journals publications, he found the time to share some thoughts on a quite recent...