22
Jan
08

Stroszek – Welcome to the Next Great Chapter in Scottish Music

Scotland has often been the site of a rich music culture. Many of the bands I love hail from north of the English border – Cocteau Twins, Orange Juice, The Associates, Josef K, The Skids, Simple Minds, Camera Obscura, The Jesus and Mary Chain, etc. And when you glance over the list, there’s a fair amount from the post-punk period (especially when you think of the Postcard label), arguably the richest musical era ever. MySpace helped me discover the next chapter in this incredible history: the Glasgow-based band, Stroszek.

Named after the Werner Herzog film (often famous in music circles as the film Ian Curtis watched before topping himself), Stroszek stood out from the glut of unsigned bands that fills the MySpace universe and caught my attention. Not only is their music going against the tide of the post-Libertines vanguard, but they write intelligent, political and confrontational lyrics of the type I haven’t heard from any recent band. Stroszek is: Richey James Robertson (vocals/synth), Doug Daniel (bass/synth) and Les Willox (guitar/synth/programming). A self-described “post-punk-electro-shoegaze” band, they produce a glacial, moody post-punk sound reminiscent of Joy Division, Josef K, the David Bowie Berlin trilogy, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but with hints of gloomy synth-pop akin to The Cure and Depeche Mode and a textured melodic soundscape like Cocteau Twins. At the same time, the basslines recall the driving feel of Killing Joke and the groove of early Simple Minds. Richey’s vocals fall between the Ian Curtis tonality popularized of late by bands like Interpol and Editors and the low tremble of Richard Butler from Psychedelic Furs. Unlike their potential reference point Interpol, their melodies soar rather than drone (admittedly, Interpol’s last album appears to be taking a more melodic turn).

Because I’m a big fan of well-written lyrics, their lyrical content really impressed me. Their lyrics sit within the realm of the The Clash, Manic Street Preachers, McCarthy, and Gang of Four, placing them far above their peers in my eyes. Their MySpace page is littered with quotes from the likes of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Bertrand Russell, and Edward Said. Not since the Manics has there been such brilliant use of political and philosophical intertextuality. Stroszek often references Scottish issues in addition to more general statements about world politics, the role of the media, and history (the song Railway of Bones refers to the construction of the Siberian railway, a project of the Stalin era that remains unfinished, but was under construction for four years at the cost of ten people’s lives a day). It’s refreshing to hear meaningful poetry in lyrics which actually challenge you.

Last summer I was lucky enough to see Stroszek perform live in Manchester, and even though they were limited to a five song set, I was truly happy that I had been there to witness it. I wrote the following about the gig back in June 2007:

Because there were five bands playing that night, Stroszek only got to play a five-song set, but I was honoured to see it. They played three songs I already knew (“The Saltire,” “You’ve Only Got Yourself to Blame,” and “Dancing on the Motorway”) and two I had only read the lyrics to (“Burning Libraries” and “Let the Chaos Begin”). The true test of a band for me is whether I enjoy songs I’ve never heard before as much as the songs I already know, and Stroszek aced this test. They are simply a great live band, one that doesn’t need anything other than the music to blow you away. Richey sang with intensity, honesty and anguish reminiscent of Ian Curtis and James Dean Bradfield; Les’s guitar deftly danced through the pulsing rhythms of the programmed drums, weaving haunting melodies; Doug drove each song along in true Jah Wobble and/or Killing Joke fashion; and they all took turns playing the synth in a seamless, but intricately layered, wall of sound. And of course the lyrics gave me that triumphant feeling similar to the one I got watching the Manics – call me weird, but songs that mention Chomsky make my heart swell.

The rest of the bands that night didn’t really compare to Stroszek -Stroszek seemed to be at a more professional, fully-realized level. Probably one of the worst bands was the one immediately following Stroszek. They attempted to play some uninspired punk music with equally uninspired lyrics. Sadly, they seemed to provoke quite a positive reaction (which I can only attribute to either the masses’ stupidity or the fact they had a lot of friends in the audience). One song went thusly: “He’s a bastard (5X), he’s a wanker (5X), he’s a dickhead (5X).” They followed this vapid tripe with a song simply called, “Binge Drinking.” It was definitely our cue to leave the club when the final band came on with props: a chair and an electric fan (as Doug quipped, “their only fan”). The singer seemed like a drama student as she pulled horrific faces and dramatically lurched around the chair, her hair blowing in her portable wind tunnel.

For those in the UK, I definitely recommend seeing Stroszek live. I would be attending their gigs all the time if I lived over there, but alas, I cannot; however, I intend to see them again sooner than later. Their songs careen from atmospheric (ie: Dialysis) to propulsive (ie: You’ve Only Got Yourself to Blame) to danceable (ie: Dancing on the Motorway), and their intensity moves you.

Stroszek’s self-produced EP Demonstration includes the songs You’ve Only Got Yourself to Blame, The Saltire, Railway of Bones, and Dialysis, and it is available via their MySpace page. Now that Stroszek are on the roster of Flowers in the Dustbin, a Glaswegian multimedia collective, I hope that they will get more of the promotion they deserve. There are promises of a new release this year, and I’m quite excited about getting some new music that I know I’ll enjoy.

Unlike Scottish contemporaries like The Acute, who have been touted as the next Manic Street Preachers based purely on glamour and attitude, Stroszek have the talent, and more importantly, the intelligence, not only to fill the Manics’ shoes, but to take strides in different, meaningful directions.
Stroszek’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/stroszek
Stroszek’s Web site (currently under construction): http://www.stroszek.co.uk/
Flowers in the Dustbin’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/flowersinthedustbin

The Saltire – Stroszek

Appealing to the Senseless – Stroszek

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Gigs Attended

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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