Saturday, December 22, 2007

SonicFUZE #2

I am doing this a little out of order; I actually bought Stigma first and later found Unexplained EP, both of which I initially purchased on cassette! My first exposure to EMF's more muscular, rock oriented sound on both releases came when I saw the film clip for the song Getting Through:

I'm too honest when I'm scared
When I first looked in I was young and cared

These are the ways of getting through

I left my trust on the tail of youth
We were so unsure of the things we'd seen

Unexplained EP

This record sounds much, much different to EMF's debut, Schubert Dip. Like it's longer cousin Stigma, this EP has a much stronger rock element to it than the previous release and even includes a cover of The Stooges - but I'll get to that soon.

When I first heard this record, I was looking for a way to get through the pain of my relationship with my father, my late teen angst and the resentment that I carried against many in my family and the wider world. Unexplained EP and Stigma, together with alcohol and dark poetry became my solace.

Getting Through is quite a frenetic track that builds and builds tangible emotion, almost peaking, but never quite giving you relief. Instead, the driving guitars blend into a siren-like wail that alerts you to the emergencies within your own life, while giving hope that you will make it to the other side. This is a powerful song, lyrically, sonically and musically. Getting Through blends slashing guitars with an almost Middle Eastern edge and a dash of techno. This song is EMF at its 1992 best. This track also appears on the band's second album. The EMF remix album also carries a wicked live version of this song.

But things step up from there as the trance-like conclusion of the first track bleeds into the intense lead guitar of the key second song Far From Me.

I've lost it all
I've lost your face
Only time will tell
Or whether it will
Just stand still
Leave me, and leave me

Before I look a bot closely at my favourite EMF track, I want to relate the story of when and how I bought Unexplained EP. Just a short walk from RMIT University was my favourite sci-fi/ fantasy bookshop, named Slow Glass Books. At the time you had to get to the bookshop by walking through another store, an alternative CD/ LP store called Peril 305. One day I went in there to see what other EMF products they had and I picked up the Children Live EP, which is awesome. So, I always kept going back hoping to find more EMF goodies.

Then there was the time around late 1992 when I ordered a tape I had never heard called Unexplained EP ... So when the tape arrived, I promptly listened to it and was amped by the second track Far From Me. When the sampled voice declares "Get ready to go", well, the starter's gun fires and we're off!

This song encapsulates all that is brilliant about EMF: multiple samples, mad guitar and a techno/ rock sensibility; it's a tour de force. Strangely, I am almost without words to explain how I feel about this awesome song; it's jut perfect and remains so 15 years after it was first recorded. As to my favourite song of all time, it's a toss up between this track and I Believe.

Next up is The Same; more psychadlic guitars, mad drums, heavy bass, soothing samples and classical piano! This odd combination creates a driving track that, similar to Getting Through, just builds layer of noise on layer of noise, most effectively during the middle music section that shows off the piano and electric guitar. After the interlude we get a chorus replay with minimal backing instruments. James sounds awesome on this track, and so does the band!

I had never heard of The Stooges; I didn't even realise that Search And Destroy was a cover until three years after the release of this EP! That's how authoritatively EMF have put their stamp on this song. The energy in this track is atomic and the Mef go mad on a rock classic. Given how angry and pissed off with the world I was back in 1992 - 1996 it's only natural that this song became a key backing track for that emotional roller coaster. The funniest thing about this song is that it wasn't until I went on a Contiki Tour of Europe in 1996 that I found out this was a cover of Iggy Pop's band, The Stooges.


When Stigma was released in November 1992 I was nearing the end of my first year at university: wild parties, wild drinking, wild girls and wild anger...

One night in September, I turned up at a girl's birthday party - probably her 21st. Anyway, I took 12 bottles of alcoholic cider with me - I drank them, and then hopped into some stuff that others bought as well. I never asked if they wanted to share, I just drank it! What a night! Lost in a drunk haze I remember having a really trippy discussion with a mate of mine named Steve; a huge raver, a huge drinker and he was huge into drugs. Come to think of it, he may not even be alive anymore; that's how mad he was. Anyway, I remember being so pissed (that's Aussie for drunk, not American for anger) that at one stage I fell onto the floor and couldn't get up for a while. I couldn't get off the floor because I was laughing like mad. That's when I met her ...

From memory I think her name was Annette. All I could remember from that night was that she had long curly hair and that we kissed - a lot! Heh ... funny to think of those years when a kiss was all you needed! So, I was pissed out of my mind, intoxicated by this gorgeous girl with curly hair ... At about 3 am I remember someone offering to drive me home. The whole way back in the car I was certain I was going to vomit, that's how drunk I was. I managed to keep it down until just after I got home, then I let it rip! I think I burned a hole in the garden bed ...

I was sober enough to get Annette's phone number. She actually lived in Geelong (about an hour and a half from Melbourne by train), so we spoke on the phone quite a few times before we got to see each other again. Geelong was then on another telephone code, so it was a long distance call. I used to walk to the phone box next to the freeway (about five minutes from my house) to call her. We had great conversations and got on really well over the phone. I was falling for this girl, but the only thing I remembered about Annette was her hair!

We arranged to meet in the city one day. I met her at Spencer Street Station where all the trains from the country come in to Melbourne. I was sitting and waiting ... looking for a gorgeous girl with curly brown hair. The train arrived and I didn't see her get off ... there were passengers everywhere and then the train platform was empty. There was a girl with curly dark hair, she wasn't attractive at all, but she was named Annette. Amazing what happens when you see a girl through beer goggles in the dark!

So, despite being 18, being obsessed with hot girls and being faced with spending the day with a girl who would only be considered 'hot' in a circus freak show, I did the only thing I could do; I ran! ... Only kidding! I was the perfect gentleman. I went up to her, said 'Hi!', gave her a polite kiss and took her out for a day in the city. We actually got on really well, but being a shallow young man with one thing on my mind, I decided to cut it short then and there. Of course I didn't say "I am breaking up with you because you have a face like a dog's ass!". I made up a story about liking her, but that I didn't think it would work out as she lived so far away and I didn't have a car - it was a good story!

Anyway, at the end of the day I walked her back to the train station and said 'See ya!'. Now, the city was mine. Walking down Swanston Steet, one of the main streets in Melbourne's city centre, I went past a record store called Brashs'. As I walked by I heard the song Getting Through. I knew this was an EMF song as I had seen the film clip on TV. Excitedly, I rushed into the store to ask at the counter if there was an new EMF album; Stigma had arrived in the store that day.

Without second thought I shelled out $20 and bought the cassette. I rushed to the bus stop (I didn't get a car until the following year) and sat on the bus impatiently as it took 45 minutes to get me home.

Once there I didn't say "Hi" to my Mum or her partner, nor to my sister. I rushed straight to my room, jammed the tape into my cassette deck and pressed 'Play'.

(Beautiful exists, simply for its own sake)

I'm breathing with a sinking earth
Gasping for breath feeling hurt
Showing my rage as I turn the pages
Reading the words and between the spaces
Could it be, could it only be
The love we've lost was all we got
Tell me the earth turns for the worst
I'll tell your words are blind and cursed

Mad guitars, crunching drums, socio-pathic synth ... this was not the EMF I remembered! Where was the breezy, dance/ techno infused pop of Schubert Dip? This was heavy, moody, techno-rock - I hated it! I really didn't like Stigma the first few times I heard this album, I was convinced that EMF had made a mistake...

But, I loved EMF - they were my favourite band, right? So, I stuck with them and I stuck with Stigma. I listened to the album everywhere I went; on the bus to university, on the way to the gym and while I was working out, every moment I was in my room at home, the album was on constant rotation. Slowly, surely I was drawn into the techno/ metal net; the album seduced me, tempted me and lured me to dark places.

It was the early 90s, my relationship with my Dad was turning to shit - again! I was poor, I hated my mother's partner, I was mad about the death of my Zady (grandfather) that year; he meant everything to me. I got into radical politics at Uni, I wanted to smash the state. I hated everything and everyone.

I went to nightclubs, got drunk, flirted with killing myself and listened to Stigma...

More later.



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