Quirk Your Enthusiasm (24)

By: Erik Davis
August 24, 2016

tuxedomoon

One of 25 installments in a series of posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite New Wave songs from c. 1977–1982. Josh Glenn’s series introduction is here, and you can listen to the QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist here. Enjoy!

“TIME TO LOSE” | TUXEDOMOON | 1982

When the dissolute postpunk artistes in Tuxedomoon released their hypnotic “Time To Lose” on the A side of a 1982 EP, they had only recently made their decisive move from San Francisco to Brussels. They left behind Ralph Records, underground home of the Residents, and took up with the fabulously named Les Disques du Crépuscule. They started scoring ballets and putting out 7 inches with titles like “Une Nuit Au Fond De La Frayere” (look it up). Vive la decadence!

By transplanting to Belgium, the band also enacted one of crucial trends of the early Eighties musical Zeitgeist: a turning-European that arched its painted eyebrows at the Yank imaginary of rock authenticity, even in its punk forms. What Eno, Bowie, and Lou Reed set in motion with their various Berlin moves became a reliable trope for those acts building foppish New Wave bridges between art and artifice. But Tuxedomoon’s Europe was not the pompous pop empire of Ultravox’s “Vienna”; it was an agelessly declining fin de siècle, sad, brilliant, and not a little sordid.

Tuxedomoon had always been art damaged and, in a multiple-meanings way, queer. Their earliest LPs wove Nino Rota colors, musique concrète, and Burroughsian poesy into a spare and subterranean mélange of wheezy synthesizers, cheap rhythm boxes, sax, and post-prog bass and violin. But “Time to Lose” shows the band in full Eurofried fantasia. A demented carnival organ plays woozy arpeggios layered with violin runs of sixteenth notes that would sound elegant if they weren’t so compulsive. “You remember, you said you had no time to lose,” Winston Tong croons amid ghostly echoes. “When you come back there’ll be nothing to lose but the world.” Later Blaine Reininger’s more distorted voice enters, as if talking through an existential bullhorn: “What we can’t talk about / We pass over in silence.” A bastard fugue develops, a haunting layered confection of longing and regret.

***

QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Mark Kingwell on Soft Cell’s TAINTED LOVE | Joanne McNeil on Gary Numan’s METAL | Devin McKinney on Suicide’s FRANKIE TEARDROP | Douglas Wolk on Family Fodder’s SAVOIR FAIRE | Elina Shatkin on Marianne Faithfull’s BROKEN ENGLISH | Steph Burt on Altered Images’ HAPPY BIRTHDAY | Greg Rowland on Jilted John’s JILTED JOHN | Gordon Dahlquist on XTC’s RESPECTABLE STREET | Adrienne Crew on D-Day’s TOO YOUNG TO DATE | Jonathan Lethem on The Blue Nile’s I LOVE THIS LIFE | Josh Glenn on Tim Curry’s I DO THE ROCK | Molly Wright Steenson on Missing Persons’ WORDS | Anthony Miller on The Nails’ 88 LINES ABOUT 44 WOMEN | Luc Sante on The Normal’s WARM LEATHERETTE | Mimi Lipson on Dolly Mixture’s HOW COME YOU’RE SUCH A HIT WITH THE BOYS, JANE? | Tim Carmody on Talking Heads’ LIFE DURING WARTIME | Ingrid Schorr on Ian Dury’s CLEVOR TREVER | Adam McGovern on Lene Lovich’s LUCKY NUMBER | Deb Chachra on Rough Trade’s HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL | Tor Aarestad on Oingo Boingo’s LITTLE GIRLS | David Smay on The B-52’s’ DANCE THIS MESS AROUND | Jessamyn West on Blondie’s HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE | Drew Daniel on The Human League’s MARIANNE | Erik Davis on Tuxedomoon’s TIME TO LOSE | Dan Fox on Thomas Dolby’s EUROPA & THE PIRATE TWINS.

NEW WAVE HILO HEROES: Debbie Harry | Marianne Faithfull | Grace Jones | Ian Dury | Mark Mothersbaugh | Plastic Bertrand | Tim Curry | Kate Pierson | Green Gartside | David Byrne.

MORE ENTHUSIASM SERIES at HILOBROW

#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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What do you think?

  1. Loved these nuts — bands like Haircut 100 were ignoring the terrible present while tragedians like The Blue Nile, early OMD, and Tuxedomoon were embracing the vanished future…this essay is a wisely relived dark-companion piece.

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