5 July 2008

Silicon Teens - Memphis Tennessee

Label: Mute Records

Year of Release: 1979

Mute Records these days are (regrettably) a subsidiary of EMI, with an almighty juggernaut of a back catalogue of albums by Depeche Mode, Erasure, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Inspiral Carpets, and... er... Art Brut in their canon. In 1979, it was all a wee bit different - they were just a tiny operation run by Daniel Miller which put out his own work (under the name The Normal) and that of Boyd Rice and Fad Gadget.

The Silicon Teens were actually no more than Daniel Miller again, operating under a different pseudonym. Actors were hired to play the roles of teenagers who had got into synthesiser technology, and the idea was presumably that the band would be futuristic synth heart-throbs who might bring on a new young computerised music revolution. Releasing a series of quirky covers like "Judy in Disguise (with Glasses)" and "Memphis Tennessee" (above) they took primitive rock and roll into the monophonic digital age. Drum machines that sounded absolutely nothing like drums provided the rhythmic backdrop, although there's something oddly satisfying (and these days unusual) about that generic "bffff-chhhkk" noise which populated a lot of Throbbing Gristle, early Human League and early Mute work.

It almost goes without saying that the Silicon Teens became something of an irrelevance around Mute headquarters when a genuine teenage synthpop band - namely Depeche Mode - got added to the roster, and the time for pretending was over. Unless, of course, Depeche Mode are also a bunch of actors playing a role in a giant Daniel Miller scam, but that's rather unlikely.

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