Song Of The Day 6/14/2015: The Flying Lizards – “Sex Machine”

Synthesizers That Are Dead Inside: Many of us in the think tank believe that electronic music, like powdered food and Roombas, was invented for the same reason other electronics were invented: to simulate tasks that are too onerous for humans to complete. Nobody wants to take oboe lessons. Nobody wants to write out parts for madrigal choirs. Furthermore, speculative fiction writers like Angela Carter and Woody Allen have raised the notion that electronics could be used to simulate emotion, another tricky by-product of humanism that gets in the way of our seminars. I personally believe that’s only a step or two removed from emotion being replaced as a necessity in human lives altogether, and that instead of supporting us in our emotionalism, electronics might endeavor to replace them for us. Economically that’s a fantastic idea – without feelings, our budgets for things like gauze and greeting cards would be slashed outright.

Art critics and advocates of housewifery have been warning/promising us about the advent of soulless electrodes for years now, and it’s about time we gave them some print space. This week I’m honoring man’s sidecar quest for inhumanity with six songs featuring rampant electronics and displaced, if not outright eliminated, compassion. The final song in this sequence will be so catastrophic it’ll destroy everyone. But first, the warm-ups. In a manner of speaking.

The Flying Lizards are just the kind of replicants this series was invented for. Refugees from the KROQ era will no doubt remember their calling card hit, “Money,” which stormed the British Top 10 and came within a surveyor’s toss of the US Top 40. The selling point of the Flying Lizards is self-evident, as Mark Allen of Sound Collector opined: “The information that spilled out of this machine… spelled out how to translate highbrow art through lowbrow pranks (via pop music), and also the vice verse, for mere pennies on the dollar. These coded instructions (transferred subliminally through ‘songs’) spelled out a pragmatically illogical way of thinking about the business of entertainment and commerce of pop product, and how to make all four do somersaults in unison.”

Sign me up, doctor! Like “Money,” the primary melodic instrument in the Lizards’ take on James Brown’s “Sex Machine” isn’t electronic at all: It’s a piano whose wires have been treated with various objects meant to screw up the whole sound. On “Money” these objects included sheet music, ashtrays, rubber toys and a telephone book. The video for “Sex Machine” suggests the use of machine screws, but that could just be a metaphor. For what I have no earthly idea. Because I'm dehumanized.
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