Saturday, July 02, 2011

Blast from the Past: Wild Wild West

Title:  Wild Wild West (Amazon, iTunes, Last.fm, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  The Escape Club (Official, Facebook, MySpace, Last.fm, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

The Escape Club’s 1988 album Wild Wild West produced their only hit, a # 1 single at that, in the title track.  With an image that was a mix of Midnight Oil and U2 and a sound that was a mix of The Smithereens, Simple Minds, INXS, and Midnight Oil, The Escape Club perfectly captured the essence of the late 1980s.  But those who may discount this band as a one-hit wonder obviously never actually listened to Wild Wild West. 


The record opens with the full version of "Wild Wild West" (what was played on the radio and MTV was a shortened version of the song) which does a good job of setting the tone for the record – power pop with dance elements.  Lyrically the record tackles issues dealing with sex, money, power, and love (like many of their aforementioned contemporaries).  The album’s best moment are “Who Do You Love?,” “Working for the Fatman,” “Shake for the Sheik,” the title track, and the amazingly personal and haunting “Walking Through Walls.”  This is not to say that the rest of the album isn’t good because that’s not the case.  From start to finish Wild Wild West is a very good record. 

 In 1988 I was in junior high, specifically I finished seventh grade in the first part of the year and entered eighth grade in the last part.  Junior high was a particularly rough time for me.  I was awkward, overweight, and completely clueless about things like being cool and girls.  I spent most of seventh grade trying to skateboard (this was also the year that I played Little League for the first and only time).  In eighth grade I tried my hand at surfing—okay I never actually surfed but I did get down on a Boogie Board—and became obsessed with the movie North Shore.  This was also the year that I discovered U2, thus changing my life forever.  After U2’s Rattle & Hum, The Escape Club’s Wild Wild West probably spent more time in my tape deck than anything else.  This made sense in a lot of ways.  I was re-exploring a lot of the new wave hits from my elementary school days (things like “Our House” by Madness and “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners) and getting ready to embark on a journey into underground music that continues to this day.  The Escape Club provided an excellent segue in my musical exploration. 

I had actually forgotten all about this album until I found a copy of it on CD at a thrift store yesterday (oh the gems that you can find in thrift stores).  I saw the CD and had to get it (despite the fact that I knew my wife would totally make fun of me for it—she’s not a big fan of a lot of ‘80s new wave stuff calling it “wussy”).  Listening to this record now 23-years later I’m surprised at how good it still sounds.  Yes it is a very dated record and may not at all appeal to anyone who missed out on it the first time around, but it is still an album that captures that anticipation of the new decade while at the same time capturing the essence of and saying goodbye to the current decade.  If you did happen to miss this record the first time around or avoided it because of the omnipresence of “Wild Wild West” on the radio and MTV then I suggest that you give it a listen.  Wild Wild West is great for fans of The Psychedelic Furs, INXS, Simple Minds, Midnight Oil, and the Pretty in Pink soundtrack. 

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