Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Sci-Fi Sex Stars


Released 1986 on WhoM I?
The Seth Man, February 2002ce
Even if one feels taken to task dealing with Sigue Sigue Sputnik (specifically, their music) one cannot deny their vision, something that was sorely bereft in Rock’n’Roll in the mid-eighties as it had been taking a bankrupt backseat to the image/style obsessiveness of the time which succeeded (for a mercifully short period) in distracting what Rock’n’Roll was SUPPOSED to be about in the first place. And what Sigue Sigue Sputnik so subversively and blatantly achieved was marrying Rock’n’Roll riffs and attitude applied with the slick production values of the time to the high gloss of style, image and fashion of the time AND took it all beyond the limits of credibility.

From one look of the one colour (and admirably fake) pirate sleeve depicting three transgender Rock Chicks with Dicks in a variety of glamour poses, there were already FAR too many clues not to suss out immediately that this was another wily Sputnik ruse. For a start, this album is but a 45rpm extended play single with re-mixes of two tracks from their first album (“Rock-It Miss USA” and “Teenage Thunder”), the record company logo is an unmistakable parody on EMI, and switching the Sputnik logo from a triple ‘S’ to a triple ‘$’ in an outlined star wasn’t nearly enough to throw anybody off the trail of ascertaining their real identity. Not to mention the back cover, whose clues completely give away the game: “...No musicians -- Recorded by Pop Stars -- Technologically Enhanced -- Mmm, The Sputniks Changed My Life...”

No, Sigue Sigue Sputnik could never be accused of subtlety in any degree. Even here as their thinly veiled alter ego, they cut straight to chase in the same manner that the film trailer samples they left littered all over their singles and first album “Flaunt It” did: by condensing down an entire film into a few minutes worth of highlights for total media sensory overload. And total media sensory overload was what Sigue Sigue Sputnik were all about: gloriously reveling in the readymade-ness of an ultimate group for the 21st Century while taking the most rock’n’roll guitar riffs, sampling them beyond infinity while glamourously posing at any media recorder pointed in their direction and not giving one single fuck about how fake you or the critics thought they were. Because they already knew they were and besides, they’d ALWAYS be one faker. They boiled down 50’s Rock’n’Roll, glam and punk into a streamlined, high-tech assault mixing imagery from “A Clockwork Orange”, “Blade Runner” and “Terminator” to samples from those films (and their respective trailers), spoken news reports (sometimes real, sometimes made up.)

Add one fantastic logo and ta-da: instant pop product -- Sigue Sigue Sputnik, The Fifth Generation of Rock And Roll™.

“Rock-It Miss USA” (Death Wish IV)” begins with a voiceover from a trailer: “Underground has become a machine wrapped in flesh...who kills -- but cannot be killed” (Cue two separate rounds of gunfire bursting from ostensible huge, hi-tech pistols). Then the sounds of a New York City subway screeches to a halt up to Clint Eastwood’s immortal “Go ahead...make my day” quote followed by ricocheting gun shots and directly into vocalist’s Martin Degville’s war whoops and vocal punctuations with all the coherence of a Tiretz syndrome sufferer, but staggered into hyperspace-d oblivion with wayward dub manipulations. The sampling of these vocals goes on far, far longer as to show how pre-fabricated the whole thing is, then EVERYTHING except the “I Feel Love”-Giorgio Moroder electronic rhythms get fucked with and faded in and out to death. There’s a news flash with two vigilante scenarios at once: one from the “Death Wish IV” film and the other Bernard Goetz, whose name (along with everything else) is stuttered at the speed of a semi-automatic weapon. The guitar riffs also get sliced up, thrown away, put back in and it passes by at blinding speeds and hectic pacing. The lyrics are phrases that swing both ways between violence and sex, double entendre between beauty contests and nuclear war and have no taste at all. The track’s finale sees the classical strains of “Land Of Hope And Glory” cut in abruptly as all of the other sound carpets get rolled up one by one: first the guitar, then the Donna Summer computer-programmed rhythms, then the voiceover.

The “Commercial Break” is a plug for Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Live X-Travaganza at The Royal Albert Hall: “Be there with the best of the best!” the over-reverb voice cajoles, then cuts to a playback reaction of the commercial (“Sounds fantastic...”) as the “Rollerball” theme from “21st Century Boy” rolls in, cross-spliced with a final voiceover that neatly self-references SSS’s own rip-off: “Somehow...somewhere...somehow...someone’s going to pay...”

“Teenage Thunder (Sputstyle)” is more Giorgio Moroder-streamlined programming with Degville’s sleazoid vocals. Neal X’s glittery Chuck Berry Rock’n’Roll guitar riff is here adorned with silver lamé cliché, big hair and hammer and sickles as it bolts through the mix. Eddie Cochran in platforms, baby, OH YEAH! The lyrics (as such) always return to the “Teenage Thunder/Atom Age Wonder” couplet that doesn’t seem half as stupid by song’s end. The sound of a CD skipping or digitally scanning between two late night radio stations adds to the whole tunnel-vision of the piece as it gets ultra-pumped with two simultaneous samples repeating, “UNDER, UNDER, UNDER” and “TEEN, TEEN, TEEN” to dizzying effect. In fact, the sampling is constant and hangs everywhere at once, functioning as aural strobe lights that flicker unreasonably and continually change strength, pitch and speed. A classical fanfare along with two cross faded news reports briefly make all else cut out. Then “Teenage Thunder” re-emerges once more and with the final vocals of “Aggh, oohh, aagghh, oohh, akk, akk, akk--FINISH” the fanfare re-enters, itching for a fake American voiceover like “Ladeez un gennulmun...” Another news flash (“Luxembourg mobilizes more than half of its armed forces to control 36 hours of drunkenness and fighting by English fans. Again, England officially apologises”) is inserted before the appearance of the non-LP track, “Suicide.” A single whoosh and then electro-percolations begin to bubble beneath the surface as an ever-rising electro bass throb persists throughout the duration. When Degville tears through the synthetics and his fishnet stocking maskie screeching, his voice starts to smear and then splits into and across the base rhythm track much like the manner of the song title’s namesake, the two-man electronic terror team, Suicide. Indeed, they were a massive influence on SSS, and when Degville starts screaming “I wanna be alive... LIVE... LIVE!... LIVE!!... LIVE!!! Aaayy... aaayy... ayyyy...” it’s completely assaultive in its Alan Vega styling, make no mistake. Several persistent, electronic drum programs gradually increase when a Japanese voiceover intoning “Sid Vicious is dead...Boy George is not a hero...because he quit heroin...you can’t take it once: it’s suicide...” The track continues with further electronic burbling, slow synthetic panels of noise and the vocals continue to get variable speed and delay processing as they stretch out, get cut off and just plain mistreated.
It finally ends, but not before a quick message before the trail off:

“This week in The Sun! Sigue Sigue Sputnik! They’re wild, weird and off the wall! In The Sun, they talk about how they’re scheming their way to the top! And they couldn’t care less how they get there!”

Deny that vision? Impossible.