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Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

The New Wave keeps on crashing

The New Wave keeps on crashing

If you’ve missed out, here’s your chance to make good.

Interview Diederik Decroix
Photographs

Record Store Day 2017 is approaching fast and the embargo for keeping our mouths shut on some great releases has finally ended, so allow us to be very enthusiastic. Drum roll! We’re trying not to shout here, but Tidal Waves Music is rereleasing not one, but two legendary Belgian Club/New Wave classics. Here are six exclamation points.

Maybe we should tune it down a notch, because the name of the first release might just draw a blank from you. If it does, just trust us on this one: this band deserves to receive all the attention it has coming to it. Siglo XX was one of the better-known Belgian post-punk bands all through the 80s, considered by many to have been a key influence on the Belgian music scene. If you’ve missed out, here’s your chance to make good.

So what have you missed, exactly? Only the finest bit of icy, crackling cold new wave with dark basses, moody synths and depressed vocals ever. Siglo XX’s sound was right up there with Factory Records bands like Joy Division and Section 25. Their first EP, The Naked And The Death, was originally released on Straatlawaai Produkties in 1980. Today, it’s a rare collectible, which is auctioned off for fistfuls of money on the second hand market. Not for long though, as the album is about to re-emerge as a limited 7-inch EP.

Strangely enough, Siglo’s B-side track Individuality was used in the 2016 promo commercial for Prada’s latest men’s collection, which has actors Michael Shannon, Scoot McNairy & Tye Sheridan prancing around in minimalistic 80s business outfits. Of course, it’s worth a chuckle knowing that the lyrics are mainly about the evils of a company such as Prada. But then again, can we blame the producer of the Prada video for having picked up the track from a New Wave Club Class•X compilation that was released in the UK two years ago? Siglo XX is featured in the exquisite company of Dead Can Dance, Nick Cave, The Pixies, Bauhaus and some compatriots such as 2 Belgen, Front 242 and Red Zebra.

That last band, by the way, is the reason while you’ll be up early on April 22nd for a stroll to your favourite record store. The very first Red Zebra album dates from 1980 and was rereleased on Vynilla Records a few years back, in honour of RSD 2011. With only 250 copies, of which the first hundred are hand-numbered, this black-and-white release is about just as coveted as the original.

The Vynilla reissue moved I Can't Live In A Living Room to the A side of the disc. For this second reissue though, Tidal has the track back in its original spot, where you’ll find it alongside Graveyard Shuffle and Innocent People. You’ll be glad to hear the original red shade of the sleeve design is making a comeback as well.

I Can't Live In A Living Room has been a party classic for generations of Belgians — yes, your parents used to dance, too — and is still going strong after 37 years. Back in 1978, four teenagers who met through a youth organization called The Bungalows, decided they wanted a band. Two years later, Red Zebra secured a spot in the finals of Humo’s Rock Rally. Their first single appeared a little later that year and will now be rereleased as a limited edition on RSD17.

In 2015, the 35th birthday of the single was celebrated with a Living Room Marathon in which ex-singer Peter Slabbynck and his new band EX-RZ played 35 mini gigs in the living rooms of an equal amount of fans. Let’s cross our fingers in hopes that Slabbynck has plans for a sequel. Some in-store concerts, pretty please?