RUBBERLEGS - "Leg Warmers - Reheated"
featuring GORDON SMITH - THOMAS ROLANTI - ROBERT MESRACH
Extended 80-minute edition
CD review by ROBERT URBAN - 3/1/04
Writer's Note - I first heard the current RUBBERLEGS duo live-in-concert while hosting a special TRACK ARTIST NIGHT at Meow Mix Bar in NYC this summer. Not exactly "track artists" per se, but perhaps "sequence" artists, GORDON SMITH and "BUNNY" THOMAS ROLANTI both sing & play live over pre-sequenced music programmed into their two trusty synths. I booked them to open the evening, yet the fab duo drew more audience than any of the following acts. See photos i took of them onstage at Urban Productions photo-archives)
Both novel & retro, RUBBERLEGS in concert are great fun - especially in a party atmosphere. Now fans can enjoy their percolating synth pop on cd, too, thanks to the modern magic of digital restoration.
"Leg Warmers - Reheated" is a "remix" cd of RUBBERLEGS material created & recorded as far back as 1983, when the act was a trio. The cd is also a tribute to original 3rd band member ROBERT MESRACH - (now deceased), who was also Gordon Smith's lover of 14 years. Robert died in 1994 of AIDS. He co-wrote much of the cd's material & performed much of it's music. The cd's booklet offers both text & photos in loving memory of this seminal RUBBERLEGS artist.
Nearly all the instruments & vocals on "Reheated" were recorded in the '80s. Virtually nothing has been re-recorded. The original cassette & reel-to-reel tapes (remember tape?) were resuscitated via careful processing, in stages, using Sound Forge tape hiss removal, some compression, and a final "juicing up" of frequencies via a BBE Sonic Maximizer plug-in. I must say - the results are startling if not miraculous. The final sonic production is crystal clear, with true & even fidelity throughout.
As a product of the I-LUV-THE-EIGHTEEZ age, RUBBERLEGS were naturally synth-pop-siblings of other 80s new wave/techno acts like HUMAN LEAGUE and GARY NUMAN. However- RUBBERLEGS's sound was and is considerably more upbeat & chipper than their often dreary, angst-ridden rock brethren.
In fact, this listener hears elements of even earlier, happier times in RUBBERLEGS. I'm reminded of hippie groups like THE LEMON PIPERS, NAPOLEAN XIV, GENTLE GIANT, late 60's bubble-gum & other oddity psychedelia. With RUBBERLEGS there's also a more elemental working of the synths & drum machines into the music; and more friendly fun to the lyrics - reminiscent of more progressive 80's groups like DEVO & MISSING PERSONS.
Handsome lead singer Gordon Smith croons over RUBBERLEGS's perky electro-pop sound in a most engaging way. His sparse, well-sung phrasings are punctuated here & there by various dubbed-in spoken words, vocal chirps, falsetto tweets and whispered asides. Gordonís innocent, earnest & self-effacing delivery is at once both charming and disarming. One cannot help but love this guy - a sort of kinder, gentler David Byrne. Gordon also displays a gift for witty, double-entendre-laced lyrics - evident in humorous songs like "Hotprint" and "People who Talk in Elevators". (hint - anyone who's day job is in a corporate/office environment will especially dig Gordon's clever observations). My personal fav song on "Reheated" is the preview mix of "Bound & Gagged" - unusual in it's rockier style and perhaps a harbinger of heavier RUBBERLEGS fare to come.
True to it's new wave aesthetic, RUBBERLEGS gets a lot of fun mileage out of the continued repetition of a simple phrase - be it vocal or instrumental. This mantra/zen-like minimalism helps provide a deeper mystique to what otherwise might appear as just a regular pop song. RUBBERLEGS lyrical hooks like "I lost my leg in '52" and "I want to go to China", repeated ad infinitum, can mean both nothing and something; be both flippant and thought-provoking; all at the same time. Think back to MTV's new wave/techno golden age, when we were all turning Japanese while wearing sunglasses at night and u get the picture.
Since the tracks on "Reheated" are re-animations of past recordings, they retain all their original synth patches. Listening in has a time-warping, nostolgic effect on the ear. With vintage Yamaha DX7 sounds, classic analog horn/string pads, clap-traps, pingy beat-boxes, etc - RUBBERLEGS offers fans a big dose of genuine retro-80's fun. This is also true of their live shows, where they've been known to pull out gems like DEVO's "Whip It" or GARY NUMAN's "Cars".
The 2nd half of the cd is comprised of restored instrumental pieces - some composed, some improvised. These are more musically adventurous than the previous songs, and often more spooky. Again, Robert Mesrach's talents are prominently featured . Listening to these "living in the past" musical reveries - I was immediately reminded of the numerous tapes & videos i myself have tucked away... of past jams, live shows, rehearsals, etc - many involving colleages no longer around. Any musician in a similar situation should appreciate how dear these memories must be to the surviving RUBBERLEGS members.
Gordon Smith & Bunny continue to perform the songs on "Reheated". They also continue to evolve - with a cd of all-new material expected soon. With "Reheated", they have invited the world to not only observe the talents of their departed comrade Robert Mesrach, but to also share in their own experience of the man and their continued memory of him. Painstakingly restored onto cd as if engraved into a diamond forever... the album is both a loving tribute and a tribute to love. - ROBERT URBAN, URBAN PRODUCTIONS, NYC
RUBBERLEGS "Leg Warmers Reheated"
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