Times Beach – Step In Time


For some reason new wave is often seen as a poor relation to its hipster cousin, post-punk. That’s strange because new wave was equally inventive and, in opposition to the masculine posturing of post-punk, had the added benefit of bringing female participants front and centre (as evidenced by recent Liberation Hall issues by Romeo Void and the Lloyds) and that’s precisely the aesthetic that Times Beach slipped into. With vocalist Mariana Trench at the helm, this San Fran collective coloured the local scene, and with this new compilation Step In Time is certain to garner them wider recognition they always deserved.

Ask most people their first thoughts about new wave and they’d probably mention The Knack’s skinny ties, or Devo’s strange hats, both of which suggest a throwaway frivolity, but there was also a real depth to the scene, and if you have any doubts just listen to opening track ‘Fear In The Western World’. It would sound right at home on U2’s War or Big Country’s The Crossing; it marches with military muster and its grandiose feel conjures images of vast skies with revolutions beneath. The first five tracks on Step In Time comprise the “studio” side and are bursting with great ideas, from the theatrical reworking of Bernstein/Sondheim’s ‘Cool’ to the angular and spiky ‘Taking Orders’, these tracks fizz and crackle with creativity. Originally recorded at Russian Hill Studio as part of The Snakefinger Sessions for a proposed album which never quite came to fruition, these tracks offer a tantalising glimpse of what might have been had Times Beach been given serious financial backing.

Featuring five cuts never recorded in the studio, but captured on analogue cassette, the “live” side finds Times Beach in typically eclectic form with songs that veer between the sharp and angular ‘Red Sky’, to the intriguingly wordy ‘(I Want To Be) The President’s Wife’, to the discombobulated reggae beat of ‘007’. Many a band can cut it in the studio but fall apart in the live environment (and vice versa) but Times Beach prove themselves a versatile beast in both, and the chemistry they display only makes their lack of success all the more puzzling. Times Beach are like finely cut crystal; their sound is multifaceted and shines in multiple directions, sometimes dazzling the listener and blinding us with its brilliance, sometimes confusing us with strange angles, but always enticing us closer with its opulent beauty. It is the five bonus tracks that best illustrate this, and despite being culled from rudimentary sources, nothing can really dull their sheen.

Occasionally a band can be so far ahead of the curve that time is only just catching up, and that’s certainly the case with Times Beach. Their fusing genres was a little too visionary in an age when music was extremely codified and tightly regimented. When people liked their sounds to fit neatly into boxes, Times Beach were something of an anomaly, a round peg in a square hole. But, as musical walls tumble down, now seems the perfect time for Times Beach to capture the world’s collective heart.

Track List:

  1. Fear In The Western World *
  2. Cool *
  3. Fugitive *
  4. Emerald City *
  5. Taking Orders *
  6. KUSF-FM Radio Interview *
  7. Red Sky **
  8. (I Want To Be) The President’s Wife **
  9. 007 **
  10. Mr. Wayout **
  11. Fail **
  12. Pioneer 10 ***
  13. Phone Call ***
  14. Business Is Business ***
  15. Captive Of France ***
  16. Flattop ***

* Studio

** Live

*** Bonus Tracks