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emcecil on 07/09/2012 at 03:00PM

Dress Up As Natives: "You Had to Be There"

DressUpAsNatives_frontreducedThey shared bills with contemporaries like the Five, Carsickness and the Cardboards, but unlike those bands, Pittsburgh's Dress Up As Natives sounded every bit a "lost" UK DIY act.  Boasting jumpy rhumba-bass, thorny guitar and flippant vox, it's hard to believe that this all-female quartet's sole 45 (Public Records, '82) originated in America's formative Rust Belt punk scene.

But, hey: It did.  This odd outfit actually began as the Non-Stops, a similarly wavey group with a co-ed roster.  "The Non-Stops were basically the original Natives with someone named Rebecca playing bass," said Gina Cotton Simpson, former keys player for DUAN.  "Rather than kick her out, they all quit on her and restarted the band to form Dress Up As Natives."

That was sometime in '81, and they'd already forged their own sound through shows at the now-legendary Electric Banana, gigs in Market Square, occasional road trips to Ohio and West Virginia -- and through frequent practices at the Krishna House, where Simpson once lived along with members of the Five and Carsickness. 

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emcecil on 06/16/2012 at 10:30AM

Blow Away Your Troubles: A Note on Martin Newell and the Cleaners from Venus

Cleaners_3resized_1334821703_crop_550x671Martin Newell missed UK punk.  Or, rather, it missed him.  "I felt that punk was a party which had been partly my idea," he told me through recent e-mail correspondence, "but which I then ended up not going to because it was already too crowded."

He'd skirt the party's periphery some years later, through various in-roads in the late '70s and '80s, but he'd already been making music years before young, excited Brits would shrug off glam-rock hangovers and coalesce into their own units, such as the Damned, the Clash and, of course, the Sex Pistols.

Indeed, before glam flamboyance rolled over to punk's increasingly rabid trappings, Newell was already a seasoned player in the heady bacchanal popularized by Slade, the Sweet and Mott the Hoople.  At 20 years of age, he served as the frontman to Plod, a raucous glitter group who played often to great response, recorded a series of clap-and-stomp "hits" in '75, then folded due to what he now characterizes as "a dodgy record company."  (Italy's Rave-Up Records issued the recordings on LP some 35 years later.)  At Plod's demise, he wasted little time in joining another group, Gypp, and they continued to mine glam territory, now tempering it with prog-like exploration.

Their exploration was largely on-stage, however.  "Gypp was a great live band," said Newell, "and a brilliant bunch of guys. I'd just had three years on the road with them and was very frustrated with not being able to spend time recording."

Exacerbating that frustration with Gypp's slim recording schedule was the band's lack of positive critical reviews -- of which there were some, but not enough -- and as the '70s wore on, Newell found himself through with Gypp, done with life on the road.  But not with music altogether.

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