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Tronics - Love Backed by Force

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Artist: Tronics

Album: Love Backed by Force

Label: What's Your Rupture?

Review date: Feb. 2, 2012

Way back on Messthetics No. 3, a new generation of listeners was introduced to a puckish band called Tronics. The opening track, “Shark Fucks,” has everything a post-modern DIYer needs: catchy chorus, simple guitar riff, poor drum recording, ridiculous lyrics, sea animals and profanity. It’s a guitar toting, stencil designer’s dream. Further research leads to the album, What’s the Hubbub Bub?, a collage of poppy punk tunes and analog-sequenced audio samples. These were kids with their ears to the ground and looking forward, embracing the basement band culture and the falling costs of recording equipment. They didn’t make John Peel’s Festive 50 that year, but I bet a cassette made its way across his desk at some point.

The one constant in Tronics’ bio is a sci-fi obsessed man self-dubbed Ziro Baby (a sobriquet preceded by Ronnie Git and followed with Zarjaz). The rest of the details are fuzzy and sensationalized: They were the evolution of a teenage street gang called the Star Dogs; they were on the forefront of the DIY movement; they released the first cassette album to be distributed internationally and, in turn, sparking the medium; all recordings were done in an Earl’s Court basement kitchen surrounded by drugs, prostitutes and other oddities; the seven-inch release by Les Zarjaz (the next incarnation by Z.B.) on Creation Records was issued as thanks for the Tronics’ impact on the scene. The one fact that everyone can agree on is that these were some musically talented teenagers.

Between 1979 and 1984, Tronics released a number of 7” singles and three cassette/LP albums (proof of distribution prescience?). Love Backed by Force is the final and most stylistically refined of the bunch. It dropped many of the sci-fi sample mash-ups that littered the previous records for a more straightforward vibe. The infectious post-punk of “Shark Fucks” is unfortunately diluted. In its place is a new appreciation for classic pop songwriting in the Buddy Holly vein and what would be an odd fondness for the 17th century Baroque composer Henry Purcell if you hadn’t noticed the connection to the theme music of A Clockwork Orange. (Zarjaz’s own bio refers to Tronics being “the first Droog influenced band.”)

The startling characteristic of Love Backed by Force for those most familiar with Tronics’ earlier output is melodic. The opening guitar lick of “TV on in Bed” is straight out of the Holly songbook. Z.B.’s voice is down an octave, but he incorporates both the quirky lilts and the innocent charm of the Texan. This direct homage is a bit of an aberration, though. “My Baby’s in a Coma,” “Spending Time” and “Crush on You” share the melodicism, but punk’s love of the crunchy guitar riff drowns out any twang. Or perhaps that’s just the Marc Bolan influence creeping into the picture.

The only constant that runs throughout the album is the odd drum sound. In place of a traditional kit seems to be a small collection of toms. Each track, be it the indie darlingness of “They’re Talking About Us” or the weird science of “Le Monde,” is the incessant plodding of dryly recorded toms. It wouldn’t be quite as tiresome though if it hadn’t been invariably panned to the left. It’s the lone miscue in a rather entertaining mix.

It is a shame that little else became of Tronics and this clique of musicians besides a short-lived stint on Creation Records and Zarjaz’s (as Ziro Baby is now known) Freakapuss Afterlife Systems. If you are able to navigate the dated website, it makes for an appropriately odd read: “Just the same, with the release of the sexual anthem, There Ain’t Nothing Like An Orgasm, described as a celebration of the orgasm. Zarjaz felt forced to withdraw this underground release because of being more than a similarity to the establishments release Hey-Ya by The Outkasts soon after. [sic ad infinitum]” Love Backed by Force is an enjoyable, ephemeral artifact of the early post-punkers. Some futurists are best shortsighted.

By Michael Ardaiolo

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