Five Star by Murderbot

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Kansas City bass fiend and blogger Murderbot discusses the dark, sexy, and cheesy essentials of the late ’80s electronic body music known as Belgian New Beat.

Snowy Red - “Euroshima-Wardance” - (Antler, 1988)
This tune came out on Antler (later to become Antler-Subway), one of several labels co-owned by Lords of Acid founder Maurice Engelen (a.k.a. Praga Khan). It’s a dark slow-burner of the late ’80s “Cold War nuclear tension as a metaphor for dancefloor sexual tension” school of songwriting. The lyrics aren’t particularly meaningful (or even coherent), but considering that New Beat was basically a merger of Industrial and Italo-disco, you really shouldn’t be expecting poetry.

TNT Clan - “Blow Up the DJ” - (Subway, 1988)
TNT Clan is actually New Beat super-producers Morton, Sherman, and Belluci (two of the guys from EBM group Poésie Noire and the other co-owner of Antler-Subway). “Blow Up the DJ” is essentially happy hardcore at 110 bpm. It’s got a lot of the Coldcut/MARRS-style samples that were ubiquitous in 1988, a chipmunked sample of Kiss, and Jade 4 U delivering one of the worst raps in history. It is embarrassingly cutesy, relentlessly chipper, and one of my all-time faves.

Boy Toy - “Touch My Body” - (Kaos Dance, 1989)
Lords of Acid are like William Shatner: Once upon a time they were stupid, over-the-top, and delightful. Eventually they realized what everybody was laughing at and became this strained, self-aware meta-joke that, frankly, is difficult to watch. Boy Toy was a Lords of Acid side-project from the peak of their career; T.J. Hooker-era LoA, if you will. “Touch My Body” is a grimy acid tune with characteristic Lords lyrics: simple, repetitive, sex-obsessed. Slutty dungeon music at its best.

The Weathermen - “Bang!” - (Play It Again Sam, 1989)
The Weathermen are Jean-Marc Lederman (Belgian synth nerd who played with Fad Gadget and Gene Loves Jezebel) and Bruce Geduldig (American, formerly of Tuxedomoon). “Bang!,” their second big single, is a cheery party anthem about hating your job and getting drunk to forget about it. It’s got some great through-the-looking-glass reflections on American culture from hardcore culture junkies, plus it referenced Telex about 16 years before “Losing My Edge” made you internet indie hipsters think of doing it.

HNO3 - “Doughnut Dollies” - (R&S, 1988)
This was an early release on rave super-label R&S, back when it was just known as Ferrari (hence the horse logo). It’s by Eric Beysens, one of the DJs from Boccaccio (the Studio 54 of New Beat). The slow tempo of New Beat can be daunting, but “Doughnut Dollies” uses the pace to its advantage, harnessing that extra smidgen of space between the drums to heighten the percussive elements, creating a kind of void between the beats for a dancer to fall into. Kind of like a K-hole. Or dubstep.