Los Microwaves The Birth of Techno LP

This is not the birth of techno, but it is an interesting collection of studio outtakes and live tracks recorded between 1980–1983 by this unique Jose band. Nestled somewhere between post-punk and synth pop, LOS MICROWAVES consisted of bass, drums, and analog synths, and created music that was made for the dance floor as much as the punk club. The first five tracks are studio recordings that didn’t make it on the band’s sole LP, 1981’s Life After Breakfast. These are all pretty slick recordings, two of them instrumental dance tracks. The synths are bright and bouncy, foretelling chiptunes and well, big beat techno, in their playfulness. “I Can’t Say” is the standout here, with a perfect pop chorus. The live tracks on side two are much more interesting, leaving behind the pop sheen of bands like EURYTHMICS and HUMAN LEAGUE for new wave/post-punk sounds in the realm of BLONDIE or the B-52’S. The latter reference is especially true on “Sniper,” with exotica synths, call-and-response vocals, and a general weirdness that makes it an odd treat. “My Baby Tried to Kill Me” is another highlight, with what I can only describe as organ-grinder- meets-breakbeat production behind vocalist Meg Brazill’s wail. The looseness of the live tracks shows a band that was willing to experiment and have fun. I can imagine the audience split between dancers and cross-armed mopers, enjoying themselves equally. I wouldn’t call this collection essential, but it is a compelling look at an innovative and underheard band.