Now that Christmas, New Year’s Eve and various other orgies of drunken barbarism are out of the way (at least for a short while), it’s about time we lowered the drawbridge to Skank Towers once again. And what better way to see in this here 2012 than with a luscious serving of punky reggae pop from a woman called Lora?
Although best remembered by many as the languid teenager honking a mean sax on X-ray Spex’s legendary Oh Bondage! Up Yours, it’s clear that Lora Logic had far too much creative zest not to be fronting a troupe of her own, and following her departure from the Spex in 1977, that very troupe swiftly materialized in the form of Essential Logic.
Because their fabulously lateral approach to pop music produced a melange of many ingredients – jazz, punk, disco, ‘world’ music, and, <ahem>, even a dash of trip hop in places – Lora and pals encroached only briefly on reggae territory, first with the woozy Bod’s Message and World Friction, and once again much later with the sharp little number I’m focusing on today.
1998 may seem a little late for an SBB inclusion, but Barbie Be Happy, the slice of plaintive pop recorded that year by a reformed version of the group was too good to pass up.
Albeit decidedly less squonky than their previous output, Barbie is a jewel in the rough of ES’s somewhat lacklustre second wave material. Lora’s manic soprano with age acquired a rasp that makes her delivery of this tale of disillusionment all the more mournful, and even some Sade-esque coffee table jazz sneaks briefly into the mix of tight-snared reggae and jangly punk (no bad thing).
Apparently Barbie was released on a four track e.p. in 2001, though I have never seen a copy, and since the 35 track Fanfare In The Garden CD collects both this e.p. and nearly all the rest of their stupendous back catalogue, I’m sticking with that for now.