A List of Things We Lost is the rare vinyl blog of the sometimes corporeal, always ephemeral Unbreakable Records.

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Friday, July 18, 2008


Now here’s some folks who just don’t give a shark fuck. Love Backed By Force [Alien Records, Bealien3], the product of Ziro Baby’s & Gaby de Vivienne’s short-lived (and final) configuration of the Tronics, should sit rightly beside the work of the Velvet Underground for its lasting influence on DIY indie rock, whether anyone knows it or not.

Tronics evloved from the Gits, a late-70s UK thrash band led by Ronnie Git, who would soon recast his already-pseudonymous persona & nom de musique in the guise of Ziro Baby. After some line-up shake ups, Baby renamed his project "Tronics", releasing his first 45, “Suzy’s Vibrator” b/w “Favorite Girls”, in 1978. After a second single, the band dissolved again, washed in a constant spin cycle of hard drugs & personal differences. Ziro Baby soldiered on, pursuing sundry eclectic musical endeavors with an ever-rotating cast of musicians until regrouping with de Vivienne. The 17-year old Baby got down to some serious biz in 1980, recording Love Backed By Force mainly by himself, with all of the nonchalant swagger of one who knows exactly how to do it himself.

Baby had already recorded the first two Tronics albums, Tronics and What’s The Hubub Bub (both of which were cassette-only, with the latter credited as helping to create the cassette-format release phenomenon of early indie rock) in the kitchen of his basement flat in Earl’s Court, surrounded by addicts & hangers-on. His m.o. for Love remained the same: thoughtful yet primal guitar parts laid out under vocals that reflected odd, impassioned ennui. By the time he got down to Love, Baby’s sound was perfected; though production value hovers at an honorably low line, there’s just enough to reward repeated listens. He croons with a love of straightforward songwriting, reflecting 50s pop in structure and sound, often contrasted with the foil of de Vivienne's naive/knowing singalong harmonies. The duo sound like they're taking a walk through an increasingly weird and dark forest, Baby always finding his way home by dropping breadcrumbs of delicious synths and lo-fi freakouts.

Although the UK punk label Wrench has reissued What’s The Hubub Bub on CD, the debut is still out-of-print, as are all the singles & this gleaming gem. The live bonus tracks that Wrench dug up to supplement Hubub sound great, & the disc is highly recommended not only to show the different iterations that Ziro Baby used to hone his musical image, but also because it's fan-fuckin-tastic. So go buy it!

After Tronics petered out in 1984, our erstwhile DIY demigod changed his name to Zarjaz, a word lifted from the popular British comic 2000 A.D. that translates, naturally, as “excellent.” Expressing his thanks for Baby's impact, Alan McGee's Creation Records released a 45, "One Charming Nite" b/w "My Baby Owns A Fallout Zone", with the band called “Les Zarjaz.” As a sad testament to what people do & don’t know, the Tronics MySpace page has woefully few visitors. Elsewhere, Freakapuss purports to be Zarjaz’s latest foray back out of the ether, but when you go there, all you get is some drone & a weird image. Sounds about right.

Zarjaz's Creation single is described by one reviewer as “silly numbers done in mediaeval style... it is not surprising the label turned down the chance to release a follow-up single.” Sure, a few tunes do have this kind of quality, like “Ice Flod Festival” and “Min Dama”, but in the context of a whole record it works charms like an old housewife remedy. Fear no critic: the stylistic diversity & sheer psychic cycle that Love Backed By Force gives the listener is an unrivalled joy.


terriblist said...

Absolutely essential record. THANKS!

fuzztunnel said...

Kinda like a poppier Karl Blake. Quite interesting.

Mark said...

this is wonderful! thanks.

W. said...

It's Good, Thank You!

Do you also have the "Favourite Girls"/"Suzy's Vibrator" sinlge by the Tronic?

psychelatte said...

Hiya! Found your site searching for Les Zarjaz, after hearing their weird songs on'Creation Soup'.
Just thought i'd let everyone know that "One Charming night" was a song written in the 1600's by British composer Purcell, and is one of his i'm particularly fond of. (Check out his Airs and Duets if you fancy!)

I'm gonna download the Tronics album but i'm not sure what to expect!

harleancarpenter said...

FTR - The Tronics album (cassette) "Tronics" was the first cassette release to be nationally/internationally distributed as a legitimate release and sparked off an indie cassette boom. The Tronics Myspace page is a fan based effort. The Tronics petered out in the early 1980's due to musicians being unable to keep up and also using Zarjaz as a stepping stone but more importantly due to Zarjaz drastically changing direction. The name Zarjaz was agreed, with permission by the editor of the comic 2000AD that Zarjaz could use the name. The Tronics basement in London, it is true, was drug infested but I believe the drug of choice for Zarjaz at that time would have been hallucinogenic, in particular magic mushrooms, as noted in the sleeve not dedications of the original "What's The Hubbub Bub" release. The Les Zarjaz, or in the English, The Zarjaz Creation releases ended in disputes with Alan McGee about style, creative control, unauthorized releases and royalties, as McGee amassed hugh lists of bands for his label catalogues. McGee went on to issue unauthorized Zarjaz material including a song "Drastic Fantastic" that was never, as McGee claimed, scheduled for Creation release. The claim that the track was turned down is false and comes directly from McGee. Zarjaz has never known why McGee turned on Zarjaz in mid release and began to influence the music scene against Zarjaz, mainly through his friends at the NME. The NME has never approached Zarjaz about his dealings with Creation or Segue Segue Sputnick for that matter, who Zarjaz also influenced in the early 1980's when he turned down the offer to be their frontman Meanwhile the NME touted McGee as a helper of young musicians while McGee collected an award at London's Stock Exchange. Zarjaz has commented saying that it was help he could have done without, at the same time retaining a deep artistic and personal respect for Creation Records co founder, former TVP and producer of My Bloody Valentine, Joe Foster. The legitimate Creation release was made without support and promotion but has since been dogged by McGee and his followers as proven to be "silly" by lack of sales. However, the Zarjaz release has been more than exonerated by the emergence of the classical pop music scene that followed and that has included Paul McCartney. The Zarjaz released a follow up ancient music as pop music CD in 2009 called La Leggenda Del Block, Editio Seconda. The album features music written by King Henry VIII and the first robotic presentations of music by Rameau, Biber and Purcell and as ever Zarjaz's claim that ancient music is the pre blues roots of rock n roll. Zarjaz continues to work with his group Freakapuss who intend to make a second CD release in 2010. Love or hate Zarjaz it must be said that he is truly a remarkable phenomenon and is lesser known not by his own fault but more because of the likes of the NME who refuse to inform the music scene as would be the natural function of a credible music "news" paper. More details can be found at the official Tronics/Zarjaz/Freakapuss website at www.freakapuss.com

Balloony said...

Been reading along to this brilliant writeup including exchange towards the end. That dude with the early information should let go. Get over it. Forget it. It was over 30 years ago. I used to jam with that guy from The Tronics. He was dedicated. There was always him and the bass player. They were both cool. They were the only ones really working in that band. The guitarist and drummer were never there. I think the bass player and singer were carrying the drummer. I recorded demos with them but they never released them. I never heard them again. One day some fans came in and lined up against a wall like a firing squad. They said it was like watching the band from Hell. I can tell you they were really hard working doing all sorts of things. I was there. Amyl nitrate, coke off the back of guitars, acid grass, tea. The only thing he didn't do as far as I know was H. He wouldnt touch it but other people did. He made me flush some down the toilet once. Gave me a talk on how bad it was. I wont mention names but some people from then died from drug overdoses and its an insult to them when this dude says it never happened. He was lieing about his age so he could get into clubs. Sometimes people thought he was Iggy Pop and he got into clubs like that too. He was well in with Jock MacDonald at the Speakeasy who managed John Lydon. We used to be at the Speakeasy and Vortex, 100 Club and sometimes with Stiv Bators and the bass player from Adam and The Ants, loads of others. He knew The Only Ones and their manager and also John Cooper Clarke. I would imagine he is having a good laugh at this if he is still around reading it. Cheers to you Ziro Baby if you are.