Jayne County & the Electric Chairs

Things Your Mother Never Told You

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Jayne/Wayne County's most audacious album is also, though it's not something said every day, among the most important albums of its age. Released in 1979 just as the new wave was teetering on the brink of some kind of bold step forward, Things Your Mother Never Told You was one of the sudden shoves which sent it sprawling into its destiny. Electro-punk starts here. Producer David Cunningham takes only a portion of the credit; in years to come he would lead the Flying Lizards into the realm of heavily stylized electronica and even scored a few hits for his pains. But County's songs match his ambitions all the way, from the harsh, grating soundscapes behind "C3"'s muttered imprecations to the soft-spoken paranoia of "Waiting for the Marines," and onto "Berlin," the song that put into words everything David Bowie (among others) tried to convey about that city via image and insinuation. It's not all electro-art smarts, of course. "Boy With the Stolen Face" and the pouting, punishing "Wonder Woman" are archetypal Electric Chairs -- a reminder of how, at the band's very best, they could run the Rolling Stones close in the swaggering rock & roller stakes -- and the murder mystery "Wall City Girl" could have fallen off a forgotten volume of Nuggets or Pebbles. The title track, meanwhile, doesn't simply seethe with all the promise -- sexual, social, and societal -- which made County the superstar (s)he so very nearly was, it also lets listeners know why no one has ever truly snatched that crown away. The history of rock is lousy with artists who've threatened to fill listeners in on all the things their mothers never told them. But County is the only one who actually came out and did it.

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