Social Climbers

Social Climbers

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Social Climbers Review

by Jason Lymangrover

Social Climbers never made a monumental impact, but despite their obscurity, nearly 30 years after they called it quits Drag City released Social Climbers, a self-titled compilation of the band’s 11 recordings, culling from their three long-forgotten 7" records. While often defined as a no wave band, the trio skirted around art rock, dub disco, and plastic soul to make music that pushed the parameters of no wave. In other words, they were the oddballs of an oddball scene. A number of groups come to mind (Suicide, Magazine, Devo, Pere Ubu, Flipper, and Liquid Liquid, to name a few), but, likewise, Social Climbers' best quality is their individuality. The awkward free-form ramblings of vocalist Mark Bingham, diagonal basslines (sometimes played by two members), and choppy guitar parts lumped them in with the N.Y.C. dance-punk scene of the early ‘80s. But while Social Climbers’ music could be difficult, it never seemed designed to challenge listeners or break musical confines -- such as when DNA wailed a skronky sax solo or James Chance beat on a guitar one-handed. A. Leroy's Farfisa organ could seem sweet, and his straight-ahead beats on the Korg rhythm machine kept the group grounded. Even amidst dissonant notes or loopy time signatures, a catchy hook or two usually surfaced. Of course, this might be somewhere completely out of the ordinary, like in the middle of one of Bingham’s kooky, free-form rants. In contrast to many others of the scene, as a vocalist he could come in from the deep end and even sing well if he wanted, and the balladic “Chris & Debbie” and “Taipei” highlight the group at its most tuneful and passionate.

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