Wheel in the Roses
Rema Rema Wheel in the Roses 12" (4 AD, 1980)
One of the most exciting segues on record that I have ever heard is the one from The Feedback Song into Rema-Rema, on Rema-Rema’s Wheel in the Roses 12”. Originally released as the first single on 4AD, the transition from the feedbacky, squiggly wail/piano pounding/effect pedal twisting/thud thud to a buuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhm of a distorted bass slide and primitive tribal drumming is paradise. When I first heard it, I dropped the needle over and over in order to hear it again. The needle drop is not to get past Feedback Song. No, Feedback Song is great, too. The song starts with a clean bass riff and is joined by a simple drum beat that doesn’t get much beyond a throbbing drum in a hollow room. A synth washes in and even in 2005 it doesn’t sound dorky or dated, say the way the synths are on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasure. Then the pleasant whine of a loud guitar cracks though and a vocalist with a Scottish (or Irish) accent sings as if he’s making a declaration. Little changes, other than a couple brief breaks. The song goes out with a chaos of feedback and synth washes, and, as described above, bamm comes Rema-Rema.
The song Rema-Rema is one of the great primitive punk / post-punk tunes. It is big; it is loud; it is dumb; it is direct. Hard primal drumming and a monster bass are fucked by more squalling guitar. The vocals sing-song over the mess. The only thing that compares by contemporary standards is the A Frames live when they are liquored up and playing stupid. As far as bands of yore: It brings to mind the other two mentioned here and Australia’s X.
Side two of this 12” is an instrumental song called Instrumental, which reeks of Chrome/Killing Joke distopian soundscape. Again, simple and thuddish, Instrumental relies on feedback and repetition. The closer is a slow thing called Fond Affections. Even more atmospheric than Instrumental, FA pulses in an early industrial way, with some drugged dub influence and, of course, there is feedback. The lyrics are charmingly depressing, with lines like "There is no light at the beginning/Let's all sit down and CRY!"
Rema-Rema were not around for long. Band members left to form Adam & the Ants, Mass, and Renegade Sound Wave. Drummer Max (a woman) teaches ballroom dancing. The lack of experience makes for a serious lack of polish, which only aids these guys/gal (that and this being recorded live). If Rema-Rema would have lasted longer and gotten “proper” studio treatment the result would have probably been slick and sterile.
Through time this record has achieved a "must have" status among certain segments of record geeks. While I was first hipped to them by Big Black in an old Forced Exposure interview (and then by Big Black covering Rema Rema), it was years before I was able to track down a copy of this 12". When I did it was at a local indie store. On a lark, I decided to look in their new section under "R" for this very record. It was there, sealed, and had been sitting there for 15 years, priced at $3.98.
I have chosen to leave Feedback Song/Rema Rema as it is on the record, one going into the other, and not single each song out. The Good Lord intended for you to hear this glorious transition and I will not deny divinity.
Renegade Soundwave! They started out good but never seemed to go anywhere. 'In Dub' was one of the most disappointing buys of my life. No spark somehow. shame. .