Translatorâ€™s 1982 modern rock classic â€œEverywhere That Iâ€™m Notâ€ turned out to be an ironic title, since it was itself everywhere. The recordâ€™s canny combination of an impassioned post-punk vocal, a singalong chorus and the rocket fuel of Columbia Recordsâ€™ distribution network launched the single on both college and commercial radio. Translator formed in Los Angeles, but found their home on Howie Kleinâ€™s San Francisco-based 415 label, alongside Romeo Void, Wire Train and Red Rockers. The groupâ€™s debut, Heartbeats and Triggers, gained deep album play on college radio just as the medium was itself was gaining traction as a tastemaker. The band recorded three more albums, showing off talent and imagination that spanned well beyond their new wave breakthrough, but they never again caught the popular heat of their debut.
This volume of demos is centered around that key year of 1982, collecting early, pre-LP material from 1979, and extending through tracks recorded at the time of their self-titled third album in 1985. Most familiar to most listeners will be the demos of â€œEverywhere That Iâ€™m Notâ€ and its album-mate â€œNecessary Spinning.â€ Each is surprisingly finished in its attitude and arrangement, sounding ready for both the studio and stage. The former is among four recordings by the original trio lineup, waxed before guitarist Robert Darlington joined the band. The bandâ€™s first two demos, â€œTranslatorâ€ and â€œLost,â€ show how the band merged rock â€˜nâ€™ roll roots – rockabilly, surf and mod – with a harder punk delivery. By 1980 the group had grown into the quartet that would stay together throughout their four 1980â€™s albums, and regroup for 2012â€™s Big Green Lawn.
The demos include material from each of those four original albums, including an early version of â€œBeyond Today,â€ titled â€œGet Out.â€ The demoâ€™s raw sound – particularly its dry vocals – contrasts sharply with the albumâ€™s polished production; the original on-the-nose protest lyrics were smartly replaced by more open-ended, philosophical thoughts. In many cases, the album versions only lightly brushed up what was already in the demos, clarifying the acoustics, enlarging the drums and tightening the guitars. What will be especially interesting to fans are the songs that never made it past demo form, including the post-punk â€œLost,â€ prog-rock â€œFiendish Thingy,â€ punk rock â€œOptimism,â€ neo-psych â€œWe Fell Away,â€ French language â€œMy Restless Heart,â€ hard-rocking â€œBrouhahaâ€ and the superb set closer â€œIâ€™ll Be Your Summer.â€
Those looking to expand on their memory of â€œEverywhere That Iâ€™m Notâ€ should start with the groupâ€™s debut or a compilation of album tracks. But if youâ€™ve already picked up the groupâ€™s catalog, this 22-track set, curated by Steve Barton, is a great place to continue. In addition to songs that never made it to a final studio version, the unrefined edges of the demos provide insight into the bandâ€™s vision of themselves. Better yet, several of the tracks were recorded live-in-the-studio, giving fans a chance to re-live the bandâ€™s stage dynamic. Translatorâ€™s breakthrough in the post-punk new wave era turns out to have been more a matter of timing than of musical destiny, as these demos show their range was a great deal wider than could make it on MTV or commercial radio. The discâ€™s 20-page booklet includes quotes from David Kahne, Ed Stasium, Steve Berlin and detailed liners by Steve Barton. [Â©2015 Hyperbolium]