Liquid Liquid/Successive Reflexes/Optimo
Liquid Idiot/Idiot Orchestra
Liquid Idiot/Idiot Orchestra
New York quartet Liquid Liquid stumbled upon a sound and style that rightly can be called “original.” Blending Funk with the sounds of the streets, the intensity of art-rock, and alien rhythms, their three twelve-inch singles would form a legacy that extended way past the forty-three minutes of music they left behind.
From the first notes of the band’s eponymous debut, it’s obvious that Liquid Liquid is a very different sort of band. “Groupmegroup” starts things off with an oddly tribal street sound, thanks to the unique drum/bass/marimba arrangement. It’s Afro-Cuban rhythms by way of Jupiter; throw in the nonsensical rantings and vocalizing of Salvatore Principato on “Lub Dupe” and “Bell Head,” and you’ll walk away scratching your head, wondering what in the hell that was that you just heard…and yet in its weirdness, it makes you want to go back to the beginning, just so you can try to comprehend it all.
Successive Reflexes quickly followed, but it’s an amazing leap forward. The elements are still in place, but their sound is much more refined and organized; the melodies are more complex, while the groove is smoothed out and slick. It’s the sound of the 1980s in its prime, as one can hear echoes of A Certain Ratio and the New Order production team Be Music in the two versions of “Lock Groove” and “Zero,” while “Push” is a fun Latin punk-funk number. It is here that you start to hear the future of 80s dance music–and the Manchester connection is worth noting, as it would be this sort of sound that would soon dominate the music coming out of the legendary Hacienda.
By the time of 1983’s Optimo, they’ve turned into one helluva band, with a funk groove so taut and unstoppable, it’s really surprising that this was to be their farewell, as opposed to the wider introduction to the world that it should have been. Instead, that introduction came unexpectedly (and illicitly) thanks to Grandmaster Flash’s unauthorized sample of “Cavern” for his hit anti-drug rap classic, “White Lines,” and it’s extremely hard to divorce the song’s groove from the rap sample. However, the other songs here are wonderful as well, such as the tight cowbell-leaden title track, and the A.R. Kane-predicting “Scraper,” which still sounds futuristic, thirty two years on.
Also included in this reissue series is another EP, entitled Liquid Idiot/Idiot Orchestra, and are pre Liquid Liquid recordings. Less groove oriented and more noise/experimental minded, both the Liquid Idiot and the Idiot Orchestra sides are historically interesting, albeit not particularly vital listening.
It’s nice to know that Liquid Liquid’s reputation has only grown since 1983, and that they’re seen as something much more substantial than “the band that Grandmaster Flash sampled.” These reissues provide that reminder for a younger generation that some bands from the past still remain ahead of their time.