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Spotlight on: Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution by The Beakers

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Cover of Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution by The Beakers The Beakers, Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution

What a difference a year makes! Funky punk quartet The Beakers toured Seattle and its environs between the Januarys of 1980 and 1981, often appearing on the same bill with fellow Seattleans The Blackouts and the legendary Gang of Four and XTC. Meanwhile, sometime inbetween, they recorded (some of them live) the seventeen tracks that make up Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution -- a few of which appeared on their "Red Towel" single and an EP of local music called Life Elsewhere, but most of which have remained unreleased (O, the perils of self-promotion!).

Sounding to this reviewer's ear like a combination of the Talking Heads and Morphine (courtesy of the Byrneian vocal stylings of singer/guitarist Mark Smith and the "skronking" saxophone of Jim Anderson), the Beakers embraced their "gregarious amateur" status as a funky punk band but nonetheless have a dynamic energy that is infectious. You won't even mind when "Bones" (which features Smith screaming "I am the king!" repeatedly) -- and other songs that seem to have as little content -- end abruptly.

"Red Towel" is a great opener -- it's probably the most produced of the Beakers' songs -- a catchy, loud trifle that starts out with a level of unexpected insanity, but eventually becomes familiar with repeated listens, almost comforting: "We're getting a great tan / We're soaking in the rays / We're changing our color / We're lying on a red towel!" That last line is so triumphant that I can't imagine not taking a red towel to the beach from now on. Also interesting is "3 Important Domestic Inventions," which takes a bluesy lyrical style and does very strange things with it ("I'd like to explain retroactive / You have to look backwards / I'd like to explain the cathode ray tube / You have to face it"), but my favorite song on Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution has to be "Dinosaurus Mambo." It starts with a rolling bass line and an atypically typical rock beat, then folds in the Beakers' charm gradually. I would recommend it for those who like to get their feet wet before jumping right into a new sound.

The album cover is always part of the listening experience and this conglomeration of Picasso subjects playing football does more than you could imagine to imply what is contained within. Four Steps Toward a Cultural Revolution is a great album for mowing the yard, working out, or any other activity that requires uptempo inspiration. It's unfortunate that the Beakers as an entity didn't make it past a year of age but, luckily, during their tenure on the Pacific Northwest music scene, they attracted K Records majordomo Calvin Johnson as a fan. His admiration of their style led to the release of this compilation, offering their music, at least, a second chance at immortality and the popular success they courted so vigorously.

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