Battery Farley – “Dress for Obscurity (One of the Unlucky Medium Bombers)”

Getting home on Friday evening after four straight weeks of business travel was a major relief, all the more so because I had a bunch of vinyl I’d picked up at Los Angeles’ Amoeba Music in my bag and nothing planned for the weekend. Little did I know, though, that I picked up some kind of bug, probably on the plane, and by Sunday all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and stare at the TV.

I finally dragged myself over to my vinyl shelf in the afternoon and went looking for something weird to fit my weird mood. Battery Farley’s one and only LP, 1985s Dress for Obscurity (One of the Unlucky Medium Bombers) (♠), seemed to fit the bill, being described as both punk and new wave. But what I got was something way different than what I expected.

I mean, what the hell is happening here? I haven’t taken any cold medicine today, but I feel like I just chugged a pint of Nyquil, like I’m hearing this music while submerged in a vat of molasses or something. Is the speed too slow? I don’t think so, and it matches the sound of a few examples I found on YouTube. Hell, I even timed the song “Things We Said Today” to see if it matched the run time shown on the jacket reverse; it didn’t, but what was weird was that the run time I got was 20 seconds less than that shown, which would seem to indicate it was spinning faster than it should have been and not slower. (♣) The record isn’t warped, and it appears the rotational speed is correct. So as bizarre is it seems, I think this is exactly how it’s supposed to sound.

Dress for Obscurity is some trippy stuff. It’s like early 1980s synth pop slowed down to the point of near distortion. It’s actually difficult for me to describe because I find myself having a hard time truly listening to the music. That’s not to say it’s bad, because it’s certainly not. (♥) Instead it’s pulling me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to think about what I’m hearing more than just listening to it. “Mojave Airport” is like an acid soaked 60s pop song, and there may be more than a bit of an influence from that time and genre given that Battery Farley also cover The Beatles’ “Things We Said Today” (1964). There’s definitely a classic pop-rock sensibility, but one that is slowed down and relying more on synths. I mean, “Chernobyl Song”… WTF? It’s just strange and weird and odd, though the interspersed newscaster audio clips make it very clear this is spinning at the right speed. But the music… man, Nyquil city, baby.

If you like it a bit strange, though, you’ll dig Dress for Obscurity If you can find a copy.

(♠) The parenthetical mention of “one of the unlucky medium bombers” references the image on the front jacket, which appears to be a World War II B-26 bomber bursting into flames, very likely moments before falling from the sky and taking it’s seven man crew with it. I can only imagine being a young man (or an older one for that matter) facing this kind of fate.

(♣) Two other songs, however, did check out just fine, my timing matching the listed run times – “1963” and “April In April”. This is one of those rare occasions that I wish I had a turntable with pitch control, because I feel like this needs to be sped up just a tiny bit.

(♥) Holly says it sounds like a slowed down version of Devo. I can’t disagree with that.