[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Limited budget. Limited equipment. Limited time. Greece’s Proxies did not view these as constraints but rather obstacles to be overcome. Their music displays a furious level of creativity and what’s more they had innovation in their blood. I said had due to the band being gone since 1994; this debut is from 1983 and it finds them working out their sound wonderfully. There is just something about work from this era that stands out when compared to anything else, in the case of Proxies (who formed in 1978) it comes through in how they arranged their tunes. They preferred to take a brighter, more optimistic tone in what they wrote and this was in stark contrast to the prevailing wisdom of the time.
Things were by and large a bleak, monotonous affair on the radio at the time. The emphasis was on stripping all the humanity out of what you were doing; lots of dour souls in raincoats and wide-shouldered suits. People seemed afraid to do much of anything besides wait for the world to end, plenty of dandy lads in makeup sporting a decidedly sad outlook about things. This group did not share that sense of despair but then they weren’t aiming for chart success, if you read through their biography they could have very well wound up being consumed by leering executives and their shiny shiny hair. As luck would have it, they were spared this fate. I doubt any of us would be hearing this record if they’d gone with EMI; the vaults would have swallowed ‘Groovin’ Over Beirut’ up completely.
Proxies celebrated the everyday interactions between people, they especially enjoyed a good love song. “Something Went Wrong” jumps right out of the pack here with excellent guitar work and rather inventive keyboards; you can tell it is played manually, no fancy sequencing here and definitely no digital overdubs. I’d imagine there was a fair amount of cursing that went on as tapes were spliced and re-wound in order for more to be added to each layer. Something else which may surprise you is that the band didn’t ape the bigger names of the time as was all too common then. They don’t sound like Depeche Mode, The Human League, ABC, Soft Cell or New Order. In fact, the only other formation out there they even bear a passing resemblance to would be another bunch of under the radar renegades: Drinking Electricity.
“Little Lorrane” is so bloody catchy it ought to be locked up! An ode to their own personal Lolita? We’ll just never know but while I’m pondering it let me take a moment to illuminate one other feature to this particular issue of ‘Groovin’ Over Beirut’ which should seal the deal: there are six additional songs included this time around which were not on the original pressing. You can tell that things were changing rapidly in Proxies’ word, a little too rapidly for their drummer who left not long afterwards in 1984. “Colour Town” is precisely what the title implies, it bursts out of the cage (hi Martin!) with hooks and melodies by the armload; “Ecstacy” brings them to us riding a massive beat and dispensing heady clouds of synthetic confectionery.
For every bunch of kids who think they know what the 80s were about there’s material like this to silence their chatter. This is why people remember the decade so fondly, there were no limits to expression and bands such as Proxies took advantage of this landscape to produce what appealed to them and no one else. There’s no compromise to be heard here just walk those boots out on the floor and groove.
Proxies – Groovin’ Over Beirut
Anna Logue, ANNA 052.2016