New Clear Days - The Vapors - 1980
This is the first and last album I sought out at the old location of Joe's Record Paradise in Rockville. Joe's has since moved to the heart of downtown Silver Spring and the new location is absolutely jammed with goodies (read about the VVer's hometown paradise here). It certainly takes the cake as the most complete record store in town, but to be frank, there aren't that many record stores left in DC anyways.
The Vapors lead off with the impossibly catchy single "Turning Japanese", which will likely give you a nose bleed if played too frequently. The single is slightly cheesy, and has some dinky instrumentation. Put simply, it's dumb, pop fun. The remainder of the album on the other hand is mostly solid, fast paced, and easily tops the lead song. Strong influences from The Jam, The Stooges, The Clash, 60's pop, and a little ska can be heard as well (how dare I make comparisons to such stellar bands as these?). Each side has a great closing track: "Letters from Hiro" and "Bunkers" respectively. These are both downbeat pop rockers that have plenty of thumping rhythm, but none of the same peppy mood as "Japanese." These guys frankly seem depressed at the state of world (hey, it was 1980, things were looking pretty bleak. I mean, the hair styles alone made it seem like the world was going to end at any moment). "I've got no idea where we go from here, maybe that's why we're living in bunkers". The only dud on here is "Waiting for the Weekend" which is catchy, but not in a way that makes you want the weekend.
Every song on this disc has its charms. "Somehow" is an odd apology to a lover song. "Don't leave me now, I'll make it up to you somehow." It's tight and effective. Several side-B tracks have a Ramones style chug-a-lug, made even more complete with sing a long set to a drum track. The Vapors never really bring out the big guns though. They never wail or squeal vocally or on guitar. The heaviest thing they have going for them is lyrics and the aforementioned rhythm section. Pop all the way.
Album art work is strong here. The cover depicting a news weather man pointing at a blue screened weather map of the UK. Several of the typical storm clouds and suns have been replaced by a mushroom cloud and a nuclear fallout symbol. Pretty dark stuff. It perfectly matches the gallows humor and punkish pop of this 80's LP. Less effective is the back cover where you get to see the band members end of the world hair styles. AAAAGGGGGGHHHHH!!!