I don’t know how rare it is for a band’s fifth album to be their best album.
I don’t know how rare it is for a band to make their best album after getting a new drummer.
But somehow, my suspicion is that a band making their best album after combining the two is pretty rare.
Which is why Dramarama’s fifth album, the stellar Hi-Fi Sci-Fi, is such a treat. And an object lesson in that if you’re gonna replace your drummer, make sure you get one of the greatest drummers who ever lived, in this case ex-Blondie Clem Burke, who gets that honor just for his demolition work on “Dreaming.”
Blondie, of course, were stylistically all over the map in a way that Dramarama never were, so Hi-Fi Sci-Fi was probably the first time Burke got to apply his magic to a series of loud and fast tunes. All of which no doubt got louder and faster as that magic got applied.
The result is a song like “Work For Food,” John Easdale’s inhabiting of a mentally ill homeless musician, which at first features Burke slighly laying back on the first part of the verses as Easdale sets up his story:
I wasn’t always paranoid,
Sang a song on Uncle Floyd,
But the records, never sold, and that was bad.
And my Mommy still took care of me,
‘Til I was almost thirty-three
Now she’s gone up to heaven, to see Dad.
But in the second half of the verses — “Work For Food” doesn’t really have a chorus, per se — with his trademark build into a roll Burke kicks into a wicked double-time as Easdales’s situation gets ever more dire:
Sheriffs came with pistols and their starry sleeves,
Gimme thirty days to leave,
And I keep on rollin’, I keep on rollin
No one wants to pay me for my broken heart,
So now I’ve got this shopping cart,
And I keep on rollin’, I keep on rollin’
As a catchy, hard-rocking song released during pretty much the last time catchy, hard-rocking songs were actually a thing in the wider culture, “Work For Food” did pretty well on “Modern Rock” radio, but despite the big guitars and bigger drums was probably too much of a lyrical downer to do much else.
Official video for “Work For Food”