With all the digging that has already been done, I find it amazing that excavators of the punk and post-punk eras have continued to unearth unheard gems from that fertile period. I mean, this was a time before everyone and his sister had a computer equipped with GarageBand. Hell, four-track cassette recorders weren’t even available until 1979, so record-making was never as prevalent at the time as it eventually would become.
As such, the DIY approach of London’s Tronics ensured that their records were never going to receive widespread recognition. The project of the teenaged Ziro Baby, who later changed his name to the equally obtuse Zarjaz, Tronics released four singles, two cassettes, a flexi-desk and an LP. Most were self-released, although Creation put out one of the singles. The lone LP, Love Backed By Force, sold out the week of its release in 1981 on the Alien imprint, which closed up shop almost immediately afterwards. While the scant copies subsequently made the record collector rounds over the years, What’s Your Rupture has given the album a proper re-release.
While one could draw lines between a number of bands that came before (Left Banke, Television Personalities) and after (Beat Happening, Comet Gain), Tronics’ sonic approach is uniquely eclectic within its somewhat anemic framework. Ziro sways between antiquated folk, retro-futurisism, and budget post-punk. Leadoff track “Charlie Manson,” whose warped keys sound pulled from a ’70 sci-fi flick, does nothing to set the mood. I guess the record’s grab-bag feel shouldn’t be surprising given Ziro intended this album as a clearinghouse of old songs before recording a new LP that never materialized. Nevertheless, the record’s title track follows by going in an opposite direction with its primal mix of competing riffs, a bongo backbeat, and Ziro’s yelped pontifications.
What Tronics excelled at, and which has made this record stand the test of time, were simple pop songs. “TV on in Bed” is the best of these, its modernist theme used to exemplify love’s intangibles. “They’re Talking About Us” is another song in this bent, albeit more sardonic than tender. But it’s difficult not to love a song that rhymes “hard” with “Marquis de Sade.” The sugary rush of “My Baby’s in a Coma” is just as infectious, showing Ziro didn’t need much more than a couple hooks and a basic beat to create unnerving pop. While he’s less successful when playing the role of folk minstrel (“Ice Flod Festival,” “Min Dama”), there’s more than enough here to justify Love Backed By Force’s resurrection.