Spring Session M

Missing Persons

1982: Capitol Records S21-18499

  1. Noticeable One
  2. Windows
  3. It Ain’t None of Your Business
  4. Destination Unknown
  5. Walking in L.A.
  6. U.S. Drag
  7. Tears
  8. Here and Now
  9. Words
  10. Bad Streets
  11. Rock and Roll Suspension
  12. No Way Out
  13. Hello, I Love You
  14. Mental Hopscotch

“Destination Unknown” is truly one of the best representative tracks to emerge from the early 1980s musical scene’s heady abundance, both as a recording and as a song in its own right. I hadn’t thought of it that way until recently (late 2004), usually appreciating it just as the version on this album presents it, but upon reflection I find that the song itself is just about classic in its structure…if the verse lyrics were stretched out more “conventionally” across all four measures of each stanza, instead of being unsentimentally but compactly delivered in the space of two measures (leaving the remaining two measures to be filled by the instrumental continuum), it would probably “sit right” in the ears of more conservative listeners. Of course, Dale Bozzio’s vocal style is what makes this track, and this album, so unique and stamps this song’s recording commandingly: it’s a mixture of sing-song simplicity, L.A. punk/chic, and playful dance-around-the-Apocalypse blondeness, a perky chirping in the dark psychological violence of the time.

And in many ways “Destination Unknown” remains a near-perfect anthem for my life as it was in the early 1980s and as it’s continued since then, although the threat of nuclear annihilation has receded since then and the corresponding sense of delicious danger has too. “When will my time come? Has it all been said and done?” Bozzio’s voice, for all its frivolous trappings, conveys the poignant insecurity and anxiety of the lyrics, helped by the melody’s actual notes, and the song never fails to touch me, as a result.

The rest of the album? I love it. Not all its tracks are so strong, but the bulk is: “U.S. Drag” (according to www.allmusic.com that was the group’s original name) is the perfect evocation of a television-screen-lit 1980s darkness, “Walking In L.A.” is just the marvelous punky anthem that it is, “Words” sounds a little contrived now but was exactly its moment at the time, and the final two tracks (“Rock and Roll Suspension” and “No Way Out”) are a mighty pair of ragings against the machine. In the latter the lyrics are exactly what they should be: “I face the music and dance” may not be an original line, but it’s precisely appropriate in this context; “Rock and Roll Suspension” can perhaps be described as “punk with a hefty production budget,” as the choruses danceably rock out to essentially anti-disco sneering bordering on deconstruction.

Certainly this is an album I never tire of listening to. Has it aged well? Yes and no. Mostly yes, from my perspective, but then that’s a biased view given that I heard it on its first pass and therefore have the context solidly nailed for all future hearings.

“…in the pale blue T.V. light….”