I gotta say, I had forgotten how good Dramarama’s Cinema VeriteShe's so subliminal was. I bought it in ’86 or so after seeing them open for the Psychedelic Furs at the Warfield. They were the epitome of the absolute cool the 19 year old me could not hope to achieve. Bought the album, taped it, and played it loads. I know I got sick of how much Anything, Anything got overplayed, to the exclusion of so much other good stuff they produced both on this and on subsequent albums. Not having heard it in a few years (possibly only once or twice in the last 12 years – it doesn’t get airplay on NL on CZ radio, as far as I can tell), listening to it again tonight, I hear the brilliance in it. “I got wasted, she got mad, called me names and she called her dad,” captures the immaturity associated with love and desire and how it’s all wrapped up with possession and that desperate ned to hold on to someone captured in the refrain “I’ll give you candy, give you pills, anything you want, hundred dollar bills.”

They married some of the lowlife dinginess of the Velvet Underground’s third album to a sparkling 70s power pop aesthetic.And while Anything, Anything got the airplay, it’s not the only perfect pop song on the album. The pounding tom-toms that open Visiting the Zoo introduce a song of fuzztone guitar artistry that Cheap Trick would have been proud to own.

At a time when the VU were still in legend status – in the mid-80s Lou Reed was still growing up in public and hadn’t made the elder statement of New York – Dramarama closed side A with Femme Fatale, imbuing it with a combination of sadness and bemusement, perhaps at the gap between the warnings to a suburbanite dropped in mid-60s New York and the harder first-person experiences of the originals on the album. (Note that Cinema Verite‘s cover sports Edie Sedgwick, about whom Femme Fatale was written.)

The album’s other cover, David Bowie’s Candidate (an album cut from 1974’s Diamond Dogs) opens the more varied side B. It’s an odd choice, but helps the band lay claim to the glam sensibility that dominates the second half of the album. The piano introduction to Some Crazy Dame reflects that, though the song is squarely in the seedy downtown category, as its subject seems to be a porn starlet (“She’s on camera she’s an actress now / Such charisma on the mattress now”).

When I say the second side has a glam sensibility, I might mean that stylistically, the second side wanders somewhat. Etc’s cryptic lyrics (“30 biscuits on 30 plates / Different colors cause they were made on different dates”) supported by a lead bass line are followed by the almost folk of Transformation, the introduction for which wouldn’t have been out of place on a 70s era Styx or Andrew Gold album, ditto for its guitar solo. All I Want is nearly a proper punk song, whereas the solo acoustic closer Emerald City almost feels like a folk song. The drugged haze of lyrics such as “I’m lost in a sweet dream / I’m living on chocolate ice cream / I’m letting off my steam” indicates that all is still not well

Nearly thirty years later, I still give it four stars. While Cinema Verite, and follow-up, Box Office Bomb are available on iTunes, only the subsequent studio albums are available on Spotify.

You can enjoy all of CV on youtube, however: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x59-cFofXu8