Will sent me a little video of the band Translator playing one of their rare gigs back in 2009 at Slim’s in San Francisco. Translator has been a problem for me for almost three decades. In the early 80s, they were really big around here—kind of like American Music Club in the early 90s. But then they more or less broke up, probably for the usual reasons: they were popular but not popular enough to make a decent living. That was bad enough, because they were great live. But it was less than ten years ago that their four albums from that period came out on CD.
At one point, I did manage to get a digitized copy made from vinyl of their first album, Heartbeats & Triggers. It is a great album—one of my favorites. They were literate and funny and combined this with wonderfully expansive music. They were one of the few bands who could do an extended jam without losing control of the musical structure and devolving into narcissism. A good example of this is their underground hit, “Everywhere That I’m Not.” If you are familiar with with the song, you should listen to the live version at Slim’s, where you can hear the audience singing along with it. But here’s the video for it, which is dreadful as most videos of that time, but the song is great:
According to Wikipedia, ten years after its release, “Cry for a Shadow” was mistaken by some people as The Beatles version. It’s hard to imagine anyone making that mistake. I guess it is because it’s an instrumental. As it is, I don’t think it was ever on an album. It was the B-side of “Break Down Barriers” from their second album, No Time Like Now. (The title song is very much typical of them.)
Their third album was just Translator. I think a lot of bands, by that time, just can’t be bothered to come up with a title. But it is an excellent album, although a bit uneven. I remember rather liking “Another American Night” and “O Lazarus,” although it’s been years since I heard the album. And I don’t much remember their fourth album, Evening of The Harvest.
But what’s exciting, and the reason that I’m writing about Translator today, is that two years ago they released a new album, Big Green Lawn. Unfortunately, it apparently hasn’t been released as a CD but just as MP3. And you know me: I’m an Old Man who likes something tangible. I listened to the clips on Amazon and it sounds rather good. So if money ever starts flowing again, I may be forced to buy my first MP3. I did, however, find this sorta music video for the first song on the album, “Soul on Fire.” It is very good:
If you haven’t checked out Translator in the past, I highly recommend doing so. They are a great band with a lot more to offer than most music I come upon these days.