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Steve Peake

This Week's Forgotten Gem of the '80s - Human Sexual Response's "Dolls"

By April 6, 2009

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humansexualresponse.jpg If your post-punk tastes run more toward the bizarre and even creepy side, you should definitely check out this Boston-area freak show of a band from the very early '80s. Known for their legendary performances and utter flameout only a few years in, HSR showed very little concern for normalcy on both a sonic level and an organizational one. Featuring four singers backed up by a guitarist, bassist and drummer, the group struck a mesmerizing pose onstage, complete with jerky gyrations that meshed perfectly with their jittery, quavering vocal layers.

With a style that at times echoed fellow scenesters Mission of Burma but also - at its most accessible - seemed to anticipate or influence Canada's Tragically Hip, "Dolls" ultimately sets an unsettling, nightmarish tone that's not easy to forget. Personally, I prefer when the band backs away from the sexually suggestive, campy material for which it's best known ("Jackie Onassis") and instead delivers haunting dirges like this one. American rock music has almost never sounded like this before or since, and that's just further proof of the music industry's innate conservatism, especially when you compare this stuff to the often ridiculous and staged sexual bravado of hair metal a few years later.

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Rykodisc

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