Reasons to believe

Photo Michael Spano

Photo Michael Spano

When the latest batch of city slickers — Bongos, dBs, Raybeats, Fleshtones et al — staked their claim to a nice slice of the New York pop pie they left out one vital factor.
Chiming choruses, twanging charm, smiling beat and razor riffs all have their place, but where the hell was the missing link?
Idiosyncracy’s what we’re talking about — or the lack of it. In their eagerness to avoid the dominant street punk image of the city’s musical tradition, the new New Yorkers headed straight for the past, plundering Sixties pop and R’n’B, but forgetting those essential quirks. And where was the present?
Enter the Del-Byzanteens. Five individuals cloaked in a shroud of enigma, the Del-Bs — and what a great name — were responsible for « Girls Imagination », an exquisite 12 inch that captured the Melody Maker Single-Of-The-Week spot when released last july on the Beggar’s Banquet offshoot Don’t Fall Off The Mountain.


« Girls Imagination » floated in a middle-Eastern dreamworld, folding wistful melodies into a writhing twist. Ears pricked, noses sniffed; the scent of significant talent was in the air. « Lies To Live By » proves the vision is no lie. If a sharper group has come out of the East Coast in the last couple of years we’ve yet to hear it.
Divided into two distinctly separate sides, « Lies » shows the Del-Bs as a group with two personalities, the first a sophisticated breeze of mentholated pop, the second a wised-up bunch of tougher delights.
The pop side of the Del-Bs is nothing like the cynical opportunism practiced by some of Britain’s spivvier new stars, just a sensible exploitation of a natural shine — hear « War » or the haunting title track and you’ll soon get the drift.
It’s on the second side that the group get the chance to show the heavier side of their mettle; the new version of « Girls Imagination » is less Egyptian, more musclebound and as seductive as ever, « Apartement 13 » is an intriguing collage of assorted percussion, tape loops and random synthesizers colliding and drifting at will.

Finest moment, though, is « Welcome Machines », a slow-fuse burner that sizzles darkly against a backdrop of mysteriously wailing keyboards. The general feel of latent power behind early Can seems the only relevant reference point, and that’s only a vague approximation. This is mighty stuff.

Apart from its length — a mere 30-odd minutes — the only complaint about « Lies » is that it’s a collection of tracks rather than an LP. The Del-Bs, as displayed, almost revel in their versatility — hey, look what we can do, this is easy! — Instead of narrowing the focus for a clearer identity. Okay, most groups just define a style and repeat themselves endlessly. The Del-Bs sound too knowing to fall into that trap, though.
Go to it, boys.

Lynden Barber
Melody Maker

Alt Lies

The Del-Byzanteens
Don’t Fall Off The Mountain X-14

Mudd Club

The Del-Byzanteens: « Draft Riot »
(Don’t Fall Off The Mountain).

New Yorkers The Del-Byzanteens were responsible for one of last year’s most outstanding 12 inch singles, « Girls Imagination », a beguiling mix of Egyptian promise and « Surf’s Up »-period vocalizing.
At last their debut album is about to be released—watch this space—but strangely they’ve chosen the weakest track as a single. « Draft Riot », contrary to the title, is too smart and breezy by far, like Neil Diamond singing with the dBs. Check instead the « flip », a reworking of, would you believe, the old Pentangle song « Sally Go Round The Roses ».

Melody Maker, April 17, 1982

Peppermint Lounge

Drawing by Janet Stein

New groups keep Apple rocking
By Lisa Robinson

[…] The Del-Byzanteens, who are currently recording a twelve inch, three track EP for Don’t Fall Of The Mountain label. (Also on that label, are the Raybeats, Human Sexual Response, and Love Of Life Orchestra.)
The Del-Byzanteens are: Phil Kline, James Nares, Philippe Hagen, and Jim Jarmusch (whose film Permanent Vacation was shown at the Bleeker Street Cinema last month.