I gotta be honest on this one, folks: I’m not sure democracy really worked this time. You people voted this band onto the Weird List from our Submit & Vote page, fair and square, but…I dunno. I’m just not really feeling Social Climbers.
Part of the problem could be just a lack of hard evidence. According to the label that’s reissuing their one and only album, Social Climbers were a “no-wave/proto-punk” band from New York who were odd even compared to other bands at the time like Suicide and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. They supposedly did things like stage entire concerts with cardboard cutouts of themselves and piped-in music. But this was back in 1980, before videocameras were everywhere, so no record of those shows exist. All we have, in fact, is the music: an album’s worth of stuff like the “Domestic” track below, which is a little odd in a Talking Heads-meets-DEVO sort of way, but nothing especially mind-blowing.
We will say this for them, though: Mark Bingham, the main driving force behind Social Climbers, sounds like our kind of dude. An Indiana native who was apparently always more into jazz and avant-garde music (and played with guys like Glenn Branca and John Scofield), these days he runs a recording studio in New Orleans called Piety Street and looks back somewhat ruefully on his days hanging with the hip kids on the Lower East Side. “The downtown scene was really hostile to anyone who really knew how to play music,” he says of the whole NYC punk/no-wave scene at that time. “I couldn’t take the whole vibe of trust fund kids in black clothes getting smacked out and pretending to be punks.” (This from a great 2009 profile of the guy by Offbeat magazine.)
Bingham’s also done a bunch of solo records, some of which are available on CD Baby. Among them: an album of music cues for puppet shows and a bunch of instrumentals originally written to accompany poems by Ed Sanders of The Fugs. So hey, maybe he is a pretty weird guy, at that.
Anyhow, Social Climbers’ self-titled 1980 album was just reissued on Drag City Records. If you’re feeling it, you can preview more tracks and perhaps buy yourself a copy here.
- Social Climbers reissue on Drag City Records
- Social Climbers on Yoga Records
- Mark Bingham on CD Baby