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    Styrenes Biography

    Thanks to the longevity and influence of Pere Ubu, Cleveland, Ohio's early-mid 70s underground rock scene has acquired a cachet that has created interest in the bands who formed that scene. That small group of bands traded members and material freely and undoubtedly cross-influenced each other. They included Pere Ubu's predecessor Rocket from the Tombs, the Electric Eels, Mirrors and the Styrenes.

    Guitarist/keyboardist/bassist/vocalist Paul Marotta was a significant part of that scene. He spent time in both Mirrors and Electric Eels. But by the end of 1975, those bands, along with Rocket from the Tombs, had broken up. As they were disintegrating, Marotta, along with Mirrors' Jamie Klimek, was putting together the project variously known as the Styrene Money Band, the George Money Band, the Poli Styrene Jass Band and just the Styrenes. Like David Thomas with Pere Ubu, Marotta has kept the Styrenes going until the present, with occasional periods of inactivity and constantly changing personnel.

    Among the early members of the Styrenes were Pere Ubu guitarist Jim Jones, drummer Anton Fier, who later fronted his own musical collective Golden Pa lominos, and former Eels Dave E. McManus and John Morton.

    The Styrenes were known for being more eclectic and more accomplished than their underground colleagues, relying less on assaultive volume and full frontal musical attacks and more on a willingness to tackle virtually any tune, any style -even actual pop tunes. Their output has ranged from aggressive punk to trancey ambient music to jazzy spoken word projects to psychedelic freakouts. Although formed as a vehicle for Marotta's material, the band also provided an outlet for Klimek's after Mirrors' breakup. They also played some Eels material and some incredibly obscure covers (Carla Bley, anyone?)

    The band released their first 7" single, "Drano in Your Veins"/"Circus Highlights" as the Poli Styrene Jass Band in late 1975 on Marotta's Mustard label. They thus became the first Cleveland underground band to put out a 7", nosing out Pere Ubu by a few weeks. A couple more singles and an LP, Girl Crazy, also on Mustard, followed. (Much of this material was re-issued by Homestead as It's Artastic! in 1991.)

    Marotta relocated to New York by 1980. In 1983, he released a 12" single, True Confessions, with poet Charlotte Pressler (ex-wife of Rocket from the Tombs/Pere Ubu co-founder Peter Laughner). By the late 80s, he was collaborating with another expatriot Clevelander, Pagans vocalist Mike Hudson, a partnership that continues to this day with various backing musicians.

    The duo's first release together was A Monster and a Devil on Tinnitus Records in 1989 as Hudson-Styrene. They were the Styrenes in 1996 for a 12" single, "One Fanzine Reader Writes"/"All the Wrong People Are Dying," on Chicago's Drag City Records. In 1997, Scat Records, the Cleveland-based label relocated to St Louis that gave Guided by Voices its first exposure to the international fraternity of rock critics, released a three-CD set, Those Were Different Times. Compiling Styrenes, Electric Eels and Mirrors material recorded in the mid 70s, it was the first time the legendary scene was made w idely accessible to those who had not been there. The following year Scat released a CD of new Styrenes material, We Care So You Don't Have To. All the Wrong People Are Dying came out on England's Overground Records in 1998, compiling Styrenes rarities such as the Pressler single and the Drag City 12". A three-song Christmas CD "And Every Year Christmas" came out on Rattay Records that same year. Marotta, a classically trained pianist, also released a solo instrumental album of piano music called "Agit-Prop Piano" in 1983.

    -Anastasia Pantsios



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