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DEL-BYZANTEENS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Del-Byzanteens EP (UK Don't Fall off the Mountain) 1981
Lies to Live By (UK Don't Fall off the Mountain) 1982

Up from the murky pit of New York's art-punk scene came the Del-Byzanteens, a quartet with stylistic threads running back through Television and the Velvet Underground and the ability to give their dark, urgent arrangements a cinematic pan. (Not a surprising attribute, considering the future career of keyboardist Jim Jarmusch.) An unsettling cover of the Supremes' "My World Is Empty" on the three-track EP is a slice of jungle paranoia with voodoo percussion, ominous group vocals that sound like a satanic mass and a guitar quotation from Perry Mason.

The group's inventive resources are spread a little thin, though, on Lies to Live By. The quirky B-52's guitarisms and hyper-disco thump of "Draft Riot" and dour facelessness (Joy Division variety) of the title track dull the impact of both "War," a clever union of funk-punk drive with protest lyrics from Caribbean calypso records, and the gray soul of the old Jaynettes' shuffle, "Sally Go Round the Roses." Both "Lies to Live By" and a new version of the EP's "Girl's Imagination" were used by Wim Wenders in his movie The State of Things.

[David Fricke]