Grok My Enthusiasm (5)

By: Joshua Glenn
February 10, 2016

One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars.



In June 1984, Warner/Sire issued The Survival Sampler, a cassette-tape compilation of British and Australian alt-rock and synth-pop singles. Along with movies like Repo Man, Buckaroo Banzai, and Strangers in Paradise, in my revisionist history (of 10th and 11th grade) this event signaled the true beginning of the Eighties.

The Survival Sampler included a few tracks that I may have already heard, at that point — The Church’s “Electric Lash,” I think, Scritti Politti’s “Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin),” Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts.” But the others — including The Cure’s “The Caterpillar” and The Smiths’ “What Difference Does It Make” — were revelations. As a collection, these tracks can only be described as exquisite. Like the caterpillar girl in Robert Smith and Lol Tolhurst’s lyrics, to this day The Survival Sampler glows inside my head; it holds me hypnotized — I’m mesmerized. I must have listened to it hundreds of times. I’ve even attempted to recreate it via Spotify.

The Survival Sampler is also exquisite in the sense of that term used — half-mockingly, half-admiringly — to describe late 19th-century dandies and fops. Robert Smith, Steve Kilbey, Green Gartside, Martin Gore: their voices are affected, ostentatious. This is non-rockist — inauthentic, uncool, pretentious — music. It’s rich, gorgeous!

The cassette, and an accompanying survival manual, was sealed in a can meant to look like fallout-shelter fare; according to the promo copy, the compilation was “designed to enhance and perhaps extend human life.” For at least one teenage post-punk in Ronald Reagan’s America, this life-enhancing technology worked perfectly.

GROK MY ENTHUSIASM: Rob Wringham on THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | Gordon Dahlquist on WEEKEND | Joe Alterio on MILLION YEAR PICNIC | Adrienne Crew on LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | Josh Glenn on THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | Alix Lambert on THE SKIES BELONG TO US | Adam McGovern on PENELOPE and CHAVEZ RAVINE | Rob Wringham on THE LYKE WAKE WALK | Mark Kingwell on NORTH STAR SNEAKERS & GWG JEANS | Gordon Dahlquist on FELLINI SATYRICON | Erik Davis on AH! | Devin McKinney on WHISPERING AFRAID | Mimi Lipson on 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG | Jessamyn West on MOSS | Josh Glenn on THE SCOUT HOW BOOK | Brian Berger on SLACKER | Alix Lambert on ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS | Chelsey Johnson on MONOTREMES | Devin McKinney on THE BUTCHER COVER | Flourish Klink on ONE DIRECTION | Gordon Dahlquist on FULL METAL JACKET | Allegra Huston on CLOTHESLINE | Jenny Davidson on POWERLIFTING | Evan Narcisse on REZ | Deborah Wassertzug on VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS | Chris Spurgeon on WALLACE AND GROMIT | Mandy Keifetz on BENEFICIAL MICROBES | Annie Nocenti on MARKS ON WALLS | Molly Sauter on THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF | William Nericcio on LAND OF THE LOST | Dan Fox on “VOICE OF GOD” RADIO DJS | Brandi Brown on WIKIPEDIA TALK | Claire Lehmann on THE APPARATUS REVEAL | Alice Boone on COSTUME JEWELRY | Colin Dickey on WIDESPREAD PANIC | Anshuman Iddamsetty on THE FULL BODY PROJECT | John Hilgart on MAKING GRATEFUL DEAD ALBUMS | Rob Wringham on STEVEN UNIVERSE | John Overholt on DECKLE EDGES | James Hannaham on HABIT PATTERNS | Jessamyn West on THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM | Adam McGovern on THE SPACE GIANTS | Brian Berger on MEDIUM COOL | Chris Spurgeon on THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT | Joe Alterio on TABLETOP WARGAMING | Mimi Lipson on TRASH PICKING | Jason Grote on CZECH CINEMA | Roxane Gay on AUTOMATED CAR WASH | Dan Fox on JULIA DAVIS | Amy Thielen on BINGO | Steph Burt on FEIJOA.

CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other installments. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other installments. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other installments. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other installments. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other installments.