Scratch and Sniff

(Invisible Records)

By: Sarah L. Myers

Recording the perfect New Wave record can be a tricky feat. Missing Persons came close with 1982’s Spring Session M and anything by Gary Numan is pretty much a lock. It’s not surprising, then, that these artists hold the most influence over The Countdown. The husband and wife team of Steve Denekas and Tamar Berk can now add Scratch and Sniff (Invisible Records) to that selection of albums. While they certainly have the look down, with Berk posing as a modern-day Dale Bozzio, it’s the sound that captures that musical movement when The Mudd Club met MTV.

The Countdown have all the prerequisites. Angular and robotic at times, brash and pissy at others, Berk’s diverse vocal range mirrors that of her stage presence. Denekas rocks a Flying V - inarguably the coolest looking guitar ever made - on songs like “Like No Other Man” and Big Black’s “Bad Penny”. The former, an infectiously filthy rocker, has Denekas sneering “baby take it all in, cause I’m full of sin.” Album opener “Static” offers the finest from the duo: canned voices giving directions against a synthesized back beat, all leading up to a fist-pumping chorus.

Live, The Countdown are an entirely different experience. Leaving not a quiet moment onstage, Berk and Denekas play off one another, sometimes violently. Their chemistry, sexual and otherwise, is palpable. What sounds detached and austere on the record (qualities of any great New Wave song), is spat from behind the microphone with pure aggression. “Like No Other Man” is particularly nasty. Denekas’ shredding, skuzzy guitar and persistent head banging brings multiple shouts of “they fucking rock!” - even before the chorus comes in. “Human Resources” showcases Berk as punk’s sexiest kitten, straight out of a shot of Blondie’s “X Offender” video.

Scratch and Sniff serves up post-punk in a way like no other record this year. Everything about it is exciting - a term seldom used to describe any release. The songs are perfection, the live show is unequaled, and the cover art is delightfully weird. It’s everything unexpected and absolutely what we’ve been waiting for.


March 2007 : "Static" - The Countdown : Video Feature


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