Monday, January 16, 2006

cult of the week - Social climbers

artist: Social Climbers

title: Social Climbers

year: 1980

label: Hoboken Records

personnel: Jean Seton Shaw (bass, vocals), A. Leroy (farfisa organ, korg machine), Mark Bingham (guitar, vocals)

tracklisting: domestic, chicken 80, western world, chris & debbie, palm springs, that's why, ernie k, hello texas, taipei

cotw say…

Mark Bingham flirted with a number of projects prior to compiling the works of Social Climbers, including production work for MX-80 Sound and collaborations with New York's Glenn Branca. their only album was indeed a compilation of three excellent, but poorly pressed 7" flexis put out by the band.

armed with just a couple of guitars, a rhythm box and an organ, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this album may not offer anything special, or that Social Climbers would simply mirror the b-movie aspirations of their New York peers, Comateens (which they do here there, particularly on 'Western World'). however, Bingham & Co. conjure up a highly original mix of quietly neurotic post-punk restraint. both the organ and rhythm boxes are used highly effectively, thanks to subtle production trickery and clever programming, neatly offset by the geeky garageband vocals. tracks like 'Chicken 80', 'Chris & Debbie' and 'That's Why' are shining examples of the very best of post-punk DIY, thanks to both memorable tunes and a cool, if insular, atmosphere of moderate despair. as the album wanders comfortably over the stylistic map, each track in some way hits the spot, and most hit more than one.

every lo-fi collector should get to hear this. and what a tragedy that it was never followed up.

erik -


Michael Markos said...

Yes. Very unique group. A. Leroy also worked with Charles Moulton, a choreographer, creating the music for his "Precision Ball Passing" pieces in the early 80s. I have photos of Social Climbers playing CBGB's on 3/4/81. The warm-up group was John Scofield and I seem to remember he sat in with them after his set.

Michael Markos

Social Climber photos at:

Christopher Stigliano said...

Scofied indeed sat in with the Social Climbers, and in fact a minute segment of a jam entitled "Standing in the Need of Prayer" where the four played amidst a tape loop of Jerry Falwell appears on the STATE OF THE UNION sampler album. Since another Social Climbers track from the same show appears on the SON OF SEGMENTS cassette that came out in the early-eighties I assume the entire show, perhaps both the Climbers and Scofield sets were recorded. It would be great if both saw an official release.