Before there was a Mission of Burma, two of its future founders played in this Boston group, alongside keyboardist/producer Erik Lindgren, a future member of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. The 7-inch Maximum Contrast contains six offbeat offerings of experimental synth’n’tape tricks.
That same year, the original Space Negros fell apart; Go Commercial (shades of the Residents), another 7-inch with eight songs, is actually a Lindgren solo record. His upbeat pop songs — sort of a synth-happy R. Stevie Moore — are witty and sophisticated. The B-side includes a cover of the Yardbirds’ “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.” The 1980 rendition of that classic took a Kraftwerkian electro-pop approach; the record’s 1984 reissue replaced it with a heavy metal guitar version. Have a Lousy Xmas offers a topical foursome of laughable ill cheer originals (e.g., “Jingle Hell”) played by Lindgren with Space Negro alumnus Roger Miller and others.
The windily titled album, recorded between 1981 and 1985 with a large number of instrumental contributors, consists entirely of exotically idiomatic (raga, bluegrass, Balkan, etc.) easy-listening instrumental interpretations of songs originally popularized by such venerable musical organizations as the Seeds, Who, Easybeats, Balloon Farm, Smoke, 13th Floor Elevators, Hotlegs and Tomorrow. Not as conceptually explosive as the Residents perhaps, but delightful.
Flipper may have a gripe against Public Image for lifting their concept of a generic record sleeve, but Family Fun — a Lindgren-led quartet — has them both beat. The cover of their 1981 EP (one side of four electro-pop tunes with Sara Goodman providing folkie vocals over the slightly off-kilter backing and a side of instrumental “EZ Listening Music”) mimics the no-name products in grocery stores by carrying only the word “RECORD” stenciled over “Net Wt. 4.9 Oz. (45 RPM.) 135 g.”