Sunday, April 5, 2009

STUDENT NURSE SAYS: STAND UP STRAIGHT! By 1981 Student Nurse were a mainstay on the alterative Seattle scene. Their angular, slightly dissonant and dancey sound set them aside from the darker, the punkier, or the heavier bands they shared bills with. The best of their contemporaries honed-in on their sound. Student Nurse expanded outward, sending the band on a trajectory headed somewhere between subversion and art-damage. The jittery guitars of Helena Rogers, Tom Boettcher and Eric Muhs stood just a little out front of Johnny Rubato’s jazz-influenced understated drumming. Helena’s Roger’s singing was disjointed, pointillist and determined.
The band put out the mutantly delightful “Disco Dog” as well as “As Seen on TV”, a one-sided EP with cover art hand-screened by Rogers. This is the kind of stuff collectors drool over nowadays, but Student Nurse wasn’t interested in the pre-manufactured collectible market that would later be a trademark of other Seattle artists and labels. For them the art was part of the ethic.
In early ‘81 Student Nurse entered Triangle Studios to record two sides for Pravda Records. The choice of songs seems odd…both had a real pop element to them. But both were still subversive. The A side ‘Recht Op Staan’ was sung in a foreign language and the B side “Electronic Pop Smash’ was devoid of the synth sound that was becoming so popular at the time. Just as odd was the choice of producer, David Javelosa of NYC/LA techno jokers Los Microwaves. But dig a little closer and it’s apparent this was definitely an inside job. Two and a half decades later, it’s a lot easier to see just how the band sought to subvert even the most accessible music they could muster up.
Although the band was fairly democratic, onstage Student Nurse belonged to Helena Rogers. Skinny but not a bit frail looking with piercing silver eyes with Phranc-ish hair. All shouts and smiles. Totally Lesbo-chic before Lesbo-chic was chic. She provided the caffeinated energy that led to them onto many of the best local bills of the era. They didn’t seem to mind that local promoters were unlikely to choose them as openers for touring acts. The were too oddball. Too difficult to pigeonhole. And let’s face it; promoters were scared by Helena Rogers butch dynamic.
Student Nurse didn’t spend time calculating what would have been best for their career. Otherwise they never would have released this single. The title ‘Recht Op Staan’ is Dutch for ‘stand up straight’. The song’s lyrics extol the benefits of good posture. Not a likely way to get attention from the American indie audience at the time, but ‘Recht Op Staan’ is a bit of a collectors item these days. In fact all of Student Nurse’s vinyl releases go for a fair amount of cash. A recent Seattle citing of ‘Recht Op Staan’ had an asking price of $28. If you’re after a copy of their EP or of Disco Dog be prepared to spend more. Likewise, many of the silk-screens that came out of Rogers silkscreen/design studio during the 1980’s are in demand. Posters for shows by Audio Leter, The Fags, Red Dress as well as their own are easier to appreciate these days. Like Student Nurse’s music, they are shiny examples of being the unknowing architects of the future.
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