Specimen – ‘Batastrophe’ US Mini-Album (Sire, 1-25054, 1983)

Ahhh, the mini-album. Here in the UK these tended to be fairly few and far between, more of a custom delicacy. An act would normally have precise intent to indulge in such a format – something more than an EP (which were the more popular format), but not the full-on assault of an album. Think of something such as the wonderful ‘Chimera’ by Bill Nelson, for example. But overseas… well. These territorial releases would be (more often than not) a chance to glue together several earlier single releases, 12″ remixes or the like into a more substantial offering. The most common markets to proffer these goodies would be Japan, the US and Canada. And I’ve certainly featured a few examples in the past, such as these Japanese examples from Flying Lizards and  John Foxx and an Australian Ultravox! item.

Best of all would be the releases that brought something new to the party. Not simply content with just cobbling a few old singles together, these would include a couple of otherwise unavailable tracks, or new versions/mixes. ‘Batastrophe’ by the Specimen is just such an example. Although the band had a fair repertoire to draw on, while they lived the first time around, they released very few records – not even so much as an album. ‘Batastrophe’ is as close as it would come in their first life.

Specimen 'Batastrophe' US Mini-Album front cover design
^ Specimen ‘Batastrophe’ US Mini-Album front cover design

Featuring the four tracks from the band’s first couple of UK released singles (‘Returning From A Journey’/’Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ and ‘The Beauty Of Poisin’/’Tell Tail’), ‘Batastrophe’ came with the added lure of two otherwise unavailable tracks in the form of the anthemic, jaunty ‘Syria’ and ‘Lovers’ and packaged in a unique Jon Klein kover. ‘Lovers’ was originally destined to be the B side of ‘Beauty of Poisin’, according to Jon Klein, but the record company (London) felt ‘Lovers’ could be a potential future single and so it was held back and the band were off to another studio to record what would be the eventual B side, ‘Tell Tail’, sans Jonathan Trevisick by then.

Specimen 'Batastrophe' US Mini-Album back cover design
^ Specimen ‘Batastrophe’ US Mini-Album back cover design

The tracks have since surfaced on a couple of CD re-issues in the late 90s, ‘Azoic’ and ‘Wet Warm Clingfilm Red Velvet Crush’, and since then Specimen have regrouped in a couple of formations. As of 2012 however, Specimen are working on a new album, ‘Wake The Dead’ and are making use of the PledgeMusic funding model to finance its recording and distribution. You can read more about that here: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/specimen. Having heard a few of the tracks live already it should be a truly vile experience of the highest order and now is the time to fund it!

Specimen 'Batastrophe' label design side 1
^ Specimen ‘Batastrophe’ label design side 1

Specimen – ‘Batastrophe’ US Mini-Album (Sire, 1-25054) 1983

Side One:

  1. The Beauty Of Poisin
  2. Syria
  3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Side Two:

  1. Returning From A Journey
  2. Tell Tail
  3. Lovers
Specimen 'Batastrophe' label design side 2
^ Specimen ‘Batastrophe’ label design side 2

One Reply to “Specimen – ‘Batastrophe’ US Mini-Album (Sire, 1-25054, 1983)”

  1. Ah yes, the almighty foreign market EP! Not only did this provide many a UK band a way to release their goods in the album friendly/singles hostile US market. Crucially, as one who lived in The States during the rise and fall of the EP, let me state, unequivocally, that two factors beyond what you have stated are responsible for the EP boom of the early 80s in the USA.

    1 – The record industry had been in a sales slump from the end of the disco era through to the rise of the compact disc. Pricing of EPs was typically a few dollars less [$4.98 – $5.98] than a full album list price [$8.98], meaning that for the buyer, it was less outlay than an album, increasing the chance that they might take a chance on this new band. Also note, $4.98 for 4 tracks is far more profitable for the label than $8.98 for 9 tracks.

    2 – the US rock radio industry by the late 70s had chosen to ignore everything that had happened after 1975 and become incredibly conservative. Punk, New Wave and synthpop movements, not to mention goth, were all relegated to the margins of the industry. The mid-price EP was an effort to bypass the locked-up playlists of rock radio using price during an economic downturn as incentive.

    The rise of MTV in many ways, was the death-knell for the US EP boom, which flourished for the years of 1981-1984 before MTV became the ideal way to market “weird” UK bands to the breadbasket of Reagan’s America. Hey – I need to blow this up into a post on my blog!

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