The latest entry in Scott Miller’s “Music: What Happened” series addresses 1982. One of his selections is Translator’s hit-that-wasn’t-quite “Everywhere That I’m Not.” That band’s debut LP Heartbeats and Triggers remains a fabulous document of a tremendously talented band – maybe too talented, as the band’s diversity made them a bit hard to peg. “Everywhere That I’m Not” is a marvel of emotional complexity; Steve Barton’s vocal moves effortlessly from cool to desperate, from lust to frustration, from tenderness to rage, all in a deceptively simple song whose basic chord structure hides some complex chord voicings and tricky rhythms.
Translator’s other songwriter, Robert Darlington, often wrote smoother, melodic numbers, sung in a lower, calming voice like Mark Eitzel on Prozac. “My Heart, Your Heart” hides its agitation for the most part, but its restless chord progression and tense, martial drumming reveal the pressure underneath.
And on occasion, the band would get weird and aggressive: “Dark Region” is one of a couple of tracks that pushes discord to the forefront, possibly showing the influence of early Gang of Four. I haven’t quite figured out what’s going on harmonically here, although I think the bass is carefully misplaced beneath a chordal and melodic sequence that might sound almost normal in another context. When the drums switch rhythm from their steady four-on-the-floor to a desperate “Telstar”-like rhythm, it almost seems as if the vocal part, bass, and guitar modulate to three separate places.
All four of Translator’s albums were reissued in 2007 with bonus tracks on Wounded Bird Records. (Addendum: Here’s an interesting interview with Robert Darlington (in which he confirms that if you “think the chords are going wrong, you’re correct”: they played them like that.)