School of Secret Music


by Jason Nickey
Landlocked Music  •  Bloomington, IN

One of the best bands to ever call Bloomington home, the Dancing Cigarettes had a brief but creative career. The best part of their dancable, new wave sound is collected here... Arty for sure, and definitely sounding "of the time," but timeless pop all the same. "Pop Doormat" alone should secure their place in Indiana Music History.

by Rick Wilkerson
The S.O.S.M. CD Liner Notes  •  1994

The first time I saw them, in August of 1980, I wasn't that impressed. I was fresh from a couple of years hanging out in trendy Chicago New Wave clubs of the late '70s, so my brother insisted I check out The Dancing Cigarettes. I pretty much dismissed them as Bloomington's collegiate version of the Talking Heads, but even that night I knew there was something more to them. Soon, The Dancing Cigarettes exploded in a blaze of musical and creative maturation. Before our eyes, they morphed from untrained, struggling bohemian musicians into an entrancing unit whose sum was clearly greater than the not inconsiderably talented parts: Michael, a gifted lyricist and singer with an ability to fuse childlike observation with early Reagan-era angst; Emily, a master of acrobatically funky bass lines and a Mona Lisa mystique; Tim, commander of voodoo organ licks and a joyously perverse outlook; Gordon, cranking out urgent sax, guitar, and sky-is-falling lyrics; and John, a wildman on drums and a subtle engineer of the band's eerie sense of rhythm.
  - Don Trubey Deconstruction -  
Like many '80s regional acts, The Dancing Cigarettes' music was woefully undocumented on vinyl, despite several successful studio sessions and endless live recordings, a lone 7" EP on Bob Richert's Gulcher label (home of the Gizmos, Dow Jones & the Industrials, the Panics, the first MX-80 7", the first Johnny "Cougar" Mellencamp 7", among others) was released; otherwise they self-released a couple of cassettes and were included on compilations like Gulcher's Red Snerts. In those days, indie records seemed either to succeed wildly or sink completely; usually the latter. Few independent labels were willing to take chances as record buyers focused on English imports and U.S. major label New Wave releases. The Dancing Cigarettes, true to their bohemian ideals, never had the cash to do much more than crisscross the Midwest and the East Coast, delighting some audiences and confounding others. Finally, in 1983, the band collapsed from the weight of their underwhelming financial success.

Like their Bloomington ancestors MX-80, The Dancing Cigarettes simply created their own genre. Borrowing from Captain Beefheart, the No New York artists, and the early Rough Trade [Records] sound, The Dancing Cigarettes transformed these underpinnings into a wonderfully artsy stomp full of infectious enthusiasm. I'll never forget those nights at the Bluebird and Second Story in Bloomington, where the faithful rarely missed an opportunity to experience them live. For an art-rock band, they had the uncanny ability to make you dance 'til you dropped, smiling all the while at their whimsical tunes and slashing, sardonic lyrics.

[ No New York ] [ Rough Trade ]

by ultradamno
Adult DVD Talk Forum  •  December 30, 2008

Dancing Cigarettes in "The School of Secret Music"

Never heard of it, that's because it's secret. But oh, the nerves I've frayed with "Broken Windows"

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