Perhaps familiar from being sampled by the Avalanches, this New York tween was an inspiring underground star in the early 1980s, a reputation confirmed by this archival collection.
When the Avalanches returned in 2016 after an absence of nearly two decades, a sampled koan lurked at the heart of “Subways,” their swooning comeback: “You walk on the subway/It moves around.” The voice belongs to Chandra Oppenheim, a veteran of the New York downtown scene who attended New York Dolls shows, rubbed elbows with Madonna, opened for Laurie Anderson, played the Mudd Club, staged performance art pieces at the Kitchen, and performed with her band on “Captain Kangaroo.” Not bad for a tween: Chandra was just 12 when she and her band of the same name cut “Subways” and three other songs for a now-coveted 1980 EP.
That EP, an unreleased second one, and two four-track demos form this fidgety new reissue, a welcome resurrection since the band hasn’t gotten much notice in the decades of New York comps that have followed. After splintering from late 1970s punk band Model Citizens, Eugenie Diserio and Steve Alexander formed kinetic no wave group The Dance with future Material and Scritti Politti drummer Fred Maher. They also found themselves taken with the young Oppenheim, becoming her backing band and fostering her nascent songwriting. “Chandra would blow us away with her lyrics,” Alexander remembered in an interview with The Guardian. “We were always like, ‘Don’t change a thing.’”