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POP EYE

I.r.s. Goes Alphabet Soup With New P.m.r.c. Label

February 01, 1987|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

When rock fans think of the PMRC, one thing comes to mind--the Washington Wives pressure group that has attacked heavy-metal and rap music and advocated warning labels for albums with explicit lyrics.

Most record companies have kept their distance from the Parents Music Resource Center. But I.R.S. Records, home of Timbuk 3, R.E.M. and Belinda Carlisle, has decided--perhaps with its tongue in cheek--that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

I.R.S. plans to announce this week that it's starting a subsidiary label devoted to developing young, adventuresome bands. The label's name: P.M.R.C. Records. (The moniker, which stands for Primitive Man Recording Company, is consistent with the rest of the Miles Copeland-owned pop empire, which includes the L.A.P.D. management firm and F.B.I. talent agency.)

Still, we couldn't help but wonder if the label's title wasn't meant as a sly joke at the Washington Wives' expense. "Actually, it just happened that the initials worked out that way," explained I.R.S. President Jay Boberg. "It really wasn't intentional. We're not going after the PMRC or anyone like that."

Of course, Boberg acknowledged that the catchy moniker will give the tiny label some instant notoriety. "Let's just say it's meant with the same sarcasm and sense of humor that we had in mind when we launched I.R.S. We hope it'll give the label an identity people will remember."

The label's boss--Sam Gennawey, 27, former owner of Camel Records in Huntington Beach--hopes the P.M.R.C. will also make a mark for its distinctive brand of music. "We're going to try to sign a real wide variety of bands, everything from African and World Vision type music to reggae and blues," he said. "If there's any consistent thread in the bands we're attracted to, it's groups that make statements--political or otherwise.

"I think we're heading into a great new era for music. It's been refreshing to see how many smaller labels have produced hits in recent months. I think that may have a lot to do with the new political climate. You can actually hear people say, 'Hey, I'm a liberal!' I think that's going to create a new adventuresome environment for music too."

The label (which, like I.R.S., will be distributed by MCA Records) already has signed the L.A.-based group the Balancing Act, and the Bears, a band led by guitarist Adrian Belew.

Although both of those acts could easily fit under the I.R.S. banner, Boberg insisted that it was important to establish a label with a separate identity. "We have nearly 20 artists, which is about as many as we can carry and still work each one properly," Boberg explained. "We'd started to find ourselves passing up on signing new artists because we didn't want to carry a heavier load.

"This will also create more opportunities for our artists to get played on radio. Now, some programmers complain that they're already playing five I.R.S. acts. This allows us to have someone different working a different record, without radio writing it off as another I.R.S. release."

And what if both labels like the same band? "We haven't run into that problem yet," Gennawey said. "My guess is we'll each sign the group we're most enthusiastic about."

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