Phase Three, as I like to think of it, began in 1983, with the addition of ex-Unit 5's Paul Teagle to the System 56 zeitgeist. Although the Kent-based Unit 5 was more of a new wave, pop-rock combo, Paul quickly intuited the sense of mood and atmosphere that we were looking for, and when he rolled out that Oberheim OBX-A analog synth from his equipment arsenal, I knew immediately we had found our new keyboardist. About the same time Paul came on-board, I had just picked up a Roland SH-101, which had a small, built-in arpeggiator, and it wasn't long before that bouncy, little C-C-F-G riff mutated into our next single, "Life On a Cool Curve". The flip side, "The Other Side of Science" actually brought Paul's atmospherics more effectively into play, with it's semi-discordant drones and swampy bass washes. Phil Capone, a sax player who was doing some demos at my home studio around the same time, stepped in for the ethereal sax break, providing a nice counter-balance to the song's somberly pensive mood.
Almost as soon as it came out of the box, Life On a Cool Curve was as close as we'd ever come to a "smash hit". Released in May 1983, it remained in active rotation on the Cleveland airwaves that summer, on both the college and commercial level, and sort of became our de facto signature song. For most listeners, it seemed to strike that certain sweet spot, with its interlocking mix of throbbing rhythms, a driving guitar riff, and an infectious hook. Oh yeah, almost forgot, you could dance to it, too. This was about the time that people really began to wonder just who in the heck we were, as our radio profile was never more prominent, yet the band remained virtually invisible. There were no photographs on the record sleeve, and no live gigs forthcoming. As a result, nobody knew quite what to make of us.
The critics still kept us lined up in their sights though.
Scene Magazine: "System 56 have already established themselves as Cleveland's most commercial studio band, if not only one. With their latest single, they've hit yet another high point in their brief career. Together, these two compositions further state System 56's case as a musical force to be reckoned with outside, as well as inside, Cleveland."
Alternative Rhythms: "The A-side still retains the Ultravox feel of past System 56 releases and has a nice bouncy sequencer part. The B-side is really striking, because it drops from synth-pop to become moody. Phil Capone jumps in for a sax break towards the end, sounding like Quiet Life-era Japan. Yet another excellent release from System 56." - Sam Rosenthal
Fortnightly College Radio Report: "On the whole, we prefer Steve Simenic's song titles to those invented by David Byrne or Brian Eno. Likewise, we find System 56's synthesizer orientation cool and refreshing. There are few tricks, and the music is straightforward, as is Vince Scafiti's drumming."
More history . . . 1982 1984 2003