Archive for the ‘ Punk ’ Category

Primer on Lesser Known 1st Wave Punk

Many a band in recent years has attempted to capture that “trashy” punk rock sound but fail to realize that, more often than not, the classic garage/punk bands either stumbled upon their sound or achieved it through the lack of a proper studio and/or the aid of older, sometimes decrepit equipment (though I’m sure there are some hideous digital plugins that promise to emulate this sound).


PACK “Vinyl” (1978-)

Germany’s PACK didn’t have to work too hard at getting said sound seeing that their sole album was recorded in the depths of a dingy old war bunker. This record is a personal all-time favorite of the lesser-known 1st wave punk albums. While the drums, guitars and incredibly pissed-off vocals are certain to decimate what’s left of your eardrums, you will also be surprised to discover a host of tracks that are downright catchy without straying into the sugary pop that often marred many of their contemporaries’ work.  Already veterans of the German rock-n-roll scene when this came-out, it is rumored that these “old” guys were disliked by the younger German punk bands.

mp3: PACK – Nobody Can Tell Us

:) Original | 1978 | search ebay ]


The Kids s/t (1978-)

This young—the name doesn’t lie—Belgian trio of juvenile delinquents achieved the commendable and uncommon feat of releasing two consecutive punk rock classics. But of course this first self titled beast was their best and nastiest contribution to a genre that was already on the verge of imploding. This is punk rock in its purest sense. The stripped-to-the-marrow sound and barely competent (and yes this actually is a good thing in many cases) playing only bolster the Kids knack for cranking out unforgettable punk rock anthems like “This is Rock-n-Roll” and “I Wanna Get a Job in the City.” My only complaint is that the guitars could have been rawer and way more prominent in the mix. But itmany merits certainly overshadow this otherwise unforgivable flaw.

youtube: The Kids “I Wanna Get a Job in the City” 

:) Original | 1978 | Phillips | search ebay ]


Rokker s/t (1979)

Rokker was an Austin band that released this locally pressed rarity in 1979. Everything about this bandfrom the name and cover art to song titles like “Rock Fever” screams cheeseball loud enough to wake up the entire neighborhood. But don’t be too quick to write it off—its a surprisingly rare example of a great punk album from a non-punk-rock-and-proud band, and they definitely get a kick out of bashing the trendy shopping- mallbound fashion-disease punk would become. It’s like a biker-bar band taking a cue from the Flamin’ Groovies and the Pistols and actually squeezing out something that’s not a pile of dog shit. The lyrics range from full-on stupidity- “You’re mother’s a punk and fathers a wanker” to downright creepy “Daddy, whatcha doing to my sister.” The songs are loaded with hooks and have a strong Teenage-Head-era-Groovies-feel  that are sure to suck you in have you singing along like an idiot to the refreshingly dim-witted lyrics.

mp3: Rokker – Rock Fever

:) Original | 1979 | search ebay ]


The Victims “Real Wild Child” (1979)

Another bonafide classic from a New Jersey band that has yet to receive its rightful due. Making its unwelcome appearance in the midst of punk’s last gasp (1979), this one straddles the garage-ier side of the spectrum but does not shy away from the fuck-you attitude and sleaze that will feel like a invigorating breath of NY sewer air to  fans of  the Dead Boys. The guitars have brighter, trebly sound that helps set them apart from buzz saw driven bands of the time, but fear not –they are turned up far too loud to be lumped in with any of that flaccid power-pop that was stinking up the airwaves. This is a solid ride all the way through.

 mp3: Victims – Too Late

:) Original | 1979 | search ebay ]
;) MP3 album | Victims | buy here ]


Consumers “All My Friends are Dead” (1977)

Believe it or not this actually fully lives up the lost classic cliché. There must be something found only in that dry desert heat that could have produced something as sonically brutal and angry as this Phoenix band’s ten song demo. Recorded in ’77 these brief—yet brilliant—tracks anticipate the coming of Hardcore, which would ultimately abandon the loose rock-n-roll feel that made bands like the Consumers way more soulful and enduring. There are some strong nods to the Pistols here and there, but this band had forged its own breakneck-pace and gritty sound that was worlds ahead of most bands the larger cities were producing.

mp3: The Consumers – Media Ogre

:) Original | 1977 | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2010 | In the Red | buy here ]


Nasal Boys  “Lost and Found”  (Comp, 1977)

“Hot Love” and “Die Wüste Lebt!” constitute what’s considered by many as one of the finest punk singles ever. And anyone with a functioning set of eardrums should have no reason to disagree with this assessment. These songs absolutely epitomize everything that Punk Rock should be. Both songs are intense, unrefined bursts of energy that always seem to be on the brink of collapse. This is noise that will carve a perplexed frown onto the face of most AC-DC-loving “classic” rock fans. The rest of this collection features unreleased tracks that are not quite as impressive, and sometimes move into even more incoherent territory. Regardless they still stand above the heap of all the second rate imitators and punk cash-in bands of the day.

mp3: Nasal Boys – Hot Love

:) Original | 2006 | search ebay ]


Starshooter  s/t (1978-)

Though a bit sub-par in the company of these other releases, one of France’s strongest punk LPs does have a charm of its own. Perhaps more of an acquired taste, the Jacques Dutronc meets Johnny Rotten French vocals may throw some listeners off at first. But multiple spins will unveil a pretty decent record. The guitars are pretty loud and come off a bit mechanical at times—though this somehow works as an asset in the context of the album’s overall atmosphere. At times there are shades of Wire’s early work, heightening the streaks of oddness that hover just at the surface. But it’s still a consistent, good slice of driving and uniquely French rock n roll that deserves a home in any decent record collection.

mp3: Starshooter – A Toute Bombe

:) Original | 1978 | Pathe | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2012 | Elle Aim L’air | buy here ]


Further listening (youtube links):
Hubble Bubble
The Gears
Ivy Green
Suicide Commandos

Coloured Balls “Ball Power”

Coloured Balls were one of the best pure rock n roll groups to emerge from the early 70’s Australian scene.  Sure, The Saints and Radio Birdman stayed together longer and released a slew of fine albums during the punk era but it was the Coloured Balls who pioneered the proto punk sound earlier in the decade.  Their wildcard was Lobby Loyde (also known as John Barrie Lyde), Australia’s premier guitar hero (detractors must check out his live at Sunbury performance of “G.O.D.” – from Aztec’s Ball Power reissue) whose pivotal roles in beat/psych/blues rock groups The Purple Hearts, The Wild Cherries and Billy Thorpe’s Aztecs made him a major home-grown star down under.  Ball Power is not only the Coloured Balls’ greatest album but also the finest music of Lobby Loyde’s long, fabled career.

Ball Power, released in 1973, favorably recalls the latter day MC5 or the Pink Fairies from their great Kings of Oblivion LP.  The best moments on Ball Power are transcendent.  “Human Being,” the album’s lone classic, is a blistering hard rock masterpiece notable for its crunching buzz saw guitars and bludgeoning rhythm section.  “That’s What Mama Said” is essentially “Human Being” drawn out to 10 minutes but this time around Coloured Balls utilize a foot-controlled Theremin and lots of guitar soloing/guitar noise (progressive raunch).  Other good ones are “Won’t You Make Up Your Mind,” which sounds like anarchy in the UK before there was such a thing, the powerful boogie rock of “Hey! What’s Your Name” and “Something New,” a hard psych number with phased guitar work.  Even the lesser cuts hold up quite well and if anything, serve to display the group’s diversity and unique talents.  “B.P.R.,” a strong blues instrumental, gives Lobby Loyde room to stretch out and solo while their rendition of “Whole Lotta Shakin'” rocks as hard as any version I’ve heard of this classic.  From beginning to end Ball Power is an excellent album that’s mandatory listening – all the performances have that road-honed tightness and tense, proto punk edge.

Several years back Aztec Music reissued this lost classic on cd but since then its become very expensive and increasingly hard to find.  Coloured Balls would release two other flawed but worthy albums, 1974’s Heavy Metal Kids and 1976’s First Last Supper (1972 recordings).

mp3: Won’t You Make Up Your Mind
mp3: Hey! What’s Your Name

:) Original |  1973 | EMI | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2006 | Aztec | buy here ]

Link Wray “Bullshot”

Link Wray, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most important rock & roll guitarists of all-time, is a pretty familiar name with rock fans all over the world.  The man practically invented distorted, fuzzy, and wild rock guitar sounds.  He was one of the first, if not the first, guitarists to use the almighty power-chord.  Pete Townshend has famously cited Link’s importance, claiming that “he is the king;  if it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble’, I would have never picked up a guitar.”  By the way, “Rumble” has since been added by the Library Of Congress to the National Recording Registry.  Important stuff.  Link recorded tons of material throughout his long career, with most of it being great.  There’s just something about “Bullshot,” this dusty little fiery gem from 1979, that really stands out.

Recorded in NYC with Richard Gottehrer on production (need we say more?), this album is an atomic-bomb of a record, combining Link’s nasty rockabilly/psycho/mean/whatever-you-want-to-call-it guitar licks backed with some of the very best rhythm players I have ever heard.  Anton Fig, drummer extraordinaire, plays with such intensity and power.  The same can be said for Rob Stoner, who has played with countless people.  The bass playing on this album is a real ear-opener and jaw-dropper.  When deciding which categories I was going to put this album under, I had no hesitation to add “punk” to the list.  Sure, this may not be a straight-up punk rock album by definition, but the playing is so dirty and intense that it really does sound like a punk album!

Right from the beginning, you know you’re going to be in for a treat.  “Good Good Lovin'” starts off the album, and kicks everything into gear preparing you for the rockin’ ride the album sends you on.  “Fever” is one of the best versions of the song out there, giving it almost a strut or swagger about it, and a whole new vibe.  “Switchblade” is one hell of an instrumental, combining Link’s wild ehco-laden and distorted-to-the-max guitar and a rhythm backing not too far removed from the tune of “Peter Gunn”.  Side two is where the real magic is; Link’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” kicks off, and is something that needs to be heard to be believed.  Link executed this cover perfectly: adding his own twist to it, yet retaining the credibility and beauty of the original.  It was almost as if Link may have had the power-pop urgency of  “Baby Blue” by Badfinger in mind.  The guitar work in this song is positively amazing; he is just making every string scream and strain with so much power it leaves you speechless.  Link even gave us an extra treat of doing a new punked-up cover of his classic “Rawhide,” which again, is phenomenal and improves upon the original…somehow.  The other bright and shining moment on the record is the very last tune, a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t.”  At your first listen, you may not “get it” right away.  Give it a chance, and you will see the absolute brilliance Link gave this old ’50’ hit.  Pay particular attention to the guitar work at the very end of the song.  It sounds as if the song just decides to break down, explode, and go off to another planet.  Unbelievable.

Buying the album may be a bit tricky, especially if you need to go the digital route.  Your best bet, if at all possible, is to try and hunt down an original vinyl copy on eBay or scour the thrifts.  The album was reissued on CD as an import in the ’90s, but it has become quite pricey.  Trying to track down a copy of this album is worth the effort, though.  This record has become a definite main-stay in my collection, and I often find myself going back to it time and time again.  It is rewarding and a joy to listen to each and every time I put it on my turntable.  I will say, that since owning this album, Link Wray has become one of my favorite guitarists of all-time, and it may just do the same thing for you.

mp3: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
mp3: Don’t

:) Original | 1979 | Visa/Charisma | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 1995 | Line | buy ]

The Nerves “One Way Ticket”

Just when you think you’ve heard every little yellow pill of power pop, every filthy pebble of over-amplified teenage angst from the past, and every nugget of garage-rock glory that’s come back from the grave, you stumble onto something that stands a cut above the rest, that stands the test of time, that sticks in your brain like flies on sherbet–you come across The Nerves.

The Nerves were formed in San Francisco in 1974 by Peter Case, Paul Collins, and Jack Lee. By this time the hippy-dippy Haight Street magic of the late 60s had given way to a neurotic street scene in a nervous, anxious city by the Bay. Specializing in raw rock n’roll tunes with perfect pop hooks, the band played with a frenetic frenzy that, in hindsight, very accurately predicated the official arrival of punk rock that would hit the air in just a few years, and quite arguably created the template for the power-pop scene that was yet to come. Appropriately named as they were, the band made music that was perfect for the time. However, after failing to hit the big time from the surprisingly insular scene in San Francisco, the band headed south to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles they fell in with the burgeoning punk scene, playing gigs with bands such as The Avengers and X at the Masque, the Whiskey, and other fabled Hollywood venues of the time.

Eventually, in 1976, the band made it into the studio to record a self-titled 4 song EP. This EP, which was distributed by the infamous Bomp! Records, ended up being the band’s only official release, as the band split nearly a year later without any time to deliver a follow up. After time this self titled 4 song EP became the stuff of legend, gaining a reputation amongst musicians in-the-know and record collectors as an irresistible slice of wax, a definite must own for fans of power-pop, punk, and garage rock. Copies always sell for a pretty penny and seem to practically never show up on Ebay, as if they are silently being passed down, from hand to hand by fanatics the world round. Fortunately for us, in 2008 Alive Records released One Way Ticket, which includes the self titled 4 song EP along with a handful of unreleased tracks, including live cuts, demos, and two songs that the band recorded for Bomp! that were intended to comprise a second release. Every studio recording made by The Nerves is included on this release.

Simply worth the price of admission alone for the fabled four song EP, “One Way Ticket” is almost too good to be true. The two cuts that were intended for the follow up release on Bomp! are incredible. “One Way Ticket” is an up-beat rocker to be reckoned with that recalls the early sound of The Beatles and showcases the singing and songwriting of bassist Peter Case (who had written and sung only one of the four songs on the initial EP), while “Paper Dolls” is yet another catchy tune delivered by guitarist Jack Lee that sounds like some lost Flamin’ Groovies outtake, only better! Both songs practically leap from the speakers with their infectious amphetamine energy, sounding more punk than most punk rock ever manages while showcasing pure golden California pop hooks. Case sounds practically frantic on the title-track, lamenting the insane urban environment of the time. When he sings “Get me outta here! “at the end of the hook he sounds fed up, like he’s had enough of the crazy narcotic, neurotic urban streets of post-war America.

Other standout tracks include, of course, the original version of “Hanging On The Telephone,” which reaches deep and just destroys Blondie’s later remake. The Nerves’ version seems to come from an altogether different place, with singer Jack Lee sounding desperate, pathetically pleading not to be left behind and forgotten–a (young) man at the end of his rope. Similarly, Case’s “When You Find Out” is a phenomenal slice of garage-rock glory that features an exceptionally smokin’ vocal performance from Case. Case sings it like he means it for real, and it’s the ultimate kiss-off when, amidst the minor chord jingle jangle of Rickenbackers and the thump and thud of Paul Collins’ drums, he sings “When you find out I was the one/It’s gonna be pretty hard on you”. On the other end of the spectrum is the upbeat pop tune “Working Too Hard.” With a sound influenced by The Kinks this tune shows a lighter side of the band and foreshadows the arrival of The Knack on the power-pop scene. The only complaint about this release is that some of the unreleased tracks suffer from the audio quality being a bit muddy, obviously due to the fact that most of these recordings were never intended to be released. The demo version of “Many Roads To Follow”, while interesting and catchy, definitely sounds like a demo–that is, not a completely finished song, and eventually has the affect of leaving one wishing for a proper studio version of the tune. Who knows, maybe more tapes will start being discovered in old suitcases.

This review couldn’t possibly be complete without mentioning the live tracks. This band delivers the goods, and then some. You can imagine them playing, peeling the paint off the walls of some bombed out North Beach dive to a bunch of burned out ex-flower-children assuredly watching in amazement, mouths agape and beers in hand or a bunch of jaded Angelino punks at a scuzzy Hollywood bar. These live tracks, which feature mostly guitarist Jack Lee on vocals, reek of beer and sweat and are valuable for the glimpse they provide of The Nerves’ live sound, which, after having become the stuff legends are made of, sounds to be markedly more punk sounding than any of the studio recorded material. All in all, the live tidbits really add to the overall package, providing a fuller view of the band.

Anyway you slice it One Way Ticket is a killer album, with the first six songs being practically perfect lost pop masterpieces. If you’re a fan of power-pop, garage rock, or punk this album is a must own and will surely became a new favorite within a matter a moments. If you’re a fan of rock music, period, you need this album. In the end, what’s so fascinating about The Nerves isn’t just their early input into power-pop, their involvement with the burgeoning Los Angeles punk scene, or the direct link they provide between garage rock and punk–but the fact that the first six tracks on this album sound like they could have been recorded yesterday by a handful of 22 year olds in a garage in San Francisco (ie. Girls, The Fresh and Only’s, etc…) or even at the turn of the century by a handful of 22 year olds in a basement in New York City.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Hanging On The Telephone”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Alive Records | buy from bomp | amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]


Running Time: 34:08 | File Size 46.9 MB
Download: .mp3
To subscribe to this podcast: [?]


1. Testors “You Don’t Break My Heart” 1977

2. Customs “Long Gone” 1979

3. Fun Things “Savage” 1980

4. Dead Boys “Ain’t Nothin to Do” 1977

5. Crime “San Francisco’s Doomed” 1978

6. Gears “Heartbeat” 1980

7. Pagans “What’s this Shit Called Love” 197

8. DMZ “Bad Attitude”

9. Zeros “Don’t Push Me Around”

10. Saints “Erotic Neurotic” 1977

11. The Eat “Communist Radio”

12. Weirdos “Solitary Confinement”

13. Nervous Eaters “Just Head”

14. Radio Birdman “Burn My Eye”

PODCAST 18 Garage,Psych


Running Time: 52:27 | File Size 72.1 MB
Download: .mp3
To subscribe to this podcast: [?]

1.  Help Me by The Kensington Market 1969 (Aardvark – Pacemaker)

2.  I’ll Be The One by Madd, Inc. – 1966 (45 from The Ikon Records Story – Frantic Records)

3.  Shake by The Shadows Of Night – 1968 (45 from The Shadows Of Night– Rev-Ola)

4.  Little Boy Blue by Tonto & The Renegades – 1966 (45 from Scream Loud!!! The Fenton Story)

5.  Rich Man’s Fable by H.M.S. Bounty – 1968 (Things – Sundazed)

6.   Pretty Things – Oh by The Blue Things – 1965 (45 from Blow Your Mind)

7.  So Easy She Goes By by David Blue – 1966 (David Blue– Collectors Choice)

8.  On Tour by The Chancellors – 1966 (45 from Back From The Grave Vol. 8)

9.  Back Home by Cuby & The Blizzards – 1966 (45 from Singles A’s & B’s)

10.  You Do Things by The 49th Parallel – 1966 (45 from The 49th Parallel Complete – Pacemaker)

11.  I Want Your Love by The Pretty Things – 1965 (Get The Picture – Snapper)

12.  Eagle’s Son by The Electric Banana – 1967 (Electric Banana Blows Your Mind)

13.  Mazy by The Peep Show – 1968 (45 from Mazy: The Secret World of The Peep Show – Castle)

14.  Professor Black by The Lost & Found – 1968 (45 from Everybody’s Here – Charly)

15.  Frustration by Painted Ship – 1967 (45 from Acid Dreams Testament – Past & Present)

16.  Do Re Me by Mock Duck – 1968 (45 from Test Record – Gear Fab Records)

17.  Mr. Greene by The Palace Guards – 1968 (45 from Complete Recordings – Gear Fab Records)

18.  Farewell Aldebaran by Henske & Yester – 1969 (Farewell Aldebaran)

uReview: Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols

Nevermind The Bollocks

We’ve been on about some great albums from 1977 and I wanted to hear your thoughts on this big fella. Are Never Mind The Bollocks and the Sex Pistols really worthy of their reputation?

12345678910 (94 votes, average: 7.62 out of 10)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Pretty Vacant”

:) Vinyl | 1977 | Virgin | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download at amzn ]

Ian Dury “New Boots And Panties”

New Boots And Panties

In the wake of pop’s rediscovery of itself, prompted by the blitzkrieg success of punk, 1977 proved to be a splendid year for debut albums, indeed perhaps the best since 1969 kicked off the Golden Age Of Prog Rock. Most of the artists concerned were promising newcomers, but a fair number were veterans in new guises. In the UK, musicians who had cut their teeth in the back-to-basics pub-rock bands of 1973-75 recombined into new units or declared themselves solo artists and, riding on the New Wave of energy generated by punk, sought to combine their established chops with its novelty, brevity and audacity. While the younger hardline punks disdained all previous genres for ground-zero three-chord originality, the second-time-around outfits leavened the new energy with earlier styles; the Stranglers displayed a clear Doors streak, Elvis Costello evinced more than a pinch of Gram Parsons, and the Motors borrowed heavily from both the Beatles and the Byrds.

Former Kilburn & The High Roads frontman Ian Dury took his lyrical influences from the music hall performers of the thirties and the Carry On films of the fifties, filtered through Ray Davies’s wry observations of London society in the sixties, to produce a uniquely English, witty product which nonetheless chimed with the impending social upheavals of the late seventies in true punk fashion. Like the Kinks’ mid-term catalogue, Dury’s songs portrayed contemporary suburban characters and their lifestyles but, eschewing Davies’s gentle, rose-tinted, middle-class mockery, Dury unashamedly painted his subjects in stark black-and-white with all the sexual innuendo, scatology, and profane language of the working-class Cockney. The contrast was heightened by the presence of the Blockheads, a killer backing band who could deploy their formidable and highly danceable playing skills effortlessly in the directions of jazz or art-rock, soul or reggae, disco or doo-wop as befitted the song in hand. Guitarist-keyboardist Chaz Jankel also provided the music and arrangements to Dury’s lyrics; bassist Norman Watt-Roy and drummer Charley Charles were a fearsomely tight rhythm section, whilst seriously leftfield saxophonist Davey Payne took his deranged cues from Roland Kirk and Ornette Colman.

The debut album New Boots And Panties and non-album single “Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll”, credited only to Dury but featuring the Blockheads throughout, immediately scored glowing music press reviews in Britain, the scribes praising their originality, energy, theatricality and occasional unbridled venom (New Musical Express journo Roy Carr described the album as “Max Wall with a backbeat: Max Miller on mandies”). “Billericay Dickie”, “Clevor Trever”, “Plaistow Patricia”, “Sweet Gene Vincent” and “My Old Man” are all affectionate and occasionally bawdy portraits to characters of Dury’s acquaintance – some with names changed to protect the guilty – while “Wake Up And Make Love With Me” and “I’m Partial To Your Abracadabra”, along with “Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll” and its B-side “Razzle In My Pocket”, both included on the deluxe CD reissue, are funny and inoffensive (depending on how sensitive you are) homages to Dury’s favourite vices. For an example of Dury’s poetic lyrical talent, in the MP3s below contrast the lazy, loping alliteration in “Trever” with the stroboscopic acapella parts echoing the “black, white, black, white” theme in “Vincent”. The cover art shows The Man posing archly in appropriate Doc Marten footwear outside a typically seedy East End men’s outfitter’s; the equally cocky-looking urchin with him is his son Baxter, who would become a singer himself.

Whilst very much of the New Wave, the highly original, uniquely theatrical and impressive musical qualities of New Boots And Panties render it apart from the best of the rest. Though yielding many more individual gems, notably the tremendous hit singles “Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3” and “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, the consistency of Dury’s subsequent work would suffer from the departure of Chaz Jankel, whose relationship with the frontman had always been somewhat spiky, and from Dury’s own physical deterioration as his uncompromising rock’n’roll lifestyle took its toll on his polio-weakened body.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Sweet Gene Vincent”

:D CD Reissue | 2005 | Fuel | at amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1977 | Stiff | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Richard Hell & The Voidoids “Blank Generation”

Blank Generation

After the uncertainty as to into which genre his previous band’s magnum opus ought to be placed, Richard Hell’s first album as bandleader turns out to be refreshingly and unambiguously punk, from whichever side of the Atlantic you define it.

Like Marquee Moon, the Voidoids’ debut offers a twin-guitar attack, but there any resemblance ends; devoid of any art-rock pretensions, the band and the album sit proudly and squarely between the New York and London incarnations of punk, yet with some surprisingly original touches. Hell’s spiky hair and ripped clothing, eagerly adopted by the Sex Pistols and their acolytes, contrast with the balding, bearded, bespectacled Bob Quine, hardly a punk icon. The guitars too are spiky, but Quine’s nervy, occasionally shrieking leads are closer to Richard Thompson’s edgy electric style than to either Tom Verlaine’s crystalline confections or Steve Jones’s simplistic Keef knockoffs. Hell is a better vocalist than either Verlaine or John Lydon, with clearer diction and a wider range of both pitches and effects; the heterodyne yowl he employs on “Love Comes In Spurts” and “Liars Beware” would be copied, irritatingly to excess, by Adam Ant. And Hell’s lyric writing is suitably rebellious in content, but steeped in the Romantic poetry which was his other muse.

The songs too provide unexpected variety. “Love Comes In Spurts” features a distinctive orgasmic guitar figure, and a chugging beat and repetitious refrain that suggest the thrusts of sexual intercourse. The slower “Betrayal Takes Two” has an almost Spectorish progression. “Down At The Rock And Roll Club” sounds like a demented outtake from the Who’s Tommy, right down to the brief appropriation of the riff from “I’m Free”. The title track employs a walking chord and bass pattern not dissimilar to Brian Setzer’s “Stray Cat Strut”, and has a fascinatingly ambiguous lyric: optimistic or nihilistic? “Walking On The Water” is a radically punked-up cover of a John Fogerty song, but the Voids playfully follow it with “The Plan”, an original performed to perfection in Creedence style complete with mellow country-rock leads from Quine. The eight-minute “Another World” is as close as they get to Televison, both lyrically and musically, but lacks the subtlety and dynamics of “Marquee Moon”, and the long, howling fadeout definitely outstays its welcome. However the only real dog is the CD reissue bonus track, Hell’s inexplicable and inept cover of Sinatra’s “All The Way”, which is nowhere near as repugnant as Sid Vicious’s later “My Way” but falls just as flat.

Intriguingly, Hell allegedly claimed that the “blank” in “Blank Generation” was not an expression of hopelessness for youth culture, as per the “no future” in the Pistols’ “Anarchy In The UK”, but an invitation to youth culture to insert its own definition. In a similar vein, on the original cover art, which differs from that used on the reissue CD, Hell has written across his bare chest “You make me ____ ”. What? Again, that’s for you to decide.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Love Comes in Spurts”

:) Vinyl | 1977 | Stiff | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download @ amzn ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Television “Marquee Moon”

Marquee Moon

From the start it was difficult to understand how Television came to be identified with the punk movement. OK, so Marquee Moon appeared in 1977, but so did Dire Straits’s debut, and nobody ever put them in the punk bracket (though Elvis Costello’s also did, and he was lumped in with the punks initially. Ho, hum.). Richard Hell was their first bassist, but he was asked to leave pretty quickly when he proved antipathetic to their carefully constructed tunes and well-rehearsed playing. And while they played CBGB’s, that was in 1974, before punk was identified as a new and separate musical current. And what red-blooded punk singer would take as his stage name that of a nineteenth-century French Symbolist poet?

Television has been described by other reviewers as a minimalist rock band, eliciting comparisons with everyone from the Velvet Underground to Philip Glass. Televison’s clean, sinuous twin-guitar interplay and complex musical arrangements have no real roots in the Underground’s fuzzy two-chord oeuvre. Oddly, the nearest point of reference may be Neil Young with Crazy Horse; just listen to the title track from this album, then play Young’s “Down By The River”. Agree?

The sound throughout the album is pretty homogeneous, with chiming, crystalline Fender guitars and Tom Verlaine’s high, nasal New York voice constantly to the fore, but the songs vary greatly in tempo, key, and arrangement. There are guitar solos, but these are cleanly choreographed, lean and spare, without a note wasted. The lyrics are often opaque, frequently Dylanesque. The heavily solarized portrait of the band on the front cover, by art photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, breathes intruigue. This is genuine art-rock we’re talking about here.

Unfortunately there’s not really room on this webpage for the magnificent ten-minute title track, but it holds the listener’s attention right from the deliberately ambiguous timing of the intro to the unexpected recapitulation in the coda. Of the two MP3s below, “Venus” floats along on a glorious arpeggio – and has a wonderful surrealist lyrical refrain about falling right into the arms of Venus de Milo! – whilst “Friction” comes closest to that Crazy Horse groove, with heavily-vibratoed modal lead guitar, staccato block chords and a funky bassline.

While researching this album I was surprised to find that on original release it did almost zip in the band’s home country, though it was very popular in Europe and especially here in the UK. Its high reputation in Britain has persisted; in 2003 the influential New Musical Express declared Marquee Moon to be the fourth best album of all time. (Certainly it’s in this reviewer’s top twenty.) Perhaps this Rising Storm post will introduce it to a newly appreciative audience in the States.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


:) Original Vinyl | 1977 | Elektra | ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2003 | Elektra | amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]