Posts Tagged ‘ 1977 ’

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- mall-bound 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):
Raxola
Panic
Hubble Bubble
The Gears
Ivy Green
Eater
Suicide Commandos

Pete Seeger “Clearwater II”

While this record is technically credited to various artists, I’m calling it a Pete record here (he likely wouldn’t accept the credit) for convenience and recognition of the fact that it wouldn’t exist without the Hudson River Valley’s hero and national treasure, Pete Seeger. If you haven’t read up on Pete’s body of work, seen the excellent documentary The Power of Song, tried to learn 5-string banjo, or ever listened to an American folk tune, there is little doubt that Seeger’s music or social efforts have still reached you in some way. On this rarely found followup to 1974′s Clearwater, Pete and friends, including folk names like Judy Collins and Tom Paxton, deliver an outstanding set of traditional folk, sea chanties, and progressive folk numbers devoted to the Hudson River.

Tom Winslow’s “It’s the Clearwater” kicks off this rather fine sequence of gems, a rousing and catchy anthem to the Clearwater Sloop that’s sailed the Hudson promoting environmental awareness since 1969. I had heard lot’s of Pete Seeger’s music recorded with the Weavers, solo cuts from scores of best-of albums, but I had yet to hear his “Golden River,” a gorgeous ode you could only imagine played on bank of the river, featuring lazily swift guitar patterns and a vocal as honest and pleasant as a voice could provide. This may be Pete at his finest, his banjo machine seeming to perform the melody by itself for “My Dirty Stream,” a plainly clear assessment of the Hudson’s polluted condition; the picking sounds almost accidentally natural. Several boisterous sea chanties lend a presence similar to Graceland, albeit a little more from under an Irish bar than African skies.  The tracks balance gently, never allowing one feel or another to steal the show.

A couple surprises turn up too, like side A closer “Jebah Brown” by the Womblers, a traditional sounding number hiding a dark, synth-padded almost-psych section, detailed with some nice electric picking and a good and out-there mix. Another gem is Frostwater’s “Haul Away,” a laid-back folkster groove educated with a slight taste of rock.

If you aren’t a serious folkie, you may not get down with every tune here, but Clearwater II stands as a sweet slice of American folk that while gravely honest, and to-the-point in message, feels like a celebration among friends. As local and homegrown as it gets, yet universal, and rich with life.

As stated on the back cover, “Proceeds from this album will be used by the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater to improve the ecology of the river.” If you manage to find this one out in the wild or enjoy the tracks posted here you can find out how to donate to the Clearwater cause at clearwater.org and you can find some of the tracks  from Clearwater and Clearwater II posted at their site as well.

mp3: Pete Seeger – Golden River
mp3: Frostwater – Haul Away

:) Original | 1977 | Sound House Records | search ebay ]

Michael Bloomfield “Analine”

By 1977 Michael Bloomfield was well past his glory days as a stellar sessioneer on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and as one half of the Butterfield Blues Band’s fearsome two-pronged guitar attack with Elvin Bishop. Disillusioned by the guitar-star pressure resulting from the Fillmore supersessions with Al Kooper and his brief tenure as figurehead of the crazily over-hyped Electric Flag, and succumbing to increasing depression and substance abuse, he’d drawn in his horns and largely retired to his San Fran home, emerging occasionally to record low-key albums with friends including John Hammond Jr, Barry Goldberg and Dr John, or to play low-profile gigs with pickup bands in the Bay area. After a prolonged spell of not playing at all due to the effects of heroin, psychological disturbances and arthritis, Bloomfield re-emerged in ’77 to cut a series of four albums over three years for John Fahey’s Takoma label, in which he returned largely to the pure Chicago blues of his formative years, now leavened with soul, gospel and jazz influences.

The first Takoma album, Analine, finds Bloomfield stretching out in leisurely fashion alone in the studio, playing all the instruments himself on a selection of self-penned tunes and covers in enough styles to delight any Ry Cooder aficionado, and airing a tenor voice with a slightly cracked heroin edge and a wicked and very necessary sense of humour on the opening “Peepin’ An’ A-Moanin’ Blues” and on “Big ‘C’ Blues” whose decidedly non-PC lyrics deal with sexual perversions and cancer respectively, and on a wonderful ragtime rendition of the ancient murder ballad “Frankie And Johnny”. Most of the guitars are acoustic and sublimely played, with nods to Django Reinhardt on the swinging twelve-bar “Mr Johnson And Mr Dunn” (on which Bloomfield’s jazzy rhythm comping is a delight), to Stefan Grossman on the effortless Scott Joplin-syle “Effinonna Rag”, and to Cooder on the beautiful Tejano “Hilo Waltz”, forefronting Dobro and tiple. Bloomfield also offers an effective bluesy piano, an instrument with which he’s not usually associated, on the sombre gospel instrumental “At The Cross” and on a maudlin but stylish reading of Ellington’s “Mood Indigo”. The only disappointments are that he lets rip only once in his legendary electric blues style, on “Big ‘C’ Blues”, and that his expeditions on electric slide guitar tend to be a bit weedy and undisciplined, as on “At The Cross” and on the concluding, soulful, title track. The latter is the only cut to feature other musicians, including old supersession colleague Nick Gravenites on vocal, and is a pointer to the following albums which would be recorded in a band milieu.

Hopelessly out of sync with the prevailing musical industry trends, the four Takoma outings predictably sank without trace saleswise. After a couple more desultory albums and a one-off reunion on stage with Dylan at SF’s Warfield Theater in November 1980 at which he contributed to a stirring revisitation of “Like A Rolling Stone”, Bloomfield was found dead from a massive heroin OD in his car two months later, his body allegedly having been removed from a party and driven to a different location in a gruesome echo of Gram Parsons’s demise. Sic transit gloria mundi, or in Mike Bloomfield’s case perhaps the finest white blues guitarist ever. Analine can be found with the subsequent Michael Bloomfield on the first of Ace’s 2007 twofer reissues of the four Takoma albums.

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“Effinonna Rag”

:) Original | 1977 | Takoma | search ]
:D Reissue | 2007 | Ace | 2fer | buy ]

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?

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“Friction”

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

The Scruffs “Wanna Meet The Scruffs?”

Wanna' Meet The Scruffs?

The Scruffs were a late 70s power pop band who released this great debut album in 1977 (off the Power Play Records label).  Even though the Scruffs looked like a group of hip New Yorkers they actually hailed from Memphis, Tennessee. All 13 tracks were written by guitarist Stephen Burns though lead guitarist Dave Branyan gets partial credit for three numbers.  Other important members of the Scruffs included bass player Rick Branyan and drummer Zeph Paulson.

The Scruffs sound is similar to Big Star (especially their great sophomore effort), wild, careening and reckless with neurotic lyrics about masturbation, boy-girl relationships and teen alienation.   While the playing may come off as sloppy it’s still engaging and in a weird way calculated – these guys were a pretty tight group who knew exactly where they wanted to take their music.  Tracks like “Break The Ice,” “This Thursday,” and “I’ve Got Something” are relentless, loud rockers that cut like a sharp switchblade but remember this was 1977, the punk era.  Most of the other tracks are anchored down by ringing guitars, great hooks, and vulnerable, heart broken vocals; in fact, every song on Wanna Meet The Scruffs has something on offer, whether it be a catchy guitar riff, stinging solos, or an anthemic chorus.  “My Mind” and “She Say Yea” were influenced by the Beatles and Byrds but also early 70s American power pop greats like the Raspberries and Big Star.  Those two tracks are all-time power pop classics but other numbers like the album closer “Bedtime Stories” isn’t far behind with its beautiful intro and timeless melodies – these are magical songs.  Also, many tracks wield an uncompromising sense of humor with strange lyrics like “Im a failure and my entire life was meant for killing time” (from “I’m A Failure”) or  ”Dear Jean, all I ever wanted from you was a little revenge and your phone number” (from “Revenge”).  This music is elegant but at the same time shambolic, and while phoney, manufactured groups like the Knack and Rubinoos completely disappoint, the Scruffs were the real deal, delivering 13 fine, romantic power pop tracks.  Wanna Meet The Scruffs is ace from start to finish, making it one of the best lps from 77.

Rev-Ola records did a nice straight up reissue of Meet The Scruffs back in 2002, no significant bonus tracks though, just a couple of alternate takes.  They would record material for a second album but these tracks would not see a release till the late 90s (Teenage Girls) and while good, are not up to par with the songs on Wanna Meet The Scruffs.  A true classic.

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“She Say Yea”

:D CD Reissue | 2002 | Revola | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1977 | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Shoes “Black Vinyl Shoes”

Black Vinyl Shoes

Black Vinyl Shoes is one of the holy grails of underground power pop. This album was recorded and released in 1977 but sounds much closer to early 70′s power pop giants the Raspberries, Badfinger and Big Star.

Shoes released their solid, underproduced debut in 1975 (Un Dans Versailles) and have some earlier recordings circa 1974 reissued years later as the double As Is disc. Most people if any, remember Shoes for their great songs and lo-fi production, which I have to say sounds much more authentic than 90′s bands Guided By Voices and Sebadoh. The group hailed from Zion, Illinois and were fronted by Jeff and John Murphy. Many of their earlier albums were recorded in Murphy’s living room making the production rough and ready. Fans consider Black Vinyl Shoes to be their peak, a private press album that eventually saw a larger indie distribution due to local popularity. The fuzz guitar riffs and underproduced but smooth harmonies would resonate with 80′s rock pioneers REM and the Replacements.

Garage and psych fans will find much to love about this highly influential cult record. Many of the tracks here sport huge fuzz guitar riffs and solos (check out Tragedy and the brief Boys Don’t Lie). The band also conjures up a lean, icey hard rocking sound that fit in nicely with the punk era, as heard on Do You Wanna Get Lucky?

But when it comes down to the wire, many of these songs display a dominant Beatles influence with plenty of boy meets girl lyrics and catchy guitar hooks. One mini classic, Not Me bears this out, and is highlighted by some ghostly vocals and great surgical fuzz guitar riffs. This album is a cornerstone for early indie rock and a monster power pop album that really deserved a richer fate.

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“Not Me”

[ Buy from Amazon | How to find this on ebay? ]

The Stranglers “Rattus Norvegicus”

Rattus Norvegicus

Rattus Norvegicus doesn’t have a huge audience in America. It’s a record passed over by a lot of rock aficionados, and swarms of gob spitting punk purists haven’t heard a note of its snarl. How did this happen? It’s got all the right ingredients – songs of alienation, angst, attitude and anarchy archetypes. Hell, it’s even oozing with pre-punk psychedelic rock influences like The Doors, with a Manzarek like organ carrying its melodies along in a drunken stupor. The problem may be that (despite its influences) the album, like The Stranglers themselves, was a little too British. It’s an ethnocentric disease that’s paralyzed American music lovers from the ears down for decades. Groups like The Kinks, The Jam and The Stranglers never amassed the amount of attention from U.S. audiences that they rightfully deserved. Shame. They were talented, hungry and damn fine rock stars.

The record (which is named after the scientific labeling of a type of Norway rodent) is hard to pin down. It has the edge of an expletive laden punk EP and the long sweeping takes of your standard prog-rock concept album. The opening lyrics on their debut track “Sometimes” cuts in on the heavy organ crutch and grinding Peter Gunn style bass with a lip curled, “Someday I’m gonna smack your face. Somebody’s gonna call your bluff. Somebody’s gonna treat you rough.” The beauty of Rattus Norvegicus can be found here, with its ability to simultaneously affront and appease. The band’s sweet and sour take on the burgeoning punk movement would become a calling card for subsequent albums and would set them apart from the cookie-cutter one act groups forming at the time.

The star of the show is easily “Peaches”, a song that drips attitude with a schoolboy’s playful demeanor. The track may have confused some audiences into thinking that, lyrically speaking, The Stranglers were a sexist group of misanthropes who were quick to criticize any and every race, creed and belief structure. In actuality Hugh Cromwell, Jet Black, Jean-Jacques Burnel and crew were amateur satirists commenting on society at a confusing time in England’s history. Had it not been for the run ins with the law and being acquaintances of the notorious Finchley Boys street gang, people might have seen the lyrics for a song like “Ugly” as observant or hilarious.

But when you hear the lyrics “I guess I shouldn’t have strangled her to death, but I had to go to work and she laced my coffee with acid” out of context, you can’t be blamed for your assumptions.

Rattus Norvegicus doesn’t follow a straight and uncompromising journey into the abyss, a point of view that most punks initially adopted at that time. Instead the record is a cornucopia of surprising solos and swells of melody. “Princess of the Streets” seems completely disjointed from entries like “Goodbye Toulouse”, a song that hints at the future sound of the band and a lot of the brilliance they already had as songwriters. Punk was something that can be nailed to a particular style, a particular time and a certain type of attitude. Well in The Stranglers’ defense, Cromwell has been cited as saying that they never considered themselves punks. Their later albums delving into more pop friendly waters (as well as the production of a few concept albums) should come as no surprise then. Why should they be nailed to the punk rock cross when they never considered themselves its apostles to begin with?

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“Peaches”

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