Friday, 17 June 2022

Vice Squad - Stand Strong Stand Proud

Back in the dark days of 1982, much of my time was taken up with listening to the makers of what was known at the time as 'hardcore punk'. It was all about fast, loud guitar rock music with a political message of anarchy and war. All very heavy. Bands such as Discharge, GBH and One Way System come to mind. Vice Squad were cut from the same cloth. Vice Squad could produce good music, and indeed this album entered the top 40 charts of the time. Thankfully the second album Stand Strong Stand Proud was a marked improvement. Of course, it’s sod’s law that it didn’t fare as well as the dodgy debut in the UK charts, but in every other way, it was superior. Better songs, better playing, better sound and you could actually hear the vocals properly too. Not exactly a great record, but a good one. Out Of Reach, a smart enough single which trailed the album just about made the Top 75, but this was to be the high watermark for the band. The anthemic title track was another good single, but missed the chart completely.

Stand Strong Stand Proud, despite several throwaway numbers, clashes with social malignancies like vivisection (“Humane”), political passivism (Freedom Begins At Home”), and the steady erosion of punk values (Out Of Reach) with power and complete credibility. In addition, Bekis point of view provides a welcome contrast to the typical male-dominance in modern-day hardcore. Of the other material ‘’Cheap’’ sounds a bit like the pop-punk of C86 four years early, perhaps the Shop Assistants in a bad mood and ‘’No Right To Reply’’ is agreeably fast and riffy. The band cover Bowie’s doomy ‘’Saviour Machine’’ quite well and ‘’Rock “N” Roll Massacre’’ combines powerful guitar work with a song about pop music fatalities including Jimi and Sid. There are a couple of offerings that fly by without leaving much impression, but the album ends strongly with the neat mid-pace stomp of ‘’Deathwish’’ and strong anti-war song ‘’Propaganda’’.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Generation X - Generation X

For the past thirty plus years, I have banged on about how UK Punk Rock 1976/78 was best exemplified by the bands that started from scratch. Self-taught, intelligent people who wanted to do something new; Devoto’s Buzzcocks, the Adverts, The Slits, Subway Sect, the Prefects, Penetration, the Fall, the Raincoats, Alternative TV, X-Ray Spex, the Banshees and even Eater. Dismissed as the second division, these were THE essential bands who were punk…to my mind, and many agree. Generation X didn’t fit into my theory, but they made simply the most irresistible glam, pop, mod, rock’n’roll amalgamation and released it as their debut album -the eponymous Generation X. Without a doubt one of THE best debut albums there is from the timeframe...it’s a total classic. Faultless. Thrilling. Tuneful. Catchy. Immediate. A great Pop Record. It sounds fresh, cocky, and world-beating. It sets your pulse racing…

But it was and still is a battleground for punk authenticity and snobbery. Were they real or were they ‘plastic’. (I first heard the term ‘plastic punk’ in 1977 as a 12 year old. Wise old 17 year olds used it as term of derision for bands and people who weren’t considered to be ‘real punks’.  It was the worst insult you could level at a band). Of course, after all this time, it shouldn’t matter…Generation X - the album still sounds fresh, vital and fun. It also sounds silly and clichéd. It is irresistible, but it’s like a West Side Story re-enactment of Punk in London. If you don’t believe me you can trace the lineage from Generation X through to Green Day, their cover of Kiss Me Deadly, to American Idiot, to their Broadway Musical of the same name.

It could be maintained that Generation X went against the orthodoxy of punk; instead of No Elvis, Beatles and the Rolling Stones – two get positive namechecks in Ready Steady Go and the Elvis lip-curl validated ‘the King’. Instead of opposing heavy metal guitar solos – they use one to end the album (That Punk-Hendrix maelstrom that makes up half of YouthYouthYouth!)  There are unashamedly glam stomps and pop choruses (Wild Youth IS the Punk Rock ‘Tiger Feet!) But at the same time they kept referencing Punk in the songs – even including product placement for ‘Malcolms strides’ (When it was Vivienne who made them!). They wanted it both ways - their cake, and to eat it (off a gold-disc following a residency on Top of the Pops). There are so many corny and fuckin’ clichéd lyrics scattered throughout the album it’s difficult not to smile throughout: The spray can is the gun which shoots from my hand….Our hair was short – we said what we thought…..the Snooker Hall is empty, Cause they’re all out playing pool…Soon you’ll get your gear form Marks and Sparks / Punks ‘ll take over the Top of the Pops….

Promises, Promises tries really hard to be Generation X’s Complete Control with its reference to A&R men not giving a shit about their rock’n’roll dream and James’ backing vocals on that and other tracks are pure Mick Jones. Nonetheless, no matter how ludicrous, the song still works and is probably another which Billy-Joe sings word-for-word in the shower. Derwoods guitar-playing is phenomenal - once you accept he is a Metal virtuoso trying to condense it into a punk format - rather than a three-chord-wonder or ground-breaker. Mark Laff is a cool drummer and comes close to being a player on a par with Keith Moon.  Tony James was an enthusiastic ideas man and the brains of the outfit rather than a musician’s musician. Weirdly and technically Idol is the weak link as a singer, but a decent vocal-stylist with a love of rock’n’roll melodrama.

There was a codified elitism in the song lyrics which rankled with some: 100 Punks dictated that you “had to have a look” to be one. The Tube stops and Soho streets listed meant the Londoncentricity was ingrained. Punk for many meant the opposite to exclusivity: If anyone can do it (yourself) any one can be included. But despite this, it is still a great, action-packed, solid-gold-easy-listening and quite brilliant album - as long as you don’t take it seriously. That old scenario - What if Punk Never Happened? The Pistols didn’t employ Lydon after his audition or they didn’t go on Bill Grundys show? Well, Generation X probably STILL would’ve happened somehow – Billy Idol and Tony James had that drive and determination to be Great Big Rock Stars – but they would’ve been a glam/ rockabilly/pub rock band – and would’ve created their own teenage mythology. When all is said and done, after 43 years Generation X by Generation X still sounds fuckin’ amazing. It’s a great piece of Pop, Rock and OK Punk History…..but history rendered in a cartoonish form. If you want grit, social-realism, politico-protest, poetic self-expression…and so on, look elsewhere. If you want ‘young, dumb and full of cum’, well you’ve come to the right place. If you want to hear one of the bands who influenced Green Day, Guns’n’Roses and loads of other ‘Rebel-Rockers’ then, yep – here they are. Generation X were the brashest of their Generation. The cockiest, the best-looking, the most ambitious and their debut album was their Finest Hour. They would never better it (King Rocker aside – classic 45!). For every serious teenage-boy who ‘hated’ them there were five fun-loving teenage girls who loved them. And for every twenty-three year old rock fan who despised them there five thirteen year olds who worshipped them.

If you can’t make up your mind whether I’m trying to praise or slate Generation X, well, good; I’m doing both. I love this album…but I hate myself for liking them, because it goes against everything I ‘believe’ about punk rock and art and commerce.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

TV Smith - Channel Five

I love TV Smith's work, from The Adverts to his later bands and solo stuff, and consider him one of the finest songwriters of the last 30 years. This is the one album of his that I find very hard to listen to. The most obvious problem here is the keyboards and production that together give it a horribly dated 80's feel. Looking back across 30 years, they become cringe-worthy. Given TV's abilities even that wouldn't necessarily be an issue, but his song writing on this is perhaps the weakest of his career. The chord progressions are predictable and uninteresting and musically much of the material doesn't feel like it's going anywhere.

The other problem is the vocals. On more recent releases the strain of many, many passionate gigs show and TV's voice is positively husky. Back in 1983 through, he still had the vocal chords that made his vocals on The Adverts' albums easily the best of the punk era. On Channel Five they never really get a work out though. He fails to use any of the depth and range he had and the passion that has pervaded even his acoustic recordings is simply not here. I can understand in many ways why TV made an album like this - for someone of his talent to have been denied the kind of broader success and record label support he deserved must Have been incredibly frustrating and this album sounds like an attempt to be relevant to the times and break through to a wider audience. The bad news is that it didn't work in various ways and his later successes have been limited mainly to Germany. The good news is that he made much, much better albums after this one.

Just enough of TV's song writing ability shines through to raise this to 2 stars.                   

sproogle77


Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Gun - Taking On The World

Back in 1989 when Glasgow rock band GUN released their debut album I was 14 years old and spending the majority of my time listening to INXS and Guns N Roses. At the time, I recall hearing the fantastic lead single ‘Better Days’ and thinking it was very Def Leppard sounding and it was some time later I found it GUN were indeed Scottish.

Lead single and opening track ‘Better Days’ is a belter of a track with catchy rock/pop guitar that was highly popular at the time and very much evident in chart music. With singer Mark Rankin singing about dreams and hopes the lyrics throughout the song act perhaps as a statement of intent suggesting this is a band that is prepared to fight to get to where they want to go! Ultimately the listener is left in no doubt of GUN’s street toughness as Rankin delivers the chorus “hold your head high… cause you know I’d die for better days”. ‘The Feeling Within’ and ‘Inside Out’ follow with hints of Simple Minds and influences of American ‘hair-rock’ highlighted. ‘Money (Everybody Loves Her)’ starts off with a tasty guitar intro accompanied by a drum-beat that sets the tone for the hypnotic echo-like chorus of “deep down everybody loves her” that fans will love to sing along to.

Title track ‘Taking On The World’ is more of a slow burner and with Rankin singing “I swear they will never break me…taking on the world” the story of a band rising up from the street (and taking on the world) is once again evident. Indeed, listening to the album now I can’t help but think some of these tracks would have sounded great in a Rocky type movie. ‘Shame On You’ for me is a real stonker of a track with the guitar and bass sounding terrific and complementing Rankin’s gritty vocal perfectly in what is one of my favourite album tracks. ‘Something to Believe In’ and ‘Girls in Love’ are also high-points before the album is closed-off with ‘I Will Be Waiting” where a young Sharleen Spiteri (of Texas fame) does a great job enhancing the track with her mesmerising backing vocal.

With 10 tracks including five singles and clocking in at just under 45 minutes, it is hard to find any real low points and GUN and their producer (Kenny McDonald) did a fantastic job in delivering Taking On The World  an album many rock fans feel is one of the best debut rock albums by a Scottish group. Timing is everything and GUN perhaps arrived on the rock scene a little late to reach the heights their material arguably deserved.

Bazza Mills

http://www.gigslutz.co.uk/album-review-gun-taking-world/ 


Monday, 13 June 2022

The Almighty - Blood, Fire & Love

Ricky Warwick's enlisted time with New Model Army was brief, as the aggressive guitarist had his own band to command. General Warwick wasted no time assembling The Almighty after busting free from NMA. Enlisting bassist Floyd London, drummer Stumpy Moore and axe slinger Tantrum, the joined forces began their assault in January of 1988. Warwick's plan of action called for unrelenting practice sessions at his father's old barn in Glasgow, Scotland, as the group pounded out hard edged rock with a punk vibe. Signed to Polygram a year following their formation, The Almighty entered Abbey Road Studios in London, in April of 1989, where the group laid down the tracks for their debut LP.

Blood, Fire & Love, still sounds as fresh and mean as it did 33 years ago. The intro to opening track Resurrection Mutha still sends an unnerving chill up my spine. The very nasty Destroyed and the anthemic, Wild & Wonderful, maintain a massive abundance of character. Warwick’s dangerously engaging vocals continue to sound completely powerhouse, especially on the goth rock vibe of title track Blood, Fire & Love, which still sounds wonderfully relevant today. The great thing about The Almighty’s music back in the day was its simplicity, tracks like Gifthorse and You’ve Gone Wild, have an innocent and naive charm about them, but extremely lovable nonetheless. You can't go wrong with an album that adds a song entitled "Detroit". The amped-up ode to the mighty Motor City is a down 'n' dirty rocker, just as one would expect, but the main ingredient that dominates in their music has always been ferocity. Tracks like Power, Full Force Lovin Machine and the hell raising closer New Love Sensation, more than affirms that. The bruising Blood, Fire & Love is an album that earned the Lemmy seal of approval. That's good enough for me.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

The Black Veils – Carnage

Yes, this one is absolutely among the best post-punk albums of the year! “Carnage” by Italian post-punks The Black Veils dropped in November 2021, through Icy Cold Records, is a must-listen, by all means, a very strong album by a compact team from Bologna, and a fast album that hit me directly between the eyes and I am happy about it. It is one of these records that goes alone on repeat and is truly a magnificent creation. All things “Carnage” is in the face with very impressive and great faith in the potential of this band that sounds very confident with their new release. The album is fast, stormy, splendid, ‘dangerous’, electrified like no tomorrow, and it comes from one of the most important scenes in the world; the Italian post-punk that is giving us gems all the time. The whole album is inspired (and driven) by cinema, existentialism, and the effects of insomnia with a huge dose of black humour too. I read in the press kit that the album was recorded and mixed without seeking perfection in order to re-create the band’s ‘live’ attitude in the studio.

Well excuse me, but it sounds, first as indeed a live recording as I can’t explain better to myself the thrust they offer, and second, the result shows that all these guys (Antonio Falcone at TeaZ Studio / Cristiano Santini at Morphing Studio / Federico Pianciola at Mandala Studio / Giuseppe Taibi at Asanda Studio) who worked on “Carnage” did it all according to one specific plan on how this records should sound and how they could all support the ideas of Gregor Samsa (AKA gregorsamsaestmort), Filippo Scalzo, Mario d’Anelli, and Leonardo Cannatella; The Black Veils. The effect is really awesome at the end. Solid sound, clean sound, and compressed to the point where it will not spoil the whole thing and make it sound like ‘suffocating’ and ‘blur’. All the work here shows it was done very comfortably and nicely.

The album was written and recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic and “Hyenas” showed up early about 17 months ago, then came “Lamourlamort” with that clever and tricky title for a song, and the Press kit again offers this interesting info about it; The song takes inspiration from Robert Aldrich’s movie “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, while the chorus quotes Jean Genet’s interview with Nigel Williams when the French author mishears the interviewer: the terms “l’amour” and “la mort” sound essentially identical and are disambiguated by their use in the context.

If I were to give you some more focus tracks I’d choose “See You at My Funeral” which is the opening track of the album and it throws you to the wall immediately, here, you can understand that this modern blend of post-punk with shoegaze wings started unveiling the almost miraculous album. “This Is Going to Hurt” because it is actually a punk tune, very audacious, and the song in the album that made me decide that what I hear is simply, an ‘outrageous’ release like the ones I adore, and “Death by Arrogance” because its lyrics overcome the fury of the music of the song…” you’re not paying attention but you will…I’ve lost my home, so many times before It doesn’t touch me…”. Generally, now it is difficult to choose a favourite song or two from “Carnage” only you will understand alone which tracks are gonna go on repeat automatically. No more words from me, here’s this ‘outrage’, listen to it loud and throw The Black Veils your love!

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Then Comes Silence – Machine

The self-styled “Swedish captains of post-punk,” Then Comes Silence has been making music since 2012. Although the band’s earlier records were far rawer in production, sounding a bit more bombastic and akin to something like Killing Joke, the third album, III – Nyctophilian was much closer to the group’s current sound as it began to channel the fuzzy, deep bass lines that would eventually solidify the band as a post-punk force that shouldn’t be ignored. Following a tour with Fields of the Nephilim in 2018 and a shift in the band’s line up, 2020’s Machine is an excellent offering that shows the maturation of a very distinctive sound. “We Lose the Night” is destined to get stuck in many heads for it’s a catchy, danceable, and compelling opener that establishes a great tone for the rest of the record. Machine feels better assembled than previous records and is very tightly mastered; the instruments are prominent without overshadowing the smoky vocals from Alex Svenson, which don’t stray too far from the same modality, but that’s okay as anything else would likely feel at odds with the dark mood of the record. The bass line is as heavy and powerful as a riptide on “I Gave You Everything,” an unrelenting anthem of personal doom that’s one of the best songs on the album. Each vibrating thrum of the bass is a step further down into the gloom before hitting the chorus and launching up into a flash of frustration. This alternating up-and-down of music, vocals, and lyrics is a great demonstration of the band’s talent. Then Comes Silence can rest comfortably alongside Clan of Xymox, Rosetta Stone, and Bauhaus. Svenson’s vocals stray from David Bowie to Peter Murphy to Andrew Eldritch, well paired with the soaring notes of guest vocalist Karolina Engdahl on the track “Ritual.” Musically and lyrically, the record is a foggy glass of cold water on a frigid autumn morning, all at once sobering and comforting. A nostalgic listening experience sure to remind many of The Cure at its best, Machine is an unmissable entry in the annals of goth/rock and/or post-punk.

Friday, 10 June 2022

Kanga – Kanga

Whenever I get the opportunity to hear something fresh and original, I instantly feel inspired to spread the word. Kanga’s debut album was released on 18 November 2016. I was wondering what “industrial but not” or “heavy pop” would stand for. And indeed, those two descriptions undoubtedly come very close to what I have heard. Kanga shows powerful and strong attitude, but in a sensual way and with a dark twist to it.

You can get hooked on the sensuality and the seductiveness from the very first track “Something Dangerous”. But the overall feel contains something more, something almost obscure and macabre wrapped in the pop cellophane. After an almost hypnotising introduction, “Going Red” sounds just a pinch wilder. But not less seductive. The chorus flirts heavily with the pop idea. The artist successfully combines “alternative” music genres’ influences with the mainstream. Perfect combination that appeals to the audiences of both. Kanga is very danceable and continues her seductiveness with “Honey”. However, this track is heavier and plays with the industrial music influences, while keeping the catchy chorus. She goes even rawer on “Viciousness” and it feels like Kanga is slowly unveiling herself bit by bit. She slowed down the pace just when I thought she would, but she kept the powerful raw feeling. “Saviour” relies heavily on the beat and it is more atmospheric and minimalistic, leaving the space for Kanga’s voice to lead the way through.

On the second half of the album Kanga keeps showing us what this album is all about: the ultimate seduction created by the sound and the voice. Heavy flirtation with pop can be heard on “Vital Signs”, which makes it a perfect track for some synth-pop fans as well. Wonderful melancholic and ethereal soundscape awaits you with “Tension”, a personal favourite of mine. Kanga has finally shown her softer and more emotional side. And just when I thought I had found my favourite, I found that she had kept one gem for the last track. “Machine” is a cleverly thought out song both rhythmically and sound wise. I like its experimental feel and I would say that this one is the closest to the meaning of the industrial music. As it reaches the finish, “Machine” gets less atmospheric and more hypnotic, even psychedelic.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Suspectre – Suspectre

Suspectre is a new post-punk band of three friends based in Frankfurt, Germany. After having spent the last years in several DIY contexts and music projects they finally started this new band in 2018. They played a few concerts in 2019, but were rather quickly stopped again by the pandemic. Nevertheless they recorded a 12’’ record as their debut release in 2020. It contains 8 songs that are a diffusely influenced blend of various punk-related genres held together by its basic 3 instrument arrangement. Combining the rhythm-driven verve of garage punk with a warm and melodic pop appeal, they create their very own sound in the vast post-punk landscape. Lyrically the songs reflect on inner states and depict the individuals’ behaviour in modern consumerist society. In particular they focus on the experiences of alienation and social pressure. Meandering between the discontent of unsolved expectations and the longing for something better, they comment on the strains of contemporary life.

“Known Pleasures,” Suspectre’s single, is a revved-up, propulsive track with a wiry twitchiness to it. It’s closer to straight-up punk rock than what you’ll hear from some of the hyped-up British and Irish bands coming out these days, but the vocals have that classically post-punk combination of sardonic and freaked-out. “Known Pleasures” is a song all about the perpetually unsatisfying need to keep staring at bullshit on screens: “Our rooms we fill with pleasure until the next fake need makes us proceed/hungry whole time, unsatisfied, with noise and lights that don’t enlight.” That’s real shit!

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

The Cult - Love [4xCD Omnibus Edition]

Despite the heady heights of success scaled by The Cult during the arena rock years from 1987 until their break-up in 1995, their second album Love is by far their best. Originally released in 1985, there simply isn’t a bad song on here, and evergreen rock anthems such as Rain and the iconic She Sells Sanctuary are probably their best known and best loved tracks.

Love could arguably be called a transitional album. The band’s first effort, 1984’s Dreamtime, was rooted in the emerging post-punk and goth-rock underground scene. Love represented a quantum leap forward, but their sound had yet to be distilled into the pure hard rock of 1987’s Electric. Ian Astbury’s soaring vocals remained much the same, but Love introduced some Led Zeppelin-sized ambition and sonic scope.

Big Neon Glitter and Hollow Man are typical of the album’s outright gothic moments, and the band’s core audience accepted The Cult’s new-found rockist tendencies with good grace – there was still plenty of reassuringly brooding atmosphere to keep them happy. Although the title track and the psychedelia-drenched Phoenix were a heavy hint at things to come, overall Love straddles the rock/goth divide with peerless skill.

Black Angel and the exquisite Brother Wolf, Sister Moon show the band to be equally adept at ballads. The sheer variety on display also highlights just how mature their writing was. After all, Astbury and Duffy had yet to hit 25 when Love was released. To the public at large, Love may be all about the big hit singles Rain and She Sells Sanctuary, but write off the rest at your peril.

Re-mastered from the original studio analogue tapes, this four-disc box set is a feast for fans. Aside from the original album, there’s a disc of remixes and non-album B sides, a disc of previously unreleased early demos and a disc recorded live in 1985 on the Love tour. Add a 48-page book with unseen contact sheets from the album photo session and a mass of other material assembled by Astbury and Duffy and you have the ultimate version of one of the greatest British rock records of the 80s.


Monday, 6 June 2022

Duran Duran - The Singles 81-85 Box Set

Well, this is a turn up for the books…more singles! Here's something no Durannie can live without. A 13-disc box set containing replications of each of Duran Duran's most significant singles released between 1981 and 1985, The Singles 81-85 is a package that -- much like the band itself, as many of the haters would argue -- is most practical as something to look at. The very idea of swapping discs out of the player after every two of three songs seems like a cumbersome one, especially since most of the B-sides function as little more than curiosities. Still, there's plenty for the old fanatics to reminisce over, from the often superior "Night Version" remixes, to the endearingly silly acoustic version of "The Chauffeur," to scarce tracks like "Khanada," "Faster Than Light," and "Sekret October." Even if this serves no purpose to you whatsoever, it's at the very least fascinating to flip through the sleeves and watch the stark, angular graphic design of the early '80s morph into the garishly loud design of the mid-'80s. From "Planet Earth" through "A View to a Kill," the box plots the course of one of the '80s most successful singles acts.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Gang Of Four - Damaged Goods & The Undertones - Get Over You

 

Gang Of Four - Damaged Goods 7''EP MP3

A.     Damaged Goods

B1.  Love Like Anthrax

B2.  Armalite Rifle

                             







The Undertones - Get Over You 7'' MP3

A.     Get Over You

B1.  Really Really

B2.  She Can Only Say No

 


Saturday, 4 June 2022

Captain Sensible - This Is Your Captain Speaking & The Authorities - Soundtrack For Trouble

 

Captain Sensible - This Is Your Captain Speaking 7'' MP3

A.     The Russians Are Coming

B1.  (What D'Ya Give) The Man Who's Gotten Everything?

B2.  Oursouls To You

 






The Authorities - Soundtrack For Trouble 7''EP MP3

A1. Achtung!

A2. I Hate Cops

A3. Between The Thighs

B1.  Radiation/Masturbation

B2.  Shot In The Heat

B3.  LSD


Friday, 3 June 2022

The Wedding Present - Once More & Conflict - The Serenade Is Dead

 

The Wedding Present - Once More 7'' MP3

A.     Once More

B.     At The Edge Of The Sea

 








Conflict - The Serenade Is Dead 7''EP MP3

A.     The Serenade Is Dead

B1.  The Positive Junk

B2.  The System Maintains


Thursday, 2 June 2022

Jubilee Weekend Singles Ahoy!!

In the great scheme of things, this weekend (which starts today Thursday 2nd – I know, a four day weekend!) is going to be spent with family. So, rather than cluttering up your lives with aimless posts about albums that have caught my attention in the past couple of months…I’m going to let you lucky people have two random singles per day…yeah, that’s eight in total. Generous, I know right?! Anyway, to business, and to start us off in grand style it’s The KLF and The Pixies. Look, you either know of the bands, or you don’t. I’m not going to waste our time explaining my choices, or why you should like/love them. You should download them anyway, even if you really really hate them, give them a listen, and recycle them if necessary. It is entirely up to you, but you should still download them. Honestly, what has a blogger to do?

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Various Artists - I Wanna Punk Rock; Step Forward The Singles Collection

Mark Perry’s Step Forward label was responsible for unleashing some of the finest original punk acts on the world, and here the first 10 7” singles released by the Sniffin’ Glue fanzine founder are lovingly reproduced in chronological order to finally replace the ever scratchier vinyl. From The Cortinas, Chelsea, Models, Lemon Kittens and Sham 69 through to two excellent early singles by The Fall (Psycho Mafia and It’s The New Thing), all are offered once more here, complete with B-sides. As such, it captures the excitement and DIY ethos of the era.

It’s a nice release in itself – especially when you consider that Perry has also produced a brand new, one-off issue of Sniffin’ Glue for inclusion with the CD. Where this may prove irresistible, however, is the fact that this is also being released as a 7” box set. An indulgence, perhaps, but an entirely authentic one, with exact reproductions of the original vinyl releases a fitting marker to put down: if you’re going to celebrate spurious anniversaries, you may as well do it properly. Though the music may not always have aged all that well, the flame of independence still burns hot and bright.

Mark Perry (aka Mark P) was the editor and main voice behind the seminal U.K. punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue, and in 1977 he decided to start a record label to give some of the bands he was raving about a chance to be heard on vinyl. Step Forward Records didn't last very long (the label was history by 1982) but they burned bright for a few years. Step Forward started out offering up straight-ahead proletarian punk, with the first three releases devoted to the Cortinas, Chelsea, and the Models, and if none of these bands added much new and challenging to the punk lexicon, they all made rough, exciting singles, and the Cortinas' "Fascist Dictator" and Chelsea's "Right to Work" still kick hard today. Perry unleashed Sham 69 on the world with Step Forward's fourth release, but "I Don't Wanna" is more engaging (and less overbearing) than the later work that would make them stars for a while. The label took a left turn with their seventh release, the first 7" from the Fall, and sandwiched between the Cortinas and Chelsea it's not hard to imagine how off-kilter Mark E. Smith and company must have sounded in 1978. The collection wraps up with the significantly weirder experimental meanderings of Lemon Kittens, which hasn't stood the test of time as well as the rest of the tracks, though the group did serve as an early vehicle for Danielle Dax and Karl Blake. Elsewhere on the disc, you can hear a pre-Adam & the Ants Marco Pirroni playing guitar with the Models, and Nick Sheppard of the Cortinas later played guitar in the post-Mick Jones Clash. I Wanna Punk Rock is an eclectic and entertaining collection of early British punk that also offers a glimpse of the post-punk that would thrive a few years later, suggesting Mark Perry had a surer sense than most of where this music could go.


Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Visitors - Poet's End

If you have been chasing one of the 1000 copies of this down for years and thought it was no longer available, read on. One of the more interesting post punk bands, even though they were fairly short lived. Visitors are a fabulously forgotten Edinburgh post punk crew who probably had everything in place to be massive. A snarling vicious sound, nasty guitars twirling everywhere, scary dystopian lyrics and the backing of John Peel. The materials gathered on Poets End were all originally recorded thanks to the benevolence of Peel between 1979 and 1981, Peel doing his usual excellent job of documenting crucial slices of the underground. They have a guitar sound that would give Gang of Four a run for its money, tangled, twanging and twitching over melodic, almost funky basslines and a singer who is very, very angry indeed. I'm also reminded of the hazardous scratch of Josef K and the early pummelling dark rock of Joy Division. This compilation brings together all three of the Edinburgh post-punks' highly collectable 7" singles plus 4 additional unreleased songs from the same recording sessions.


Monday, 30 May 2022

Temple - Self Ritual Torture

The division between deathrock and goth rock is nigh imperceptible to those without any experience in either genre, but for initiates the line is clearly drawn, and crossed with far less frequency than one might expect. Musically, Portland’s Temple deliver up a style of deathrock which is as indebted to modern European purveyors of the style as its west coast progenitors, but thematically add a sense of miserablism that seems far more in line with trad goth. Accompanied by a ‘catching up with’ comp Past Laments; which includes the full remastered versions of two early tapes Temple and Vacuous Contention, third LP Self Ritual Torture carries forward with the murky and bellicose deathrock the trio put forth on their self-released material, without feeling the need to polish things up for the sake of their debut release on Swiss Dark Knights. Vocalist/guitarist Kalvin Kinzer’s background in crust and crossover thrash is apparent throughout; from the flailing rage of “Ritual” to the tightly wound drive of “Fear of The Light”. The mix has a rough and organic muddiness to it which suits the dreariness of the record’s mood and the straightforwardness of the guitar harmonics. The trade-off of this deal is that some of the attack of the drums is lost in the mix, with tracks like “Nausea” lacking the propulsion their composition calls for.

It’s in the thematic’s that Temple add a bit of goth rock flair and drama to the deathrock assault. The backbiting and airing of grievances which drive tunes like “Shapeshifter” are par for the deathrock course, clearly drawing upon the punk tradition of settling scores on wax. But tracks like “Loss” and “Far Away” turn things inward, and have a sense of melancholy and lament over past loves that’s rather different than punk’s manic self-destruction. The forlorn tone of the vocals makes for an interesting counterpoint to the tracks themselves, and Kinzer finds a pained, gulping yowl that would’ve fit right in on just about any 90s Strobe light or Resurrection act you’d care to name. The subtleties of that sort of hybridization are of the sort that could go easily unnoticed, but it’s in details like that that deathrock fans will find a good amount to enjoy in Self Ritual Torture. Equally menacing and mopey, it should scratch the itch for aficionados.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Twilight Ritual – Rituals

Twilight Ritual's "Rituals" album is one of the best kept secrets of the synthpop/coldwave movement. Sinister, Dark and a bunch of touching melodies. Peter Bonne and Geert Coppens had already been playing for a few years in other projects such as Autumn, Linear Movement and in 1985 they managed to create this stunning album. Twilight Ritual was realised in Geert's mind during the first Autumn years. It was building integrity, clearer identity, and admittance of mystery and surreal impressions. During Autumn recording sessions, musical style and experiment varied strongly, which is recognized in the various tape releases. However, some tracks had clearly more 'spirit' or 'personality' than others. It became clear that a new project was born out of Autumn work: Twilight Ritual

This album was born at the height of the analogue era, when Geert and Peter collected as much synths and recording devices as they could get their hands on. Using the all-time favourite TR808 as rhythm provider, sequencers and syncs effects formed the basics for a unique sounding album.  Sounds were processed in every possible unintended way, recording layer over layer with voices, guitars and doubled keyboards and solos. Instruments included TR-808, SH-2, Teisco 7, Jupiter 4, JX-3P, Trilogy, Minimoog, Crumar Performer, Roland System-100, syndrums, double cassette player, 2-track tape recorder, 4-track cassette deck, tape echo, phaser foot pedal and manual flanger, some self-built switches, splitters and other weird materials.

Highlights on the album include I Never Called You A Dream, Rooms, Amorphous Materials, Closed Circuit and.. well every other track. When the LP was originally released by some awkward mistake the artwork was printed in reverse (black became white and white became black). The artwork is now restored to its original form, how it was intended to be.

Friday, 27 May 2022

DepMod - Blk Celebtion

Wow, I am absolutely floored by the announcement of the death of Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher yesterday. He was only 60 years young (that’s 2 years older than I am). T’Mode have been with me ever since I bought Dreaming Of Me, and then failing to see them on their first ever UK tour…being 16 wasn’t old enough for this bastard of a doorman…Anyways, I digress, the announcement really touched a nerve with me, I survived a heart attack back in February this year, and my recent hiatus was due to Covid and Pneumonia hospitalising me, and generally just getting back in front of a Peecee. I have decided to retry this post (with subtle changes) in memory of Fletch…I hope you all manage to listen to some Depeche Mode this weekend in celebration of a life well lived, cheers Fletch.    

Whether the band felt it was simply the time to move on from its most explicit industrial-pop fusion days, or whether increased success and concurrently larger venues pushed the music into different avenues, Depeche Mode's fifth studio album, Black Celebration, saw the group embarking on a path that in many ways defined their sound to the present: emotionally extreme lyrics matched with amped-up tunes, as much anthemic rock as they are compelling dance, along with stark, low-key ballads. The slow, sneaky build of the opening title track, with a strange distorted vocal sample providing a curious opening hook, sets the tone as David Gahan sings of making it through "another black day" while powerful drums and echoing metallic pings carry the song. Black Celebration is actually heavier on the ballads throughout, many sung by Martin Gore -- the most per album he has yet taken lead on -- with notable dramatic beauties including "Sometimes," with its surprise gospel choir start and rough piano sonics, and the hyper-nihilistic "World Full of Nothing." The various singles from the album remain definite highlights, such as "A Question of Time," a brawling, aggressive number with a solid Gahan vocal, and the romantic/physical politics of "Stripped," featuring particularly sharp arrangements from Alan Wilder. However, with such comparatively lesser known but equally impressive numbers as the quietly intense romance of "Here Is the House" to boast, Black Celebration is solid through and through.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Rosegarden Funeral Party - Songs Of Heartbreak

This is the second 'physical' album for the Dallas/Texas based goth/post-punk trio, following their debut Martyr on Moon Sounds Records. The all new album contains not less than 17 tracks, including a number of previously released digital singles, such as 'Blitzkrieg in Holland', 'Salvation and Saving Face', 'Ghost of You', ‘Tortured Decline’ and others.

Rising from the inferno of heartbreak with a determination towards gentility, humility, graciousness, and kindness, Rosegarden Funeral Party takes influence from life’s tragedies and spins chaos into beauty. Leah Lane fronts the band with a voice like that of the lovechild between Morrissey and Siouxsie Sioux and her guitar playing has been compared to that of Daniel Ash, with bass playing that takes obvious inspiration from Peter Hook. With synths trapped in the loving arms of the 1980’s, rhythmic percussion and drums inspired by dark dance floors, Rosegarden Funeral Party prove to be the second-coming of traditional goth. The productive act, active since 2017, is looking back on 2 albums and several singles, partly self-released, partly on labels such as Moon Sounds, Institution Records, Oràculo... Their last year’s 5-tracks mini-album ‘At the Stake’ on Young & Cold is one of the top sellers on the label and expectations for this their second album were big, and are not being disappointed. 


Friday, 6 May 2022

Hapax – Exile

Italian act Hapax have earned their growing fan base with a steady stream of direct and well-structured releases, and as latest EP Exile shows, have been shifting their focus away from post-punk and darkwave to pure, classic goth rock. It’s a move that suits the trio well here, with six tracks that range from the reflective “A Different Blue” to the speedy first-wave fret work out of “Silvery Track” to the club-ready title track. Regardless of tempo there’s a clear sense of sober harmony and arrangement to every track, and not a moment’s wasted. The deep and often guttural vocal style, which we so often associate with the heavier, borderline-metal style of continental goth, makes for a nice contrast with the lighter and defter guitar tone Hapax use, perhaps splitting the difference between Berlin and Leeds. Very strong stuff from an act still on the rise and which we’d love to see gain a higher profile.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Then Comes Silence - Then Comes Silence

A fascination of death, doom, spiritualism and corruption has gathered the members of Then Comes Silence, together with a predisposition towards post-punk, goth, shoegaze and psychedelia. I’m gonna be honest with you; at first, I didn’t really like Then Comes Silence album. When I got this death obsessed record, played it once and thought it could be one single song repeated over and over again. In one word; repetitive. Three months later, my opinion had evolved. More importantly, the band and its gothic touch have this little something that most shoegazing bands do not and may never have. This eponymous debut album from 2012 probably needs a bit of time to get into your veins. So who’s the creative force behind this? Hard to tell precisely, since the band members want to remain anonymous; they “see themselves as not important and do not want to interfere with the experience”. The presence of Alex Svenson from the brilliant band Sad Day For Puppets at the production desk gives us a clue. Then Comes Silence manages to bring darkness and romantic death together in one moment of bloody ecstasy.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

The Pandoras - It's About Time

The Pandoras were an all-female American garage/punk/hard rock band from Los Angeles, CA. The band was formed in 1983 by singer/guitarist Paula Pierce and bassist Deborah Mendoza, but went through many line-up changes over the years. The Pandoras began as a retro ’60s garage rock band who found fans in Hollywood’sPandoras-05 “Paisley Underground” scene with bands like The Three O’Clock and The Morlocks. But, later they took a left turn onto the Sunset Strip becoming a hard rock band similar to bands like Poison and Mötley Crüe. Sadly, The Pandoras ended on August 10, 1991, when Paula Pierce died, suddenly, from an aneurysm. Pierce, like Bianca Halstead of Betty Blowtorch, was taken way too soon. Former Pandoras guitarist Kim Shattuck and keyboardist Melanie Vammen went on to form the cool pop/punk band The Muffs.

The Pandoras debut full-length, It’s About Time (1984), on Voxx Records, was retro in such an authentic way that if you didn’t know you’d think it was recorded in 1966. The catchy title track opens with a ringing Rickenbacker, Pandoras tambourine and Paula’s reverbed vocals for ’60s pop perfection, before Paula snarls her way through the grungy rocker “I Want Him”, my favourite track. Later, she does the same on “Want Need Love”, another favourite, which re-works the signature riff to the Kingsmens “Louie Louie”. And, “Going His Way” re-works the riff to The Standells “Dirty Water”, while “High On a Cloud” recalls The Animals. “Haunted Beach Party” is a fuzzy surf instro perfect for the soundtrack to a ’60s beach party movie where Frankie and Annette trip on LSD. “Hot Generation”, a relatively successful single not on the album, was a cover of a song by the Australian ’60s garage band The Sunsets.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

The Nomads - Where The Wolf Bane Blooms

When I see a title like this I just have to listen. I could not just sit by and not listen; some songs and song titles are like big red giant buttons…that you just have to push. Based in Stockholm, the Nomads have stood out from other garage rock revivalists because of the intensity of their performances and the wide range of their influences, which extend beyond the usual '60s bands to encompass '70s punk, heavy metal, rockabilly, and blues. They are a Garage Punk band founded in 1981 by by Hans Östlund, Nick Vahlberg, Joakim Tärnström, and Ed Johnson. They have a huge sound and are modern masters in the war of distortion. Their first release was a crude remake of the Sonics' "Psycho" followed with their second single, a blistering rendition of "Night Time" by the Strangeloves, and received wider recognition with their first mini-album, Where The Wolf Bane Blooms.

Monday, 2 May 2022

U.K. Subs - Crash Course

The U.K. Subs were always at their best when they were at their most elemental, and the stage was where they were most at home, not the recording studio. Fittingly, the Subs had only released two studio efforts when they brought out Crash Course, which documents a May 1980 gig the group played at London's Rainbow Theatre, though they might have been prompted by the unexpected appearance of Live Kicks, a live EP taken from tapes of a 1977 show that predated their recording contract and released without their authorization. After Live Kicks fared well on the charts, the U.K. Subs easily proved they could do better, and if it's hard to say if this is the definitive U.K. Subs live release (given how many have flooded the market in the band's nearly 40-year career), this captures the sound and fury of this band's no-frills street punk with rough, energetic accuracy, and was recorded in the presence of an audience eager to cheer on the band to deliver the goods. Charlie Harper's vocals may lack nuance, but he's as good a ranter as the U.K. street punk scene ever produced, and he sounds suitably revved up on this particular evening, while guitarist Nicky Garratt, bassist Paul Slack, and drummer Pete Davies keep the music fast, furious, and raw from first chord to last. Quite simply, if you want to hear what the U.K. Subs were like in concert during the height of their success and the peak of their abilities, this is the album to get.

U.K. Subs – Warhead 7"

'There's a burning sun and it sets in the western world, but it rises in the east and pretty soon it's gonna burn your temples down.' Could Charlie Harper have been onto something here? Or was it just a great big slab of late 70s punk in 7 inches of tasteful brown vinyl? Uncle Charlie has been on the frontline of punk rock culture for decades- quite possibly on the frontline of punk rock culture for decades before punk rock even existed. Warhead is still their finest moment- that creeping bass line and explosive dynamics that makes this one of the most covered punk songs in the history of the form and with the bass riff that nearly every punk bass player has learned as rite of passage…

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Wah! - The Maverick Years 80-81... And Then Some!

The title of this compilation consisting of new and reworked songs is a bit misleading. One, Madonna's label had yet to exist, and there ain't a chance in hell that the Candlebox fan would have signed the Mighty Wah! to her label. Second, the title also implies that it could be a greatest hits or singles compilation, which also isn't the case. The title Maverick Years does prove to make sense within the context of this release, since Pete Wylie had grown restless with then-label Warner Bros.' clogged release schedule and higher priorities. So Wylie combined new demos with tweaked versions of older songs and released them on his own Wonderful World of Wah! label. Done without Warner Bros.' consent, it obviously upset Wylie's employers and resulted in his imminent disposal from the major label ranks. Most of the new material is stillborn or half-baked at best. The alternate versions are pointless to anyone but a devout fan. One glaring exemption from this rule is the optimistic blast "Remember," which would have been a sure-fire highlight of Nah = Poo. "Shambeko" is a point of interest for its eerie keyboard structure and isolated chill. Reissued with re-vamped versions of Nah = Poo and A Word to the Wise Guy in 2001, Castle's version adds ten additional tracks that should appeal to diehards. The nine-minute version of "The Story of the Blues Pts. 1 & 2" will be welcomed by someone, and a cover of the Three Degrees' "Year of Decision" hasn't aged well and sounds like a commercial.


Friday, 29 April 2022

The Wild Flowers - The Joy Of It All

Like Del Amitri, Wolverhampton’s Wild Flowers became tired of a disinterested UK pop scene and looked to America for inspiration and appreciation, chiefly being inspired by New York punk rock, especially Television and the Ramones. The ‘Flowers mate the breakneck speed of the Ramones’, and Television’s guitar interplay with Echo and the Bunnymen’s intensity and attack. The band's original membership included guitarist/vocalist Neil Cook, guitarist Dave Newton, bassist Mark Alexander, and drummer Dave Fisher. This line-up recorded two singles, ‘Melt Like Ice’ and ‘Things Have Changed’, and an LP titled The Joy of It All. Poorly recorded for the small Reflex label in 1984 the album disappeared quickly as, so it seemed, did the band when founding guitarist-songwriter Dave Newton left to start the Mighty Lemon Drops.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

The Spizzles - Spikey Dream Flowers

Regurgitating this lil beauty from the vaults of WhyDoThingsHaveToChange as an interesting follow up to yesterday’s Spizz post as there appeared to be a severe shortage of Spizzles. So, this fixes the output from 1981’s incarnation of Spizz and the boys.

The onset of the eighties was the time of musical changes, the time was pregnant with the new ideas, and one just should have grabbed them from the air. The Spizzles did. So Spikey Dream Flowers is the gorgeous album. It is laden with artful psychedelia influenced by punk rock and it is full of inspiration. Having a very rich, glossy production and thanks to this production, the album stands the test of time very well. It is also nice to enjoy a recording artist that doesn't take it's self too seriously. Some of the lyrics herein are quite hilarious. The problem with it was that all the general public at the moment of its release, moved to new wave pop and for all the old psychedelic geezers it was too innovative. The Spizzles could have been huge with a little more understanding of how the British music scene was changing. By 1982, the second wave of punk in the UK was over, and post-punk bands were taking over the indie music scene.