Ad-Hoc Posting Schedule

Willkommen Leser, Down-Loader, Lurker und Teilnehmer alle.

It might have come to your notice that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you'll just kinda have to get used to. I will however, now and again, have bursts of creativity and if it was to please the massed hordes, who chose to visit this insignificant page, to supply some input on the direction and type of music you would like to sample (before going out and buying yourself a copy) this little communication will not have been in vain.

I will also say now that some of the outstanding music already available to sample will be reaching their 30 days without a click threshold, where by they're deleted by the host.

Many thanks for reading this far...and please feel free to interact.



Yet Another Girl…

The Only Ones were a band that became identified with the British punk scene largely because leader Peter Perrett had a funny voice and could write a great straightforward rock & roll song at a time when such virtues were possessed almost exclusively by the faster-and-louder brigade. This helps explain why the Only Ones' self-titled debut album is regarded as a classic of the first wave of U.K. punk despite the presence of the midtempo jazz-accented "Breaking Down"; the '50s pop moves of the opening cut, "The Whole of the Law"; "The Beast," which sounds like some sort of lethargic neo-boogie; and the graceful semi-acoustic semi-samba "No Peace for the Wicked." Of course, when the Only Ones felt like rocking out, they did it brilliantly, and along with the instant classic "Another Girl, Another Planet," this album includes the sinister but rollicking "City of Fun" and the feedback-drenched crunch of "The Immoral Story," which points to another factor that made the Only Ones heroes in their day - their eclecticism was rooted in a genuine talent for embracing different sounds rather than the inability to pick a style and master it. Perrett and his bandmates -- John Perry on guitar, Alan Mair on bass, and Mike Kellie on drums - sound like a tight and imaginative combo even when they're surrounded by keyboard and horn overdubs, and Perrett's tales of one guy's search for love and coherence in a fractured world are intelligent, witty, and deeply cutting at all times. If the creative ambition of the Only Ones sometimes comes at the price of a tight stylistic focus that would make these songs cohere better, every track is memorable in its own way, and these ten songs always have heart, soul, and honesty to spare - and if that isn't always the benchmark of punk rock, it's at least in the neighbourhood.

Emerging in the early 1970's as a fledgling Dylan-soundalike out of north London, Peter Perrett, a promising young songwriter/drop-out, formed his first band, England's Glory. In 1973, they recorded an album's worth of demos and handed acetates of these to various record labels, all of whom said no thank you. England's Glory fell apart and Peter honed his songwriting ability, passing the next three years in a haze of drugs, folk clubs and thwarted ambition. Until the punk rock clarion-call came and everything changed. The time had finally arrived and Peter's bubbling talent was ready to explode. Recruiting three veteran musicians: John Perry on lead guitar, Mike Kellie (formerly of prog-rock group Spooky Tooth) on drums and Alan Mair (who had featured in umpteen Scottish pop bands down the years) on bass, Perrett called them The Only Ones, proudly announcing from the very start that this band would be a one-off.
During 1977 they issued their debut single, Lovers Of Today on their own DIY label, Vengeance Records. It quickly became a collector’s item, receiving much critical acclaim and as a result, a bevy of major labels came swooning to their side. CBS emerged as the prize-winners. And so to June 1978 and the release of their amazing first album, titled simply The Only Ones. Stuffed full of very strong songs and was curiously old-fashioned (for the most part), in the punk rock climate. It has worn very well and boasts at least four of the best songs Peter Perrett would ever write.
Another Girl, Another Planet - the most famous and successful song of Perrett’s fractured and intermittent career, its reputation as a true classic, featured on all the Best Of Punk compilations, the critics fave rave etc., is quite genuine. Sexy, razor-like guitars stutter and pop, followed by a weird frightening sound which rushes up to the foreground like a demented monster, before settling down momentarily into the main rhythm, drums splashing an agreeable tom-tom-ride-cymbal wash and John Perrys fabulous guitar-lines. At which point, Peter Perrett's charismatic voice enters the fray with this stunning first line: 'I always flirt with death, I look ill but I don’t care about it' double-tracked on the choruses. The gaunt wastrel proclaims his love: 'I think I'm on another world with you, I'm on another planet with you.' John Perrys elegant but powerful guitar solo will be talked about for as long as people enjoy music, a high-octane rush of pure joy. 'Space travel's in my blood, there ain’t nothin’ I can do about it, long journeys wear me out, but I know can’t live without it' Is he singing about a galactic peregrination, or about his heroin addiction? Musically, the melody of Another Girl, Another Planet is very similar to a Vibrators single, We Vibrate, released on RAK records in 1977. Has anyone else noticed this? Whatever, Another Girl is one of the great tracks from the New Wave.
At the end of side 1 we have The Beast, a track as monolithic as its title suggests. Beginning with gentle guitar strokes, ticking cow-bell and some dexterous bass-runs, it is the big confessional on the album, a warning to the kids: 'Don’t touch heroin! It’ll fuck you up!'
John Perry plays a memorable, melodramatic riff prior to Perret's devastating vocal: 'run from the beast, there's danger in his eyes. He's been looking for you for a long time, you might think this is funny, but I'm not laughing, I know that it couldn't happen to me.' The song is fantastic, a ghoulish, marauding epic, vividly relaying real feelings, and real regret. 'Out in the street the modern vampire prowls, he's been spreading disease all around, there’s an epidemic, if you don’t believe me, you ought to take a look at the eyes of your friends, when someone tempts you, you can’t refuse.' The instruments get louder, it builds and builds, than falls away to its previous ghostly calm, and Perrett's parting shot: 'I've tried to show you your whole life in print, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, think about it! All you gotta do is think about it, there's no cure.' Now the others take over with a powerhouse of ensemble playing, aided by an over-dubbed brass-section subtly placed in the mix. Drums and guitar fight it out in an explosion of excitement, with the incendiary guitar of John Perry emerging as the winner.
Alright, It's okay, I've calmed down now, phew!

I Can't Escape

Despite the production's rough edges, the limited budget that fostered it, and the feeling that it sounds more like several A-sides and a couple decent B-sides thrown together than a singular body, Jeopardy is a caustic jolt of a debut that startles and fascinates. With the plaintive intro of the rhythm section, a spidery guitar, and incidental synth wobbles (which all sounds surprisingly Neu!-like), "I Can't Escape Myself" begins the album unassumingly enough until reaching the terse, one-line chorus that echoes the title of the song; suddenly, from out of the blue, all the instruments make a quick, violent, collective stab and retreat back into the following verse as singer Adrian Borland catches his breath. The reverb placed on his voice is heightened at just the right moments to exacerbate the song's claustrophobic slant. The ecstatic onward rush of "Heartland" forms the back end of a dynamic one-two opening punch, with a charging rhythm and blaring keyboards leading the way. It seems to be the spawn of XTC and U2, just as giddy as something from the former (think Go 2) and almost as anthemic as something from the latter (think Boy). Much later on, near the end, "Unwritten Law" comes along as one of The Sound's best mid-tempo mood pieces -- one of their greatest strengths. It also shows how much a simple shading of synth can affect a song, as it affects it with a melancholic smear that no other instrument could possibly provide. In all honesty, they weren't breaking any new ground here. Their influences were just as apparent as the ones donned by the other bands who inhabited similar post-punk territory. Smart journalists of the time (meaning the ones who truly listened and were aware of the band's past) knew well enough that The Sound belonged in the same league as the bands they were compared to and not somewhere in the bushes. Hardly coattail jockeying, The Sound were developing and growing alongside them. If you're thinking that this sounds like someone's telling you that you need Jeopardy just as much as you need Kilimanjaro or Unknown Pleasures or Crocodiles, you're right again. 

Jeopardy is THE album missing from your music collection.

Making such a bold claim banks on two assumptions, which I’ll come clean about right now. First, that you don’t already own Jeopardy. I assume this because, in the transition from a historical moment to a musical canon, the sad reality is that some bands, good as they may be, get left by the wayside. This unfortunate fate has most certainly befallen The Sound. Though they signed in 1980 to Korova Records (the very same major label which also housed Echo and the Bunnymen, with whom they also share a sonic likeness) they would hardly enjoy the same fame. Their cult status in England never translated into any notoriety on American shores; they remain unknown even by rabid new wave and post-punk fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Such a tragic tale only goes to show that, in the world of music, there most certainly no justice.
My second assumption is arguably one based on taste, but for anyone interested in how punk got to be post punk got to be new wave got to be ‘80s synth pop, Jeopardy is a critical piece of the puzzle. Nestled in that moment before what has become the signature ‘80s Euro sound was full-on explode, The Sound find musical cousins in the Cure, the Fall, the Gang of Four, Joy Division, and the Psychedelic Furs. Pretty good company, right? Now ask me again why you don’t already know about this band.
Jeopardy is the band’s debut release; it bursts with fresh energy while also maintaining a startling maturity and skill. These are songs that haunt, blaze, rip, and govern, sometimes within the same moment. Oh, their elements: the guitars twitch like an itchy trigger finger, the vocals teem with fury and fire, the bass like a controlled nuclear reaction, keyboards always at the perfect colour, whether dark or luminescent. In addition to the original material from the 1980 release, this particular reissue also contains tracks from rare live Instinct EP recorded in London in 1981.
“I Can’t Escape Myself,” the album’s opener, is an intensely dramatic, mesmerizing number. The characteristic quickfire bass and upbeat drum kicks start almost inaudibly and rise like smoke filling a closed room. Guitar agitates in unison with the drums. Then singer/guitarist Adrian Borland begins: “So many feelings/ Pent up in here/ Left alone, I’m with/ The one I most fear.” His paranoia intensifies across the verse, until the theatrical interjection of the chorus. Borland drips “I can’t escape myself,” as it’s echoed, in screams and guitar jabs, in the background. But this is a brief, Kafkaesque release. Even the closing of the song offers no real exit, Borland singing his final “escape myself” over the relentless bass, both of which cut out abruptly.
“Heartland”, the agile punk race which follows, is far more optimistic—blusteringly lively, indeed a “chemistry of commotion and style,” as the lyrics astutely note. Midway through is a genius guitar solo that recalls Richard Hell or Tom Verlaine, and the whole thing is overlain with a keyboard zing that nimbly dances across unexpected note progressions.
The exchange between “I Can’t Escape Myself” and “Heartland” is characteristic of the album writ large—brooding suspicion followed up by amphetamine-y mania. (Is it really a surprise that the band was beset by drug addictions and internally and externally imposed turmoil?) “Words Fail Me”, The Sound’s version of a “love song,” is as curious and angular as you’d expect from someone as anxiety-ridden and troubled as Borland comes off as being. It pops with horns and jumps with desperation, guitar rapid-firing a single note throughout the vocal acrobatics of the chorus. The melodramatic and shadowy “Missiles” follows and it could not be more of a departure. “Who the hell makes those missiles/ When we know what they can do?” Borland implores. Whether located in the government or in the depths of their own collective consciousness, the world is filled with forces beyond The Sound’s control.
All this, and I haven’t even touched the album’s best tracks: the roller-coasting “Heyday” and asymmetrical, supernatural “Desire”, not to mention the jaw-dropping live rendition of “Brutal Force”. Feel free to debate me on these selections, as so much of the album overflows with brilliance that it’s endlessly hard to pick a favourite. In fact, I’m stupefied in trying to figure out another superlative I could give to this tremendous record. Let’s just say, Jeopardy far surpasses my humble writing ability. I hope, for your own sake, that it’s not missing from your record collection for much longer. 


Issued in May 1977, the Outsiders' first album has attracted some renown as an historical footnote, since it might have been the first self-released U.K. punk LP, or at least one of the first. (There's also some dispute as to whether it should be considered self-released, as it did come out on a label set up by guitarist/singer Adrian Borland's parents that was technically independent from the band.) Why isn't it cited in punk histories like, for instance, the Buzzcocks' early-1977 self-released Spiral Scratch EP is? For one thing, it was panned upon its appearance by some highly regarded U.K. music critics who championed punk, Julie Burchill and Jon Savage. For another, it's actually not all that punky, though a few tracks certainly qualify by most listeners' standards. If you're not expecting a lost prime class of 1977 document, however, it's not so bad. The title track has the anthemic spewed lyrics and fast guitar blur typical of early British punk, as do "Terminal Case" and "Hit and Run," though the latter veers toward hard rock. On other songs, however, they play decidedly non-punk, quieter, more introspective material. "Break Free" and "Weird" are more like moody Jonathan Richman or Peter Perrett than all-out punk assault; "On the Edge" is like muted Stooges in its sludgy midtempo wariness; "Start Over" is an actual acoustic guitar-centred ballad, if a downbeat one; and "I'm Screwed Up," despite the punky title, is more a grungy hard rock song than a defiant assault. Certainly better than the initial U.K. music press reviews would have you believe, it's nonetheless no lost classic, sounding more like a young band with a hint of promise and some knack for expressing vulnerable frustration. The sound quality's pretty good for an essentially self-generated effort, but the playing is sometimes a bit dodgy, the songs lacking in memorable riffs and variety. So it adds up to something that seems a bit more like a demo than a finished product, though it certainly has its interest for U.K. punk collectors, in part because the quieter songs don't stick to a generic formula.

Discussion of punk albums can often find themselves loaded with contradictions. The Outsiders records are no exceptions. Legend has it that the true punks couldn’t play. Yet Borland was a guitarist of some repute. He wasn’t alone in this respect and we could easily point to Stuart Adamson (The Skids), Keith Levene (Clash/PIL) and Marco Pirroni (Banshees/Ants) as other examples of prodigious axe talent from the punk era. The thing that strikes most about Borland is just how good a guitarist he was so early into his career. So much so that on Calling On Youth youll find all manner of nods back to previous bands such as The DoorsVelvet Underground and even Roxy Music, when most punk bands were rebelling against the past. There are even guitar solos on the album, usually anathema to supposed punks.
But what did punk rock mean anyway? Nevermind The Bollocks is supposed to be the landmark album of the era but that isn’t really a punk record. Listen to the glossy production values and you’ll find that the Pistols famous LP is far from the scratchy, garage/demo quality of true punk recordings. Indeed some might venture that punk was merely a movement or concept, that the whole idea of punk was non-conformation. Thus signing with a label and pressing an album are at odds with the whole punk ethic. Calling On Youth was a punk album but The Outsiders hadn’t been signed. The record goes into the history books as the first self-funded album by any UK punk act. In an era dominated by singles this might seem about as anarchic a move imaginable. So allow yourself a private chuckle with though thought that Adrian’s parents put up most of the money.
The music is patchy and sprawling as it could only be. There are few signals on the album proper of the tense, post-punk soon to follow. (If you don’t know The Sound, I’ll summarise by saying they were as close to Joy Division as any London act ever came. Buy From The Lions Mouth, one of the truly essential albums of British post-punk.) The extra One To Infinity EP tracks start to sound tighter and less cluttered, signposting the way forward. Calling On Youth is a decent punk record but not much more than a curio, even for fans of The Sound. 


Newly Ordered

June 30, 1983
Cabaret Metro, Chicago IL USA

It’s not often something like this sort of falls in your lap.

June 30, 1983 was the hottest day of the year to date in Chicago. The now-legendary venue Metro - then known as Cabaret Metro - had been open for roughly a year. New Order finally made their debut appearance in Chicago. Attendees say it was unbearably hot inside the Metro that night. And allegedly even hotter on the stage. That day, the high temperature reached near 100° F in Chicago and it had barely cooled as the evening went on. Making matters worse, the band took nearly two hours to get on stage after the opening act, which made an uncomfortable and stinky audience even more strident.

The set starts out as your typical New Order set of the era would. Things seem OK, maybe a bit rowdier crowd than normal, until late in the fourth song “Truth” when the sequencer starts to act up. They launch straight into “Leave Me Alone” which ends uneventfully. Then, the power goes out (as you’d have it). A restless crowd begins complaining amongst itself, with audible complaints about sweat dripping into eyes, another mentioning rubbing ice all over their face, and vocalized thankfulness that they brought paper towels in. Random sequencer bleats punctuate the rumbling crowd, as the roadies and venue staff try to get the power sorted. Hooky mentions needing a shower. Eventually, “Your Silent Face” starts. It devolves into a unique and fascinating exposition on what a sequencer-using band does when the sequencers are failing mid song - Steve Morris jumps behind the drum kit far earlier than usual, and essentially drives the song to its skittering end as the sequencers never recover. I think this take is spectacular and I think you’ll agree.

Barney then makes reference on stage to equipment and power problems, mentions the band’s just going to jam, and Steve then pounds out the drum riff for “Denial”. Instead of jamming, the band then finishes the set with four straight sequencer-free tracks, ending on the majestic “In A Lonely Place” well into the wee hours of the morning.

There is no jamming, no acoustic “Blue Monday” despite the venue owner’s misremembered statements made over the years since. It’s possible of course at some point these did exist and were edited out from this tape upstream, but I doubt it and all other recollections of this gig fail to mention any acoustic “Blue Monday” performances.

For the past 34 years, this set has been legendary in the New Order community due to the circumstances which befell it. And a tape was never known to exist, nor a setlist for that matter. With the 1980 Beach Club set, it was part of the Holy Grail pair of lost New Order sets.  That changes today.


A Touch Of Evil

Wow, originally posted over 2 years ago...a request to up-load again. I'll leave the original post as it was, and the original MP3

I will let Andy Kellman's All Music review of this unmissable slice of shear brilliance introduce you to Cabaret Voltaire...

It isn't without reason that Red Mecca is often referred to as one of Cabaret Voltaire's most cohesive and brilliant records. There are tangible bumpers (the record is buttressed by squealing/wheezing interpretations of Henry Mancini's music for Orson Welles' Touch of Evil), so by that aspect there's a tangible center. And taken as a whole, the record contains all the characteristics that have made the Sheffield group such an influential entity when it comes to electronic music of the untethered, experimental variety that isn't afraid to shake its tail a little. Unlike a fair portion of CV's studio output, Red Mecca features no failed experiments or anything that could be merely cast off as "interesting." It's a taught, dense, horrific slab lacking a lull. Dashes of Richard H. Kirk's synthesizer are welded to Chris Watson's tape effects for singed lashes of white noise, best heard on the lurching "Sly Doubt" and the jolting "Spread the Virus." Throughout, Mallinder's sinister jibber jabbering punctuates the high-pitched menace. What he's ranting about is rarely obvious, as the clarity of his voice is often obstructed by the tape effects, synth work, and other random whip-cracks (Watson's periodic surges of organ are another treat). Judging from his irritated tone, odds are the lyrics have little to do with bunnies jumping over dandelions or anything nearing pleasant -- it's that lack of definition that makes things all the more unsettling. Several tunes have a thick rhythmic drive. The instrumental "Landslide" is painfully short at two minutes, with a bopping machine beat and barely perceptible vocal samples that dart between the left and right channels. A grainy programmed rhythm and Kirk's sickly guitar manglings dominate the sleazy "Split Second Feeling." Sick, searing, engrossing. Along with 2X45 and The Living Legends, this is their best offering.


Halo I - IV

It's been 28 years since industrial titans Nine Inch Nails released their landmark debut album; Halo I-IV is a limited edition vinyl box set collecting the complete 1989 version of Pretty Hate Machine on 180 gram vinyl, as well as the domestic versions of all three 12" singles released from the album on 120 gram vinyl. The singles include some B-sides and alternate mixes, making this the perfect way to revisit Pretty Hate Machine in all its dark, catchy splendour. Although vinyl copies of the album aren't too hard to come by, this will be a must-have for Nine Inch Nails' followers, and it's got just the right balance of flashiness and functionality.

Virtually ignored upon its 1989 release, Pretty Hate Machine gradually became a word-of-mouth cult favourite; despite frequent critical bashings, its stature and historical importance only grew in hindsight. In addition to its stealthy rise to prominence, part of the album's legend was that budding auteur Trent Reznor took advantage of his low-level job at a Cleveland studio to begin recording it. Reznor had a background in synth-pop, and the vast majority of Pretty Hate Machine was electronic. Synths voiced all the main riffs, driven by pounding drum machines; distorted guitars were an important textural element, but not the primary focus. Pretty Hate Machine was something unique in industrial music -- certainly no one else was attempting the balladry of "Something I Can Never Have," but the crucial difference was even simpler. Instead of numbing the listener with mechanical repetition, Pretty Hate Machine's bleak electronics were subordinate to catchy riffs and verse-chorus song structures, which was why it built such a rabid following with so little publicity. That innovation was the most important step in bringing industrial music to a wide audience, as proven by the frequency with which late-'90s alternative metal bands copied NIN's interwoven guitar/synth textures. It was a new soundtrack for adolescent angst -- noisily aggressive and coldly detached, tied together by a dominant personality. Reznor's tortured confusion and self-obsession gave industrial music a human voice, a point of connection. His lyrics were filled with betrayal, whether by lovers, society, or God; it was essentially the sound of childhood illusions shattering, and Reznor was not taking it lying down. Plus, the absolute dichotomies in his world (there was either purity and perfection, or depravity and worthlessness) made for smashing melodrama. Perhaps the greatest achievement of Pretty Hate Machine was that it brought emotional extravagance to a genre whose main theme had nearly always been dehumanization.


So Alone

Following the drug-fuelled implosion of the Heartbreakers, Johnny Thunders bounced back with his first solo outing, So Alone. Featuring a veritable who's who of '70s punk and hard rock -- Chrissie Hynde, Phil Lynott, Peter Perrett, Steve Marriott, Paul Cook, and Steve Jones, among others -- the record was a testament to what the former New York Dolls guitarist could accomplish with a little focus. Much like Thunders' best work with the Dolls and Heartbreakers, So Alone is a gloriously sloppy amalgam of R&B, doo wop, and three-chord rock & roll. Despite the inevitable excesses that plagued every Thunders recording session, Steve Lillywhite's solid engineering job and a superb set of songs hold everything together. A cover of the Chantays' classic instrumental "Pipeline" leads things off, and is a teasing reminder of what a great guitarist Thunders could be when he put his mind to it. The record's indisputable masterpiece is "You Can't Put Your Arms Round a Memory," a wrenching, surprisingly literate ballad in which Thunders seems to acknowledge that his junkie lifestyle has doomed him to the abyss. Songs like "Leave Me Alone," "Hurtin'," and the chilling title track continue the theme of life inside the heroin balloon. Fortunately, all this back-alley gloom is leavened by some memorably animated moments. "London Boys" is a scathing reply to the Sex Pistols' indictment of the New York punk scene, "New York." The funky "Daddy Rollin' Stone" features the inimitable Lynott on background vocals, while the rave-ups "Great Big Kiss" and "(She's So) Untouchable" are terrific examples of Thunders' raunchy take on classic R&B. Sadly, Johnny Thunders never followed up on the promise of his solo debut. His subsequent records were a frustrating mix of drug-addled mediocrity and downright laziness. But for one brief moment, he seemed to put it all together. That moment is So Alone.

So for me, it has always been So Alone which stands as Thunders best work. Having shifted from the over the top swagger of the Dolls through to the streetwise punk rock n roll of the Heartbreakers, So Alone always seemed like an attempt to establish Thunders as something of a serious artist. A rocker, to be sure, but a singer-songwriter as well. Maybe he wasn’t that calculating about it, but it was the first album to really show he aspired to something more than just piss and vinegar.
It’s also an incredibly flawed album.
Everything that was wrong with Johnny Thunders the solo artist is on display on So Alone. For a guy apparently looking to go his own way as a solo artist, there are almost no new songs. Of fourteen tracks (on the expanded reissue), well over half are either covers or reworked Dolls/Heartbreakers songs. This would plague the rest of Thunders’ stumbling career, with ensuing albums too often grab-bags of reworked tunes, too seldom offering anything of real impact.
Song writing was certainly not beyond Thunders, but finding the appropriate headspace in which to perform the task was, I suspect, difficult for the man who became a poster boy for heroin as a lifestyle choice. Add to this a thin production, and an even thinner nasal whine masquerading as a singing voice and you’ve got an album that… Well, we’re a long way from Quadrophenia here.
Somehow though, the guy who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with both the Dolls and the Heartbreakers manages to pull it off. In part of course, it’s because the album’s title is a complete misnomer. Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook and Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott play on many tracks, while both Steve Marriott and Chrissie Hynde also make appearances. It’s the first album I owned to feature all of those artists together, which on its own makes this a landmark album for me, but the mix of players also served as a signal of the esteem in which the New York Dolls were held.


The Damned – Peel Sessions (1976/1977)

Foreword – By John Peel.
This may be neither the time nor the place to admit that I never got to see the Sex Pistols play. I did drive to Derby one night to catch them on tour but upon arriving at the venue found only a hand-written note stuck to the door announcing that the gig was off. In a strange way, I wasn’t disappointed – a cancelled gig seemed decidedly more Punk than one that went ahead. I never saw The Clash either, although I almost saw them at one of those 100 Club gigs on London’s Oxford Street but had to leave to do my radio programme before they came on. I did just catch Birmingham’s Nightingales though and thought their song, “VD”, which consisted of little but a second or two of wild-eyed strumming and the shouted words “I’ve got VD” – as fine as anything I heard in all of that astonishing Punk year. It remains one of the few songs I can sing in its entirety.
On the plus side, I did see and hear the subjects of this present volume. The first time I caught The Damned in impressively violent action was at an almost formal concert they played at a theatre in Victoria. That’s Victoria, London. My memories of the event are hazy now (my memories of this morning aren’t too good so bear with me) but I seem to remember the other bands on the bill were Eddie & The Hot Rods and Graham Parker & The Rumour (both these ensembles, but especially the Hot Rods – played their part in unlocking the door that the Punks were about to kick down and they don’t get enough credit for it). I had imagined that The Damned would see me, the compere and a man blatantly working for the BBC, as a tool of an oppressive regime and would, more than likely, give me a bit of a well-deserved kicking before running, snarling like wild dogs, to inflict further mayhem elsewhere. In the event (and they may well hate me for saying this) they were quite amiable, hardly spat at me at all, played a blinder and were quickly booked for the first of seven sessions for the programme (They also did two for Mike Read and one apiece for Janice Long and Saturday Live. They did an In Concert too. Blimey). In a funny way, I thought The Damned caught the true spirit of Punk, as understood by Punks, better than their rivals. They devoted less time to striking attitudes and never forgot, as many historians have, that Punk could be quite funny as well as exciting. I mean, “Stab Yer Back”? Come on.
As a footnote and by a genuine and astonishing coincidence, this morning’s post brought me a CD by a band called Slipper. The EP is called “Earworms” and features, at the drums, Rat Scabies. The beat goes on.
John Peel – 29/05/02.

A very strong twin 12” EP set, recorded live in the studio at BBC Maida Vale in late 1976 and early ’77. The Damned were at their peak and some versions here are as good as, if not better, than the originals. "Neat, Neat, Neat," "New Rose," "I Fall," and most of the other songs that make up their debut are here. The band proves its versatility, going from the raging punk of "So Messed Up," which is as menacing as anything the Sex Pistols ever recorded, to the very Doors-ish "Feel the Pain." A highly recommended listen that proves the Damned were a step above the majority of their punk brethren.


Music For Pleasure

A contender for the most maligned second album ever,

‘Music For Pleasure’ is as unsung as any record can get. Even its creators have condemned it. The Damned – newly expanded to a five piece with the addition of second guitarist Lu Edmonds - managed to record and release their sophomore long player before many of their punk contemporaries had got around to their first one. Naturally it was accused of being a rushed, ill-conceived release, with songs inferior to ‘Damned Damned Damned’ and an over-refined production at dramatic odds with the treble-dominated chaos of that debut LP. I doubt that the producer in question being an A-list prog rock drummer helped its punk credibility, but first choice Floyd member Syd - a true punk in all but his time - was unsurprisingly indisposed when asked to slide the faders.

Personally, I think ‘Music For Pleasure’ is a gas. Sure, it’s far from perfect, but unlike The Jam’s near contemporaneous ‘This Is The Modern World’, it shows a true progression on its makers’ debut album and – to these ears at least – doesn’t sound rushed at all. In fact, so taken was I with its relatively sophisticated, slightly prog-infused vibe that I all but disowned the back-to-basics output that the reformed, James-less Damned spilled onto the masses a couple of years later. And I never went back. As their first record label would say, if it ain’t Stiff, it ain’t worth a fuck, and that applies to The Damned in my book. Two fine albums, a handful of 45s of mostly high quality, and goodbye.

I suspect that a lot of folks’ issue with ‘Music For Pleasure’ may lie with the 45 that opens the album, ‘Problem Child’. Certainly from this punter’s perspective, it’s the weakest track here and doesn’t inspire confidence in what’s to follow. Co-credited between Brian James and Rat Scabies, it may be the drummer who is largely responsible for a one-dimensional tune which, unlike his minimalist masterpiece ‘Stab Yor Back’ on the first LP, hasn’t the energy to save it from yawndom. It drags, and seems to last a lot longer than the two minutes thirteen seconds it actually does.

Once that’s over, the vim is back – and how. ‘Don’t Cry Wolf’ and ‘One Way Love’ are Brian James-by-numbers riff fests with loads of ooomph and choruses that infuse the cranium like acid. ‘Politics’ is faster still, with some well-weird time signature abuse in its verses, a barmy lyric that expounds anything but what its title suggests (“Give me fun, not anarchy”) and an opening guitar lick that floors me every time I hear it. The two guitar line-up really makes its presence felt here. ‘Stretcher Case’, a re-recorded version of one side of a freebie single given away at The Damned’s summer gigs, is another James/Scabies co-write, thankfully blessed with more character and verve than that iffy opening track.

This far (ten minutes!) into the album, it’s been Brian James' own songs that have stimulated the grey matter. But then comes ‘Idiot Box’, a Sensible/Scabies affair, that closes the first side and really turns ‘Music For Pleasure’ upside down – in a good way. On the face of it a puerile diatribe against New York new wavers Television (I’ve never understood why), ‘Idiot Box’ is built around a staggering, jazz-influenced riff which is as far away from barre-chord simplicity as punk would ever get. That gives way in turn to a chorus lick which owes more to heavy metal, before moving to an extended coda where James gets to show off some insanely fast, high neck string plucking over Lu’s arpeggio chords. It’s punk, Jim, but not as we know it – and certainly not as we expected it in the fall of ’77. Whatever the genre, it’s fabulous: one of the standout tracks in an already great year. And it’s totally at odds with everything The Damned had released up to that point …and maybe beyond.

The rest of ‘Music For Pleasure’ is purely Brian James inspired, aside from a Dave Vanian co-credit on ‘Your Eyes’, a song built around a particularly adroit, mid-paced riff with I suspect deliberate ambiguity in the way Vanian pronounces the second word of the title (I won’t spoil it for you, but I hear another part of the anatomy… maybe it’s just me!). All five tracks – the last James would write for the band – are well up the standard set by ‘New Rose’, but two – ‘Alone’ and the closing ‘You Know’ – are little short of astounding.

‘Alone’ is as frantic a Damned song as ever existed, its 200mph riff defying all melodic and rhythmic logic while Scabies out-Moons his greatest inspirer with serious cymbal abuse and Vanian infuses another bile-filled lyric with his patented creepiness (Check out how he intones the “You're alone…and I love you” bit at the close – ugh!). It makes The Clash sound like a boyband by comparison and, musically speaking anyway, is a credible precursor to what the likes of Crass and Discharge would subsequently unleash upon the world – and I’m sure I don’t need to emphasise how influential that was.

I’ve always loved fade-ins, and ‘You Know’ has a great one. Yet another superb James riff (on the face of it simple but no one else would ever have come up with it) rises from the depths and roots itself into your consciousness like an alien in John Hurt’s gut. Delivered at a steady yet relentless pace, on and on it goes, relieved only by a not dissimilar lick after each chorus. Towards the end none other than Lol Coxhill enters, blowing some serious free jazz genius over the melle. In fact, he gets the last word as his multi tracked soprano sax closes the record alone. It makes for a close that seems resolved, yet unresolved, at the same time. I find the only way to effectively deal with it is to play the LP right through again (minus ‘Problem Child’, natch) but then the same issue arises half an hour later. Kinda strange, but I like it.

And through it all lies that Pink Floyd drummer’s production which, while unaffected, takes nothing away from the vitality of the songs and, I think, actually makes ‘Music For Pleasure’ sound much more original and relevant today than another Nick Lowe treble-fest would have done (and I speak as a true admirer of Basher in all of his guises). By the time they came to make their second album, the dying Damned had progressed every bit as much as the Canterbury bands that had so thrilled their bassist at the start of the decade and needed, in turn, a producer who could capture that change without losing their ever-present energy. Much as I wonder what ‘MFP’ would have sounded like with a Madcap production job, I’ve never had a problem with Nick Mason’s production skills. After all, no-one to my knowledge has ever criticised the way ‘Rock Bottom’ sounds, and if he was good enough for Robert Wyatt, I’m Damned sure he was good enough for this lot.

Contrary to its critics and creators, ‘Music For Pleasure’ is precisely that. Great sleeve too!

The Light Pours Out Of Me

Come dark music, bring us autumn days...

Howard Devoto had the foresight to promote two infamous Sex Pistols concerts in Manchester, and his vision was no less acute when he left Buzzcocks after recording Spiral Scratch. Possibly sensing the festering of punk's clichés and limitations, and unquestionably not taken by the movement's beginnings, he bailed (effectively skipping out on most of 1977) and resurfaced with Magazine. Initially, the departure from punk was not complete. "Shot by Both Sides," the band's first single, was based off an old riff given by Devoto's Buzzcocks partner Pete Shelley, and the guts of follow-up single "Touch and Go" were rather basic rev-and-vroom. 

Yet, like many punk bands, Magazine would likely cite David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Roxy Music. However (this point is crucial) instead of playing mindlessly sloppy variants of "Hang on to Yourself," "Search and Destroy," and "Virginia Plain," the band was inspired by the much more adventurous “Low”, “The Idiot”, and "For Your Pleasure". That is the driving force behind Real Life's status as one of the post-punk era's major jump-off points. Punk's untethered energy is rigidly controlled, run through arrangements that are tightly wound, herky-jerky, unpredictable, and proficiently dynamic. The rapidly careening "Shot by Both Sides" (up there with PiL's "Public Image" as an indelible post-punk single) and the slowly unfolding "Parade" (the closest thing to a ballad, its hook is "Sometimes I forget that we're supposed to be in love") are equally ill-at-ease. The dynamism is all the more perceptible when Dave Formula's alternately flighty and assaultive keyboards are present: the opening "Definitive Gaze," for instance, switches between a sci-fi love theme and the score for a chase scene. As close as the band comes to upstaging Devoto, the singer is central, with his live wire tendencies typically enhanced, rather than truly outshined, by his mates. The interplay is at its best in "The Light Pours out of Me," a song that defines Magazine more than "Shot by Both Sides," while also functioning as the closest the band got to making an anthem. Various aspects of Devoto's personality and legacy, truly brought forth throughout this album, have been transferred and blown up throughout the careers of Momus (the restless, unapologetic intellectual), Thom Yorke (the pensive outsider), and maybe even Luke Haines (the nonchalantly acidic crank).
Still it's shameful that Magazine weren’t considered one of the best acts of the post-punk period. Devoto led one of the shortest ever careers with Buzzcocks and then resurfaced ten thousand years away from the punk hooliganism casting a handful of creative musicians to form Magazine. Listening to Magazine it's like being in the presence of an idiosyncratic and exhilarating blend of Peter Hammill's tragedian, Brian Eno's lush quirkiness and post-punk energy.
"Real Life" is like a steely cathedral surrounded by snow. And is also a terrifying study on loneliness. At these times, only Wire has reached the same detailed level of enthralment. At these times, Magazine was not fucking joking...
"Definitive Gaze" and "My Tulpa" are two formidable openers to any album. "My Tulpa" is the best keyboard-driven song from the post-punk years. A masterpiece in nine movements.