Wednesday

Translucence – Poly Styrene

For those who like to rock, avoid this album. For those whose tastes are a little more eclectic and aren't afraid of sampling new delicacies, than this will definitely be a tasty little morsel. The most striking element of the record is Poly's gorgeous singing, supported by the supple, jazzy arrangements. Clearly Translucence isn’t as aggressive or confrontational as her work with X-Ray Spex but equally as rewarding when taken as a whole piece of work.

Saturday

The Associates – Sulk

To close out Scotland On Saturday I'm offering up one of the smoothist albums ever released.

This edition of Sulk, which was the most common one to find while record shopping throughout the late '80s and '90s, was originally the American issue. Heavy substitution and track reordering; a typical enough move on the part of American companies no matter what the act, resulted in a radically different record. For some strange reason, this European CD issue of the album relied on the American edition, something only finally rectified as part of an overall reissue program in 2000. All this said, while this second edition sacrifices some of the quirky edginess of the original, collecting all the major hit singles that made the band such a distinctive U.K. chart presence in the early '80s certainly isn't a problem at all. The three tracks from the second side of the original album -- the bizarro funk of "It's Better This Way," the swooning hyper-romance of "Partyfearstwo," and the nervy, sped-up rush of "Club Country" -- here lead off the record, followed by the OK-enough remake of Diana Ross' "Love Hangover" and the charming "18 Carat Love Affair." As for the remaining tracks, "Arrogance Gave Him Up," "No," "Skipping," and "Gloomy Sunday" are retained in a much different order, while "Bap de la Bap," "Nude Spoons," and "Nothinginsomethinginparticular" are removed in favour of early single "White Car in Germany" and "The Associate." All changes and switches aside, it's still very much the Associates at probably the best period of their career. Mackenzie's impossibly piercing cabaret falsetto rivals that of obvious role model Russell Mael from Sparks, while Rankine's ear for unexpected hooks and sweeping arrangements turns the stereotypes of early-'80s synth music on their heads. The bass work from ex-Cure member Michael Dempsey isn't chopped liver either, and the result is a messy but wonderful triumph no matter what version is found.

Twisted Nerve – Séance

Hailing from the balmy climate that Scotland’s capitol city enjoys every year during Festival time (yeah, it rains…a lot) Edinburgh’s Twisted Nerve. Originally a wee punk band on their debut 1980 release, they morphed into raging Post-punk Deathrock Goths during the summer of ‘81. You should grab this crackle fest as the band are re-releasing Séance on very limited edition 12” vinyl through Secret Records in the US and UK (was due out on Record Store Day) and as the saying goes, if you like it, Buy It!

Lowlife – Diminuendo

A Scottish Saturday lunchtime and there’s something dark on the plate (and it’s not black pudding). If you care to take a wee look below Diminuendo you will find two additional singles to sink your teeth into…go on, you know you want to.

Simple Minds - I Travel

Saturday mornings are usually reserved for memories, where I sit back, feet up and the iPod soothes my furrowed brow. TV’s are blaring in the background, muffled noises coming from other rooms all draining away as the weekend begins. Simple Minds rarely put a foot wrong in the first half of the 80’s and proof of that was the multiple releases of their 1980 classic I Travel. One of my all-time, go too, classics.

There were three editions in the early 80’s starting with the original 7” in October 1980. I Travel then received two further releases on 12” in 1982 and 12” in 1983 (the geek in me has both the UK 12” and the European 12” of the 3rd edition) coinciding with other Simple Minds releases.

This Saturday morning opens with a lovely little bundle of Scotland’s finest being dragged alive and kicking into the 80’s.

Friday

The Bangles - All Over The Place

While the Bangles would later embrace a radio-friendly pop production style (and enjoy attendant commercial success) that separated them from their early peers, they were the only figures from the L.A. paisley underground scene who would go on to become genuine multi-platinum rock stars, and while their first full-length album, 1984's All Over the Place, showed that some of their rough edges were already being buffed away, of their major-label output it's the record that most openly embraces the folk-rock and garage rock influences that fuelled their earliest music. Vicki Peterson's lead guitar and the band's stellar harmonies are the vehicles that drive these 11 songs, and if producer David Kahne was already pushing the group in a more commercially ambitious direction, there's no disguising the psychedelic guitar figures on "Dover Beach" or the Byrds-meets-Raiders jangle of "Tell Me," and the choice of the Merry-Go-Round's "Live" as a cover is especially telling. All Over the Place is also the Bangles' most unified full-length album; Susanna Hoffs hadn't yet been singled out as the star of the show, and the round-robin lead vocals, stellar harmonies, and tight, concise arrangements make them sound like a real-deal rock band, and the set's gentle but insistent sway from British Invasion-styled rock and West Coast pop feels natural, unforced, and effective. And when drummer Debbie Peterson and bassist Michael Steele feel like rocking out, the Bangles generate a lot more heat than they're usually given credit for, most notably on "Silent Treatment." The Bangles' second full album, Different Light, would sell a lot more copies, but All Over the Place is easily their best and most satisfying LP.

Thursday

The Rain Parade - Emergency Third Rail Power Trip

The Rain Parade was one of the leading lights of the fabled L.A. Paisley Underground movement of the early ‘80s. Their 1984 release Emergency Third Rail Power Trip is easily one of the greatest albums to come out of the scene. Though there are a number of worthy contenders, Dream Syndicate's The Days of Wine and Roses, The Bangles, All Over the Place, Green on Red's Gas Food Lodging among them, The Rain Parade's Emergency 3rd Rail Power Trip places at worst in a tie for first among the greatest albums to emerge from the L.A. Paisley Underground scene. That's because the band, and the album, were probably the most transparent in their influences and probably the most successful in transcending them. Here was the jangle-rock of the Byrds married with the soft, downbeat vocal harmonies of early Pink Floyd, infused with a Love-like delicacy, peppered with a Buffalo Springfield twin lead guitar attack, yet the dark lyrical themes and droning melodies made listening to Rain Parade a singular experience, like being on an acid trip teetering on the knife edge between pure nirvana and colossal bummer. This, for true fans of psychedelia, was an awfully sweet spot to be in. Emergency 3rd Rail Power Trip was the band's debut album, and the only one to feature the original line-up of multi-instrumentalist Will Glenn, drummer Eddie Kalwa, bassist Steven Roback, and guitarists David Roback (later of Mazzy Star) and Matt Piucci; this record's ready to blow your mind all over again

Wednesday

Mazzy Star - She Hangs Brightly

Good evening fellow travellers. This is the opening salvo of a much reduced quantity of posts on Themes From Great Cities. Hopefully the quality of the posts will still be 320 or above with a mix of singles and albums as before, but much less (if anything) to introduce the post as I am totally burned out.
Tonight, and for the next couple of nights, I'm giving you lucky people some LA Paisley Underground to enjoy. Kicking off with Mazzy Star I'll then introduce you to the Rain Parade, reboot Opal and close with an all girl band.



Monday

Speak And Spell

Though probably nobody fully appreciated it at the time (perhaps least of all the band!) Depeche Mode's debut is at once both a conservative, functional pop record and a ground breaking release. While various synth pioneers had come before -- Gary Numan, early Human League, late-'70s Euro-disco, and above all Kraftwerk all had clear influence on Speak And Spell -- Depeche became the undisputed founder of straight-up synth pop with the album's 11 songs, light, hooky, and danceable numbers about love, life, and clubs. For all the claims about "dated" '80s sounds from rock purists, it should be noted that the basic guitar/bass/drums line up of rock is almost 25 years older than the catchy keyboard lines and electronic drums making the music here. That such a sound would eventually become ubiquitous during the Reagan years, spawning lots of crud along the way, means the band should no more be held to blame for that than Motown and the Beatles for inspiring lots of bad stuff in the '60s. Credit for the album's success has to go to main songwriter Vince Clarke, who would extend and arguably perfect the synth pop formula with Yazoo and Erasure; the classic early singles "New Life," "Dreaming of Me," and "Just Can't Get Enough," along with numbers like the moody thumper "Photographic," keep everything moving throughout. David Gahan under sings about half the album, and Martin Gore's two numbers lack the distinctiveness of his later work, but Speak And Spell remains an undiluted joy.



At the time, no-one could envisage anything of the kind, and Depeche Mode was little more than a new and charming addition to the fast-growing synth-pop genre. One must recall, I think, that back in 1981 good pop hits were the rule rather than the exception, and that there was no shame in producing them. And however quaint this sounds today, at the time, like most synth pop, it was fresh and exciting. “New Life” sounded terrific on the radio, one of the best hits of the year, and still a firm favourite of mine.
That nothing else here measures up to that breakthrough hit is neither here nor there, for these are still pretty accomplished pop songs. There’s not much point in digging beneath the surface, but then Speak And Spell hardly set itself up as anything but a pop album, albeit early enough in the day for the instrumentation to sound exotic and futuristic. If the twisted, tormented, tortured Mode of the nineties would come closer to being “real artists” (whatever that is), there’s something to be said for the early incarnation that wanted to muck about, have a good time and, hopefully, get on Top of the Pops.
And yet even that’s unfair, for there are hints of things lurking beneath the surface; it’s just that no-one has worked out quite where to go with them. So there’s an ambivalent feel to “Photographic”, a vaguely prophetic, celebratory dystopianism, but they were all at that kind of thing in those days. Unsurprisingly, the Martin Gore composition “Tora! Tora! Tora!” comes closest to the future direction of Depeche Mode with its Numanesque air of being lost to forces beyond mortal control.
And in retrospect, Speak And Spell is more of a dry run for Yazoo than for the future Depeche Mode – what are “Boys Say Go!” and “Nodisco” if not prototypes for “Situation” and “Don’t Go”? What is fun here became more interesting when Vince Clark teamed up with someone in Alison Moyet who was capable of countering the artificiality of the electronics with bluesy humanity through her vocals.
At any rate, you underestimate the influence of this LP at your peril. Stuff like this made large numbers of boys just entering their teenage years badger their parents to buy them a synthesizer for Christmas. Even an earworm the size of Brazil like “Just Can’t Get Enough” has stood the test of time surprisingly well. I’m sure you can get enough of it, but I haven’t. At least not yet.

Germ Free Adolescents

A very smart and timely update here in the UK as crowds of mainly Scottish young women queued outside the Mecca of retail that is Glasgow's Primark this morning. The restrictions on their lifestyles are being lifted and life as they knew it slowly returns. Is it a reflection on the youth of Scotland today when two of the aforementioned young ladies were asked, live on Breakfast News, what they might be looking for? Neither of them had a fuckin' clue, neither had a mask, social distancing was forgotten about and as the reporter and camera moved away both seemed to be oblivious that their juvenile giggling was captured for all to see.

Perhaps the most utopian aspect of the U.K. punk scene was that it offered creative, articulate young people the opportunity to express themselves, and to kick up an exuberantly noisy racket in the process. X-Ray Spex certainly came from this wing of the movement, the brainchild of two female schoolmates who re-christened themselves Poly Styrene and Lora Logic. X-Ray Spex was far from the only female-centred British punk act, but they were arguably the best, combining exuberant energy with a cohesive worldview courtesy of singer and songwriter Poly Styrene. As her nom de punk hinted, Styrene was obsessed with the artificiality she saw permeating Britain's consumer society, linking synthetic goods with a sort of processed, manufactured humanity. Styrene's frantic claustrophobia permeates the record, as she rails in her distinctively quavering yowl against the alienation she feels preventing her from discovering her true self. Germ Free Adolescents is tied together by Styrene's yearning to be free not only from demands for consumption, but from the insecurity corporate advertisers used to exploit their targets (especially in women) -- in other words, to enjoy being real, imperfect, non-sterile humans living in a real, imperfect, non-Day-Glo world. Fortunately, the record is just as effective musically as it is conceptually. It's full of kick-out-the-jams rockers, with a few up-tempo thrashers and surprisingly atmospheric pieces mixed in; the raw, wailing saxophone of Rudi Thomson (who replaced Lora Logic early on) gives the band its true sonic signature. The CD reissue of Germ Free Adolescents appends both sides of the classic debut single "Oh Bondage Up Yours!," one of the most visceral moments in all of British punk -- which means everything you need is right here.

“Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard… but I think,

“OH BONDAGE! UP YOURS!!! ONETWOTHREEFOUR!”

During the initial punk explosion in both the UK and America, there was no shortage of highly talented female artists, but nobody managed as potent a combination of rage, wickedly acerbic social commentary, pop hooks, and pure rock ‘n’ roll fun quite like X-Ray Spex did in 1977 and 1978. Led by a precociously talented, 20-year-old young woman of English-Somalian descent who named herself Poly Styrene, X-Ray Spex made a brief, but influential splash during punk’s initial heyday, kicked off by Styrene’s unforgettable, empowering rallying cry at the beginning of the band’s debut single, “Oh! Bondage Up Yours!” Over a simple punk rock arrangement, Styrene howled sarcastically in a powerful, upper-register scream, “Bind me tie me chain me to the wall/ I wanna be a slave to you all,” accompanied by a 16-year-old saxophone player named Lora Logic. The combination of sax solos and punk rock at its most feral was an odd combination, as if the musical Grease had been transported to late 1970s London, but as strange as it was, it was an effective gimmick for a while, as X-Ray Spex enjoyed a brief flirtation with mainstream success in England, before disappearing from the face of the earth.

X-Ray Spex remains one of punk rock’s most underrated bands, especially in North America, primarily because their 1977 debut album Germ Free Adolescents took a good 14 years to make its way Stateside, but the record is so timeless, so bursting with energy, it’s never too late to listen to it for the first time. Thanks to a snazzy re-release of the album, complete with nearly a dozen bonus tracks, Germ Free Adolescents not only shows younger listeners where Corin Tucker and Kathleen Hanna copped their vocal styles from, but it both skewers and celebrates consumer culture so brilliantly, it feels as pertinent now as it ever has.

As her London peers sung about anarchy, life on the dole, and the growing irrelevance of the monarchy, Styrene chose to focus more on consumerism and the increasing artificiality making its way into every facet of popular culture, and the theme runs rampant on Germ Free Adolescents. “I know I’m artificial/ But don’t put the blame on me, she sings on the opening track, “Art-I-Ficial,” “I was reared with appliances/ In a consumer society.” On “Identity”, her attacks on the airbrushed female body image as portrayed in the media sound even more relevant today (“Do you see yourself in the magazine?/ When you see yourself/ Does it make you scream?”), while she takes a poke at youth culture on the title track (“I know you’re antiseptic/ Your deodorant smells nice”). Plus, with a name like Poly Styrene, it becomes more than obvious the lady has an obsession with modern material goods, as her songs mention synthetic products like plastic, latex, nylon, polypropylene, as well as name brands, such as Kleenex, Weetabix, and Woolworth’s.

The subject matter all seems so volatile, but it is all brilliantly underscored by some jubilant, upbeat rock ‘n’ roll. By the time the album was recorded, Lora Logic’s charmingly amateurish saxophone had been replaced by several seasoned session musicians (Rudi Thompson would eventually be hired as a full-time member), and the constant presence of slick sax solos adds a slick sheen to the music that matches Styrene’s lyrical themes. Jak Airport’s guitar avoids the buzzsaw simplicity of Steve Jones and the reggae-infused licks of Mick Jones, instead going for classic, Chuck Berry-infused riffs, as drummer BP Hurding provides relentless four-on-the-floor drumbeats throughout. Styrene’s vocal melodies effortlessly tread the line between catharsis and bubblegum, best exemplified by such songs as “Obsessed With You”, the insanely catchy “I Can’t Do Anything”, the more pensive title track, and the fantastic “The Day the World Turned Dayglo”, which boasts the same kind of retro swagger that The Cramps would perfect several years later.

However, it’s the great “Oh! Bondage Up Yours!” that remains the band’s finest moment, the passion in Styrene’s singing giving listeners chills. The song kicks off the CD’s impressive collection of bonus tracks, including the memorable B-side “I Am Cliché”, as well as two Peel sessions from 1978.

Of all the classic recordings from 1977 and 1978, Germ Free Adolescents remains one of the smartest and accessible of the lot, but as Never Mind the Bollocks and The Clash have gone on to become part of the classic rock canon, X-Ray Spex have sadly been ignored by many. Styrene would disappear from the public eye a couple years after the album came out, becoming a Hare Krishna in the early 1980s, only to resurface in 1995, releasing the Spex’s follow-up Consumer Consciousness, but it would prove to be impossible to duplicate the near-flawless debut. A record that pre-dated the ferocious, smart feminist punk of the Olympia, Washington Riot Grrrl scene of the early 1990s, it sounds especially prescient today, as our consumer culture continues to spiral out of control. As opposed to the usual crap we buy ourselves every day, this splendid reissue is truly money well spent.

Sunday

Drab Majesty ‎- Completely Careless


Eight years have swiftly passed since Drab Majesty entered the dreary pop realm of translucent surrealism and public fascination. With each passing moment, the creator Deb Demure (aka Andrew Clinco) depicts increasing complexities within the soubrette known to some as Drab Majesty. Since its inception, for the first 3 years the Drab Majesty venture has yielded a self-released edition entitled “Unarian Dances”, a collaborative vinyl release with legendary Eleven Pond, celebratory EP “Unknown to the I” and debut full length album “Careless”. Dais Records has gathered the Drab Majesty discography up until 2015 into a compilation compact disc styled as Completely Careless (2012-2015), comprised of 18 compositions, two of which are previously unreleased.
I listened to “Completely Careless” with headphones on because without that intimate connection shoved into my ears at point-blank range I had failed to connect with Drab Majesty’s debut LP as thoroughly as I had the “Unknown to the I” single (which, admittedly, would have been tough to follow under any circumstances). Now that I’ve lain in bed with “Completely Careless” for a bit, however, I can see how it was a natural progression. Tracks like the surprisingly energetic, plucky “Everything is Sentimental” are produced with more shine, which almost seems to drub their subtleties into submission. But, like I said, a closer listen reveals so much more. The subtleties not only exist, but are intricately woven into the fabric of the compositions. In the end though, “Completely Careless” at its core, is a collection of moody mechanical beats, isolated ruminations, and stimulating guitar arpeggios that equate to more than the sum of their parts by a wide margin. If you listen from a distance it will feel cold and clinical; venture further into the void and you’ll likely realize why Drab Majesty have been showered with hype over the last few years.
Overall, sampling this vintage sound evokes new wave and dark wave overtones, while post-punk and indie guitars fill the palate, and ephemeral waves soar over deep electronics that leave a hint of synthpop as an ever so sweet aftertaste. It pairs well with solo listening; and is perfectly suitable for a moody sway across a dance floor; or for standing alone in an even more dimly lit bedroom.

Saturday

Visage – 12” Singles


I’m not going to waffle on here about two banging Visage 12” singles as the debut album is coming to the blog in the next month or so (I haven’t decided yet, this is kinda like a trial to gauge interest). If there was ever a band that made hit after hit of electronic music, it has to be Visage. Members coming from the emerging New Romantic movement based around the BLITZ Club in London’s Soho district, with Midge Ure and Rusty Egan who were working with ex-Pistol Glen Matlock in The Rich Kids, Billy Currie on keyboards from Ultravox  and three members of Magazine, John McGeoch (guitar), Dave Formula (keyboards) and Barry Adamson (bass). Stir this talent with Steve Strange fronting the band and knob twiddler extraordinaire Martin Rushant in the studio, the results can only be brilliant. Er, no! Debut single “Tar” was released on Radar Records in September 1979, no one was interested. David Bowie however popped along to BLITZ Club in mid-1980 to ask if Steven and a couple of other regulars would appear in his video for Ashes To Ashes, which helped to propel the New Romantic movement into the mainstream. November 1980 and Visage’s second single “Fade To Grey” was released finally breaking into the UK top twenty early in 1981. 


Friday

Ultravox - Ha! Ha! Ha!


FLICKING IDLY through a rack and coming across an album entitled ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ you’d expect, if not a comic masterpiece, at least a couple of wry smiles. You certainly won't find anything like that here. This is an album of such unrelenting seriousness (unless, that is, I just failed to discover otherwise) that it makes Van Morrison’s ‘T.B. Sheets’ seem positively flip. I wasn’t looking for, let alone expecting, belly laughs but I was hoping for wit, because humour is necessary, even in the midst of unrelenting seriousness. Not as light relief, but as a necessary correction of perspective. Maybe it’s even an essential gesture of humanity. And humanity is the last thing I you’ll find in Ultravox! What can you expect from someone who tells you, as Ultravox! singer and writer John Foxx did to me, that in all honesty, he'd rather be a machine? As far as I could understand, he said that from a (wildly shared) belief that our civilization is up the creek without a paddle, there’s no hope left, only the possibility of observing things fall apart at the seams and maybe commenting on them. Just the song titles would make his attitude clear. ‘Fear In The Western World’, ‘Artificial Life', ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ (which doesn’t appear to have anything in common with the film of the same title). Simply he's got a common art school type of outlook, compounded of equal parts despair and distaste without the redeeming element of caring. If that seems to laying undue weight on the lyrics, it's unavoidable because not only are the 5 words given prominence but even the music itself is infected with a kind of literariness; where effect is used for its own sake. Hearing the first track in a booth you'd be misled. ‘Rock-work’ is just what you’d expect from the title. Thereafter the songs become an uneven mixture of the adventurous, the orthodox (especially the arthritic drumming) and the wilfully different. Great chunks of it are a case study of the bad affects the mere acquisition of a synthesiser can have on a band. On their first album Ultravox! seemed to be tentatively groping towards their own fusion of simple rock songs with a few sophisticated ideas. Here they’ve mostly rejected the possibilities of the accessible pop song, using only catch phrase choruses (often with infuriating insistence) and relied wholesale on what they probably see as the avant-garde and the more cynical soul might feel were mere noises. If there were ever a band that cried out to be crucified on the discipline of the three minute single, It's Ultravox!
Pete Silverton Sounds 22.10.77

Thursday

Asian Knights


More from the vault marked Siouxsie And The Banshees, Live. Continuing the love of all things Banshees and especially the Bob Smith year of service I have one of the few warm up gigs that allowed the band to iron out any creases before their big gigs in The Royal Albert Hall. Bob holds his own here with a John McGeoch set that would test even the best. The sound here is really good, as you’d expect with a Japanese performance from the 80’s with only Painted Bird suffering from the dreaded tape flip. All the usual suspects are represented with Steve and Budgie doing their best to evoke the sounds of an earthquake during Fireworks through sheer bloody mindedness. If you expect any punches to be pulled for the new boy on guitar, forget it. Siouxsie gives her usual perfect is the only option performance and shows off her live chops through-out the blistering set list. My only gripe is the lack of early singles, but by now the Banshees had officially moved on and nearly all traces of the first incarnation had been wiped away. A document of a short period in time of a constantly evolving, almost everlasting band.

Wednesday

Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven

Though the years have deadened its impact somewhat, there is still a visceral thrill to be drawn from replaying the first Love and Rockets album, a sense of the first step taken towards a brave new world, and a miasmic whirl of psychedelic intent that masks intents even darker than the preceding Bauhaus ever envisioned. Recorded and released in 1985, riding to club acclaim on the back of the "Ball of Confusion" remake, and aligning its makers with a destiny and fame that no one could ever have predicted, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven ranks among the most deceptive debut albums of the 1980s. The keys to the album remain the same, of course; the churning guitar soup of "The Dog-End of a Day Gone By," the sibilant glam sexuality of the title track, the chilling nursery rhyme pendulum of "The Game." But the opiate atmosphere that chokes the wide open spaces leavened within every song only thickens by the time you hit the closing acoustics of "Saudade," and Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven emerges as profound an experience as any of the lauded trips of the original psychedelic era. It rounds out the experience with dramatic flair, pinpointing the sheer creativity that was sparking around Love and Rockets at the dawn of their decade-long career; and reminding you that that decade was over all too quickly.

Tuesday

Led Zeppelin II


Between the release of the band’s first, eponymous album and this, their second, Led Zeppelin had completed four US and UK tours. Thus II, by necessity, was recorded on the road in the States and while it received many tweaks before it reached the shops it still has a live feel that few rock albums have ever come close to. Engineer, Eddie Kramer, uses his expertise in taming the live guitar for the confines of a studio as Robert, Jimmy, John Paul and John rip through their raggedy book of blues standards and poppier exercises in sword and sorcery–tinged rock folk. Unsurprisingly the album contained what would become the some of the band’s defining live statements. ''Whole Lotta Love'' was born to be played live, for hours. Its truncated studio cousin just replaces the rockabilly medleys with swooping theremin and rattling toms. The riff was pilfered (from Willie Dixon) but still mighty. ''What Is And What Should Never Be'' demonstrates what Jimmy always used to burble on about in interviews about 'using light and shade'. It’s quietly jazzy and pastoral, and then in the chorus it rocks like a mother. See also ''Ramble On'', with added Tolkien references. ''Thank You'' is a nod to Plant's West Coast predilections. This leaves the rockers like ''Heartbreaker'' (again a fine platform for a lengthy stage work-out), its lightweight follow-on ''Livin' Lovin Maid'' and the blues molestations. Oh, and ''Moby Dick''. Probably the result of limited time to present product to 'the man' at Atlantic, the band included this 4-minute romp across the skins by Bonham. It ain't pretty though its low-D riff is, again, a monster. Mind you, the blues molestations more than make up for this slightest of hiccups. ''The Lemon Song'' (Howlin’ Wolf’s ''Killing Floor'' slowed down and sleazed up) is a great demonstration of how, live, Zeppelin locked together like no one else, making all resistance impossible. ''Bring It On Home'', Sonny Boy Williamson's already sleazy slouch is here picked up by the scruff of the neck and kicked across the room by Jimmy's new, turbo-charged riff. This is the sound of a band having its last major tussle with the genre that gave birth to them: The Blues. From this point on they'd be nobody’s band but their own.

From The Lions Mouth Re-upped

An assured, relatively loose follow-up to the fraught and frayed Jeopardy, From the Lion's Mouth entrenched the Sound's stature as no mere flash in the pan. It should have shot them directly between spots occupied by the like-minded Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen as post-punk legends, but the Fates had something else in mind, and so the quartet took their place right next to touring mates the Comsat Angels in the section marked "Deserved Better." With some semblance of a recording budget, the Sound went into the studio with talented producer Hugh Jones on board to accentuate the band's winning atmospherics. As a result, the sound is fuller, less pungent. And speaking of winning, the snake-charming opener "Winning" is like a dash of cold water in the faces of all the bands that were wallowing and withering away at the weeping well: "I was going to drown/Then I started swimming/I was going down/then I started winning." This, in a sense, exemplifies the point that the Sound were not mopes. They had their problems with life, but rather than just vent or escape from them, they confront them and ask questions and attempt to sort it all out. Most of the record has an effortless thrust to it, and only occasionally -- for maximum effect -- does the Sound whip out the heavy artillery. If "The Fire" sounds too bombastic and pummelling, listen closer. The bass is the lead instrument, the keyboards are just as prominent as the guitars, and it only sounds like chest beating compared to the rest of the songs. From the Lion's Mouth shifts, glides, winds, accelerates, and decelerates with all the grace and precision of an Olympic downhill skier. And what a great record it is.

Monday

The Modern World


As is so often the case for overnight successes, The Jam rush-recorded their sophomore effort during a hurried schedule to capitalize on the barnstorming debut, In The City. This, combined with Paul Weller's various personal distractions and temporary lack of interest, led to a belief that This Is The Modern World has less than satisfying overall results. With the luxury of time and hindsight we can all now calm down, settle back, and make a better consideration of this assured, and underrated, record. Yes, This Is the Modern World can be faulted for borrowed Who licks, pale rewrites of the debut, somewhat clichéd sloganeering and unfinished ideas, but there were still some moments of inspiration, especially in the more introspective Weller songs like "Life From a Window" and "I Need You (For Someone)"; both songs feature personal sentiments that the debut was clearly missing. This Is The Modern World is a work of continued growth and depth in song writing and performance from Weller and its reputation as their ‘sophomore slump’ is completely unfounded. There are indeed repeats of the formula of the first album, including "In the Street Today", "All Around the World", and the title track; the latter two released as singles, underscoring the effort to capitalize on the success of that sound in the UK; but also tracks like "London Girl" and "Standards" illustrate the continued maturity of strong passionate songs without needing to be overly frenetic. Elsewhere, though, listeners are privy to a glimpse into the future with “Life from a Window”, “The Combine”, “I Need You (for Someone)” and “Tonight at Noon”, which, although not always typical of later Jam musings, reveal a rapid development in Weller's approach to song writing, and point to a growing ensemble skill between the band members (which includes some nice harmonising / vocal sharing between Weller and Foxton). If The Jam were on borrowed time when they made This Is the Modern World; then during the recording of demos for the next LP, time up and deserted them completely. But as we know, The Jam got their act together - and how - and we got All Mod Cons. We needn't have worried ourselves so much. So just kick back, relax, and enjoy the music on this exhilarating, if occasionally undernourished album.

Sunday

Nobody's Heroes


It's easy to see why Stiff Little Fingers' Rough Trade debut remains so highly rated, but for the discerning fan of second generation punk, Nobody's Heroes is every bit as special. For a start, new drummer Jim Reilly was an improvement on Brian Faloon (who gets a heart-warming tribute on "Wait and See"). Secondly, Jake Burns' song writing collaborations with journalist Gordon Ogilvie are really beginning to pay off. The cornerstones of the LP are "Gotta Gettaway," "At the Edge," and "Tin Soldiers" -- three songs which, in different ways, brilliantly articulate the frustrated ambitions of young men in search of expression and identity, trapped in nowhere jobs or situations. Though "Suspect Device" and "Alternative Ulster" had long since ensured they would always be tagged with the label of "political punk," in truth SLF were always more interested in their immediate environment, and finding a way out of it. A couple of plausible stabs at reggae are more than an interesting aside.

Saturday

The Las Vegas Story


The third album by The Gun Club, The Las Vegas Story, was released in June 1984. A lot of different dates are mentioned, of which June 15th and 25th seem the most legit, but I haven’t found any confirmation on both. The month of June is definitely correct. The band’s sound had become more melodic and had moved away a little from its punk roots, resulting in a kind of alternative rock. The album was dedicated to Debbie Harry “for her love, help and encouragement”.
After the intro in The Las Vegas Story the album starts off with the fantastic drum beat to Walking With the Beast. Feedback and divine singing immediately sets the tone and level for the rest of the album. And, the band keeps it up. The great Eternally Is Here is followed by A Stranger In Our Town, the unsettling story about a (necrophiliac?) serial killer: “There’s a stranger in our town / pulls out a punks spinal cord / piss and blood on the sidewalk of hearts”. The best The Gun Club ever recorded, My Dreams, closes the first side of the vinyl album. The beautiful music almost detonates with the paranoid lyrics, “You can’t take my dreams / You can’t take my dreams / You can’t take and steal from this body…”. The anger, sorrow and fear come together in the last sentence that keeps on being repeated until the end of the song: “They were supposed to be MY DREAMS”. Beautiful!
Time for side two then. Two covers that smoothly transition from one into the other. The short instrumental The Master Plan turns into My Man Is Gone Now, originally a part of the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess. The Gun Club turns it into a heart wrenching blues: impressive! Bad America is about what the title suggests. America is bad and is to blame for all that is wrong with the world and Pierce’s life. Moonlight Motel is sung from the viewpoint of a prostitute: “Low rates and color T.V. / Money on the bed, left there for me and / One of these days I’ll kill you while you sleep…”. Even more seamy side on the album’s closing Give Up The Sun: “Oh, don’t you leave me here / There’s ghosts and rooms of pain / There’s a storm out on the sea tonight / And bodies filled with pain / Palm wind across the sea tonight / Black with whirling pain / Alone against the docks tonight / Nobody knows my name”.
In short, an album filled with anger, sorrow, loneliness, desperation, pain and hopelessness. Happy? No. Beautiful? Yes, and then some!