Themes From Great Cities

It might have come to your attention that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you will just have to get used to. I will however, have bursts of creativity where I move completely randomly from post to post with no rhyme or reason. I have recently posted a few singles (7 & 12”) and the odd bootleg which have been received very well by all who visit. More of the same will continue as you, dear readers, seem to be enjoying them.

Some of the rips are my own, but many more are from other blogs and I’m just sharing the wealth. If other bloggers out there wish to share the rips from my posts, please as I do, host them yourself. To combat this, the FLAC files that are over 6 months old will be replaced with MP3 files.

Finally I am happy to re-up old posts where the link has expired. Please comment in the relevant posts comments box.



It's Christmas Eve and I have an awesome collection of music from Australian band The Saints for you all. The review below is "borrowed" from the Guardian but don't let that fool you. It's accurate and detailed and it notes the incredible impact The Saints had on underground Australian Music and the UK's growing punk scene. Pull up your favourite comfy chair, put your feet up, open a cold one and enjoy possibly one of the greatest débuts from any band.
Ladies and Gentlemen, (I'm) Stranded!

Released in September 1976, (I'm) Stranded was the first independently produced rock record in Australia, beating all the British punks onto vinyl. Until very recently in Brisbane, it was still possible to visit the decrepit building on Petrie Terrace and stand in front of the fireplace on top of which the words "(I’m) Stranded" were once daubed in red letters.
It’s not quite where Australian punk rock was born; that, arguably, happened a little further down the road, in The Saints’ rehearsal room on the corner of Milton Road, not far from the Castlemaine XXXX brewery. Club 76, they called it. But The Saints had been going for a few years by then, since mid-1973, by guitarist Ed Kuepper’s reckoning.
Being first can be an overrated virtue but, in The Saints’ case, it needs to be stated over and over again. (I’m) Stranded, which appeared on the band’s own Fatal label in September 1976 (the same month the 100 Club in London held a festival featuring a colourful assortment of new bands including the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Damned) was the first independently produced rock single in Australia.
In doing so, it beat all of the English punk bands, as well as Sydney’s Radio Birdman, onto plastic. The one band they didn’t beat was the Ramones, a fact Kuepper was crushed by: when he first heard the debut album by the New York pinheads a few months earlier, he knew everyone would see The Saints – a bunch of teenagers from provincial Queensland, fronted by singer Chris Bailey – as the copyists.
At that point, the state was still under the tyrannical thumb of Joh Bjelke-Petersen and, in no small way, (I’m) Stranded helped kick off a social revolution, at least in Brisbane. At the time, though, The Saints had little choice but to leave. Copies of the single soon landed in England, where it was ecstatically received. Sounds magazine dubbed it “single of this and every week”.
It must have sounded like an emergency telegram from a lost land. Such is (I'm) Stranded’s urgency, there’s no time for a guitar solo (the B-side, which actually was called No Time, did have a solo – of one whole note). True to its lyrics, much of the song was written on a midnight train and, whether intended or not, the central idea of being marooned came to stand for something bigger.
It’s one of punk’s many ironies that the London offices of EMI, desperate to claw back lost credibility after sacking the Pistols in the wake of their infamous expletive-flecked confrontation with Bill Grundy, instructed their baffled representatives in Sydney to sign The Saints post-haste in the wake of (I'm) Stranded. The band immediately recorded their debut album, also titled (I’m) Stranded, over a weekend.
That album was later described by England’s Dreaming author Jon Savage as “up there in punk Valhalla with Ramones and Raw Power”. But The Saints never fitted the punk straitjacket. When they arrived in England in May 1977, they were aghast to find EMI were designing a “Saints suit” for them: lime-green shirts and spiky hair all round.
Bailey’s tousled mop remained in place, and the band went on to make two more brilliant albums, Eternally Yours and Prehistoric Sounds, before imploding. Both records featured extensive use of a brass section, a move that won them few friends in a scene that regarded Never Mind the Bollocks as a blueprint, but which dramatically expanded the band’s sound.
Having kicked the door open, The Saints soon found themselves back out on the footpath. Kuepper returned to Australia and formed the radical post-punk band Laughing Clowns, while Bailey stayed in Europe, kept the name and pursued a much more traditional path towards heartland rock and mainstream success: Bruce Springsteen recently covered Just Like Fire Would on his album High Hopes.
But (I’m) Stranded has remained a touchstone – perhaps a millstone – the perpetually sparring Kuepper and Bailey would always be identified with.



Fellow Cleveland types Pere Ubu may have won the artistic kudos for their adventurous, surprising work, but if the goal was just to rock and rock again, the Dead Boys had them totally trumped. Growing up in the Cleveland area, in Catholic schools, the Dead Boys were typical punks, rebellious, disgruntled, and looking for a fight. As both title phrase and capsule description, Young, Loud & Snotty accurately defines the predominating aesthetic so well that one could just leave it at that, but there's a lot more going on here than on the face of it.
Originally named "Frankenstein", the Dead Boys were kicked out of their hometown venue after playing and at the bequest of Joey Ramone, moved to New York City to join in a "scene" which they knew very little about. 1977 was the ultimate year for punk rock. Before the leather jacket, spiky haired uniforms, before "New Wave" became a recognized genre of music. 1977 was also the greatest year for any punk on the scene... And, sadly enough, many excellent records by great bands got lost or unrecognized in the greater scheme of things.
Needless to say, the Dead Boys fitted right in with the rest of the bands that played at C.B.G.B.'s or Max's Kansas City. Fed up with the wimpy crap that was popular rock at that time, they, with the Ramones and many other bands, got up on stage with a mission to piss off and annoy. Eventually, they got the recognition they so deserved and thusly, this album was born. With perhaps surprisingly great production from demi-famous '70s rocket Genya Ravan, the five-some found something sonically smack in-between the US garage/punk heritage of the past and the more modern thrashings from overseas.
Stiv Bators sneers, gobs, gasps, and whines with the best of them, but he knows his rock history, as do his band mates. Cheeta Chromee (Lead guitar), Jimmy Zero (Rhythm guitar), Jeff Magnum (Bass), and Johnny Blitz (Drums) are all excellent rock n' roll musicians, Stiv Bators is the star of the show. Mixing Iggy Pop type whoops with his own unique style, Stiv was probably one of the greatest live performers in the history of the genre. In fact, Iggy himself said that Stiv was the second best vocalist, next to Jim Morrison.
Stone cold rock classic "Sonic Reducer" starts things off (amusingly) with all sorts of phased drums and other fripperies that later generations wouldn't consider punk at all. That said, it's still blunt, brilliantly sung by Stiv and kicks out the jams with messy energy. Other all-time greats include the perfect bored-and-needing-kicks anthem "Ain't Nothin' to Do" and the thoroughly wrong "Caught With the Meat In Your Mouth." There's even a rock oldie -- a cover of "Hey Little Girl" live onstage at spiritual home CBGB's. And why not? With great punk rock and great rock, Young, Loud and Snotty perfectly describes the sound and essence of this record.



My trilogy of L.A.’s original Goth/Punk crossover comes to an abrupt halt with T.S.O.L.’s (True Sound Of Liberty) outstanding 27 minute long debut album Dance With Me. There’s surprisingly little written about T.S.O.L. that doesn’t rehash the obvious influence they had on the Hardcore Punk scene along the West Coast of America. A lot of reference space is given up to other bands that were present in the early 80’s scene, but the link between T.S.O.L., Christian Death and 45 Grave seems to be continuously overlooked. With everything in life there has to be a link from Frontier Records to production duties being handled by Thom Wilson. Tenuous I hear you say, yet a link nonetheless. Even with 45 Grave missing their chance to release an album first, everything worked out fine with T.S.O.L.

A significant group in L.A.'s late-'70s to early-'80s punk scene, Long Beach's T.S.O.L. briefly flirted with pseudo radical politics on their exceptional self-titled debut EP, which included songs like "Abolish Government/Silent Majority" and "Property Is Theft", but that phase of the band didn't last long, as they cast away the politics in favour of horror-movie-inspired, gothy, Misfits-style shtick on their first full-length, Dance With Me. This album contains their most famous song, "Code Blue," an extremely catchy number about necrophilia, ever popular with fans who scream for them to play it at every show.
No mere footnote in punk rock history, T.S.O.L.'s early records are slam pit-inducing, infectious stuff. Dance With Me is loaded with fine numbers, including "Sounds of Laughter," "I'm Tired of Life," and "Die For Me." Other than the Misfits, no band has combined gothy subject matter and punk rock bare chords as well as T.S.O.L., who hit the nail on the head with this classic 1981 recording.
Dance with Me was recorded at Redondo Pacific Studios in Redondo Beach, California with producer Thom Wilson.


And thus was American Goth rock born. Perhaps an extreme statement, as one could argue 45 Grave beat Christian Death to the punch, if with a lot more intentional humour. Still, it's about the only thing that can be said upon listening to Christian Death's debut, Only Theatre of Pain, released in 1982 and influencing more bands that can be counted since then. The member who got the most attention was, unsurprisingly, singer Rozz Williams, but guitarist Rikk Agnew is the secret weapon that makes this album so good. With the first phase of the Adolescents (and a solo album) behind him, he brings his punk-inspired guitar work to the fore here, and with the help of long-time producer Thom Wilson, the two created a perfectly ominous world of tolling bells, heavily treated guitar, and general spookiness. Bassist James McGearty and drummer George Belanger keep the murky energy going and thankfully aren't afraid to kick up a storm when needed either. The most memorable song is "Romeo's Distress," a catchy slice of doomy punk-pop that admittedly has one of the most un-PC lyrical starts around. Throughout, the band either kick out the melancholy jams, McGearty's purring bass leading the way, or sheer atmospherics, some quite effective. Witness the slow wash of sound concluding the first side and kicking off the second, or the combination of noise, keyboards, and treated vocals on the closing "Prayer." And then there's Rozz Williams -- those who accused Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy of delivering up pretentious lyrics and overwrought performances must have flipped upon hearing this record. Sodomized boys in front of furnace altars, hilariously naïve reversed words meant to be spooky ("Reficul!"), incense-laden sex, "roses and candles, silver knives and spoons," "necrophiliac relationship," song titles like "Mysterium Iniquitatis" and "Spiritual Cramp," all delivered with a breathless moan at once low and whiny. His weird charm comes through after a while, but it usually takes a couple of listens to get the giggles out.
This CD version contains the Deathwish EP as a bonus. Recorded at Orange County Studios in 1981, these 6 songs were the first recordings Christian Death recorded in a studio before the band signed to Frontier Records for Only Theatre Of Pain. They were asked to provide some songs for the “Hell Comes To Your House” compilation album, however only "Dogs" ended up being used.


Los Angeles' 45 Grave were the leaders of the 1981 death-rock explosion that also birthed, among others, Christian Death and (Dance With Me-era) TSOL. The group was a breath of fresh graveyard air and, unlike many serious gloomsters, always kept tongue firmly in cinematic cheek. Playing with punky venom and a slick metallic sound (the goth-horror edge made it an absolutely prescient mix), the fearsome foursome (later a quintet) was led by Phoenix-bred guitarist Paul B. Cutler and his vampiric inamorata, vocalist Mary "Dinah Cancer" Sims, rounded out by ex-Germs drummer Don Bolles and bassist Rob Graves (Ritter), also a member of the Bags and Gun Club.
If Christian Death trumped 45 Grave when it came to releasing a debut album (Only Theatre of Pain having surfaced a little while earlier) then there's no question that Sleep In Safety is easily the equal, if not better than the other band's initial effort. It doesn't hurt at all that Cancer is a much better singer than the chronically groaning Rozz Williams, for one thing, while the clear sense of humour 45 Grave never denied ensured that the band never entered the realms of relentlessly ridiculous self-parody. How could they, given how entertainingly off they already were with songs like "Riboflavin," in praise of the nutritious forms of blood the healthy vampire needs
The legendary "Black Cross"/"Wax" single and three cuts on the seminal Hell Comes to Your House compilation inaugurated 45 Grave's career in 1981, establishing the blend of Cutler's crisp, offbeat riffing and Cancer's artless, icy shrieks. By the time their first album shambled in, Paul Roessler had joined, adding his effervescent keyboards into the macabre brew. The consistently creepy Sleep In Safety contains most of the band's best songs: multi-textured creations like "Insurance from God," "Dream Hits" and "Phantoms" (an '82 single), the catchy "Evil," a delightfully unexpected Ventures-like instrumental "Surf Bat", the giddy "45 Grave" theme song and a fist-waving anthem "Partytime," redone the following year as the B-side to a snazzy version of Alice Cooper's "School's Out".
Fusing everyone's varying punk/trash/art backgrounds into a Goth rock overlay and then never letting themselves be suckered into actually going and digging up bodies, the members recruited Craig Leon for effective production work and the well-recorded Sleep In Safety scored underground hit after hit. There's no question that the band's legendary "Partytime" is the high point, a stop-start, quiet/loud horror of a Goth landmark that lets Cancer sneak in a bit of pretty creepiness before everyone fires up into a classic rock chug with a great shout-along chorus that Joan Jett would be proud of. What really works best is how the music is the most truly dark part of the band, Graves' bass playing and Culter's post-Banshees guitar parts hitting all the right notes. In turn, Cancer isn't so much a dark priestess of gloom as a commanding figure who has to be listened to. The hilarious part of the band comes to the fore from the start, thanks to the introductory message about the creators of the album being skilled insurance agents. This later CD reissue includes the 12” single version of "Partytime" and "School's Out."

Gathering Dust

Everyone knows the hit "I Melt with You" but does anyone know that before Modern English hit the mainstream they were a post-punk noise band in the vein of Joy Division and Bauhaus?
Modern English were one of the bands that Ivo and Peter had originally approached Martin Mills about in 1979. After a self-released 45 (‘Drowning Man’), they made their 4AD debut with the ‘Swans On Glass’ single, which was followed later in the year by ‘Gathering Dust’. They also featured on the Presage(s) EP and were the only band from that compilation who continued to release records on 4AD. 38 years on, ‘Gathering Dust’ remains a crucial release in 4AD's history for reasons that have nothing to do with the music it contains. When the original art director proved unable to provide the sleeve art, Peter called a friend who recommended a young graphic designer named Vaughan Oliver. A strange coincidence ensued: Modern English had printed up some T-shirts which utilized a Diane Arbus photograph of two people watching television, while Vaughan had utilized the same image in his design portfolio. Result: Vaughan landed the job and began a relationship with 4AD that continues to this day. Modern English expanded on the promise of their singles with Mesh And Lace, a memorably atmospheric album that helped re-position guitar-rock in the wake of Joy Division, PiL and Wire. It also sported the first official 23 Envelope sleeve credit, thus ushering in an artistic collaboration that would provide 4AD with a recognizable visual identity. Modern English finished off 1981 with the single ‘Smiles And Laughter’.
Formed in Colchester, Essex, England, in 1979 by Robbie Grey (vocals), Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals), and Michael Conroy (bass, vocals), Modern English were originally known as The Lepers. The group expanded to Modern English when Richard Brown (drums) and Stephen Walker (keyboards) were subsequently added to the line-up of the band.
The debut album Mesh And Lace and the accompanying singles are a must have for any discerning post punk collection.



Formed in the post industrial northern town of Bradford in 1979 as Heaven Seventeen, post punk legends 1919 scorched a path across the punk scene in the early 80’s. Playing with other Bradford bands such as New Model Army and Southern Death Cult and with luminary figures like Mark (Zodiac Mindwarp) Manning joining and leaving the ranks, anything was possible. Now with new members, original guitar hero Mark Tighe is back making new music under the moniker 1919. Here though is a mighty short visit with one of the original post punk bands of the era…

The first real gigging band they were known as was “Heaven Seventeen” until Mick Reed a drummer from Dewsbury who liked his drums tribal joined. After rehearsing for a while they developed their sound and a new name to match. It was now late 1980 and 1919’s sole aim was to pound out a rhythmic, heavy and melodic / dark dance beat.

The first release was a limited edition white label double A side 7” inch single with “Repulsion” and “Tear Down These Walls” stamped on the labels with “Take it or leave it”, sent out to various radio stations and Magazine/fanzines. Eventually 1919 signed a deal with Red Rhino Records based in York, and “Repulsion/Tear Down These Walls” was re-released due to the demand. Recording started on the next single, another double A side entitled “Caged/After The Fall”. The even more menacing mini-album “Machine” was the last outing with Red Rhino released in 1983. The band felt that Red Rhino were not pushing them enough and decided to upsticks and leave. Signing with Abstract Records in London, plans were made to record a new 12” EP. The Cry Wolf 12” single with Storm/Dream on the B side was still the old dark sound with tribal drums/dissonant guitar lines, but Dream was a more dark/dance track, it still retained a sinister edge but the eastern guitar/big flange bass was more PIL territory than the other tracks. By 1984 the band was in turmoil and problems within the band caused a split, Mick went one way and the remaining three went the other. They had started to demo new tracks for the next release, before recording proper. Mick had brought a mate in who sort of played sax and the whole thing was going Gary Glitter. The Earth Song EP was released (remember these were still rough demos) without the bands permission which contributed to the 21 plus year absence of 1919.



I've had real concerns about posting this one...and if anyone with ties to the band or publishing companies feels that this post should be edited to remove the links, please let me know and I'll take them out. Otherwise, have a listen, enjoy and then go out and buy the album...

And always play this album loud!!

The Chameleons

With two years of incessant gigging and numerous radio sessions under their belts since their début single, "In Shreds" The Chameleons came to the studio determined to make a great first album with Script Of The Bridge. To say that they succeeded would be like saying Shakespeare did pretty well with that one Hamlet play of his. Script Of the Bridge remains a high-water mark of what can generally be called post-punk, an hour's worth of one amazing song after another, practically a greatest-hits record on its own: from the John Lennon tribute "Here Today," through "Monkeyland," "Pleasure and Pain," "Paper Tigers," "As High as You Can Go," to the breathtaking closer, "View From a Hill." Opening with the uncharacteristically optimistic anthem "Don't Fall," you might initially expect this album to be more grandiose and stadium ready. However, The Chameleons next opt to blindside you, the listener, with the introspective claustrophobia of "Here Today" beginning an album-length nosedive into the deepest recesses of the human soul and modern alienation. This is not an album for the faint of heart; it is very dark, it grabs you by the shoulders and slaps you around the face a few times before it's done with you. The most innovative aspect of this album would have to be the gorgeous guitar interplay of Dave Fielding and Reg Smithies, adding both immediacy and texture to the album's sound. The band's rhythm section aren’t slouches either; John Lever's drumming is superb, while Mark Burgess' bass lines weave through the songs like a venomous snake. Burgess here establishes himself as one of the great front men of his time. His lyrics are simply excellent, and have a timeless, highly literate quality in their poetic ruminations on the human experience.

Not only is this a towering achievement in the post-punk movement, deserving to be mentioned in the same breath as fellow Mancunian LP's "Closer" and "Real Life," it is arguably one of my favourite, and sadly, one of the most overlooked, début albums of all time.



In 1980, a fresh-faced Welsh three-piece named ‘Young Marble Giants’ released their début LP, ‘Colossal Youth’. It was to be their only full-length album, a minimalistic and Spartan thing that defied the noise and the vitriol of the emerging post-punk movement. It has earned since its release three reissues, endorsements from the influential Kurt Cobain and indie legends ‘Belle and Sebastian’ and ‘Galaxie 500’. Yet somehow it remains obscure even to music obsessives, a bona fide cult classic whose unassuming nature has perhaps ensured that it stays under the radar. Perhaps it was a little unassuming for its own good; eschewing organic drums for a drum machine and paring post-punk back to its very essence was perhaps not a prudent move in an underground music economy where bands such as ‘Wire’, ‘Talking Heads’ and ‘The Clash’ held thrall. The artistic merits of the album, however, are indisputable- it is a very rare album that sounds like little else released before or since, and an even rarer one that sounds quite as wonderful as this does.

If there is one adjective that springs to mind immediately when listening to Colossal Youth, it is endearing: lead singer Alison Stattons unpolished lilt, the delightfully off-kilter drum machine, the prominent bass, the explorations of negative space and quiet guitar melodies; all these conflated ensure charm. The drum machine especially ensures an introspective and low-key atmosphere; would-be garage rock anthems ‘Include me out’ and ‘Brand New Life’ are tempered and pared down into punk conceptions at their most minimal. Elsewhere, the rollicking opener ‘Searching for Mister Right’ casts a spell from the get-go, all propulsive rhythm and ethereal vocals. ‘Salad Days’ is a gorgeous wistful ballad, conjuring images of sunshine and laughter long since past. Singling out specific tracks seems redundant however; this is an album that begs to be listened to as a whole, enthralling and addictive as it is. That said, the sparse arrangement of the album does begin to grate after a while. Moreover, though it may seem unusual to cite the albums consistency as a flaw, the lack of stand-out tracks and the similarity of the pervading atmosphere of each song does mean that the album can become stale after repeated listens.

I alluded earlier that ‘Colossal Youth’ is a post-punk album, but that is not strictly true. Though it gets classified as such, pigeon-holing the album into that genre does a disservice to the originality at work here. It resemblance to post-punk is tenuous, and I believe it is only called such because that at the time there would have been nothing else to call it. It bears more in common with the indie genre of today. Glimmers of it are found in the xx’s self-titled, in the gentle sonic explorations of Beach House, but no-one has made an album quite like this. It stands alone, humbly, entreating the listener not with noise or with gimmickery but with earnestness and a quaint, unsentimental beauty. I can only recommend you let it coax you in. Lose yourself in the beguile and sprawl; this one is a hidden treasure worth searching for.




Originally formed in Leeds in 1979 and heavily influenced by New Wave and Krautrock, Music For Pleasure signed with Rage Records and released their début single The Human Factor in 1980. Their minimal synthpop is filled out with flourishes of rhythm and synth that reflects Tubeway Army and the pop punk sensibilities of the era. With the second Rage Records single Fuel To The Fire in 1981 a more post punk frame is drawn that shows influences from The Sound. Eventually picked up by Polydor Records the debut album Into The Rain was co-produced by the band and Polydor “In House” production guru Mike Hedges. Proceeded by the single Switchback showing the bands true post punk imagery with big Comsat Angel drums and guitar phrases filled out with bass lines that pop and break into danceable swatches of colour. Throughout the album there are glimpses of Killing Joke, Duran Duran, The Cure, the Chameleons and Comsat Angels. The band move gracefully between their influences, never too much of one to overpower the other, finding their developing sound in ways similar to The Passions on Michael & Miranda.

Two final singles released by Polydor in 1983 Time and Dark Crash signalled the end of the recording deal with no sign of a follow up album until 1985. Eventually splitting up in 1986 Chris Oldroyd went on to join Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and Chris Whitaker joined Danse Society.



The Cortinas, forming in March 1976 had soon built up a big local following, and a break came when the band supported The Stranglers at the fabled Roxy Club in Covent Garden on 22 January 1977. Things then moved quickly for the band. Miles Copeland and Mark Perry's Step Forward label released the classic singles 'Fascist Dictator' in June and 'Defiant Pose' in December, the band recorded a fine John Peel session, and they appeared on the front cover of the April/May issue of Sniffin' Glue. Heady stuff, but sadly, it was over all too soon. In 1977 they were unstoppable - simply one of the best first wave punk bands around.
Interest in The Cortinas was at its peak. They had released two singles on Miles Copeland's Step Forward label. They'd supported The Stranglers and headlined at the Roxy. They'd been top of the bill at The Marquee played with Chelsea and Sham 69 and toured with Blondie and Television. Promoters had booked them with the caution befitting a punk reputation, which had been further guaranteed by a photograph in the NME precariously close to the incident involving Shane MacGowan and the missing ear lobe.
It was time for an album; Miles who had his finger in every punk pie going and was the king of the record deal gave them to CBS and consequently the album True Romances was recorded. 'Real' punk does still exist there; even though the critics of the day argue that it was lost on the album, released after the band had split, the spirit still seeps through the 13 tracks on offer.
Never able to shake off the schoolboy image, much was made of Mike Fewings and Dexter Dalwoods waif-like image and drummer Danny Swan was still just 17. CBS used the bands age to counter criticism but did nothing to promote the album or further its member’s careers. Hamblett further suggested they'd either grow into fine young musicians- either that or Oxford Dons - well they did more or less, but he didn't manage to foresee the famous artist Dexter was to become.
By their own admission much of the punk stuff had been 'hastily written and perhaps a bit formulaic’; many said the tracks that became True Romances had returned them to their formative R&B roots. Whatever the verdict, you'll find Ask Mr Waverley' going round and round in your head for days after hearing it and if you remember him, you probably know the answer already.

If anyone accuses you of not knowing your Punk from your elbow slip this album on and they'll soon be gobbing all over you.


I Ain't Got Time For What You Feel

Mega Post Of Panto-Goth, New Wave, Synthpop

Ministry’s début US album With Sympathy was released as Work For Love through Arista-BMG in Europe (with different track listing and cover above). There is a video available for "Revenge," (below) which was one of three singles pulled from the album, the others being "Work for Love" and "I Wanted to Tell Her."
Al Jourgensen has maintained that he was pressured by Arista management into producing the album in the then-popular "synthpop" style, which is in contrast to the harder industrial sounds he developed afterwards. However, there are reports of Jourgensen saying in the 1980s that when he discovered hardcore music, his musical direction changed. Additionally, video of local concerts Ministry performed in Chicago 1–2 years previous to their signing with Arista show the band dressed in "new wave" styles and playing new wave and synthpop music. Jourgensen assumes a false English accent for all of the songs, for which he also later expressed a great disliking.
Rather than the trademark bone-munching industrial drone of later years, Work For Love is panto-goth, new wave synthpop that sounds less like the band chewing your pancreas and more like the Human League's surly little brother. Great stuff, then, for those who allied themselves with Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club. "Here We Go" grinds all over some electronic horns, "Work For Love" stop-starts and shouts about like "Walk This Way" without all that scary rap, and the whole record becomes a secret weapon against the contrived snarls of the albums to follow. Surely, Al Jourgensen must be more insecure about his past than a superstar linebacker over childhood courses in ballet.



Heaven 17

It would be stretching the point to call Heaven 17 a punk band by any definition, but their music is inextricable from their politics. Sheffield was home to the scene that would spawn a number of memorable acts, primarily the Human League and Heaven 17, in addition to the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA.
Heaven 17 was formed in 1980 by Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, founding members of the Human League. After releasing two dark and dehumanized albums of proto-synth-pop agit prop as the Human League, Marsh and Ware split with Phil Oakey and Adrian Wright. Oakey and Wright’s vision for the Human League as played out over the following decade could not have been more at odds with Marsh and Ware. Oakey and Wright retained the Human League name and recruited two dancers from local clubs to be singers—the reformatted group abandoned Marsh and Ware’s overt political leanings in favour of pristine pop hooks informed by only a covert twinge of class-conscious irony.
So when Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware left the Human League in 1980, the decision seemed iffy; after all, the Human League appeared on the way up and would achieve global fame the very next year with Dare!. The first album from Heaven 17, Marsh and Ware's new trio with singer Glenn Gregory, wasn't greeted with quite the same commercial kudos when released in 1981, but it turned out to be an important outing nevertheless.
Picking up where Kraftwerk had left off with The Man Machine, the group created glistening electro-pop that didn't skimp on danceable grooves or memorable melodies. What set Heaven 17 apart was the well-deep vocals of Gregory, who managed the difficult trick of sounding dramatic without seeming pretentious, and an overtly left-wing political outlook best expressed on the debut single "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang." Other standout combinations of witty lyrics and whiplash electro-grooves include "The Height of the Fighting" and "Play to Win," while the funky title track draws on American R&B for its popping bassline. Despite the catchy material, chart success proved somewhat elusive; Heaven 17 didn't score a major hit until their next album, 1983's The Luxury Gap. Nevertheless, Penthouse and Pavement stands as one of the most accomplished débuts of the '80s.


Ultravox! is the eponymous debut studio album by Ultravox!. Recorded at Island Studios in Hammersmith, London in the autumn of 1976 and produced by Ultravox! and Steve Lillywhite with studio assistance from Brian Eno.
It was Ultravox! who first showed the kind of dangerous rhythms that keyboards would create. The quintet certainly had their antecedents (Hawkwind, Roxy Music, and Kraftwerk to name but a few), wrapped in the ravaged moods and lyrical themes of collapse and decay that transported '70s rock from the bloated pastures of the past to the futuristic dystopias predicted by punk. Epic tales of alienation, disillusion, and disintegration reflected the contemporary holocaust of Britain's collapse, while accurately prophesying the dance through society's cemetery and the graveyards of empires that were to be the Thatcher/Reagan years. "Sat'day Night in the City of the Dead," "Wide Boys," "The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned," "Dangerous Rhythm," and "Slip Away" all simultaneously bemoaned and celebrated the destruction of Western culture while swaggering boldly through the wreckage; "I Want to Be a Machine" and "My Sex" warned of and yearned for technology's triumph. Depeche Mode claimed to be punks with synthesizers, but it was these apostles and didactic emotions that so pierced the zeitgeist of the day, and kicked open a whole new world of synthesized music.

Dangerous rhythms…indeed.



I just walked in to find you here, with that sad look upon your face



The Passions

Based in Shepherds Bush, west London, The Passions' music was grounded mainly in Barbara Gogan's voice and Clive Timperley's delicate echoplex guitar work. Before forming in 1978, most of the group's members had played in other groups. Timperley was formerly with the 101ers, while drummer Richard Williams and singer/guitarist Barbara Gogan were in the punk rock outfit The Derelicts.

Espousing the same post-punk, gothic ethic that brought bands like Siouxsie & the Banshees to the forefront of the burgeoning dark wave genre, the Passions' 1980 debut, Michael & Miranda, suggested that they were at least on the same track. Off-kilter jangle out of step with the bass and drums defined the opening "Pedal Fury," placing the band firmly in quirk territory, a point that the Passions continued to reiterate across the rest of the set. Picking up the pace on "Love Song" or slowing it down across "Man on the Tube" and then doing both on "Obsession" (which puts Barbara Gogan's vocals so far away from the mic for the sake of atmosphere that it sounds like she's in another room) really didn't add much punch to the Passions' gloomy intent. It's easy to see their roots, they're glaring. But so they were for all the other bands rising at the time. Stilted and lean, the songs on Michael & Miranda just don't measure up against what the Passions would do a little later or against what their peers were doing at the time. Singles "Hunted" and "The Swimmer" were followed by their major charting song, "I'm in Love with a German Film Star"



A devastating début and one of the finest albums, not only of the punk era, but of the late 1970s as a whole. 

Crossing the Red Sea With The Adverts was the summation of a year's worth of gigging, honing a repertoire that (jagged, jarring, and frequently underplayed though it was) nevertheless bristled with hits, both commercial and cultural. "No Time to Be 21," "One Chord Wonders," and "Bored Teenagers" were already established among the most potent rallying cries of the entire new wave, catch phrases for a generation that had no time for anthems; "Bombsite Boy," "Safety in Numbers," and "Great British Mistake" offered salvation to the movement's disaffected hordes; and the whole thing was cut with such numbingly widescreen energy that, even with the volume turned down, it still shakes the foundations.

The band's original vision saw a rerecording of "Gary Gilmore's Eyes," a Top 20 hit during summer 1977, included on the album, being dropped (for space considerations) at the last minute. It's one of the few punk songs that truly deserved to be called a classic. Although excluded from the initial release of the album, the mistake is corrected by this 2002 re-release of the album and it's included no less than three times. Talk about over compensating.

As well as the three versions of 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes' this re-release throws in a pile of additional extras including live tracks and some songs that weren't included on the original album. Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts, with the addition of the mysteriously excluded 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes', stands up well on its own, the added extras merely seal the deal.

It's time to put away your dubstep albums and your witch house white labels and get an infusion of old school punk into your veins courtesy of the Adverts.



Interspersed With Intervals Of Slow & Desolate Introspection

If bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus can be considered the founders of post-punk glam, laying the foundations of what would turn into goth rock, then Gene Loves Jezebel followed closely in their footsteps with their debut, Promise. Careening, wailing guitar is matched by careening, wailing vocals from the two Aston brothers (Jay and Michael), while forceful, semi-tribal drumming underlay everything on display. John Brand's production balances out brute force with careful texturing, allowing the group to showcase their power chops as well as their calmer, moodier side. Despite the unstable line-up at the time of recording, everything sounds like the product of a well-seasoned band, no doubt thanks to the Astons' considerable and happily justifiable belief in their own abilities.
One of the more common but effective elements on Promise is a sense of quick, dramatic changes. Strong examples include the moody intro into explosive guitar roar on "Upstairs," the building roll of verses into a wordless yell on "Screaming for Emmalene/Scheming," and the sudden drop out of the music towards the end of "Psychological Problems." The Astons' near-interchangeable vocals conjure up images of desolation, highly suspect sex, freakish family scenarios, and insanity; theirs are not the most happy-go-lucky of lyrics, but they deliver them with an invigorating, about-to-crack energy. Songs often crackle with a nervous, giddy fear, while the music at its more restrained feels like an ominous call to doom. "Influenza," a deceptively calm instrumental, relies on wordless vocals from the band to increase the creeping sense of unease. Perhaps the strongest song is the most minimal: "Bread From Heaven," an allegoric, vicious slam on the English government for its treatment of Wales.
 The Astons' keening vocals sound like burnt calls of vengeance from beyond the grave -- an unsettling, effective demonstration of their musical skills. Later pressings of the album include the fairly poppy later single "Bruises," which also surfaces on Immigrant.


Get Into Your Hole

J.G. Thirlwell is not a household name by any means. No doubt slipping under the radar for many, the man sometimes known as Clint Ruin and Frank Want has built up quite a cult following as one of the most prolific background figures in the music business; a notable contributor, producer and remixer (having worked with Nine Inch Nails, Marc Almond, Front 242, Nick Cave, The The, Roli Mosimann, Thurston Moore, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Raymond Watts, Marilyn Manson and more) owing most of his popularity to his primary musical act, Foetus.
Cycling through several monikers over the years all involving that particular word (Foetus Interruptus, You've Got Foetus On Your Breath, Foetus Corruptus) since 1981 J.G. has concocted some of the most difficult to categorise genre-bending experiments ever put to tape, mostly centred around the abrasive sampling and drum machines typical of industrial. Third album Hole (released under Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel) is a much more refined effort, for the most part it is no less engaging for those of us with ADD.
Opening track Clothes Hoist is a frenetic bastard of a thing with many multilayered tracks of percussion, a swinging psychobilly hook to J.G's vocals and an explosion of distorted textures bringing to mind a chaotic B-grade horror movie extravaganza. It's a fun song on its own merits, but when listened to through headphones an impressive field of sound is revealed with the sheer number of parts at work somewhat awe inspiring. Lust For Death has a Mr. Bungle before there was Mr. Bungle vibe in its cheesy organs, rumbling double bass, cheap trumpet stabs and upbeat ostinatos using sounds sourced from god-knows where; the wild man howl of the man behind it all riding high on the madness eventually gelling after a few listens into a downright entertaining piece of music.
I'll Meet You In Poland Baby is unique to say the least, an A Cappella intro with meticulously timed delay effects providing an odd but ultimately satisfying arrangement as J.G. namedrops Stalin and The Versailles Treaty in a declaration of war (See you at your graveside baby, I’ll meet you in Poland baby!). Incorporating a Nazi march "stomp" as the backbeat is an intuitive move, samples of German rallies and sirens in the distance contributing to a military wartime feel whilst the added nuances of percussion and the strange vocal hooks make it a very distinct song.
Hole is an inconsistent album in many ways, however where it works it is a captivating listen. There is a manic energy to it at its best, with a lot of density to the compositions which makes for an excellent listen through a pair of nice headphones (and some weed wouldn’t hurt either). A few of the songs are subpar as a whole, but they all have their good aspects in one way or another. There is absolutely no other music on the planet quite like what J.G. Thirlwell has unleashed with Foetus, and whilst there may be better albums to start with Hole is more than enough to spark interest in investigating the pioneering industrial artist.



Made To be Played Loud...

While searching the www for snippets I happened upon a review by John Robb, which I'm going to share because he's touched every point, every detail and more eloquently than I can ever can.

John Robb, September 21st 2009

There is a theory that Dammed guitarist Brian James invented punk rock. It's an argument that upon examination actually makes a lot of sense. Way back in early 1975 there were two young bands of guitar-slinging hipsters in London. One was the Sex Pistols, but they'd yet to play a gig and were fumbling around for the on switch. The Pistols already had the look — short hair and fucked up neo-mod togs and an already outrageous-looking singer.
The other crew was a combo known sometimes as London SS who were holed up in the basement of a cafe on Praed Street. This ad hoc crew were built around future Clash man Mick Jones and future Generation X bass player Tony James, and were busily auditioning every chancer in town, trying to create the perfect rock 'n' roll band.
They had long hair and looked like extras from a Mott the Hoople gig but they knew what they wanted and turned down many a hopeful because they didn't look right. But when Brian James turned up he sailed through their meticulous screening because he was so, well, dammed cool and he knew a thing or two about rock 'n' roll. He had already been converting the high-octane of The Stooges and the MC5 into a band of his own that had fucked about on the club circuit in Europe.
This legendary trio rehearsed for a few months and on Brian's insistence played fast and loud. A tape exists but Tony James won't let anyone hear it. They had bumbled into the blueprint of punk rock early.
It could never last and Brian left within months, taking this young drummer who insisted on wearing his flares — Rat Scabies — with him. Rat picked up his nickname from his complexion and a rat infestation in the rehearsal room, and played drums like a demon; his sartorial inelegance ruled him out of the London SS, so he was happy to jump ship with Brian. Rat was one hell of a drummer and Brian sensed that this was the kernel of a great band.
Brian already knew what was coming and he outlined punk rock to everyone he spoke to. People from the time still call him a visionary. Rat brought along this awkward-looking bloke called Ray who loved the underground end of prog and who cleaned the bogs in Croydon Fairfield halls. He would play bass and eventually be nicknamed Captain Sensible by the Tyla Gang.
They had two singers — one was a long-lost bloke who dressed in white, and the other a gravedigger who wore black known as Dave Vanian. Natural selection favoured Vanian and the Dammed played their first gigs in 1976.
Over the years it became fashionable to write the Damned out of the punk rock history; in fact now it even seems quite fashionable to write out the Sex Pistols! The story had become the story of the Clash — who, despite being a wonderful group, were just one of many great bands at that time.
The Dammed are written out because they were 'clowns' and didn't conform to the strict dress code of punk rock, but you ignore them at your peril. They do not collect the kudos because they didn't have a major label machine behind them and didn't have the posh PRs to hype them into the rock lineage.
Musically they were the equal of their peers and their début album Damned Damned Damned still sounds utterly fantastic to this day. If anyone ever wants to know what pure unadulterated rock 'n' roll is then play them this album. It's totally molten. Brian James' guitar playing is stunning. It still sounds amphetamine-fast today and the solos are outrageous — he instinctively knew how to construct a thrilling rock 'n' roll song and the album is stuffed full of them. Even if it only had 'New Rose' (the first punk single to ever get released) and the follow-up single 'Neat Neat Neat' on it it would be still be a classic album, but there are plenty more thrilling high points in a non-stop assault that makes the record one of the greats — easily up there with The Stooges, MC5, The Clash and the Pistols as prime examples of white heat guitar thrills.
'Fish', 'So Messed Up' and their demolition of The Stooges' 'I Feel Alright' are perfect examples of speedball rock 'n' roll. When they lessen the pace for the atmospheric 'Fan Club' and 'Feel the Pain' they sound dark and ghoulish, perhaps inventing goth and horror punk.
Powered along by Rat Scabies' extraordinary drums (he should have been one of the best-regarded drummers of his generation) the songs are fever-pitched exercises in pure adrenalin. Dave Vanian's crooning vocals make musical sense of the melee and the album should have been massive in year zero. Somehow the band came unstuck — they were shoved aside by the Clash and the Pistols because they were a not taken as seriously. The album artwork probably didn't help: although more sardonic than silly, it rubbed up the po-faced punk taste makers the wrong way. Even covered in cream Brian looks cool as fuck.
The Captain's outrageous showing off was considered uncool in that English way of shying away from a true extrovert — ironic in a period like punk when everyone was pretending to be wild and free but were actually conforming to new straight jacket, albeit with a couple of safety pins shoved into it.
The Damned's label, Stiff Records, was not yet in its prime and didn't have the power to force the kids into liking the band and by the autumn of 1977 when they released their second album the game was up. They were probably selling enough records to own the top ten in 2009 but were deemed failures at the time. Brian James quit, going on to form the even more ignored but equally great psychedelic outfit Tanz Der Youth.
The Dammed were swiftly airbrushed from the punk lineage but they had actually sold enough records to cement a place in punk rock history. The spotty 'kids' loved them despite what the music press were being ordered to tell them. When they reformed in 1979 they were welcomed with open arms and their erratic carrier has continued to this day. Currently under the tutelage of Vanian and Sensible, the band is a great live act with an extraordinary and ridiculous history of fallouts, fuck ups, hit records and bust-ups. Brian lives in Brighton and produces the odd local band, his legacy lost in the mists of time — but this album is a stark reminder of the sheer raw power he once had at his fingertips. He should be remembered as one of the great English rock 'n' rollers and this album is pure, high-octane proof of his innate genius and foresight.
It's simple. Damned Damned Damned is still one of the greatest punk rock records ever released and it's high time it was restored to its rightful place in the pantheon of rock 'n' roll classics.



Dark, edgy, angular, masculine and very confrontational.

Rattus Norvegicus, (the Latin name for the rats responsible for the plague) is an outstanding album. It has aged well and the dexterity of all four band members is clear throughout. It comes in the form of Hugh Cornwell’s psychedelic guitar licks, JJ Burnel’s fantastically deep and pumping bass lines and Dave Greenfield’s swirling keyboard. The bands song writing ability also puts them above the verse-chorus-verse-chorus ilk of their peers. Like many other punk bands of the time the Stranglers were also great at reflecting angst. Whether it’s in ‘London Lady’ which emulates the falseness and superficial attitude of music journalists. ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Ugly’; relationship problems and sexual self consciousness or ‘Hanging Around’ a sideways look at adolescent hood in big cities.
The Stranglers, like the Vibrators, were an older band which managed to gain visibility and success through association with Britain's punk movement. Musically, the group is much more polished than some of their rawer brethren such as the Adverts and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The Stranglers' early work is most properly described as stripped-down pop played with a hardcore sensibility; with fairly lengthy songs involving frequent solo breaks, prominent keyboard usage, and occasional employment of vocal harmony set them apart from their peers.
While not the equal of their best album, No More Heroes, this album is perhaps one of The Stranglers greatest in that it reflects their malevolent attitude towards life. The songs are much rawer than their later polished and poppier material. It cleverly fits in the punk ethos of doing things for yourself and showing no concern of what others thought. How many other punk acts would have been brave enough to have a keyboard or experiment with different song structures? In a time that was made of two minute long, amphetamine fuelled numbers The Stranglers clearly stood above the rest with attitude, nous and a fantastic aptitude for musicianship.



12th May 1979 – New Musical Express (UK)

Album Reviewed by Paul Morley

Aaah! More alert and anguished young men chalking up more sanctioned and sanctimonious marks! Do not applaud them! This glistening long player contains twelve self-conscious variations upon the smoothly quirky theme, somewhere between hypnotic and indifferent, that brought the world, somewhere between hype and anonymity, the pleasurable “Killing An Arab”. For one whole album that pretty bending and doodling does a lot less than please, and a lot more than irritate. The Cure’s formula is not that marvellous, but the Cure are not just making pop music. They make thins much worse than they could be by packaging this insubstantial froth as if it had some social validity. As if it were going to alter our conceptions of what is real and what is unreal. They garnish their twelve little ditties with unreliable trickery, not content to let ordinary songs die ordinary deaths.
The lads go rampant on insignificant symbolism and compound this with rude, soulless obliqueness. They are trying to tell us something. They are trying to tell us they do not exist. They are trying to say that everything is empty. They are making fools of themselves. They are represented on the ice-cream colour cover by three by three bulky, ageing household gadgets. Lol Tolhurst (drums) is a fridge. Michael Dempsey (Bass, Voice) is an upright hoover. Robert Smith (Guitar Voice) is a standard lamp. Each song is represented on the back sleeve by a picture and on the label by a symbol.
Thus a typically dehydrated interpretation of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” is matched with a Polaroid snapshot of a slinky lady in a pencil skirt and stilettos striding along a metropolis pavement. “So What” is represented by a picture of two bags of granulated sugar spilling over the floor. All very clever stuff. All this charming, childish fiddling about aims for the anti-image but naturally creates the perfect malleable image: the tantalising enigma of The Cure.
They try to take everything away from the purpose and idea of the rock performer but try so hard they put more in than they take out. They add to the falseness. Good luck to them.
The Cure, really, are trying to sell us something. Their product is more artificial than most. This is perhaps part of their master plan, but it seems more like their naivety. The way it is, The Cure set themselves up as though they float a long way outside the realms of anything we can understand. They are scandalous, fulfilled aliens and they look down on us. What do they see? Not much that will shoot your being through with vigour or sudden understanding, but they never stop nagging. Willowy songs wallow in the murk and marsh of tawdry images, inane realisations and dull epigrams. Sometimes they sound like an avant-garde John Otway, or an ugly Spirit. Sometimes a song is as pretty as “Killing An Arab”: “Accuracy” (a target over a man’s eye) or “Fire In Cairo” (palm tree in the desert). But most of the time it’s just a voice catching its breath, with a cautiously primitive guitar riff, some toy drumming and a sprightly bass. Nowhere is there anything alarming; nowhere is there anything truly adventurous. Not that I demand adventure at all costs, but The Cure do suggest that they are on a worthwhile expedition.
Neither do I constantly demand anything that’s going to make my life a little bit better but, again, The Cure hint that they’re doing this and more. What they’ve done here is the equivalent of an album of Enid Blyton reading packaged as readings from Angela Carter. No, It’s maybe not that awful-good. it’s just that in 1979 people shouldn’t be allowed to get away with things like this(the Cure are absolute conformists to vaguely defined non-convention). There are just too many who do (Doll By Doll, Punishment Of Luxury, Fischer Z). Fatigue Music. So transparent, light and…oh how it nags.


Prayers On Fire

”Prayers On Fire” is the first LP by The Birthday Party and to this day it remains one of the most disturbing pieces of music ever made. Beginning with tribal drumming and chanting, complete with a menacing bass-line on the opener “Zoo-Music Girl” and all the way to the sickeningly distorted “parody” of a blues song “Kathy’s Kisses”, the album works like a ride to a morbid party in Hell, happening in a deranged maniac’s mind. The word “sick” is probably the best adjective to describe any track on this record; this sickness is present on every song, taking over the listener in the process.
It’s an awesome kind of sickness.
After a few spins one starts to see some sort of logic in The Birthday Party’s music. The core of it is the rhythm section, which bears the most obvious traces of blues’ influence. Guitars provide disturbing hysterical coating for the songs, little creepy melodies crawling their way into the structure here and there; and sometimes there’s hardly any melody what’s so ever and guitars just make noise, intensifying the insanity. And then, of course, there are the vocals.
It’s a bit weird to think that the ranting madman behind the mic would go on to sing with Kylie Minogue in 1996. Cave’s vocals on this are blissfully crazy and intense and it’s hard not fall in love with his performance. He shrieks, grunts, yelps and screams, seemingly loosing himself in his own world, delivering delusional nightmarish lyrics that only a mind as twisted as his could come up with. There’s hardly any singing on this album: when Nick hits an actual note it seems like an accident. For this kind of music actual singing would seem inappropriate anyway.
The Birthday Party are closer to Joy Division (only more theatrical), the Pop Group (only spookier), or Pere Ubu (only more percussive). Though present on most of the tracks, the moody piano that would dominate much of Cave's solo work is never really prominent here. Instead it's the squiggles of Rowland Howard's guitar dodging the blows of the furious rhythm section that distinguishes The Birthday Party.
Overall, this album is definitely not for everyone, unless you want to torture other people with it, in which case, there more people hear it the merrier. But if you’re keen of dark, menacing music and the perspective of listening to jazz and blues being sodomized and bludgeoned to death sounds good to you, then surely give “Prayers Of Fire” a try.



Awlright Here It Is, Again, And It’s Called…

Perhaps this is the most original début album to come out of the first wave of British punk, Wire's Pink Flag plays like The Ramones Go to Art School. Song after song careens past in a glorious, stripped-down rush. However, unlike The Ramones, Wire ultimately made their mark through unpredictability. Very few of the songs followed traditional verse/chorus structures, if one or two riffs sufficed, no more were added; if a musical hook or lyric didn't need to be repeated, Wire immediately stopped playing, accounting for the album's brevity (21 songs in under 36 minutes on the original version). The sometimes dissonant, minimalist arrangements allow for space and interplay between the instruments; Colin Newman isn't always the most comprehensible singer, but he displays an acerbic wit and balances the occasional lyrical abstraction with plenty of bile in his delivery. Many punk bands aimed to strip rock & roll of its excess, but Wire took the concept a step further, cutting punk itself down to its essence and achieving an even more concentrated impact. Some of the tracks may seem at first like underdeveloped sketches or fragments, but further listening demonstrates that in most cases, the music is memorable even without the repetition and structure most ears have come to expect; it simply requires a bit more concentration. And Wire are full of ideas; for such a fiercely minimalist band, they display quite a musical range, spanning slow, haunting texture exercises, warped power pop, punk anthems, and proto-hardcore rants, it's recognizable, yet simultaneously quite unlike anything that preceded it. 
Pink Flag is a fractured snapshot of punk alternately collapsing in on itself and exploding into song-fragment shrapnel. It's clear you're not getting a typical 1977 punk record from the opening seconds of "Reuters", an echoing bass line that quickly comes under attack by ringing but dissonant guitar chords. The tempo is arrested, lurching along to the climactic finale when Colin Newman, as the narrating correspondent, shouts "Looting! Burning!" and then holds out the lone syllable of "rape" twice over descending chords, which grind to a halt over chanting voices. It's all the bombast, tension, and release of a side-long prog opus in just three minutes.
As if to underscore that this isn't a predictable album, the next song, "Field Day For the Sundays", rages to a close in just 28 seconds. The band acknowledges the thin line between advertising jingles and pop songs on the 49-second instrumental "The Commercial", but also write a few genuinely hummable songs, like "Three Girl Rhumba", whose guitar part is actually more of a tango, and the more identifiably punk "Ex-Lion Tamer". "Strange," meanwhile, makes the mistake of sticking around, only to be eaten by spacey amp noise and quivering ambience-- a taste of things to come.



Travelling home from work today, I caught myself thinking about Flesh For Lulu and more importantly sharing more of their long forgotten classics.

Underneath the black clothes and eyeliner
Flesh For Lulu were no more nor less than a pop/rock band, forever cursed by their post-punk past. Born a decade too late, the group were condemned to the corners of the indie scene and the edges of the U.S. charts. In 1985, following on from their released from Polydor, the band signed to Hybrid Records and released the mini LP, Blue Sisters Swing, which was produced with Craig Leon. The cover image of two nuns kissing resulted in the mini-album being banned in the United States and Europe. Flesh For Lulu then joined Statik records, who released Big Fun City later that year. Virtually neglected by the American rock masses that were their natural audience, the British indie kids took them to heart, but Big Fun City deserved so much more than that. Having shaken off their cobwebs on Blue Sisters Swing, The Lulu’s came to NYC (thus the new album's title) to record with producer Craig Leon. A less sympathetic producer would have destroyed this record, either by foisting a thoroughly '80s slickness into the mix, or lazily permitting the group's retro sound to run rampant. Instead, Leon respected the group's vision, creating a modern album that remains a tribute to rock's rich past. A motherlode of riffs are the song's sturdy foundation blocks, mostly mined from a rich R&B vein. The Rolling Stones are an obvious influence, although The Lulu’s never plunder directly, instead creating the best riffs Keith Richards never played. Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground also played a major role in the members' youths. Thus the band touches all the major rock roots before tossing them into their own indie blender. There again, even the Velvets in their heyday would have thought twice about recording "Death Shall Come," a brilliant piece of experimental foreboding that slithers slide guitar against a booming beat, drops surrealistic sound effects into the mix, then shrouds it all in an ominous atmosphere. On the other end of the spectrum were perfect pop rockers like "Baby Hurricane" (a British Top Ten indie hit); the boisterous "Seven Hail Marys" and "Vaguely Human" both slamming rock riffs and anthemic choruses into punk frenzy; and more sedate, but equally upbeat numbers like "Let Go," which showcases some of the guitarists' best work. The rhythm section's own proficiency is evident throughout, pulling off rock-solid, but never tiresome, rhythms regardless of tempo or genre, as impressive on the softer, slower numbers as the pounding rockers, while anchoring the more experimental numbers. Perhaps The Lulu’s were just too adventurous for the rock community, too willing to take chances, too energetic, too pop, and too different. Too bad for the rockers missing out on such a classic record. This CD release also includes the Blue Sisters Swing mini-album as an added incentive.


After the long weekend it was time to return to this great city with an all round Scottish classic. One of my all time favourite bands (you may have guessed this from the blog title) so there may well be a few more of their “Themes” to come in the future.

Immediately, there's no real indication of the Glaswegians' past as punks Johnny and the Self Abusers. Life in a DaySimple Minds' 1979 debut – owes an undeniable debt to Roxy Music and the David Bowie of Station to Station and Low, mixing curt piano lines and glam rock but also hinting at a sense of fun that would later be wiped clear. Chelsea Girl even sounds like the hit that would nevertheless elude them for three years.

Simple Minds' astonishingly rapid ascent from humble and derivative post-punk to platinum and transcendent art pop is just as remarkable as the descent that followed it. More remarkable is the fact that a fair portion of the band's fans have such a strict discographical line drawn in the sand (right at the chart-crashing masterpiece that is New Gold Dream) where both sides overlap but don't dare cross. While fans of the band's earlier work essentially drop off with that record (and choose to live in blissful denial that the band existed after that), those on the other end are more or less oblivious to what's on the other side. So what's on that other, earlier side? Five studio albums released within the span of three years. Five studio albums that range from safe to bold, from impenetrable to accessible, from strange to puzzling, and from good to pee-your-pants phenomenal. Life in a Day, the first of the five records released during this fascinating pre-fame period of Simple Minds' career, is easily the least of the first five. Despite the growing pains, this is a skilled and assured assemblage of guitar-heavy post-punk, with Jim Kerr's over-caffeinated voice taking the lead role. The arrangements are full, direct, and sharply executed. The high points: the teeter-tottering title track and the J. Geils Band like swagger (honestly!) of "Someone." The low point: "Pleasantly Disturbed" an epic Velvet Underground inspired limp that lasts eight very long minutes.