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.


Secondhand Daylight

Secondhand Daylight, the second Magazine album, sounds like it must have been made in the dead of winter. You can imagine the steam coming out of Howard Devoto's mouth as he projects lines like "I was cold at an equally cold place," "The voyeur will realize this is not a sight for his sore eyes," "It just came to pieces in our hands," and "Today I bumped into you again, I have no idea what you want." You can picture Dave Formula swiping frost off his keys and Barry Adamson blowing on his hands during the intro to "Feed the Enemy," as guitarist John McGeoch and drummer John Doyle zip their parkas. From start to finish, this is a showcase for Formula's chilling but expressive keyboard work. Given more freedom to stretch out and even dominate on occasion, Formula seems to release as many demons as Devoto, whether it is through low-end synthesizer drones or violent piano vamps. Detached tales of relationships damaged beyond repair fill the album, and the band isn't nearly as bouncy as it is on Real Life or The Correct Use of Soap -- it's almost as if they were instructed to play with as little physical motion as possible. The drums in particular sound brittle and on the brink of piercing the ears. Despite the sub-zero climate, the lack of dance numbers, and the shortage of snappy melodies, the album isn't entirely impenetrable. It lacks the immediate impact of Real Life and The Correct Use of Soap, but it deserves just as much recognition for its compellingly sustained petulance. Even if you can't get into it, you have to at least marvel at "Permafrost." The album's finale, it's an elegant five-minute sneer, and as far as late-'70s yearbook scribbles are concerned, "As the day stops dead, at the place where we're lost, I will drug you and fuck you on the permafrost" is less innocuous than "All we are is dust in the wind."


New-age Hippy

Toyah Willcox is a classic example of a new-age hippy. An all-purpose self-improving dilettante, one minute acting, the next singing and the next reputedly picking up vast sums for services rendered to the advertising world.
Her one or two oddball singles and EP of the same name as this album are all included here on a package initially released abroad to meet the excessive demand (!). Well maybe the Europeans didn't realise that there ain’t no sheep in Barnet or perhaps they retain a fond fetish for that phenomenon affectionally known as acid rock.
For it is into these realms that Toyah and her not inconsiderable cohorts take us, the narrow lipped lady herself coming on like some post punk Grace Slick. Titles like 'Neon Womb' obviously have an ecological element which goes with the excellent sleeve photo of the early warning "golf balls" on the Yorkshire Moors and the likes of Pete Bush and Joel Bogen on keys and guitar are adapt enough to flesh out the ideas with some ambitious instrumental arrangements
Toyah's voice is certainly better on record than it is live, but that doesn't mean there isn't a fair bit of frenzy obliterating the lyrics. Maybe mood is more important than words, hence 'Elusive Stranger' where the sense of mystery is enhanced by sea breeze effects conjuring up memories of 'The Prisoner' TV series.
While the first side is sub-titled 'Heaven', the reverse is 'Hell', although the music isn't necessarily anymore, er, fiery. 'Danced' is pretty enough to make daytime radio, whilst 'Last Goodbye' befits one with aspiration towards the (melo)dramatic world.
Elsewhere things get sorta spacey, but if there's a message of concept I'm afraid it eluded me. Still, there are plenty of ideas here and even if few of them appear to be fully realised, Toyah's career still has extensive voyeur potential. ***
Mike Nicholls NME, 1980


No More Heroes

Rattus Norvegicus, the Stranglers' first album (the first of two in 1977), was hardly a punk rock classic, but it outsold every other punk album and remains a pretty good chunk of art-punk. On the other hand, No More Heroes, recorded three months later and released in September 1977, is faster, nastier, and better. At this point the Stranglers were on top of their game, and the ferocity and anger that suffuses this record would never be repeated. Hugh Cornwell's testosterone level is very high, but it's still an enjoyable bit of noise that holds up better than anyone would have guessed at the time.
What is most striking about early Stranglers music in contrast to most of their punk peers is the prevalence of Dave Greenfield's organ sounds. His rapid arpeggios and swelling rhythms, along with JJ's jagged bass lines, formed the core of The Stranglers distinctive sound during most of their punk phase. Album opener 'I Feel like a Wog' shows this to full effect with Greenfield's pumping organ riffs driving the song along in an urgent fashion forming a suitable backdrop for Cornwell's guttural vocals.
The Stranglers were often treated with an element of suspicion by the rabidly traditional Brit punk set of the times due in some part to their middle-class roots but also for their willingness to venture outside traditional musical structures from the outset. They could almost be described as an art rock band with punk attitude, especially when you listen to tracks such as the seven minute 'School Mam' with its busy bass lines and choppy mutating guitar licks. The band would justify the 'mistrust' placed in them by branching out into new wave, Europop and even flirting with progressive rock on later releases. But their willingness to adapt and explore certainly held them in good stead in the post-punk world and they went on to further successes during the '80s, at least within the confines of Europe. On this release, however, their toes were still firmly planted in the punk bedrock.


Some More Candy Talking

Arguably Psychocandy is an album with one trick and one trick alone -- Beach Boys melodies meet Velvet Underground feedback and beats, all cranked up to ten and beyond, along with plenty of echo. However, what a trick it is. Following up on the promise of the earliest singles, the Jesus and Mary Chain with Psychocandy arguably created a movement without meaning to, one that itself caused echoes in everything from bliss-out shoegaze to snotty Britpop and back again. The best tracks were without question those singles, anti-pop yet pure pop at the same time: "Just Like Honey," starting off like the Ronettes heard in a canyon and weirdly beautiful with its bells, "You Trip Me Up" and its slinking sense of cool, and most especially "Never Understand." Storming down like a rumble of bricks wrapped in cotton candy and getting more and more frenetic at the end, when there's nothing but howls and screaming noise, it is one hell of a track. However, at least in terms of sheer sonic violence and mayhem, most of the other cuts were pretty hard to beat, as sprawling, amped-up messes like "The Living End" (which later inspired both a band and a movie title) and "In a Hole." "My Little Underground" is actually the secret gem on the album, with a great snarling guitar start, an almost easy-going melody and a great stuttering chorus -- not quite the Who but not quite anything else. What the Reids sing about -- entirely interchangeable combinations regarding girls, sex, drugs, speed, and boredom in more or less equal measure -- is nothing compared to the perfectly disaffected way those sentiments are delivered. Bobby Gillespie's "hit the drums and then hit them again" style makes Moe Tucker seem like Neil Peart, but arguably in terms of sheer economy he doesn't need to do any more.

Maybe Tomorrow Again

The Mod revival of the late 70s saw the attitudes and look of the British youth change. Punk was on its way out and a new scene was emerging, safety pins and leathers were being replaced by suits, scooters and parkas. Coinciding with the release of The Who film Quadrophenia, the Mod revival grabbed the attention of the nation. Kids who missed out on punk yearned for the excitement the film portrayed, the adrenalin rush experienced by the first generation of the smartly dressed subculture. The music of this new breed of Mods, while reflecting the love of sixties sounds also drew influence from the punk scene and this was best reflected by bands such as The Jam, Secret Affair and South London "Punks in Parka's" The Chords.
This was apparent from the start with the Chords' debut 45, "Now It's Gone," where the group's dream of love is trampled underfoot. Chief Chords singer songwriter Chris Pope is the man responsible for revival classics such as "Now it's Gone" "British Way of Life" and "Maybe Tomorrow" which still sound as powerful today as when they were first released. In later years, the Chords were often cursorily dismissed as little more than Jam copyists, and while there's no denying that the two groups travelled in very similar musical waters, both drawing from the British beat and Northern soul that filled their youths and sending it soaring through the prism of punk, it's there that the comparisons end. Chris Pope refused to see the world through the Jam's English rose-coloured glasses, turning his own equally eloquent pen to scathing vignettes virtually the flip of Weller's own. In this respect, the Jam comparisons are red herrings, for if anything, Pope played the snottier, rebellious younger brother to Weller's more respectful good son. With “Maybe Tomorrow," firmly putting the boot into the Jam's sanguine vision of Britain and turning it into a fascist horror, it would kick off the group's sole album, So Far Away. 12 fierce tracks that defined Mod's potential as punk's successor. Filled with fire and fury, the set skips from affairs of the heart to the pitiful state of the nation. Musically it's a revelation; the band's two guitarists give the group much more scope for aural assault than a trio and with a much more aggressive rhythm section in tow, So Far Away is as vociferous as many of its punk contemporaries. In fact, reviews threw bands like the Buzzcocks and the Undertones into the brew of the Chords' notable inspirations. For while the Chords' melodies were shaped by the '60s, their delivery was forged in punk, with even Sham 69's anthemic stomp stirred into the mix. This release showcases the stellar So Far Away, a U.K. Top 30 album, in full and then tacks on all five of the original singles along with their B-sides, as well as the free 45 that was included with early copies of the album. 

The Promised Land

Skeletal Family divided audiences; in certain quarters they remain lauded as one of the most adventurous bands linked to the UK 80’s Goth scene, to others they are remembered as being light weight. For those of you unaware; Skeletal Family hailed from the heartland of UK Goth; Yorkshire – Keighley to be precise first getting together in late 1982 taking their name from the title of the song “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family” from the 1974 David Bowie album “Diamond Dogs”. It is a shame Skeletal Family never gained the recognition, and the accompanying rewards they deserved as this single perfectly demonstrates how their tribal drumming and frantic guitars, not to mention Anne Marie’s distinct vocals offered something different from the musically then shrinking goth scene. Skeletal Family offered a freshness that the genre was seriously lacking, this is particularly characterised by Anne-Marie’s powerful vocals as she weaves beautifully melodic phrases along with the crafted strident bass driven melodies coupled with shards of icy guitar. As such this single is vitally important; it demonstrates quite why all the UK’s major labels were in a frenzy to sign them, it serves as a timely reminder that Goth wasn’t all about dry ice and deep throbbing bass, though Skeletal Family did conform to the ‘big hair’ rule…
If you had forgotten Skeletal Family or perhaps never heard of them then "Promised Land" is the ideal starting point for a journey to the hair spray counter. 


Dance, Dance, Dance To The Radio Again

There was always nervy energy to Joy Division’s music, an insistent pulse throughout their songs. Their first single, “Transmission,” is literally about electric signals: It opens with Ian Curtis chanting, “Radio, live transmission,” and its chorus advises letting radio waves propel your body into dance. At the end of the second verse, Curtis’ voice transmits directly into Bernard Sumner’s wiry guitar solo.
Curtis knew something about physical electricity: he suffered from epilepsy and frequent seizures, and the frenetic build of “Transmission” has the feel of an uncontrollable short circuit. But there’s a subtext about conformity under it: To Curtis, society is an army of drones that “go on as though nothing was wrong” and are “staying in the same place.” Viewed through that lens, the heady chorus of “Transmission” is not a celebration so much as a warning: all the people who “dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio” are powerless followers led by whatever they’re fed. That Curtis and his bandmates delivered such a bleak message through such a heart-quickening sound (the kind that, ironically enough, is impossible not to move your body too) shows just how much power Joy Division could generate.

I Just Can’t Stop It

I Just Can't Stop It was a late arrival onto the checker-board scene, the Specials, Madness and the Selecter had all beat the Beat to the punch, but luckily this wasn't a race. Besides, the band had already primed the pump with a trio of Top 10 singles; the double A-sided "Tears of a Clown"/"Ranking Full Stop," "Hands Off She's Mine" and "Mirror in the Bathroom," their debut album followed hard on "Mirror"'s heels, picking up the latter two songs and "Full Stop" to boot. Two more of the tracks within set followed them onto the chart, later that summer on another double A-sided single; "Best Friend" coupled with a dub version of "Stand Down Margaret". This was a hit filled set and so popular were such songs as "Rough Rider," "Twist and Crawl," "Can't Get Used to Losing You," and "Whine & Grine," becoming such staples, that fans can be forgiven for assuming they too were released on 45. Intriguingly, "Losing You" came courtesy of Andy Williams, and highlighted the softer styling that would swiftly overtake the Beat. But "Rough" and "Whine" had solid ska credentials, both were Prince Buster hits, while "Jackpot" was one of slew of racing themed rocksteady smashes that drove The Pioneers too fame, The Specials had opened their own account with another -"Longshot Kick the Bucket". It was this sheer diversity of influences that set The Beat's sound apart from their compatriots. Their own compositions were heavily cultural in theme; the radical cries to depose the prime minister on "Margaret," the slashing anti-violence of "Two Swords" and even more ominous and feverish "Click Click," through the cultural nihilism of "Mirror" itself. With a few softer love and lovelorn tracks taking some of the edge off, “Stop” was a stunning achievement, its driving, frenetic numbers grounded in punk's fury smashing into the loose-limbed grooves and melodies of rocksteady inspired songs, and banging head on into sweeter pop fuelled pieces. The album remained on the British charts for a whopping eight months, eventually peaking at Number Three. Time has not diminished its glory; the songs remain huge as their continued inclusion in the current touring band’s repertoire has proved. 



Few rock & roll records rock as hard or with as much originality as the Pretenders' eponymous debut album. A sleek, stylish fusion of Stonesy rock & roll, new wave pop, and pure punk aggression, Pretenders is teeming with sharp hooks and a viciously cool attitude. Although Chrissie Hynde establishes herself as a forceful and distinctively feminine songwriter, the record isn't a singer/songwriter's tour de force -- it's a rock & roll album, powered by a unique and aggressive band. Guitarist James Honeyman-Scott never plays conventional riffs or leads, and his phased, treated guitar gives new dimension to the pounding rhythms of "Precious," "Tattooed Love Boys," "Up the Neck," and "The Wait," as well as the more measured pop of "Kid," "Brass in Pocket," and "Mystery Achievement." He provides the perfect backing for Hynde and her tough, sexy swagger. Hynde doesn't fit into any conventional female rock stereotype, and neither do her songs, alternately displaying a steely exterior or a disarming emotional vulnerability. It's a deep, rewarding record, whose primary virtue is its sheer energy. Pretenders moves faster and harder than most rock records, delivering an endless series of melodies, hooks, and infectious rhythms in its 12 songs. Few albums, let alone debuts, are ever this astonishingly addictive.


Theme For Great Cities

Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating today. My present to you is two personal favourites of mine on one 12" single.

Producer John Leckie first announced the single when he wrote about Empires And Dance in the 5X5 Tour Brochure: "I'm currently mixing a new version of I Travel which the band will release on vinyl for Record Store Day in April 2012. It still sounds a fantastic song more than 30 years on." The single was confirmed in March when it appeared in the listings for Record Store Day. A limited edition run of 1000 12" records worldwide would be pressed which would only be available at various independent record stores.
A remix of Theme For Great Cities by Simple Minds fan Moby was later revealed as the singles title track. The artwork simply reused the old I Travel sleeve from 1980 although Virgin was more imaginative with the labels.
Jim and Charlie took part in a record signing on the 21st April at Sister Ray Records in London where they personally signed 100 copies. The queue took over three hours to reach the doors. A signed copy was sold on eBay several hours later. It was quickly snapped up for £100. (Those signed copies from Sister Ray should also come with the Sister Ray Record Store Day list, the Last Minute Info list, till receipt and Sister Ray bag.) Themes was the first commercial 12" single released by Virgin since 1991's Real Life.

Being Boiled

In the late 'seventies The Human League were a pioneer electronic band who used synthesizers in dark and experimental pop. The band was composed of Phil Oakey on voice, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh on synths, and Philip Adrian Wright.
Before The Human League re-branded themselves as chart storming synth-pop giants, they released a pair of albums that were perhaps the most cold and dehumanised form of synth-pop ever heard. It’s almost so unfamiliar that some listeners may doubt the robotic beats of 'Being Boiled' or the eerie dirge of 'The Path Of Least Resistance' could have ever come from the same band who; a few member changes and a stylistic rethink later; produced enduring, pop leviathans like 'Don't You Want Me' a couple of years following.
It’s just so dark. Throughout the record there’s a lack of hope for the world and apathy for humankind strewn across the futuristic electro warbles and detached vocals and lyrics heard on virtually every track. On paper, that sounds unpleasant, but in reality it’s a well formed brand of synth-pop that doesn‘t care for commercial approval. It has its own flavour; its own sense of style and a clear idea of what it wants to be - cold futurist music, deployed using (at the time) cutting edge synthesisers to create a danceable, yet moody form of electronic music for those outside the realms of pop’s rose-tinted glasses.
Sure, 'Dare' is a masterpiece and, when it comes down to it; it’s probably a better record than 'Reproduction'. But just because their debut didn’t aim for the charts, doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Whilst the music isn’t as hooky or digestible as it would grow to be; it is infinitely more interesting and thought-provoking. The opener 'Almost Medieval' pounds along with its despair filled beat and subtle background melodies to make one of the tensest tunes on the album, and despite the overall tone, one song managed to find its way onto the UK charts back in the day ('Empire State Human') - almost unbelievable considering its odd chorus: "Tall, tall, tall, I wanna be tall, tall, tall, as big as a wall, wall, wall".
Really, it’s a matter of taste. People who mainly enjoy, easy-to-stomach pop hooks and generic lyrics won’t see the appeal, and would be better off sticking with 'Dare', but those with a penchant for darker and more challenging music will find themselves a ground-breaking record which they might actually prefer to the pop-leaning tendencies on later 'League' albums. It’s best to approach these songs with an ear for curiosity. If you’re looking for a simple pop fix like you’d get with 'Dare', you’ll be disappointed, but if you’re looking to hear The Human League at their earliest and most artily inventive, 'Reproduction' might just delight more than you expect.

A New Kind Of Fetisch

FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! To translate a line from the rare ZickZack 12” single “Incubus Sucubus”, is how your first impression of Xmal Deutschland should sound like. A physical, rhythmic flirtation with a colossus that captures a raw, pulsating energy; a resonance that throbs and shudders with an acute, refreshing sense of being alive.
“Fetisch”, the album, harnesses enough of that resonance to be a vital post punk release, one of the few records that actually has some semblance of purpose, meaning and belonging in the present day. The 'mystery' which many reviewers have referred to stretches further than the simple exotica of their singing in a foreign tongue.  Thankfully some of these 'mysteries' are best left unsolved allowing a temptation to continue savouring the subject from a safe distance. But it is that allure again, that having to know what they’re banging on about, which draws one on.
While most West German post-punk and new wave bands of the early 80’s explored Atavism and Dadaism, Xmal Deutschland applied the dogma of German expressionism in dark-punk. Thus “Fetisch” is a mixture of gothic-rock, noise-rock, and electronic-rock; it is heavy, relentless, expressionistic and austere.  In the middle of all this pandemonium, only the lyricism of "Boomerang" provides the listener with temporary relief.

Like An Animal

The Glove's Blue Sunshine is a one-off collaboration between The Cure's Robert Smith and Siouxsie And The Banshees' Steven Severin which resulted in an eccentric, and at times incompatible, mix of psychedelic sounds wrapped around alternative '80s pop. Writers Smith and Severin's more eccentric tendencies are as likely to evoke pictures of a carnival as a funereal march, but the backbone rests largely on tightly constructed tunes with occasional forays into the experimental. Jeanette Landray sings the majority of the tracks, while Smith takes the lead twice amongst a smattering of instrumentals. Standout tracks include the Middle Eastern-twinged "Orgy" and the more conventional "Mouth to Mouth." Smith's distinctive warbling on the first-class "Perfect Murder" takes the album directly into Cure territory, as do the instrumentals which could equally find a home on Seventeen Seconds. While musically diverse, the album's lyrics rarely stray from the dual themes of death and sex, furthering the gothic undertones so often heard in Smith and Severin's previous work. Blue Sunshine's eclecticism makes this an interesting side note for long-time fans of the Cure and Siouxsie And the Banshees, but a somewhat more inaccessible listen for others. 

Scriptures of The Chameleons

With two years of incessant gigging and numerous radio sessions under their belts since their debut 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 breath taking 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, most overlooked, debut albums of all time.

Merry Christmas bloggers...Ho, Ho, Ho!!!

Well, it’s 6.00am on Christmas morning (don’t worry folks, I’ve preloaded this post) and I’m probably still fast asleep in bed…oh wait a minute, that’s highly unlikely, it’s Christmas Day FFS!!
I’ve been keeping myself busy preloading the blog with some Christmas Crackers that were in need of being re-upped. Every couple or three hours, during my daylight hours, there’s a corking re-up just quivering with the anticipation of being clicked on. The last post for Christmas Day will be the Record Store Day release that inspired the title of this wee blog.
Now that’s enough talk about today. May your fibre be broad and your pop-up blocker active.

Finally I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.


Midnight Of The Century

It’s become more apparent that today's young “New Wave” bands are more firmly rooted in the more streamlined post-punk side of the genre, almost as if they're reluctant to take the dark sound into the kind of over-the-top territory that the genre begs for. Which is why the debut album by Brooklyn's Blacklist is so damned refreshing. As if completely unafraid of the inevitable jeers from the condescending, ironic indie scenester crowd, they get it. Boasting production as huge as its many hooks, Midnight Of The Century might seem aimed at morose teens hidden away in their bedrooms, but its sights are set much higher, the arrangements brazenly going for a Killers style of stadium rock. You needn't look further than the first single, "Flight of the Demoiselles", either, a pulsating anthem that brilliantly channels the post-U2 wave of mid-'80s British bands (Simple Minds, the Alarm). While a bleak undercurrent lurks throughout the track, vocalist/guitarist Josh Strawn evokes the chilly, almost detached tones of Peter Murphy and Andrew Eldritch in his singing.
"Shock in the Hotel Falcon" might sound insistent, but it subtly builds up to a stirring climax over the course of nearly five minutes. The acoustic-tinged dream pop of "Odessa" immediately brings to mind the great, underrated American band For Against, while "Frontiers" audaciously dips its hands in mainstream pop. And even for all their pretensions, Blacklist show they're capable of more understated moments, nicely exemplified by the graceful "The Believer", which closes the album. Will they end up playing the kind of stadiums and arenas their music is suited for? Sadly, probably not. Though their opening shot might be patently uncool, there's absolutely nothing wrong with an indie band swinging for the fences. And indeed, these guys have knocked one out of the park on their first try.


Dirk Wore White Sox

The original Ants line-up released only one LP, Dirk Wears White Sox for Do It in 1979. The album finds a young Adam Ant exploring the sometimes awkward fusion of punk, glam, and minimalist post-punk with bizarre images and disturbing tales of alienation, sex, and brutality. While the somewhat pretentious, overly arty lyrics and inexperienced playing are a drawback, the album offers a fascinating look at the Ants' formative years, capturing a raw energy that would be sacrificed for a significantly more polished sound on subsequent releases. Dirk is a strange mix of abrasiveness and campy swagger. The good songs are staggeringly brilliant but there are times you're reminded that this is a debut effort and that immaturity bubbles to the surface no matter how many times you remaster the original tapes. Nonetheless, Dirk is an incredible starter for ten and no-one seemed safe from Adam’s venom should he choose to spit in your direction. The album abounds with playful exercises in articulated Art-Punk.  "Digital Tenderness" and "The Idea" both rely on sly, whipping, sub-tribal gymnastics that reveal exactly why drummer Dave Barbarossa and guitarist Matthew Ashman were being coveted and considered by Malcom McLaren as suitable pawns in furthering his newest exploits. As is well known, Malcolm McLaren briefly managed Adam and the Ants during this period before the transition to fame, infamously stealing the Ants from under Adam's nose after McLaren realized that Adam was too headstrong to submit completely to being Malcom's puppet. Fortunately, Malcolm left behind his ingenious ideas for a successful new image which incorporated themes of piracy and romantic colonialism supported by a soundtrack that was heavily informed by Burundi Black: an anthropological recording of a specific African tribal music that came to be known as 'Burundi Beat'.  The long, downwards slide towards crass embarrassment, irrelevance, insanity and death began THERE.


Global A Go-Go

In many ways, it's easiest to appreciate Joe Strummer's album Global a Go-Go if you forget that it was made by Joe Strummer. This isn't meant to insult the music in question, which is often engaging and always passionate, or suggest that it doesn't bear any significant signs of Strummer's personality; if you loved the syllable-drenched wordplay of songs like "The Magnificent Seven," "Lightning Strikes," or "Car Jamming," you're in for a treat, because here you get nearly a whole album of it. But if you're expecting the former leader of the Clash to be backed by two guitars, bass, and drums and playing something easily recognizable as rock & roll (not a difficult assumption to make) then you're flat out of luck. Best described as eccentric internationalist folk-rock, Global a Go-Go is dominated by acoustic instruments (Tymon Dogg, the fiddler from the Clash's "Loose This Skin," is all over this album like a pillowcase) and a wild gumbo of flavours from Africa, Latin America, and the West Indies, and while a few tunes have a prominent electric guitar (particularly "Cool 'n' Out"), most do not. And if you're hoping for lots of punk-wise sloganeering from the usually provocative Mr. Strummer, there isn't a great deal of that, either, though it's obvious from the Dylanesque density of his wordplay that Strummer's got a lot on his mind, and the one-world perspective that shines throughout is food for thought in itself, especially on the tasty "Bhindi Bhagee" and the globetrotting title cut. And while the epic instrumental "Minstrel Boy" wouldn't lead you to imagine it's the work of one of the great icons of punk rock, it at least proves Strummer is willing to mess with his audience's expectations, which is a very punk rock thing to do. Global a Go-Go is an intelligent and uniquely absorbing record, but listening to it is like eating sushi or escargot for the first time; knowing what it is might shape your expectations in the wrong direction.


Fascist Groove Thang

In 1981, the BBC banned Heaven 17’s debut single “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” on the grounds the song’s lyrics were possibly libellous to President Ronald Reagan. The couplet that caused the Beeb’s legal eagles such wrinkled brows was contained in the song’s third verse:
Reagan’s president elect… A fascist god in motion?
Now, this may all sound like the kind of poetry exercise Rick from The Young Ones might have concocted in his overheated imagination—indeed try saying the lyrics in your best Rick the People’s Poet voice and you’ll see what I mean… Let’s not forget, this was the 1980s, when the drum machine was king and the fictitious “Rick” was far closer to how many on the Left actually behaved than most would care to admit.
Even the language of student rebellion had changed little since the late 1960s: everyone was a “fascist,” “the pigs” were in charge, “the man” had his finger on the nuclear trigger and Armageddon was imminent. If you don’t believe me, just pick up any review, by say Angela Carter, from back then, and you’ll be hard pushed to get through more than a few paragraphs before the woe-is-me hand wringing fears of Baby Boomer nuclear annihilation is apparent.
“(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” was very much of its time, with the lyrics contain the expected tropes on racism, fascism, Adolf Hitler, nuclear war, cruise missiles and a call to “unlock that funky chain dance.” And to a man the nation asked, “Why hadn’t we thought of this before? Unlocking our funky chain dance to stop nuclear war?”
The BBC has always had a strange relationship with pop music. In 1969, they banned The Kinks’ song “Plastic Man” because it contained the word “bum,” (or “ass,” as Americans know it). Just a few years later in 1972, they were happily piping out Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” with its lines about “giving head” to the Beeb’s Radio 2 grey-haired Daily Mail-reading middle aged listeners.  Now, they were quaking that The Gipper might possibly, maybe, well you just never know, sue the bum off the Corporation for some rather juvenile political pop posturing? What would Rick have said?
Borrowed from “Dangerous Minds”

Now that wasn’t much of a review, was it? There may be some comparisons to the current key holder of the White House, Mr Trump, but what is that going to change? Nothing.

So did it live up to all the hype...Hell yes! This was one of the songs to own in 1981. Lifted from the funky Penthouse and Pavement album, Fascist Groove Thang indicated an altogether different direction both musically and socially from the prevailing New Romantic movement of the day. Precious little had suggested that Heaven 17’s first single would be a corking little number like this. Perhaps it hasn't weathered as well as it might, not least because the band raided the chart listings for the hip phrases of the day, so that it’s hard not to smirk slightly at lines like “hot your arse, I feel your power”, “come out your house and dance your dance”, and the very peculiar references to “brothers”, “sisters”. From the intro whipping up like a dervish into the lean, propulsive bass-line over which Glenn Gregory intones the pithy, sometimes hilarious lyrics, it's a great call to (dis)arms and a dynamite dance-track too. Still, you have to hand it to the boys for managing somehow to filter radical 70’s funk through their early 80’s Sheffield synth lab and come up with something this stirring.



This L.A.-based band (originally hailing from San Francisco) came along just when they were needed most. This self-produced major-label debut boldly plunders a reverb-and-white noise course previously trampled underfoot by long-gone British bands of the late '80s and early '90s (The Jesus & Mary Chain, Verve, Ride, The Stone Roses, etc.). It all sounds very British, on many levels; despite the fact that only one band member is an Englishman living in exile in the States. On some songs, however, the driving, over-amped guitars (often buzzing with "VU needles-in-the-red"-type feedback) and pounding drums have a swaggering primeval feel that rivals solid Detroit rock outfits, both old and new (including the Stooges and the Go, to name two). A few tracks have dark, introspective lyrics, with subjects like impending death ("Rifles") at their heart, while others have a positive, more uplifting feel ("Salvation"), but it's really the group's cohesive, solid production overall that captures a shoegazing, blustery rock vibe not heard for nearly a decade or more. Highlights abound on this astonishing disc, including the bitter opening salvo, "Love Burns," the diaphanous space pop of "Too Real," and the flurry of buzzsaw guitar scree that is "Whatever Happened to My Rock n' Roll (Punk Song)," a track recalling the manic intensity of the Stooges circa Fun House.



Apart from a single, overlooked Virgin reissue around 2000 and scattered compilations, most of the music here hasn't been available almost since it was initially released, and certainly The Crackdown alone will serve to change some opinions of the Cabs' tenure in the majors. Indeed, if the record takes a step back from the sprawling experimental tracks of 2x45 or Three Mantras, it does so by harking back to the shorter song lengths of their earlier albums. The dub influence is back to the fore, as are weird, tinny reggae horns, both of the synthesised and acoustic variety. The production is noticeably cleaner than their underfinanced independent recordings, but it's hardly less dark, and the added clarity serves to show off the diverse, layered productions, which draw equally from dub, funk, and early electro. Mallinder's vocals are easier to cipher than they had been before, but the pop tones they would later take on are evident on a few tracks from the album: the title track, 'Taking Time', 'Animation' and the cynically comical 'Why Kill Time (When You Can Kill Yourself)'. Much of the rest would not sound out of place on Red Mecca, but benefits from more transparent production, while the lyrical themes remain as fragmented and inscrutably bleak as ever. The album's second half mostly finds them sounding very recognisably like their earlier selves, especially the closing trio of sinister nearly-ambient works and prominent swaths of horns by Kirk.

Can't Cheat Karma Again

A pleasant request for a re-up won't be refused during December...

So if you've got that burning itch, don't hesitate!

Putting Out Fire With Gasoline

Zounds, an anarchist peace punk band, unfortunately labelled as part of the Crass collective (Penny Rimbaud produced their début EP, while Eve Libertine designed their sleeves) forswore their mentors’ deliberately primitive noise punk style in favour of a much cleaner, almost pop sound. Knowing this, it may surprise you that Zounds are unlike anything you've ever heard before. They shared Crass’ political views, but their sound blended punk and new-wave and their lyrics were much more subtle and haunting. They never appeared to be as angry but they certainly were. It takes a different mindset to appreciate Zounds. Now that being said, can I honestly put The Curse of Zounds in the same stylistic ballpark as many of the Factory Records bands of the era?
Singer/songwriter Steve Lake's prominent basslines power the songs in the familiar post-Joy Division fashion, while Lawrence Wood and Nick Godwin's chunky guitar lines skitter around in a style reminiscent of the Au Pairs and Gang of Four. Lyrically provocative without descending into the usual cheap sloganeering, Lake's lyrics are engaging and sometimes quite funny, while the music is sure to appeal to any fan of British post-punk.
The cover art for The Curse Of Zounds has always been one of my favourites. It helps to own it because you need to look at the front side, then flip it over to the back. Simultaneously funny, smart and relevant, and we haven't even started the album yet. The cover sets the scene for the brilliance to come.
Why this album isn't regarded as an essential is beyond me. If it were up to me, Zounds would be the definitive anarcho band and The Curse Of Zounds a punk classic. No matter who you are, whatever you listen to, The Curse Of Zounds will speak to you in some way. It may make you cry, it may make you hate everyone, but it will affect you. Punk doesn't get much better than this.

Somesay Again

Beginning his many varied Wah! career in 1979 as Wah! Heat with the outstanding single Better Scream, Pete Wylie was setting the bar high. The subsequent follow up in the spring of 1980 of Seven Minutes To Midnight (becoming single of the week in NME, Sounds and Melody Maker) didn’t let the bar drop, it raised it higher. So suggesting that Pete Wylie's first album as Wah! is his finest work, could be asking for trouble. Filled to the brim with passionate post-punk and blitzkrieg funk that holds an impressive level of focused intensity from front to back, Nah = Poo – The Art Of Bluff is no doubt the result of having listened to Clash records over and over and over and over again. There's little of the Clash's melodic sensibility to be found here though, memorable guitar riffs might not be evident either, but there's an infectiously blistered pace to the proceedings, if a bit overbearingly shouty and mushy mixing-wise. Wylie sing-shouts every track on the album with a ferocious vigour, which in turn gives the album a rare sense of immediacy. Wah! literally sounds like they're playing with the knowledge that there will be no tomorrow. Off to an iffy start, tribal drums and from the depths vocals on "The Wind Up" do exactly that. One gets wound up because they want the record to actually start. Maybe that was the point. After that, it refuses to let up, kicked off by the "Do It Clean"-meets-"Break on Through" of "Other Boys." An album sequenced for maximum impact, instrumental "The Seven Thousand Names of Wah!" (no kidding) sets the table for "Seven Minutes to Midnight," Wah!'s signature song. The instrumental serves the same purpose as Mission of Burma barnburners like "Secrets" and "All World Cowboy Romance," holding together the rest of the album's songs while upping the intensity to yet another level (as if it needed upping). 

The Faculties Of A RE-Broken Heart

Produced by Wire's Colin Newman, If I Die, I Die is Virgin Prunes' proper début album. The album's 14 tracks are the epitome of post-punk adventurism. Here, tribal drums and edgy, spooky, detuned guitars and bouzoukis cross paths and meld with synthesizers and primitive drum machines in an onslaught of off-kilter creativity where everyone from the Fall, PiL, New Order, Siouxsie And the Banshees, and even Bruce Springsteen are called in for reference in a brew that is dangerous, primal, and excessive. Two androgynous frontmen in the foppish Gavin Friday and alluring Guggi create alternate ambiances from warped yet sweet Irish balladry to shrieked poetry. And while the set is messy to be sure, it is far from off-putting. In fact, it is easily the band's most consistent and enduring effort. The albums opens with the haunting, nocturnal minimalism of "Ulankulot," an intro with tom toms and drifting keyboards layered carefully in the background, wordless chanted backing vocals and an electric bouzouki courtesy of guitarist Dik. It immediately gives way to its antecedent "Decline Sand Fall." It's the same tune, only Friday is out in front of it digging deep into the temporality of childhood and what remains of it. Its effect is startling, nocturnal, and tense. In "Sweethome Under White Clouds," the theme is given dimension as Guggi and Friday wail like muzzeins over a reverbed guitar coming from the netherworld and augmented by a soprano saxophone and a synth bassline.
"Pagan Lovesong," the album's proper single, is one of the most angular cuts on the set. Here, the Prunes employ a riff straight out of early Gang of Four, chant their refrains, and swirl the keyboards and drum machines à la Devo yet keep everything so gothic and strange; it's not only compelling, it's infectious. The rest of the album follows suit, with the raucous new wave of "Baby Turns Blue," and the mainstream rockist "Ballad of the Man" that sounds like a wrong-speed outtake, Springsteen's The River and the Mott the Hoople version of "Sweet Jane!" This is a wonderfully confounding and sometimes campy and often disturbing exercise in unfettered creativity that has stood the test of time very well. It is the most necessary Virgin Prunes record of all and captures best what they were capable of when focused.