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.


Oh Well, Whatever...

Due to a take down notice the links have been deleted...

Nevermind was never meant to change the world, but you can never predict when the Zeitgeist will hit, and Nirvana's second album turned out to be the place where alternative rock crashed into the mainstream. This wasn't entirely an accident, either, since Nirvana did sign with a major label, and they did release a record with a shiny surface, no matter how humongous the guitars sounded. And, yes, Nevermind is probably a little shinier than it should be, positively glistening with echo and fuzzbox distortion, especially when compared with the black-and-white murk of Bleach. This doesn't discount the record, since it's not only much harder than any mainstream rock of 1991, its character isn't on the surface, it's in the exhilaratingly raw music and haunting songs. Kurt Cobain's personal problems and subsequent suicide naturally deepen the dark undercurrents, but no matter how much anguish there is on Nevermind, it's bracing because he exorcises those demons through his evocative wordplay and mangled screams -- and because the band has a tremendous, unbridled power that transcends the pain, turning into pure catharsis. And that's as key to the record's success as Cobain's songwriting, since Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl help turn this into music that is gripping, powerful, and even fun (and, really, there's no other way to characterize "Territorial Pissings" or the surging "Breed"). In retrospect, Nevermind may seem a little too unassuming for its mythic status -- it's simply a great modern punk record -- but even though it may no longer seem life-changing, it is certainly life-affirming, which may just be better.

It has been 25 years since Kurt Cobain and company revitalised an increasingly moribund rock genre with their breakout grunge masterpiece. Perusing the original inner-sleeve photos, it immediately strikes me that Cobain is more smiling, podgy and playful than his reconfigured image as a doomed and tortured artist allows. There is a mischievousness to Nevermind, immediately apparent on the album cover photo of a baby swimming after a dollar bill on a hook. But there is anger too, and sadness at the corruption of innocence, emotions which surge out of the speakers in the thrilling electric charge of Smells Like Teen Spirit.
The elusive yet somehow tangible truths in Cobain’s songwriting are located in the sound and the fury, the hurting tone of his voice, the alternately deadpan introversion and raw rage of his delivery. Addressing (and rebelling against) generational despair, Nirvana perform as if it is a matter of life and death, which retrospect tells us it really was.
The songs remain the same, boiling rock’s colours down to something almost monochrome, primal and essential. Nirvana cut through the self-consciousness of Eighties rock with the pop nous of Abba. These songs are short, melodic and hook-laden, performed with distilled economy by a perfectly balanced power trio. Krist Novoselic’s bass lines are liquid and mesmerising, Dave Grohl’s drums are frenzied yet direct, the grungy fuzz of Cobain’s rhythm guitar is adorned by elegant, fluid lead motifs. Much was made of the group’s loud/quiet dynamic, but their simple template embodies a world of contrasts: intimate and expansive, melancholic and furious, deep and meaningless. And Cobain’s voice carries us through his complex interior world like a spirit guide.
It’s an album undiminished by time, which can still make me want to throw myself around an imaginary mosh pit or curl up in a fetal ball.

How the music scene could do with something like this right now.


Punk's Not Dead

Originally issued in 1981, Punks Not Dead was the Exploited's first full-length album. They'd issued singles like "Army Life" and "Exploited Barmy Army" previously, and those were re-recorded for what was hailed and/or reviled as a jagged, messy, and more aggressive reaction to the punk "establishment" of the time. The mix of hate and love toward the Exploited was fine by vocalist Wattie Buchan and his revolving cast of bandmembers -- they just wanted a reaction, to get people to really listen. Tracks like "S.P.G.," "Out of Control," and "I Believe in Anarchy" were mush-mouthed dynamos of chanting, ranting, and ragged song structure, early templates of the U.S. hardcore scene to come.

Take a moment and think of how many times you've heard, read or even come across the phrase “Punk's not Dead”. Interesting how it has become one of the most passed around sayings of the last three decades, yet the debut album of the same name by The Exploited still seems to be very much underrated in a world that nowadays regards bands such as Green Day and Blink 182 as 100% Punk Rock. A phrase that very often arrives in many topical conversations regarding the state of politics, the significance of the Punk Rock genre as a whole or even the riotous speeches and righteous riots that many an angered, political individual would perform.
Put simply, The Exploited's first album is perfect evidence of a band being so much more influential in terms of their concept than the music itself. Thirty odd minutes of simple, fast paced, furious Punk Rock may not sound much to the common listener, but it's with these thirty minutes and seventeen songs that “Punk's not Dead” is surely proved to be a worthwhile album. Comprised of no other than an aggressive ex-soldier from Scotland in Wattie Buchan, alongside three other equally as “politically correct” musicians who barely sound as if they so much as knew what the names of their respective instruments were, The Exploited began as a political statement. That statement can safely be summed up thusly:


Whatever you would expect from a Punk Rock album released in 1981 can probably be found in spades on this particular album, as it is musically one of the simplest and unsophisticated releases ever made. However, it is also a very organic and live-sounding record. Right from the opening title track, rowdy chants of a menacing yet youthful following of the band literally take place of the guitars, drums and bass work, until a chainsaw riff cuts through your ears as easily as a knife would through butter. This, if you haven't yet worked out, is indeed the staple of The Exploited's sound. Every one of the following sixteen songs generally follows in the same way, and for every change in tempo or every lyric that includes the well known 'F' word, there is always innocent, youthful banter between each member of the band or even a devoted fan of Punk Rock.
Lyrically speaking, it both sounds and reads as if a six-year old could have done it easily, but at the same time, all you need to do is look at this album's title, and discover the answer to that question, or the solution to whatever problem or quip you might have. In the very satirical 'Royalty' Buchan orders you to “Sign me a picture of the queen now/Dirty little Bitch, fucking little Cow”, whereas in the equally as aggressive “Son of a Copper” all known innocence of any individual is scoured when Wattie spits out “I won't end up like my Dad/And I won't end up being a Screw/Working with animals in a Zoo”. As said before, these could be advantages or disadvantages to any budding listener, but it is the idea that this album is nothing more than staple of classic Punk Rock, and quite rightfully so. Even when songs such as 'Exploited barmy Army' and 'Sex and Violence' literally depend on out of control repetition of their respective song titles, it works in such a way that, although hard to forget, can be forgiven when reviewing this album professionally. This may well be part of the fact that not only Wattie Buchan, but also every other member of the band contributes to vocals, whether it is the soulful group shouting/singing/screaming or the sole example of any member's voice. It's all heartfelt (!), menacing stuff, but it's stuff that manages to stay directly in contact with the 'Back-to-Basics' approach of playing Punk Rock.
The instruments themselves however are probably the main problem here. It's not exactly a well concealed fact that the band had tried to emulate the rawness of albums such as “Never Mind The Bollocks” or The Clash's self-titled debut, but “Punk's Not Dead” could well have benefited more from a clearer and more definitive approach to practising instruments more than was perceived upon the album's release. For instance, the guitar work, whilst it does have a couple of tempo changes, never really attempts to show off to the listener with its plain existence, whereas the bass is more than just a little prominent. As well as this, the bass proves its worth on the album by introducing many of the album's tracks in 'Mucky Pup' and 'Free Flight', the latter of which basically centres around the instrument's performance.
The only other thing that hasn't been said so far about the album is the significance of the song structures themselves. The song structures in “Punk's Not Dead” can be perceived as a 'Love/Hate' relationship by each respective listener. Whereas the more straightforward, battering ram approach of 'Cop Cars', 'Army Life' (an ode to Wattie Buchan's life prior to The Exploited) and 'Blown to Bits' constantly impresses those who lust for classic Punk, the more tense likes of 'Dole Q' and the extremely sinister 'Out of Control' serve as two of the album's true highlights, offering not only an unsettling sound but also a deviation from the norm. However, the last point simply points towards the fact that whereas some listeners love this difference in structure, others may be disinterested simply because of the fact that they are used to short bursts of Punk Rock, speeding along at eighty miles per hour.
If ever you wanted to know just why the phrase “Punk's not Dead” is thrown around as much as it is, this album is definitively the answer. An erratic and chaotic collection of simplistic Punk Rock tunes, some sub-par, some above average, it is something that has been on this planet for the last thirty years, and has played a wonderful yet somewhat unnoticed part within three, perhaps, four decades of fast paced, furious and politically charged Punk. This album is honestly for everyone to listen to, but may only be kept like a prized possession by those who love and strive for the very existence of Punk Rock.


Never Mind The Bollocks Anniversary

While mostly accurate, dismissing Never Mind the Bollocks as merely a series of loud, ragged midtempo rockers with a harsh, grating vocalist and not much melody would be a terrible error. Already anthemic songs are rendered positively transcendent by Johnny Rotten's rabid, foaming delivery. His bitterly sarcastic attacks on pretentious affectation and the very foundations of British society were all carried out in the most confrontational, impolite manner possible. Most imitators of the Pistols' angry nihilism missed the point: underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact. Never Mind the Bollocks perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment, a spirit quick to translate itself to strictly rock & roll terms. The Pistols paved the way for countless other bands to make similarly rebellious statements, but arguably none were as daring or effective. It's easy to see how the band's roaring energy, overwhelmingly snotty attitude, and Rotten's furious ranting sparked a musical revolution, and those qualities haven't diminished one bit over time. Never Mind the Bollocks is simply one of the greatest, most inspiring rock records of all time.

In the summer of 1977 the UK was gripped with unprecedented patriotic fervour, with street parties being held up and down the country in celebration of the Queen’s 25th anniversary rule (her Silver Jubilee). Into this pandemic outpouring of joy, this euphoric coming together of the nation, stepped a man with green hair, rotten teeth and an “I hate Pink Floyd” t-shirt; who promptly gobbed on the home-made cakes, pissed in the lemonade shandies and tore the flags of his benevolent ruler into tiny little pieces.
In one sense Johnny Rotten was the typical teenager, with his desperate desire to shock, such as the gleeful stressing of “c*nt” in Pretty Vacant and the gratuitous swearing in Bodies. Except that most teenagers are obsessed one way or another with sex, whereas Rotten seems strangely asexual. He doesn’t write about love and relationships. In fact he even had a massive hit with a song saying exactly that (This is Not A Love Song - Public Image Ltd).
His sneering take on the national anthem (“God Save The Queen and her fascist regime”) was considered so subversive, the BBC had to rig the charts (really!) to keep it off the no.1 spot. The Sex Pistols had already caused pandemonium with their debut single Anarchy in the UK, causing questions to be asked in Parliament and the national newspapers. The furore forced EMI and then A&M to dismiss them from their recording contract and the BBC to ban them from the airwaves. A record shop that sold the single was prosecuted for indecency.
Listening to the record now, it is surprisingly good. Despite what you may have heard, they sure can play. Steve Jones guitar evokes Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls. Paul Cook’s drumming keeps everything tight. Matlock’s songwriting has plenty enough melodies. With the exception of Sub-mission, the songs are played at two paces: fast and even faster, recalling the Ramones. But it is the iconoclastic Johnny Rotten who single-handedly spawns the UK punk movement; his lyrics spewing all forms of bile and vitriol, dripping with confrontation and screaming defiance.

Before the Sex Pistols, there was heavy metal, rock operas, glam rock and prog rock: all various forms of musical escapism. Yet thirty years after World War II, the country still writhed not just in economic disorder but social disarray, with unresolved issues such as mass immigration, welfare dependency, terrorism and cold war paranoia. Johnny Rotten returns us to earth with a bump, espousing a basic humanist philosophy, an articulate and eloquent diatribe on a post war dream gone wrong:
“You won’t find me working 9 to 5. It’s too much fun being alive. I’m using my feet for my human machine. You won’t find me living for the screen. Are you lonely? All your needs catered? You got your brains dehydrated!” (Problems)
What Rotten is concerned with is the here and now. He attacks all types of invocations to higher powers including God (“I kick you in the brains when you pray to your god” (No Feelings), political institutions (God Save The Queen) and business corporations (EMI). But more specifically he also attacks all forms of escapism (Holiday In The Sun), whether it be drugs (New York), moral mendacity (Liar), indolence (Seventeen) or intellectual pretension (Pretty Vacant). Above all else he urges the primacy of life, forever posing the question: what is a human being? Are we “morons”; “faggots”; “fools”; “stupid people”; “flowers in the dustbin”; “animals”? The genuinely disturbing Bodies reduces the matter of humanity to its barest of bones:
“Die little baby screaming! Body screaming f*cking bloody mess!
Not an animal, it's an abortion! Body! I'm not animal!
Mummy I'm not an abortion.” (Bodies)

This album represented a call to arms of the nation that was far more empowering than any Silver Jubilee. Think of all the bands that were formed on this premise that music was about emotion, not technical proficiency: knowing three chords was sufficient. Think of all the fanzines that sprung up to describe these bands and the independent record labels formed. It wasn’t just the birth of a punk movement and its splinter groups. A whole series of radicalised and energised music movements broke out, grounded in realism and humanism, such as Ska (The Specials), Skinhead (Madness), Mod (The Jam), Rockabilly (The Polecats), New Wave (Elvis Costello), Post Punk (Joy Division), even Folk (Billy Bragg) and Irish Folk music (The Pogues); all defiant, confrontational and politicised; and all revering the Sex Pistols.
Don’t let yourself be fooled by Malcolm McLaren, the band’s avaricious and rent-a-quote manager, that the Sex Pistols were some kind of social experiment that he had fabricated. He was just hanging on to their coat-tails, milking the phenomenon for all it was worth. His subsequent interventions, such as his mockumentary “The great rock and roll swindle”, his replacement of Matlock with Vicious (as bass player), of Rotten with Vicious (as lead vocalist), of Vicious with Ronnie Biggs (a notorious career criminal), were woeful. Despite recording only one album and four singles, the impact of the Sex Pistols was phenomenal.