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.


New Hope For The Wretched

You can't put an exploding car or a television that's been smashed to bits inside a record sleeve, which sums up the problem the Plasmatics had in capturing their appeal on vinyl -- so much of the band's initial reputation was based on their frantic and destructive live show, and divorced from the images, their first album, New Hope for the Wretched, simply had to get by on the band's music, which was a bit of a stretch. As musicians, the Plasmatics were tight and not without imagination; their attack suggests guys who had been playing metal or hard rock who figured this punk rock stuff was going to be the next big thing, but rather than disguise their roots, guitarists Richie Stotts and Wes Beech were more than willing to let their doom struck metal influences shine through on the instrumental breaks to tunes like "Monkey Suit" and "Concrete Shoes," and parts of New Hope suggest thrash metal arriving a few years early. However, as songwriters Stotts, Beech, and Rod Swenson (the band's manager and idea guy) didn't have all that much to say and not an especially compelling way of saying it. Stylistically, New Hope for the Wretched keeps going around in circles until it finally wears a groove into the floor, and the album's real weak spot is lead singer Wendy O. Williams, who hadn't been singing very long and delivers most of these tunes in a guttural bleat that suggests Stiv Bators with a mouthful of Novocain; she may well have known what to do on-stage, but in the studio her weaknesses were obvious and unavoidable. And while the album's great musical experiment -- the middle section of "Dream Lover," during which the musicians could neither see nor hear one another -- may have been an interesting idea, the results suggest a roomful of college freshmen making their first stab at forming a noise band. A bit like Kiss' first three albums, New Hope for the Wretched is the work of a band struggling to make the excitement of their stage show work in the studio and falling short of the mark, though there are a few moments where the Plasmatics manage to get over on sheer sneering energy, one quality the microphones were able to capture.


The Plasmatics received a lot of mainstream press compared to most punk bands of their era due largely to their over the top stage show and the provocative attire of lead singer Wendy O. Williams. Wendy often performed topless with only a piece of electrical tape covering her nipples. She had a really butch, gruff voice but as feminine of a body as it comes and the band’s shows were something of legend. A Plasmatics show was visual overload where Wendy would take a chainsaw to anything in reach and cut it up (often guitars) and she’d even blow things up as well. All of this was happening while they were playing their fast-paced punk rock. They took punk rock and mixed it with performance art and there wasn’t really anyone else doing anything like it at the time.
My first exposure to the band came thanks to their ability to get some mainstream press. I read an article about the band and was enamoured with the photos of the band which depicted Wendy destroying things on stage. It was mesmerizing to say the least and I wouldn’t even hear their music for another year or so. When I finally did hear their first album, New Hope For the Wretched, I was pretty blown away by it as punk rock was very new to me at that time and very exciting. Their music was fast and powerful and their songs were mostly on the shorter side of the spectrum and this charismatic lead singer of theirs had such a gruff voice that was delivered in grunts that she almost sounded like a guy. That album has been in regular rotation for me for decades now and it is weird that they don’t get talked about by many people these days in comparison to the other bands of that era. In the modern-day they are overlooked and I’ve yet to see this album come up in any of those “best punk album” listicles you see all over the internet that are written by people who weren’t even born when records like this were released but somehow feel qualified to make a list and try to pass it off as gospel. In a list of best punk albums, the first Plasmatics album would certainly make the cut. I think it has held up well and is pretty timeless. It also beats the hell out of any modern mainstream or even punk music.


Act Like Manure

It’s been a few months, almost half a year and I’m making a limited comeback. No promises, I’m either here or I’m somewhere else in the world, obviously.

SO, Alternative from that Bonnie Scotland place where I was raised. Pretty fucked up again with the local politics that I left behind 20 years ago. For all the moving forward that we do as a society, some people think that they know what everyone else wants, they go into the world of politics and fuck it all up for everyone. So, is there a place in the world for bands like Alternative again? Have these bands ever completely disappeared? Loosely based on the countdown to 1984, Big Brother and the state control that never came, (or did it?).
I had seen 19 summers in 84 and now I've seen 52 and the world has changed a great deal in those 33 years, the fact that I can write this, post it and you’ve read it, means that even today I can still type the slogans and bite sized clichés that were so relevant then and they’ll fit into today’s political landscape.

But that’s not what you’re hear for!

In retrospect Alternative wasn’t the best choice for an opening salvo as there isn’t much written up about them, but there is a place you can visit, read about and download everything they’ve ever recorded.  I’ve copied some of the words relating to the In Nomine Patri single on Crass Records and the If They Treat You Like Shit LP on Corpus Christi 

In Nomine Patri 7” EP
Recorded at Southern Studios by John Loder, the main thrust of the EP was the potent 'Anti-Christ', a powerful statement opening with the unforgettable metaphor, 'I came out of the warm womb into a world of fear and hopelessness, I was given the gift of life, but the package of this gift was opened by someone else...' It spent three months in the Independent Charts, peaking impressively at No. 6, and Alternative played many shows, not only with local bands such as Patrol, UK Anarchists and Why?, but also with the bigger acts such as Crass, Flux Of Pink Indians, Poison Girls, The System and The Mob whenever they ventured north of the border to tour Scotland.

If They Treat You Like Shit... Act Like Manure
Recorded again at Southern, only this time with Pete Wright of Crass overseeing production duties (he also contributed some backing vocals, alongside Annie Anxiety, to 'Til Death Do You Part'), the album was an accomplished collection of memorable and provocative protest songs. From the up-tempo - not to mention, sarcastic - opener, 'Another Subversive Peace Song', reminiscent of Conflict at the height of their powers, to the mournful melodies of 'Now I Realise', the album still stands as fine tribute to a criminally-overlooked band that commanded tremendous compositional skills. By far the most poignant song on the LP, 'Caroline's Carnival' addressed the abduction - and subsequent killing - of five-year-old Caroline Hogg from Portobello, near Edinburgh, on July 18th, 1983. The murder went unsolved until, in 1994, paedophile serial killer Robert Black was convicted and sentenced to ten consecutive life sentences for the heinous crime. Linda's sombre intoning, 'Listen a while, just listen, to the screams of little girls, incestuously loved...', still resonates with hair-raising pathos. Elsewhere on the album, she achieved the terrified, breathless vocals on 'Death Isn't So Sweet' (about the plight of a hunted fox) by sprinting around the studio several times before attempting her take.

A decently varied anarchopunk album that genre fans should enjoy, but it also welcomes outsiders.


Raw Power

In 1972, the Stooges were near the point of collapse when David Bowie's management team, MainMan, took a chance on the band at Bowie's behest. By this point, guitarist Ron Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander had been edged out of the picture, and James Williamson had signed on as Iggy's new guitar mangler; Ron Asheton re-joined the band shortly before recording commenced on Raw Power, but was forced to play second fiddle to Williamson as bassist. By most accounts, tensions were high during the recording of Raw Power, and the album sounds like the work of a band on its last legs -- though rather than grinding to a halt, Iggy & the Stooges appeared ready to explode like an ammunition dump. From a technical standpoint, Williamson was a more gifted guitar player than Asheton (not that that was ever the point), but his sheets of metallic fuzz were still more basic (and punishing) than what anyone was used to in 1973, while Ron Asheton played his bass like a weapon of revenge, and his brother Scott Asheton remained a powerhouse behind the drums. But the most remarkable change came from the singer; Raw Power revealed Iggy as a howling, smirking, lunatic genius. Whether quietly brooding ("Gimme Danger") or inviting the apocalypse ("Search and Destroy"), Iggy had never sounded quite so focused as he did here, and his lyrics displayed an intensity that was more than a bit disquieting. In many ways, almost all Raw Power has in common with the two Stooges albums that preceded it is its primal sound, but while the Stooges once sounded like the wildest (and weirdest) gang in town, Raw Power found them heavily armed and ready to destroy the world -- that is, if they didn't destroy themselves first. 

The Ig. Nobody does it better, nobody does it worse and nobody does it, period. Others tiptoe around the edges, make little running starts and half-hearted passes; but when you're talking about the O mind, the very central eye of the universe that opens up like a huge, gaping, suckling maw, step aside for the Stooges.
They hadn't appeared on record since the Funhouse of two plus years before. For a while, it didn't look as if they were ever going to get close again. The band shuffled personnel like a deck of cards, their record company exhibited a classic loss of faith, drugs and depression took inevitable tolls. At their last performance in New York, the nightly highlight centred around Iggy choking and throwing up onstage, only to encore quoting Renfield from Dracula: "Flies," and whose mad orbs could say it any better, "big juicy flies ... and spiders...."
Well, we all have our little lapses, don't we? With Raw Power, the Stooges return with a vengeance, exhibiting all the ferocity that characterized them at their livid best, offering a taste of the TV eye to anyone with nerve enough to put their money where their lower jaw flaps. There are no compromises, no attempts to soothe or play games in the hopes of expanding into a fabled wider audience. Raw Power is the pot of quicksand at the end of the rainbow, and if that doesn't sound attractive, then you've been living on borrowed time for far too long.
It's not an easy album, by any means. Hovering around the same kind of rough, unfinished quality reminiscent of the Velvets' White Light/White Heat, the record seems caught in jagged pinpoints, at times harsh, at others abrupt. Even the "love" songs here, Iggy crooning in a voice achingly close to Jim Morrison's, seem somehow perverse, covered with spittle and leer: "Gimme Danger, little stranger," preferably with the lights turned low, so "I can feeeel your disease."
The band is a motherhumper. Ron Asheton has switched over to bass, joining brother Scott in the rhythm section, while James Williamson has taken charge of lead; the power trio that this brings off has to be heard to be believed. For the first time, the Stooges have used the recording studio as more than a recapturing of their live show, and with David Bowie helping out in the mix, there is an ongoing swirl of sound that virtually drags you into the speakers, guitars rising and falling, drums edging forward and then toppling back into the morass. Iggy similarly benefits, double and even triple-tracked, his voice covering a range of frequencies only an (I wanna be your) dog could properly appreciate, arch-punk over tattling sniveler over chewed microphone.
Given material, it's the only way. The record opens with "Search And Destroy," Vietnamese images ricocheting off the hollow explosions of Scott's snare, Iggy secure in his role of GI pawn as "the world's most forgotten boy," looking for "love in the middle of a fire fight." Meaning you're handed a job and you do it, right? Yes, but then "Gimme Danger" slithers along, letting you know through its obsequiously mellow acoustic guitar and slippery violin-like lead that maybe he actually likes walking that tightrope between heaven and the snakepit below, where the false step can't be recalled and the only satisfaction lies in calling your opponent's bluff and watching him fold from there. Soundtrack music for a chicken run, and will it be your sleeve that gets caught on the door handle? Hmmmm ...
Cut to "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell," first called "Hard To Beat" and the original title ditched in favour of Funhouse's "1970." If it didn't seem like such a relic of the past, the Grande Ballroom would have to be resurrected for this one, high-tailing it all the way from Iggy's opening Awright! through James' hot-wired guitar to a lavish, lovingly extended coda which will probably be Iggy's cue to trot around the audience when they ultimately bring it onstage. "Penetration" closes off the side, the Stooges at their most sensual, lapping at the old in-out in a hypnotic manner that might even have a crack at the singles games, Clive and Columbia's promotion men willing.
"Raw Power" flips the record over, and the title track is a sure sign that things aren't about to cool down. "Raw Power is a boilin' soul/Got a son called rock 'n' roll," and when was the last time you heard anything like that? "I Need Somebody" builds from a vague "St. James Infirmary" resemblance to neatly counterpoint "Gimme Danger," Iggy on his best behaviour here, while "Shake Appeal" is the throwaway, basically a half-developed riff boosted by a nice performance, great guitar break, and some on-the-beam handclaps. Leaving the remains for "Death Trip" to finish off, the only logical follow-up to "L.A. Blues" and all that came after, crawl on your belly down the long line of bespattered history as the world shudders to its final apocryphal release.
I never drink ... wine.


James Williamson – Re-Licked

James Williamson's feral guitar work on Iggy & the Stooges' epochal Raw Power in 1973 has proven to be wildly influential with the passage of time, but it's also the sole basis for his legend in the minds of many fans. While Williamson collaborated with Iggy Pop on the fine Kill City album (released in 1976), and he produced Pop's 1979 effort New Values, the trail of his career goes cold after that. To take him at his word, Williamson had barely even picked up a guitar for 25 years after he quit rock & roll to study engineering in 1980, and before he reunited with the Stooges in 2009 following the death of original guitarist Ron Asheton. Presumably interested in reaffirming his musical legacy (and with the Stooges on hiatus after the death of drummer Scott Asheton), Williamson returned to a fascinating but often overlooked body of work -- the songs he and Pop wrote and demoed for the projected follow-up to Raw Power that was scrapped when Columbia dropped the band. These songs have appeared on a remarkable number of bootleg and semi-authorized albums, but Williamson decided to re-record them on the album Re-Licked, with a battalion of guest vocalists taking the place of Pop, who declined to participate in the project. In promotional interviews, Williamson says he hated hearing the sound of the various releases of the demos (ironically, it's widely reported that the sources for most of those bootlegs were tapes Williamson himself sold to small labels when he was in dire financial circumstances), and by comparison, Re-Licked sounds big, bold, and glossy, with the full-bodied production and mix those demos (and Raw Power) lacked. Williamson used two core bands on Re-Licked, one anchored by Mike Watt on bass and Toby Dammit on drums (who played on the Stooges live dates in support of 2013's Ready to Die), the other featuring bassist Simone Marie Butler (from Primal Scream) and drummer Michael Urbano; both are capable and drive the songs well, and Williamson's guitar work is as good as ever from a technical standpoint. But Williamson's leads lack the edgy fire he brought to his mid-'70s demos, and no amount of engineering talent can compensate for that. More importantly, Williamson may have written this music, but Iggy Pop wrote the lyrics, and though there are a handful of good to great singers on board here -- including Mark Lanegan, Gary Floyd, Bobby Gillespie, Lisa Kekaula, Nicke Andersson, and Jello Biafra -- none of them match the lunatic intensity Iggy gave these songs, and the sonically challenged bootlegs of "Head On," "Scene of the Crime," and "I Got a Right" still pack more rock & roll snazz than these new versions. James Williamson has every right in the world to take another shot at these songs, but Re-Licked falls short of the grubby magic of those buzzy demos he recorded so long ago.

Kill City (Re-Upped)

To say Iggy Pop had hit bottom in 1975 is an understatement; after the final collapse of the Stooges, Iggy sank deep into drug addiction and depression, and he eventually checked himself into a mental hospital in a desperate effort to get himself clean and functional again. At the same time, James Williamson, his guitarist and writing partner in the last edition of the Stooges, still believed their collaboration had some life in it, and he talked his way into Jimmy Webb's home studio to record demos in hopes of scoring a record deal. Iggy checked out of the hospital for a weekend to cut vocal tracks, and while the demos they made were quite good, no record companies were willing to take a chance on them. The tapes sat unnoticed until 1977, when Bomp! Records issued the 1975 demos under the title Kill City after Iggy launched a comeback with the David Bowie-produced The Idiot. Kill City never hits as hard as the manic roar of the Stooges' Raw Power, but the songs are very good, and the album's more measured approach suits the dark, honest tone of the material. The sense of defeat that runs through "Sell Your Love," "I Got Nothin'," and "No Sense of Crime" was doubtless a mirror of Iggy's state of mind, but he expressed his agony with blunt eloquence, and his sneering rejection of the Hollywood street scene in "Lucky Monkeys" is all the more cutting coming from a man who had lived through the worst of it. And in the title song, Iggy expressed his state of mind and sense of purpose with a fierce clarity: "If I have to die here, first I'm going to make some noise." Considering Iggy's condition in 1975, his vocals are powerful and full-bodied, as good as anything on his solo work of the 1970s. The music is more open and bluesy than on Raw Power, and while Williamson's guitar remains thick and powerful, here he's willing to make room for pianos, acoustic guitars, and saxophones, and the dynamics of the arrangements suggest a more mature approach after the claustrophobia of Raw Power. Kill City is rough, flawed, and dark, but it also takes the pain of Iggy's nightmare days and makes something affecting out of it, and considering its origins, it's a minor triumph.
Sadly, though, original CD versions of Kill City are taken off of vinyl, making one wonder just what may have happened to the master tapes. A remixed and remastered Kill City (not unlike what Iggy did to Raw Power) wouldn’t be bad thing at all, but one wonders if the tapes have merely disintegrated under the weight of their own existence. Judging from the fact that Iggy himself barely survived that period of his history, it wouldn’t be at all surprising.

It's fair to say, that with fifty years in show business, everything Iggy Pop has done has been scrutinised to a fine point. The man has more back-story than Jesus, and there have been a few biographies written about him. Paul Trynka's 'Open Up and Bleed' is perhaps the best, most in-depth account on the life of Iggy Pop. It's a fascinating read from cover to cover, and gives a little extra perspective on his life from before the Stooges up to their semi-recent reformation. It also covers the recording of Kill City, Iggy's 'lost' album between the disaster that was the end of the Stooges the first time around and his peak period working with Bowie on The Idiot and Lust For Life. Originally recorded as a demo in stop start spurts as Pop was ferried by an erstwhile Stooges guitarist James Williamson from the psych ward to Jimmy Webb's home studio for vocal takes, Kill City really is the missing link between Raw Power and The Idiot.
Or rather, it would be if it hadn't been released already. The original recording was overdubbed and remixed by Williamson, long after he and Pop re-appropriated the original tapes, and was roundly panned by critics after being released on Bomp at the same time that two infinitely superior Iggy albums were on the shelves. As such Kill City doesn't represent a hidden diamond lost in the sands of time. Instead it stands as more of a black mark against the names of both men, and that is why this re-release has significance to the average Iggy Pop fan. After the sterling work done on The Stooges reissues, the chance for audible improvement on the original recording is tantalising. Will shifting some of the sonic grime afford the album a new status after the public gets a chance to hear it as it should have been?
There's no escaping the psychotic dynamism of 'Kill City', a song about living fast and potentially dying young. When Iggy suggests that LA is a "loaded gun" and that you could end up "overdosed and on your knees", he's reading out what could have been the end of his life story. The riff is one of Williamson's very finest, too. As Iggy was burning out, Williamson was just burning, and here he nails down the kind of solo that most rock guitarists would give their eye teeth just to be able to play. And the mix is well and truly fixed too, with vocals and guitars prominent, but the separation between the best of the rest of the instruments is noticeably improved from the thin sounding and tinny original.
'Sell Your Love', a Rolling Stones tribute is also definitely better, the sax work pulled away from the main body to provide depth instead of clutter, and the backing vocals are also far better defined. If I was a gambling man, I'd wager that Williamson had bad reviews ringing in his ears from the Seventies and had given improving the album some serious thought well before rejoining the Stooges. All speculation aside, there are improvements everywhere. 'No Sense Of Crime' is saved from the gutter and the savage percussive beating it took from stray bongos in the original mix, while 'I Got Nothin', a late era Stooges cast-off is given a boost by having the drums pushed up and the backing vocals taken down a touch. The song loses some of the sloppy brutality that the Stooges gave it live, and gets a bit more of a Rolling Stones makeover. In fact, Mick and Keith cast a long shadow over most of the record.
Working within the boundaries set by another (better) band like the Stones is a comfort but also a hindrance here, and highlights the lack of truly original, sharp songs actually recorded during the sessions. 'Consolation Prizes' is a throwaway Stonesy romp, and will please and infuriate in equal measure. 'Night Theme' and 'Night Theme (reprise)' are excellent spooky, spare instrumentals, but in total come in at two minutes 30 seconds. If you were to remove them from the track listing altogether you have nine tracks that run to about half an hour. If it weren't for their high quality, a cynic might suggest that they were padding, making the album look like it contained more material than it really did. There are a couple of old Stooges tracks in there, and the rest generally doesn't have the aggression of old, or the subtle verve of the later Bowie-era work.
'Johanna' is another Stooges chestnut, but is also the one instance where the new mix doesn't improve anything. Unless you really like cheesy Seventies sax poured over everything, in which case, this is the song for you. 'Beyond The Law' uses sax more sparingly, and works much better, with a bit more in the way of tempo and genuine defiance when Iggy screams out that "the real scene is out beyond the law". In balance, Kill City has never sounded better, and is about to be unleashed as it should have been at the time. Sadly, it's going to let everyone know that it, give or take a couple of highlights, was a stop-gap record all along. The mythos that surrounds the recording of Kill City may give it a little more interest and flavour for fans, but unless you're a die hard, this is one reissue that you can probably afford to miss.


Fallen Angels

'Fallen Angels' were a 1983 collaboration between Knox of The Vibrators and members of Hanoi Rocks. This slide show is the full promotional photo-shoot done at that time, by Justin Thomas. 'Runaround' is from their self-titled debut album.

Fallen Angels 'Fallen Angels' album - Vibrators' Knox + Hanoi Rocks!

In 1983 Hanoi Rocks were newly signed to CBS Records, and tipped as the next big thing. They found themselves in London with a few weeks off. Meanwhile, Knox from The Vibrators had some great new songs but was kicking his heels whilst his band was taking a break. As they shared a manager, the two problems were easily solved -- record an album together! The pair-up worked wonderfully. The Rocks were long-time fans of the Vibrators, and Knox's songs and style always had an element of the glam-trash rock roots of the Stooges, Velvet Underground and NY Dolls. This unique collaboration is released on CD and download, together with bonus tracks from singles 'Inner Planet Love' and 'Amphetamine Blue'. Although the participants went their own way before any live shows of this line-up could occur, Knox continued with the Fallen Angels name for his solo work, issuing a further two albums 'In Loving Memory' (dedicated to Rocks and Angels' drummer Razzle who died in a Motley Crue car accident) and 'Wheel Of Fortune', which both included guest appearances from various Hanoi Rocks members.



Reloaded, Re-upped and coming in FLAC as well.

I'm back for a short run


I wanted to start this journey with a BANG!

Metal Box is the second album by Public Image Ltd, released by Virgin Records on 23 November 1979. The album was a departure from PiL's relatively conventional début First Issue, released in 1978, with the band moving into a more avant-garde sound characterised by John Lydon's cryptic vocals, Jah Wobble's propulsive dub-inspired basslines, and the abrasively "metallic" guitar sound developed by guitarist Keith Levene. Metal Box is widely regarded as a landmark of post punk. Released as a three 12 inch single set in a metal film can completely anonymous save an embossed PiL logo, the cutting of the grooves themselves were so widely separated from each other that they’re visible to the naked eye. This encourages the tracks to boom out in analogue warmth and fullness; deemed necessary by Jah Wobble’s domineering and lush contributions in the low end department. A beautiful and barbed album whose power is still a formidable one, even now. And will be for a very long time.