Tag Archives: punk

“Cutting ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ out of the market just as it was reaching its audience, EMI, the Sex Pistols’ first label, dropped them after the televised ‘fuck’ that made Declan McManus’ day, recalled the records, and melted them down. … The press contrived a moral panic to sell papers, but the panic seemed real soon enough: the Sex Pistols were denounced in Parliament as a threat to the British way of life, by socialists as fascist, by fascists as communist. … The group itself had become contraband. In late 1975, when the Sex Pistols first appeared, crashing another band’s concert and impersonating the opening act, the plug was pulled after ten minutes; now to play in public they were forced to turn up in secret, under a false name. The very emptiness of the terrain they had cleared — the multiplication of new voices from below, the intensification of abuse from above, both sides fighting for possession of that suddenly cleared ground — had pushed them toward self-destruction, into the silence of all nihilist noise.”

Greil Marcus, discussing the Sex Pistols in his 1989 book, “Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century”

Greil Marcus – Sex Pistols

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Nu Sensae, “Spit Gifting”

Photo by Daniel Ahrendt. Appropriated from http://www.ssgmusic.com.

There are definite shades of early Sonic Youth in the barrage whipped up by Nu Sensae on “Spit Gifting,” off its second album, 2012’s “Sundowning.” But the Vancouver band also harbors the ferocity of Nomeansno — also from British Columbia — backing Jello Biafra, or Babes in Toyland, known for singer Kat Bjelland’s signature unhinged taunts.

Singer/bassist Andrea Lukic (“I’m a nun / and I’m fun”) belts out her lines on “Spit” as if she’s forgotten she’s not in a thrash metal outfit, as drummer and other founding member Daniel Pitout lays down a hulking backbeat. At just more than 2 minutes, the ordeal is quickly over, but it’s sufficient time to leave welts. Given this description, you could say that Nu Sensae just sounds like the band Fucked Up (also from Canada), geared toward feminists. OK fine, be that way.

Regardless, Nu Sensae is obviously a band with a lot of energy and hunger — which is what it takes if you want to rise to the top, so that you can eventually launch product lines, get front-row seats to NBA games and travel the world as a humanitarian because you ran out of ideas. But that’s another story, for later. Seriously, this is a band to watch, currently in its prime.

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“It’s a pity there weren’t more indie labels back then, because there was a lot of good stuff going on. The only claim to fame the Deviants had is we managed to persevere and actually get some stuff down onto vinyl. ‘Cause there are other bands, like the Brothers Grimm and the Giant Sun Troll and the whole list of them you see on posters. But they never actually got to record. And back in those days, you didn’t tape the shows, because we didn’t have the technology. So a lot of that stuff was lost. Fortunately, we weren’t. That was an incredibly lucky break, or we would have just been a name on a poster.”

Mick Farren, author and singer for the Deviants, whose 1967 debut “Ptooff!” was bankrolled by a friend who inherited a fortune and who helped them start their own mail-order label. The Deviants, of Gloucestershire, U.K., was a psych-garage band considered to be a major stepping stone to British punk. The quote is taken from Richie Unterberger’s “Unknown Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” published in 1998.

Mick Farren – The Deviants

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“Those bands were saying, ‘It’s bad out there, we’re gonna have some fun,’ and I don’t think it was any deeper than that or any more profound than that. Going to 1st Avenue in the Lower East Side … in the ’70s was terrifying. Going to CBGB was like taking your life in your hands, as far as my sheltered little white boy experience was concerned. I went there, you know, gulping, and hoped I’d get home at the end of it.”

Ira Robbins, founder and editor of Trouser Press (a New York fanzine that ran from 1974-1984), describing punk’s first wave in New York in the mid-1970s, from a Sound Opinions podcast in August 2012.

Ira Robbins – New York punk scene

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Warsaw, “Inside the Line”

Warsaw, of course, is just Joy Division before it called itself Joy Division. If you didn’t know that, you must immediately rip up your Goth Club membership card. What you might not know is that for its first performance, the band went under the name of Stiff Kitten (at least on gig posters), which isn’t important, but it’s fun to say out loud at the public library.

“Inside the Line,” from the band’s first recording session in July 1977 in Manchester, already showcased Peter Hook’s dazzling bass hooks. The session was the only one not to feature Stephen Morris on drums. Steve Brotherdale mans the skins. Actually the band’s second drummer, Morris being the third, he was notable for trying to get Ian Curtis to leave Warsaw for Brotherdale’s other band, Panik (and reportedly got as far as convincing Curtis to audition for Panik, or at least to try singing along with a tape of Panik that Brotherdale had made).

The band admittedly was still learning how to play its instruments — down to Ian Curtis rocking a punk-rock yowl — when it went into the studio, producing the five-track demo itself. Not happy with the quality of the demo or its future output as Warsaw, nothing was released (except bootlegs and its single contribution to the live benefit album, “Short Circuit”) until the 1994 compilation, “Warsaw.” One EP, “An Ideal for Living,” was recorded in December 1977 when the band was still Warsaw, but not released until 1978 when it had changed to Joy Division (so as not to be confused with Warsaw Pakt, who had laid tracks on wax in 1977), meaning it’s debatable … but also irrelevant.

I love the Warsaw stuff, particularly those first five tracks. There is so much energy and a feeling that the songs are about to come flying apart. I was lucky enough to frequent a mom-and-pop record store years back whose owner happened to have all the Warsaw bootlegs and made me copies. Yes, that’s right, humbled reader, I was without a doubt the first person on my block to crank up Warsaw on a Magnavox sound system back in 1989.

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Photo by Nick Helderman http://nickhelderman.tumblr.com/

Photo by Nick Helderman http://nickhelderman.tumblr.com/

“I think we’ve got plenty of female fans, but in rock music, people discredit women right off the bat, even if they’re unconsciously doing it. I know I’ve been guilty of that in the past. … Even going back to hip-hop and thinking about Too $hort — you’ll have a record that’s filled with nothing but horrible misogyny for 12 tracks, and then the last one will be like, “The world’s so messed up, man, what’s going on today? Kids don’t go to school, girls being disrespected…” And you’re like, “Wait a second, dudes.”

Matt Korvette, Pissed Jeans frontman, on the continuing gender divide in rock and hip hop, in a February 2012 Pitchfork.com interview

Matt Korvette – Pissed Jeans

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Swell Maps, “Another Song/Vertical Slum”

During rock’s most volcanic era — as the worlds of regular rock, punk rock, post punk and new wave were colliding like cooties in a petri dish — one release that still managed to stick out like a sore thumb was Swell Maps’ 1979 debut, “A Trip to Marineville.”

Later heralded as inspiration for Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement, British band Swell Maps didn’t have a foot firmly on the bandwagon at the time, still happily fawning over the likes of glam-rockers T Rex and krautrockers Can, dabbling in psychedelia and generally stretching the proceedings out, at the same time that nearly every other rock band was cranking out 2-minute-something, no-nonsense ditties.

On “Gunboats,” for example, in which the influence on Thurston Moore’s guitar drone is unmistakable in Nikki Sudden’s demented playing, nothing comes close to being a chorus or refrain during the 8-minute song. There is, however, a point about three minutes in where it sounds like somebody is doing construction in the recording studio. The same thing happens on the tune with my favorite title, “Adventuring in Basketry.” And, clocking in at 18 songs, half of which would still be hard to explain why you like to your friends, “Marineville” was definitely asking a lot more of listeners than the relatively by-rote Ramones (right down to their methodical leather jackets and ripped jeans).

It’s hard for me to pick one favorite from “Marineville” to represent the band, so I chose two. “Another Song” is a great, quick, Buzzcocks-y tune that still manages to showcase the band’s prog-rock leanings (it had, after all, been performing since 1972, back when as teens, they went under the name of Sacred Mushroom).

But it’s the following song, “Vertical Slum,” which nearly goes a cappella toward the end with a nod to the Mothers of Invention, that ends up being the one I talk to myself about at the water cooler the following morning. Enjoy!

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!Action Pact!, “People”

!Action Pact!, an early 1980s punk band from London that was popular at the time in Britain, now sits despondently in the dustbin of history.

Here are two reasons why: First, there is nothing particularly distinctive about the band’s sound, nothing The Ramones hadn’t already done hundreds of times before. What !Action had in spades was raw, abundant, angry teen energy — drummer Joe Fungus and singer George Cheex were just 15 when the band first entered a recording studio in late 1981.

Second, though Cheex must have been hell on wheels up there on stage with all that pre-riot grrrl venom, her overbearing manner and lack of actual singing talent tends to wear the listener down after a while (unless you listen to a lot of Hole).

In any case, “People,” off the double exclamation-marked band’s 1983 full-length debut, “Mercury Theatre – On the Air!,” is an enduring relic, one that exhibits the band at its peak. Cheex barks in part:

Something just won’t let you stop
Till you make it to the top
Once you’re there, you’ll soon forget
All the kindness you once meant

Sadly, !Action would never really get to test out the song’s theories. It appears they all crawled under rocks after giving up the ghost in 1985.

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Scratch Acid, “Moron’s Moron”

SIt back for a minute and think about the fact that the singer for Scratch Acid could have been the guy who went on to co-write songs for Kylie Minogue and be half of house music DJ duo Brothers in Rhythm.

Until singer Steve Anderson was kicked out of the band sometime before Acid recorded its first EP in July 1984, David Yow was just the bass player. When Yow dropped his bass and switched to vocals, this freed up Yow’s hands, allowing him to drink more beer faster, then stage dive into the void, vaguely hoping enough people were in attendance to catch him. The other magic ingredient was David Wm. Sims switching from guitar to bass and instantly becoming a bass GOD.

You don’t hear enough about Brett Bradford, who basically went nowhere after Scratch Acid. But it’s his guitar playing, that Midwest tinge, that sets Acid apart from the later Jesus Lizard. He’s never as in your face as Yow or drummer Rey Washam, but he’s constantly laying down walls of cascading noise.

Submitted for your approval, “Moron’s Moron”: Scratch Acid at its finest, from 1987’s flawless “Berserker” EP, my first sober drug experience.

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“They made a horrible, atonal noise for five minutes, stopping and restarting “Forming” over and over. Some laughed. Most cringed. In a tribute to Iggy Pop, (Darby) Crash smeared himself, the mic, the sound system and the other bands’ gear with peanut butter and mayonnaise. When (Crash) took the mic and stuffed it in a jar of peanut butter, the soundman screamed, ‘That’s fucking it!’ and pulled the cord on them. The roadies threw them off the stage. I mean, they picked up the bass drum with the foot pedal and tom-tom attached to it and threw it into the corner.”

Nicky Beat, drummer for L.A. Guns, speaking about The Germs’ first public performance, before it had ever had a proper rehearsal, in April 1977 at Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. Interesting tidbit: if Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Gos hadn’t caught mono, she would have been playing on drums with the band that evening.

The Germs first performance

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