Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 141)


PICKS  

Punk 45 Vol. 3: Sick On You! One Way Spit! After The Love & Before The Revolution - Proto-Punk 1969-76

If you want to nitpick, start with “proto” itself, a vague qualifier up for interpretation. With only six of twenty-one cuts pre-dating actual punk Patti Smith’s Arista debut, the selections also bypass any number of misfits both obvious and obscure, from Zakary Thaks to Blue Cheer and Neu! And yet this potent brew of garage/psych/glam does exactly what the title claims - suggest the ways in which a non-movement of disaffected post-60s urban types pushed against the limitations of technology and blues scales. No way theoretical bands like Jack Ruby or bedroom outsiders like George Brigman could sustain interest over the course of a full-length. Liberated from such practicalities, their four-minute blasts of unreasonable confrontation are revelations. Oklahoma Stooges fans, Hammersmith Kinks enthusiasts, worldwide Lou Reed acolytes: jamming without a net, they offered three-chord context for glue sniffers everywhere. Brainier types would soon supply the content.

 

Punk 45 Vol. 2: There Is No Such Thing As Society - Get A Job, Get A Car, Get A Bed, Get Drunk! Underground Punk And Post-Punk In The UK 1977-81

It wasn’t some Bromley Contingent gobber who said “there is no such thing as society” - it was the longest-serving Prime Minister of the modern era. So of course punk rock registered as youth culture in recession-plagued/pre-Thatcherism England, a rare example of cross-Atlantic inspiration in which America’s UK counterparts proved less artsy. As befits a scene which burned brightly before disseminating into rival camps, these two dozen cuts are mostly curios, although often brief and always clattering. Trivia buffs will enjoy future Midnight Runner Kevin Rowland bellowing his way through a Killjoys number or a Vibrators side-project featuring members Miss Directed, Miss Guided, and C. Slug. Footnote fanciers will dig glorious one-offs from Puncture, The Users, The Jermz. Aesthetes will value the genius of Swell Maps and The Mekons, whose ’78 single “32 Weeks” sounds both primeval and visionary in this context. And I’m sure somebody will get a kick out of the 1.32 “Wot’s For Lunch Mum?”  

 

NEAR PICK

Punk 45 Vol. 1 Kill The Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young - Underground Punk In The United States Of America 1973-1980

Excepting Blondie, US first-wave punk was underground by definition, so this comp’s title seems overlong and then some. Had the urban Ohio/suburban California focus suggested within the notes held strong rather than detouring into New Orleans and Austin, perhaps these twenty-one selections might have added up to some kind of counter-narrative to New York/London hegemony rather than a noisy grab-bag. And it’s difficult to conceive how anybody curious about one-off singles from The Urinals and X Blank X wouldn’t already claim intimate familiarity with Pere Ubu’s “The Modern Dance” or the Heartbreakers’ “Chinese Rocks”. Yes but still. The loose, wonderful aesthetic under consideration encompasses both the lo-fi pop chug of ’73 Flamin’ Groovies and the keyboard-trilling chants of ’78 Theoretical Girls. Between those two conceptual and geographical peaks lies a lot of fuzz, including enough San Fernando dross (Hillside Strangler, how punk) to give heart to El Lay haters. Avant-garage blur more than no future, although note obvious alternative to killing the hippies: “Kill Yourself”.