Music Notes May 2013

May 29, 2013 at 11:32 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Last weekend I drove to Montreal. My car doesn’t have an MP3 player and I don’t like to listen with ear buds when I’m driving, so it was to the CD I turned.

Drive up Friday night; drive back Saturday night. Six hours each way. Music selection is very important, and I usually go with a theme. This time, I revisited the music of my youth, English punk (sort of) from 1977 to 1980. (For the purposes of who knows why, I haven’t included anything I’ve written about in this list)

1. The Clash – Clash on Broadway” (disc 1)

The Broadway box set is going to be replaced by a ridiculously expensive Soundsystem later this year, but this is still a fairly representative set (neither box features anything from Cut the Crap). Starting with some demos, the disc runs through the first album and singles from the ferocious “White Riot” right up to the inspiring “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais, ” arguably the finest thing they ever did.  The disc ends with a live version of the Bobby Fuller Four song “I Fought the Law (a single version of which was actually released after the second album, which is where the second disc comes in). One of punk’s finest moments.

2. Crass- Stations of the Crass

And then there’s Crass. Imagine if the Clash has taken their politics seriously, but instead of deciding to expand their musical canon had kept to a narrow punk ethos. There you have Crass who produced some of the angriest and let it be said thought-provoking music around. The opening song “Mother Earth” was the first Crass song I heard (albeit a John Peel session – included here), and Stations opens with this song about child murderer Myra Hindley. I was shocked to discover I still knew all of the words to this blistering assault.

3. UK Subs – Crash Course

The Subs were one of those bands who found a formula they liked and then stuck to it. They also had the novel idea of naming their albums alphabetically. Crash Course was number 3. After half the band quit, the band released this big noisy live greatest hits package for the fans. I wouldn’t want to listen to the Subs every day, but it’s a great sing along in the car.

4. The Lurkers – The Punk Singles Collection

The Lurkers were unfairly labelled the British Ramones. The band released a flurry of singles culminating with the truly wonderful “New Guitar in Town /Little ole Wine Drinker me. ” Then, three years went by and when a new single was released singer Howard Wall was gone and the band had regressed to a simple, but not unappealing punk sound. You can turn off the CD at that point for the most part. Sometimes you only have one album, maybe two.

999 – The Punk Singles Collection

So you see I have a lot of these records. 999 are actually appreciated better on 45 than on a LP. This one has all the hits, yes, yes “Homicide” is there. The band never really cracked the big time and were never among those punk bands that people copied (a bit like the Lurkers then), but for their 15 minutes of fame, they were quite lovely (a lot like the Lurkers then)

6. The Ruts – Something that I Said

The Ruts were a second generation punk band who really should have been stars. They released a terrific debut called “In a Rut, ” and followed it up with an actual hit single called “Babylon’s Burning.”  More singles followed: driving punk, but also a reggae sensibility. They would have been huge, except for singer Malcolm Owen’s drug problem, which killed him in 1980. The band continued, but it was never the same. A great band, and a real tragedy.

7. The Members – Live at the 1980 Chelsea Nightclub –  The Choice is yours

The Members were a pop-punk band with sing along choruses and a dry wit that produced two hit singles, “The Sound of the Suburbs” and “Offshore  Banking Business.” This record is a compilation of the first two records. Fun, stuff although the album ends with a completely unnecessary version of Larry Wallis’ “Police Car.”

8. Ultravox! – Ha Ha Ha

If you’re ever in a conversation with someone and they rate Midge Ure’s Ultravox over John Foxx’s, walk away. The three albums Foxx recorded, channeling Bowie and Roxy Music are so good… This second album is clearly the transition. Sure it contains punky new wave-like “ROkwrok” (sic.), but it also contains beautiful synth classics like “Hiroshima Mon Amour.” Not punk, but part of that creative maelstrom.

9. Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream

Siouxsie of course was one of the punks at the Bill Grundy show, having played her first show at the 100 Club Punk Festival with Marco Pironi and Sid Vicious in the band. But there was always something troubling about the band. Siouxsie’s use of the swastika, the casual anti-Semitism of “Love in a Void” and even “Hong Kong Garden” makes me uneasy. But then there’s this. A simply stunning debut built upon Siouxsie’s demon yelps, and the power duo of John McKay’s guitar and Kenny Morris’ drums. Sorry, but after they quit, the band never had that raw energy. Obsession, anti-fascism (better late than never), mental illness, nicotine addiction and a terrifying cover of  “Helter Skelter.”

10.  The Sex Pistols – The Great Rock & Roll Swindle

Years from now, your kids will ask you, “What about the Sex Pistols?” Swindle isn’t the place to start, but it should be part of your explanation. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly. Those Johnny Rotten demos, the Cook, Jones and Vicious singles and then the weird stuff McLaren put in to rubbish the idea. Download it, burn it, make your own mix with the rubbish thrown out. Ah well.


Bonus: Savages – Silence Yourself

This wasn’t in my CD player on the trip and it doesn’t fit the criteria above, but it’s too good to wait until the end of June. If you found yourself thinking the Palma Violets were too rock ‘n’ roll, this might be the thing. Feminist post-punk. Coming back to Toronto in July, but unfortunately, I’m out-of-town.

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