Everything about Vic Godard (apparently, like the overrated director) and Subway Sect seems like a weird novel, somewhere between Bukowski’s Post Office and a tossed off beat novel. That sounds like a horrendous combination – to read, not necessarily to live. But the resultant effect on Godard’s life has been that of brushing up against folks able to make a go of it as an ‘artist’ (read: musician) even as he’s continued carrying a mail bag in the public service sector.
Being discovered is always a crock, but back in ’76 when it wasn’t all that common to look like a weirdo over there in London, Malcolm MacLaren picked Godard and his friends out of a line as the cohort waited to get into a Sex Pistols gig. Because of the timing and their attire, the music mogul (that should drip with irony) figured all involved for a band. They weren’t, but after that assumption, they became one.
Good thing too. Otherwise, the Punk Festival at London's 100 Club in ’76 would have only counted bands that would go on to be relatively huge. Instead, Subway Sect opened the show, but were most likely over shadowed by the Damned who were as strong a force as the Pistols and devolved into tripe a little afterwards. Either way, on the strength of that performance, Godard and company were able to wrangle a few tours and started cutting singles.
While those early releases did relatively well in the charts, the earliest period of Subway Sect’s existence wasn’t ever documented in proper long player mode. Luckily, though, a number have tracks have been soldered together and been dubbed A Retrospective covering the band from about seventy-seven through eighty-one.
For a collection which was recorded without an admitted center, the twelve tracks hang together surprisingly well. That might be chalked up to a general persistence of vision or just dumb luck. What it doesn’t account for is the fact that a few of the singles here easily rank with the better known efforts from the earliest days of London’s punk scene.
Even if that weren’t the case, the Sect’s rendition of the Velvet Underground’s “Head Held High” from Loaded, a surprising choice, counts as one of the better covers focused on the seminal New Yawk band.
Even if that cover weren’t included, though, listeners could catch roughly the same vibes on “Don’t Split It” along with some Stooges minimalism and enough garage flavor to render the track omni-pleasurable. It doesn’t even matter that the guitar hits the same wrong note every ten seconds or so. Purposeful? Who cares. It rules.