September 2010

Cabaret Voltaire:The History of Art through the History of Music

There’s this thing called punk. And for whatever reason, over the last thirty some odd years, it’s worked to incorporate any and every creative pursuit into its broad umbrella. When this combination of punk and otherness does in-fact occur, it very frequently winds up becoming something beyond the foundational genre. So, things like post-punk, synth-punk and art-punk among innumerable other iterations aren’t punk (whatever that is), but an extension of it.

Of course, commoditization of the genre and Warped Tour styled nonsense detract from a broad and popular view of this music. But at it’s essence, punk is and should be all inclusive.

For that reason, over time, any number of art practices, both theoretical and aural, have been pushed through the music and resulted in a number of odd outcomes.

The Snivelling Shits: Rock Journos as Musical Satirists

It’d be difficult to count the number of writers and commentators who have eventually turned to music in order to realize some obtuse fantasy. Of course, making a career of writing about people who stand on-stage in front of a crowd for some sort of weird self aggrandizing greed is usually the impetus for that writerly impulse. We all want some one to pay attention. And really, the written word isn’t the best way to get that. Instead, turning an ability most exercised on paper into a performance of one kind or another becomes a tremendous driving force.

Dimalia: A Self Titled Tragedy

This is really quite ridiculous. Lyrics that are pretentious are fine – and on occasion, even welcome if they’re able to be related in a unique manner. But I’m pretty sure these guys – the folks in Dimalia - take themselves a bit too seriously. That’s a pretty common problem in most heavy musics – or music in general. Just watch any video interview of an up and coming band while wondering who the cohort is acting for. And if it’s not for somebody, it’s more likely than not in order to craft some public image. How ‘bout the music?

Primitive Calculators: Aussie Synth Punk in a Vacuum

Placing a group into some international context usually yields a grand insight into how things were working at the time. Of course, a more locally focused understanding of a band’s impetus is bound to result in a more specific and personalized perception.

The Primitive Calculators were from Australia, beginning in Springvale, a town not too far outside of Melbourne. Considering the band never moved to the large city, though, should lend a view of the group as an assemblage of weirdo outsiders. And you haven’t even heard the music yet.

The Transplants Should Settle on a Suicide Pact

It’s always interesting finding out what punkers do when they’re all grown up. On occasion, it’s pretty said. Day labor and menial jobs aren’t fun for anyone, but when your earliest years were filled with beer and gigging around the States, the stasis levied upon oneself by a nine to five has to be something just sort of unbearable.

More than a few folks make it and somehow wade through the music industry in whatever role – sometimes folks even wind up heading a major label or work as a talent agent of sorts. Even as both of those posts seem distasteful, it’s probably better than serving fries.

Some folks remain engaged with a scene for the entirety of their lives – and while scenes are a gross and awful thing most times, being included in one might be a decent thing to experience, at least that’s what I can surmise.

Sick Things: $30 PPD

Message boards have  basically supplanted the need for proper mail order one might have been acquainted with between the seventies and the nineties. The social aspect to it all’s still intact, but the quick responses one receives – and gives - removes some of the anticipatory glee that was part and parcel with getting a package or a note in the mail.

It’s not better or worse, it’s different. Roughly the same stuff would have been available a decade and change back. And if one heads over to the Terminal Boredom forum, it’s pretty plain to see that everything’s the same, just in digital form.

The one problem that mail order always had, though, was expensive, international shipping costs. And if you’re trying to track down the Sick Things compilation Sounds of Silence, it’ll cost you.

CRIME - "Space Face" (Video)

Caught this one over at Victim of Time, I think. Either way, CRIME isn't as big as the hype, but the group was an early marker of the SF scene. Don't bother hunting down any proper releases, you get all you need from this footage, which apparently comes from the Target Video archives. Cool matching outfits?

Classic Compilations: The Blasting Concept, Vol. 01

If you’re reading this, it’s assumed that you’re familiar with basically everyone represented on Blasting Concept. How else would you have found the write up?

Either way, compilations from the early eighties are beginning to look – in retrospect – like a way to make a buck as much as a way to spread the good word around. With that being said, it’s really interesting to look at the order of the track listing.

As SST was run by Black Flag’s Greg Ginn, it would make sense that tracks from his band would sit up there at the beginning. That’s not the case, though. So, it’s possible to figure Ginn was attempting to make listeners take in other acts before making it to the meat, as it were.

Venom P. Stinger: For Real and Nasty Punk

I’m working backwards here. Ya’ll should at least be familiar with the Dirty Three. That group has/d its moments of instrumental goodness, if not greatness. And the ensemble counts as the newest outfit incorporating members of the Sick Things and Venom P. Stinger.

The Sick Things, were the earliest collection of these miscreants, a post shall follow soon. But judging from the trajectory of how this looks, it’s not surprising the group didn’t hold together for all that long. After hear Venom P. Stinger, even in it’s reformed incarnation during a live appearance as late as 1991, these men from a land down under (<>cringe</>) probably left pools of blood and heaps of teeth sitting around in bars subsequent to a performance

Subway Sect: A Retrospective

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.

Classic Compilations: Eastern Front, Volume 01

Tagging the first Eastern Front compilation with the word classic really isn’t too accurate. The disc comprises a spate of tracks that tote more historical significance than anything else. Of course, there’re still a lot of folks who eat this stuff up. For what reason, who knows? But I’ll still toss on the Partisans or whatever other second tier Brit punk group I grew up on. So, really there’s no accounting for taste.

Puke, Spit & Guts: Why People Hate Punk

In the annals of punk rock drudgery, there’ve been some pretty lackluster acts. A few get over on the sheer tenacity of its act. A few for the scarcity in which its albums were pressed, rendering it a collector scum’s wet dream. But the worst of all this nonsense is really why people think punk is an awful waste of time.

Yeah, sixties punk stuff can be digested as the death rattle of hard psych, stripped to its minimal core. And by extension, all the proto-punk/hard rock stuff of the seventies shouldn’t be difficult to sell off to non-punk listeners. But with Puke, Spit and Guts, there’s really nothing other than attitude. And in this case, that’s just not enough – the collectability of the group’s one album, though, has made ‘em something of note. Only that, though, has saved these scum from total anonymity.

Classic Compilations: Saturday Night Pogo

Affixing the word classic to Saturday Night Pogo is pure hyperbole. The tracks here – for the most part – that are actually worth listening to are available elsewhere. But when the compilation was issued as Rhino Records’ third release it was probably something of a revelation. Coming out in 1978, the disc shares space with Cleveland Confidential and other scene-specific works from that era. That being said, the huge names from Los Angeles’ scene aren’t here. It was pretty early on, though.

Classic Compilations : P.E.A.C.E./WAR

Revisionist histories are occasionally the most entertaining kind of histories. Screw the facts. Let’s change the perception of the past.

That obviously wasn’t the intent for the P.E.A.C.E./War compilation, initially issued in 1984 and rereleased in 1997. The thing is, though, that the difference between the first and second versions of the album find a weird array of bands sitting next to each other. Everyone knows Articles of Faith and some eighties hardcore fanatics are familiar with O.D.F.X. – so it makes sense that the Chicago based band and those Clevelanders/Akroners were on the same original disc. The reissue, however, tosses on Anti Flag doing a song off its first album, which was released in 1996. That’s just a weird grouping of bands.

The Toy Killers: Is it Unlistenable?

To define No Wave is to kill it. The genre only properly functioned for a few years at the tail end of the seventies and briefly into the eighties. What seemingly wound up happening was that players associated with the scene branched out into other art practices or were enrapt in the downtown jazz scene. None of the meant an immediate end to the pseudo genre. And Sonic Youth can be figured as its highest profile practitioner at this point. For all of these reasons, though, the thought that there were lost recordings from groups working in this mold, never really occurred to me. Could there really have been that many ensembles capacious of working up a set, solidifying an approach to the music and recording a high quality product in such a short time without anyone knowing about it by now?

I guess so.

Alternative TV's Mark Perry is a Snide Dude

It’s definitely a blurry, backwards glance, but the seventies seem like a time when the DIY thing was still vital and unique at the same time. Today, everyone has their own record label, some venue in an abandoned whatever, a community garden and a bicycle co-op. That’s overstated, but forty years ago all of that was kinda revolutionary. The downside, though, was that it was kind a revolutionary and looked at as some weird subversive animal. It wasn’t, obviously. And without all those folks who took it upon themselves to better their neighborhoods, culture that defines itself as diametrically opposed to mainstream nonsense would be drastically different, if it existed at all.