Saturday, 31 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #124 - Various Artists, "Fame: Jon Savage's Secret History of Post-Punk (1978-81)"

Again with the post-punk, Coc! I know, I know. But I like it - for the reasons already discussed: the hunger, the paranoia, the variety.

Jon Savage wrote a history of punk called "England's Dreaming", which was a tiny bible for me in the mid-Nineties. I have time for him. But I'm not sure you could call this a secret history - Joy Division, Wire, The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Subway Sect: not exactly hidden from the gaze of music lovers across the ages. But then he was there and I wasn't, so hush my mouth, I guess.

There are plenty that I know nothing about, mind. After the familiar intense flavours of Pere Ubu and "Heart of Darkness" have opened up this can of post-punk worms comes "Chromosome Damage" by Chrome. It's a post-Stooges, rattling drums and vaguely Jaggeresque vocals recorded in some garage or other before after a minute and a half or so it fades out to be replaced by monstrous squelching electronics then a backward guitar wail. It's a garage, but one of those garages in which people do dangerous experiments. The DNA of the garage rock is indeed damaged, xeroxed and mutated. Nice.

Nigel Simpkins is up next - "Times Encounter": a cut-up piece with two antagonist drum tracks and everything else he felt like. There are African choirs, sitars, and then it's gone. Very promising so far. Veerrryyyy promising. File Under Pop were released by Rough Trade (good title for a record shop, I s'pose) and "Heathrow" is an uptight English thing that starts with stabbing guitar and no rhythm and then becomes some ambient noises. The whip of the tape recorded features heavily, but not as heavily as the irony: not to be filed under pop.

Subway Sect angle with their guitars, sharp-eyed frets attacking from out of the sun. Kleenex were Swiss and their post-punk was quite efficient; a kind of Swiss Slits - Swits? Plenty of pop buzz thrill. The Prefects are well-named; they brood with unloved, grammar school intensity. I've just found out they became The Nightingales: they were good. MARS clatter in with "3E" from their New York arthole. I don't know Rosa Yemen but she sounds confrontational fun. Her track, "Herpes Simplex", begins with a bicycle pump noise and then Francophonic shouting about lips and tongue; "Fuck you/Fuck you."

We can move past the immortal Wire and the tragically-mortal Joy Division to Cabaret Voltaire. I'm sure I remember seeing them on John Craven's Newsround back in that day. "Partially Submerged" is genuinely woozy music. The Human League track is from the back end of the "Reproduction" album that sounds less about the "Dignity of Labour" and more about the indignity of early Eighties kid's TV. AC Marias have the deadpan Eighties business down smooth; "Drop" stalks like a balding panther, posh mumble and "a fear of flying" over demonically echoing guitar. Must be the period when women were the most "normal" in rock.

After the posh mumble, there's some North American nasal screaming on "Caucasian Guilt" by Noh Mercy: they're against it. "I never took no Indian land/...I'm ready for a brand new race/One concerned with the way you move/Not the arrangement of your face". Urinals' "Sex" is back to the garage. So far back I'm not sure where the "post" finds the "punk" unless it's meant in a purely chronological sense. By the time of The Method Actors ("Do the Method"), the germs of REM and The Replacements and Husker Du and all that college rock jangle are peeking from the soil.

Rema Rema and their tune "Rema Rema" puts me in mind of The Fall, that same grumpy bass sound, that same unstopping locomotion. Judy Nylon isn't a million miles away either - a touch more Bohemian. There's a narrative about something in a breathy voice that I can't quite follow, something about being sent to jail, about a barely-functional squealing backdrop. DNA's "Blonde Red Head" and This Heat's "A New Kind of Water" leave everything nicely unhinged for the close.

A record collection put to good use.

Rating: Exploration out of Appetite

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