Thursday, June 8, 2023

Slapshot - Back On The Map Mini-LP


Label: Taang Records; Year: 1986; Format: 33 1/3 EP

On my daily bus commute heading home this afternoon I thought I better get my lazy ass up and write up a blog entry tonight. Several records came to mind, but then I thought we are in the midst of the Stanley Cup Final hence Slapshot would be the perfect fit after all they wish their beloved Boston Bruins had not exited the play-offs in the first round after outplaying the entire league in the regular season by a mile. If you are reading this and happen to be an ice-hockey fan like myself then let me tell you that the Vegas vs. Florida final has not grabbed my interest whatsoever as I don't believe in hockey under palm trees, but to be fair to both teams they deserve to be where they are. On to music though now and a classic record that belongs in every record collection, something that must be said. Back in 1986 Crossover was in full swing and while said sub genre without a doubt gifted us some great records there were a lot of lame bands that the world has forgotten about a long time ago. Out of the remnants of Last Rights, Negative FX and DYS came Slapshot in 1985 and while they stayed true to their classic Boston Style Hardcore Punk they definitely threw in a good measure of UK Oi Punk in the vein of Blitz, Business et al. The seven songs contained on this Mini-LP are all simply fantastic melodic yet aggressive songs that on top of that were recorded 24 Tracks which makes a huge difference, and which I wish a lot of bands had done back in the day. Shoot that puck hard and stay out of the penalty box!

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Human Expression - Love At A Psychedelic Velocity

Label: Mississippi Records & Moi J'Connais Records; Year: 2017; Format: Vinyl LP

The beauty of discovering old music is that there really is no end to it, especially if you open yourself to different genres. As you might have noticed I am open to different genres so depending on my mood I am in I like to specifically buy something suitable. A couple of weeks ago I stopped at the record shop of my choice here in Buffalo and told the proprietor that I was in the mood to buy something that's definitely not punk/hardcore. The nice gentleman pressed the Human Expression LP into my hands and told me that he thinks I'd like it and if not to bring it back. I not just like it, I love it. Human Expression were from Orange County in Southern California and were active for just a brief time period between 1966 and 1967. To be honest I didn't even have to look up their history and knew that they had to be from California as their songs have that very distinct feel to them. Being minors at the time I read that they had a hard time getting gigs, especially on the Sunset Strip. After cutting an acetate with 'Readin' Your Will' the band went on to release three singles on Hollywood-based Accent Records, all of them very sought after and obviously very expensive. Interestingly on their third and last single then unknown Mars Bonfire of the Sparrows and later Steppenwolf offered two songs to Human Expression; the one they took being the excellent 'Sweet child of nothingness' and a certain song they rejected called "Born to be wild". You make your own conclusion as for that one, but I suppose it wasn't meant to be for Human Expression. Still, it's obvious that whether it was back then or over the decades their music has remained popular, and with good reason. Some of their songs have appeared on Comps. such as Pebbles or the famous Nuggets series amongst others and this LP collects to my understanding everything the band has recorded including some songs that have previously not been released, and let me tell you that you're in for a very special treat. All fourteen songs are just mind-blowing in their own way, whether it be the tough garage rock tracks, the slower and moodier psychedelic rock songs, or just simply beautiful singer/songwriter ballads. All I can say is that it is a perfect psychedelic garage rock record you don't want to miss out on, end of. 


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Little Richard - Here's Little Richard LP

Label: Specialty Records; Year: 1957; Format: Vinyl Stereo LP

Let's face it, if it wasn't for Little Richard, born on Christmas Day in 1935 in Macon, Georgia, I most likely wouldn't be writing about all these exciting records that were released way later then this one here,  dating all the way back to 1957. It all has to start somewhere and when it comes to Rock'N'Roll then Little Richard is often referred to as the "Architect of Rock'N'Roll", and I for one certainly don't think that to be an exaggeration. I got this LP not all that long ago and it's definitely seen better days, but it's tough to come across Little Richard LPs out there in the wild hence I was happy to shell out three bucks for a somewhat beaten up copy which still plays perfectly fine though. And let's be honest here; I am far more excited to buy old records than reissues as the smell and feeling of the old ones just can't be beaten. But back to Little Richard now, who I am sure most of the losers reading this blog will be familiar with, and if not, then I seriously have to ask myself under which stone you were hiding for the last god knows how many decades. I think what fascinates me most about Little Richard is the fact that he was one of the earliest black artists bringing people of all races together, and let's face it back in the roaring fifties that was a big deal as segregation here in the United States was unfortunately a daily thing. I hear the words 'game changer' way too often these days and honestly I really don't like them and never use them, but there are exceptions as to when they can be used and this is one of them. Little Richard transformed popular music and had a huge impact on so many artists and bands that the list would be endless. Lemmy of Motorhead for instance is just one of many who always made sure he mentioned Little Richard when asked about his main influences. The world of Rock'N'Roll, Soul, Funk, Rhythm & Blues and the list goes on was changed once and for all by Richard Penniman and we should all be thankful for that. Oh right, what about the record? Well, all of you will have heard "Tutti Frutti" or "Long Tall Sally" at some point in your life, but the rest of the LP is just as good, if not even better. My favorite is "Rip It Up". Little Richard lived a long life and passed away in the spring of 2020, RIP. Luckily his music lives on forever.  

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Treblinka - Ihmisyyden Taideteos? EP

Label: Hataapu Records; Year: 1988; Format: 331/3 7" EP

Back in 1988 I remember having this EP on a tape after having bought it to play this over my friend's cheap little cassette player terrorizing the unassuming citizens of suburban Zurich, Switzerland. Saturdays or Sundays we'd buy a few beers and sit on a bench mostly by the train station blasting loud hardcore punk from around the world, but quite often from Finland as we both loved bands from the dark northern country. I haven't listened to this one in decades but somehow yesterday while on my lunch it popped up somewhere online and I figured why not pulling it out of my 7" boxes today to review it for my blog. It's a great little platter and it's a shame that Treblinka from the city of Vaasa on Finland's west coast didn't release more records as this is their one and only release except for songs they contributed for the Waasa Comp. EP as well as the Stop Vivisection Comp. LP. I guess one could say that they were one of the short lived bands that spearheaded the next generation of great Finnish Hardcore Punk bands. It must be said that by the late '80s the classic Finnish hardcore punk sound changed stylistically somewhat as well hence other influences having seeped into the worldwide punk scenes over the years were absorbed and more predominant. Still, the Finnish language is so unique that records from Suomi have always fascinated me and this EP is no exception. All eight songs are strong and there is no filler to be found on this EP. Influenced by UK bands such as Anti-Sect, Amebix or Hellbastard I would say that Treblinka's sound was slightly metallic, yet at the same time melodic and played very tight. The echoey vocals combined with a sharp back up unit lead by a loud bass guitar are forever enshrined in my memory as the sound of good times way back. Definitely a gem from the land of a thousand lakes. 

Hans-A-Plast - S/T LP

Label: Re-Force Records; Year: 2005; Format: Vinyl LP

Timing is everything they say and was also the title to an album by Chris DeBurgh. But don't you worry I am not at the point in my life to review Chris DeBurgh records, at least not yet. Timing is right to review Hans-A-Plast's first LP originally released in 1979 on Lava Records. I have been meaning to pull this one from my shelves for quite some time now as the band has been mentioned so many times on my favorite German speaking podcast "Und Dann Kam Punk" that it basically begged to be reviewed. And so it happened that this week Annette Benjamin who fronted Hans-A-Plast was a guest for said podcast hence everything I wanted to ever know about the Hanover band was answered, or at least most of it (Link to podcast for German speakers at the bottom of this entry). What I found most fascinating about the interview with Annette is that she hasn't lost her wit and sense of humor one single bit. Now in her early sixties she talked about her formative years and how she ended up joining Hans-A-Plast as the last member of the original line-up. Born in Braunschweig and not far from Hanover in Northern Germany Annette had a somewhat unhappy childhood and at the sweet age of seventeen she decided to take matters into her own hands and via Amsterdam she ended up in London in 1977 where she spent several months. She was lucky enough to experience the punk rock explosion firsthand, and in early '78 she struck gold by seeing X-Ray Spex live on stage. According to Annette it was a life-changing moment in the sense that after having seen Poly Styrene on stage Annette knew what she wanted to do in her life, yep you guessed it right: she wanted to be a singer in a band. After having returned to Braunschweig fate was very much in her favor as she met Hans-A-Plast during a gig in a small venue in Hanover. Annette was singing in a different band during said gig and because Hans-A-Plast were initially a quartet with drummer Betty also taking up singing duties, the band approached Annette whether she would like to be their lead singer, and the rest is history. Things moved quickly from there onwards and in September of 1979 the band entered the studio to record their first full length. When I say that this record should be in the Top 50 of the best Punk records ever then I not only mean it, but I have reasons as to why I think so. First and foremost up to this day unfortunately too many people still think that Punk records either having been released in the UK or the United States are the non plus ultra and nothing beyond is of importance, very wrong. Secondly, punk rock took a while to develop and depending on the geographical location things might have been moving slower, but not necessarily in a less interesting way. Whereas in 1979 punk in London might have been forgotten to a degree, in Hanover that was certainly not the case. The thirteen songs on this record are all brilliant in their own way as they just scream youth and loud abrasive rock'n'roll. The three women and two men in Hans-A-Plast were simply put very gifted songwriters, capable of writing funny and edgy songs having taken clues from the '77 punk explosion as well as the more angular sounds of post-punk while backing it with socio-critical lyrics dealing with sexism or police brutality as well as issues as simple as having fuck all to do on a Friday night in 'Rock'N'Roll Freitag'. It really is not a surprise that the album sold in the thousands and was reissued as early as 1980 on Hanover's No Fun Records selling again in the thousands. The band toured extensively through Germany as well as Austria and Switzerland, and went on to release two more LPs until they split up in 1984. Spontaneously Lost Kids from Denmark came to my mind today as a comparison and I think that either band wouldn't disagree with said comparison. Do yourself a favor and get this LP, no matter which pressing. Grandiose Platte!

Link to Podcast interview with Annette (in German):

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Headwound - Look good...? It is! EP

Label: Headache Records; Year: 1996; Format: 45RMP EP

It is early on a Sunday morning and this week I set out to do at least three entries so here goes my slap-up, albeit not sure whether it's as good as the one depicted for Headwound's fourth EP from the good ole' 90s. I have no idea as to how Headwound got their start but my guess would be that the idea came in a basement in New Jersey where the guys sat around some beers and thought it might be a good idea to start a band. The wonderful thing about that is that even more remote scenes - of which Northern New Jersey bands like Headwound hailing from a little town in Wanaque county were part of - had an outlet for their music, and in their case it was Headache Records, which was run by Armen of the Wretched Ones. The four songs on Headwound's fourth and last EP they released in said decade are typical of that time period and for that particular sound, hence comparisons to Blanks 77, Wretched Ones or early Dropkick Murphys come to mind. So, if American Oi Punk is your thing you will dig this as I sure as hell do, especially on a Sunday morning when I don't want to think too much and just sit back and relax. The '90s were a fun time in many ways and to my surprise Headwound seem to be still going strong according to their Facebook page. I am hungry now and looking at that sleeve in front of me I can't stop thinking of breakfast and coffee. Oi!  

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Paranoia - Shattered Glass LP

Label: Rot Records; Year: 1984; Format: Vinyl LP

Stoke-On-Trent in the West Midlands gifted us one of the most prolific Rock'N'Rollers ever, being the one and only Lemmy of Motorhead. But said city also gave us Paranoia, a band I assume not many are familiar with. I for one came across Paranoia around 1988 when I bought a copy of the Double-LP "The End of an Era - The Best of Rot Records". Said two-record set which I shall review here at some point is a representation as to what Rot Records released until it ceased to exist with bands like Riot Squad, English Dogs, The Varukers or Skeptix kind of representative of what the label's sound stood for. Even though at the age of eighteen I was very much into the more chaotic and fast sounds of above mentioned acts the two Paranoia tracks "Dead Man's Dreams" and "1984" really stood out to me and I instantly fell in love with the female-fronted melodic punk sound equally influenced by gothic rock and post-punk. Ever since those days back in the late '80s I set out to find a copy of the "Shattered Glass" LP released in 1984 but it would take more than twenty years to do so. In 2007 when I moved to London from Switzerland I thought I'd have a better chance finding a copy but I was proven very wrong. Even in England the band was not known, not even to some of the older Punks I had gotten to know. In 2008 I started a job for an EU Government Agency located in East London (thanks to Brexit no longer there) and one of my co-workers in the Archives was a fellow from Spain who was funny as hell and let's just say crazy at times too. One day he asked me what I liked to do in my free-time and I told him about my passion for records. He then proceeded to ask me whether there were any records I really liked to have and I told him about Paranoia's "Shattered Glass" and that they were from Stoke-On-Trent. Daniel (the co-worker) immediately googled Stoke-On-Trent's record stores and came up with some geezer's stall in Stoke. He picked up the phone and called the fella in Stoke and told him in somewhat broken English the following: "Hey, I am Daniel and calling you from London. My friend here is looking for a record by a band from your city, Paranoia. Do you know them?" Record Stall guy: "Yes mate, I do know them but that LP is rare as hell and I sure don't have a copy. Sorry mate and good luck finding one". It must have been around 2011 that I not only won my copy through eBay for about forty bucks, but pretty much at the same time found another copy for a similar price through a used record site. So, after all those years I ended up with not one but two copies and gave one to a good friend of mine in Switzerland who was after the record for a long time as well. 

So, at this point you probably ask yourself what the deal is with this LP. Paranoia came out of the remnants of Civil Defense, a band that was started by the two brothers Paul on Guitar and Phil on Drums. At some point their sister Janet or 'Jan' joined the band along her husband Mick and by 1983 changed their name from Civil Defense to Paranoia. "Shattered Glass" is a truly outstanding LP in the sense that it effortlessly combines melodic punk rock with elements of goth rock and post-punk drawing influences from bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Penetration and Joy Division to name a few. The ten tracks on the LP are all winners in their own way, be it the absolutely brilliant opener "Dead Man's Dreams" the fast and furious "Graveyards from Hell" or the more subtle and tribal sounding songs such as "Vietnam", "Man in Black" or "The Gig". What you get on this LP are songs that will draw you into a post-apocalyptic world through their lyrics but will leave you with hope at the other end. At some point I will want to interview Phil and hopefully other band members about the band's past but for now I will leave you with Phil's thoughts about how they ended up on Rot Records after having reached out to him over e-mail. 

"We came to be on Rot Records when I saw an advert ‘Punk Bands Wanted’. If I remember correctly, the ad was in the classifieds of SOUNDS, the national, weekly music publication. We had just recorded a demo tape, so I just thought I’d send one to see what the feedback was.
The advert had been placed by Dunk of Rot Records and formerly of Riot Squad.
We had previously been a 6 piece band with keyboards and an additional guitarist, under the name of Civil Defence. The guitarist decided to leave the band and so his wife (keyboard player) also left. So we were now a 4 piece, changed our name to Paranoia, and had started to experiment with a different style. So sending the tape to Dunk was mainly to see what people thought about the new style and new songs, cos although we’d done lots of gigs as ‘Civil Defence’, we’d not done any gigs as Paranoia.
We got a reply from Dunk, a letter saying that he liked the demo tape and asking if he could include one or two of the tracks on a new compilation album (Wet Dreams) that was to be released by his label. Of course, we agreed, as we had still not done any gigs and would be a good opportunity for more feedback. 
The compilation was released and the feedback was awesome! We received so many letters, from all over the world, asking about the band, fanzines wanting to do interviews and people asking if there was more material/tapes available of Paranoia. It was at this point Dunk wanted us to sign up to the label, go into the studio to record an album and a single to be released on Rot Records. We signed to Rot Records, still having done no gigs as Paranoia. πŸ˜† Now signed to Rot Records, that changed quickly as Dunk set up gigs for us in Nottingham and London aswell as a gig we set up locally with Resistance 77, who were also on the compilation album.
Our single was getting ‘AirPlay’ on radio stations including John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show.
I remember the day that the single was released. Dunk said he would send us a few complimentary copies of the single but we hadn’t received them yet and we couldn’t wait to hear it. πŸ˜ So me and my brother took a trip over to the local record shop to buy a copy of ‘Dead Man’s Dreams’ and walked up to the counter…
“Have you got a copy of Dead Man’s Dreams by Paranoia?”
“Sorry no, we’ve just sold the last copy”.
That was the only time ever I’ve had the feeling of disappointment and buzzing at the same time!"
Well folks, good news is that the LP has finally been reissued and has just very recently come out through Radiation Records from Italy. It just proves it's never too late and I can only hope that Paranoia will find a new generation of fans as they bloody deserve it! Grab a copy while they last! 

Monday, May 8, 2023

Solger - S/T EP

Label: Bag Of Hammers; Year: 1995; Format: 33RMP 7" EP

After my previous review of the "We're not here to entertain" book I was in the mood to put something on that would match the contents of the book and came up with Solger from Seattle, WA. I'd probably go as far as saying that they are the soundtrack to the book as they are not a big name in terms of US hardcore punk and they came from somewhat of an outlier city away from trendier and more hip places on the West Coast, at least until Grunge hit... There isn't a ton of information on the intranet when it comes to these guys but do check out the link at the end of this review with an informative interview with Kyle of Solger. When researching Solger I was reminded as to how many great bands originally hailed from Seattle, for instance the Lewd who relocated to San Francisco or love em' or hate them The Mentors who moved to sunny California as well. Solger was a very short lived band having released an ultra rare EP back in 1981. In 1995 Seattle's Bag Of Hammers reissued the EP and a few years later Empty Records released a CD/LP with the EP and some extra tracks. Five raw hardcore punk tracks influenced by the Germs and Black Flag can be found on the EP with "Dead Soldier" being the winner in my opinion. It is not a great record by any means but as is often the case with records like this one it's the stories leading up to the release and what came after that's really fascinating. Simply put the guys in Solger were fed up with the more artsy approach to punk rock in their city and wanted to create an ugly and raw sound calling it hardcore punk. They definitely succeeded at that and don't get me wrong despite the poor sound quality the EP is enjoyable in its own way and supposedly sounding better than the original thanks to some cleaning up in a studio. It's interesting to read that at least one of the Mudhoney guys was at the Black Flag show when Solger opened up and was blown away. The same goes for Blain of Fartz/the Accused. What I am hinting at here is that Solger may not have been the most prolific band but they certainly left a mark that led to bigger things in hardcore punk and other forms of underground rock. Definitely an interesting piece of US hardcore punk history from the West Coast worth checking out. 

Interview with Kyle of Solger and band history:

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Kevin Mattson - We're Not Here To Entertain (Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan, and The Real Culture War of 1980s America)

Publisher: Oxford University Press; Year: 2020; Format: Hardcover Book

Let me tell you that between last night and this morning I spent probably two to three hours preparing for this entry as Kevin Mattson's book not only deserves that, but literally requires that in terms of the depth of his book. Mattson's book was published in the middle of the pandemic and I remember being instantly drawn to it. At the time I also listened to the New Books Network podcast interview (see link at the bottom) with the author and knew that I had to get the book immediately, which I did. I read it a while ago and last night I re-read bits and pieces of certain chapters on top of listening to above mentioned podcast again as well. I think by now you get the drift that Mattson's book is packed with information and with that I mean historical facts that are the result of probably hundreds of hours of research the author has put into for this tome. I am of the firm belief that more books such as this one need to be published in order for us fans of '80s hardcore punk, scholars and curious minded people out there to be able to gain a better understanding as to what really happened across America between 1979 and 1985 to be specific about the years Kevin covers for his book. I didn't grow up in America, so to this day after having lived here for something over a decade now, I still learn a lot about cultural history, and for that this book is just significant. It is important to point out that Kevin Mattson is a Professor of U.S. cultural and intellectual history at a University in Ohio and was an active participant of the early '80s Washington D.C. hardcore punk scene, as well as being one of the cofounders of Positive Force in 1985. When we think of punk books then most of the time oral histories come to mind and an endless amount of books have been published in such way, some more interesting than others. This book is a very different proposition in the sense that Mattson succeeds to juxtapose the punk rock world versus the 'Entertainer In Chief' Ronald Reagan highlighting in detailed chapters how the death of the 1st wave of punk rock and the record industry opened up the doors for an energized and politically minded youth across the U.S. to take matters into their own hands to counter the mainstream culture and the advent of MTV. What's outstanding about Mattson's approach and research into this matter is the inclusion of film, art, poetry, fanzines and other forms of communication that helped to spread DIY culture outside of the cultural epicenters on either Coast. Vic Bondi of Articles of Faith sums up the book as follows: "Firmly establishes American hardcore in the politics of the moment and the economics of the music industry at the time. An essential read for anyone wanting to understand the cultural history of the 1980s." I couldn't agree more with the statement and will have to revisit the book again soon to dig deeper into certain sections of it to learn more, and more. Highly recommended! 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Three Johns - Live in Chicago LP

Label: Last Time Round Records; Year: 1986; Format: Vinyl LP

I have heard of The Three Johns many times before but never had any record in my collection until I found a copy of their 1986 released Live LP for next to nothing at the record shop around the corner from my home. The band seems to always have had a core of die-hard fans, some of them without a doubt also big Mekons fans. The Three Johns started out in Leeds in 1981 consisting of Jon Langford (the Mekons) on guitar, vocalist John Hyatt and Phillip "John" Brennan on bass guitar. There was also a drum machine the band named "Hugo". I may have said this before but I am really no fan of live records but there are exceptions to the rule and this one recorded in June of 1985 at Chicago's Metro is definitely an exception as it just rocks from beginning to end. This was the band's first US release and the quality of the live recording is excellent making this a highly enjoyable record which can still be found for a few dollars reminding you of the fact that good music is not always to be found on some rare and excessively expensive records. Songs like 'AWOL', 'Death of the European' or 'The World of the Worker' to name a few are timeless classics from a time when bands such as the Three Johns were labelled as Indie Rock, something that stands for lame music mostly performed by bearded hipsters these days. Back in the '80s though Indie Rock stood for quality and The Three Johns were a talented bunch drawing influences from Post-Punk, Goth-Rock, Cow-Punk and other genres prevalent in the late '70s and early '80s. They combined their eclectic mix of different genres with intelligent and humorous lyrics, often with a political message taking a stand against Margaret Thatcher and the likes. If you want to listen to songs that are equally dark and funny and sound like a mixture between Killing Joke, Sisters of Mercy and the Cramps then check out these lads from Leeds. I shall look out for more of their releases and will post about this band again. Good stuff!

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

V/A - I've Got An Attitude Problem EP

Label(s): BC Tapes & Records and Loony Tunes Records; Year: 1987; Format: 33RPM 7" EP

Back in 1987 the world seemed to be just absolutely fine. I was in the midst of discovering exciting and new sounds from around the world and bands as the ones found on this little EP ruled my little suburban world of Zurich, Switzerland. Beer, friends, gigs and thrashing in a park to the noises coming out of a cheap tape recorder was all that was needed to make me happy, that's how simple life was for a teenager like myself back then. Thirty six years later on another continent and feeling somewhat older I can still appreciate good old '80s Hardcore from Europe, which dominates this EP released as a collaboration between San Diego based BC Tapes & Records and UK label Loony Tunes Records. Seven bands from six different countries are represented and take you on a noisy ride with Side B being the winner for me. Sweden's Mob 47 actually provide two exclusive tracks for this release and as to be expected they deliver the goods in typical fashion. The real winner though are Quod Massacre from Beograd, Ex-Yugoslavia bringing you a really well crafted, melodic yet rough hardcore punk gem reminiscent of bands like HDQ or Frites Modern. Speaking of Holland Funeral Oration round off Side B with two ultra fast thrashers delivered with quality as good as Gouda cheese. Don't get me wrong, Side A is also good with Italian power horses Wretched and Raw Power pulling their weight while Boston's Psycho and UK's Satanic Malfunctions don't disappoint either. If you like myself grew up with these type of bands this will be very familiar territory for you, but should you not be as familiar with these bands pick this one up as it generally doesn't go anywhere near silly money and is a nice introduction to international '80s Hardcore Punk. 

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Jam - In the City LP

Label: Polydor (Spain); Year: 1977; Format: Vinyl LP

Many, many years ago when I got into Punk/Hardcore Punk I scoffed at bands like the Jam or even the Clash for that matter. I was of the opinion that those were nothing else than boring rock bands trying to sound somewhat punk rock. Throughout the decades though my taste and understanding of music has gradually changed to the point where I eventually reached the point of exploring the Jam catalogue. The band's history is interesting in the sense that it starts as far back as 1972 when school friends Paul Weller and Steve Brookes set out to start a band in the unassuming London suburbs of Woking in Surrey. Their early live shows often happened at youth clubs or workin men's clubs and consisted of mainly covers of fifties rock'n'roll acts, but they did have some of their own original numbers as well. Another intriguing fact is that from very early on Paul's father, John Weller, a featherweight champion and cabbie, was heavily involved in the music career his son would go on to have. Unlike many other parents of that time he was very supportive of what Paul was doing and through some of his boxing contacts things started to come together for the band as by 1974 the band started to play in London and landed a supporting slot for Thin Lizzy at Croydon's Greyhound. By 1976 Paul Weller was exposed to the nascent Punk Rock explosion happening in London and things started to take off for the Jam, now a trio of Paul Weller on guitar/vocals, Bruce Foxton on bass guitar and Rick Buckler on drums. According to Alex Ogg's punk bible "no more heroes" it was actually devoted fan Shane MacGowan of Nipple Erectors and later the Pogues who pushed the Jam to Chris Parry of Polydor. Their first LP, released in 1977 is in some ways an odd record in the sense that it is definitely not a pure punk rock record, but neither is it a Mod record. Nevertheless what counts most is that it is a good record, built on the Jam's live performances and recorded in just eleven days. Paul Weller has never made it a secret that he will forever be loyal to his love for '60s music, be it the Who, the Beatles or Motown. And that's exactly what you can expect from this album as the raw energy of punk rock collide with the pop sentimentality of Paul Weller's songwriting resulting in great songs such as "In The City" or my favorite "Away From The Numbers". In many ways this first album only foreshadows as to what was to come and should be viewed merely as an appetizer when it comes to the talent the Jam had. Stay tuned for more from the Jam down the road. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Sperma - Zuri Punx Single and S/T 12" EP

Label: Another Swiss Label; Year: 1979; Format: 7" 45RPM Single

Some of you will know that Switzerland and in particular Zurich had a thriving and very active Punk scene back in the late '70s. As soon as the punk virus from London caught on in the land of cheese and chocolate bands and fanzines started to spring up, at first mainly in Zurich. Sperma started off as an idea in late '77 after The Clash played a gig in Zurich and then became reality in '78 as a strong bond between TNT and Sperma evolved into not just a friendship but also sharing of a practice space. Urs Steiger, the main force behind so much in the early days of Swiss Punk, started to not just manage Sperma but enabled them also to get into a studio which resulted in two sessions in March and May of 1979. Two of the March tracks ended up on the famous Zuri Punx/Bombs Single which I have bought decades ago from an ex-Punk for little to nothing and who was happy it found a new home. The song Zuri Punx was featured on one of the first Boot Comp LPs highlighting KBD Punk from around the world, but don't ask me which one. It's a neat little song, but in my opinion much more enjoyable if you understand Schwizer Duetsch (Swiss German). The lyrics deal with the frustration of being stuck in a dead end job from Monday to Friday only to come alive Friday night and go see the local punk bands performing while dreaming of punk and anarchy. That dream doesn't last too long before it's Monday and the shit starts all over again. Probably my favorite Sperma song is the B-Side 'Bombs', an excellent upbeat bass driven cracker of a track sung in English. Should you not have this get it, and no worries it's been reissued by the nice gentleman behind Static Shock in Berlin so you'll only have to spend the price of a beer. 

Photo of early Zurich Punx including Urs Steiger (No Fun Fanzine, Another Swiss Label), Sara (TNT), Sylvia (Mother's Ruin), Sperma etc - Source: Hot Love (Swiss Punk & Wave 1976-80); Book by Lurker Grand and many others

Label: Static Shock; Year: 2020; Format: 12" RMP EP

A long, long time ago I reviewed the three songs contained on this 12" as they are also to be found on the 1981 released "Rough Mixes from Switzerland" 10" released in Germany. And also a long time ago I was a happy owner of an original of this 12" but that's another story. Regardless I really wanted to have this one again as a 12" and the way it was originally released back in 1979 and Static Shock has done a wonderful job at doing just that including a nice little fanzine like booklet. Unlike the time I reviewed the above mentioned 10" tonight I really enjoyed listening to these three songs. If you are not too familiar with Sperma or early Swiss punk in general do know that Sperma were known for their great punky looks but there were - at least in my opinion - musically tighter and better acts from Switzerland. Still, they certainly had their heart in the right place and recorded songs that are full of great humor and the spirit of '77. While Sperma's recorded material could be viewed as quite rudimentary all of their early songs are nevertheless catchy and well produced three chord anthems. Sperma fizzled out by 1980 and released one more Single which is not even worth mentioning as it was an attempt to sound and look poppier and New Wave. I highly recommend getting these two European punk rock nuggets to get your appetite up for more cheese, chocolate and Swiss Punk. 

Sperma/Technycolor/Glueams Poster courtesy of "Hot Love" Swiss Punk & Wave 1976-1980 book by Lurker Grand and many others

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Visage - S/T LP

Label: Polydor (Germany); Year: 1980; Format: Vinyl LP

Back in 1980 I turned 10 years old and was too young to understand the complex and culturally interesting background of Visage and the emerging New Romantic scene. Music just grabbed me and when I liked something I liked it and I think my parents understood that as for some reason every Christmas and Birthday I would get a record as a gift. I come from quite a poor and working class immigrant family background hence I never had much as a kid, and what I did have I cherished endlessly. Visage somewhat unexpectedly landed a huge hit with "Fade To Grey" in 1980 and it was either that year or 1981 that my parents bought me their first LP. By that point I was a typical little kid loving AC/DC and Iron Maiden but somehow Visage got through to me and ever since I've always had an open mind for electronic music even though I never fully immersed myself in it. But, even more importantly and historically of importance is the fact that Visage very much came out of the punk rock scene with some rather intriguing connections. I think what some people might not realize is how much punk rock opened the doors for musicians and artists in general to pursue their own vision of what they wanted to create, which wasn't always just three chords. Scottish born musician Midge Ure (nee James Ure) for instance has been involved in bands since the early '70s and in 1975 landed a big hit with Slik's "Forever and Ever". With the booming punk scene at the door step Ure's Slik decided to go in a different direction and changed their name to P.V.C. 2 releasing a punk rock single on Zoom Records (to be reviewed in the future). In late '77 Ure moved to London and briefly joined Glen Matlock's Rich Kids. After having left Rich Kids but with a newly acquired Yamaha Synthesizer Ure along with former Rich Kid drummer Rusty Egan set out to find someone who would share their passion to create something different than punk rock, but not a million miles away. They found the right man in Steve Strange (RIP) who would become the singer and along with former members of Magazine Visage expanded the line-up in 1979. Visage's first single released on Radar Records was not successful but as mentioned above "Fade To Grey" now on Polydor got them the breakthrough and the rest is history as they say. With Steve Strange and Rusty Egan aka DJ Egan setting up the Blitz Club in London New Romantic took off and just like punk rock a few years prior transitioned from a subculture into the mainstream. Visage's first self-titled LP is at least in my opinion a milestone when it comes to electronic music, synth-pop, new wave or however you want to brand it. It's an album with a beginning, a middle and an end encouraging the listener to have a full listening experience which back then was the absolute norm as the way music is consumed has changed over the decades since. I sat down this morning with my coffee and listened to the album and couldn't tell you a weak song on it. The title track "Visage" starts you off and is the perfect track for a new decade enabling to see with the benefit of hindsight how well positioned Visage were on their path to Synth-Pop stardom. It truly was the sound of the future and for things to come, that much is for sure. Personally I love "The Dancer", an absolute cracker of an instrumental. It's a well executed album that doesn't sound outdated in 2023, forty-three years after its release, and that means something. 

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Kafka Prosess - One Day Son All This Will Be Yourz (Split w/ Disorder) and Ingen Fattige, Ingen Rike LPs

Label: Disorder Records; Year: 1986; Format: Vinyl LP

My introduction to Hardcore Punk from Norway arrived via a Mix-Tape in 1987 that a friend of mine made for me. The bands I remember being on said tape were Malinheads, HDQ, Rattus, Bluttat and a whole lot more, but more importantly one of my favorite tracks on the tape was "Mentalt Ute Av Balanse" by Kafka Prosess. Said song I will forever associate with the arrival of a cold fall breeze and with me blasting it through my walk man riding my bike to god knows where. It brings back memories of gigs from that time, of people going wild to the loud blasts of European Hardcore and togetherness through a common spirit. When it comes to Hardcore Punk from the European North then bands from Finland and Sweden definitely top the list while Norwegian bands tend to be sadly overlooked. I wasn't any different and it wasn't until I learned about Kafka Prosess and shortly after So Much Hate that I realized that I should probably pay more attention to what was coming out of Norge. It must be said though that Norway never gifted us with the amount of records the other two countries did, and on top of that they tended to be hard to get in Central Europe where I was living at the time. The Kafka Prosess/Disorder Split was an easy find though as I was visiting London in late '87 if I remember correctly and found a copy of the Split at the Tower Records right next to Piccadilly Circus setting me back a whole 3.99 in UK Sterling, no more than the bands had asked for (see sticker on my copy pictured above). But who gives a damn about a sticker hence let's move to the music on this record. The six songs on the Kafka Prosess side of the record are without doubt some of my favorite tracks when it comes to '80s Hardcore from Europe. The Norwegian bands had a very unique and different approach to the sound compared to their comrades from Sweden or Finland. A heavy Discharge influence can be heard in many bands from Sweden or Finland but not so much with the Norwegians. Kafka Prosess came out of the ashes of Svart Framtid and Bannlyst and played a relatively melodic style of Hardcore Punk, equally influenced by bands such as HDQ, Instigators and/or "Lo Spirito.." era Negazione. All songs are well structured with great hooks, changes in tempo and brilliant backing vocals. Out of the six songs I couldn't really tell you which one I like the most as they are all European Hardcore Punk master pieces in their own way. As for Disorder I can attest that I have never been a big fan of this Bristol outfit but they are quite an important part of '80s UK Punk history and shouldn't be frowned upon. As a matter of fact they struck up a friendship with Kafka Prosess and ended up moving to Oslo in the Mid-80s for some time and this Split surely was a collaboration as a result of that. I must say though, and much to my surprise, that at least to a degree I enjoyed listening to their chaotic and hectic songs today as I remember being rather turned off by their contribution to this Split, at least musically. Their songs don't even come close to the quality of Kafka's but in their own way they are a good laugh and delivered in typical Disorder style, if you know what I mean. Kafka Prosess disbanded in 1987 and singer Gunnar went on to form So Much Hate, a band I saw live and will write about at another time here, so stay tuned. 

Label: Skuld Releases; Year: 2000; Format: Vinyl LP

Thanks to people like Kleister who ran Skuld Releases until his death in 2015 (RIP) bands like Kafka Prosess get to be heard by people who missed them back in the day. I picked up a copy of "Ingen Fattige, Ingen Rike" when it came out as it collects all Studio Tracks Kafka have ever recorded aside from the tracks for the Split w/ Disorder (see above). It shouldn't come as a surprise that those tracks are equally strong as the band was just a force to be reckoned with. Kafka Prosess were a truly integral part of a blossoming European Hardcore Punk scene during their existence from 1984 through 1987 and have contributed to Tape Compilations, toured twice in Germany and at least once in the UK while also running the important X-Port Plater label. The song quality on some of the songs on this record is sadly not up to the standard of the Split LP songs, but it sure as hell doesn't take anything away from the quality of the songs. Apparently there are also tracks to be found on here that were originally planned to come out as an EP, something that never came to fruition due to the bands break-up. As mentioned above Gunnar went on to form So Much Hate and many other bands thereafter his relocation to Karlsruhe, Germany while one of the guitar players, Nils, joined Raga Rockers, a relatively big name in Norway. Get this one even if you already have the Split-LP.