Punk and New Wave

The Monks “Black Monk Time” (1966)

The story of the Monks is almost that of urban legend. Five U.S. G.I.s stationed in Germany in the 1960’s, decide to go AWOL from the military, begin dressing as monks and record an album of some of the most avant-garde rock n roll ever. Yes, it almost sounds too good to be true. I had heard the tale of these Monks when I picked up this wild little gem and it certainly lived up to the legend. Twelve amazingly off-kilter garage rock tunes that will surely grab your attention. The album starts of with “Monk Time” the band’s anthem and call to arms. The singer screams and squeals his montra of peace and rock n roll and invites you to become a monk and rock n roll with them. The album then kicks into gear with the raucous stomper “Shut Up” and the dancable organ-fueled “Boys Are Boys and Girls Are Choice”. The album then gets even more wild with the goofy but cathy “Higgle-Dy-Piggle-Dy” with its yodeling falseto. The album then takes a dark turn on the track “I Hate You” which is as menacing as the name implies. Just when the Monks got ya down, they bring you right back up a string of amazing garage rock rave ups. “Oh, How To Do Now” is the band’s most freakbeat dance song, with its great organ sound and catchy chorus, then the stomping sound of “Complication” slows it down a touch just before you’re treated to the wonderful “We Do Wei Du” and the amazingly sparatic “Drunken Maria” with its great call and response chorus. “Love Came Tumblin Down” is probably the Monks’ most straight forward song, with its standard singing style (no yelling, chanting or yodeling) it’s still a great song. The album then ends with “Blast Off” and “That’s My Girl”.  All in all, this is a very cool, unique, bizzare and fun record. Anyone looking to hear some great 60’s garage rock that definitely isn’t from the standard mold, should seek out this obscure freaky classic. –KAMRead more›

Swell Maps “A Trip to Marineville” (1979)

Say, that’s a swell map! Anarchic and juvenile in the best sense of the words, this stew of garage noise plays like an instruction manual for barely competent musicians with big record collections. It’s all over the map stylistically, beginning somewhere in classic UK punk territory before launching off into psychedelia, retrograde surf rock, drone, motorik kraut, and a lot of kitchen-sink clatter that lends the whole an ambience unlike almost anything in recorded music. These guys will try anything once (and sometimes two or three times, which in a few cases renders the record a little trying, unless you’re truly committed), and their knack for the deranged arrangement is a veritable textbook for the indie rockers who followed. Making a virtue of amateurism, they’ll put a wailing voice where you’d expect the guitar feedback or synthesizer on the krautpunk “Full Moon in My Pocket,” while on “Gunboats,” they ratchet up the tension simply by throwing shit around the studio. Other highlights include the opening manifesto of “H.S. Art,” the catchy “Harmony in Your Bathroom” (which sounds like Nirvana a decade before Nirvana), and the amazing centerpiece, “Midget Submarines,” which is a lock groove lullaby of post-punk fury framed by ambient piano/more shit flying around the studio. The bonus 7″ now available as bonus cuts on the CD reissue features the awesome surfpunk raga “Loin of the Surf” and “Doctor at Cake,” which sounds like a high-school talent show take on Live-Evil era Miles Davis. Everyone who hears this unhinged record might find themselves wanting to make a record of their own. Begin by throwing shit around the house. Try a little basket weaving for good measure. –Will… Read more›

Tubeway Army “Replicas” (1979)

Numan’s best record is a dark and sleazy, yet oddly sensual and visionary album. The cold textures of the synthesizers are contrasted with crunchy rhythm guitar and punchy post-punk rhythms, properly making a virtue of the music’s simplicity to convey a stripped down sense of horror, alienation, and sordid pleasures. The bizarre lyrics have an imagistic quality that rounds out the mood and unifies the album beautifully. At least seven tracks here are classics: “Me! I Disconnect from You,” “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?,” “The Machman,” “Down in the Park,” “You Are in My Vision,” the title cut, and “It Must Have Been Years.” The final two tracks are moody instrumentals evocative of the diminishing humanity of the whole thing. Few hit records from the late-70s/early-80s are so unified and consistently compelling. And few synth-rock albums have such inviting textures. This is creepy post-punk that’s also as fun as a wad of bubble gum. Me! I recommend to you. –Will… Read more›

XTC “Black Sea” (1980)

By 1980’s “Black Sea” XTC were fully into their stride, the previous years exceptional “Drums And Wires” remains an early high water mark yet “Black Sea” sees them expanding their sound further, moving away from the angular, sparky new wave of that album and towards a tougher, rockier sound, as such it’s arguably their most accessible of all their early albums. A 60’s feel is beginning to rear it’s head in a lot of their work, take for instance “Respectable Street” and “Towers Of London,” the former has strong echoes of mid 60’s Kinks whilst the latter is pure “Rubber Soul” era Beatles, both given a punkish twist, “No Language In Our Lungs” also has a strong Beatles influence but still manages to sound typically XTC. Where “Drums And Wires” was rough around the edges “Black Sea” is a lot more focused and less artsy sounding, still this is XTC so fans of their artsy leanings can always revel in “Travels In Nihilon’s” apocalyptic soundscape or “Living Through Another Cuba’s” dub infused paranoia but overall Black Sea is a lot more polished and poppy than anything the band had recorded since their spiky, charming debut. “Generals And Majors,” “Love At First Sight,” “Rocket From A Bottle,” “Paper And Iron” and “Burning With Optimism’s Flames” would all have made great singles, strange then that they chose to release arguably the album’s weakest track, the XTC by numbers of “Sgt Rock,” still it’s one misstep on an otherwise blemish free album, I prefer the jittery, nervous “Drums And Wires” ever so slightly but that does not diminish “Black Sea’s” tough majesty. Yet another classic from England’s most underrated band. –Derek… Read more›

This Heat “Deceit” (1981)

Stimulus and response. Art rock on the far side of punk, this is as nervously exposed and at least as aggressive as the latter, while being as meticulously constructed and self-reflective as the former. The essential difference is in the aesthetic commitment. They rehearsed and composed in a meat locker, and being committed to their conceptions, they recorded their records there too. The paradox of making such vital music in such a moribund space comes to a strangely logical fulfillment by being this album’s greatest sonic virtue: its shock and awe dynamics forego the simple attack of a studio-made record which would appeal to more ears and be both more prog and more punk. This is rock as art and thus no audience. Too bad we choose categories over impulses. On the other hand, they’re now gaining ground, and, unfortunately, wider influence. Commodification is coming. Enjoy the impact of this record while it lasts.

History repeats itself. But good music never does. This is the best-kept secret in rock music. So essential, this review ain’t worth the bytes it’s made of. Just get it already. (No, don’t!) –Will… Read more›

The Records “The Records” (1979)

Sure, their flawless, jet-setting single “Starry Eyes” is reason enough to pick up The Records’ debut, but the album as a whole is stuffed with more sugary goodness than your average box of Frosted Flakes. The first side is jam-packed with the restless “All Messed Up and Ready to Go,” adolescent buzz of “Teenarama,” minor key mood piece “Girls That Don’t Exist,” and choice deep cut in the lingering ballad “Up All Night,” while the remainder is highlighted by the punchy rock of “Girl,” nervous “Insomnia,” and jukebox hero tale, “Another Star.” With the requisite vocal harmonies and ringing guitars filled out with the occasional organ or synthesizer, The Records is steadfast in it’s delivery of classic power pop confection. –Ben… Read more›

The Fall “Live at the Witch Trials” (1979)

They are the Fall. He is the Fall. I’m awfully glad someone is, because, pound for pound, album for album, song for song, no one would make such consistently exciting music between 1977 and about 1987. Their debut LP is just about as extraordinary as any of their other prime-period albums, as a young Mark E Smith rants over a busily neurotic minimalism that here sounds a lot like Public Image Ltd. but with more Can than dub in the mix. They also have more studio polish here than they would for several albums, even if it is an ultra-cheap studio sound with a slightly cheesy “punchy” drum sound and a rather drab mix that’s oddly glossy in comparison with, say, Grotesque or Hex Enduction Hour. And even if the infamous Fall sonic/conceptual vocabulary is only in its infancy on this one, this is light years ahead of its peers for morbidly funny, scathing misanthropic vitriol and irresistible two-note hooks. I shouldn’t say that. The Fall have always been peerless. Not a weak track on here; threatening, hilarious, creepy, that is the Fall. If you don’t like ’em, you deserve it. –WillRead more›

X “Under The Big Black Sun” (1982)

A record that sums up Americana as well as any other. “Under The Big Black Sun” is proof that X was as good of a country band as they were a punk band. Rockin’, rollicking, dissonant and dizzying, this record is a forty-five minute bender. Bookended by “The Hungry Wolf” (an superblast of syncopated yell along) and “The Have Nots” (possibly the best drinking song ever), this is the soundtrack to an unencumbered night out. –Cameron… Read more›

New Order “Low-Life” (1985)

One of New Order’s great subtext is the notion that these band members don’t like each other. Low-Life is a typical New Order record, a 50/50 mix of guitar rock and mechanical dance tracks built around synths and table-top boxes, but it stands out to me for excellent songwriting that hints at genuine emotion restrained by an unwillingness to emote in front of those people. Lyrically uncommitted and passive, this is the sound of a band at a creative high with A+ material, trying to keep the sneer hidden behind a stiff upper lip. High points for me are “This Time Of Night” and “Sub-Culture” (the latter of which was a dance club hit) both of which juxtapose the deadpan with cinematic, sinister hooks. –Cameron… Read more›