Punk and New Wave

The Stooges “Raw Power” (1973)

“The raw power of Iggy Pop predated punk.” An anonymous quote I heard from some time back that sums up the very essence of what Iggy and the Stooges were about. And with their 1973 release, Raw Power, their muscle is in full-flex-mode. Famously produced by, David Bowie, and the band in a state of disorder – the combining couple crafted an album that, not only became a trailblazer, but also set the tone for what would come next, punk. Because of this, Raw Power, was molded into the blueprint of how rock ‘n’ roll should always be: dark, dangerous, and full of filth. The out of ordinary sound for its time has still never been equaled, many imitators came and went, struggling with the crass intensity, but they were all failed attempts. Iggy made a point to declare conventionalism was out, and in its place — sleazy drug-fueled globs of noise. The Stooges remain one of my all-time favorite bands. And it has a lot to do with Raw Power. Some hipsters might declare, Raw Power, the weakest out of the holy trinity, due to its heavy praise, but there’s no denying its incendiary explosive strength. And on more than one occasion, I have been known to declare it my favorite album, ever. –Jason

Tears For Fears “The Hurting” (1983)

Even though I was well past the teenage angst phase when The Hurting was released it still managed to strike a mighty big chord. If you thought that electronic pop was nothing more than lightweight froth, then this album will come as something of a shock. This is as close as music gets to defining the nightmare that is adolescence. It is amazingly depressing yet musically uplifting. The melancholic atmosphere is palpable especially on gruesome downer tracks like “Watch Me Bleed” and “Start Of The Breakdown” which are perfect fodder for manic-depressives. For my money this is the only Tears For Fears album worth owning. Here they revel in an unrefined talent combined with a pristine sound which would later be soiled by over production on the likes of Songs From The Big Chair. All the songs on The Hurting have been penned by Roland Orzabal and I read somewhere that the album is a reflection of his troubled childhood. So, while I could relate to this from a teenage perspective, Orzabal was suffering through this at a much younger age – which gives the album an even more harrowing edge. As he says “memories fade but the scars still linger”.  –Ian

The Teardrop Explodes “Kilimanjaro” (1980)

It’s amazing to think that one of the great eccentrics of popular music, Julian Cope, originated from what, on an initial listen, appears to be a straightforward post punk, electronic pop band. Delve a little deeper beneath the swathes of synthesised sound however and those original impression begin to subtlety alter. The lyrics carry an esoteric intelligence which belies their frivolous accompaniment and the unusual inclusion of a brass section is a masterstroke. But, as someone far smarter than me once said, “Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t make it profound”. What gives this album it’s cutting edge is the combination of all these elements which come together to form a frenetic, catchy, cohesive whole. The Teardrop Explodes were cut from the same cloth as Echo And The Bunnymen but their use of synths gave them a far more radio-friendly edge. I love the dumb chorus for “When I Dream” and the pounding drumbeats on “Bouncing Babies” and the way the keyboards seem to jog along with Cope’s voice on “Brave Boys Keep Their Promises”. The brevity of the brass on both “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” and “Treason” is both unexpected and uplifting. In fact the whole of Kilimanjaro can be treated as just an uplifting pop album but there’s far more going on than that. The problem is that whatever is going on is securely locked inside Cope’s mind. Yes there are references to television series The Outer Limits in “Sleeping Gas” and that song also mentions Rafferty, a seventies series staring Patrick McGoohan which was a precursor to Hugh Lawrie’s House, but I’ve no idea why those things are namechecked. Like a line in another song says: “Poppies are in the fields, don’t ask me what that means”. The thing is, you don’t need to know and maybe it’s even better not knowing because you never know what to expect with Cope. Kilimanjaro is often overlooked when discussing post-punk music – it deserves better. –Ian

The Modern Lovers “The Modern Lovers” (1976)

This albums flawlessness is unparalleled. Jonathan Richman has crafted an ideal record that is filled with exceptional songs. “Pablo Picasso” has to be one of my favorites. I can never get enough of it and “Hospital” is right there alongside it. Just beautiful love stories told with such panache and Richman’s voice is perfectly suited with each spoken word. Listening to “Hospital” is heartrending, but when reading the lyrics it’s almost like a six year old wrote it. But, this album is anything but ordinary. It’s a candid masterpiece that ranks at the top of all my lists. –Jason

X-Ray Spex “Germfree Adolescents” (1978)

This is still one of most amazing, alluring and simply surreal records to emerge from punk rock — or simply rock. It’s a total one-off, and it hasn’t dated a bit. Where the hell did it come from? You can trace the lineage of the Clash or the Pistols back to their roots; Poly Styrene simply seems to have emerged completely formed, as if what she took from punk wasn’t a formula but a license to truly be herself. She is a wonderful lyricist, both critiquing and celebrating modern consumerism; for Poly, there’s something both fascinatingly alluring and horrifying in the plastic throwaway society. Really, the closest you’ll come to this record are J.G. Ballard’s 1970s novels such as Crash and The Unlimited Dream Company. The title track — about an obsessive-compulsive (as a result of rape?) — is one of the most haunting love songs you’ll ever hear. All this plus Styrene’s banshee wail and Rudi’s wild sax. So wonderfully alien — next to it, Bjork’s eccentricities looks like a tryhard wannabe. No wonder the band split after this; what was there left to say? –Brad

The Clash “The Clash” (1977)

While London Calling is often hailed as the finest effort by these guys, my tastes has always made me favor their debut above the rest. It really stands out as the best representation of what the Clash were capable of and why at one point, they were considered the only band that mattered. Unlike London Calling, there isn’t a single bad song within the bunch. On this particular release (US version – which in my opinion is a more improved edition of the UK release) you get punk classics such as: “Clash City Rockers,” “I’m So Bored With the USA,” “White Man in Hammersmith Palais” (which just might be my favorite Clash song), “London’s Burning,” “I Fought the Law,” “Janie Jones,” and so on. Every last song is a stone cold classic and it just sounds so exciting no matter how many times it has been played. This is about as good as it get’s when referring to punk rock and it has my vote as the finest from the “Brit-punk” era. Actually, make that from any era. Highly recommended to everyone and it’s pretty damn close to being my all-time favorite record. –Jason

Siouxsie and the Banshees “Kaleidoscope” (1980)

And so the Banshees effectively start over, with a new drummer (Budgie), new guitarist (John McGeoch), and a new sound. They keep the heart of darkness that was at the core of The Scream, but swap the constant jittery guitar and fractured beat for something sleeker, stranger, more expansive and greater. Put it this way: if the first two albums were grainy black-and-white, Kaleidoscope is a big-screen epic in glorious technicolor. The band absorbs elements that would have seen out of place just a year earlier: the acoustic guitars of “Christine”, the keyboards of “Happy House”, the swirling psychedelic feel to much of the record. Yet the Banshee’s signature sounds — Siouxsie’s emphatic vocals and Steven Severin’s flowing bass — are at the core of the album. A triumph, yet they would make even greater records down the track. –Brad

Rancid “…And Out Come the Wolves” (1995)

Rancid’s …And Out Come the Wolves is an often overlooked classic from the 90’s. I guess you could say that the album was my first true punk experience and I’m sure many of you would disagree about this being *true* punk, but anyway you look, it had massive influence on my musical growth and even got me into such hardcore legends as Black Flag, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedy’s, and pretty much every other US punk band you can think of. I’ll be glad to admit the fact that …Wolves is a little overfilled, but all the songs are catchy as hell and I really couldn’t do without any of them. Many among my age might credit Green Day for opening the doors to “old school” punk education, not for me because I never really saw them as punk or even being punk influenced (no matter how many times Billy Joe wanted to praise The Clash) and their records from that time have become increasingly stale through the years. Rancid, on the other hand still sounds fresh and full of forceful energy and show no signs of slowing down. …And Out Come the Wolves is by far one of the greatest (and most underrated) albums from the 90’s and continues to hold many fond memories from my youth that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. –Jason

Flipper “Album: Generic Flipper” (1982)

Dirt, drug-fueled, filth-ridden punk is the best way to describe Flipper’s Generic album. It’s not exactly fast paced like many other punk bands of the time, but it makes up for it with its sheer brilliance of heavy sludge guitars and downer lyrics. If you’re looking for in your face sweet talk go else where, this set is devoted to the noise crazed enslaving crowds. And every track plays off the next, ultimately concluding to the epic closer, “Sex Bomb” — which is literally one of the most enthralling songs ever recorded. The whole album is an all filth, visceral, perfect mess. Highly recommended! –Jason

Sonic Youth “Daydream Nation” (1988)

“Record collectors shouldn’t be in bands!” This is what Joe Carducci said when the other guys at SST records wanted to sign Sonic Youth in the mid eighties, And I can’t fully disagree with the statement. Sonic has spent their career as artsy NYC hipsters riding any and every genre of music that they may or may not have business making, as long as it’s “cool”. In the early days, it was mostly a band trying to balance with one foot in punk while holding on to their no wave and high art credibility. By the early nineties, they were consciously dumbing down to cash in on grunge riffs. But at some point between the two, they managed to create one of the best rock albums of all time, the massive double LP, Daydream Nation. It’s focused drive and sprawling experimentation come off so impressively natural. Somehow they balance a sort of psychedelic rock approach to slightly punk fueled pop songs with very DEAD C like noise drone outs that miraculously blend into a seamless late eighties indie record. Even the usually free flowing poetic vocals are at their least offensive. In fact most of the lyrics are amazing. It’s the band at their peak of maturity. The space inside each song seems to grow with each listen as well, which leads to what seems like endless repeated listenings. Sadly, the 4th side trails off into some annoying territory, but there’s so much to chew on already, and for the first three sides, nothing to skip. The sound suggests high art without the pretension overshadowing the human feel of the songs. Even Carducci later admitted that they were a good band in this period. That’s what I think impresses me the most about Sonic Youth; every instinct tells me that this band need’s to get real yet I always come back to them, and in Daydream’s case, rarely leave. –Alex

The Damned “Damned Damned Damned” (1977)

It might not be peanut butter, but no doubt that’s some Stooge flavored pie the Damned are licking up on the cover of Damned, Damned, Damned, an album that wallows in the same scuzzy punk sewer as the influential Detroit rockers, with tracks like “Born To Kill,” speed freakers “Neat Neat Neat,” “New Rose,” and the menacing Cooper-ish sneer of “Fan Club.” Given a brittle and brutal production job by Nick Lowe, the album rattles with a violent energy that rushes in and assaults your eardrums, running off with your wallet and girlfriend before you’ve had a chance to retaliate, as an appropriate cover of “I Feel Alright” slams the door shut. A simple, pure shot of snotty energy that’s refreshingly free of the political posturing of some other first-wave UK punk. –Ben

Talking Heads “Remain in Light” (1980)

In the height of punk and the beginning of hip-hop, white and black music had never been more distant. David Bryne had his eye on fixing that. The funky rhythm section returns more complete then ever with Bryne being more characteristic then ever playing with words and sounds that is both unbelievably cool and bizarre. Brian Eno’s songwriting contribution and production just top it off, from the computer freak out in the opening track to the excellent “Once in a Lifetime”. Above all, it’s Byrne’s tackling questions about our identity in a booming society (“Seen and Not Seen”) and sympathizing with people that aren’t a part of it (“Listening Wind”), that makes it all the more poignant. It’s like those parties where everyone gets drunk and dances their asses off, and around 3am the guys with beards who like to talk about their emotions go on about the government and the super ego. –Allistair

What a gathering of great musical minds. Adrian Belew, Brian Eno AND David Byrne!? What results is like the offspring of 80’s King Crimson and David Bowie’s Low on uppers. “House in Motion” is ridiculously fun to listen to. The Reggae rhythm mixed with East Indian themes, Adrian Belew doing his thing on guitar, the repeating electronic trumpet and that “mbarp” sound. What the heck is that sound? –Rob