Frank Zappa discussing television, sin and language on Canadian TV show The Day It Is in 1969.
“If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.” ~ Frank Zappa.
The 1983 documentary UK/DK: A Film About Punks And Skinheads features some great live performances from The Exploited, Disorder and The Adicts, among others. It does a solid job of capturing the tail end of the British punk scene as it was being supplanted by hardcore and the pop elements in the music replaced by something faster, more aggressive and humorless.
Featuring lively interviews with band members, journalists and fans… and lots of Crazy Color and mohawks. One of the better documentaries on the subject I’ve seen.
Exploited – Fuck The USA
Vice Squad – Stand Strong Stand Proud
Adicts – Joker In The Pack
Blitz – New Age
Business – Blind Justice
Adicts – Viva La Revolution
Varukers – Soldier Boy
Chaos UK – No Security
Disorder – Life
If Visiting Kids strike you as Devo-esque, it’s probably because this late 80s surreal spin on “The Partridge Family” was founded by Mark Mothersbaugh’s wife at the time, Nancye Ferguson, and included Bob Mothersbaugh and his daughter Alex, and Devo drummer (their fourth) David Kendrick. Mark wrote some of the tunes for the group and Bob Casale produced the Visiting Kids’ only album, which was released in 1990 on New Rose (it’s extremely rare).
Here’s Visiting Kids singing the appropriately titled “Nepotism” with Bob Mothersbaugh sounding more than a little like Fred Schneider on vocals.
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful and over-accessorized.
For several weeks prior to this year’s SXSW fest (I was on assignment), I kept my radio tuned to Sirius satellite station XMU. It’s the Pitchfork of the airwaves, a soul-crushing compendium of the most inert and listless music I’ve listened to since the last time I visited a dentist’s office. XMU is to music what Prozac is to mood swings - it levels everything out in such a way that there are no highs or lows, just a steady drone of zombied-out vocals mewling over testosterone-free guitar strumming, Lancelot Link-like drumming, and the blurts, pings and sweeping crescendos of freshly un-boxed synthesizers radiating the audio equivalent of the new car smell. Other than people like me doing research, who listens to this shit? If radios could vomit, mine would have spewed a Technicolor yawn all over my lap.
Having said that, I did discover a few bands that compelled me to check them out at SXSW. One was Grimes, a 24 year-old multi-instrumentalist from Montreal, that I found enchanting, ethereal and a wonderful songwriter. She reminds me a bit of The Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Fever Ray lite and Young Marble Giants in a good mood.
Here’s a lovely clip of Boucher performing on the Jools Holland show. She’s become the darling of the hipster press and sometimes those bearded mouth-breathers get it right.
Of all the great British post-punk groups, probably the most unfairly overlooked today and the band most long over-due for some sort of critical reappraisal—if you ask me, anyway—is the Psychedelic Furs.
The first Psychedelic Furs album came out (gulp) 32 years ago. I personally think it’s an incredible musical masterpiece—in my top five “desert island discs,” for sure—but ask a younger person if they’ve even heard of the group, and you’ll normally get a blank stare. You mention “Pretty in Pink” and they might mutter something in the affirmative, but that’s about it.
Don’t get me wrong, the Furs largely inflicted this on their own artistic reputation by trying to be all MTV-friendly with their shitty mid-80s “New Wave” music, clothes and hairstyles, and by re-recording “Pretty in Pink” for that Molly Ringwald film. Today they’re a well-oiled touring machine on the 80s nostalgia circuit, but the sad truth is that they were largely responsible for their own fall from grace with their original fan-base. They went from being one of the darkest, smartest, edgiest art-school bands of the era to a dull, radio-friendly bunch of teased-haired Billy Idol wannabes. From the real truly underground thing to the fake version of that in under five years.
This is the reason why Bauhaus will be eternally cool and the Furs never will be: They knew when to call it quits.
That much is undeniable, but based on the evidence of their first three albums, they were one of the most brilliant and awe-inspiring bands of that era. Truly I come here to praise the Psychedelic Furs, not to bury them. When I was a kid, they were one of the main groups I followed, along with Throbbing Gristle, Talking Heads, PiL and Kraftwerk. I wore a small badge of their first album cover (the British one, I’ll have you know) on my black trench coat and I have even gone to see them play live two nights in a row. Believe me when I tell you that I loved the Psychedelic Furs and that I want you to love them as much as I did back then…
Lead singer Richard Butler was one of the coolest fuckers around in the early 1980s. Employing blasphemous stream of consciousness free verse and sarcastic Dylanesque wordplay simply dripping with rancor, Butler’s venomous lyrics, especially on that astonishing first record, were probably the very best of the post-punk era. None of his contemporaries were in his league as a lyricist. Seriously, who else came even close? His lyrics were positively Joycean:
I idolized Richard Butler. I wanted to BE him. Even before David Bowie totally went crap with Let’s Dance, it was Butler (and John Lydon) to whom my teenage allegiance had shifted. That’s really saying a lot! (I told this to Richard Butler personally about ten years ago at a cook-out in upstate New York. I’m guessing that I’m not the first person to tell him such a thing).
And then there is the band. Their beautifully chaotic wall of sound, that dense, pounding, propulsive, barely-controlled evil energy the Furs were known for. Especially on their self-titled Martin Hannett and Steve Lillywhite-produced debut record, their apocalyptic racket, to my mind, was as titanic and as powerful as what was heard on PiL’s first album. The Furs’s junkyard thrash was anchored by Tim Butler’s booming, metronomic basslines and Vince Ely’s thundering drums, then layered by the twin guitar attack of Roger Morris and (criminally under-rated) John Ashton. These gentlemen gave the group’s music a blunt force and the sleazy, squealing saxophone of Duncan Kilburn positioned right on top of everything else lent a free jazz element to the proceedings, which, along with Butler’s raspy, cigarette-strained vocals, gave the group its signature sound.
No surprises, the music of the Psychedelic Furs sounded divine when you were tripping on LSD. Trust me, I’d know…
On the first album’s lead-off number, “India,” after a slow, dramatic build-up that sounds like hissing radiator pipes being manipulated by Brian Eno, a storm of shattered glass, car exhaust fumes, cigarette butts and used hypodermic syringes descends upon your head. Deny the hit-and-run power of this song!
My baby paints herself red
She paints her hair
Her hair is dead
She’s living in the city
with the bodies that scream
“We are all Jesus”
We all dream
See the dancer in there reeling
Paint the sky upon the ceiling
Four useless gods upon a day
so blinded by the filth on sunday
Saying the words what an idiot you are
There’s flowers all around his feet,
there’s flowers in his heart
If you take the needles out
his body falls apart
His body is upon the wall
His teeth are sharp and white
We cut his hands with razorblades
and out of him comes foul white light
Make a god of politics
Make a god of police
Worship it with automobiles
Worship it with screams
“We Love You”:
I’m in love with The Factory
I’m in love with the BBC
I’m in love with your T.V.
They’re so in love with you and me
“We Love You,” lip-synced here in front of an audience of American children!
More synthesizer-based disco lushness, this time with a punk/new-wave twist.
The Units were one of the first synth-punk bands to appear out of San Francisco in the late 70s and “High Pressure Days” is one of their best-known tracks. It’s a slice of neurotic punk-synth-funk that’s brimming with pent-up energy.
Todd Terje hails from Oslo in Norway, and is one of the most respected re-editters/remixers in nu-disco and house. His recent EP release It’s The Arps is definitely worth checking out.
When these two got together it was moidah. This remix of “High Pressure Days” has just been released on 12” by Opilec Music (with more remixes on the flip by I-Robot), and can also be found on the exhaustive Units’ remix album Connections:
Huge bouncy Stonehenge titled “Sacrilege” is an art installation located in Glasgow for the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts by British artist Jeremy Deller. “It’s something for people to interact with, it’s a big public sculpture,” says Deller, “It is also a way of interacting with history and archaeology and culture in a wider sense.”