A few years ago, I was walking past a skateboard park in South Orange, New Jersey and I noticed that several of the teenage mall rats skating there had mass-produced tee-shirts of 70s and 80s punk bands that were not quite right. In the case of one kid wearing a Clash shirt, it wasn’t even the band’s logo or anything even remotely like it, it merely said “The Clash.” In Helvetica!
It was one of the stupidest tee-shirts I have ever seen, and although I don’t hold it against that lad for trying, his attempt to be cool was a wee bit inept. Helvetica, in case you didn’t catch it the first time.
Urban Outfitters is currently offering a “one of a kind” “Vintage Men’s Punk Leather Jacket” with hand-painted almost logos of The Clash, G.B.H., Sex Pistols and Crass. WHO PAINTED THIS?
Pussy Riot fans, check this out - Divorce have just released a three track teaser for their upcoming, self-titled debut album, and damn, it’s good!
If you don’t know Divorce, then let me direct you to the links at the bottom of this post for some introductions. In a nutshell, this majority-female band make a ferocious racket that takes all the best bits of experimental music, noise-rock, thrash and doom and blends it into a unique, powerful sound that is guaranteed to blast the cobwebs out of your ears.
Divorce will be released on vinyl and download through Night School label on September 17th, and the limited edition records run will be printed half on purple vinyl, and half on green vinyl. The label says:
“Divorce” is the culmination of four years of uncompromising noise-rock brutality. Long-time friends of ours, it is an honour to be releasing the debut full-length statement from a band who have set new standards in underground extremity. Since their formation in 2008 they have progressed from no wave dirge practitioners to an unique cult that blurs the boundaries of what ‘punk’, ‘noise-rock’ or ‘metal’ are presumed to sound like. Remaining slippery in definition but relentlessly focused, Divorce have evolved into a singular, incomparable unit.
Recorded by Ali Walker at Glasgow’s Arc Studio & Devil’s Own Studio, “Divorce” finds the band pushing their furious sound further than ever before; a torrent of pummeling rhythms and serrated, overdriven riffs, extended freak outs and ecstatic push and pull dynamics. They have also explored their experimental tendencies more, incorporating power-electronics, white noise and, on the track “Stabby (Stabby) Stab”, free-jazz saxophone (courtesy of guest musician James Swinburne). All this, combined with an over-arching determination to take their music to new limits structurally and sonically, makes “Divorce” a unified audio experience. Divorce are Jennie Fulk (vocals), Vickie McDonald (guitars), VSO (bass) and Andy Brown (drums).
Divorce are one of the best live acts in the UK just now, and if there is any justice in the world, they will make their way Stateside to slay you guys pretty soon. These debut album recordings have done the trick of capturing a great band’s live energy, which is no mean feat. You can pre-order Divorcefrom here, and in the meantime, here’s some tracks to whet your appetite:
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:
An amusing little anecdote from Ari Up of the Slits about the time she met Patti Smith after a show in the 70s (which doesn’t go quite as you’d expect.) As ever, Up oozes oddball charm here, she is still very much missed!
I have been waiting for a band or an act to put into music all the feelings that have been driving the Occupy movement. Music is still one of the fastest means of spreading a meme, and I think it’s a mark of how truly “popular” a movement has become when it has its own protest music that reflects the anger and desires of the protesters.
It seems rather fitting then that the first large-scale act to do so would be squat-rave and black block veterans Atari Teenage Riot. Alec Empire and Nic Endo’s Berlin-based anarchist mob have been screaming about this kind of thing since the early 90s, and it looks like the world has finally caught up with what they have to say. While personally I would have thought it would be a new act to break through representing a new generation, no-one can doubt ATR’s credentials when it comes to this kind of thing. In fact, maybe in this age of ultra-commodified music it would HAVE to take a more veteran, established act to represent OWS and Anonymous so as to avoid claims of false appropriation?
You have to hand it to ATR though, “Black Flags” is a pretty great tune. I’d say it’s one of their most accessible yet while retaining all that dark techno-punk scuzzy energy we know and love (metal guitars over distorted 909 drums? fuck yeah!). You can hear the track, and download it for free, right here:
The video for ‘Black Flags’ has been put together using footage supplied by fans of the band, and they are still looking for more if anyone reading would like to get involved. Here’s a statement from the Alec Empire / Atari Teenage Riot Soundcloud page:
In the past decade we have witnessed how dangerous corruption can be for ordinary citizens, from Fukushima to the financial crisis, we could even include the current phone hacking scandals in the UK in this. The list goes on. Almost weekly more shocking news is being published. Corporate greed has too often put the lives of people in danger.
Historically, the Black Flag stood for not belonging to a certain Nation State (due to the fact that no national colors were used on it). For the us, it means also that no individual can look at him/herself as superior to others just because of his/her national identity.
The mainstream media often looks at “consumers” and labels them as “apathetic.” But as the protests around the world have indicated, there is more political activism than ever before. And not only that, we see the same activism and energy at our concerts.
Cynics always find many reasons for not doing anything and being miserable. Often they say that the world is too “complex” to get involved. We believe that even though the world is complex, there are some fundamentally powerful ideas. Respect for another human being, for example, is a fundamental idea that grants great power.
If you agree to the basic principles of equality and freedom, join us and make a statement!
If you want to be in the video and show that you support the ideals mentioned above, please send us the following footage:
• Take your mobile phone, webcam or any other camera and film yourself lip-synching the song Atari Teenage Riot - Black Flags (feat. Boots Riley) by Alec Empire/ ATR • Have a black flag in the background, or hold it while you’re lip-syncing. (The black flag motif will link all images together. If you don’t have one to hand, use a black T-shirt, pull it inside out, stick the arms into it…there you go.) • You can choose any location for it. If you want to do it at home, great. If you know a crazy location, do it there. (In front of your school or university? At a shopping mall? With your friends at a party?) • We will use fragments of all videos, which are sent in and ultimately add all of you to the official video. • If you want to support the idea but want to do so anonymously, you can cover your face. No problem.
Wild Zero is a cult/trash classic - a bizarre mixture of zombie-horror and rock’n'roll-comedy from Japan. It stars the excellent garage punk band Guitar Wolf
(comprising members Guitar Wolf, Bass Wolf and Drum Wolf) doing battle with a marauding horde of zombies from outer space, and a corrupt alien nightclub owner who steals their wages, armed only with fire-sptting motorbikes, cheap sunglasses and the power of rock’n'roll (oh, and some guns and a magical guitar pick!)
Imagine if the Ramones had wandered onto the set of Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead just as the crew held a mutiny being led by John Waters, and you’re kind of nearly there. The fact that this hails from Japan makes it all the more strange of course, and while you may snigger at the band’s mis-pronounced rallying cry of “Rock’n'Roll!” (repeated by the main protagonist, Ace, a Guitar Wolf super-fan who accidentally saves the band before getting himself into a whole heap of zombie trouble while trying to rescue a shy girl - or is she?), I guarantee you will be shouting it by the end of this movie too. As you’d imagine the soundtrack is awesome, and there’s even some unexpected innovation - like two zombies french-kissing, surely a first? If you’re looking for a feel good adventure ride just now, this is the film for you. Here’s the original Japanese trailer:
Thanks to Geoff Crowther for reminding me of this gem.
There was a time when Nation of Ulysses was the most influential underground rock band in the world. It may not have been for a very long time, and it may have been 20 years ago, before Nirvana took punk aesthetics into the heart of the mainstream, but for a while it seemed like everyone who heard or saw this band just couldn’t shut up about them. It’s not hard to see why Nation of Ulysses drew such cultish adulation - they were always about much more than being a simple band. They had a defined visual aesthetic that drew more from jazz and Soviet art than hardcore. They spoke politics. They worse suits. They described themselves in statements that by today’s standards would spell career suicide for a rock band:
We’re not only a political party, but also a terrorist group. The imperative started with the recognition of the colonialization of youth culture by youth imperialists and the establishment. It was initially formed as a response to that, but now we’ve broadened our breadth to encompass a complete destruction of the American legacy. We understand the workings of oppressions big and small.
At the time [they formed] was Ulysses Speaks your primary medium?
Yeah, we were mostly just proliferating literature and bombing buildings, and then we realized the medium of noise not only creates a perfect cover for our organization but it also creates a camouflage for maniacal riotous behavior and provides a context for acting like an idiot and going beyond the structures of everyday behavioral codes. When you see a show, everybody is jumping up and down screaming—if it’s good—and that’s because they’ve been allowed to step outside the boundaries of regular behavior. We want to go one step further. It’s absurd behavior—dancing is incredibly absurd—and we want to take that one step beyond, and that’s why we have so much violence on stage; we’re trying to bring it to the next level. We’re fighting a war there in the room…the room that we took over.
Since you began this mission, have you become more optimistic that you can effectively utilize the facade of populist entertainment to convey the party message?
Yeah…our message is visual, it’s aural, and it’s olfactory. Our message couldn’t be progenitated properly just with sound. We see the whole idea of music as a sound phenomena as really bogus and an idea which has only taken root since the proliferation version of recorded medium, like records. Before then, nobody would have ever thought, “this is only attacking my ears”, because there’s always a visual side to that whole phenomenon. We’re into the true experience, and that’s why the whole idea of music has really aligned us. What we’re wearing on stage and the way we move on stage has just as much to do with the idea that we’re getting across as the sound that we’re putting forth.
Have you been able to stir up as much antagonism as you might have hoped for?
Yeah, you know - the old order; people who sense the dissolution and the proliferatrion of new ideas. There’s a Kill Ulysses conspiracy - It’s called the Kill Ulysses National Workers Socialist Party; they’re just trying to destroy us. Rock and Roll is trying to destroy us.
From The New Puritan ReView, 1991 - read the whole interview here.
Still, for all the word-of-mouth hype that surrounded Nation of Ulysses in their brief but dazzling career, for kids like me who lived in the sticks their music was harder to come across than hen’s teeth - another situation that seems impossible by today’s standards. Back in the days when you had to travel to a big city and visit a specialist record shop in the hope of picking up an import 7”, it was easier to find releases by Ulysses’ UK adherents like Huggy Bear than it was the band’s own originals. Thankfully, the hardcore NoU fan base still exists and has been doing a pretty good job of disseminating footage and material on the internet, ensuring the band’s legacy will live on and attract more fans. Sure, Nation of Ulysses weren’t the first punk act to adhere to hardcore left-wing politics, or to have a well defined look and outlook, but no-one did it with this much goddam style:
Nation of Ulysses “Introduction/Spectra Sonic Sound” live 1991
OK, so the audio quality in that clip was pretty poor, but it gives you an idea of what their shows were like. Plus, I do love that washed out, third-generation VHS-copy look. Here’s another clip of NoU live from 1991 (minus suits):
Nation of Ulysses “A Comment on Ritual” live 9:30 Club, 1991
You can now buy the Nation of Ulysses back catalog direct from Dischord.
After the jump, even better quality footage of NoU live in DC circa 1991, including a further 30 minutes of that 9:30 Club show above (in color)…
David Arnoff‘s post-punk era photography appeared in the NME, Melody Maker, Trouser Press, N.Y. Rocker and many other publications. The Cleveland-born, but London-based photographer and disc jockey’s work captures iconic bad boys and girls, relaxed and at their most playful. Arnoff is currently readying his photographs for a book and is looking for a publisher. I asked him a few questions over email:
Tara: Tell me about the Stiv Bators shot.
David Arnoff: I was hanging around with Stiv and his post-Dead Boys band in their hotel—pretty sure it was the Sunset Marquis—and we decided to do some shots of him on his own. He’d been messing about with a new air pistol, so we brought that along and just stepped out into the hall, after which it occured to him to maybe go back in the room and put some shoes on, but I said not to bother. We started out doing some rather silly and predictable 007-type poses before he chose to just sit on the floor and look disturbed. I always thought the stripey socks made him look even more so.
Nick Cave, 1983
Tara: You worked with Nick Cave several times. He seems like a guy very concerned about his image, yet playful, too. What’s he like as a subject or collaborator?
David Arnoff: Nick is very easy and unaffected to work with. That shot with Harpo is the result of what started out as another cancelled session at the Tropicana Motel. He apologized for being up all night and indicated all the empty bottles on the TV as evidence, but was perfectly happy for me to carry on regardless even though he was not looking his best. The only downside was he was trying in vain to play “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” not really knowing the chords and the guitar was painfully out of tune. Not an enjoyable aural experience. He was quite happy with the photos though.
Jeffrey Lee Pierce, 1983
Tara: Maybe it was the era, but several of the people you shot were junkies. Any “colorful” anecdotes about the likes of Cave, Jeffery Lee Pierce, Nico or Johnny Thunders?
David Arnoff: Far be it for me to say whether or not any of these people were actually junkies, but it’s funny you should mention Nick and Jeffrey together because I did squeeze all three of us into my little Volvo p1800 to go score on the street—Normandy, I think, around 3rd or somewhere. We then went back to my place in Hollywood, where Jeffrey became convinced they’d been ripped off. But Nick seemed more than happy with his purchase. Afterwards we went to that lesbian-run Mexican place near the Starwood. Nick tried to remember what he’d had previously and proceeded to attempt to describe what he wanted it to the baffled staff. I think they just gave up and sold him a burrito.
More with David Arnoff and his photographs after the jump…
More early 80s synthpunk madness, this time from South Florida’s Futurisk. These guys are pretty obscure and information on them is limited, but according to their website they formed in 1979 when teenager Jeremy Kolosine won some time in a recording studio, and their music was usually:
recorded by Richard Hess and the band in the rooms of Ron K’s house. The drum sound, gotten in a bathroom, rocks, even today. Reportedly, Futurisk may have been the 1st synth-punk band in the American South…or something, and 1981’s track ‘Push Me Pull You (pt. 2)’ was an early pre-‘Rockit’ excursion into electro-funk.
The revival of interest in the band was sparked when James Murphy included one of their tracks on a DFA mix for the French boutique Colette in 2003. Last year the Minimal Wave label released a retrospective of the band’s work called Player Piano, and earlier this year the band put out a remix 12” of the track “Lonely Streets”, one of whose remixes came from the mighty Chris Carter. Here’s a couple of videos of Futurisk in action:
Futurisk - “Meteoright”
After the jump the original video for the classic “Army Now”, and more Futurisk…
The Units were one of the first “rock” bands in America to ditch guitars completely and focus their set-up on drums, vocals and synthesisers. Leaders of San Francisco’s post-punk synth-led music scene (a lot of which is now resurfacing with the current interest in “Minimal Wave”) the comparisons with Devo are clear, but still don’t detract from The Units’ cracking tunes and tangible influence on the new wave generation. Tracks like “High Pressure Days” and “I-Night” are still sought after by record collectors and forward thinking DJs alike, mainly because they still rock.
During live shows, The Units would perform to a video accompaniment of re-edited instructional shorts and found footage called the “Units Training Films”. Some of these films have been recreated and uploaded to Vimeo by founder member Scott Ryser. While still being very much of their time, they are excellent and definitely rank alongside similar efforts by the likes of Church of The Subgenius. Ryser has this to say about them:
The “Unit Training Film #1”, produced by Scott Ryser and Rachel Webber in 1980, was compiled from films that the band projected during their live performances. The films were satirical, instructional films critical of conformity and consumerism, compiled from found footage, home movies, and obsolete instructional shorts. In 1979 and 1980, Rick Prelinger was a frequent contributor and occasional projectionist at the bands live performances in San Francisco. The film was also shown sans band in movie theaters around the San Francisco Bay Area including the Roxie Cinema, Cinematheque, Intersection Theater and the Mill Valley Film Festival .
There was never a set length or definitive “finished version” of the original Unit Training Film. Just the current version. The film varied in length from about 10 to 45 minutes, depending on how long the Units set was on any particular night. Clips were constantly being added and others were deleted and discarded once their condition became too poor to project any longer. The film was constantly breaking, and the projectionists always kept a roll of Scotch Tape nearby for timely repairs.
This 5 minute version, compiled by Scott Ryser, includes some clips of the band playing along with a brief interview by a very young Fred Willard during the period 1980 - 1982.
Who’d have thought Fred Willard was a fan?!
Here is “Unit Training Film 1: Warm Moving Bodies”
After the jump, “Units Training FIlm 2: Cannibals” plus some more classics by The Units…
The Germs’ Pat Smear & Lorna Doom get touchy-feely with lead singer Darby Crash in The New Wave
“Not exactly wholesome, you might say,” notes slick & laid-back narrator Andrew Amador at the end of this weird and rather incomplete look at the burgeoning new music scene in Los Angeles.
Inexplicably opening up with the highly New York sounds of Patti Smith’s version of “Gloria,” The New Wave seems to have been a quick segment put together by erstwhile TV host Amador and shot by someone called Andre Champagne. I wonder if and where it actually aired. It’s an interesting enough artifact in that it features:
Footage of The Germs with Darby Crash in full feathered-and-waxed Bowie mode
A Sunset Strip marquee within the first 30 seconds featuring Pasadena’s Van Halen!
A bit too much footage of The Quick’s heartthrob lead singer Danny Wilde dreaming of stardom. He’d later do the music scene proud by forming the Rembrandts and recording “I’ll Be There For You,” the fittingly excruciating theme for the TV show Friends.
Fucked Up are the best live band in the world right now. And you can take that to the fucking bank. Last night I saw them again, playing in Manchester, and even though I dithered about going all day, the second they launched in to their first song I knew I had made the right decision. Even the old ex-punks and the hard rock daddies agreed, showing their appreciation with beer-bellied body slams and hardcore dance moves they hadn’t busted in 20 years.
Fucked Up are a band who inspire genuine devotion in their fans, a reaction that goes much deeper than than simply liking the music and thinking they are pretty cool. They connect with their audience at a primal level. Singer Pink Eyes spends about 85% of the show in the crowd doling out as many sweaty bear hugs as he can manage. Their moshpits are intense but friendly and positive. They don’t hector their crowd or treat them like idiots, and they don’t use macho posturing to prove any kind of credentials. They are inclusive. You don’t come away from their show feeling weak and inadequate because some guy is over compensating for his white-bred privilege. If, as Richard stated the other day, Henry Rollins is the punk rock Charles Manson then Pink Eyes is the punk rock Santa Claus. And I’d rather get a present than get stabbed.
Matador are currently gearing up to the release of the next Fucked Up album David Comes to Life on June 7th (US, June 8th UK) with four digital releases available to buy or download for free at 192 kbps. David Comes To Life is a 78 minute rock opera set in 80s Thatcherite Britain and if these tracks are anything to go by this album is going to be really good - “The Other Shoe” is already a very strong contender for single of the year.
For more info on David Comes To Life visit davidcomestolife.com, or check out the Matador Records blog. I have to be honest with you guys - I haven’t been genuinely excited by a rock band in about, ooh, at least a decade. More. But Fucked Up are making me fall in love with rock music all over again. If you ever get the chance to see their shows, do it!
Today is Kim Gordon’s birthday - founder member of Sonic Youth and Free Kitten, producer, actress, designer, director, all round one of the coolest people in rock’n'roll. Here’s a few clips in celebration - any excuse to post about Kim or Sonic Youth on DM is worth it.
Kim Gordon reads the Riot Grrrl Manifesto
Kim Gordon talks to Style.com about her label X-Girl, shopping in New York and working with Chloe Sevigny.
Seminal post-punk disco-afro-funk act Pigbag have reformed for a special one-off gig on Saturday at London’s Jazz Café. Best known for their smash hit “Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag”, the band were signed to the seminal Y Records in the 80s, and had other minor hits with “Dr Heckle and Mr Jive” and “Sunny Day”. From the press release:
The new line-up features original members Chris Lee on trumpet (who’s also played with the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl), Ollie Moore on saxes (Neneh Cherry, The Abyssinians) and drummer Kofi Adu (Osibisa, Mulato Astatke). New converts are the renowned jazz trombonist Annie Whitehead (Dr John), bassist Mark Jay Smith (Hardware, Infinite Wheel) Jessica Lauren on keys (Tom Browne, Juliet Roberts), percussionist Godwin Awala (Kush, Nana Tsiboe) and guitarist Ed Riches (Omar). This talented new line-up has been writing fresh material that fuses joyful African sounds and charged funk beats with punchy hooklines and surreal arrangements.
Perhaps a bit overlooked in the annals of punk-funk (not as cool as Public Image or the Specials, sampled by some dodgy acts) they were excellent and had a very distinctive horn-and-percussion-driven sound and atmosphere. “Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag” still retains its power to pack a dance floor and inspire a wordless singalong almost 30 years later. Here’s the band performing their signature tune on Top Of The Pops at the dawn of 1983: