Tag Archives: Post Punk

Jah Wobble: A Very British Coup (Cadiz)

Post punk greeting to Brexit’s end of the beginning

Though originally released in Europe as a vinyl EP, this domestic maxi-single CD was out just in time to greet Britain’s exit from the EU. Jah Wobble is joined by his forner PiL bandmates, Richard Dudanski and Keith Levene, fronted by the Pop Group’s Mark Stewart, augmented by loops from Primal Scream’s Andrew Anderall, and produced by Martin Glover. The single is a hypnotic blend of Wobble and Dudanski’s rhythm lock, Levene’s buzzing guitar, and a vocal that rolls warnings, accusations, defenses, and dire prognostication into compact lyrics that echo the fragmentation and chaos of Britain’s near term. The additional tracks on this maxi-single include a radio edit, a spacey dub, and a ska-fueled dub that adds loops and pushes the bass and drums forward. Apparently angst breeds fine art. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Jah Wobble’s Home Page

Sunshine and the Rain: In the Darkness of My Night

As if Kim Wilde fronted the Jesus and Mary Chain

When a group describes themselves as a “bombastic and chaotic” spin on girl group sounds, you’re probably in for an adrenaline-charged good time. Imagine if Kim Wilde had fronted a version of the Ramones that had been inspired by The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “f’d up distorted sound.” Ashley Morey sings with a tart sweetness that’s sublimely at odds with her overdriven bass, husband Justin’s buzzing guitars and their pummeling drum machine. Her voice floats in a pop bubble above the sonic fray, with Beach Boys-styled harmonies and chimes seeming almost dissonant against the distorted backings and shouted asides.

What’s really appealing, besides melodic hooks that burrow deep into your ear, is the combination of aggression and vulnerability that drives many of the songs. Morey creates an emotional quiet/loud dynamic as she mates the imperious power of Mary Weiss to the vulnerability of Feargal Sharkey, producing the sense of someone who’s confident but not wholly sure. She’s bloodied by romantic wreckage, but damn well isn’t going to bleed out, and even the relatively tender “So Far So Close” is colored by thrumming bass and a distorted edge on the vocals.

The obsessive desire of “Little Rag Doll” is endearing and maybe a bit scary, depending on whether it’s a private thought written into a diary or a love letter shoved into someone’s locker. There are moments of less harrowing desire, such as the hopeful realization of “Come On Baby,” but much of the album’s romance is seen in postmortem hangover as Morey wrestles with lingering attachments and emerging feelings of righteous anger. A cover of Fugazi’s “Merchandise” retains its urgency amid the duo’s electric hum, but it’s the girlgroup hooks and baion beats that really give this record its power. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Sunshine and the Rain’s Bandcamp Page

The Persian Leaps: Your City, Underwater

persianleaps_yourcityunderwaterGuitar-rich power pop echoes Teenage Fanclub and post-punk

Hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota (home to the world record Lite Brite installation), the Persian Leaps’ power pop will remind you of the more muscular sounds of Teenage Fanclub, Guided By Voices and Matthew Sweet, but also the ironic vocal style of ’80s and ’90s post-punk bands. The songs deviate from the usual menu of power pop pining for lyrics of terminal illness, social anxiety and anthropogenic global warming. The latter is the subject of the confrontational “The Weather,” a song that should be piped into Scott Pruitt’s office every morning as a catchy reminder of prevailing scientific thought. Closing the EP is “Short and Sour,” a brutally frank kiss-off that opens with the dagger “if silence were golden, you’d always be broke.” Five songs, thirteen minutes and lots of guitars, bass, drums and melody. Great stuff! [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Persian Leaps’ Home Page

Raging Fire: Everything is Roses – 1985-1989

RagingFire_EverythingIsRosesMid-80s post-punk from the heart of country music

From a vantage point on the West Coast, Jason and the Nashville Scorchers seemed to be an anomaly – a rock band from Nashville – and when they dropped “Nashville” from their name, the connection between Music City and native-born rock music grew even more tenuous. But the Scorchers turn out to be both the nationally known emblem of and an inspiration for a lively Nashville rock scene that was broader than the mating of country and punk. A less widely known darling of that scene was Raging Fire, whose mid-to-late ‘80s catalog is sampled for this 22-track anthology.

Fronted by vocalist Melora Zaner, Raging Fire could pull back and give hints of their Nashville origins, but the band’s dynamic rock ‘n’ roll rage was more in line with the barking poetry of Patti Smith, post-punk of X and new wave studio sounds of the 80s, than southern rock or country twang. Even the band’s acoustic numbers, such as “After Loving One Man From East Texas,” have some bite. Had they been in San Francisco or Los Angeles, or five years later in Olympia, things might have been different; but as it played out, they attracted attention from record labels, but never closed a deal.

The group toured the midwest and south, and gained college radio play for their EP A Family Thing and album Faith Love Was Made Of. The former is included here in its entirety, the latter sampled alongside demos and tracks drawn from compilation albums. Without a label deal, the band’s momentum stalled, the members’ lives moved in different directions, and the group drifted and broke apart. With this first-ever reissue, it’s still hard to imagine this music coming out of Nashville, but even harder to imagine there wasn’t one label who could get this band signed. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Raging Fire’s Home Page

The Neats: 1981-84 The Ace of Hearts Years

Neats_1981-84AceOfHeartsYearsReissue of seminal Boston post-punk guitar band

The Neats were something of an anomaly within the early-80s Boston music scene – failed to hew exclusively to any of the punk, pop, roots or garage ideals of the time. Their trance-inducing rhythm guitars shared a greater resonance with the Feelies, Dream Syndicate and early REM than their Beantown brethren. They would later evolve away from this sound for 1987’s Crash at Crush, but their original musical vision was captured in a single, EP and album for the legendary Ace of Hearts label. All of that, plus a pre-Ace of Hearts track for Propeller, and four previously released post-album tracks (#19-22) are collected here for the first time in digital form.

The disc begins with the 1982 EP Monkey’s Head in the Middle of the Room, whose opening track “Red and Gray” is a microcosm of the group’s charms: electric guitars that intertwine rhythms, counterpoints and melodic overlays, a driving rhythm section that perches on the edge of anxious, and vocals that break from their post-punk passion for transcendent moments of melody. The instrumental passages aren’t as jittery as those of the Feelies, but have a similar quality, and Eric Martin’s vocal alternately punctuates the rhythm and wanders introspectively across the beat. The EP closes with the superb instrumental “Pop Cliche,” suggesting a backing track from a post-punk version of the Byrds.

The EP was voted fourth best in a strong year for pop EPs (not even mentioned in the poll are the Three O’Clock’s Baroque Hoedown, the Bangles self-titled EP and the Lyres AHS 1005), securing the group another release on Ace of Hearts. Their 1983 self-titled album (tracks 8-16 here) didn’t differ startlingly from the EP, but as the nine new tracks demonstrate, the EP’s groove was far from played out. There’s overt psychedelia in the tail end of “Sad,” and the organ of “Sometimes” and harmonica of “Do the Things” add some garage flavor, but the recipe remains largely the same as the earlier release. The album (like the EP), garnered a lot of college radio play, and the band’s tours showed how well the new material worked on stage.

The album’s single “Caraboo” was backed by a dinner-dance styled cover of the standard “Harbour Lights,” with Martin’s vocal treated to a megaphone effect. The organ-laced “Six” is included from the 1981 four-artist EP, Propeller Product, and features a staccato vocal that was touched by punk. The CD’s final four tracks were recorded in 1984, though apparently never before released. They’re hard driving, as good as anything the band recorded before, and would have made a nice EP to cap the group’s stay on Ace of Hearts. Nearly all of this material (save “Cariboo” and its flip) sat unreissued for years, and is now thankfully available on one handy disc. If you can’t find it for sale here, try direct from Ace of Hearts Records. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

The Neats’ Home Page
Ace of Hearts Records

Translator: Sometimes People Forget

Translator_SometimesPeopleForgetA treasure trove of demos from 1980s powerhouse

Translator’s 1982 modern rock classic “Everywhere That I’m Not” turned out to be an ironic title, since it was itself everywhere. The record’s canny combination of an impassioned post-punk vocal, a singalong chorus and the rocket fuel of Columbia Records’ distribution network launched the single on both college and commercial radio. Translator formed in Los Angeles, but found their home on Howie Klein’s San Francisco-based 415 label, alongside Romeo Void, Wire Train and Red Rockers. The group’s debut, Heartbeats and Triggers, gained deep album play on college radio just as the medium was itself was gaining traction as a tastemaker. The band recorded three more albums, showing off talent and imagination that spanned well beyond their new wave breakthrough, but they never again caught the popular heat of their debut.

This volume of demos is centered around that key year of 1982, collecting early, pre-LP material from 1979, and extending through tracks recorded at the time of their self-titled third album in 1985. Most familiar to most listeners will be the demos of “Everywhere That I’m Not” and its album-mate “Necessary Spinning.” Each is surprisingly finished in its attitude and arrangement, sounding ready for both the studio and stage. The former is among four recordings by the original trio lineup, waxed before guitarist Robert Darlington joined the band. The band’s first two demos, “Translator” and “Lost,” show how the band merged rock ‘n’ roll roots – rockabilly, surf and mod – with a harder punk delivery. By 1980 the group had grown into the quartet that would stay together throughout their four 1980’s albums, and regroup for 2012’s Big Green Lawn.

The demos include material from each of those four original albums, including an early version of “Beyond Today,” titled “Get Out.” The demo’s raw sound – particularly its dry vocals – contrasts sharply with the album’s polished production; the original on-the-nose protest lyrics were smartly replaced by more open-ended, philosophical thoughts. In many cases, the album versions only lightly brushed up what was already in the demos, clarifying the acoustics, enlarging the drums and tightening the guitars. What will be especially interesting to fans are the songs that never made it past demo form, including the post-punk “Lost,” prog-rock “Fiendish Thingy,” punk rock “Optimism,” neo-psych “We Fell Away,” French language “My Restless Heart,” hard-rocking “Brouhaha” and the superb set closer “I’ll Be Your Summer.”

Those looking to expand on their memory of “Everywhere That I’m Not” should start with the group’s debut or a compilation of album tracks. But if you’ve already picked up the group’s catalog, this 22-track set, curated by Steve Barton, is a great place to continue. In addition to songs that never made it to a final studio version, the unrefined edges of the demos provide insight into the band’s vision of themselves. Better yet, several of the tracks were recorded live-in-the-studio, giving fans a chance to re-live the band’s stage dynamic. Translator’s breakthrough in the post-punk new wave era turns out to have been more a matter of timing than of musical destiny, as these demos show their range was a great deal wider than could make it on MTV or commercial radio. The disc’s 20-page booklet includes quotes from David Kahne, Ed Stasium, Steve Berlin and detailed liners by Steve Barton. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Steve Barton’s Home Page
Translator’s Home Page

The Surfin’ Robots: Cowabungiga!

Synthpop meets surf music and post-punk

If you’ve been itching to take a toaster into the ocean, this French band’s electrosurf music is for you. It melds the repetitive electronic buzz, drum machines, low bass and processed vocal riffs of dance music with the spring reverb sounds of surf guitar. This rambles between banal dance tunes, kitschy Perry & Kingsley-styled synthpop, ‘50s and ‘60s space-age bachelor pad pastiche, and Raybeats-styled post-punk surf. Surf fans should check out “Cowabungiga,” “Chemical Beach,” and “Made in China,” among other tracks. Ennio Morricone fans, give a listen to “Lonely Space Surfer,” and those still freaking out from ‘60s acid flashbacks might like “Speed Spirals.” [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

The Surfin’ Robots MySpace Page

Patrolled By Radar: Be Happy

Rocking blend of country, pub rock, post punk, folk and blues

Patrolled by Radar is a long-running Southern California quintet, previously known as 50 Cent Haircut, and led by singer/songwriter Jay Souza. Their music mixes country, folk, blues, psych, pub rock and post-punk. Souza’s singing occasionally suggests a rustic, nasal incarnation of the Bongos’ Richard Barone, but he also brings to mind the promenading music hall soul of Ray Davies on the horn-lined “Pachyderm,” and a polished, yet equally disturbing version of Holly Golightly’s blues on “Widow Next Door.” Souza’s lyrics are more poem than narrative, leaving behind impressions and images rather than story arcs. You’ll find yourself singing “my skull was cracked / like a cathedral dome,” but you may not know why. More easily digested are the teary loss of “Coat of Disappointment, the alcoholic’s spiral of “Fast Life, Slow Death,” and a soldier’s consideration of his circumstances in “Carried Away.” The songs are often dressed in catchy melodies and clever word play that initially obsure the lyrics’ underlying darkness, but the contrast makes this both immediately accessible and grist for deeper consideration. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | New Fight Song
Patrolled By Radar’s Home Page
Patrolled by Radar’s Facebook Page

Gardens: Gardens

Driving Detroit rock spiked with punk and psych

Detroit may have taken a body blow from the recession, but it only seems to have intensified the city’s music. This Motor City quartet has the aggressiveness of a ‘70s punk band weaned on the Stooges, Amboy Dukes and MC5 and the range of a band that’s listened through the transitions from garage to psychedelia and punk to post-punk. Things fall apart, Velvet Underground-style, on “Ideas to Use,” but snap back together for the driving bass-guitar-drums riff of “Safe Effect.” Touches of organ and a low-key lead on “River Perspective” down shift momentarily, as does the experimental “Poems,” but it’s the mid-tempo, hard-strummed numbers that will move you and make you move. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Safe Effect
Gardens’ Home Page