Wednesday, December 9, 2015

burning with anxiety

why aren't they more legendary?

among the heaviest of the UK punks

"in a rut" the next step on from "submission"

hard rock with big, rolling bass

i suppose it is only those two songs that are titanic-ly great though really

this other hit of their is more than solid

'Staring AT the Rude Boys' is alright - accused by some in the music press of fomenting violence

the guys in the Ruts were kinda hippies - met at Deeply Vale Music Festival ! - realised which way the wind was blowing and changed their approach and no doubt hair styles and trousers.

then there's the whole reggae thing - the alliance with Misty in Roots

a bit like a politically conscious Sublime that one

same deadly drug takes out the lead singer

the last single (of the Malcolm Owen line-up) - getting a bit mainstream hard rock here

Stiff Little Fingers are another band lost to time as well, aren't they? they were so huge for about a year - remember a boy at my school had their logo all over his folders and briefcase

But no young person today would check them out, when going through the checklist of History You Must Acquaint Yourself With

whereas Buzzcocks, Wire, Slits, Clash, X Ray Spex would be most definitely be on that list...


  1. Great band. Their problem was that the catalogue was a bit too thin - they needed a strong second album.

    Also, I think The Crack was sonically a bit more influential than is generally considered. There's quite a proto-Killing Joke vibe on a lot of tracks - especially "It Was Cold". Also "Savage Circle" anticipates a lot of US hardcore and punk metal - musically it sounds like an American band. I think Rollins did the tribute concert for Paul Fox.

    I think there are basically two types of punk sound - "thick" and "skinny". Thick is Sex Pistols, Black Flag, Ruts. Skinny is early Clash, The Germs, Alternative TV. Skinny punk always sounds a bit lame to me, although I've never met anybody else who understands this distinction.

  2. ha, i knew it could only be a matter of time before you commented Phil.

    figured you must like them or have something to say

    totally get the thick versus skinny distinction

    i remember one review of Never mind the Bollocks described the guitar sound as "fat, abusive" - meant as a positive - which i always liked.

    perhaps the distinction is something punk that succeeds as hard rock, on more or less its preexisting terms (great riffs, vigorous rhythm section, strong vocals etc etc) and punk that fails as hard rock but manages to turn that failure into an aesthetic - sort of scrappy, flustered energy making up for or overcoming somehow the musical failings of the band

    i liked some of the Clash's later stuff but i could never get into the first album because it's just sounds so much weaker on every level than Bollocks. Which is really well produced, Rotten is - although people will claim he's a non-singer, mystifingly - a really powerful vocalist, great use of backing vocals on e.g. "Bodies" for this epic size of sound. But i think the idea of the first Clash LP - and you had to be there at the time probably - is that its "spirited", the spirit overcomes the puniness of the sonic flesh. to my ears 'white riot' is just a flail.

    'complete control' is the first Clash tune that has any sense of muscle or epic-ness, and then 'white man in hammersmith palais' is really quite muscular sounding. not as muscular as 'in a rut' though.

    but right to the end there's something sloppy about the Clash, something scrawny sounding - Mick Jones is about the weediest lead guitarist of his era, outside of the real DIY zone.

    where would you place Buzzcocks on your schema?

  3. Well, Spiral Scratch = skinny, Post-Devoto is generally thick. Especially something like "Fast Cars".

    Perhaps "fat" is a better word than thick, and "thin" a better word than skinny. Fat punk vs. thin punk. I suppose early Fall and the Swell Maps are good examples of creative thinness. Early Scritti too. But The Fall accumulated a bit of mass from "Grotesque" onwards, and benefited enormously I think.

    Generally, thin punk is not very enjoyable I find - it's the cult stuff that you're supposed to like, out of solidarity almost.

    As for The Clash, I've always liked the supposedly "bad" albums - Rope, Sandinista, Combat Rock. I've never understood the hostility towards Rope - that a professional American producer made them sound (shock, horror) professional. The Clash are a very odd band on the individual level I think. They tried very hard to cultivate a gang image, but there doesn't seem to have been any real camaraderie between them at all. You don't tend to see images of them smiling together, or enjoying playing together, or even interacting in any meaningful way. All they ever seemed to do was pose.

  4. yeah i thought Buzzcocks was a good sort of edge case, cos their whole vibe is wimpy (vocally and lyrically) but the music hits with quite a lot of force.... but they don't seem to bracket with Pistols and Ruts.... perhaps just off on their own unique path. 'spiral scratch' is the ur skinny track, you are right - the one note gtr solo.

    re. liking out of solidarity, Carducci has this whole thing about a listening in solidarity effect, where you supply - by some kind of mental effort of sympathy or projection - what the band is intending to put across but is actually absent or unrealised in the recording or performance. you fill in the gaps, solidify the shakiness. he says this went on with an awful lot of UK punk which was rhythmically feeble, scrappy etc. Which i think has a grain of truth, but some people actually enjoy the shakiness, in a kind of egalitarian, same level as me way. and it can have "charm" in some circumstances

  5. Yes, because feeble sounding bands often like to project the ambience of being an exclusive club. Belle & Sebastian, Sarah Records, Postcard, Sebadoh, TV Personalities. Felt and Swell Maps, to an extent. St. Etienne, although they were a bit too smooth sounding. The retreat into childhood, and the "we don't want you to play with us" in-crowd vibe. We might look soft, but we know how to wound you by excluding you. Blue Remembered Hills.

    Thinking about it, this is actually an underrated aspect of the indie/alternative music experience - snobbery. So, I suppose I'm saying that the solidarity is not necessarily egalitarian - quite the opposite in fact. There's a fair bit of aggression/fear behind it, when the musical ineptitude is done deliberately rather than as a learning stage. Perhaps that's why a lot of this stuff is difficult to return to when you get older, it's not just that it doesn't satisfactorily rock, but it's also reminiscent of acceptance-seeking adolescent awkwardness.