RECORD REVIEWS, JANUARY-JUNE 2021
BABY SHAKES. Sweet’n’Sour 7” (Dimple Discs) This is such a good record and if you doubt my opinion, here are several good reasons that should pique your interest. Firstly, of course, is the fact that Baby Shakes are already a damn-fine band, combining glam rock, garage and power pop in a totally effective mix of upbeat, good-time music. You ought to know this already. Secondly, both songs on this wonderful slice of vinyl were provided by members of The Undertones, namely Damian O’Neill and Billy Doherty, who also provide guitar, bass and drums for these recordings. The a-side of this single is a new, more boisterous version of one of the best tracks from Damians’ recent solo album, ‘Refit Revise Reprise’. Here, the glam rock elements are given free rein to stomp all over the tapes in full-on Glitter mode, while the Baby Shakes provide the glamour and harmonies. If you can’t get up and dance to a song like this, you don’t deserve to be invited to the party! Over on the flipside, you’ll find ‘Really Really’, one of Billy’s best songs which originally appeared on the b-side of ‘Get Over You’. Again, the Baby Shakes add a different element to the proceedings. The Undertones always embraced Sixties and Seventies influences, but the female harmonies on this version really draw-out the spirit of the song, like the Shangri-Las reworking the Ramones. Put simply, this is a great combination. Each band perfectly compliments the other and it makes for a truly great record. If you need any more encouragement to buy this, then you’re just being awkward. No messing about – order a copy for yourself now! www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI3vC8iT7r4
BUZZCOCKS. Late For the Train – Live and in Session CD boxset (Cherry Red) The loss of Pete Shelley in 2018 was a sad moment for anyone who had ever enjoyed the music of the Buzzcocks. But it’s when you come across a collection like this, that you realise just how great they were, both in the studio and live onstage. Made up of live recordings and radio sessions, all of these tracks were recorded since the band reformed in 1989 and emphasises how focused they always remained, despite several line-up changes. With Shelley and Steve Diggle at the helm, they always employed the right people for the job! The live recordings come from gigs in Birmingham 1989 (on their reunion tour) Worcester 1993 (promoting their first new album in over a decade, the excellent ‘Trade Test Transmissions’) Paris 1995 (previously released as the ‘French’ and ‘Encore du Pain’ CDs) Finsbury Park 1996 (when they were one of the main supports at the Sex Pistols reunion) and London 2006 (their 30th Anniversary gig, previously released as ‘30’.) The final disk, ‘Buzzcocks at the BBC’, includes radio sessions recorded between 1993 and 2016, for the likes of Jakki Brambles, Mark Radcliffe and Mark Riley. Most of these tracks are versions of songs from their then-current album releases, with only a smattering of older favourites to keep listeners on their toes. In many ways, it was this desire to continue going forward with new material that was the essence of Buzzcocks during this period. Of the six studio albums they released since their reformation, none were a disappointment and some of them were among their very best. These radio sessions put it all in perspective and make you realise that the band never rested on their laurels and always strived to better themselves. The sound quality for the live recordings is generally very good, and even though it might be a little raw in places, it perfectly suits the bands’ chainsaw-guitar sounds. It’s obviously sad that we’ll never get to see the band with Pete Shelley again, but when you listen back to collections like this, you can relive the glorious moments that the band gave us and start to look forward to what they’re going to produce with Steve Diggles new line-up. Long live the Spiral Scratch!
LICE. Wasteland : What Ails Our People is Clear LP (Settled Law) Having been around for a few years, this is the Bristol bands’ debut album. It’s exciting to hear a young band creating new music as different to prevailing trends as this is. At times, their avant-garde / experimental approach refers to the original Industrial scene (Throbbing Gristle etc) combined with the more disjointed style of bands like The Slits or The Pop Group. Their usage of self-constructed ‘noise-instruments’ also refers the work and ideas of Harry Partch, so there’s quite an impressive lineage behind them. The music veers between almost drone-like territory through to more rhythmically-driven tracks, whilst the lyrics revolve around a suitably experimental short story (included as a pamphlet with the album) that takes its’ cues from the likes of William Burroughs and Kurt Vonnegut Jnr. This is a pretty impressive debut and it will be interesting / intriguing to see where they can it next. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes and ears open to find out.
THE REDUCERS. Live : New York 2005 (https://reducers.bandcamp.com/album/live-new-york-city-2005) Originally formed in Connecticut during 1978, The Reducers soon established themselves as local heroes but for some unknown reason never really achieved the acclaim they deserved on a wider scale, often finding themselves referred to as one of the most under-rated rock’n’roll ands of the past four decades. This live recording certainly provides evidence to support that claim, capturing an incendiary performance recorded in New York. Sadly, the band came to an end in 2012, after the loss of original member Steve Kaika, but they’ve left an impressive recorded legacy and interest, albeit on a cult-level, has remained strong. Musically, they share some ground with the likes of The Replacements and Radio Birdman, in that they combined a raw rock’n’roll style with a punk rock approach and were also unafraid to infuse less-likely influences to create something unique. For every moment that recalls those classic, early Dr Feelgood albums, there will also be another that’ll have you thinking of the Only Ones or The Wipers. This is possibly a perfect introduction to the band, illustrating the full power of their live shows and featuring songs taken from across their entire career. If you’re not already familiar with The Reducers, this is something that you should rectify soon. Check out this album and discover what you’ve been missing!
STARE TASMY. Kryzys Czytelnictwa CD (Fourth Dimension) As you can probably tell be the name and title, this band ain’t from these parts… Stare Tasmy are from Krakow in Poland and combine different styles ranging from post-punk through krautrock, jazz, no wave and improvisational music, to create something that’s very much their own. Some tracks recall the kind of rhythmic groove that Faust could create at times, whilst others go for a more jazz-punk style with the sax wailing in the foreground. The vocals are spoken and instead of a regular song-style, the narratives are taken from newspaper-texts, both current and older. Additionally, they intersperse the voices of politicians found on old, discarded cassettes (the bands’ name actually translates as ‘The Lost Tapes’…) Overall, Stare Tasmy produce an almost filmic atmosphere which ensures that you’ll pay attention and want to know what will happen next. This is a really interesting album and I could imagine that it would appeal to people with different musical tastes. It’s very atmospheric and, even though the vocals are all in Polish, it doesn’t really distract from the overall effect. This is something that you really ought to hear!
V/A. SOUTHEND PUNK volume one CD (Angels in Exile) The Southend / Canvey Island music scene is best known for the proto-punk bands it delivered, in the shape of Dr Feelgood, Eddie & the Hot Rods, Kursaal Flyers etc. But the early days of punk rock also spawned a notable slew of new bands emulating the those emerging down the road in London. Although many of them got as far as recording demo-tapes, only a few (The Machines, Kronstadt Uprising, Steve Hooker Band, The Sinyx) actually managed to release singles, but such was the case for many local scenes at the time and doesn’t mean that those unreleased bands were any less worthy. It’s just the way things were… unless you were lucky, releasing a record was a DIY effort and not all bands were able to get it together, which is why compilations like this are so important, documenting what was actually happening in a certain place at a certain time. This album includes some great tracks, many of which haven’t been previously available, and there really isn’t a bad song among them. A sixteen page booklet includes informative details about each band as well as great photos and artwork, illustrating the Southend scene as effectively as it deserves. Also, instead of sticking solely to the 1976-78 period as some compilations do, this collection acknowledges that ‘punk’ didn’t die out when the media lost interest but instead continued to develop and evolve in to the early Eighties, with bands finding a way forward with their own style and sounds. Particular highlights ? The Machines, perhaps the first punk band in the area, who went on to play at legendary London clubs like The Roxy and The Vortex, as well as releasing a now highly-collectable EP. The Vicars included a certain Alison ‘Alf’ Moyet on vocals, possibly her earliest recordings? Bands like The Psychopaths and The Shocks deliver some great punk rock, whilst others like The Deciballs play a style that wouldn’t have been out of place on the ‘Farewell to the Roxy’ LP. Kronstadt Uprising are represented by ‘Blind People’, probably their best song (from the ‘Unknown Revolution’ EP) while Allegiance To No-One take a more ‘post-punk’ direction with ‘Aftermath’ and The Burning Idols, with ‘Give Me a Chance’, produce a sound that wouldn’t have been out of place on the Good Vibrations label. This is a great overview of the original Southend punk scene and there may even be a second volume to come… If you think you know all about punk rock, this album will give you something new to consider. Don’t miss it!