Who? Kris Needs presents
Title: ….. Dirty Water: The Birth of Punk Attitude
Label: Year Zero
The Lowdown The sources and influences of punk is something that has intrigued many over the years, and been exploited by far more. It is often said that Iggy and the Stooges, MC5, Bowie and reggae formed the basis to which punk rockers like Rotten, Johnny; Strummer, Joe and Scabies, Rat could use as a platform for raucous and uncompromising rock und roll. But that only tells half the story. Pour example, monsieur, I show you exhibit A, Irish reels, played at Screen on the Green and other early punk events. But do you ever see an Irish reel on a roots of punk compilation or mentioned in the many scribblings on the background to punk’s breakthrough in 1976? Hell no.
Truth is everything influenced punk: 1950s rock’n’roll because some bands wanted to hark back to that organic era; prog rock even because that was the absolute nadir in music that helped propel the future punks to rejecting all behind them and to search for something new. And the truth is that none of that did either, because punks were a product of their society, art school, bored middle class kids in some bands, unemployed oiks in others. They lived through the 1970s, a dark and foreboding time that history tells us was the worst economically and socially since the 1930s.
Writer and music nut Kris Needs has attempted to dissect the past that partly created the monster that punk became. That he uses the obvious is no surprise – punk’s alleged precursor pub rock in the shape of Dr Feelgood; the late 60s/ early 70s angry young men – The New York Dolls, the Stooges and MC5, and those who sprung out of the traps in 75-76: The Saints, Suicide, and The Dictators.
For an album that seems to explore the influences of punk attitude it seems almost criminal that there is a solitary reggae track given this was what was played by the likes of Don Letts at punk gigs, and was the listening material of John Lydon and the Clash. The fact it is Culture’s magnificent Two Sevens Clash, tagged on at the end of disk two makes it all the more bewildering, surely more reggae and dub would have mingled beautifully with the noise and grunt of earlier?
Taken as an album as much as an historical lesson, Dirty Water is a fine collection of tracks, that, well, as I said, have a lot of noise and grunt. It lends from the garage rock sub-culture of the 1960s with some old rock’n’roll such as Gene Vincent’s Blue Jean Bop right up to The Saints’ end of 1976 rabble rousing I’m Stranded, a track that coincided with punk but, as they came from Australia and this was pre-My Space, they were influenced more by the burgeoning proto-punk scene in their own country than by what was happening in New York and the UK.
Needs has found some gems, uncovering, for most people, Zolar X, the politically-charged Death and The Up, while the Hollywood Brats’ fantastic take on The Kinks’ I Need You has apparently never been released on CD before. Needs must have a fabulous record collection.
Not all tracks are fabulous though, Jooks’ Oo Oo rudi is glam-rock at its worst; I would doubt if any teenager in 1976 was inspired by the neo-folk of the Silver Apples and, to get some big names, the label’s included a few live tracks, with copyright presumably being a problem in obtaining studio tracks by MC5 and the Stooges. And if the former fanzine editor really wanted to purvey the essence of the movement then he should have sought out that nasty, unglamourous, biker-baiting bunch of hardcases, the Electric Eels.
It might have been better, given the broad range of genres across 33 tracks, everything from cabaret pop, pub rock, experimental, folksy, proto rap, garage rock and reggae to label this the sounds of the underground, 1956-1976. But, then, punk sells.
One noticeable thing about the double album is that there are few feminine sounds here (The Up’s Sisters Sisters being an excellent exception) but one thing punk did do was radically alter the sexual bias in rock, thanks to Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Harry, Gaye Advert, the Slits, Poly Styrene et al.
Who? Dropkick Murphys
Title: Going Out in Style
Label: Born and Bred records
Tell me more: The Murphys have two passions: punk rock and their Celtic ancestry. In the past this has been displayed in a souped-up version of the Fields of Athenry, played with all the passion roused on the terraces at Scotland’s premier football team, Celtic, even with the pace amped up ten-fold.
The Lowdown: In 2011, the Celtic favourite is The Irish Rover which sounds much like the Pogues-Dubliners version from 1987. It’s a stirring end to a stirring album that features bagpipes and bass in almost equal harmony.
Through it all the Murphys retain that hard-edged rock’n’roll attitude, playing at breakneck speed, with little time to take in a breath. You’ll have heard it all before if you’ve heard any of their previous albums, and while it would have been nice to hear some diversity and ingenuity, I can’t fault the band for their passion and commitment.
And finally, a brief mention to a band I known absolutely nothing about. But thank you The Fragrant Vagrants for sending Porky your new CD, Take High Tea, which has a cover that features Leanne Wardle’s drawing of wild animals dressed in shirt and ties.
This Congleton band have most certainly been influenced by punk with its rousing choruses and rollicking verses. But this is also a band rooted in the type of music that had young men and women dressed in all sorts of garb, and with hair that would give their parents and grandparents nightmares. We live in a far more sanitised society now but at least we have bands like this unafraid to sing and play music from the heart. “I don’t know what I want, and I don’t care if I get it,” from Useless Generation is a perfect no-nonsense line that states the bleedin’ obvious.
For more on the Vagrants go to myspace.com/thefragrantvagrants and that will tell you how to buy the excellently-priced EP.