THE PUNK ROCK EXPLOSION AND 60’S REVOLUTIONARY COUNTER CULTURE
On monday I visited London to take in a couple of exhibitions : ‘You Say You Want A Revolution’ at The V&A and ‘Punk 1976 -78’ at The British Library.
PUNK 1976 – 78, The British Library until 2 October
“We’re not into music, we’re into chaos” said the Sex Pistols in 1976 and this exhibition celebrating 40 years since punk exploded onto the scene captures some of the impact punk had on music, fashion and design between 1976 -78. Whilst it’s location in the somewhat staid and strict environment of the British Library was a little disconcerting especially when I got immediately reprimanded for taking photos and questioned if i’d seen the prominent signs prohibiting food, drink and photography! That’s not very punk is it? I enquired as the warning was repeated. Anarchy eh? Not likely not in The British Library.
That said I did spend an enjoyable hour perusing the many cabinets of rare and interesting artefacts including record sleeves, fanzines, flyers and audio recordings and ephemera. The Sex Pistols feature prominently as you would expect with handwritten lyrics, rare copies of Anarchy In The UK (promo copy and rare plain black sleeve) and God Save The Queen on A&M which was never released after the storm of protest over the Bill Grundy interview, ‘The Filth and the Fury’ which you could view along with the Pistols first TV appearance on So It Goes.
Other exciting exhibits included the first and only edition of the ‘Anarchy In The UK’ fanzine and rare copies of Sniffin’ Glue, flyers and tickets from The Roxy and Eric’s, original clothing from the SEX boutique run by Vivienne Westwood and Macolm Mclaren and rare photos of luminiaries from the scene from Johnny Rotten’s sneer to Poly Styerene’s helmet and goggles.
What comes across most is the striking visual identity of punk and the value and importance of Jamie Reid’s artwork which brought across the DIY message of punk and became a part of that whole attitude that anyone could create music and art and become part of it, from the cut up xeroxed copies of Sniffin’ Glue to artists like Linder Sterling who designed the Buzzcocks flyers and record sleeves. A crucial part of the punk aesthetic was montage using situationist and dadaist influences dealing with the detritus of consumer culture and dismembering of popular culture and offering immediacy and the ability to produce things on the cheap. “We had no money, so I was cutting up papers and doing collage”. That’s where the punk look came from”..(Jamie Reid)
Overall an interesting exhibition but also the feeling an opportunity had been missed with the potential to produce something really visually challenging and exciting and more immersive. The most Punk Rock thing that happened was when a clearly unimpressed Viv Albertine defaced one of the exhibits angry at the exclusion of women playing an important part in punk’s history. Oh and there’s a shop selling punk records, books, T-shirts and posters etc, worth a look but given the vastly inflated prices I bought nothing.
You Say You Want a Revolution? Records & Rebels 1966-70
The V&A Museum, Tickets £16.00 on until 16 Feb 2017
The V&A exhibition was visually impressive taking in the revolutionary spirit and beginnings of the counter culture and the huge social changes that developed in the mid 60’s to the end of the decade, expressed in music, performance, fashion, art and the media.
Again I was hassled by a ‘heavy’ for taking photos after about 2 minutes so apologies for not being able to share too many here. Revolution! what are they afraid of??? I also rejected the headphones much to their annoyance as I like to see an exhibition at my own speed and hear myself think. The exhibition is densely layered with over 350 objects and starts with a montage of Carnaby Street and 60’s mannequins with psychedelic eyes for heads. There were handwritten Beatles lyrics and costumes and an elaborate Sgt Pepper display and Revolution record shop with classic 60’s vinyl.
The next section gathers momentum with the focus mainly on the US and the era’s social and political issues to the forefront particularly with Black civil rights, anti Vietnam protest, feminism and gay rights. This section is particularly immersive with overhead screens projecting images of bombers, gunfire and chopper blades and protesters and crowds chanting. Effective and disorientating. I found the display showing what happened at Ohio in 1970 at Kent State University particularly disturbing when a demonstration by 2000 students to protest the expansion of the vietnam war into Cambodia ended with the shooting and killing of four unarmed students by the National Guard with a further nine injured, one of whom was paralysed. This event led to a huge strike by 4 million students and increased protest about America’s role in the Vietnam war.
The exhibition also includes events such as the 1968 Paris student riots, the rise of the Black Panther movement and groundbreaking books such as Silent Spring about the detrimental use of pesticides on the environment and was met with fierce opposition from the chemical companies and Germnaine Greers ‘The Female Eunuch’ an important feminist text published in 1970. and Timothy Leary’s ‘The Psychedelic Experience’ .
Among the vast dizzying array of objects and paraphernalia, a few that stick in the memory are : Psychedelic poster art, underground magazines Oz and The International Times, a moon rock on loan from NASA, a Jane Fonda outfit from Barbarella, the Bed-in for Peace signs held by John Lennon and Yoko, shards of Jimi Hendrix’s shattered guitar, The Who’s Pictures Of Lily drumkit, Huey Newton’s peacock chair, and photographs and film from the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.
You Say You Want A Revolution culminates with a giant room dedicated to Woodstock in 1969 carpeted with fake grass and beanbags to lounge around on while watching footage from the film including The Who and Jimi Hendrix who as headliner apparently didn’t perform until 9am on Monday morning due to the bad weather and an array of technical problems. Only a third of the crowd (about 180,000) witnessed one of the most memorable rock and roll performances of all time as well as Hendrix’s version of the Star Spangled Banner, now a symbol of an entire era.
Well worth a visit but marks off for a) the price and b) the annoying V&A staff.
A Rough Guide To Bootlegs..
I first stumbled into the murky world of collecting illegal bootleg records in the early 80’s when I went with a mate to the Manchester Record Fair which was then located in a basement at the back of Piccadilly Plaza in the heart of Manchester. I still recall the excitement of walking down the steps and paying my admission price (around 60p) and seeing stacks of record crates and boxes in the stalls packed into every available corner of the basement space overlooked by dodgy looking geezers with fags hanging out of their mouths and T-shirts a couple of sizes too small. The kind who looked like they’d rip-off their own granny.There was a vague musky smell of stale sweat, beer and old record covers mingled in with the plumes of smoke. It seemed everyone smoked in those days and even if you didn’t there was no escape as your clothes would reek of it after you left the pub, club or any other kind of confined space.
After an hour or so flicking through every crate that had the words ‘Punk and New Wave’ or ‘Psychedelia’ scribbled on it and then going round again to see if I’d missed anything the first time, I swiftly discovered many vinyl rarities (CD’s hadn’t been invented yet) and live bootlegs usually with photocopied prints stuck on the sleeves, often with plain white labels. I also discovered the best ones were slightly overpriced and so began the stressful business of haggling over the price with said dodgy geezers who clearly were in no mood to waste their time arguing with some scruffy oik with a spiky hairdo.
Eventually I came away with 2 live bootlegs : The Sex Pistols : Indecent Exposure (£10) a decent live recording of an early gig from 76′ in a rather fetching newspaper cover with a charming picture of a man with padlocks and chains hanging from his nipples and a cock ring. The second one was a Clash live boot (£8) recorded in London in 77′ which sounded like it had been recorded in a subway tunnel. Pretty much unlistenable, problem was there was no way of actually hearing the record before you bought it and it turned out many bootlegs were audience recorded on a cheap tape recorder.
My mate got hold of a book called The Bootleg Bible which listed just about every bootleg released to date. This was useful as it had a short review and a quality guide, and which ones were soundboard recordings direct from the mixing desk. I’ve never seen this book since, and there was no internet in those days either which meant research was out of the question.
After my initial foray into this secretive, shady world, I got the bug and enjoyed the ‘hit’ of buying something illicit, and we went to many more Record Fairs, which in the mid 80’s moved to a new larger venue called New Century Hall, obviously to cope with the increasing demand for rare records. There was also a yearly Giant Record Fair housed in G-Mex, a large exhibition centre in Manchester.
Other notable vinyl bootlegs I bought included Buzzcocks – Time’s Up 1976 demos with Howard Devoto, David Bowie Live in Santa Monica 72′, Bauhaus – Odissea (Live in Italy 82′) and The Cure – ‘Happy Birthday Live 1980, all these turned out to be pretty good albeit a little underproduced. Bootleg cassettes were also for sale as they were easy to reproduce. The advent of CD’s in the 90’s led to even more bootlegs seeing the light of day, and much more choice with stacks of CD’s from A to Z at around £10 each.
Fact : The word bootleg, as gangster fans will know, comes from the sale of illicit booze (called ‘moonshine’) the expression, which became popular in the late nineteenth century came from the apparently common practise of carrying a whiskey bottle in the leg of ones boot to avoid detection. A bit like smuggling a tape recorder into a concert.
The late 90’s saw the tightening of laws by the authorities, and increased enforcement by the police on behalf of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), forcing dealers and distributors of bootlegs further underground. Around this time many bootlegs appeared online on fileshare sites like Megaupload, Pirate Bay and Mediafire until illegal piracy cases led to prosecutions with the perpetrators ordered to pay millions in damages, as in the infamous case of Kane Robinson from North Shields in the UK, sentenced to 32 months in prison for setting up the music forum file sharing website Dancing Jesus, which allegedly cost the industry £240 million. This ‘criminal mastermind’ set up his operation on an iMac computer in his bedroom between working part-time at Tesco’s and his college course.
The argument about lost royalties will drag on forever, and opinion is divided between those who say the people buying bootlegs will have the official releases by their favourite artists anyway and just want more ‘product’, and those who say the artists suffer by losing royalties. Whatever the arguments for and against, bootleg recordings can easily be found online, and many classic bootleg concerts, demos and outtakes are now readily available on You Tube.
Sex Pistols : Indecent Exposure (white label) Classic early Pistols gig recorded live at the 76 Club in Burton on Trent in Sept 1976. It’s a decent soundboard recording which is rare for an early punk gig, but the sound is also very raw. The band sound tight with Glen Matlock on bass and there are energetic versions of many of their classic songs such as ‘Anarchy In The UK’, ‘Liar’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘Problems’ (with false start). There are also a few cover versions in their set as this stage like ‘Substitute’, ‘Stepping Stone’ and a great version of ‘No Fun’ by The Stooges with Johnny Rotten on top form throughout.
The Cramps – Ohio Demos (red vinyl) The Cramps recorded these demo’s in 1979 with Alex Chilton (from Big Star) on production duties. It’s hard to believe the band rejected these mixes as they show the early Cramps in all their fuzzed up reverb-soaked glory with the dual guitar attack of Poison Ivy and Bryan Gregory, the pounding rock-solid drums of Nick Knox, and the crazed extra-terrestial vocals of Lux Interior. The set contains some of their best tunes with wild versions of ‘Teenage Werewolf’, ‘Rockin’ Bones’ and ‘What’s Behind The Mask’. Brilliant!
Sonic Youth – The Peel Sessions (Blue vinyl) Sonic Youth recorded a session of cover versions of songs by The Fall for The John Peel Show in May 1988, knowing of his fondness for the band. This initially came out as a 4 track EP called 4 Tunna Brix, but this version has an added Peel session from 86′. The Fall covers are fast and powerful with screeching noisy guitars and Thurston Moore’s tuneful vocals, the 4th track, ‘Victoria’ is actually a Kinks song (covered by The Fall), and is done in a kind of ramshackle style with all the band joining in on vocals. The earlier session features some unreleased songs such as ‘Come And Smash Me’ and ‘Moonbeam Magic in a Glass Cage’. There’s also a great early version of ‘Expressway To Yr Skull’.
Joy Division / Warsaw (Picture disc) Warsaw was the planned debut LP by Joy Division and the band’s original name. They changed their name to Joy Division in early 1978 and recorded these demos in May that year at Arrow Studios in Manchester, but were disappointed with the sound and the LP was scrapped.
It contains the 4 tracks recorded for the ‘An Ideal For Living’ EP, such as the epic ‘No Love Lost’ as well as early versions of ‘Transmission’, ‘Shadowplay’ and ‘Interzone’. The sound is much rawer and closer to the band’s live sound than Unknown Pleasures would prove to be, but interesting to see the development in their sound.
Article by John Rose, vinyl reviewer and photographs from John’s own collections.
WILD SOUNDS FROM THE GARAGE! A BRIEF HISTORY OF PSYCHEDELIA
“The term ‘garage band’ literally means the space where many bands rehearsed. LSD and marijuana played a big part in the music with widespread use among America’s youth across its colleges and cities. This led to some of the wildest and most demented records ever put to vinyl as sounds became….”
Psychedelia is back!…in fact it’s never really gone away as each new generation turns on and freaks out to a new revamped version of those groovy 60’s sounds. It all started for me after taping an hour long Psychedelic radio show special in the late 80’s (possibly on Radio 1) which I still have featuring wonderful psych gems from The Seeds (Satisfy You), The Chocolate Watchband (No Way Out), Nobody’s Children (Good Times), The Bees (Voices Green And Purple) and the fuzzed up brilliance of The Third Bardo’s ‘Five Years Ahead Of My Time’.
There was also a strange track by Dave Diamond & The Higher Elevation called Diamond Mine with a weird voice over and sinister lyrics and howls (the six foot narcissus and peanut butter fudge angel of love) and a cool, hypnotic song called ‘Cellophane Wrapped Woman’ which will always remain a mystery. I’ve never heard it since and have no idea who its by. Anyway, my mind was suitably expanded and I rushed out to get the Best Of The Pebbles on yellow marble vinyl, a great place to start.
Travelling back in time though, the story does of course begin with the impact of the British Invasion in the early 60’s with Beatlemania, The Stones, The Who and The Kinks touring America and helping start a new youth culture that influenced countless bands to form like The 13th Floor Elevators, The Seeds, Chocolate Watchband, Electric Prunes, Count Five, Shadows Of Knight and the wonderfully named The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band to name a few. The 60’s exploded into life as garage rock and psychedelia bands sprung up just about everywhere with teenagers realising all they needed was a few guitars, amps and the attitude to start up and make some noise.
The term ‘garage band’ literally means the space where many bands rehearsed. LSD and marijuana played a big part in the music with widespread use among America’s youth across its colleges and cities. This led to some of the wildest and most demented records ever put to vinyl as sounds became more discordant and experimental and lyrics began to deal with dreams, nightmares and psychedelic trips.
This new counter culture took many forms with light shows, poster designs, record sleeves and clothes all reflecting the psychedelic experience and a new found freedom and experimentation. Light shows started in San Francisco with film slides and oils on transparent dishes through which light was projected onto a wall. Strobe-lights were also first widely used around this time. Psychedelic sleeve art and rock posters attempted to translate these acid visions into art with vivid use of colours, trippy letters, pop-art and montage. Festivals such as The Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in 1967 and The Monterey Pop Festival attracted huge crowds and coined the term ‘The Summer of love’.
The psychedelic era revolutionised rock and pop music pushing back the boundaries of what could be achieved beyond the traditional 3 minute song format. Instruments such as sitars, theremins, flutes and the vox organ sound were added to the mix along with electronic devices such as fuzz pedals, wah wah, phasers and studio effects such as backwards guitar. The Fuzzbox developed in the mid 60’s helped to mould the sound which was often crudely recorded and primitive with savage guitar fuzz, snarling vocals and farfisa organ which came to define the genre.
Lyrics often dealt with the problems of teenage life, social restrictions, radical politics, protest and the Vietnam war. The British approach to psychedelia was more whimsical and surreal with a cheery domesticity, a fascination with childhood themes and lost age of innocence, along with a healthy dose of Lewis Carroll, Wind In The Willows, cups of tea and bicycles….epitomised by the wonderful surreal lyrics of Syd Barrett,“I’ve got a bike. You can ride it if you like, it’s got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good. I’d give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it...You’re the kind of girl that fits in with my world, I’ll give you anything, everything if you want things”. Also UK Freakbeat incorporated psychedelic rock sounds with early to mid 60’s R&B with bands like Wimple Winch, The Creation and The Action.
There have been many garage rock and psychedelia revivals over the years, from the 80’s Paisley Underground with bands like The Rain Parade, The Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate and Opal along with garage rock bands like The Cramps, The Fuzztones, The Chesterfield Kings, The Tell-Tale Hearts and The Cynics. In the UK bands had their own movement like The Milkshakes featuring the ever prolific Billy Childish, The Prisoners, The Spacemen 3, The Soft Boys and the pop psych of The Teardrop Explodes.
There was also the feedback squall of The Jesus And Mary Chain on Psychocandy and early Primal Scream chanelling The Byrds 12 string jangle. In the mid 90’s The Elephant 6 label in Athens, Georgia produced some great psychedelic bands like The Lilys, The Olivia Tremor Control, Apples In Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel and other memorable 90’s bands included Man Or Astroman, The Mono Men, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Flaming Lips – while in the UK we had The Stairs, Clinic and Mr Rays Wig World all from Liverpool.
Back to today’s garage psychedelia revival led by mighty San Francisco legend Ty Segall and his phenomenal creative output of brilliant raw and powerful garage rock records, shows, and guest appearances in many different guises and various underground bands. Equally great are Thee Oh Sees who I was lucky enough to see at this years End Of The Road Festival, another prolific band who keep on producing amazing garage psych albums and have been going since way back in 1997.
Many of today’s garage psych bands seem to either take on the punchy, reverb-drenched attack of The 13th Floor Elevators or Spacemen 3 style drone but there’s plenty of cool psychedelic bands around now including Hookworms from Leeds, Os Noctambulos and Dusty Mush from Paris, Goat from Sweden, the memorably named King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard from Melbourne, Thee MVP’s from London, Strange Cages from Brighton and Night Beats from Seattle and the Feels from LA to name a few.
Post Punk Plastic Passion; The John Rose Vinyl Review
A review of some Garage / Psych new releases…
The Lily’s – Eccsame The Photon Band (Vinyl LP) Frontier Records Re-issue 2015
This is a re-issue of one of my favourite albums, The Lily’s second LP originally released in 1994 and now re-released on remastered multi-coloured splatter vinyl.
It’s a glorious, atmospheric LP with tremulous, shimmering guitars and dream-like vocals taking in elements of trance-like psychedelia and UK shoe-gazing bands. The songs melt away with an otherworldly production into another dimension. Some songs were different takes mixed together and enigmatic singer/guitarist Kurt Heasley running different effects pedals through 2 amps and sampled drums to create hypnotic loops.
Slower epics like the addictive ‘Day of the Monkey’ and excellent ‘FBI and their Toronto Transmitters’ are blended with faster, melodic tracks like ‘Hermit Crab’ and ‘Kodiac’ to create a brilliant, psychedelic and totally unique sound.
Ty Segall – Ty Rex (Vinyl Import) Goner Records 2015
This is the new release by californian garage / psych rocker Ty Segall and some of the tracks were originally released in 2011 as an EP of T-Rex covers for record store day and this new expanded version (for Black Friday RSD) includes a blistering version of 20th Century Boy and 2 more extra tracks. This is loud, fuzzy, gnarly garage rock at it’s finest, tempered by some heavy acoustic riffing and the usual scuzzy lo-fi production with no attempt made to mimic the overtly glam rock stylings of the originals. Brilliant!
Listen Here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8_FV3JoBc4
Black Fruit/Factotum (split 12″ vinyl) Stolen Body Records 2015
This split LP from Bristol’s Stolen Body Records features Black Fruit from Michigan, USA and Factotum from Bristol, England on glorious red and clear vinyl. Both bands play a brand of raw, fuzzy garage rock with surf and blues influences…noisy and energetic with heavy, distorted guitars and reverb-soaked vocals. Black Fruit have some awesome garage punk numbers such as the hypnotic ‘Slugworth’ and driving ‘Mustard Frosty’. Factotum offer up awesome bluesy garage rock like ‘Snake Charmer’ and ‘Seasick Surfer’ with memorable heavy, garage riffs and Kurt Cobain like strangulated vocals. Both great bands and worth checking out.
Listen Here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0k-thdgPVo
The Parrots – Weed For The Parrots (10″ vinyl) Luv Luv Luv Records 2015
Written in a haze of wild elation and intoxication, The Parrots debut release features 6 tracks of crazy, primitive rock’n’roll with energy to burn. From the wicked, raw guitar sound of opener ‘Terror’ which lasts all of 1:18mins through the punky reverb-soaked ‘White Fang’ to the frenzied uptempo blast of ‘All My Loving’ complete with trademark squawked vocals. I look forward to hearing more from this chaotic 3 piece from Madrid.
Listen Here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpa-bnY9OPU
This month I decided to review some classic post-punk albums on vinyl from the early to mid 80’s which have had a big influence on me and still listen to now. There are so many classic albums to mention from this era, but here’s a few that stood the test of time and still sound fresh to this day.
THE CHAMELEONS – SCRIPT OF THE BRIDGE (Statik Records 1983)
Released in the autumn of 1983, this is one of my favourite records of all time and its status as a seminal post punk album has only grown over the years. The album starts with ‘Don’t Fall’ one of the all-time great opening tracks with a powerful, spiraling guitar riff with The Chameleons trademark delay guitar sound and impassioned, angry vocals with some memorable lines “Freak out! Nothing’s familiar and nothing seems to fit the scheme of things, seeing faces where there shouldn’t be faces, no-ones really certain what tomorrow brings, Don’t Fall”.. despite it’s bleak message the track is supremely uplifting and a good taster for the rest of the album. Track 2 ‘Here Today’ is equally great and packed with drama, written about the night John Lennon was murdered.
The insistent bass line of ‘Monkeyland’ is next with it’s slow build up and memorable chorus before ‘Second Skin’ starts up, one of the best Chameleons songs with a stunning otherworldy guitar riff and clever change of tempo halfway through and the repeated line “I realise a miracle is due, I dedicate this melody to you”. The excellent single single “Up The Down Escalator” follows and side one ends with the haunting ‘Less Than Human’.
Track 2 ‘Here Today’ is equally great and packed with drama, written about the night John Lennon was murdered.
Side Two kicks off with ‘Pleasure And Pain’ with another nagging and catchy guitar riff but the highlight is the wonderful ‘A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days’ an angry song railing against mindless thuggery and violence with a menacing guitar riff which eventually gives way to a slow, plaintive coda and repeated lyric “How can you laugh this one away”..
“Paper Tigers” is another stand-out track with a great riff and pounding rhythm about the need to face up to all our fears. There are no bad tracks on the album and it stands shoulder to shoulder with many other great post-punk classics of this era like Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and Echo& The Bunnymen’s ‘Crocodiles’.
For fans of : Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Comsat Angels, The Sound
THE CURE – SEVENTEEN SECONDS (Fiction Records 1980)
The Cure’s second album was released in April 1980 and was preceded by the single ‘A Forest’ a few weeks earlier. ‘A Forest’ was hugely influential with it’s dark, icy production, flanged guitar sound and slow phase effect with echoing vocals which became the trademark Cure sound on their first 4 albums and was much imitated. Simon Gallup’s elastic, melodic bass is also a key component of their sound. Robert Smith said at the time the lyrics were about a dream he had as a child where he was lost in the woods unable to escape but he later denied this and said…“it’s just about a forest”. In any case it’s a fantastic song.
The track ‘M’ has a very simple guitar line and is dark and uplifting at the same time with a nasally Robert Smith vocal and mysterious lyrics “the reasons are clear, the faces are drawn and ready for the next attack”. The second single ‘Play For Today’ enters with harmonic phased guitar and is slightly pop-ier in feel and ‘In Your House’ continues the dark, hypnotic feel of the album with washes of synth adding to the ethereal sound. My original copy of the vinyl was worn out as I played it so much so I got a new copy from Carnival Records on white vinyl which was released for Record Store Day which looks and sounds fantastic!
For fans of : Bauhaus, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Comsat Angels, The Cocteau Twins
SONIC YOUTH – SISTER (SST Records 1987)
Sonic Youth released ‘Sister’ in the summer of 1987, sandwiched in-between their other seminal albums ‘Evol’ a year earlier and ‘Daydream Nation’ in 1988. All 3 are brilliant art rock albums and classics of the post-punk / alternative genre. ‘Sister’ starts with the track ‘Schizophrenia’, with it’s melodic ringing chords, clattering drums and typically laconic vocals from Thurston Moore, “I went away to see an old friend of mine, his sister came over, she was out of her mind” before giving way to discordant guitar worming around Kim Gordon’s spoken words . (“I’ve Got A) Catholic Block slashes it’s way in with a repetitve guitar line and urgent vocals before similarly breaking down in a mess of guitars. ‘Stereo Sanctity’ is like an electric storm with wired guitar, fast tempo and anxiety-laden lyrics.
The album is strong throughout with a cover version of Crime’s punk anthem ‘Hot Wire My Heart’ and finishes with 2 more Sonic Youth classics in ‘Cotton Crown’ one of the catchiest Sonic Youth tracks with it’s simple strummed guitar refrain and repetitive vocal duet between Thurston and Kim and lyrical meditation “You’ve got a cotton crown, I’m gonna keep it underground, you’re gonna take control of the chemistry, and you’re gonna manifest the mystery, you’ve got a magic wheel in your memory”. Closing track ‘White Kross’ tears in like a runaway train with metallic chords and rasping vocals before ending with one crashing repeated chord.
The original sleeve ran into trouble over copyright with a Richard Avedon photo of a girl and a Disney image with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto removed from later pressings.
It’s a tough call as to whether this is the best Sonic Youth album but it captures a moment in time between their early art noise period and just before they started to enjoy real critical acclaim with Daydream Nation.
For fans of : Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Lydia Lunch