Happy New Year everyone, thanks to James Domestic-Scott I've got an excellent update to kick off 2017 with.
James has been so thorough with his Top 10 that I don't really need to write an intro, I'll just thank him and leave you in his capable hands.......
It would be fair to say that I – James Domestic – have fingers in numerous pies. Firstly I front UKHC outfit, THE DOMESTICS and do 99% of the organisational stuff around that. Next up, I run KIBOU RECORDS (and distro), a label that releases records from bands from all across the world and is set to unleash its 24th and 25th releases in the first few months of 2017. Also I’m Head Cheese at PULL THE TRIGGER ‘zine and I really need to get started on Issue 3 soon. Oh, and I’m part of BRING THE DRONES, a project that also features Charle Claesson (ex-ANTI CIMEX, DRILLER KILLER, current member of WOLFHOUR), Denis Boardman (DOOM) and Ted Fransson amongst others (including Inge Johansson of AGAINST ME! playing bass on some tracks on the forthcoming LP).
Anyway, I was asked to put together my favourite ten songs of all time for the Just Some Punk Songs blog and, whilst it was nice to be asked, over the past few days as I’ve tried to narrow my choices down to a mere ten, I’ve realised just what a exceedingly difficult thing this is to do. As some of you may know, I DJ occasionally too…sometimes reggae, sometimes soul, and the first thing I had to do was rule out anything from those genres – so no raw ‘n’ rare 60s R ‘n’ B, no heavy meditative 70s dub cuts, no relatively obscure northern soul, no majestic roots. All out of the picture. This wasn’t so hard to do from a practical point of view – in fact it was a blessing! - it cuts down my choices and of course this is a punk-focused blog so entirely appropriate. Phew! Doesn’t make it that much easier to decide what not to include though!
I’m aware, looking back at this list that there’s nothing on it more recent than 2013. Overall you’re much more likely to find me listening to a new release than something from 20 years ago but I guess the nature of an ‘all time’ list lends itself to songs you’ve lived with for some time rather than something you heard three months or a year ago. Check out new stuff wherever you can – there’s more great punk around now than I think there has ever been.
So, anyway, below are 10 songs from across the punk / hardcore spectrum in terms of style and vintage that I’m pretty sure I’ll always want to hear and will never tire of. If you asked me again next week you may get a slightly different list but such is the nature of these things…in no particular order…
1. DISCHARGE – AIN’T NO FEEBLE BASTARD (1981):
Not being old enough to have been into punk – or anything much else - in 1981 I didn’t hear this until about 1992 and it blew my head clean off. The whole ‘Why?’ 12” is just feral-sounding. There’s been an almost ludicrous stream of bands taking up the d-beat mantle ever since and a number of them have refined the style - see the mighty DISCLOSE - or taken it off at a tangent, but whether pure nostalgia (let’s be honest the first record you hear and love by a band is often the one you love the most going forward, however great their others may be) or not, I’m not sure anything else in this style gets me quite like this.
2. RAD – CORPORATE DRUGS (2013):
From the ‘Loud and Fast’ 20 song LP, this song is one of my favourites in the sea of USHC diamonds therein. The stomp, the break before the chorus – just perfect! The LP may only last 11 minutes but it’s one of the best USHC LPs ever released in my opinion. Chanelling early D.R.I., NEGATIVE APPROACH, maybe some M.D.C. and JERRY’s KIDS. It’s just a totally killer LP and this is a killer tune. You should get it!
3. OUT COLD – PULL THE TRIGGER (1996):
I fucking love OUT COLD! I could’ve chosen pretty much any song from any of their albums or 7”s but as my ‘zine was named after this one it’s the one I’m going for. OUT COLD were one of the greatest, most consistent U.S. hardcore bands ever and outside of the devoted never really achieved quite the level of recognition they deserved. Mark Sheehan (R.I.P.) knew how to do full-force catchy hardcore and all their records totally hit the spot. If you don’t know this band I urge you to check out their back catalogue – start with ‘Permanent Twilight World’, ‘Goodbye Cruel World’, ‘Will Attack if Provoked’ and ‘Two Broken Hearts are Better than One’ and then go from there…
4. GAUZE – DISTORT JAPAN (1986):
When people ask me about THE DOMESTICS and what we sound like I’ve taken to saying “like a cross between OUT COLD and GAUZE”. To some people that sounds irresistible; others haven’t a clue what I’m on about…oh well, it’s their loss. GAUZE are one of those classic Japanese bands that took on the faster, noisier end of early 80s UK punk (CHAOS UK, DISORDER) and made it their own. This is from their excellent ‘Equalizing Distort’ 12”, which contains other classics in the GAUZE cannon, such as ‘Pressing On’ and ‘Crash the Pose’. Much like my own band, what GAUZE do here is take something essentially pretty simple and make it sound far less straightforward than it actually is through a pretty clever arrangement. I love my Japanese punk and this is some of the best. I’ve never heard a GAUZE record I didn’t like.
5. BLACK FLAG – MY WAR (1984):
I can almost hear the cries of “He’s chosen one with Henry singing! How uncool!” but fuck it, it may not get me any punk points but for me the best BLACK FLAG recordings were the ones with Rollins on vocals. Specifically the ‘Damaged’, ‘My War’ and ‘Slip it In’ albums. For my money Keith Morris sounded way better in CIRCLE JERKS (whose first album, ‘Group Sex’ would definitely be in my Top 20 punk albums of all time) and latterly in OFF! and Dez Cadena and Ron Reyes just don’t do it for me in this context. Rollins was the missing piece of the BLACK FLAG puzzle for sure. Anyway, the title track of this 1984 LP is an absolute banger and bridges the gap nicely between the ‘Damaged’ era and the new ‘FLAG style of longer songs, Jazz-noise soloing and (on side two of the LP) crawling neurotic dirges. It really sounds like Rollins is at war with the world – totally convincing. A+
6. BRUTAL KNIGHTS – EXTREME LIFESTYLES ’07 (2007):
In contrast to the psycho-earnestness of BLACK FLAG is the bratty snot-fest that is Canada’s BRUTAL KNIGHTS. Hardcore punk with an occasional hint of rock ‘n’ roll (a description which makes it sound shit but I can’t think of any other way of describing it. These aren’t some quiffed up, old skool tattooed morons, these are boozed and drugged up HC idiots in the best possible way). Again, all BRUTAL KNIGHTS stuff is worth tracking down but this particular song sums up quite neatly their approach, mercilessly mocking those who feel a compulsion to show everyone how ‘extreme’ their lifestyle is, by listing a number of ridiculous and pathetic attempts to be ‘extreme’ in daily life (e.g. “I wake up in the morning and use wasabi mouthwash…”, ”I pierce my septum to get ready for bed…” etc.). This is then topped off by a rousing chorus of “FUCK! YOUR! EXTREME LIFESTYLE!”. The music’s great, the lyrics are clever and funny (I have a real dislike for ‘comedy’ lyrics but that’s not what we’re dealing with here; this is way smarter) and I love this band. I couldn’t do this – I’m either not smart enough or not funny enough - possibly both.
7. BUZZCOCKS – E.S.P. (1978):
A real oldie. People might be surprised, given the records THE DOMESTICS put out and the records I tend to put out on Kibou, that I love the early BUZZCOCKS records, but amongst all the noise and velocity I love I’m always a sucker for a tune and a hook and the songwriting duo of Shelley/Diggle always knew how to write a great tune. Of course there are the obvious tunes like the perennial ‘Ever Fallen in Love…’, the wank-classic of ‘Orgasm Addict’, and the thrash of ‘Fast Cars’ but I’ve always liked it when the band stretched themselves a little; this goes beyond the two and a half minute pop nuggets they’re known for and takes that catchiness and the longing in Shelley’s voice somewhere else entirely and in its own way it really is pop perfection. Hardcore can be as catchy as a BUZZCOCKS record – that’s what I aim for!
8. ARMITAGE SHANKS – SHIRTS OFF (1994):
What’s that expression? “Talent borrows, genius steals”? Something like that. It’s a saying I normally dismiss as the idiot ravings of someone with no real creativity but in this instance it may just apply. This is essentially a lo-fi Medway garage rewrite of the aforementioned ‘Fast Cars’ by BUZZCOCKS but it’s sooooo good. From the spoken/shouted intro that sets the scene (essentially it’s a story of being chased down the road by a psycho drug dealer outside a pub after trying to look out for a woman that looked as if she was in trouble – “what the fuckin’ ‘ell are you boggin’ at? D’ya want some fuckin’ ‘shirts off’ or what?!!!!”) to the barely-in-tune thrashing that follows, the fact that this is such a musical rip-off is immaterial – the execution really is so far off the original.
Side note: A band I was in when I was twenty played a North London pub where the promoter told us that the previous week Richard from ARMITAGE SHANKS glassed the singer in another band playing the same night.
9. THE FALL – WHAT YOU NEED (1985):
It’s so hard to pick just one FALL song when they’ve made so many records and they’ve covered so much ground musically in their 40 year career. Never one to sit on his laurels, the bands dictator, er…I mean leader, Mark E Smith has never turned THE FALL into a nostalgia band cranking out crowd favourites at each gig (they generally play the current album and maybe one or two older tracks if yer lucky) and whilst part of me has started in these past few years to think of Smith’s once vital creativity as being a bit of a spent force (crushed perhaps by decades of alcohol and substance abuse) I do still love the band in many ways. Anyway, I’m going for ‘What You Need’ from the 1985 classic ‘This Nations’ Saving Grace’ album. It has the repetition (“repetition in the music and we’re never gonna lose it” Smith proclaimed early on), wonky, wheezy keyboards, Hanley’s solid bassline, group shoutalongs, Smiths cryptic-but-resonant lyrics…all the best FALL ingredients really. If you think THE FALL aren’t punk then you don’t understand what punk is my friend.
10. CAPITALIST CASUALTIES - DRUG CULTURE (1993):
If you think powerviolence (a silly term seemingly applied initially to bands on the Slap-A-Ham label and then used more widely) – or superfast hardcore (which is what is really is) is just an unlistenable noise with no tune, check out CAPITALIST CASUALTIES’ ‘Raised Ignorant’ 7” and you may have a rethink. This track, from that ten song 7”, epitomises this in spades; super velocity but a hook-laden arrangement with a proper chorus and everything! I can listen to this over and over. And I do.
Near misses…something from XTCs ‘Drums and Wires’ album (not sure which track), EXTREME NOISE TERROR ‘Murder’, JOHNNY MOPED ‘Incendiary Device’, PUNCTURE’s ‘Mucky Pup’…, ‘Jonzo’s Leaking Radiation’ by CAREER SUICIDE…so many more.
PULL THE TRIGGER: