Fellow Capaldians, this might be of interest to you. If you haven’t seen this book you should check it out. Put together by Ken McCluskey (Of the Scottish Band ‘The Bluebells’), it’s the rock photography of Harry Papadopolous who photographed bands throughout the years. Sadly Harry has a brain aneurism and now lives in a care home. But Ken, a good friend of his, went to visit him and sorted out all his photos for everyone to love and enjoy. As The Dreamboys were on the Glasgow scene when he was photographing, they are in the book! Foreword also by Peter Capaldi. It’s a lovely book and I treasure it (for more reasons than the Capaldi, but that’s a long story for another day!)
The Sound of Young Scotland took 1980 by storm via Alan Horne’s Postcard Records. The stars of the show were Orange Juice who released three classic singles that year in search of world domination. It didn’t work out but posterity recognises greatness when it sees it and Blue Boy remains as exhilarating as the day it was released in individually-coloured homemade record sleeves.
Some things that I ran my mouth off about in Maximum Rocknroll #399 (August 2016): one of my favorite early ‘80s femme-punk one-single wonders, new shambling pop from a modern Australian supergroup of sorts, Portland’s attempts at reviving the sound of young Scotland & some totally wired post-punk from the UK class of 2016. Read it now & believe me later.
I’ve been doing transcriptions of some mid-to-late ‘90s record reviews over the past month or so as part of the MRR archives project (have you donated to it yet?), and I have to say, realizing how many times I wound up typing out the phrases “Lookout Records”, “Fat Wreck Chords” and/or “NOFX” after they had been used as descriptors in those back issues really started to make me a little self-conscious about what I end up writing in this column every month. MRR is truly forever, and one of these days (probably soon, if it hasn’t happened already), someone will be laughing at the unintentional drinking game that can be initiated with every mention of, say, WIRE or the RAINCOATS or the FALL that I make. You could start right now, even!
TARZAN 5 were an early ‘80s mixed-gender English quintet with dual female vocalists and an affinity for choppy, sociopolitically-informed dancefloor post-punk rhythms - if their choice of band name didn’t already invoke mental parallels to DELTA 5, the music definitely will. The group’s entire recorded legacy is limited to a two-song 7” single from 1981 put out by 021 Records, the label run (fittingly enough) by the AU PAIRS, whose own approach to subtly dub-influenced femme-punk would form the other primary compass point for the TARZAN 5 sound. A-side “Boys Game” has one of those rubbery and classically post-punk bass lines that holds the entire song together, and while I know that these are always the two examples of the aforementioned that I seem to turn to, this one could absolutely warrant a footnote citing both “White Mice” by the MO-DETTES and “Mind Your Own Business” by DELTA 5 as primary source material. Everything really snaps into place with the overlapping vocals in the second verse, as one voice sings sweetly while the other delivers the same exact lines slightly off-time in a calmly detached monotone - it only lasts for a few quick moments, but it’s brilliantly effective. On the B-side, “Different Story” is a slow-burner with a totally dubbed-out, SLITS-y bass/drums foundation and juxtaposed horns that’s perfect for your next punky reggae party. A crucial forgotten femme-punk one-single wonder just waiting to be rediscovered.
PRIMO are a ragged pop trio featuring Violetta of Melbourne, Australia’s foremost FALL freaks the SHIFTERS and Xanthe of jangly upstart Aussie supergroup TERRY, and the seven tracks on their new Primo Cassetto (digital-only for now, proper tape release forthcoming on Hidiotic) essentially split the difference between those two branches of the family tree. “Daphne” nods to the SHIFTERS’ lackadaisical lo-fi sprawl, with the hauntingly staggered twin vocals and threadbare minimalism of “Big Noise” recalling the less-is-more YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS/MARINE GIRLS school of post-punk in spirit, if not precisely in sound. The other side of the PRIMO coin is a shambling primitive-pop bent (see “Gold Frame” or “Mirage”) that’s become synonymous with the Melbourne subsection of the contemporary Australian underground, or if you want to go back even just a few years, the ecstatically scrappy garage-leaning harmonies of SUPER WILD HORSES (“Compare,” in particular, makes a really strong case for a psychic connection to the latter). These songs often sound as if they’re likely to unravel at any moment, precariously held together by only a handful of nakedly fuzzed-out guitar chords, no-frills drumming and reverberations of bass cutting through the murk, but that’s honestly what makes them so endearing. (primocassetto.bandcamp.com)
Portland’s premier post-punk solo recording project (recently turned full-fledged live outfit) CONDITIONER has crash-landed into the most jagged and fractured sounds of late ‘70s/early ‘80s UK DIY via their debut EP Suggested Use, and I’m just glad to have another band in town (beyond my own) geeking out over the Fast Products back catalog. There’s enough trebly guitar clang, rhythmically jabbing bass lines and stuttering drums here to fill out an entire Messthetics compilation or two, complete with anxiously yelped lyrical sloganeering about technology, consumerism, and the state of interpersonal relationships in our damaged capitalist society that is pretty period-perfect - whether that means for 1980 or 2016, take your pick. I’m still waiting for a chance to see this documentary from last year called The Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk, DIY and Infiltrating the Mainstream, but Suggested Use could probably convincingly pass for a third-generation cassette dub of the soundtrack, from “Stuck in the New Teens,” which lifts the same sort of mutant 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS riff that the FIRE ENGINES twisted into new shapes to form the basis of their most off-kilter songs, to the total “JOSEF K backed by a thrift store drum machine” vibe of “Romance, Commodity”. Lock up your SCARS records! (bestsupportingactress.bandcamp.com/album/suggested-use)
The ultra-brief NLP EP, presumably the first recordings from Manchester economical-punk combo DUDS, originally popped up in the internet realm back in January, but I didn’t stumble on them until just a few weeks ago. It’s kind of strange to think that these three songs might have actually reached a wider audience if they had been released by some DEVO-worshipping Midwestern freaks as a small-run tape with hand-scrawled, photocopied artwork, instead of being put up on, y’know, a widely-accessible digital music platform like Bandcamp, but such are the mysteries of our weird modern punk age. The interlocked, repetitive precision of the bass and drums and the sparse, needling guitar lines in “Pocket Calculator” (a KRAFTWERK cover, not an ELTON MOTELLO cover) exist somewhere in the grey area between Pink Flag and Chairs Missing-era WIRE, stripping the original song’s master text down to an almost unrecognizable and nervously wired two minutes. If any of y’all miss the late, great RANK/XEROX as much as I do, you might find some comfort in the razor-sharp post-punk slash of “Take It,” which has the same sense of paranoid urgency and barely-restrained tension that those San Franciscans had nailed a whole five years ago (kind of seems like a lifetime now). A second DUDS EP followed pretty closely on the heels of NLP, and if it’s as good as this one, I’ll be really curious to see if they can keep it up for awhile. (dudsdudsduds.bandcamp.com)