THE WEATHER! THE LEATHER!
Ever noticed with early UK post-punk bands, especially those who were fiercely ramshackle and lo-fi, how their very early stuff often sounds more "professional" than their later output? Take the Fall, for instance; their debut "Bingo Masters Breakout" and the brilliant 100-MPH followup "It's The New Thing" both sound very intricate and well-produced; after that you get the ultra-primitive (and equally great) likes of "Rowche Rumble" and "How I Wrote Plastic Man". The Swell Maps, the slickest stuff those pioneers of bedroom-fi ever did was at their very first studio session, the one that yielded the 1977 Read About Seymour EP as well as some tracks on their first LP, like the great "Vertical Slum" (all together now: The weather! The leather! The weather! The leather!). At the very start of DIY there weren't any set precedents yet; the sonic reference points those bands had, both pop (T Rex/ Roxy Music) and weirdo/underground (Can/ Beefheart), were all well-produced big-label acts, so that's the sound they were set on emulating. Probably.
Upon first playing, The Mekons' 1978 Where Were You single confounded me to the point where I believed it to be a fraud. Or maybe a mispressing. In any case, this couldn't possibly be the same band whose Never Been In A Riot Rough Trade (!) wouldn't carry because it was too amateurish! OK, the A side "Where Were You?" is kinda simple (as in smart-simple, like Wire), so even the staunchest of amateurs could probably be coaxed, at gunpoint, into playing a good take. But how do you explain the... er, other A side, "I'll Have To Dance Then (On My Own)"? A supertight ball of interwoven rhythms, furious riffs and sudden stops and starts, this track conjures up the spirit of Mission of Burma at their most ("Go Fun Burn Man") out-there. How the hell did Fast Products' Bob Last make them play like that? It even sounds too good (good good, not bad good), everything sounds Big and Deep, thudding bass, pounding drums, scorching guitar, etc. It sounds better than most major-label punk from 1978! Well, I'd better let y'all listen to it...
Mekons - I'll Have To Dance Then (On My Own)