June 22, 2007


The phenomenon called Grindcore completely passed me by. I saw Heresy in 1986 and I didn't like it. When Napalm Death arrived on the scene I thought they were just a joke. In hindsight I think I never gave it a chance, I simply didn't want to like it. Maybe it was because this particular bastard son of Hardcore caught on at a time I was getting away from HC, into 70's and 60's music. Or maybe I was already too familiar with Grindcore's two main ingredients: ultra-fast "steak-cutting" style drumming and The Grunt. As early as 1982, local heroes Blitzkrieg played at grindcore speed. I sorta looked up to them, quite literally as they were all big, tall (and big-haired) guys. They were "Crass punks" who thought they had some pretty serious stuff to get off their chest (but hey, so was I, back then). Their Complete Disarmament LP from 1983 doesn't hold up that well after two dozen years; the ultra-fast tempos often send them flying off the rails, and the tone-deaf singing gets tiresome after a while. But it still establishes them as pioneers in the steak-cutting er... steaks.
One of the first singers to introduce the Neanderthal "undecipherable at any speed" grunt was Hans of Amsterdam's Mornington Crescent. I remember people seriously didn't know if "Possession", their EP's opening track, should be played at 33 or 45 rpm! Mornington Crescent didn't play a lot, and I vaguely recall they were deemed "politically incorrect" by some of the scene's more left-wing elements. But apart from the fact Hans was nicknamed Heinrich, I never noticed anything "wrong" about him when he tried out as a singer for my band Gepopel back in '85. I wanted to concentrate on my guitar playing (as the saying goes...) and he wanted to give it a try. The first song we practiced was In Our Hands; we did the instrumental intro, and then instead of my "baby-voice" (courtesy Tony Nitwit) this earthshaking roar comes in! I remember falling about laughing, unable to continue playing the rest of the song. It sounded great (I wish we'd recorded it), alas, 6 weeks later we'd imploded and it all came to nothing.
Anyway, behold the true roots of Grindcore:
(All songs 1983)

June 10, 2007


One of those funny ironies in Dutch punk history is that Arjan of Frites Modern - first called Duphar, after Philips' chemical division - later worked for Polygram, Philips' music division. Someone told me he once got to meet Jon Bon Jovi, who in the course of the conversation turned out to be a big fan of punk rock, especially of the early English variety! My guess is his older cousin turned him onto it; Mr. Tony Bongiovi was a successful record producer who, in the 2 weeks that punk seemed to be the "next big thing", produced a couple of Ramones records, as well as the Rezillos' classic Can't Stand The Rezillos LP. How in hell a Scottish punk group got inside a slick American studio is something other internet resources (like punk77.co.uk) can explain in great detail; fact is, the Rezillos were so disappointed with the results it was one of the reasons they broke up soon after. "Our producer thought punk was all about playing as fast as possible, so he made us play every song way too fast", was one of their complaints. Well, the speed coupled with the slick production is one of the reasons Can't Stand... still sounds ahead of its time. But compare the LP version of "I Can't Stand My Baby" with the original self-produced version on their debut 45, and it's clear they originally had a much more garagey style. I like both versions, but I can see their point...
The Rezillos' swan song (not counting spin-offs the Revillos, who formed about 3 seconds after the Rezillos split up), the brilliant 1978 "Destination Venus"/"Mystery Action" single, managed to strike the perfect balance between tight, speedy and garagey. It was produced by Martin Rushent, who would 3 years later work with (ex-Rezillos, then Human League) guitarist Jo Callis again when producing the League's zillion-selling Dare! album. Now what would I come across searching Soulseek for "Destination Venus" but an off-the-cuff live cover version by none other than Phil Oakey & cohorts (in the process inventing the Sigue Sigue Sputnik sound 4 years early!).

June 01, 2007


Sometimes it seems like nobody ever gets it right over here. 99% of Dutch music is a potpourri of all the worst bits of the worst bands (of five years ago). Every drummer does the lame, lumpy Red Hot Chili Peppers surrogate-funk rhythm; every singer still has their mouth full of marbles Pearl Jam-style; bass players look to Mark King for guidance and inspiration (I mean, that was already uncool 25 years ago!)... well, you get the picture. Living in the middle of this cultural wasteland, it often boggles my mind how we could get it so right at least twice: first, with the Beat Boom of the 60's; then, on a smaller scale, the DIY punk boom circa '80. How come suddenly, from out of nowhere, thousands of bands popped up in Holland with the right sound and the right attitude? It must have been some sort of primal instinct, just like all over the world everybody laughs and cries in the same way...

But while in the 60's they "had the numbers", the punks of the 70's were fighting a hopeless battle against the demographic curve. Which made it all the more amazing that, out of a micro-scene of no more than a couple of thousand scattered punks, so many remarkable records were released. Records that in a way were actually "more punk" than those made in England: our punk bands really couldn't play, really recorded in their garage and really had no musical ties to anything pre-1977. In the case of one of the most remarkable records of all, the 1980 Tandstickorshocks 12 song EP, it's hard to even find post-'77 influences. They were part of the Rondos/Red Rock scene, but while their "big brother band" often played pretty catchy, fast songs, Tandstickorshocks's music is totally hook- and chorus-free. Though they sound like they're just starting to learn to play, the playing is precise and to-the-point. It's not "energetic" or even aggressive in the usual punk way. In places, the music reminds me of stuff like early Minutemen, Teenage Jesus, Red Krayola and early Scritti Politti, but the difference is those bands (and the Rondos, too) came from an art background, while Tandstickorshocks were genuinely young working class kids. Well, in the TV-film about former Tand... member Pinkel (shown on Dutch TV in 1982) he worked as a wallpaperer, and the great footage of his band playing the Kaasee club shows him and the other singer teasing their hair in the bathroom mirror (one of them had a half-shaven "7 Seconds" 'do), saying deep stuff like "isn't it great, all the stuff you can do with your hair!", so I guess these guys were no hifalutin' intellectuals. I'm not saying intellectuals aren't allowed to play with their hair, but ... you get the idea. Tandstickorshocks were the 70's Socialist wet dream of common workers turning out great, totally original art. Too bad they only lasted about 2 years; they broke up around the same time as the Rondos (about whom I did a post last October) and, apart from 1 or 2 tracks on comps, these 12 songs are all that's left. I wonder if that TV doc will ever turn up again?

To Hell With Shell
Religion Pt. I
Kill For Peace
Religion Pt. II
School Army Working Dying
Vi Taenkar Anderledes
T Rights
Song For A Guy
It Stinks
The Wall