July 28, 2006


Just been reading Club Risiko by Fred de Vries, a new book in that ever-growing club of Dutch Books About Punk (the total number of which can still be counted on the fingers of one hand). Each chapter concentrates on different - sometimes seemingly unrelated - bands/artists that helped shape the 80's counterculture: from Einsturzende Neubauten to French filmmaker Leos Carax to The Ex to a totally obscure South-African group called Koos; it's De Vries' personal touch, often recounting his own experiences and meetings with the artists in question, that makes it work. For instance, at the start of the Crass chapter he recalls visiting (Dutch punk band) Rondos' H.Q. around 1979, carrying a copy of the brand new Good Vibrations comp EP. "Sounds good," a Rondo says, "but we're more into this!", upon which the first phrases of Crass' "Do They Owe Us A Living" are spitting out of the stereo. Another good thing is, he doesn't put the artists on a pedestal, but turns them into human beings with failures (Steve Ignorant looking like a middle-aged soccer fan with a beer belly and a bald head, great!). This is especially refreshing as Crass have always been this untouchable institution, its members using fake names ("B.A. Nana" was my favourite), wearing the same clothes, etc. Which is probably also why I never ever listened to my Crass records again after my initial (1982-83) burst of fandom. Too heavy, too confrontational, like someone shouting in your ear all the time... A lot of other Crass-related acts have stood the test of time better; I still enjoy playing those EP's by Dirt, Honey Bane, Zounds etc., and Flux Of Pink Indians' Strive To Survive... LP is still an all-time fave, great punchy tunes punctuated by constant guitar feedback. (Jesus & Mary Chain avant le lettre? Well, they did record Psychocandy with Crass producer John Loder!) The part in the book where De Vries visits some former Zounds members sheds an interesting light on the way Crass Records worked, and how they'd give other bands the "Crass Makeover"; for their Can't Cheat Karma EP, Zounds weren't allowed to use their own drummer, and of course everything had to have the same look, the stencilled letters, etc.
This immediately made me think of the Epileptics 1970s EP, of which my friend Joost owns two different copies. The first version is from 1979 or thereabouts, and is a classic chunk of Spaceward Studio punk rock (it could have been a Raw Records release!). Apparently the label re-released it after the Epileptics had become Flux Of Pink Indians and did the (Indie) chart-topping Neu Smell EP on Crass. Outraged by this capitalist move, Flux decided to reform the Epileptics in order to re-record the 1970s EP and put it out themselves at only 75 p (their old label was asking 1 whole Pound, the bastards!). The new recordings were done by John Loder at Southern Studios, with Penny Rimbaud playing drums as their own drummer had just quit (or so they say, maybe he wasn't good enough, ha ha...). It's fascinating to hear them get the Crass Makeover; the 4/4 beat is replaced by Rimbaud's trademark marching band rattle, the guitar has changed from meaty to scratchy, and the tempos are speeded up to the point where singer Colin sounds like an auctioneer. Well, listen for yourselves (and thanks to Joost for lending me the records!)...

Epileptics - 1970's (1979, Stortbeat version)
Epileptics - 1970's (1981, Spiderleg version)
Epileptics - Hitler's Still A Nazi (1979, Stortbeat version)
Epileptics - Hitler's Still A Nazi (1981, Spiderleg version)

July 21, 2006


For some reason all the punk bands from my hometown came from the school I attended. It was a pretty strict school called Werenfridus (named after Saint Wilfrid, who helped spread Christianity around these regions in the 8th century); they did stuff like censor the school paper (I drew comics for the school paper and once they blanked out everything so there was nothing but empty panels!). Some of my school buddies had a pretty strict upbringing as well; they'd leave their house wearing "regular" clothes, then change into their punk clothes in the bike shed. I guess it was this strictness that got their juices flowing; both Indirekt and Gepopel were eager to go places, put out records, tour, etcetera. But the first punk band from our school weren't that ambitious, they were just doing it for fun. Ironically Antidote were the first ones to make it to vinyl, having 5 songs on the local "Rock Collective" sampler Dijkdoorbraak in 1982. Now there's a typical Dutch 80's phenomenon: the Rock Collective comp LP! The first one might have been national comp Uitholling Overdwars, the one I mentioned in my Ivy Green post, and that one set the standard: one great punk band, the rest forgettable noodle-rock and synth-wave. A whole bunch of comps followed: U-Tracks, Groeten Uit Amsterdam, A Rits Of Potential Hits, etc. etc. As far as I know these comps aren't very sought after; the thing is, even with the sole punk band worth checking out (Lullabies on U-Tracks, Workmates on Groeten...), their stuff (recorded in a "real" studio for once) sounds stilted compared to their own lo-fi releases. Not so with Antidote; they recorded their stuff in their practice room on a Teac 4-track. Bassist Joost often told me how they had to go mixing at some other place, and were cycling as fast as they could because the 4-track guy charged no less than 10 Guilders/ hour (about $5)! I still like these songs a lot; just the right mix of anger and fun, especially if you happen to understand Dutch!
P.S.: This LP preceded the New York Antidote Thou Shalt Not Kill EP by a year, making "our" Antidote the first one (on record, at least) of the 4 or 5 Antidotes around!
P.S.: If you happen to visit Hoorn, check out the great secondhand record store Dropstyle; chances are you'll find ex-Antidote screamer Benno behind the counter.

Antidote - Het Begin/ BVD/ Stop Van Agt/ Openbaar Vervoer/ Jongerencentra (5 songs, 1 file: I'm lazy, it's the weather...)

July 14, 2006


Bloody Mannequin Orchestra, 1983. Behind guitar: Sharon Cheslow. Under snare: Colin Sears.
When does a record become collectable? In punk/HC, it's a combination of rarity, the right timeframe (1977-1983), reputation...oh yeah, and quality (sometimes). Here's two records I recently sold, that score on all points and yet they fetched no more than $5 each.
I bought The Bloody Mannequin Orchestra Roadmap To Revolution LP sometime in 1986 at a Boudisque sale; this was in my Dischord-phase, when I bought anything remotely connected to that label. I really liked this record (and still do); it's not hardcore but a sort of geeky punk (singer Alex sounds a bit like Doc Dart of the Crucifucks) with a bit of Contortions-style no wave thrown in courtesy the scratchy guitar of Sharon Cheslow (who later helped put together the Banned In DC book) and a skronking yet melodic sax. Their rhythm section of Colin Sears and Roger Marbury would later show up in the first line-up of Dag Nasty, whose debut LP I also bought around that time; I recall playing those 2 records back-to-back, making Dag Nasty's humorlessness stand out even more. (Tho' I gotta give their later singer, Peter something, credit for doing that "We used to be like brothers..." part using a Kermit doll!)
So, if B.M.O. weren't strictly hardcore, how about the brilliant 1983 He-Ho LP by Philly punks Ruin? I scooped this one up at the same time, same cut-out bins, and regarded this a vintage hardcore masterpiece ever since. Ruin were one of the few bands that could play slower and still retain HC power, sorta like SS Decontrol did on Get It Away... Yup, it's (almost) that good! But it seems like nobody from outside Philadelphia has ever heard of them. I think there's something weird going on with this release, because it's a Dutch pressing, and everything from the typesetting to the catalogue numbers points to some sort of "big label" release. Can it be this LP was only pressed in Holland? And if so, by who? Has it got anything to do with the fact there was a Dutch guy called Tristan Reignier in (fellow Philly-ites) McRad, whose great Dominant Force 12" was licensed and pressed in Holland in the same way? Questions, questions...

Bloody Mannequin Orchestra - Cauldron Of Fright
Bloody Mannequin Orchestra - Streets Of Saigon
Bloody Mannequin Orchestra - Ritual

Ruin - Dionysian
Ruin - Proof
Ruin - Altar

July 07, 2006


Well, since the good people at KBD Records already posted the Rousers "Magazine Girl" 45 I wanted to post today, I guess I'm allowed to post a KBD record instead; here it is, the Lubricants' 1980 "Activated Energy"/ "Transformation Vacation" single. To celebrate the fact I found both records at a flea market in my village last week, at $0.25 each. Along with a bunch of other less rare but still very cool records; 5 or 6 Buzzcocks 45s (including Orgasm Addict, Spiral Scratch and a Tiller Boys EP), singles by the Zones, Gang of Four, Undertones, Rip Rig and Panic, first two 45s by Jesus and Marychain, a stack of 90's indie limited editions by Posies, Stereolab, etc. etc... My head is still reeling. I was just having a bike ride with my 4 year old son and decided to check out a small flea market in front of some farm, a couple of hundred meters from my place. Who knows, they might have a nice Flintstones video tape. (Well, that's the excuse I always use to persuade my son!) Of course I had to flick through a box of 45s I saw underneath a table; one by one I pulled them out... Of course then I had to go through the whole box, all the while having my son tugging at me going: "Are you ready, dad? Just one more record. That's it, now we're going home, dad. I said one more record, dad. Can we go now?" (etc. etc.) Now all I wanna know is: how the hell does a super rare midwestern punk single from 1980 end up in 2006 at a flea market, a stone's throw from my house??
I'm waiting now for someone to show up and go: "Just kidding! Now gimme back my records!" Or maybe someone who once got negative feedback from me on eBay has put it there and saturated the sleeve with poison so I'm gonna die. Or, maybe it's this Nick Hornby/ High Fidelity type of thing where an irate ex-girlfriend threw someone's records out, in which case I guess I should give them back if that person ever finds out (luckily, I don't have a lot of readers!). Actually, I'm curious now about the former owner of this stack of records... In the same box there was a stack of early 45s by (Dutch indie label) Electrolux/Excelsior, and as I was in an Excelsior band at the time there's a big chance I actually know this guy/girl (o.k., let's say guy). It must be someone around 40 years old, who in his youth grooved to punk and new wave, then later on turned to indie rock, and had a weak spot for private pressings and limited editions. Maybe it's an ex-music journalist. Come to think of it, I don't wanna know!
Anyway, the Lubricants' sole release is a nice slice of 1980 Mid-West punk rock. Funny detail: both labels say "Modern Physics" and are glued over with small stickers saying "LUBRICANTS"; check out the story behind this at the great breakmyface.com.

Lubricants - Activated Energy
Lubricants - Transformation Vacation