September 29, 2006


Around 1983 I'd been into punk for about a year and a half, listening to a broad range of music, from Crass to the Fall to the Damned to (gasp!) U2. The arrival of American Hardcore (punk, not porn) on these shores changed all that; suddenly everything had to be as fast and loud as possible. For a while at least, this was fun; a confused and fragmented scene became focused and exciting again. For me the big watershed was hearing the Als Je Haar Maar Goed Zit 2 LP for the first time. I'd already heard Gang Green, Void etc. but expected this new Dutch comp to be the same old Nederpunk. Not so, as the first track (Pandemonium's "Wir Fahren Gegen Nazis") immediately made clear. We'd just started our own band and we were playing fast, but this was something else; a maelstrom of supertight over-the-top screaming, pummeling drums and scorching guitars. And every track by every band on this LP was like that! An important factor must have been producer Dolf Planteydt, who in a fit of temporary insanity mixed the guitars about 5 times as loud as the rest (on the first BGK LP recorded around the same time, this style is taken to its ultimate conclusion: you hear nothing but guitar and an occasional kick drum), making these tracks sound unlike any Dutch punk that came before. I was just crazy about this LP, playing it non-stop during the year I got kicked out of school. Apart from the speed there's an excitement and mischieviousness about everything, everybody playing and singing as if their lives depended on it, but at the same time having a laugh about it too. Apart from Zmiv and Pandemonium all of these bands were from Amsterdam, most of them containing old scenesters like Herry Hubert (Last Few, later Deadlock and Yawp!), Fokkie (Outlawz, son of legendary Amsterdam communist Roel Walraven) and Maarten Luijendijk (Null-A, later No Pigs and the Soundgarden pub), so this fasterlouder stuff was actually something a lot of older punks were into! Too bad that in a space of just 18 months this excitement seemed to evaporate, leaving just politically correct, adequate-but-boring HC-by-numbers (just compare Als Je Haar... with the Beware Of The Wolf In Sheep's Clothing comp of 1985). And that was even before metal took over...
P.S.: Listening to the Haemorrhoids reminds me of the time I went up to their place to record them for a tape I put out. That was on the legendary Vondelstraat (mentioned by de Straks in their song "Eet U Smakelijk"!), where a big squatters' riot took place in 1980, although I think their practice space wasn't a squat, but the stately home of one of the members' parents! A guy about 7 foot tall called Bart Schut did backing vocals; years later he became a night DJ on Dutch VPRO Radio, sometimes "illustrating" some political theme on the show with a Mob 47 or Kaaos song!

Pandemonium - Wir Fahren Gegen Nazis
Haemorrhoids - Government's Decision
Outlawz - El Salvador
BGK - Video Voodoo
Last Few - Narrow Minds
Zmiv - Crime
Amsterdamned - Sleep
Null-A - Arbeit Macht Frei

September 22, 2006


So how come so many first-generation punk bands were to jump ship so quickly and "go pop"? I'd like to think there was some sort of secret plot involved: president and punk-hater Jimmy Carter calling a meeting of all record company bosses sometime in early 1978, telling them: "This punk rock has got to go!" Long ago I read some interview (forgot where) where someone (forgot who) was suggesting this happened. It sure would explain a lot. Like Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys once said: "First they give you a contract for acting like a bunch of chimpanzees, then they turn around and say stop acting like a bunch of chimpanzees!" At exactly the same time, maybe even the same week, every big label punk band was either dropped or told to "clean up". Nah... Conspiracy theories aside, this was probably simply because punk sold zilch. Another reason for going pop might have been the bands were sick of getting covered in spit, enduring (skinhead) violence at gigs, etc. But from playing punk myself I've learned that while it's easy to drop out of punk, it's harder for punk to drop out of you. You'll automatically go for the fast down-stroke and E/A barre chords, even when trying to write a country ballad or something! Maybe that's why punk-bands-gone-pop like the Carpettes and the Photos included bonus records with their "regular" records, containing some kick-ass punk rock.
The Carpettes' great early records have been posted here and there lately; "Johnny Won't Hurt You", one of their later 45s, is a disappointing reggae tune a la the Clash, but on the bonus disc we find 2 brilliant rough-'n-ready live cuts, including a great cover version of the 101ers' pre-punk smash "Keys To Your Heart".
From the ashes of punk band Satan's Rats rose the Photos, who in their lifetime were often compared to Blondie, although they played a much slicker kind of new wave/pop (their sole hit single "Now That You Tell Me That We're Through" even has strings!). With their self-titled 1980 LP came another limited edition LP called The Blackmail Tapes, that had 8 tunes recorded during one of their first practices, and is miles better than the "actual" LP! I first heard these tracks in the early 90's, and it fitted right in with the new lo-fi punk then coming up like the Shitbirds (whose singer Wendy Wu reminds me of here), Headcoatees etc. They were also probably the first punk band to write a song about a skateboard, some 5 years before Gang Green/ JFA and their ilk! This bonus LP is included with most secondhand copies I've seen of this record, which leaves me wondering just how "limited" it was... (Maybe they too liked it better than the real LP...)

Carpettes - Total Insecurity
Carpettes - Keys To Your Heart (live 1980)

Photos - Do You Wanna Dance
Photos - Skateboard
Photos - Evelyn
Photos - Sex Object (1979)

P.S. I'll be uploading the mp3s a couple of hours after posting this. (I'm using the PC at work for posting because Blogger don't work on my Mac)

September 14, 2006


Back when I was 14-15, I was a fan of The Ex and Svatsox. As was customary back then, I had both band names emblazoned on various pieces of clothing. Ten years later, I was making music with former members of both bands. Now my musical "career" might be bereft of any form of logic (quit a hardcore band that was going places, to play in a local Joy D. cover band that was going nowhere; played guitar in a pop-punk band that was going places, only to hang up my axe and rent a saxophone because of a sudden obsession with jazz; etc. etc.), but this was one of the things that actually made sense. I liked Svatsox even more than I liked The Ex; both bands pioneered the angular, Gang Of 4-influenced "Wormerpunk" sub-genre (at one point there were about 15 bands in the village (!) of Wormer, playing the same kind of music!), but Svatsox were ever so slightly more melodic, at times even new-wavey or dare I say it, gothic (in the good, early Banshees/UK Decay sense!). Guitarist Ferry Heyne, currently de facto leader of the very successful De Kift (the band I mentioned I was in), did some great John McGeoch-meets-Andy Gill stuff on their records. On their untitled EP from 1981, "Revenge" is the most straightforward punk song (actually it reminds me a little of De Straks' "Eet U Smakelijk"!), but the guitar goes in all kinds of different directions. Of the "Wormerpunk" Oorwormer comp LP, Svatsox' 2 tracks are easily the best; "What Colour Do I Smell" is in a fast-paced 5/4 rhythm (most Wormer bands had difficulty playing 4/4!) and the ultra-short "Eternal Hunting Fields" features some weird (home-made?) electronic gizmo (that sounds like it's also used on The Ex' "The Sky Is Blue Again").
Ruins, their debut LP from late 1982, is easily their finest hour; while the songs are longer and more spun-out, sonically it's much more powerful than their earlier stuff. The bass guitar pounds away like early Big Black, the drums are doused in reverb (without having that typical shitty 80's sound), and Ferry picked up a distortion pedal somewhere along the line. Ruins was one of a bunch of great records (see also Alerta's brilliant In The Land Of A 1000 Pretty Dreams, Zowiso's 2nd-and-a-half LP The Lust, the Wandas' The Ideal) that went in a different direction from hardcore, whose practitioners semi-jokingly called these bands "softies"; ironic, since most of these softies were pretty tough dyed-in-the-wool squatter types. Svatsox kept going into the mid-80's (occasionally playing old punk covers as the Sox Pistels!), before breaking up and morphing into De Kift. Oh, did I already mention US label North East Indie just put out a Kift CD?

Revenge (1981)
What Colour Do I Smell
Eternal Hunting Fields (from Oorwormer comp, 1982)
Never Knew Better Days
Ruins (from Ruins LP, 1982)

September 08, 2006


In a recent Middle Class post by my good friends here, none other than Henry Rollins is quoted saying the first two hardcore records were the Middle Class EP and "some Dutch record from about 1972". Commentators were quick to point out this had to be the legendary Sound Of Imker 45, actually from around 1968, that has been on the top of many want lists (including Jello Biafra's, someone told me recently) for years. The story goes, the record was never released but the record company did give one of the Imker brothers two boxes, which they used for playing frisbee, target practice etc. So "rare" is an understatement here! Rarity aside, it's a good record and pretty fast as well, but to my ears really nothing special. But maybe that's because a lot of Dutch 60's music sounds like some kind of secret punk/HC forebear, not just in the music, but also in its attitude. Just take a look at the names: Outsiders, Zipps, Selfkick, 12345, Fallouts, Soft(enon)s sound more like '77 than '66. Lyric-wise, most songs weren't about love but either about various things bugging them, like war ("Stengun"), parents ("Paarse Broek"), TV ("Zet Die TV Af" ="turn off the TV"), work ("Ik Heb Geen Zin Om Op Te Staan" ="don't feel like getting up"), etc. or just silly for some reason often food-related nonsense ("Kejje Nagaan", "Waaro"). Rather than being a uber-hip style bible, leading Dutch 60's zine Hitweek would let any provincial bumpkin write in to tell the world about their plight being in the middle of nowhere having long hair and purple trousers, much like punk zines like MaxRock&Roll and Koekrand would later. And regarding speed... Well, we must have the Dutch "hoom-pah" folk music embedded in our genes, because there's lots of superfast ("proto-hardcore", if you like) stuff around; here's some examples that are hardly rare... Q65's "You're The Victor" was their first hit in Holland, it even has some traces of "oompah" left in the bass line...! This isn't the place to expound on the greatness of the Outsiders, possibly Holland's greatest band ever, and equally at home doing tender ballads or Stooges-type sludge-a-thons. Apart from 2 fast 'uns, I've also posted their ultra-primitive early 45 "Thinking About Today", that in my book could easily have been a self-released Dutch punk record from 1980 or thereabouts; it could fit on Utreg Punx or some such sampler!

Q 65 - You're The Victor (1965)
Outsiders - Won't You Listen (1967)
Outsiders - The Man On The Dune (1968)
Outsiders - Thinking About Today (1966)

September 01, 2006


Angela Rippon.

O.K., we're not talking ultra-rare here, but I just had to post the Puncture Mucky Pup 45, having spent a couple of weeks running through the living room with my son to the sounds of this punk classic (my son calls punk rock "running music", as every time I've found a great punk record we put it on and start running and jumping around to it). Like most people, I knew the song "Mucky Pup" from the Exploited's Punk's Not Dead LP; I don't think they even credited the song so I didn't know it was a cover (now it's pretty obvious; the weird chord sequence sounds nothing like their kind of metal/punk). I was always wondering what they were shouting towards the end of the song; well, finally I know: it's "Angela Rippon! Angela Rippon!" (etc.) I have a sneaking suspicion Puncture were a joke band along the lines of Snuff Rock Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, but as with Alberto Y..., they're great so who cares? In any case, this was the first release on Small Wonder records (hence the legendary catalog nr. "Small One"), a seminal UK punk label that put out a lot of great records but never seemed to have a clear identity. They didn't have a trademark sound (like Raw) or aesthetic (like Rough Trade), bands like Cockney Rejects and Crass were happily rubbing shoulders, and most acts jumped ship after 1 or 2 releases, going major (Punilux, Carpettes, some obscure band called The Cure) or starting their own label (Crass, Poison Girls). With this haphazard approach it's a miracle (or small wonder, har har...) how many great records they put out. I know there's a Small Wonder Punk Singles Collection CD out, so here's a couple B-sides I like. (Yes, I know, there's also a Small Wonder B-sides CD out now; be assured these mp3s are from my own scratchy dusty platters!)
Though not as great as "Violence Grows", the Fatal Microbes' "Beautiful Pictures" is a nice piece of clanging and yelping (these guys and gal look like they're 12 years old on the sleeve). The Rejects' "I Wanna Be A Star" is a pleasant ditty, not as macho as they became later (why, there's even baby pictures of them on the sleeve!). Nicky & The Dots are one of those one-offs I know nothing about; "Linoleum Walk" (B-side of "Never Been So Stuck") is a nice slice of powerpop. I still like punk rock busker Patrik Fitzgerald, even after Blur got big and I noticed the striking similarity between Patrik's and Damon Albarn's voices. The Cravats were one of the few bands that stayed on Small Wonder for (almost) all their career, but instead of posting something from their regular records I'd like to do a song that was one of my first punk purchases ever, back in 1981: the "Fireman" track that only appeared on a flexi with Dutch 'zine Vinyl. The Shend sorta reminds me of Pere Ubu's David Thomas, only a gruffer, Cockney version.

Puncture - Mucky Pup
Puncture - You Can't Rock 'n Roll (In A Council Flat)
Fatal Microbes - Beautiful Pictures
Cockney Rejects - I Wanna Be A Star
Nicky & The Dots - Linoleum Walk
Patrik Fitzgerald - Buy Me, Sell Me
Cravats - Fireman