July 28, 2007


I'm going away on holiday, here's two U.K. one-offs to keep you entertained. The Rings featured legendary (Pink Fairies, Pretty Things, Tomorrow, Syd Barrett) 60's-70's drummer Twink on vocals (so who's drumming? Rod Latter, later of the Adverts, that's who). A great rocking slab of early UK punk; as the Pink Fairies were often called the English MC5, I guess that makes the Rings the English Sonic's Rendezvous Band!
The Subs, from Scotland, even had "1 Off" as their catalogue number so I guess Stiff records had no high hopes for this bunch. Too bad, as this is great melodic singalongapunk that even copies the intro of Stiff ur-punk record "New Rose".
See ya later!

The Rings - I Wanna Be Free
The Rings - Automobile (Chiswick Records, 1977)
The Subs - Gimme Your Heart
The Subs - Party Clothes (Stiff Records, 1978)

July 17, 2007


"Why don't you rip off your badges, you look like a christmas tree!", The Ex sang in '82. I guess they weren't too crazy about the identikit "leather, bristles, studs and acne" punk hordes. But for a 15-year-old living in the sticks like me, wearing badges (and writing band names) on your jacket was another means of communicating with kindred spirits. It's hard to believe nowadays, but back then if you saw someone looking slightly "punk", you'd automatically start talking, even if you'd never met. In determining this "punkness", the coolness of the band names on the subject's badges/jacket was of far bigger importance than, say, hairstyles. (A friend of mine who had "NV Le Anderen" written on his jacket was once being followed by a couple of skinheads; after a wild chase it turned out they were actually the band in question, and wanted to thank him!)
Most Dutch punk bands had perfect names for printing on badges: Nitwitz, Svatsox, Zmiv, Bizkidz, Kotx, Ex (!): short and with as many angular characters that would give you lots of points at Scrabble as possible. But the coolest-looking band name of all was Rakketax. For a while, everybody seemed to be wearing Rakketax badges, and I have a sneaking suspicion it was more because of the great name and design than the music. Not that there was anything wrong with the music; both Rakketax incarnations turned out some great stuff.
First there was the female-fronted Utreg Punx line-up; their "Van Agt" was one of the very first mp3s I posted here. With singer Fretje they also recorded a single ("Rats"/ "What's for Dinner?") but that was never released. Fretje left to sing for the Pin-Offs (one song, "Rats" - yes, the same one - , on a comp LP), then became a journalist. While Rakketax' second line-up featured almost all new members, they still played the same kind of intelligent, catchy but still noisy punk. Their 6-song EP from 1981 is also one of the best-sounding records of the period (most studio stuff, for instance the Lullabies EP's, sounded too dry and separated). I love the trebly (Fender?) guitar that alternates between punk thrashing and chimey, almost new-wavey riffs. If you like this, also check out their tracks on Als Je Haar Maar Goed Zit from the following year.

Decadence Floor

July 05, 2007


Here's a record I've never seen posted in any blog, so I guess I have to do it. Back when I started digging for early punk sounds there was very little information at hand; I'd look for band names I'd seen mentioned in MaximumRocknRoll, which happened to be mostly Bay Area bands: Crime, Avengers, Mutants, etcetera. I couldn't believe my luck when I came across a Mutants record called "Boss Man", only to find out these Mutants were from England and played disappointing pub-rock. (Ironically, nowadays this record is regarded a KBD punk classic - on eBay...) I was luckier when, around 1985, Cas B. (brother of Antidote's singer Benno) of the Hoorn Dropstyle record store put a box in front of me and said: "This just came in; you can have the whole box at 25 cents each." I checked out its contents and came up with two Frisco punk gems: the first Nuns EP and the Sleepers 5-song EP. I declined his offer to buy the whole box (god knows what else was in there that I didn't know at the time!), and went home with just these two slabs. While the Nuns - which Americana-fanatic Cas B. would be tickled to hear contained a young Alejandro Escovedo - delivered one great song ("Decadent Jew", one of the wildest punk tracks ever to feature piano) and two so-so cuts, the Sleepers just floored me. Trashy, grungy and druggy in that typical San Francisco "beatnik punk" way, but with a dark power that goes deeper than the usual punque roque, at times even psychedelic-sounding (the middle eight of "Linda" sounds exactly like the Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit"!). The weird thing was: while I was crazy about them (even made my own "Sleepers" T-shirt) they seemed to be beyond obscure. The only info I could gather about them was that one or two members later formed Flipper. Even later, with the revival of old punk nuggets (like, for instance, "Decadent Jew") courtesy of the Killed By Death-bootleg series, the Sleepers' more er... sleepy sounds fell between the cracks, not punk enough for KBD, not arty enough for the Residents/Tuxedomoon crowd. It took a one man crusade by rock journo Jon Savage to wake some people up to the magic of the Sleepers; I even think there's been a CD reissue. This is from my own scratchy vinyl:

She's Fun
Seventh World
No Time
(Win records, 1978)