Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Lords of the New Church: Like A Virgin

At the end of the Lords of the New Church's reign of terror, things got ugly, Robespierre ugly. In one of their final moments in the spotlight, they executed a version of Madonna's wafer-thin pop confection, "Like A Virgin". The Lords' take is like that sick joke someone tells you so fast you forget you're not supposed to laugh. Musically, it''s pretty threadbare (only Bators and James perform here, the rhythms were ghost-played by programmable machines). The final result is every bit as pretty as that grisly cover would indicate.

Nearing their final demise the Lords issue the Psycho Sex 12" in 1986. For this e.p. the band was reduced to obscure French indie label Bondage International after their major label deal with I.R.S. lapsed. This particular version of of the e.p. also contains two songs from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre II soundtrack. It's not particularity dire, just unnecessary; but that's never stopped a good obsessive now has it?.

Download Psycho Sex 12"

(Sorry no go on this one, unless someone can offer a rip to us.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lords of the New Church: The Method to Our Madness

Third time's the curse for the Lords of the New Church (see here), who would never really recover from this 1984 album's commercial failure. And it's not for lack of trying. The Lords worked with metal producer guy of the era (Chris Tsangerides) to gain a crisp, metallic sound, which Trouser Press described as "a cross between Raw Power and Rebel Yell". The songs are solid, the production writ large and the lyrical themes as mad as ever. But it all came to naught.

Tsangerides' metal pedigree does bring out the Rock but the Lords with their sneering-yet-catchy songs ("Method to our Madness"), their faux satanism (Aleister Crowley's law is used as the title of "Do What Thou Wilt") and those funky bass-lines n' female backing vocals ("Murder-Style") still often end up sounding like a better version of the later Rolling Stones.

The Lords story soon peters out but not before we cover the gruesome song that sparked this series of posts...


Friday, August 28, 2009

Lords of the New Church: Is Nothing Sacred?

Their second album finds the Lords (see here) faltering a bit. Neither the production, the playing or the song-writing measure up to their debut. To be fair, Bators-James' "Dance with Me", with it's kitschy video, hokey come-ons ("Love can be like bondage") and slinky tune, is a new wave (electro-pop division) classic.

(Wince-inducing isn't it ? The oddest moment though, has to be that kid with the Skrwdriver shirt hosting the show!)

There are other fine examples of their pop malevolence (like an original entitled "Johnny Too Bad") but the second and final single was the other brightest light, a Grass Roots cover produced by Todd Rundgren (the man behind the board for the New York Dolls and many other classics).

Overall, this is an album more concerned with "nocturnal salvation" than religious or political conspiracy (which still gets some play on the catchy, "Tale of Two Cities"). It's got a bit of mainstream dance-rock groove going on, akin to the Rolling Stones early eighties work, which some might take as a compliment. However the more tacked-on synthesizers and the dopier lyrics ("Don't worry children, everything's gonna be aright") refuse to let this album rule the dance floor or the stadium.

The mightily precious Nouvelle Vague covered the song on their Bande a Part album.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lords of the New Church

What hath the Lords of the New Church wrought? They brought a type of punk, a gussied-up Stooges meets New York Dolls sound loaded with raunchy guitars n' sneered vocals to the mainstream. They helped pave the way for bad-boy fashion-disasters like Billy Idol and Motley Crue. And yet their music, all excesses aside, still rings as hauntingly true as ever.

The Lords of the New Church began in 1981 as that most grandiose of aggregations, the super-group. And a punk rock super-group to make matters worse! The mix of players, from different styles and different countries, did offer hope. Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys and Brian James of the Dammed formed a traditional British song-writing partnership, anchored by a rhythm section of Sham 69's Dave Tregunna and ex-Barracuda Nicky Turner. The final tally may or may not have surpassed than the sum of its parts but it surely created a striking figure all its own.

Taken as a whole, the Lords were a twisted Frankenstein monster. Image-wise, they played up a sleazy punk-goth-metal fashion complete with leather, studs and bandannas. Lyrically, they combined an incomprehensible political philosophy with a similarly disjointed anti-religious thrust. Musically things only got more complicated.

The band was founded on Bators-James shared love of the Stooges, as evidenced by Bators Iggy-worship, but this was a band who revered the New York Dolls ("L'il Boys Play With Dolls" name-checks almost every Doll’s song) and covered obscure sixties punk songs (Balloon Farm's “Question of Temperature”). Yet, despite having the proto-punk influences and the punk-metal look, the Lords decided to be a pop band. They wrote songs with huge hooks (witness the awesome, “Open Your Eyes”) and allowed the keyboards (and occasional horns) equal play in the mix. The Lords tried to make sense of punk, six years after ground zero, sort of like the Combat Rock-era Clash.

In fact, the Clash's first and last drummer (and only chiropractor) Terry Chimes co-wrote the Lord's third single, "Russian Roulette”. The song mines the same vein of Apocalypse Now jungle psychosis (in an almost Hearts of Darkness way) that his former band-mates did in "Charlie Don't Surf" on 1981's Sandinista. Chimes' wrote the song with Tony James (later Mick Jones co-conspirator in Carbon Silicon), whose former band-mate Billy Idol would take a similar but more limited, set of ingredients as the Lords to the top of the pop charts.

Most of the Lords material is out-of-print, though two collection and some dodgy material (including new material with a different lead singer, a sort of Lords of the 21st Century kind of affair) remain available.

{MORE LORDS? Leave a comment!}

"Truth is the sword of us all."

P.S. Check out Punk Friction's posts of the early Lords singles (from which the picture disc on this page surely derives). Also do not miss the BBC sessions over at the Nuzz Prowlin' Wolf.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Exploding Hearts Live!

When they draw up a list of the saddest accidents in rock n' roll history, after that plane that went down with Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper but before the crash that took much of Lynyrd Skynrd away (still leaving us with the Rossington-Collins band and .38 Special) we need to add the van crash on July 20th 2003 that stopped the Exploding Hearts. After the Exploding Hearts' (vocalist/guitarist Adam Cox, bassist Matt Fitzgerald, guitarist Terry Six and drummer Jeremy Gage) touring van rolled over on Interstate Five just North of Eugen, Oregon only Terry Six and band manager, Rachelle Ramos, walked away. In their brief career the band had only released one stunning album, Guitar Romantic, and a batch of excellent singles (compiled as the album Shattered) before being cut-short.

But what a legacy! An alchemical distillation of power-pop's and punk rock's best tricks. While in their flamboyant image they did flirt with the studiedness of some 21st century retro-punk (the Briefs, Tranzmittors), musically they were never simply derivative. Instead they added a bratty insouciance to a bevvy of old styles and not just glam, punk and power-pop but also early sixties Motown (it's shocking how much "I'm a Pretender" sounds like an undiscovered Holland-Dozier-Holland song). It's a sad but exhilarating discography.

For those of you who have the albums (and you do don't you?) here's a balls-out live performance from KBOO done in 2003, which includes an otherwise unreleased cover of the Small Faces, "My Mind's Eye". So, while Terry Six survived to lead the more classicist power-pop band the Nice Boys and the band's Secret Weapon King Louie plays on and even Pitchfuck put the band in their near-incomprehensible list of 500 best songs of the aughts, there's no getting used to the fact that they're gone so fuckin' prematurely.

Download The Exploding Hearts Live

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jawbreaker: Demos

Blake Schwarzenbach has a new band called Thorns of Life with 'zine master Aaron Cometbus. Way back in 1989, Blake began his career with Jawbreaker (with Adam Pfahler on drums and Chris Bauermeister on bass). Jawbreaker, like the SST bands of old, became standard bearers of a musically innovative, hard-touring, staunchly independent brand of punk (despite Blake claiming "I never was one"). Then, however, following a slew of tours, stickers, photocopied flyers, t-shirts, seven-inch singles, comp tracks and albums, Blake had throat surgery and the band signed to Geffen. That move, and subsequent change of sound, alienated most of their audience (this author included) but planted the seeds of a new one.

As for me, back in 1990 I found two then-recent seven inches in SK8 ( a skate shop that racked a bit of cool vinyl) ; Christ on a Crutch's You Crack Me Up and Jawbreaker's Busy. The former said that punk, of the hardcore variety, had present while the latter promised punk, of the rough but smart and melodic variety, had a future. Some of the tracks from that first seven inch (as well as future comp tracks and split singles) came from their first demos. A few of thsoe demo tracks were remastered for inclusion on their odds n' sods comp, Etc. Now you can listen to those first two demos in all their muffled, boxy-sounding glory.

Jawbreaker - Equalized (demo version)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fitz of Depression: I'm the Man

More on the continuity between the punk ages, with Olympia's Fitz of Depression and their 1995 new wave tribute single. By no means a perfect piece of work but intriguing.

Download I'm the Man 7"

Boris the Sprinkler: (She Digs My) New Wave Records

Rev. Norb is a caffeinated Kerouac, a rambling, blabbering logorrhoeic motherfucker. Just the kinda lunatic who might've found a home on Stiff Records if he'd been from Akron rather than Green Bay and had been plying his trade in '78 rather than '98. Rev. Norb may not be the greatest song-writer of his generation or even his genre but his verbal acuity (he wrote the tiny-printed zine Sick Teen in the eighties before becoming one of MaximumRocknRoll's few great columnists) translates pretty well into music; like the hate-child of Patti Smith and Ian Dury fronting the Ramones.

(Run off groove is "A Dorky Prime Cut" in homage to all those Stiff singles with "A Porky Prime Cut" in their run-off groove.)

Rev. Norb, in a column I can still recall lo these many years, wrote a rant about how punk is re-made by every generation and hence its longevity (it was better written than that, trust me). The point remains the same, punk rock (and all its good, simple, propulsive precedents and antecedents) is unkillable, regardless of the trend du jour. It's always been my hope that this tiny, two-bit forum can scream out this thesis, punk rock is not the light in the refrigerator that goes out when you shut the door, rather it's grubby bulb shines on and on.

Download She Digs my New Wave Records 7"

(Rev. Norb with his signature antler helmet plus his M + M costume)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Motorhead: Leaving Here

"We only knew three chords but we arranged them pretty well."
Lemmy Kilmster

I too had a metal phase. It was the sixth grade and my Classic Rock station spun Dio-era Sabbath (Heaven and Hell) That Other Guy*-era Iron Maiden (Self-Titled), the resurgent-era Judas Priest (British Steel) and of course, prime-era Motorhead (Ace of Spades). By the seventh grade I'd gone backwards to a sixties rock phase before moving moving sideways into that long-term obsession that is punk rock.
*I know it's Paul Di'Anno, I just don' t care all that much.

I haven't listened to any of those aforementioned albums since 1981, other than Ace of Spades. Re-listening to it in the cold light of the 21st century it remains a bludgeoning work but it's not an archetypal heavy metal album like the others. For a long time, Motorhead transcended heavy metal, building an audience of bikers, punks, acid-heads as well as heshers. (Of course,when they came to Winnipeg, a North American banger hot spot in the eighties, the radio ad went "Heav-y! Met-al! Motor! Head!" with lotsa echo.)

Motorhead simply are, as one album title had it, rock n' roll. On their debut single with its Chuck Berry-isms and its cover of the Birds' (via Holland-Dozier-Holland!) "Leavin' Here", Motorhead sound like a super-charged pub-rock band. After all they began on Stiff (for this single) then moved onto Chiswick, both labels associated with former pub rockers playing punk/new wave. Of course they suffered none of the hide-bound conservatism of that genre and stole bits from the entire history of rock n' roll ( Lemmy and early co-leader Larry Wallis both played in seventies psychedelic bands - Hawkwind and Pink Fairies respectively). It's a guttural, grungy rock n' roll - "everything louder then everything else" went the slogan - that's influenced a million bands, too many of whom missed Lemmy's impish humour.

Download White Line Fever/Leaving Here 7"

"If Motorhead moved in next door to you, your lawn would die."
Lemmy Kilmster

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stiff Girls: Rachel, Jane and Chrissie

Punk (and for our current purposes, new wave) began as a centralized phenomenon, you were either from New York or London or you moved your sorry-ass there toute fuckin' suite. However as that 'new music' spread, the phenomenon of the regional scene (like Liverpool or Detroit once were) re-ignited. An early example of such localized hype, would be the city of Akron, Ohio. When that city's weird-punks Devo, signed to Stiff Records circa 1978 (forever confuzzling the course of rock history) it led to a locust-like descent of A & R men upon the rubber capital of the world. Other than the Rubber City Rebels, what they found there was a whole lotta estrogen.

Rachel Sweet

Rachel Sweet, pushed as a sex object by her different record labels starting at the tender age of fifteen, is the missing link between Tanya Tucker and Brittany Spears ('course neither of them were backed by power-pop titans, the Records!) She moved from a country-ish sound, to a more slick rock style before joining teen idol Rex Smith in mush-land. (Two of MRML's favourites pop-punk bands have given props to Rachel; Berkley's Mr. T. Experience covered "Whats' in the Cuckoo Clock"and Victoria's Bum, in the song "O Cookie" asked, "Whatever happened to Rachel Sweet/Oh man, she sure was pretty/I miss her singing a country song - yes I do").

Download Rachel Sweet's B-A-B-Y 7"

Jane Aire

Another Akron belter signed to Stiff was Jane Aire, was again backed by a group of British boys, the Belvederes later called the Edge (no connection to the U2 effects-whiz).

Download Jane Aire's Yankee Wheels 7"

The Pretenders (Chrissie Hynde)

In 1979 when this buzz about Akron was peaking, an ex-Akronite (and then London rock scribe) Chrissie Hynde was putting together a tough-as-nails (British) band called the Pretenders, While she never signed to Stiff, her band's first single was produced by Stiff's early guiding light, Mr. Nick Lowe. Chrissie's career has some dizzying ascents and some steep downslides and but she's survived and is still rocking damn hard.

Download Chrissie + Co.'s Stop Yer Sobbin' 7"

45 Revolutions and MRML began a brief and ill-advised feud on the identity of Akron's finest female vocalist. 45 argued for Jane first, followed by Rachel with Chrissie taking up the rear, while MRML argued that it was Chrissie numero uno, with Jane in the middle of the pack and Rachel taking home the bronze medal. (Neither of us mentioned Patty Donahue of the Waitresses - go figure!)

{So now MRML Readers, make your vote for Akron's finest female vocalist - just click 'comment' and type in your first choice - and second and third if your are so inclined.}

Turns out it's Chrissie, no matter how you tot up the votes but it's actually Rachel in second and Jane taking home the bronze. You never know how these things will turn out. Thanks for your wry, amusing ballots.

(The first and last pictures were the best available images of Lori Petty in the Stiff shirt she wore in the movie version of Tank - Girl - sharper images would be welcome.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Live Stiffs

"Sex,Drugs, Rock n' Roll and Chaos" is the (bastardized) title of the final track on this L.P , featuring Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, Larry Wallis and Ian Dury) and it's a pretty damn good summary of the whole enterprise. The enterprise was to gather the eminent Stiff artists of 1977 and send 'em off all together on a package tour like Motown did with its stars back in the sixties.

Those Motown shows were, witnesses say, professional, polished performances whereas the Stiff shows were, often, a shambles albeit a glorious shambles. Look at those lovable losers grinning out at you from the cover, as if to say, "We were third tier sloggers but now we've got a shot at the top." Sure enough, everyone of those grinners, save Wallis, took a serious shot at the pop charts, all with some, if varying, levels of success.

Nick Lowe's was long known for his love of just bashing the music out (hence that "Basher' nick name). That reckless spirit, which made Nick a conduit between the old pubsters and the angry kids, permeates this record. Nick's prominent on both versions of the cover (with poor E.C. hiding at the back). Nick's tunes here include his best released version of "I Knew the Bride" and a fun obscurity, "Let's Eat", Wreckelss Eric's songs - "Reconez Cherie" and "Semaphore Signals" are a bloody mess (and bloody good - much more here) while Elvis C. and the Attraction attack "Miracle Man" and, shades of Imperial Bedroom, cover Bacharch-David's "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself". Larry Wallis only gets to play his best song ("Police Car") so that polio survivor and funky eccentric Ian Dury can get three songs (counting that pile-on version of "Sex, Drugs and Rock n' Roll" that ends the album). Enjoy this raw document because it seems impossible to imagine prominent label nowadays with a roster of such resolute individuals surviving.

Download Life Stiffs L.P.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nick Lowe: So It Goes (First Stiff)

(A-side matrix "Earthlings Awake")

This month (August the fourteenth, to be precise) marks the thirty-third anniversary of the debut of Stiff Records, the most bizarre, wildly-inconsistent yet brilliantly prescient labels of all time. The fiercely idiosyncratic British label promised a future in the music world for renegades and miscreants. The label was founded by industry vets (Dave Robinson and Andrew Jakeman) and initially stocked by eccentric cast-offs (Nick Lowe, Pink Fairies et al.) before they signed (then) up-and-comers like The Damned and Elvis Costello. The history of Stiff is well learned elsewhere but, for something less seen, here is a list of thirty-four blunt yet witty Stiff slogans:

(From The Book of Rock Lists and scanned by CallPastorBob)

The label debuted (prefixed Buy 1) with a single , the jaw-dropping Nick Lowe solo debut on which Nick plays everything but the drums. While Stiff's quality level pitched wildly (the less said about Buy 3, the turgid Roogalator single, the better) this maiden release is forty-five revolutions per minute of wild genius.

"So It Goes" brought power-pop out of the doldrums by not only paying homage (and/or nicking ideas from) that crisp British Invasion guitar-pop but also by updating said sound with a slicing wit. Underneath that snappy tune, this is a brutal song, one which moves from a grisly loss of limb, to threat of violence in a large crowd, to the warring of nations. Nick chronicles all this ugliness in an off-handed manner, even ending the song off on a note of unrequited lust. And so it goes...

So It Goes
I remember the night the kid cut off his right arm
In a fit to save a bit of power
He got fifty thousand watts
In a big acoustic tower
Security's so tight tonight
Woh they're ready for a tussle
You better keep your backstage passes
'Cause the promoter had the muscle

And so it goes and so it goes
And so it goes and so it goes
But where it’s going, no one knows

In the tall building
sit the head of all nations
Worthy men from Spain and Siam
Al1 day discussions with the Russians
But they still went ahead
and vetoed the plan
Now up jumped the U.S. representative
He's the one with the tired eyes
747 put him in that condition
Flyin' back from a peace keepin' mission


In the air there is after shave lotion
in the wake of a snake hip Persian
On his arm there's a skin tight vision
Wonder why she ain’t mine and she’s his and……..

"Heart of the City" is the more ragin' full-on rock n' roll track. The guitars are amped-up, the tempo races and the hook, while still fully-formed, is more staccato. Lyrically the cynical wit (Lowe now refers to it as "callow") continues, here delineating urban malaise in the form of sex, violence and an over-abundance of guitars.

(B-side Matrix, "Three Chord Trick, yeh")

{MRML Readers: More Lowe? Write a comment to lemme know!}

Download So It Goes/Heart of the City 7"

You need more Lowe. If you enjoy this single you need to buy his first album Jesus of Cool and/or his new compilation Quiet Please. Don't delay, your life is poorer for it's lack of Nick.

Next: Twee psychedelic pop?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Every One a (Punk Rock) Classic Volume 6

For the final time we repeat our introduction, "The Every One A Classic series of bootlegs (now all out-of-print) are well-curated exhibits of U.K. obscurities of the late seventies. The series' pieces lie somewhere between the glorious wussiness of the Shake Some Action or Powerpearls series and the caustic primitiveness of the Killed by Death or Bloodstains series".

(Image courtesy of Bored Teenagers - see their in-depth article too.)

The series ends off on a more lo-fi note, with some of its most primitive finds (see Noise Annoys ultra-sparse, "Living in the World Today"as proof). Further highlights of this final wing include, "Drag it Back" which, while ostensibly a punk song in fact demonstrates the bag of the pop tricks Jimmy Edwards picked up in a decade on the English music scene, the dueling guitars and keyboards on the Head's dead-end sing-along "Nothing To Do in a Town Like Leatherhead" and Protex's "Don't Ring Me Up" with it's sheet-metal guitar riffing and sneering, propulsive hook.

(Fans of of Northern Ireland's late Seventies bumper crop of Ramones-fueled pop-punk bands are hereby encouraged to visit MRML's Protex posts.)

Possible curios (odd, not bad) include the Bleach Boys' quavery-voiced "Stocking-Clad Nazi Death Squad Bitches" which Jello Biafra would appreciate and FX's proto-oi "South's Gonna Rise Again" which appropriates a post-confederate Dixie slogan for a terrace chant about football.

1. FX Souths gonna rise again
2. Limps Circa 2
3. The Rong Union jack
4. Noise annoys Living (in the world today)
5. Twisted nerve Neutral zone
6. Commited British crimes
7. Machines True life
8. Jermz Power cut
9. Bleach boys Stocking clad nazi death squad bitches
10. Mad dog Someone here must like me
11. Jimmy Edwards Drag it back
12. Ignerents I won't be there
13. Nasty media Spiked copy
14. The Head Nothing to do in a town like Leatherhead
15. Protex Don't ring me up

Download Every One a Classic Volume 6 CD

If you're enjoying these seventies mod-power-pop-punk compilations, you should surely check our MRML's Shake Some Action posts.