As a disaffected youth, I discovered rival Vancouver punk legends D.O.A. and the Subhumans on the same day, in a musty, suburban basement.
At one time in North America's cultural evolution, no basement would have been complete without a stack of abused and abandoned vinyl records. To be sure, they usually had the words Nana and Mouskouri stamped on them. But some obsessive types, as I was, and remain, are physically incapable of passing a stack of records without succumbing to the urge to 'flip'.
So on that day in the summer of 1984, buried deep in friend's basement, I hit upon the black sheep of that family's records. A modest-in-size but utterly pure vein of gold among the slag. There, amidst the "Learn French" records and Ms. Mouskouri's purported Greatest Hits, were half-a-dozen or so records that were absolutely not like the others.
I swear it is this particular discovery which makes every stack of worn and beaten vinyl magnetic in a pull. What if, I still ask myself, instead of James Last, Rusty Warren or Strange Advance and other such Columbia House cast-offs, some black sheep's albums are lurking in in there?
What I did find therein was the Buzzcocks's Different Kind of Tension, 999's High Energy Plan, Iggy Pop's Soldier, The Cure's Boys Don't Cry et les pieces des resistance, those hopelessly rare (even then) foundational documents of Canadian punk rock; D.O.A.'s Something Better Change and The Subhuman's Incorrect Thoughts.
While I took to each of these albums with a sort of fury, I was never uncritical. I scrutinized the sleeves of each LP as it spun, considering what to commit to tape and what to excise. The Subhumans' album made it to tape unscathed. After all, the band's mid-tempo rhythms, melodic guitar lines and bellowed politics reminded me of my beloved Clash, albeit with more audible hard rock roots and less stylistic fiddling. However, while Punk rock has, throughout its history, often rewarded sound-a-like bands, (Ramones-core? D-beat? Street-punk?), The Subhumans played nobody else's game.
In fact, the refusal to play anybody's game may be the defining trait of an album that simply bleeds alienation. Each of the three song-writers appears hopelessly at odds with the culture from which he sprung. Whether it's guitarist Mike Graham saying that "I don't fit the big picture", singer Brian Goble telling us us "I can't stand the new regime" or bassist Gerry Hannah mocking Saturday Fever culture with the charge, "I'm just a slave to my dick", this album is like discontent distilled. More than any other of the albums I uncovered that day, Incorrect Thoughts was the one that that could 'comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted', even though both affliction and comfort marked the life of that disaffected youth.
Now I post this album with some trepidation. While Incorrect Thoughts itself remains difficult to obtain, thanks to some inexplicable legal chicanery, the band has not only re-recorded the album they've added new depth of experience to the songs. The end result of this being an unusual case where you'd want BOTH versions of the album. So if you're here to get Incorrect Thoughts (1980) feel free to do so but if you sense its power PLEASE go and find the 2010 version, called Same Thoughts, Different Day, and see how much it adds to the band's legacy.
So let us know MRML readers, Any favourite albums found in strange places? Any favourite Subhumans moments? Let us know in the COMMENTS section (where you'll find the Incorrect Thoughts link).