Some musical historians regard 1976 as ground zero. That was the year punk exploded. A supposed game changer, it divided, and continues to, divide opinion. Depending upon who you ask, punk was either a musical revolution or a musical wasteland. Punk although a new musical genre, was actually a fusion of genres and influences. Everything from sixties garage rock, proto-punk, no wave, experimental, industrial and postindustrial music went on to shape punk. This includes the New York Dolls, The Ramones, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, MC5 and Velvet Underground. These artists and bands are always quoted as influencing the first wave of punk artists. They may even have influenced the twenty-one artists who featured on Soul Jazz Records’ recently released compilation Punk 45-Kill The Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Youth-Underground Punk 1973-1980.

Featuring twenty-one tracks, Punk 45 features contributions from Electric Eels, Pere Ubu, The Flamin’ Groovies, Theoretical Girls, The Pagans and Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers and documents the music that influenced punk. An eclectic compilation, Punk 45 may divide opinion for two reasons. 

Unlike similar compilations, Punk 45 eschews some of most innovative and influential artists who influenced punk. There’s no New York Dolls, The Ramones, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, MC5 or Velvet Underground. The nearest Punk 45 comes to an innovative and influential group are The Flamin’ Groovies,’ the oldest track on Punk 45. However, digging deeper is admirable. So Punk 45 will feature garage bands and a whole host of innovative music released between 1973 and 1976, when punk exploded, changing the musical landscape. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Punk 45 is billed as a compilation that features music released between 1973 and 1980. Technically, that’s right. Of the twenty-one tracks, one The Flamin’ Groovies’ was released before punk exploded in 1976. Then Pastiche’s Flash Of The Moment was released in 1976, as punk changed the musical landscape for good or bad. The other nineteen tracks were released between 1977 and 1980. For some musical historians, they’ll describe most of Punk 45 as post punk. Granted 1977 was the start of the post punk era, but the nineteen tracks released between 1977 and 1980 aren’t post punk. Not at all. They’re much more eclectic than that. You’ll realise that when I tell you about the highlights of Punk 45.

The Urinals’ I’m A Bug opens Punk 45. Released in 1979, on their sophomore E.P. Another E.P. It was released on their own label, Happy Squid Records. Produced by Vitus Matare of The Last, a Los Angeles’ based power pop band, The Urinals became an influential band. The Another E.P. and I’m A Bug showcases a band that are much more competent than many punk and post punk bands. Nor are they punk revivalists. They forge their own sound on this driving track. Everything from punk, garage, rock and post punk is thrown into the mix on this genre-sprawling track.

New Orleans isn’t exactly know for punk bands. R&B, jazz, blues and soul provides the soundtrack to the Big Easy. For a moment in time, The Normals, a short-lived band, tried to introduce punk to New Orleans with their only single Almost Ready. Released in 1979 on the Lectric Eye label, the guitar driven Almost Ready is an explosion of energy, frustration and anger. Best described as a tribute to The Ramones, you can’t fault their commitment and passion, maybe though, The Normals should’ve found their own voice? 

Pere Ubu who contribute The Modern Dance to Punk 45, are one of the biggest names on Punk 45. They’d been around since 1975, when they released their debut E.P. 30 Seconds Over Tokyo on vocalist David Thomas’ Hearthen Records. By the time they released The Modern Dance in August 1977, on Hearthen Records, they’d developed their own sound. Unlike many bands, Pere Ubu weren’t a guitar band. They took a different approach creating music that’s unique, innovative and influential. Fittingly, The Modern Dance is a fusion of influences, including punk, avant-garde, art rock and experimental music. Since then, several generations of musicians have claimed that Pere Ubu have influenced them.

Bizarros’ Ice Age was released on Clone Records in 1977. It’s proof that not every punk band were third rate musicians writing inane lyrics. Not Bizarros. Far from it. They’re much better than that. They sound as if they’ve been weened on classic rock, blues and R&B. Then there’s Nick Nicholls‘ vocal. Sneering and strutting, he sounds as if he’s born to be a frontman. So good is Ice Age, that it’s the highlight of Punk 45.

Tuxedomoon are best described as group who created genre-melting, groundbreaking music. Everything from avant-garde,electronica, experimental, punk and rock is thrown into the melting pot. Joeboy The Electronic Ghost which was released on Time Release Records in 1978, is proof of that. They deploy a similarly eclectic selection of instruments A saxophone, clarinet, violin join keyboards and a guitar. The result is a track that not only pushes musical boundaries, but is strangely melodic and memorable.

The Flamin’ Groovies are easily the best known group on Punk 45. They released their debut album in 1968. Five years later, in 1973, they released their Grease E.P. It featured Dog Meat, which is a fusion of rock, garage rock and proto-punk. In some ways, Dog Mean is reminiscent of what the New York Dolls were doing around this time. With a tight, driving, rocky rhythm section and proto-punk vocal, this is a potent partnership and unsurprisingly, one of the highlights of Punk 45.  

Although The Deadbeats’ Kill The Hippies is far from even coming close to being a highlight of Punk 45, the sheer yawningly predictability of the title, and what passes for lyrics must be highlighted. Released in July 1978 on Dangerhouse Records, The Deadbeats are the musical equivalent of an attention seeking child. A parodic group,  they thrash guitars, while the lead vocal is the equivalent of Primal Scream Therapy. A word of warning though, listening to Kill The Hippies is two minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

Pastiche released Flash Of The Moment in 1976, on Boston’s Euphoria label, just as punk exploded into life. Produced by vocalist and guitarist Mr. Curt, it’s something of an anomaly. Strangely, they’re almost too good to be referred to as a punk band. The five members of Pastiche  are much better musicians than those that formed punk bands. As for their music, it has a much more slick and sophisticated sound and sheen. Mostly, their influences seem to be rock music, albeit with a sprinkling of proto-punk. There’s even a Thin Lizzy influence in the guitars and vocal, of a track that falls into the category hidden gem. 

My final choice from Punk 45 is Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers’ Chinese Rocks. Having left the New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders joined forces with The Heartbreakers. Together, they released Chinese Rocks on London’s Track Records in May 1977. There’s a noticeable New York Dolls’ influence, as punk, glam rock and garage unite. Edgy with a tough sound, Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers just like the Dolls, achieve what seems impossible, being both sloppy and tight simultaneously. That’s quite a feat, but what do you expect from a former New York Doll?

Punk 45 is best described as mixed bag of eclectic music. There’s everything from sixties garage rock, electronica, experimental, industrial, no wave, postindustrial, proto-punk and punk. Some of the music on Punk 45 is innovative, groundbreaking and genre-melting. This includes contributions from Bizarros, The Flamin’ Groovies, Tuxedomoon, Pastiche and Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers. They’re some of highlights I mentioned earlier.  As for the rest of Punk 45, it’s very much a mixed bag.

The other tracks vary in quality. They’re best described as the good, bad and indifferent. The bad and indifferent range from parodic, predictable and derivative. There’s wannabes and never-will-be’s. Then there’s tribute bands and attention seeking, punk wannabes, whose music is designed to shock. They’re the equivalent of an attention seeking child. Maybe the problem is, Punk 45 has focused too much on the period between 1977 and 1980.

If Punk 45 had featured more music released between 1973 and 1976, maybe it would’ve been a much better compilation? Among the artists whose inclusion would’ve transformed Punk 45 are the New York Dolls, The Ramones, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, MC5 and Velvet Underground. These artists would’ve transformed Punk 45 into a must-have compilation. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Far from it. Instead, Punk 45 is combination of a few familiar faces and groups who aren’t even household names in their own houses. Among them are X Blank X and The Deadbeats who are responsible for two of the low-points of Punk 45, which is a somewhat  disappointing way to end 2013 for Soul Jazz Records. Standout Tracks: Bizarros Ice Age, The Flamin’ Groovies Dog Meat, Pastiche Flash Of The Moment and Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers Chinese Rocks.





1 Comment

  1. Thomas

    The mere fact that band such as the Velvets,Patti Smith,Ramones et al aren’t included ‘makes’ this a good to great comp. How many more times do those bands need to be ‘comped’ up for a cheap $$$ anyway?. It’s great we get the Electric Eeels, the Pagans and the Urinals instead of the bands you feel ‘missed’ out.

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