The Bad Brains did a blistering tour of Britain in 1983. Soundmaker, 21 May, 1983 reviews one of the gigs.
Sometimes being original, nay unique, can work against you. A black New York Rastafarian hardcore punk reggae band? You’ve got to be kidding me! Terrible memories of Pure Hell remain as a warning against facile cross-cultural fertilization of cultures, an insult to both Punk and black music.
On of the great things about the Sex Pistols was the bravado with which they mashed up their audience with the heaviest in dub before they went and played some of the most wonderful rockist white trash music to be played for years. Punk and reggae always went together, even if they were at opposite ends of the spectrum. It took 2-Tone to play music that truly stood midway between Punk and Reggae, but it did that by going BACK. Two steps forward, three steps back – great music.
It’s still possible to experience music that proves that all of these so-called “opposing” styles are merely marketing ploys, aids to help people who don’t have ears to choos the music they consume. That experience is THE BAD BRAINS. (Or is it Bad Brains – everything is in flux round here). What do you get?
You gt four black New Yorkers who know what they’re about, who play their instruments, who actually (in these jaded times) like what they play. They play punk songs, surreally short, which introduce instant chaos in front of the stage. Through these thrashes whines a guitar that screams, moans, cries, lush wild and heavy.
Is this the Small Faces circa 1966 or is this Jimi Hendrix? Is this Garageland thrash or Psychedelia? Are these obviously skillful musicians parodying the excesses of incompetent white tributes to R ‘n’ B or have they heard something in that – something they want to make themselves? I would argue the latter. The punk they play is too sharp, the explosions too lovingly honed and directed for this to be lazy satire. The singers gestures are magnificent, this is a man who has learnt from the source: anyone remember Iggy Pop?
The reggae they play – welcome respite from the adrenalin surges that surround it – is clipped, modern, militant. What Misty would sound like if they lost their woolliness, their community-centre safeness. The singer raps about the revolution (“You have to go to it – it will not come to you“) and racism, transfixing moral lessons that hark back to the revivalism of Jerry Lee Lewis, the apocalyptical poetry of Aretha’s dad (the Reverend CL Franklin), the challenge of the MC5.
The audience was stunned. So was I.
Judge Dread in Sounds, 10 November, 1979.
The magnificent Bodysnatchers’ session recorded on 8 April 1980 for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on the 14th April.
The mighty Saxon posse reviewed in Sounds, 26 January 1985.
Lydia Lunch and Nick Cave’s the Birthday Party share a stage (and hairspray?) in this gig review from the NME, 12 December, 1981.
The Birthday Party
The air was thick with anticipation. A cult queen was about to create yet another debut. No one ever knows what she’ll do. She can be disaster or salvation. She began as Teenage Jesus, then she was the Queen of Siam, tonight she is just Lydia Lunch.
A soundtrack plays, the theme from some tacky horror movie, moody and evil. The drummer enters with the look of every butler who has opened the castle door. Severin, her guest, crosses the stage and takes up the bass. An anonymous guitarist under a full face rubber hood begins to crank out long screetching, whining notes. This band are new and as usual precariously impermanent. Lydia loves chance and change.
She slouches on. Undr a big hat, her eyes burn. She swillsher lager down, proud and arrogant with her back to her audience. She is Teenage Jesus, she is Queen of Siam. She holds herself up with the mike stand, leans heavily across and bellows “Nooooooo.” One very long no.
“Pools of blood in my bed,” she stretches her words out, neither singing or talking.
Someone points their video at her, trying to commit her to history. She seems so impermanent and hellbent. Lydia Lunch wants to step into some nether world, but we won’t go with her. She dances horrifically, jerking her limbs in slow motion. The macabre atmosphere thickens.
She takes her hat off, reveals a thatch of hair with singed flame roots. She lays on stage; she doles herself out in tiny doses. “God will wait forever.” She looks her audience in the eye, we’re gift horses.
What Lydia Lunch does in the here and now is understandable if you know her past; what she’ll do in the future makes her presence significant. Listen carefully.
The Birthday Party bound onto stage, over-energized, loud and reckless.
Nick Cave jumps into his adoring audience. They tear at him, reach for his hair, shake him up and down. I fear for him. Somehow he manages to scream and retch his words out. The roadies drag him back up onto the stage, and he doesn’t miss a beat.
The Birthday Party are a band that inspire total commitment in their fans. They entertain, in a rock tradition with a solid beat and intense guitar. Their originality lies in their unique non-melodies, the weird key changes. Nick Cave’s self-destructive footwork. They break musical rules and yet keep right in line. They finished with Iggy Pop’s classic “I’m Loose”, and although following in Pop’s path isn’t very new, it was strong and effective. Rock death and live sacrifice. As cave left the stage a long thin stream of blood trailed down his back.
One of my favourite ever records reviewed in the NME, 12 December, 1981 by Richard Grabel.
Ranger is at his best over Rougher Yet.
Lone Ranger: Love Bump
There’s a new fad among the toasters. They’re all going “hibetty hibetty hibetty hibetty bump.” But Lone Ranger does it best.
Ranger is funny, sexy, sly and smooth on this ode to the joys and pratfally of romance. “Walking down the street and a sexy girl he meet/First me say me like/Then me say me love.” Ranger sure knows how to woo ’em. He takes her to the show where she wanted to go. Later he gets the clap. But it’s all part of getting your love bump. Ranger’s voice is smooth as honey and quite seductive; the backing track is a great, springy, bounce-and-skank mover.
“Love a-that love-love bump.”
The Bash Street Kids in punk t-shirts from The Beano, 4 March, 1978.