Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, February 25, 2003
BS DETECTOR CRANKED UP REALLY HIGH....There's a new punk CD included with the latest issue of Mojo, quite imaginatively titled "Up Yours! -- Punk's Not Dead". This CD has a melange of old 1977 punkers, just about all from the UK, and a handful of today's hot new "punk-influenced" bands. No use complaining about something that's free -- I would've bought the magazine anyway -- but hey: let's have some fun with it, shall we? Track by track:

1. THE CLASH "1977" -- Quite frankly, the most overrated band in the history of rock. Yeah, I know, the guy died and all that, but that just means we all have to be that much more brave in resisting the ridiculous hosannas being tossed The Clash's way. Wimpy, limp-guitar-based poseur punk for profit. I swear their disco dance mix era ("Radio Clash") was the only halfway-decent stuff they ever put out. Fire away, commenters!
2. THE STROKES "The Modern Life" -- Not all that bad. I can see why movie stars might like them. Chiming guitars, strong vocals, a little bit of an edge. Not punk rock in the slightest.
3. ADVERTS "One Chord Wonders" -- A lesser song than their excellent "Bored Teenagers", but I'd throw this in the upper half of 1977 British punk songs, sure.
4. THE HIVES "Main Offender" -- Ten years ago they might have been another OK Swedish garage band on Estrus or Sympathy, now they're world famous. Well-produced, loud stop-start garage punk; this track's almost as good as their "Die, All Right", which is excellent. I like 'em!
5. VIC GODARD "Ambition" -- Hey, I thought this was Subway Sect?! For some reason the British press absolutely lionizes this guy, up to crediting him for this song as a solo artist, when it was released back in the day as being performed by Subway Sect. "Ambition" is a fantastic song that should've sold a million.
6. HOT HOT HEAT "Get In Or Get Out" -- Abysmal alternative rock/new wave. Sub Pop must have bought a big ad in Mojo this month.
7. ERASE ERRATA "Tongue Tied" -- Now we're talking! Sharp, crazed post-punk from San Francisco all-female quartet; comes on like a battering ram and is over in 90 seconds. Think Au Pairs & Essential Logic crossed with The Minutemen & early Half Japanese. Great to see them getting recognition at this level!
8. X-RAY SPEX "Identity" -- This is a UK punk comp staple, making its 79th appearance on a retrospective. I can't listen to them without worrying that Bikini Kill might try to mount a comeback attempt.
9. THE HUNCHES "Lisa Told Me" -- Sounds like it was telegraphed to be loved by Mojo editors, with references to rock songs of the past, the right amount of garagy edge, etc. Pretty boring and lot more "lite" than I'd expect from an In The Red band, but rumor has it their debut CD is excellent.
10. JOHNNY THUNDERS "Chinese Rocks" -- The Heartbreakers always seem to make these comps, too, probably by virtue of having enriched many heroin dealers all over England back in '77. This version is from a remixed "L.A.M.F." but I detect a slightly different mix that my copy of "L.A.M.F. Revisited". Either way, it's a classic.
11. PART CHIMP "Cover Me" -- New band from the UK, great ultra-distorted sound, Flipper-esque attitude if not quite at that level yet. Watch these young men!
12. UNDERTONES "True Confessions" -- Ireland's finest with a non-45 LP track -- not the pick you'd have expected for a comp like this.
13. CATHETERS "Pale Horse" -- Great; Green River circa "This Town"-era crossed with some Cheater Slicks-style amp damage. Probably a real ear-bleeder live. A punk rock band in every sense.
14. SEX PISTOLS "Submission" -- Early, non-"Bollocks" version of this learning-to-play-guitar staple. From "Spunk", perhaps?
15. YEAH YEAH YEAHS "Our Time" -- Forget the hype -- it's always a bad sign when the first media to sing your praises is the New York Times. This band are the new Hole at best.
16. SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES "Hong Kong Garden" -- You've got to laugh at how utterly non-PC this is. Mixing references to Asian cultures as easily as she does eyeliner, Siouxie yammers about paying "yen" while eating "chicken chow mein and chop suey" in a song ostensibly about Hong Kong. Love the "Flower Drum Song"-style marimba. Charlie Chan, call your office!
17. ATV "Action Time Vision" -- And all this time I thought Red Cross invented the line "Notes and Chords Mean Nothing To Me", when they ripped it straight out of this song. This is a straight-up rocker, very powerful and catchy and raw. Billy Childish covered it well in one of his many bands some time ago.
18. LIBERTINES "The Boy Looked At Johnny" -- Imagine the Kinks "taking the piss" by recording a fake, deliberately lame punk song on one of their awful late 70s albums. As someone once said about US punk band the Insults, "So retarded you'd swear it's English" -- and they are!
19. BUZZCOCKS "Orgasm Addict" -- Punk classic about running a batch off by hand. This is the Howard Devoto version from the "Time's Up" CD. Deservedly belongs in any Top-100-punk-songs list.
20. SLEATER-KINNEY "Combat Rock" -- I'll go on record in favor of this polarizing all-female trio, who have some excellent songs, but this is definitely not the one you want to hear first. Lefty agitprop with purposely goofy Nina Hagen-style vocalizing which runs about a minute too long-- not a career highlight by any means.
21. THE ONLY ONES "Another Girl, Another Planet" -- Quick, name a second song by this band! You can't! That's because this is their only song! From the ultra-rare, OOP one-sided 45.
22. MUDHONEY "Urban Guerilla" -- The only track exclusive to this disc and one of the best on here. They say it's a Hawkwind cover, but it sounds like Mudhoney's typical full-on, hook-filled 60s garage/fuzz pounding. Nice to see them include a true working professional among the "new" bands.
23. DAMNED "Neat Neat Neat" -- Absolute monster song & as close to the cream of UK '77 punk as it gets.
24. WARLOCKS "Caveman Rock" -- I thought this could be Gumball or the Velvet Monkeys until I looked at the sleeve. Can't really fathom, based solely on this track, Byron Coley's top-notch review of this LA band in an earlier Mojo. So is the rest of the album any better?
25. IGGY AND THE STOOGES "Search and Destroy" -- Best song from their worst album, but an updated "rough" mix that gets it right, despite sounding like a explicit after-the-fact manipulation. I don't know the ethics of such tweakery but the song, of course, is a giant.
26. SWEARING AT MOTORISTS "Timing Is Everything" -- Like those bizarre tack-on tracks at the end of some 1970s bootleg albums, this one comes nowhere near "punk" as popularly defined, and is simply an excellent avant-folk/rock track from an editor's fave. A Dayton, OH duo with one foot in Guided By Voices-style indie and another in 70s hesher folk.