It's the late 70s, early 80s. You're young, English, and go to art school,
or maybe you're from New York or Ohio. You've probably got a deep seated
admiration for James Brown and/or Albert Ayler. Either that or you're 100%
fed up with the Ramones. In any case, what sets you apart is that you're
thinking about what you're doing. You don't just have something new to
say, but you have a new way to say it. Sometimes you're angry, grating,
and spastic. Other times you're melodic, waning, and almost ethereal.
There's often less than three or maybe more than four. And you pick up
anything that makes a sound.
You are not them.
v/a :: Wanna Buy a Bridge :: LP
Rough Trade was a label started by a guy named Geoff Travis, a logical
extension of his left-leaning politics, record store/mail-order business,
and admiration for the "Do it Yourself" (DIY) aesthetic of other
independent British labels. Rough Trade began releasing singles in late
1977 (the first by a still strange French group called Metal Urbain).
The label's first LP was the crucial "Inflammable Material" by Belfast's
Stiff Little Fingers in 1979. Rough Trade saw enormous success when they
signed the Smiths in the mid-80's, but would eventually go bankrupt in the
90's when the Butthole Surfers failed to move enough units.
Wanna Buy a Bridge is one of the best compilations ever; in 1979, Rough
Trade was one of the hottest labels of all time.
:: Stiff Little Fingers. The band that least belongs on this record starts
things off. Which is not to say it's not worth listening to. Far from it.
:: Delta 5. Rhythmic, screechy-- and it's sung in a round! Funk beat,
sharp guitar, from Wales via Leeds. Check out all their coffin singles.
:: Slits. Featured in The Punk Rock Movie in all their pre-proficiency
glory, the Slits finally found the right groove-- the sound of two reggae
bands playing at once. Also essential: Peel Sessions CD (raw and harsh)
and Cut (biting and danceable).
:: Essential Logic. Lora Logic played with the X-Ray Spex, although she
was asked to leave the band before they recorded their album. On "Aerosol
Burns," she just freaks out, unlike the more pop-oriented squall of her
Beat, Rhythm, News LP.
:: TV Personalities. Feckless, fey, and sweetly irregular. This song
features the only successful rock name dropping ever.
:: Swell Maps. Completely D.I.Y. band circa 1972-1980; but what are they
doing on this frenzied 1.5 minute ska song that keeps threatening to fall
:: The Pop Group. Painfully ambitious. Noisy, half-witted funk; when
they're on, they're unstoppable. They combined incoherency and brutally
obvious politics with all the gusto you'd expect from an art band who
lived in a squat. See also For How Much Longer Can We Tolerate Mass Murder
LP and Y LP.
:: Spizz Energi. Perfectly tense punk new wave. Extra points for the
ultra-sharp synth lines. If you haven't already, check out the "Where's
Captain Kirk?" single. Spizz Energi related projects include Spizz Oil --
same style, but without the keyboard, bass, or drums -- and Athletico
Spizz -- a more pop-chart oriented outfit.
:: Kleenex. All female Swiss New Wave group where everybody sings (or
hoots) and the rhythms are helter-skelter. The Liliput CD has everything
Kleenex and Liliput (same people, after a lawsuit from the tissue
manufacturer) ever recorded.
:: Cabaret Voltaire. Much of Cab Voltaire's music is drifty, blurty
electronics or bad disco. For a short period, however, they produced
something as mean and oblique as punk. Best backing vocals (and tiniest
guitar sound) in the history of punk.
:: Raincoats. Think of their first self-titled LP as the ninth record on
this ULA. It makes select DJs cry.
:: Young Marble Giants. Completely spartan cabaret music with twitch.
Colossal Youth, their equally great LP, reveals ambling reggae rhythms and
:: Scritti Politti. Willfully endless. The name translates to "writing
about politics"; Green Gartside, the main guy, was a member of the Young
Spartacists in college. Of all the bands to achieve commercial success.
:: Robert Wyatt. Aging hippie who used to front the 60's psychedelic
outfit Soft Machine and refuses to go away. We never said this compilation
If you liked the Rough Trade stuff, you might also appreciate Alternative
Television (The Image has Cracked and Vibing Up the Senile Man), Vic
Godard and the Subway Sect (Retrospective LP), the Mekons (The Quality of
Mercy is not Strnen LP), the Au Pairs (Playing with a Different Sex LP),
the Homosexuals, Red Crayola, Zounds (CD), Lora Logic, the Soft Boys, The
Nightengales (CD), Marine Girls (CD), the Lemon Kittens, Desperate
Bicycles, Monochrome Set, This Heat, the Prefects. The Fast Product/Mutant
Pop comp is a joy, as is the less canonical Earcom 2. Of course you
should know Joy Division, New Order, and the first two A Certain Ratio
records, as well as Second Edition and Flowers of Romance by P.I.L. The
Metal Urbain CD is singular, so to speak, and you must hear it.
v/a :: No New York :: LP
Originally conceived as a compilation to document at least ten of the post
CBGB's bands in New York 1978. Scene politics reduced that number to four
so-called "No-Wave" groups. A very short-lived and fluid scene
(discographies and personnel are difficult to figure out - more so because
members were often interchangeable at shows); over by 1982 at the latest.
The most famous band to come out of New York's scene is Sonic Youth, maybe
the Feelies. The most famous no-wave band member is Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Is Lydia Lunch famous?
It's weird to think that New York's finest hour should be a transient
scene that produced almost no records, but it's true. If you do like this
one, look for The Contortions' Buy LP, the Red Transistor and Static
singles, Glenn Branca's Ascension, Blue Humans (Rudolph Grey), Eight-Eyed
Spy, the MARS, Teenage Jesus, Circle X and DNA CDs, the Pre-Teenage Jesus
and the Jerks 12".
Gang of Four :: Entertainment :: LP
The first record to definitively combine thin angular punk guitar with
muscular funk bass, and throw in crypto-Marxist lyrics and visuals. Also
the finest flower of the British art-school system: T. J. Clark, founder
of Leeds University's communist art history program (and author of The
Painting of Modern Life) jump-started a whole posse of skewed prole/art
groups, including The Mekons, Delta 5, and (uh) Scritti Politti, who at
first sounded like a cross between reggae and an amplified dishwasher. The
skank art sound develops from here to The Fire Engines, God and The State,
Josef K, Big Flame, Dawson, Badgewearer, Stretchheads, King of the Slums,
Death by Milkfloat, Boston's Proletariat, and The Minutemen. Also check
out the First After Epiphany comp and the good side of the Take 5 comp.
The Fall :: Slates :: 10"
Formed Manchester 1977 and led by Mark E. Smith, the Fall are the ultimate
twitchy art-punk band. Every year, a new person writes the ULA notes, and
another record by The Fall is chosen. The Slates 10" is from 1981 (Rough
Trade) and manages to be somehow more polished and more difficult than the
band's previous work. They have many great records, unlike most art-rock
bands, who tend to lose sight of the tension pretty fast. You should
listen to ALL of these albums, no joke: Live at the Witchtrials, Dragnet,
Grotesque, Hex Enduction Hour, Palace of Swords Reversed, and Perverted by
Language. Then, go out and buy Room to Live and Fall in a Hole for the
station, and listen to those too.
Wire :: Chairs Missing :: LP/CD
Wire were a self-taught foursome from a south London art school. Their
first record, Pink Flag, is one of the greatest punk records ever. Their
second record, the one you are listening to now, is also one of the
greatest punk records ever. It's just that punk is not always what you
think. The Slits used to open for the Sex Pistols, but Wire weren't a part
of any scene. They were sometimes sardonic but most of the time they came
straight on. Their music is fractured, sparse, and defiantly odd. Pink
Flag should be dessert after this, but also check out 154 (what came
after), and Colin Newman's A-Z (what should have been the fourth Wire
record but was released only under his name).
Devo :: Hardcore Volume 1 :: CD
Compilation of some of Devo's earliest recordings. "Satisfaction,"
"Mongoloid," "Jocko Homo," and "Social Fools" are all versions released on
7" by Devo's label, Booji Boy. This band was new wave before there was
punk -- check the dates. Anyone who mentions "80's" in their notes fails
the comp. From Akron. Also essential -- their first three albums: Are We
Not Men?, Duty Now for The Future, and Freedom of Choice, as well as
Rykodisk's other collection: Hardcore Volume II, and the CD reissue of
their cassette-only release: E-Z Listening Disc.
Pere Ubu :: The Modern Dance :: LP
Which band is more midwest, Devo or Pere Ubu? Which band got laid more?
Which believed in the imminent end of the world? 1978 catching-up album
that collects stuff they'd written as early as '74-'75. David Thomas had
been in Rocket from the Tombs (see LP) among others. Perfect hybrid of art
and garage rock. Perfect album.
The Red Krayola :: God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It ::
In 1966, the International Artists group was looking to expand the number
of Texas psych bands on their label. Apparently, they thought the best
place to start would be the shopping mall, which is where they found, then
signed, the Red Krayola. The longevity of the Red K (originally spelled
with a C) can be attributed to the singer/songwriter/genius Mayo Thompson.
Some call their work challenging avant-rock, others invest it with
postmodern-sounding names, but above all, the Red Krayola is just making
The Ex :: Disturbing Domestic Peace :: LP/CD
The product of the instruments and other miscellaneous objects of a Dutch
DIY political collective, The Ex could be called anarcho-punk if Crass
hadn't already appropriated the word. But even with the slicing guitars,
in-your-face vocals, and the occasional new wave slip-up, this record is
as much about affecting social change as it is the music, which is to say
a lot, a whole lot. They're still going strong, or at least some would
say, but if you don't like it you can always read the liner notes.
Art Rock Miscellany
20th century classical
Ligeti, Xenakis, Messaien, AMM, Magnus Lindburg, Stockhausen!
Red Crayola, Captain Beefheart, Steve Hurley and Cockney Rubble
Neu!, Can, Faust, Amon Dull, Kraftwerk
Brian Eno, Brian Ferry, Roxy Music, David Bowie
Free Jazz types like Destroy All Monsters
Devo, Pere Ubu, Electric Eels, Vertical Slit. V-Effect, Waitresses,
Mirrors, Styrenes, Tin Huey, Jane Aire and the Belvederes, the Akron comp
on Stiff, Rocket from the Tombs
Residents, Chrome, Tuxedo Moon, Snakefinger, MX-80 (originally from
Indiana), Caroliner, Mutants, Thinking Fellers Union 282
(Los Angeles Free Music Society), Human Hands, BPeople, The
Monitor, Tikis, Circus Mort, Savage Republic, Urinals, 100 Flowers,
Factrix, Z'ev, 17 Pygmies, Rain Parade, Three O'Clock, Green on Red, True
West, Dream Syndicate, God vs. the State, Romans, Flesheaters
Half Japanese, Made for TV, Egoslavia, Bloody Mannequin Orchestra, Tiny
Desk Unit, Insect Surfers, Happy Go Licky, Honor Role, Wingtip Sloat,
Rake, Moss Icon
Suicide, The Static, Theoretical Girls, Red Transistor, DNA, MARS, Teenage
Jesus, James Chance, The Contortions, Y-Pants, ESG, High Sheriffs of Blue,
Chain Gang, Bush Tetras, Snatch (Patti Paladin, Judy Nylon), Ut, Bongos,
Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Sonic Youth, Glen Branca, Live Skull,
Borbetomagus, Feelies, Mofungo, Gruppo Sportivo, Klaus Nomi, Come On,
Eight-Eyed Spy, Raybeats, Polyrock, Elliot Sharp's Carbon, Talking Heads,
B-52s, Television, Chris Stamey, Swans
Danial Johnston, Butthole Surfers, Big Boys, Red Krayola
Fire Engines (and other Pop Aural bands like Restricted Code, the Flowers,
Drinking Electricity, Boots for Dancing), Josef K, Prats, 35mm Dream,
Thomas Leer, Jackdaw with Crowbar, Dog Faced Hermans, Dawson, Archbishop
Kebab, Badgewearer, Whirling Pig Dervish
Joy Division, Crispy Ambulance, A Certain Ratio, Section 25, Durutti
Column, Crawling Chaos (?), Minny Pops, Mud Hutters, Dislocation Dance,
Ludus (Pat Linder), In Camera, The Creepers, Fall, Eric Random, Big
Cherry Red Bands
Marine Girls, Marine, Eyeless in Gaza, Everything but the Girl, Felt,
Nightengales, Tracey Thorn, Keven Coyne
Gang of 4, Delta 5, Mekons, Scritti Pollitti, Desperate Bicycles
Crass, Zounds, Flux of Pink Indians, Rudimentary Peni, Alternative, Honey
Bane, Mob, Cravats
Ron Johnson Type Bands
Stump, Big Flame, Great Leap Forward, Twang, McKenzies, Jackdaw with
Crowbar, Kilgore Trout, Shrubs, Death by Milkfloat, Ex, Keatons
SPK, Severed Heads, Birthday Party, Boys Next Door, X, Makers of the Dead
Fetus Productions, This Kind of Punishment, Gordons, Palgal Grind,
Alaister Galbraith, Peter Jefferies, Dead C, Max Block, Snapper, Victor
Dimisich Band, Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos, Trash, Gate, Alf
Danielson, Terminals, Tall Dwarfs, Nocturnal Projections
Boredoms, Plastics, Merzbow
Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, The Pop Group, Slits, Alternative TV,
Essential Logic (Lora Logic), Swell Maps, Lemon Kittens, Blurt,
Kleenex/Liliput (Swiss), Metal Urbain (French), Raincoats, Girls at Our
Best, Virgin Prunes (Irish), Spizz, Monochrome Set, Wire, DOME, Killing
Joke, Public Image, Magazine, Cure, Punishment of Luxury, This Heat,
Be-bop Deluxe, Queen, Young Marble Giants (Welsh), Clock DVA, Chris and
Cosey, Gary Numan, Birthday Party
NON (Boyd Rice), Death in June, Current 93, Nurse with Wound, SPK
Ultravox, Naked Eye
Modern Lovers, Girls, Human Sexual Response, Zulus, Mission of Burma (and
Moving Parts), Cars, the Propeller Products crowd (People in Stores, Wild
Stares, CCCPTV, Neats, Art Yard, V:, Maps, Uzi, Shut Up, Christmas,
Dangerous Birds), Vitamin, Ground Zero, Stains
God is My Co-Pilot, Flying Lutenbachers, Pram, Stereolab, Scissor Girls,
Unrest, Eggs, Moonshake, Ex, Dog Faced Hermans, Dawson, Arab on Radar,
Yummy Fur, etc. etc. etc.
Factory, Disques du Crepuscule, Rough Trade, Cherry Red, Fetish,
Industrial, ZE, No. 6, FAST/Pop Aural, MUTE, Happy Squid, Ralph,
Propeller, Ron Johnson, CRASS, New Hormones, Too Pure, Absurd, BRAIN