Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Guitar riffs up th' wazoo.

It's become apparent that I spend a lot of time gushing about old or retro power-pop and punk-pop – though initially more of a traditional British punk fan (it's all that youthful spunk in the bones), I've spent a chunk of the last couple years getting into stuff like the Only Ones, Beat Beat Beat, the oft-complimented Nice Boys, the Old Haunts, Public Image, Ltd., the Undertones, and anything else that loosely fits into the not-quite-pop/not-quite-punk category. Rather than spend a new post writing my fourth indirect love letter to Terry Six, I thought I'd dig through recently found materials to present some good finds on old or retro power-pop and punk-pop. As it turns out, Portland is the place to be, and the lines separating power-pop, punk-pop, and straightahead punk are rather iffy.

In addition to the wonder that is My Space, print magazines old and new have become a major asset to discovering bands; in particular, I've got a 2002 issue of British fashion and music mag The Face, a 1980 issue of British punk 'zine Zigzag, and the most recent issue of American magazine The Big Takeover to credit with the initial listing of these names. So, in a gesture of thanks to their respective staffs, anyone who uses the internet as a print mag replacement should reconsider and pick up the occasional magazine to help keep its publication going. Trees are like meat – if it's already dead, it's there for you to use. So buy up those dead trees, 'cause they're sitting around, regardless.

The Shocks – Really fun pop/surf punk based in Berlin. A German-language band that formed in 1995 and released the album Brace...Brace... via Dirty Faces this past April. They also had a split EP with the Briefs (a similar-sounding poppy punk band from Portland, pardon the alliteration) in 2004. Believable as a '77 punk band, though their more recent, cleaned up production might make them a good bet for Bouncing Souls fans. Also, they've got a front man named Smail.
The Shocks on My Space

The Shocks - Bombe

The Parkinsons – This one was listed as a band to look out for in a 2002 issue of now-defunct The Face; the Parkinsons are a fairly fierce punk band that began in Portugal as the Tedio Boys, later relocating to the UK and rechristening themselves. According to Wrench Records, who released their Up for Sale EP, the band ended its run in 2005.
The Parkinsons on My Space

The Barracudas – Power-pop up the wazoo! Certainly the second biggest group on the list, and apparently still active. In the November 1980 issue of Zigzag, members of Gang of Four revealed a slight bit of contempt for bands like the Barracudas, who they viewed as a pop band meant to satisfy EMI execs that was quickly replacing financially unstable underdogs like Gang of Four. The commercial aspect of this band certainly is apparent, especially by contrast with the aforementioned, but it's also damn fine pop as far as pop goes.
Sample Through the Mysts of Time

High Tension Wires – They just released the record Midnight Cashier on Dirtnap Records, the Portland record label that gushes quality garage rock and pop like blood from Jesus' wrists. If you dig around My Space for garage rock that's linked to Dirtnap, you'll find that these guys, like a number of others, are actually a Texas-based group. A worthy find if you're into their label mate Beat Beat Beat, who released a record last October, or the Marked Men, who I mentioned in an old post.
High Tension Wires - Tokyo is Burning Down

Clorox Girls – Chances are, you can't recall ever seeing a negative review of the Exploding Hearts. Why? Because their sound was tight but not polished, their style seemingly authentic and without irony. Comparing the modern to the modern, this trio is as close as we'll get to finding a new version of the Exploding Hearts (as evidenced by “Flowers of Evil” in particular, included). Much of this may be in part to the fact that Exploding Hearts engineer Pat Kearns worked on their third and newest record, J'aime Les Filles, which is on (yes, Portland label) BYO Records.
Clorox Girls on My Space
Clorox Girls - Flowers of Evil

The Ugly Beats – Another lo-fi Texas band, this time on Get Hip Records, who've been supplying good garage rock for ages. They're touring Texas and a bit of the east coast this fall, in support of second album Take a Stand with the Ugly Beats.
The Ugly Beats on My Space

The Friends of Rock N Roll – A retro punk-pop group that rides along the border of '70s-style post-punk and '60s psych pop, making them the only band on this list that doesn't bleed guitar riffs. Offering more of a minimalist sound focused on rhythm, the Friends debuted an EP on March 6 via Dome City, and are also based in – you guessed it – Portland.
The Friends of Rock N Roll on My Space

Buzzcocks (Howard Devoto-era) – More for my amusement than anything else. You already know the Buzzcocks, la-di-da, la-di-da, but if you haven't heard their earliest work, either via the Spiral Scratch EP or Time's Up, check them out if only to note how severely they matured after losing original frontman Howard Devoto (who, according to Pete Shelley in a 2000 interview with The Big Takeover, has resorted to original name Howard Trafford). With Devoto's inclusion, and prior to taking on a dose of polish, the group was much more punk than they would be as of Love Bites et al., much in part to Devoto's high-pitched sneer, not unlike that of John Lydon. The sloppiest they'd ever be, and a completely different band from the Pete Shelley-fronted Buzzcocks altogether.
Buzzcocks - Orgasm Addict (featuring Howard Devoto)


The best part of low-budget magazines is the imperfection. Just as you'll find several typos in an issue of The Big Takeover, Zigzag follows the rule that if a typed page is missing a word or letter, the copy editor is to handwrite the missing word with pen and leave it so. Apparently, this was a frequent issue, and is quite amusing to run across. If you're nowhere near an issue of Zigzag and want to know about the other goods buried within, here's a sampling of interview highlights. (Also, if you're located in Los Angeles, Rockaway Records on Glendale Boulevard offers a fantastic variety of publications from the '60s to the present.)

Keith Richards, years prior to falling from a tree, to Kris Needs: “We had a fire in my house...I didn't even get me trousers on, just jumped out the window! There were all these neighbours worried about the flames catching their houses. I was standing there – 'wadya want me to do, pee on it? Forget it!”

Joey Ramone, to Tom Hibbert: “John's gonna vote for Reagan but they all suck. Carter's lame and Anderson's just for the hippies. Russia seems to be invading everywhere and you just don't wanna see Russia take over the world. That's our main concern so maybe in some ways Reagan's better 'cos he'd be better as far as defense is concerned, y'know.”

Jello Biafra, to John Tobler: “I'd much prefer Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan, simple[sic] because Carter is so stupid – I'd rather have a closet Nazi who's dumb and can't get anything done at the helm of America than somebody who can actually get things done like Ronald Reagan. That makes him far more dangerous, and [Jerry] Brown more dangerous still, because he doesn't screw up as often.”

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