Playing with a Different Sex – Au Pairs (1981)


“Pointed, biting and sharp without collapsing into either heavy-handed sloganeering or vitriolic gnashing; the sexual and gender disparity and displeasure that form the back-bone of Playing with a Different Sex’ intention are as dexterous as they are striking. Faced with both a lack of recognition during their tenure, and the fact that these lyrics are as depressively on-topic today as they were in 1981, the LP becomes a sort of self-enclosed watershed, an intimate catharsis for a woman made as infuriated, discouraged and tired as a being can get. Most every erotic and political aspect that plagues modern co-existence gets a nod here – open relationships forged under false pretenses, erotic sojourners posing as prime fetishists, domestic abuse, emotional manipulation, the cult of dieting, sex turned into little more than another suburban chore and on and on, all of which reaches a boiling point on the unflinching and jagged ‘Armagh,’ with the lead singer Lesley Woods chanting ‘We don’t torture!’ as she dives headlong into the rumours of rape and debasement that swirled around Northern Irish political women’s prisons, an issue raised and re-raised that ultimately gained no worldwide exposure. The track, made insidiously catchy by an elastic bass-line that flings itself around searing guitar salvos is a shuddering marvel, earworm writing and grimly meaningful subject matter pulsing away in obscene apposition. …”
Sputnik Music
W – Playing with a Different Sex
Genius
YouTube: Set Up – OGWT (Live), Come Again
YouTube: Playing with a Different Sex (Full Vinyl)

Cut – The Slits (1979)


“Here are some things you might already know about Cut, even if you haven’t heard one note of the Slits’ music: This is the first time the album’s been released domestically in the U.S. on CD (with the obligatory bonus tracks). The album cover features three members of the group wearing nothing but mud and loincloths. When the group first formed, they couldn’t play their instruments for shit. The songs on the album offer an amalgam of punk’s abrasive DIY WTF-ness and the spacious relaxed rhythms of dub reggae. This album is a keystone for any and all punk-based grrrl movements. And– though it goes without saying, it’s often said anyway– this album is terribly, terribly important in the history of the rock music and the grand scheme of canonical flippity floo flap. Funny thing is, for all its import, Cut is actually a lot of fun. Fun in the way Ari Up trills and coos and yelps across the songs like a precocious schoolgirl taunting all the boys and teachers. Fun in the way Viv Albertine scratches and waxes her guitar. Fun in the way Tessa’s bass and Budgie’s drums slip in and out of grooves like lovers test-driving the Kama Sutra. …”
Pitchfork
Guardian – Mud, music and mayhem: why the Slits’ Cut is still up for a fight
allmusic (Audio)
W – Cut
YouTube: Cut 32:01

Why the Clash Matter


“‘The only band that matters.’ There is charismatic hubris in this phrase, a declaration of radical faith. Fuck the past, the future is here and everything in music will be ruthlessly revamped in its wake. And when the description was applied to the Clash, it was easy to believe. Today, though, it’s easy to scoff at. Since the death of front-man Joe Strummer in 2002, the Clash have ascended into rock-and-roll mythos. No fewer than thirty books have been released on the band or on Strummer. Some of them are wonderful. Others are shallow and sloppy hagiographies. Their music has been used to hawk everything from boots to smartphones. Centrists in progressive clothing like Beto O’Rourke receive high praise for quoting ‘The Clampdown’ to Ted Cruz. Separating what’s commodity and spectacle from the band’s actual contribution is getting harder. The latest in the growing list of biographical material is ‘Stay Free: The Story of the Clash.’ Produced by Spotify in collaboration with the BBC and narrated by Public Enemy’s Chuck D, it’s the first podcast dedicated to the band’s history. It is an excellent piece of work, both in terms of substance and style. Social and cultural context play a prominent role in telling the story of the band’s evolution. Strikes, riots, movements, political explosions and implosions clearly inform their philosophy and musical practices as global capitalism reconstitutes itself in the 1970s and 1980s. …”
Jacobin

Double Nickels on the Dime – Minutemen (1984)


Double Nickels on the Dime is the third album by American punk trio Minutemen, released on the California independent record label SST Records in 1984. A double album containing 45 songs, Double Nickels on the Dime combines elements of punk rock, funk, country, spoken word and jazz, and references a variety of themes, from the Vietnam War and racism in America, to working-class experience and linguistics. After recording new material, each band member selected songs for different sides of the double album, with the fourth side named ‘Chaff’. Several songs on Double Nickels on the Dime were outsourced to or inspired by contemporaries, such as Black Flag‘s Henry Rollins and Jack Brewer of Saccharine Trust. Double Nickels on the Dime is seen not only as Minutemen’s crowning achievement, but, according to critic Mark Deming, ‘one of the very best American rock albums of the 1980s’. … Minutemen were formed by guitarist D. Boon and bassist Mike Watt, both from San Pedro, California, in 1980.[5] After their previous band, The Reactionaries, disbanded in 1979, the pair continued to write new material and formed the band with drummer Frank Tonche a year later. Minutemen signed to the Californian independent record label SST Records following their second gig. George Hurley, the former drummer of The Reactionaries, replaced Tonche as drummer soon afterwards. The Minutemen were noted in the California punk scene for a philosophy of ‘jamming econo’; a sense of thriftiness reflected in their touring and presentation. …”
Wikipedia
Pitchfork
Graded on a Curve: Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime
allmusic (Audio)
YouTube: Double Nickels On The Dime LP 1:22:49

Subway Sect – Peel Session 1977


“Subway Sect to end the week – Their first session for John Peel, recorded on October 17, 1977 and first broadcast on October 24th of that year. Subway Sect were one of the first British punk bands. Although their commercial success was limited by the small amount of recorded material they released, they have been credited as highly influential on the Postcard Records scene and the indie pop genre which followed. The core of the band was singer-songwriter, Vic Godard, plus assorted soul fans, who congregated around early gigs by the Sex Pistols until Malcolm McLaren suggested they form their own band. Subway Sect were among the performers at the 100 Club Punk Festival on Monday, 21 September 1976 – sharing the bill with Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Clash and the Sex Pistols. The first line-up of Godard on vocals, Paul Packham on drums, Paul Myers on bass and Rob Symmons on guitar lasted for 4 gigs before Mark Laff replaced Packham. …”
Past Daily (Audio)
YouTube: Subway Sect – Peel Session 1977

Dub Housing – Pere Ubu (1978)


“Though Pere Ubu‘s tenure on Mercury lasted one record, their departure for their unlikely home of Chrysalis (at the time the label of Jethro Tull) resulted in Dub Housing, widely considered their masterpiece. Darker and more difficult than The Modern Dance (indicated by the cover’s darkened apartment complex and stormy Cleveland skyline) with plenty of bleak soundscapes (e.g., ‘Codex’), Dub Housing also includes ‘Navvy’s’ bouncy burble (featuring Thomas yelping ‘I have desires!’), and ‘(Pa) Ubu Dance Party’s surreal big beat. Make no mistake, as much as Ubu indulged in arty dissonance and mucked about with song structure, this is very much a rock & roll record, albeit one made by a band interested in pushing the envelope when it came to sound, song construction, and performance. As much as this is a band effort, the guitar of Tom Herman and the synthesizer of Allen Ravenstine frequently stand out. Herman’s strong, polished playing veers from assertive riffing to assaultive noise; Ravenstine, who may be one of the all-time great synth players, colors the sound with ominous whooshes of distortions, blips, and blurbs that sound like a sped-up Pong game. But, as is often the case with Ubu, it’s David Thomas‘ singing (here at its most engagingly unrestrained) that is front and center. Part comic foil, part raging madman, Thomas utilizes all of his limited range in a whacked expressiveness built around hiccups, yodels, screeches, and, sometimes, singing. Dub Housing sold next to nothing and signaled the beginning of the end of Ubu‘s relationship with Chrysalis, but it remains an important and influential American rock record.”
allmusic
W – Dub Housing
Favourite Album-Pere Ubu
Genius
iTunes
YouTube: Dub Housing 10 videos

Lesson No. 1 – Glenn Branca (1980)


Lesson No. 1 was Glenn Branca‘s first release as a composer. Originally issued as a 12″ EP, or mini-album, it featured two tracks, the beautiful and accessible title track — composed as a response to listening to Joy Division‘s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart,’ and the frenetically assaultive ‘Dissonance,’ which has lost none of its power. The players on this date were organist Anthony Coleman, drummer Stephen Wischerth, F.L.Schroder on bass, Branca and Michael Gross on guitars and, on the latter track, Harry Spitz on Sledgehammer. This compact disc reissue on Acute contains ‘Bad Smells,’ an unreleased track from the Ascension sessions that came two years later. The band here features five guitarists: Branca, David Rosenbloom, Ned Sublette, Lee Ranaldo, and Thurston Moore, as well as bassist Jeffrey Glenn and Wischerth. There is also a QuickTime video movie of “Symphony No. 5” included. One of the most compelling things about this release is how fully developed Branca‘s ideas were even at this early juncture. His micro- and over-tonal notions as overlooked visceral elements in rock & roll prove worthy mettle here, and even on ‘Dissonance’ with its catharsis and knotty harmonics, rock & roll is never far from the fore in his method. ‘Bad Smells’ has a different, more complex dynamic, especially from the outset, but the sense of urgency is there, along with the shimmering, barely hidden melodic frames that keep the entire thing evolving on the axis of its pulse. Guitarist Alan Licht provides a fine critical history and appreciation in his liner notes, making for a historically relevant package. But in spite of its obvious contribution not only to vanguard music, but to Sonic Youth‘s sound, the music here is actually pleasant and compelling to listen to, and does not sound like a relic out of time and space, or a curiosity piece from long ago. Lesson No. 1 is a powerful, wrenching, transcendent piece of rock guitar classicism that, if there is any justice, will get a wider and more appreciative hearing in the new century.”
allmusic
W – Lesson No. 1
Pitchfork
iTunes
YouTube: Lesson No. 1 Full EP