FUNGALPUNK - CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEWS Page 1
 

 

GREETINGS FROM THE WELFARE STATE - COMPILATION

(Released 25 Oct 1999)

Is it wrong to pick a compilation as a classic album choice?  I care not anyway! I purchased this release from BYO Records 14 years ago from a shop in Rochdale and have always rated it as a collective gem worthy of numerous spins over the noise laden years.   It captures a time when the scene was, primarily, on its arse and just before the dawn of the festival period when gutter gigs would suffer further and as a result, many fine bands, as found here, would suffer too.  This is a gritty collection of music played by some severe stalwarts of a flickering scene that tried their hardest not be counted out no matter how many times they were knocked off their feet.  The variety and talent on show here is testament to a desperately overlooked era that had much to say and much skill to be appreciated - here is my belated nod.
 
We open with a cut from the famous drama 'Made In Britain' and then Goober Patrol tear out a questioning piece that really puts all our pathetic everyday values under the spotlight.  The scene is set - tonsils are flared and the CD never really looks back.  We  are concussed, brought around, head fucked once more as fantastic blast after fantastic blast is hurtled our way.  A major hat-trick sees Road Rage, Red Flag 77 and Silencer 7 nail 3 absolute humdingers in a row with ''When We Were Boys', 'How Low' and 'When America Falls'.  Fine stuff and only 5 tracks done.  Highs further into the CD are the cutting scythe-like strength of 'Best Intentions' by  Imbalance, the jigging jauntiness and excellent message of 'Will Swap' by Citizen Fish and the regular whizzing effectiveness of 'Movers And Shakers' by Panic - the second slamming trio are superb - 1, 2, 3 - solid.  The closing 5 are brilliant with the picks being 'This Is A High' by The Tone, a definite feel good number, Sophism by Joe 90, a scuttling gem, 'Turn It Off', by the awesome Airbomb , a real concrete number from a fine album and highly powerful 'live' band.  Grover full stop all proceedings with the memorable 'Front Door’, a gruff matter of fact piece that leaves a bitter aftertaste.  I speak of a few but in truth the whole collection works as a complete functioning beast and after all these years it is still held in high regard by yours truly.

Many of these tracks led me on to chase up other releases and book bands for gigs (that is what compilations are for) - the most impressive of which for me were Airbomb, a really meaty band (literally in one instance) and a crew that brought me untold pleasure with further releases and 2 'live' outbursts.  The whole equilibrium of this collection functions at a level which showcases all bands on an equal footing with production values ideal for doing this.  Most units alas have gone down the shitter which, for me, must be a lesson learnt - do not neglect quality and get yer head out of yer arse and stop admiring the same old, same old.  Noise needs progression and for a period here that statement was proven.

FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Movers And Shakers' a sharp dressed whirlwind of a song that sucks you in and refuses to let you free from the inspiring impetus

   

COCKNEY REJECTS - GREATEST HITS VOLUME 1
 
(Released 1 June 1980)
 
Working class hooligan Oi here that, if memory serves right, received a big fat 1 out of 10 from one of the popular music papers of the day.  How wrong they were!  What we get is nothing less than gobby street urchin ravings that contributes to one of those early efforts that was most definitely for the bloke off the street.  Utterly real, 100% unpretentious, cobblestoned to the core, feisty and totally terraced in delivery this is an action packed account from a band well and truly versed in what they shout about.  This is dramatic loutish noise and one that set a precedent for many bands to chase after.
 
The first song 'I'm Not A Fool' is a confident, simplistic chug that doesn't prepare us for the violence that follows.  Emphasis is very much on the mouth at the fore and this hollering track is easy to get into.  'Headbanger' picks up the tempo with a stick it and see intro before pummelling away and leading us into the glistening guitar intro of 'Bad Man', an underground classic that has an ensnaring bite.  'Fighting In The Street' and 'Shitter' duly get on with the job at hand in already loveable Rejects style, 'Here They Come Again' switches mode between the charmed and armed and the first side comes to a close with the anthemic 'Join The Rejects', a song chorus you will never forget.  The A side is done, of the time you'd be hard pushed to find anything of this street-based ilk played by self-appointed 'erberts like this – think on it!
 
The B side opens with a hail of 'Alright John' as 'East End' primitively pumps away with hooligan fervour, 'New Song' is a steady old burst but has more than first suggested and 'Police Car' is comedic yet highly likeable with its limited style and unpretentious approach.  'Someone Like You' is rebellion against the mundane and gets the punked point across, 'They're Gonna Put Me Away' burns fast and bright with a rage in the gut and then 'Ready To Ruck' takes the whole discordant collection to new crazed heights with a stampede of sonic violent sincerity.  A massive mover this and surely overlooked by many!  We close with a reggae riff and then a headlong rush to oblivion as 'Where The Hell Is Babylon' full stops in exactly the same pose as when the first capital letter began. 
 
I remember picking this up just after release on nothing more than a hunch (it is what I did and still do) and thought it was fuckin' marvellous.   Straight out of the dustbin onto the player and baboom - away the head went.  No wonder we were stubborn outcasts and proud of it – tuneage for the teenage terror and beyond.

FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Ready To Ruck' a fist flying, full on riot with an inner tempo and obvious aggression you will find difficult to resist - put that fuckin boot in.

   

CRASS - FEEDING OF THE 5,000

(Released 18 January 1978)
 
I picked this album (well 18 track 12" EP to be honest but what really is the difference) just after the release date when I was a mere teen on my way to college to duly 'piss off' the motor mechanics tutor thus getting kicked out of college and leaving me to partake of noise and cider at my leisure.  The awkward stance, disjointed effect, nuclear silences and truly unpredictable nature of the offering pleased me no end and the forceful, very pertinent lyrics of the time were gorged upon as any disgruntled member of society should do.  This was dangerous material and having been told in several shops, prior to my purchase, that the record had been band the mystery and intrigue made this one snip of essential listening material to chase down - I was not to be disappointed!
 
The opening track 'Reality Asylum', a blasphemous prayer, was eventually replaced by 'The Sound Of Free Speech' a 2 minute episode of silence - already we are thinking off kilter.  The first 4 count into the racket proper takes us into the delicious chanted rant of 'Do They Owe Us A Living', a fine memorable outburst that immediately questions and displays that highly essential DIY flavour.  It was lyrics like those found in the opening verse that would stick in the mind of many a young punker (forever) and maintain that sharp angst ridden edge for many a rebellious year!  A couple of socially war torn tracks and then the beautiful provocation of 'Punk Is Dead', a song that runs fluently, once more trespasses into areas deemed sacrosanct by many unthinking punkers and one to show that Crass sought out new boundaries and were determined to bend them.  'Reject Of Society' rushes headlong with heartfelt hatred for the systematic crap, 'General Bacardi' digs in against the inequality and ranking system of all things military and then we have the albums high 'Banned From The Roxy', one of the all time punk classics - nuff side.  'G's Song' closes side 1 - be intrigued.
 
Side 2 continues the tale of unexpected fury with momentous highs such as the pure murk of 'Securicor', 'Sucks' and 'Angels' contrasting with the insistent wailings of 'Women' and the lyrical 'fuck you' beauty of 'So What'.   The journey is brief, the effect long lasting and even after several decades the impact this can make on the seeker of noise is still overwhelming. 
 
The anarchic under-processed edge is the key to this outpouring as well as the sharp confrontational wordage and appealing bare boned black and white imagery!  Punk’s greatest message was surely about doing it your way and Crass certainly did that even if you found it distasteful and offensive.  The reverberating influences of this and subsequent releases are often overlooked but no matter what...this effort here has got to be regarded as having 'classic' status.  
 
FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Banned From The Roxy' – Great tempo and a great attacking song that builds in anger and overall passion 

   

DEAD KENNEDY'S - FRESH FRUIT FOR ROTTING VEGETABLES
 
(Released 1 September 1980)
 
Fresh Fruit is nothing less than a highly inflammable album with adrenalin rush moments interwoven with episodes of madness and political questioning.  With Biafra at the helm this was always going to be a potential classic and all these years on we are left with songs drilled into the punk psyche and still enjoyed by old and new school alike.  Each and every song offers an emotion, a tirade, a chance to join in and pogo but the greatest essence the DK crew bring is the fervour, the danger and the actual swift execution that keeps this listening experience right on the precipice.
 
One of punks main ideals is to release songs with ambiguous names that suggest a controversial thought but instead tackle a process, system or nonsensical tradition by just asking a few niggling questions.  What better way to do this by opening an album with a fine song entitled 'Kill The Poor' - a spiteful and twisted slant at the loaded rich, their perception of the penniless and how they might solve many a problem.  The essence could be perceived as humorous but the point is relevant and starts the album in fantastic style.  The rush continues through 'Forward To Death' and the slightly unhinged 'When Ya Get Drafted' before we enter the great memorable riff of 'Let's Lynch The Landlord'.  A soothing yet vicious piece and the paradox isn't lost but it is the tune that creates the high levels of appreciation.  'Drug Me' and 'Your Emotions' continue the variation and side one ends on the zenith entitled ''Chemical Warfare' - doesn't this track exude a frenzy you must get involved with?  Gushing, rushing, crushing!

Side two could be a downhill journey after the aforementioned pinnacle but we stay in the acoustic Heavens with the mighty onslaught known as 'California Uber Alles'.  Who can ever forget the opening bass vibe as well as the unifying chorus chant and final tumbling wind down - magnificent.  The sinister suggestion of 'I Kill Children' keeps us on the cusp 'Stealing People's Mail' is delightful mania and 'Ill In The Head' is a disturbed high but all are overshadowed by the epic legend known as...'Holidays In Cambodia'.  Not much needs to be said - political, biting, sharp and haunted - if you were compiling your top 20 punk tunes this would always be in your thoughts - surely!  We close with the somewhat piss-taking cover of 'Viva Las Vegas' and all the idiocy that goes on in the glitzy shithole.

Surfy, scurfy, lambastic sound and lyrics with a nervous energy and cutting political edge - this is an album bloated with danger, desire to refuse and a need to get angst out of that swollen chest.  The reverberations of this album go too far to be summed up in one brief assessment but words such as inspirational, intriguing and erudite spring to mind when pondering a final summing up.  Don't underestimate the aggression either - or the albums 'classic' status - simply remarkable.

FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Holiday In Cambodia'– I hate opting for the obvious but who am I to doubt a construction of such glowing, gritty grandeur?  

   

CITIZEN FISH - LIFE SIZE

(Released 12 June 2001)

One of those albums here that one can just pluck out at any time whatsoever and still find relevance and something to appreciate. For the CF style this is ideally produced and all areas thrive as a result and give you 12 memorable moments you will absolutely adore. Even though highly melodic the anarchic unpredictability is very tangible and each track varies flavour enough to make this a mesmerising sonic feast.

The opening burst of guitar that breaks away into ominous bassism is soon complimented by Mr Lucas and his identifiable gob work and the urgent magnificence that is 'Over The Fence' draws you in with ease. Skanking along with all arses eager to be burnt we then slip into the four string opening of the superb 'Revolution'. Erudite and defiant with questions asked, statements made and incessance salted over. The hat-trick comes via the paranoid yet realistic stance of 'Out Of Control'. More shuffle, scuffle guitar work, obscure moments that shouldn't work but do and sang and sub-spoken wordage and we are left reeling. A few albums can pull out the 3 track trick but this one continues with 'Picture This’ which is perhaps the best anti-idiot box raving ever recorded. Class! 'Internal Release' comes in sawing deep, highly wired and fizzing with energy and then we hit an episode of remarkable reggaefied, skankoid, punkage that is nothing less than a classic. Very rarely does a band produce a sextet of stunners but when done like this and climaxing in something extraordinarily special then my tattered and torn Fungalised hat is doffed. 'Autographs' is artistry par excellence and puts two fingers up to the doubters of the genre, the ones in it who are impressed with names and anyone who thinks punk is a throwaway product. The bass line conducts the tempo but the rest of the crew fall into line and do their bit and the only word to sum up this moment is 'epic'. Simple really!

From this halfway junction we jump aboard another tuneful train for the second part of the journey with 'Back To Zero' protesting, angry and mentally sound and 'Shrink The Distance' a cleverly written and constructed effort vying for top spot with the aforementioned beauty. Crashing in with flags of glory before sitting back and glowing with many subtle depths this is another high to take your rank breath away! 'Will Swap' closes with an 'outside the system' slant and will no doubt please all within the anti-capitalist culture and who hate the regime we are all very much born into.  It’s over folks – all killers, no fillers – open wide – swallow!

Is this one of the best albums to come out of the noughties - why not - disagreements via e-mail to you know where please - I'll prove ya wrong ya doubting swines!

FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Autographs' – A switch in style with perfect execution makes this a momentous piece and the positioning between two somewhat opposing tracks is ideal.

   

ANGELIC UPSTARTS - WE GOTTA GET OUTTA THIS PLACE

(Released 1 April 1980)

When punk was popular (well in the loosest sense) and bands were regularly making appearances on Top of the Pops (including this lot) this album was released and only achieved a high of 54 in the UK album charts. I say 'only' because after 'Teenage Warning' made it to No 29 one couldn't help but expect a higher ranking for an all round better album. Such is the music scene though and as with any outpouring that contains threat unpredictability is always guaranteed.

The 12 tracks here are diverse yet consistent, have a nasty keen cutting edge and still show there is much more to punk than playing 200mph and screaming one's bollocks off. The initial track, 'Never 'Ad Nothin', is a peach and has a strong riff, a self destructive spiked angle and an emboldened chorus the most angriest of disillusioned teenagers can sing along with. It is apparent at this early stage we have an album loaded with emotion, taking care with the production so as to get the best from the players and also hell-bent on keeping the clout in the noise. From the initial outburst of 'He's 18 and he wants to die' we can rest assured this is going to be a journey with some mean, close to the knuckle wordage - enter 'Police Oppression'. A long time fave, a bold outburst and just a persistent riff that won't give up and let the niggle loose. Tough and gritty and followed by two solid tuneful bursts entitled 'Lonely Man Of Spandau' and 'Their Destiny Is Coming' before the magnificent tension that is 'Shotgun Solution' builds. This is a massive number with a unique style and nowhere better does Mensi's gob thrive than on this blasting, pre-meditated piece of punk rock.  Sinister, brooding and unhinged – one for the all time classic tracks department methinks!

The class continues with 'Out Of Control' ideal for encouraging youthful waywardness, 'Listen To The Steps' one to contemplate and appreciate the progression of and 'Capital City' a sawing gnawing tune that you just can't stop playing. The closure is the title track and a cover of the The Animals classic and completes a crackin' album that still has many miles left in the tank.

The Angelic Upstarts were a band I was particularly fond of and always regarded them as having more potential than they displayed early in their career. Later on during 1983 I feel they tapped this font of talent during the outstanding album 'Reason Why' but that is a review for another day.

FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Out Of Control' – When you are young, angry and needing a reason to go berserk then this is the soundtrack you just gotta use!

   

THE LURKERS - RIPPED AND TORN

(Released 1 June 1995)

Over the years The Lurkers have been very much overlooked in general by the punk populace and that my good friend is very much to the loss of the scene. The band (in all forms) have released some darn good catchy shit and the album under scrutiny here is a pinnacle very much missed by the mindless many. Fuckin' wake up will ya! 'Ripped And Torn' gushes with catchy riffs, uplifting songs and subtle emotive touches and thus creates a genuinely effective piece of pop punk puke to admire as it drips down the sonic shithouse walls where we spend to much time releasing piss rather than passion. I can hear the educated shouts of 'Oooh it's not the real line-up' and 'Gosh it isn't as good as Fulham Fallout'. Look, the latter album is a good do but this 17 track beauty is far more polished, far more cute and far more...enjoyable.  Pint made in part I feel!

From the opening hope and seemingly shy teenage optimism of 'One Day' this CD swells with sweet tuneage and hits sonic erogenous zone after sonic erogenous zone. If ones nipples of noise aren't aching with arousal at the end of this tickle fest then you really are in an 'unmelodic' bad way. 'Nothing There For Me' slots in place at position 2 and presses on with delightful ease before we are blown apart via the accurate epic and mentally frustrated classic that is 'Ripped And Torn'. A restless insomniac is portrayed with excellent insight and when combined with a solid structure and players that know their role the whole impact delivers the goods over and over again. Point must be made of Arturo's singing which, as is the norm, is clear, accented and fuckin' bang on. This guy has a good voice, of that there should be no doubt, so listen good now sweet spiky tops. On we go with tremendous highs reached as 'Red Light Girl' pangs hard and turns bitter, 'Too Lazy To Bleed' exudes more lucid melody, 'Furry Face' kicks up a fight and shouts out loud for our four legged friends (whippet style), 'Don't Pick It Up' and 'Gotta Go' play it simple and retain all the pop punk trimmings so desired and 'Scream And Shout' finalises a relationship with punked angst and musical articulation.

Other highs are had along the way with the two outstanding moments for me personally being the nostalgic feelings of loss that come across via the remarkable 'Slabs Of Grey' and the final blast of energetic positivity and optimism that is executed quite perfectly within the song 'Start All Over (Do It Again)'. Stunning!

So the answers are given but two questions remain - 'How do you rate this band' and 'Why the fuck ain't this CD in yer collection'. Amazing stuff and one I am happy to shout about - 'Do It Again' you betcha.

FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Ripped And Torn' – A title track on a top album needs to be something bloody special - this is - so suck on it!

   

UK SUBS - BRAND NEW AGE

(Released 1 May 1980)

I make no apologies and never had for professing my belief that the UK Subs are the best punk band of all time and therefore my favourite all time band. The work ethos, the amount of quality product and downright dedication to their chosen art is admirable and if many followed suit the scene would be all the better for it. 'Brand New Age' is one of several Subs outpourings that will be in my 'Classic Albums' list and well deserved they all shall be. I remember picking this up in Wales back in 1980 and from the first hearing knew it was nothing less than a 'belter'. More cultured, more progressive than the ever-popular 'Another Kind Of Blues' (which wouldn't even be in my all time top ten of Subs releases) this is a solidly constructed album with the band gently pushing into new territory as well as keeping their feet in the traditional punk arena. It is a massive musical moment and the way the band deal with nuclear/war fear, societies failings and less political emotions is a true delight and everything great about this unit is on show here.

The opening weirdo number of 'You Can't Take It Anymore' immediately displays that the band are testing new ground and with an unsettled, paranoid sensation running deep within the weave and with a well produced bass vibe one does wonder what route the album will take. Any misconceptions are banished as the brilliant drive of the title track surges at you and deals with the omnipresent eyes of authority that watch you 24 hours a day. This is a track that contains the Subs vital elements - swiftness, frustration, defiance, catchy inflections and just super punk attitude. The lyrics are easily picked up and when that happens you are undoubtedly hooked. 'Public Servant' eases the pace and keeps the standard but the following song entitled 'Warhead' raises the levels through the roof and blows one away with its incredible construction, individual sound and fuckin' memorable bass line. This tune has stood the test of time and even today the song rocks hard in the 'live' arena and is lapped up by everyone in attendance. A gargantuan classic and adding to this albums weight in a way one cannot truly measure.

From here on in its all class with 'Teenage' filled with yearning passion, 'Organised Crime' a rant against governments underhand dealings, 'Kicks' a sharp, punchy song that hits the nerves of noise and 'Emotional Blackmail' another timeless gem the punters adore. Don't overlook though the other tracks with 'Bomb Factory' simplistic brilliance and 'Dirty Girls' and 'Barbie’s Dead' highly enjoyable songs impressing with their inner vitality. There are more to admire and everyone will have their favourite and why the hell shouldn't they.

The Subs are still thriving and in later efforts produced the goods on numerous occasions but 'Brand New Age' is a blast from the past that deserves anyone's time. It is a superb effort and helped kick start the second wave of punk with one mighty heave ho!

FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Warhead' – I hate going for the obvious but I'd be a fool not to here.  Totally wonderful stuff and one that will just keep on growing in stature as time progresses.

   

X-RAY SPEX - GERM FREE ADOLESCENTS

(Released 1 November 1978)

Just sitting under the radar is a CD built on a fear of a synthetic existence where plastic, rayon and other man-made materials become omnipresent and all that is deemed natural is taken away, much to our loss.  'Germ Free Adolescence' is a unique offering loaded with untrained talent, genuine foresight and darn good musical artistry.  For me this classic album is seriously overlooked and not given the credit it duly deserves.  The band came with individuality and were led by an unconventional lass who defied the orthodox route and created a level of hope for all and sundry.  For me punk rock is encapsulated with ease during this solid album and many a door was subtly opened and many a chance taken - be grateful.
 
Track after track does the business here with 'Artificial' a remarkably effective drive constructed on cute words (which most tracks are), 'Identity' a wonderfully lovable noise that just gets entangled within ones own vibe-riddled soul, 'Oh Bondage Up Yours' a defiant yell of desperation to break away from life’s restricting shackles and 'Germ Free Adolescents' itself being a stunning, slow paced tale of teen trouble and cosmetic addiction.  Poly Styrene's vocals are marvellously raw with the voice breaking up on more than one occasion and as a consequence colouring up the whole mix and making for a more approachable listen.    The sax of course is a vital component and has an essence that is consistent throughout without being unnecessarily flamboyant.  Guitars and drums bring all together and success after success is achieved with each and every number.  'I Am A Poseur' has cockiness but is one for the rebellious and 'Genetic Engineering' has a meaner pulse and hits a different nerve with its bolder beat.  It is a masterclass of melody and one would be pushed to really find any damning flaws.
 
Beneath the entire sound there is a moral, there is a warning and all these years later I find the album still has appeal and a certain relevance.  We are becoming more processed, more 'created' rather than creative and in many respects more hygienically corrupted.  I still can't believe this album is over 30 years old and recommend if you are out there and new to punk then chase this one up, and if you are an old timer in the spiky pit then get this one out and spin again and re-appreciate.  I think you'll agree - wonderful stuff.

FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Artificial' – It has a persistence and a real flavour that sums up the bands approach and style and for me that can't be a bad thing.

   

THE CLASH - SELF TITLED

(Released 8 April 1977)

The early years of punk saw many diverse sounds as is still the case today but all those years ago the risk to step outside the unmentionable comfort zone was something of a sin and any band that did so deserved nothing less than utter respect.  Despite not being a Clash fan the first album does deserve appreciation though due to its eclectic outpourings, variation of sonica and general risk taking approach.  The problem with taking risks is undoubtedly that you increase the chances of becoming unstuck, something, to my lugs anyway, that happened to The Clash many times.  From the same outlook one has to admit that if one is willing to gamble one can sometimes pull out the odd snippet of utter genius which was something this crew did on several occasions.  This self-titled album is the bands finest moment and influenced many future spiked/non-spiked outfits and that is indeed a form of success money can’t buy.

Borne from the street, on the pulse of the social scene and with a temperament liable to spill over into an ‘out of control’ shambles the album remains in check and produces many high spots of varying styles.  ‘Janie Jones’ has a nervous energy and thrives as a result, ‘I’m So Bored With The U.S.A’ arouses interest with its typical punk title and then wins favours with its sneered vocals and easy to pick up and join in chorus, ‘Career Opportunities’ is 70’s dole queue rebellion of the rawest type and ‘London’s Burning’ tries to raise awareness of an idling tedium infecting a capital society via an angrily shouted staccato rant.  For me though there are 3 stand-out tracks that rise way above all the rest due to nothing more than excellent execution and a dedication to the chosen art.  ‘White Riot’ needs no introduction and is a pogoing delight to savour with a catch-line chorus to die for.  ‘What’s My Name’ has a sonic architecture that is strong, in ones face and full of defiance.  The haunting opening guitar twists are memorable and even though a couple of later covers have, for me anyway, outdone the original (The Skeptix and Prairie Dugz take a bow) you gotta pay homage to a piece of inspiration.  Finally the reggae rhythm of ‘Police And Thieves’ is excellence personified and captures a black/white crossover period punk rock is guilty of not fully grasping.  Totally unwashed and urbanised but for the youth and for the man in the street of any colour.

So there you have it and despite a few tracks I consider weak and are not to my personal preference (such is the individual) I know many who have a different favourite and some who find this absolutely faultless.  Like I say I ain’t no Clash fan but I can, I hope, recognise a darn good piece of work that has brought pleasure to so many and encouraged a few arses to get up and have a go. 

FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Police And Thieves' – you gotta admire the commitment, the varying flavour and just the accuracy of melody

   

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