FUNGALPUNK - CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEWS Page 1
JOHNNY THUNDERS AND THE HEARTBREAKERS - L. A. M. F.
(Released 1 October 1977)
From the New York Punk Scene came Johnny Thunders - a man on a mission, a rock and roll wreckhead with a true talent and a zoned in melody making slant that saw him throw in his entire soul into the wayward wind that would lead to his eventual demise. Ex-New York Doll, consistent victim to the chemical and eternally difficult interviewee the frontman of the Heartbreakers reached a pinnacle here with an album loaded with classical rebellion and easy sleazy rhythms. The man is hailed a punk legend, which is strange as he didn't have a great fondness for that specific genre and the bands that played the circuit in those early days. A couple of things to add this brief intro is that due to all band members being addicted to hard drugs frontman Johnny actually considered changing the name to 'The Junkies' and also that most songs on this release are about chasing the opposite sex or, surprise, surprise...drugs! Losers and abusers they may be but this album is a peach and there is much to enjoy...
What better way to start a rock and roll blow-out than with a reality sodden, fuck-it-all tear up that is riffed and raped with snotty carelessness and subversive defiance. 'Born To Lose' is an anthem, courses with rousing spirit and has a momentously effective sing-a-long chorus urged on by the front lout who just wants you all to shout a little more loudly. We are instantly kicked up the arse and whizzed up with 'Baby Talk' scuzz fucking in next on energised skin work and abrasive wire attacks. A feisty tumble trash that again packs a bag load of gumption and unstoppable desire with all artistes bang on the button and electrically ablaze. From here we expect more of the same but what we get is a more organised and strictly structured number via 'All By Myself'. A real bouncing sub-trouncing effort with a nifty bass-line ploughing away and some semi-extravagance thrown in. It is a well created tune held on the leash whereas 'I Wanna Be Loved' is left to chase the ball and run a little more wild with the result being another cock-leaking fluster and bluster that gets beneath the sonic membranes and causes a reactive flutter. A simple formula used and given nothing more than a good injection of zeal. Side A closes with the 'It's Not Enough' and ‘Get Off The Phone', the former a westernised drawling drift with some quite smooth and satisfying textures that caress the senses with unexpected charm and the latter with Cochrane-esque vibrations running deep beneath an overlay of jittery wire work and perhaps the most freshened vocal inclusion to date. A song that tweaks and twangs, breaks down into a brief guitar melee before getting back on the shake-shack track and hitting the finish line.
Side B kicks in with yet another immediate fascination, this time grooved deep and drug splattered via the much mimicked 'Chinese Rocks', an in-built classic in the punk genre which again contradicts matters seeing that Mr Thunders couldn't give a toss about punk and got rather bored with this labelled creation. Still a crackerjack for me although The Insane's later cover outstrips this one. 'Pirate Love' is a sex driven push of hip-grinding vulgarity that sees Stones'ed accents and backstreet sleaze ooze out from the airwaves and leave a very textured edge. The bass dictates, provides an inner pulse that sweats lust and we get another pleasure saturated episode to ponder. The final 4 begin with the animated ease of 'One Track Mind', a delicious verse/chorus tradition that rises when needed and delivers untold melodic gratification. Pursuing is the more pleading and sub-staccato waltz of 'I Love You' and the youthful flimsy soppiness of 'Going Steady'. The weakest track of the lot is this latter donation and seems to suffer from a subdued production mix - still not a bad un' though. The closure comes with glammed and whammed pizzazz and is scratched down as 'Let's Go'. Back to the rock and roll basics here with strutting sonics, crisp and clattering components and an obvious love of the art exhibited by these fucker pluckers. There doth close a fuckin' good package of noise – how is that comrades?
A sheer hotpot of acoustic goodness here with no definite dips in the delivery, no genuine nadirs dug out and an absence of jarring duff ditties obvious. This is a fine extract from a sub-scene that thrived in a murky hollow, loaded with tuned in, dropped out carnivores that needed regular feeding in a variety of ways. Victims were due to come, shit stains were going to be left behind - get down on ya knees and sniff this one - exceptional!
FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Born To Lose' I would feel very wrong inside if I didn't opt for this as my favourite track although a few run it close. One of those irreplaceable gems that are a soundtrack for life.
AIRBOMB - LOOK OUT
(Released 1 May 1998)
These Romford rockers were picked up early in their careers and after hearing an initial full torn blast I was more than a little taken. Their debut CD was ordered and played over and over again, I wangled em' 2 gigs on my local patch with a pub owner who I had convinced of their quality and they duly came and fuckin' nailed it. 2 albums later and kaput - another band overlooked, oozing fantastic tuneage and rammed with big hitting riffs - gone but not forgotten. This album here is the bands opening gambit and despite upping the production levels on their 2nd outing this one is the best by far due to its extreme primitive aggression and all out tendency to go at it full fuckin' tilt and riff up the airspace big time. Over the years my opinion of this one has never diminished and if I was doing an all time top ten I would surely put this one into the mix to consider.
The next batch of 9 offers no release, no escape from the massive aural raping we so readily receive. 'Mad' is a pinnacle of insanity and smashes the complete sense out of ones bonse with its untamed naturalness and driving incessancy. Billowing and unstoppable and have you ever heard a shout of 'Oi' delivered with such eyeball bursting darkness - stunning. 'Sinister Bastard' compliments perfectly with a rattling razor racket that slashes and scratches with utter malevolent spite that causes much injury to ones sense of decency. A fascinating blow-out that has me on my knees in admiration - gargantuan man, gargantuan. On we go with many highs, most notable of which are the bass dominated 'Special Offer' and the erupting Hell of 'What Did I Say', a volcano of tempestuous shit flinging liable to boil yer skin right off your bewildered framework and give the charred skeleton a mighty kickin' for good measure - what a zenith. A classic is thrown in with the mood laden anthem 'I'm So Sick (Monday Morning)' being a ditty I play on a consistent basis and one that has fine emotive value and really rings true with the early week start so many have to go through. A melancholy strained strut that finds hope in the bleakness and an eternal defiance that rises from the ashes of defeat and hangs on in there with grit, raucousness and some spunky attitude. What finer penultimate track is needed? We shut down with the positive and never say die gem of 'Move The World', a song that is always better than you remember and one, no matter how many times you play it, raises the head, stiffens the pecker and reinvigorates the inner fight - perfect.
I was an Airbomb fan (still am), the 2 viewings I had confirmed their brilliance and I consider the loss of this crew a major blow to the underground scene that quite often throws up some absolutely memorable listening experiences. This album donates more than its share of quality and with the feedback, hard focus and earthy delivery is one I will certainly hold dear to my acoustic heart forever.
FUNGAL'S TOP TRACK – 'Nihil' simply because it starts a CD that is very, very special and as soon as I hear that initial burst my expectations rise and never ever get let down.
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.
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
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)
DEAD KENNEDY'S - FRESH FRUIT FOR ROTTING VEGETABLES
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.