"Wormtown '78" compilation (Beast, 1979)
I picked this up as a curiosity; sleeveless stock copies of this notoriously rare compilation have been available over the last year and I suppose I figured I might as well give it a shot. I had no real expectations—Worcester, Massachusetts was not the type of place, one would think, to incubate a great rock'n'roll scene. Of course, one would be wrong; it turns out that Worcester is among the population of small and mid-sized American cities with early punk scenes that outshone their metropolis brethren. The four bands—Crazy Jack & the Heart Attaxs, Blue Moon Band, The Towel, Hooker—on Wormtown '78 share a thuggish bar rock sound with loud, scuzzy guitars that plant this firmly in punk territory. Sex Pistols and Ramones influence is clear, but this still comes across as meaner, more blue collar. The Towel, who otherwise have no releases, steal the show for me. A duo with guitar and vocals only have a sound reminiscent of Mike Rep & the Quotas or Teenage PHD's without the weirdness in the songwriting; these tracks read as earnest if underdeveloped stabs at rock and roll. In totality, it is a brilliant comp, showcasing a scene with an original sound that was mostly lost in American punk. Just fantastic stuff.
Protex "Strange Obsessions" LP (Sing Sing, 1980/2010)
When we were out in Los Angeles, we spent a good amount of time at Cinefamily, which was hosting a weekend of screenings in honor of the amazing Destroy All Movies book. One of the films we caught was Shellshock Rock, a snapshot of Belfast punk circa 1979. What was so compelling was that it was a portrait of a scene looking to avoid chaos, using punk as a vehicle for light-hearted fun in contrast to the dire politically charged reality of their surroundings. Perhaps this helps explain the Belfast aesthetic—energetic but extremely melodic, music for a spikey haired sock hop. This collection of 1979-1980 recordings from Protex, previously only rumored to exist, is exemplary of that sound. It's not the type of thing that gets many listens by me, but when the mood is right this one'll be tough to beat. Next dance, anyone?
The Tix s/t 10" (Lunar Lab, 1980)
A friend and I recently found ourselves chatting over a coffee and stuffed french toast breakfast at City Island Diner on a miserable, rainy morning. He mentioned that he'd recently revisited this Houston record and had been spending a lot of time with it...then was kind enough to point out a copy for sale and recommended that I try it out for myself. You can see why this release was overlooked among the sea of monster punk gems in Texas. The band clearly viewed themselves as new wave, but their organ driven sound is much more at home with, say, Desperate Bicycles than Gary Numan. Pukekos blog has a track up, here, so check it out.
Tyvek "Nothing Fits" LP (In the Red, 2010)
Proof that their endless demo-ing and reworking of songs pays off. "Nothing Fits" showcases a totally aggressive take on the band. This one's as raw and angry and as powerful an album as I've heard in a while. The entire thing builds up to "Blocked" which about halfway through starts kicks into a guitar riff that, although different, kind of reminds me of the second half of Disclose's "Nightmare or Reality".
Estrogen Highs "Friends and Family" LP (Gramery, 2010)
A sleeper candidate for year end top ten lists. This is a stellar album, leaps and bounds better than the first album both in terms of ambition and execution. These kids are really hitting on something. See them on tour now.
Public Image Ltd "Public Image" b/w "Cowboy Song" (Virgin, 1978)
I was dismantling a broken photocopier while this was playing. Classic stuff that makes for great background music for such an activity. I think I got the damned thing working again (it did take the next album as well...I'm not that fast).
Destruction Unit "Eclipse" LP (Eclipse, 2010)
At first I was sort of put off with the direction that Destruction Unit had taken over the last couple of releases. His first EP is an all-time favorite and completely aggressive. It's what I think of when I think of Destruction Unit, so when he started to release music that was more introverted and thoughtful it took me a but to regroup. I'm there now and can appreciate this new, moody take on Destruction Unit. Still the same band, just growing up a bit.