Music

L.A. punk inventors check rearview mirror

The Weirdos
We Got the Neutron Bomb
Frontier

L.A. guys, born in the '50s (at least originally; later lineups comprised everybody in the Hollywood goof-punk phone book). Denied being punk rock in 1977, when their debut single "Destroy All Music" came out and people called them the city's first punk band. This mishmash—singles, outtakes, solo-album cuts, live and rehearsal tapes, experimental bullshit—progresses in reverse chronological order, from 1989 on back. A lot sounds tossed off, but even more throbs how punk soon forgot how—not so easy when everybody's goal is to reach the end of the song first. Guitar twang and yabba dabba doo, psychedelic distortion breaks and speed rhythm hanging ten, Love and Link Wray covers, lyrical obsessions from B-movies (cowboy, crime, horror) and Dr. Demento, snotty vocals doing strangulated proto-Cramps psychobilly hiccups and clutzy fake Johnny Rotten drunken lout accents, all atop a glammish antmusic drum rumble—"Jungle Rock" from 1980 bridges "Ubangi Stomp" and Bow Wow Wow. Timeliest cuts now: a no-wave freak-out scrapyard clank called "Hey Big Oil" and the title track, where the land of the free drops the bomb all over the place and you get some on your face, and which a couple years ago provided the name for a half-assed L.A. punk oral history that barely mentioned the Weirdos at all.

The Weirdos, not the Bizzaros
photo: Frontier Records
The Weirdos, not the Bizzaros


Leeds punk inventors drive drunk in reverse

Mekons
Punk Rock
Quarterstick

As a crank who still considers 1980's Mekons second only to 1985's Fear and Whiskeyif that, i.e., as somebody who thought these Leeds critics' icons' last several alleged masterpieces missed the point, I was skeptical about them re-recording their best early fast product now that they actually know how to play instruments. Anarchists should sound anarchic, right? But Punk Rock salvages plenty of odes to failure/disgrace/infidelity/life-during-wartime plus drunken rants about bowing to republic and employer from rare imports long sold to used-vinyl stores, updating them with a pint-glass accordion-and-fiddle two-step jigginess Jon Langford's merry men and women didn't perfect till 1983's English Dancing Master EP; it shows how their staccato unison pub shouts and Middle Eastern-dubbed white noise anticipated the Pogues and Cornershop, too. Oddest absences: "Where Were You," "Snow," "Institution." Biggest revelation: the very lonely and wet "Lonely and Wet," from their negligible debut LP with a typing monkey on its cover. Song I'm gladdest they remembered: "Chopper Squad." Next-door neighbors at last: "32 Weeks" and "Work All Week," both about how many hours of toil necessities and booze cost.

 
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