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  • Carl Zimring
    http://www.chireader.com/hitsville/031031.html By Peter Margasak October 31, 2003 Punk Primer No Thanks! The 70s Punk Rebellion Though punk as a concept has
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 31, 2003
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      http://www.chireader.com/hitsville/031031.html
      By Peter Margasak
      October 31, 2003
      Punk Primer
      No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion

      Though punk as a concept has had a profound impact on popular music, most
      of its original practitioners have been consigned to the footnotes of rock
      history. While a handful of bands from both sides of the pond managed to
      parlay their notoriety into careers -- the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads,
      the Clash, and X, to name a few -- most disappeared fairly quickly. That's
      not necessarily bad: the MO of the music was burn out, not fade away.
      Unfortunately, though, it means that a great deal of what constituted punk
      in the first place has gone up in smoke too.

      The archival label Rhino Records has expended considerable effort to
      capture the diversity and intensity of old-school punk, making a big push
      in 1993 with its nine-volume "D.I.Y." series, organized by scene, and its
      two-disc hardcore series, "Faster & Louder." The label's latest effort, the
      new four-CD box set No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion, seems more of an
      attempt at a manageable overview, with contributions from nearly all the
      best-known British and American punk bands (the Sex Pistols refused to
      license any of their songs for the project).

      There aren't a lot of duds among the 100 selections -- though I could've
      done without the entries by chameleonic British poseurs 999 and kitschy
      proto-new wavers the Rezillos. And it's hard to believe somebody thought
      the Boomtown Rats, even in their early punk mode, really warranted two
      slots. There's a decent, if predictable, history lesson by Billboard
      columnist Chris Morris; Ira Robbins and Dave Schulps, cofounders of the
      influential punk and new-wave mag Trouser Press, pithily annotate the
      songs. There are a few treats for the folks who think they've heard it all,
      including relatively obscure single versions of songs by Devo
      ("Mongoloid"), the Pretenders ("The Wait"), and X ("Adult Books") and
      left-field entries from the likes of the tribal all-girl band the Slits,
      militant postpunks the Pop Group (often overshadowed by contemporaries like
      the Gang of Four), and San Francisco punks the Avengers, who never managed
      to put out an album in their brief lifetime.

      Sometimes sets like No Thanks! are most useful as argument starters,
      opening up discussion of what the victors' history leaves out. I might ask,
      for instance, why the chugging, indelibly catchy rocker "Action Time
      Vision" is the lone inclusion here from Alternative TV, the arty punk band
      started by Mark Perry, publisher of the early English punk zine Sniffin'
      Glue. As it happens, Alternative TV is one of three 70s punk acts
      performing in Chicago in the next couple weeks. The other two -- the French
      band Metal Urbain and New York no-wave icon James Chance -- aren't included
      on the Rhino box, but they've been at least as influential as almost any of
      the bands that are.

      ATV, whose only permanent member is Perry, has flickered in and out of
      existence since forming in 1977. Perry's cofounder, guitarist Alex
      Fergusson, went on to start the industrial band Psychic TV with Genesis
      P-Orridge a few years later. In its earliest incarnation the group
      delivered the classic punk sound heard on "Action Time Vision" -- distorted
      guitars, an anthemic, sing-along chorus -- but before long the band was
      punk in spirit more than sound. Perry moved on through a rambling amalgam
      of pop, reggae, and plodding art rock that he didn't always have the chops
      to carry off. ATV's last studio album, Revolution, came out in 2001, but
      its most recent releases are live discs, one a reissue of Live 1978 and one
      recorded at CBGB during Spin's "25 Years of Punk" party in 2001. The band
      plays here Saturday at the Bottom Lounge.

      Metal Urbain, who play the Bottom Lounge on November 13, made their first
      run between 1976 and 1978, during which time they released just three
      singles -- including "Paris maquis/Cle de contact," the first record on
      England's Rough Trade label. After the group's demise, several collections
      -- filled out by demos and a few songs recorded during a brief re-formation
      in 1979 -- came out in France. In January Acute Records will issue the
      comprehensive Anarchy in Paris!, the group's first U.S. release.

      The group never made a bigger splash for several reasons. For one, they
      sang exclusively in French. For another, they used drum machines and
      synthesizers in lieu of drums and bass, and while that merely made some of
      the straighter material sound tinny, some cuts are decidedly experimental.
      According to keyboardist Eric Debris the group tried to give its music an
      "anti-naturalist" feel: "That meant a music made of reprocessed sounds,
      nothing natural," he says in the liner notes for Anarchy in Paris! "Like
      [Brian] Eno did in Roxy [Music], voices went through a synthesizer, guitars
      through filters etc. We had a complete aesthetic approach." The group's
      sound provided a loose template for Steve Albini's first band, Big Black;
      the discordant analog synthesizer sounds and the paranoia-inducing beats
      also presaged industrial dance music. The group recently re-formed again
      and reportedly will focus on old material for the upcoming tour.

      Like Mark Perry, Milwaukee native James Chance (ne Siegfried) has never
      really gone away, but he's also never topped his powerful early work on
      Buy, his 1978 album with the Contortions. Chance and his band borrowed the
      tight funk of James Brown and then savaged it with dissonance and
      aggression. He sang in an urgent, desperate sort of chant, and on saxophone
      he exaggerated the squealing sharpness of the R & B barwalking tradition.
      In subsequent decades he's traded manic intensity for wan lounge jazz, but
      there's hope yet: for his Double Door show on November 14, he'll be backed
      by Chicago's Watchers, unabashed Contortions fans who have a remarkably
      sure grip on the verities of postpunk funk. The group has been rehearsing
      the set -- which will include material from Buy, 1979's Off White, and the
      seminal No New York anthology -- since September. "We're going to try to
      push it back to the actual songs instead of something jammy, taking it back
      to the energy of the early 80s," says Watchers front man Michael Guarrine.
      "But it's his show."

      Postscripts

      # The Reputation, the local pop band fronted by ex-Sarge front woman
      Elizabeth Elmore, has signed with Lookout, the Berkeley-based label that's
      home to Ted Leo/Pharmacists and the Oranges Band. The Chicago quartet
      released its debut last year on the Louisville-based indie Initial Records
      and will be recording the follow-up this fall.

      # Drummer Graeme Gibson, guitarist Jonathan van Herik, and bassist Gabe
      McDonough have quit local buzz band Boas; they may or may not play on the
      band's second album, which was slated to be made in January with producer
      John Parish for Overcoat Recordings. "Regardless of how much we enjoyed
      playing in the band, we weren't writing songs together well," says
      McDonough. "It took much too long and it was mentally and emotionally
      straining for all of us."

      Send gripes, leads, and love letters to Peter Margasak at
      postnobills@....
    • Wilson, Carl
      ... Can anybody tell me more about the Reputation - what s it sound like? I was a big Sarge admirer. carl w.
      Message 2 of 3 , Oct 31, 2003
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        > The Reputation, the local pop band fronted by ex-Sarge front woman
        >Elizabeth Elmore, has signed with Lookout, the Berkeley-based label that's
        >home to Ted Leo/Pharmacists and the Oranges Band. The Chicago quartet
        >released its debut last year on the Louisville-based indie Initial Records
        >and will be recording the follow-up this fall.

        Can anybody tell me more about the Reputation - what's it sound like? I was
        a big Sarge admirer.

        carl w.
      • David Siegel
        ... simply & quickly put... it s a direct continuation. only difference is the name. if you were a big sarge fan, i have a feeling you d (at worst) enjoy the
        Message 3 of 3 , Oct 31, 2003
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          --- "Wilson, Carl" <cwilson@...> wrote:
          > Can anybody tell me more about the Reputation -
          > what's it sound like? I was
          > a big Sarge admirer.

          simply & quickly put...

          it's a direct continuation. only difference is the
          name. if you were a big sarge fan, i have a feeling
          you'd (at worst) enjoy the reputation album.

          david

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