Full Circle (1997) by Pennywise

Categories: 1997 and Music.

I don’t love 90s punk, I generally find it too polished and too formulaic for my tastes. I’m not sure what it adds to the legacy of hardcore and frankly it’s all too one note. You can get away with one-note when you’re doing something brand new, but when you are doing a slightly more polished version of something that is, at this point, nearly two decades old, it’s kind of tiresome (to me). Read More

Dig Me Out (1997) by Sleater-Kinney

Categories: 1997 and Music.

The songwriting has improved here – the arrangements feel tighter and the hooks are  arguably stronger. This is only the second record of theirs I’ve heard, so I’m not sure I can argue that it is their best (I believe it has that reputation) but if you are looking for 90s punk that still feels like punk (as opposed to some bleached, broish imitation of punk), this is where you should go looking for it. Good stuff. 8/10 Read More

(I’m) Stranded (1977) by The Saints

Categories: 1977 and Music.

This is a really early punk record – so early it beat The Clash and The Pistols to the punch in terms of their debut LPs – that likely gets ignored because it’s Australian. It louder and grimier than almost all the UK bands and most of the American bands, pointing the way for future punk bands in terms of the level of distortion. The only thing that keeps me from giving it top top marks is that it is pretty one note, basically loud Ramones with slightly better lyrics. 9/10 Read More

Damned Damned Damned (1977)

Categories: 1977 and Music.

Though not the first British punk band, The Damned’s debut is, to my knowledge, the first British punk LP. That, in and of itself, is a really big deal, as punk was much more of a contemporary force in the UK than in the US. Sure, there were punk singles before this, and The Clash and The Pistols would have put out their records anyway. But The Damned were first (far as I know). Read More

No Pocky for Kitty (1991) by Superchunk

Categories: 1991 and Music.

This is a set of solid songs that are uptempo and pleasantly loud. I get why this band was a big deal back then because, to my knowledge, this kind of straight-ahead abrasive power pop/pop punk was a relative rarity. But it’s not really my thing. It’s too one note for me, as much as I appreciate what they’re doing and I think they do it well, I just don’t love this particular style of music enough to get really excited about this record. 7/10 Read More

The Modern Lovers (1976)

Categories: 1971, 1972, 1973, 1976, and Music.

This sort of compilation of “demos” is an early punk classic that lets the rest of the world know what probably only a few people in Boston and the music industry knew. The mix of straight ahead rock music and the laconic delivery is not quite bratty enough for punk but way more in line with punk than most of the other rock music being made when it was recorded. Listening to it should prompt serious arguments among you and your friends about which punk band was the first punk band. Also, the songs are good and some are classics. Read More

Wild Gift (1981) by X

Categories: 1981 and Music.

This is another strong set of literate, traditional punk songs from that most New York of LA punk bands. It is very much a repeat of the debut record but, if you can get past that (and I’m not sure I can), it shouldn’t matter, as the songs are as good. X’s connection to rock and roll tradition is about as strong as it gets for a punk band of their era, but this makes them rather unique and lets their songs stand out a little better than they would if they were more noisy. 7/10 Read More

All The Mod Cons (1978) by The Jam

Categories: 1978 and Music.

This is, by all accounts, The Jam’s masterpiece. It’s clear the songwriting has improved by leaps and bounds, especially from their second record. The music has also developed: most of the raggedness is gone and the musical ideas are more complicated, and this is quite clearly the missing link between The Kinks (and The Who) and Blur. But this is still not my thing. I like Townshend and Davis (hey, a cover!) better than Weller as songwriters. I think Blur’s take on the tradition was far more original. To me this is revivalism. It’s good revivalism, but it’s still revivalism. Read More

This is the Modern World (1977) by The Jam

Categories: 1977 and Music.

I don’t think you need to know the background story to know this album is a significant step backwards from the debut: the songs are weaker, the attitude is reigned in on a number of songs, the reverence for the past is growing. If this is still punk music (and it is, at least I think it is), it’s punk music that feels almost regressive, rather than generative. There are still some decent songs and it’s still mostly recognizable as first wave punk, but it’s unlikely to convert anyone to this band, that’s for sure. 6/10 Read More

In the City (1977) by The Jam

Categories: 1977 and Music.

The Jam’s debut is somewhere between the punk bands that it’s usually lumped in and Elvis Costello – I feel like they’re punkier than Costello but as reverent to rock and roll tradition as he is. I mean, the reverence for the mid ’60s Who is off the charts at times (such as the breakdown in “I’ve Changed My Address” which sounds like something a very young Townshend might have conceived). And there’s the covers… This doesn’t really do it for me – I prefer Costello as a lyricist to Weller, though I see the appeal in these lyrics – Read More

Payola (2015) by Desaparecidos

Categories: 2015 and Music.

I was really surprised how much I liked their original album. Noticing my old rating for it I feel like I have bump it up a bit, as I like it more than the rating suggests. But this one… For one thing, it certainly sounds like the band hasn’t changed much in the interim. They’ve reunited and they’re going to sound the same. That’s fine I guess. I don’t think I should expect different. But I guess I was expecting better songs. I feel like the first record is better musically and lyrically in that regard. About those lyrics: The Read More

Horses (1975) by Patti Smith

Categories: 1975 and Music.

Smith tries to do the same thing Jim Morrison did: combine rock music with serious poetry. I’d Smith’s far more successful as her approach is more musical than theatrical. However, The Doors were a much more versatile band than The Patti Smith Group. Anyway, musically this is basically just the kind of rock and roll that was common to New York at the time – where the emphasis was on energy over professionalism and idiosyncratic approaches to playing over traditional ideas of mastery – with some very good lyrics. I prefer Television and the Voidoids but Patti Smith was first Read More

Rum Sodomy and the Lash (1985) by The Pogues

Categories: 1985 and Music.

I have long loved If I Should Fall From Grace With God and considered it pretty near essential, especially as punk treatments of roots music go. It’s got what is probably their most famous song – “Fairy Tale in New York,” the Pogues song that you probably have heard even if you have never heard of the Pogues – and I had always assumed that was the Pogues album to have. Like with so many other things, I was wrong. This is a fantastic album that expertly blends Celtic music and punk even more expertly, perhaps, than that 1987 album Read More

TIFF 2015: Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier, 2015) (14/15)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

This is the second straight excellent thriller from Saulnier, featuring “real people” in movie thriller situations. Much like his classic Blue Ruin – which I strongly, strongly suggest you see if you haven’t seen yet – this film combines an incredibly tense thriller with elements of (very) dark comedy, to great effect. I had such high hopes for this film that I was initially disappointed by the first act. However, things really kick into gear later and it’s liable to be the tensest film you see this year. It’s not Blue Ruin. It’s obviously not as original, it’s not as Read More

Los Angeles (1980) by X

Categories: 1980 and Music.

In 2010 I wrote the following: On the whole this is a pretty great record and Xene is pretty damn alluring. There is a little too much Manzarek here for my liking. From the liner notes it sounds like the Doors cover and, perhaps, by extension, his involvement, was somehow a condition of the release, which is annoying and also not very “punk.” His organ adds something to their sound which was missing from most punk music of the era, but it is still a little odd that they didn’t seem to know “Soul Kitchen” before they did it. It’s Read More

Ramones (1976, GRT)

Categories: 1976 and Music.

The Ramones’ debut album begs the question: can we determine greatness without looking at influence? If the Ramones released this album, and it didn’t influence half the rock musicians alive today (maybe a slight exaggeration) would we still consider it great?However, that is a stupid question. Albums are indeed released publicly and I personally wholly reject the idea that the most perfect music (art, literature, etc) is the music that is never heard by anyone but the creator (that is so retarded). Music (and all art) is social. So we have to look at importance and influence when considering greatness. Read More

Punk Legends: The American Roots (1997, Jungle)

Categories: 1997 and Music.

So this is an album that compiles some but not all of the major American punk bands (and an art rock band or two and at least one band that shouldn’t be here) together…but because they clearly didn’t want to pay for the rights, they use demos, alternate takes and live versions (including a reunion show, which is hilarious). There’s no substance to the claim that these versions are somehow superior, that’s just marketing. But that being said many of these bands were great and even their demos and alternate takes are alright. 5/10 Read More