Camberwell Now – “Working Nights” (1986)
This Heat casts a long shadow, and rightfully so–their blend of the edge and energy of punk with longer-brewing strains of art-rock tradition created one of the most lasting archetypes of post-punk. But an unfortunate side effect is that their brief years of existence can obscure the fact that drummer and mastermind Charles Hayward has continued to make riveting, artful, and often beautiful work for nearly thirty years since This Heat disbanded. His compositions have tended to stretch out a bit from the punch of This Heat circa ‘Deceit,’ favoring the atmosphere of the bands earlier work and the rhythms of something like “Health & Efficiency,” but virtually none of the judiciousness and visceral impact was lost regardless of minor production shifts over the years. “Working Nights” represents one of the (numerous) high-water marks in Hayward’s oeuvre, This Heat included, reaching musical and emotional crescendos rarely matched in rock music. It’s a political work, I think, about the worker and industry; but it also explores more mysterious ground, the emotional level of someone who feels trapped in a machine that has no regard for its components, and the clattering, ghostly world in which the night-shift worker can live. The track also happens to presage, perhaps moreso than any of This Heat’s work, the cyclical, instruments-as-loops groove of the best of 1990s “post-rock” like Disco Inferno, Stereolab, Tortoise, or the various Thrill Jockey proponents–all from the unfashionable year of 1986. [Charles Hawyard and This Heat are featured in numerous mixes at Musicophilia that seek to expand upon their unique sounds.]
Eurythmics – “Take Me To Your Heart” (1981)
A few heroes of art rock/proto-punk were welcomed with open arms by their post-punk progeny, and had a distinct and direct effect on, even participation in, their music despite the reputation for death-to-the-past futurism: Eno, This Heat’s Charles Hayward, Brian Ferry, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lennon and Reed comrade Klaus Voorman, even hippies like Mayo Thompson and unrepentant longhair Robert Wyatt. No less important or participatory were Can’s Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit and their producer Conny Plank. Here they assist Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart on the very first Eurythmics album–what fledgling group could have hoped for a more auspicious start? [For more late-Can and post-Can music like this, be sure to check out two Can-centric mixes at Musicophilia. The Eurythmics are also featured in the ‘1981’ Box Set and the Young Lady’s Post-Punk Handbook]
Michael Karoli & Polly Eltes – “Home Truths” (1984)
Michael Karoli is sometimes easy to miss (for me) in his contributions to Can–dominated by Jaki Liebezeit’s incredibly inventive beats and Holger Czukay’s sonic textures–and I’ll confess, his soloing is occasionally the thing that detracts from the focus and force of later Can. But he seemingly followed some of the same obsessions of his bandmates, post-Can–especially reggae/dub and a penchance for a blissed-out quality of songwriting. His lone post-Can LP, with Polly Eltes (on whom I can find little information, but who apparently sang on Eno’s ‘Taking Tiger Mountain,’) will be a major find for fans of the Raincoats ‘Odyshape’ and after albums, the Slits’ “Earthbeat” phase, and the Rough Trade/west London sound in general: it’s playful, percussive, warm, sophisticated but unaffected. This is one of few post-Can projects that seems readily in-print and available (along with Liebezeit’s Phantom Band’s third LP, ‘Nowhere’) and is expanded with three fantastic tracks not on the original 1984 issue, so be sure to pick it up if you enjoy this track. [For more Can and post-Can music like this, be sure to check out two recent Can-centric mixes at Musicophilia.]
Kode9 & The Spaceape – “Quantum” (2006)
To the casual follower of the Hyperdub label, Burial’s work looms large. However, Kode9 & The Spaceape’s album ‘Memories of the Future’ is almost equally appealing. Existing in a less hazy/rain-drenched landscape of sharper shapes amidst the cavernous dub, propelled as much by The Spaceape’s vocal contributions as Kode9’s beats, this music lives up to the album’s name. It sounds like a future that knows the past, a futurism that isn’t about pretending to exist ex nihilo. [Kode9 & The Spaceape are featured in an appropriately spooky, rich mix, ‘Tall Stories of Evil Gris-Gris,’ at Musicophilia.]
Gang of Four – “I Love A Man In Uniform” (1982)
Gang of Four’s transition into slinky-sexy New Pop is certainly not as deftly graceful as that of, say, Scritti Politti. And they’re not quite reaching Fela-like sublimity in their “move their asses and sneak in a message” approach–they wield their politics as forcefully as ever to really give your ass equal consideration. But I suspect there’s a reasonable sense of humor at work here not so evident in earlier work; the music is servicable, and the satire of Thatcherite machismo and gun-as-“self-respect”-as-sex-organ psychology is pretty fun. I mean, “the girls, they love to see you shoot,” “I need an order,” and “to have ambition was my ambition” are pretty succinct and biting. The vocal crooning style du jour–well, again, not graceful, but enjoyable in its campy employment.
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – “The Sound of Someone You Love Who’s Going Away And It Doesn’t Matter” (1976)
Penguin Cafe Orchestra sadly seem to be an anomaly, from some unknown space between prog, the avant-garde, neo-chamber music, proto-post-punk (think Essendon Airport or Durrutti Column) and even RiO. The later work has achieved some popularity, but their first album remains seemingly unheralded. To my ears, it is perhaps their best, or at least purest, less cute than later work, more emotionally direct. The guitar figuring here has a feeling not unlike something from ‘Chelsea Girls,’ but the strings and the electric piano add a slightly off-kilter warmth that is unique. This music could very easily have been recorded today, in the best possible sense: based in no fads or even prevailing styles, it stands apart from its time or origin. [Penguin Cafe Orchestra are featured in several mixes at Musicophilia.] Update: wrong audio stream when first published, now corrected. Thanks!
This Heat – “Repeat” (1979)
Few one-off experiments are more exciting than This Heat’s “24-Track Loop”. This Heat were an expansive band, but at some level were generally identifiable as a “post-punk” or “rock” act; “24-Track Loop” defied genre at its time, sounding little like any established repetition-based dance or electronic music of the time, though drawing from dub and musique concrete methodology. “Repeat” is an extended mix of the seminal track, allowing each phrase to burrow into the listener’s consciousness before new qualities are slowly introduced; it’s no less stunning than its briefer counterpart.
Brian Eno – “French Catalogues (Variations on Pachelbel’s Canon in D Maj., II)” (1975)
It’s the second, non-titular side of Eno’s ‘Discreet Music’ that has always affected me more deeply, and fascinated me most. Taking a classical work the beauty of which can sometimes be forgotten because of over- and misuse, Eno applies ostensibly cerebral experimentation, altering component elements of the score via mathematical formula. But the results, while perhaps momentarily disorientating, and intellectually engaging, are remarkably visceral; perhaps by breaking down our overfamiliar expectations the “experiment” create a heightened awareness of the existing beauty, while adding new beauty. That’s always been the trick of Eno, blurring the lines between the brain and the body, a “non-musician” getting in there and going at it without being in the least bit “punk” about it. But his variations on Pachelbel’s Canon in D are underrated pieces in his well-earned reputation. [The many sides of Eno are explored through similarly varied mixes at Musicophilia.]
The Cure – “Grinding Halt” (1979)
I love the foggy ghost-world of ‘Faith’ or even the teenage widescreen-emotions of ‘Disintegration;’ and generally The Cure strike me as being one of the true keepers of the post-punk faith through the 80s, along with Sonic Youth. But I wouldn’t have minded if they’d developed the brittle, furtive, twitchy sound they had on their first LP a little further. The manic tracks of later Cure hint at it, but there’s a tininess and tinniness here that’s appealing in a different way. Never has a post-apocalyptic vision sounded more uptempo (or had a catchier bass hook), but the edgy paranoia comes through surprisingly effectively on the small black-and-white t.v. screen The Cure are filling here. [The Cure are featured on several mixes at Musicophilia.]
Alan Parker & John Cammeron – “Ice Breaker” & “”Sahara Sunrise” (1973)
Sometimes it seems like the “sound library” world is a dream–this other world, this alternate history of popular music, kept like a secret until just the right time in a person’s music-geek-journey when it seems like there just wasn’t enough funk-with-strings, enough breakbeats-and-rhodes-and-percussion made in the real world. It’s really Blaxploitation soundtracks one step over, Serge Gainsbourg on a budget, Tamla-on-the-Thames, with a good dose of musique concrete and space-age-Moog thrown in for good measure, but for whatever nutty reason almost never commercially released at the time. These are two cuts from two of this alternate reality’s Big Names (who played with Serge and the Shadows et al in “real life”) from one of the most consistently great Library records (consistency is perhaps their one downfall, usually) and one of far too few that can be bought today, if you can find it.
Only Ones – “Lovers Of Today” (1979)
I don’t know if you call it post-punk or power-pop, but this is rock the way I like it. Smart minds through dumb drums, muscular guitar lines that are surprisingly svelte, working-class punk snarl and swagger that’s read a book or two, all rough-and-tumble (“we ain’t got feelings, we got no love, we ain’t got nothing to say”) that’s raw and emotionally affecting. There’s a little Television in there, if you want your art-rock roots.
George Harrison – “Under the Mersey Wall” (1968)
Yes–this is the George Harrison. But don’t hold your breath for any gently weeping guitars, or even any sitars. I can imagine this might have caused about as many pissed-off teeny-boppers as ‘Metal Machine Music’ caused pissed-off proto-punkers. This is outre, experimental, long-form early electronic music, along the lines of Morton Subotnik with touches of the kosmiche of early Tangerine Dream or Cluster. Once you let go of any Beatles-based expectations, this is actually pretty compelling stuff, abstract but visceral; if Harrison was dabbling, it’s more convincing than his ersatz-ragga stylings. Who knows–for all the people this record probably angered, it probably set a few down mind-expanding paths beyond anything even “Revolution #9” could have done. [If you can roll with this track on its own, you’ll probably enjoy ‘The Somnambulist,’ an experimental mix into which Harrison’s electronic work is embedded.]
Pascal Comelade & Robert Wyatt – “September Song” (2000)
Pascal Comelade has made a lovely career of making smart music with toy instruments, and this collaboration with Robert Wyatt brings out the sweetest warmth from both. Nostalgic, whimsical, and simple, this song is the sound “golden days” captured perfectly. [Robert Wyatt is featured in varied contexts in several mixes at Musicophilia.]
Duncan Browne – “Journey” (1973)
Browne’s first album is a lovely little record that calls to mind Donovan, Nick Drake, and that misty pastoral folk revival feeling. But on his second, self-titled LP from 1973, slightly less expected elements begin to filter into the strongly-composed singer-songwriter material–don’t let the petroleum-jelly-on-the-lense cover photo deter you. The sophisticated guitar work, hand-claps, percussion, bubbling synth lines and choral coloration on “Journey” provide a good introduction to a wonderful and underrated album. [Duncan Browne is featured in this ‘Le Tour du Monde‘ mix at Musicophilia.]
Hot Gossip – “I Don’t Depend On You” (1981)
Hot Gossip were a “sexually suggestive” and “risque” dance troupe who for whatever reason also became a minor but enjoyable little sidepiece to the Human League/B.E.F./Heaven 17 post-punk story with their album of covers in 1981. This track is a cover of a track by the Human League originally released under the name The Men, a bouncy little dance-funk synth-pop confection in the post-punk to New Pop transitional style.
Roy Budd – “Goodbye Carter” (1971)
This soundtrack and Budd’s ‘Diamonds’ are two of the coolest British soundtracks, and this track captures it all: jazz-ish upright bassline, tabla, great echoing harpsichord (?), electric piano, and fantastic production with plenty of space in the staging. This track was featured in the most recent ‘Le Tour du Monde’ mix at Musicophilia; if you like this track, it’s a good bet you’ll dig the mix–and keep your ears open, further installments are coming soon, after a hiatus from the wonderful world of the funky 70s.
The Beat – “Mirror In the Bathroom” (1980)
This is UK Ska Revival at its best, in my opinion–borrowing heavily from 60s ska but not slavishly imitating it, pushing the artform (without breaking from it, as with Specials AKA or Fun Boy Three). There’s an itchy urgency to this track, with its perfect beat and double-time rhythm guitar, with that booming echo-drenched guitar line doubling up the careening bassline. It all adds up to the coolest take on paranoid (drug-fueled?) narcissism/obsession I can imagine. Catchy doesn’t do it justice–this is infectious. [The Beat are featured in a ‘1981’ mix and a ‘Post-Punk Miniatures‘ mix at Musicophilia.]
Various – Tracks from the ‘1981’ Briefcase Disc, Part 5
Only a couple days late, here’s the 5th group of tracks from the ‘1981’ box set’s ‘Briefcase’ disc, from amongst 250 further bands and tracks not found in the nine themed mixes in the set. You can see previous installments and keep track of new ones with this tag.
Nearly rounding out the “B”s, the first two here I discovered via the music-geek Godfather at Hyped2Death and his ‘Messthetics’ and ‘Homework’ compilations: we’ve got a cute one-off bit of political satire Reagan-era style from Boom; and surprisingly catchy prophesying about a post-apocalyptic world, looking back on a Cold-War-gone-hot 1992, from the Bouncing Czechs. Then there’s Burundi-lite from Bow Wow Wow, who’re fun and actually pretty innocent despite Malcolm McLaren’s best efforts at controversy; zany hyperactive goofiness from Braque; and a Philly take on Mutant Disco/no wave dance-punk from Bunnydrums, who’d later carry on the post-punk torch into moodier and less twitchy territory.
Boom – “Nancy Packs A Piece”
Bouncing Czechs – “1992”
Bow Wow Wow – “Why Are Babies So Wise?”
Braque – “Jeannette”
Bunnydrums – “Little Room”
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Electricity” (1979)
OMD would soon achieve a much more sleek and sophisticated sound, creating some of my favorite music in 1981. But the plucky amateurism and youthful energy (cover art notwithstanding) of their first single is undeniably infectious. Helicopter synth-rhythm, jumpy bass, grandmother’s organ, and a xylophone hook acquit the DIY spirit of ’79 nicely, from a time when “post-punk” didn’t yet stand in the serious, monolithic sound that their Factory labelmate would lature embody against which New Pop/New Wave would react.
Tyrannosaurus Rex – Eastern Spell (1968)
By one of the flukes of buying records without guidance during formative years, I actually heard Tyrannosaurus Rex before T.Rex, and in some ways I still prefer this incarnation of Bolan. Basically in description, everything about them seems just plain wrong: folk songs inspired by Tolkien with fast hand-drumming and male vocals that sound like an old woman. Yet it sounds just. . . so right. Bolan’s melodic tendencies were never stronger. [Tyrannosaurus Rex is featured in more subdued form here in a Miniatures mix at Musicophilia.]
A Certain Ratio – “Do the Du” (1980)
The “other” early Factory band to most people, and generally teased and mocked as the lightweights compared to Joy Division. But I’ll take A Certain Ratio’s herky-jerky British attempts at funk (and later tropicalia) over the glum seriousness of Division any day; and it rarely got better than this little slice, with it’s perfect beat, scratch guitar, and judiciously applied reverb.
Matthew Herbert – “Rendezvous” (2006)
Matthew Herbert can get a little polemical with his conceptualizations of his art; but fortunately for the listener (though he might disagree) whatever meta-concepts Herbert carries with his art, very little of it encumbers the music. He can sample a McDonald’s wrapper and call it an observation on food politics; but it just sounds good to me, all technical innovation and political conceits aside. That’s why this track seems to me to be what Reich is trying to achieve with his choral-sampling work, but never really has: where Reich can’t escape his ideas and isn’t the master of contemporary sampling methodology (much as he contributed to its infancy), Herbert isn’t afraid of beauty as an inherent good, and he has the chops to match his techniques to his ambitions. This certainly isn’t house music (even by Herbert’s stretched definitions); but neither is it a severe, cold choral abstraction like Ussachevsky. “Rendezvous” brings electronic dance music’s warmth to choral music’s structural nuances and creates an immensely listenable, immediate sort of high art in this score for a ballet. [Herbert is featured here in a sultry Bill Evans-like idiom in a mix at Musicophilia.]
Caravan – “With An Ear to the Ground, You Can Make It” (1970)
I bought this album when I was 18, the same day as buying a twofer of the Soft Machine’s first two albums. And ten years later, I don’t think I’ve heard anything from the “Canterbury scene” I like more; but one doesn’t hear as much about this band as Wyatt, Ayers, et al. Canterbury is the other “prog” besides Faust/Can/Neu/Cluster-nexus Krautrock that doesn’t go wanky, even when it goes jammy, and Caravan from this era is a perfect introduction. This track has it all: it’s sprawling but spare, quiet and loud, rocking and introspective, even “epic”; but it’s always purposeful and infectious, with fantastic vocals (uncannily similar to Wyatt’s), bass, drums, percussion, flute and keyboards, never giving in to stereotypical prog-complexity for its own sake. [This track starts out very quiet, so be careful not to turn up your speakers too loud. Caravan is featured here in a mix at Musicophilia.]
Creation – “Making Time” (1967)
Gotta love that scuzzy, chunky bowed guitar, that put-on snarl that can’t hide the fact that this is a perfect pop song. Every once in a while, Musicophilia is prepared to rock.
Godley & Creme – “This Sporting Life” (1978)
This is a weird one, too be sure–part Sparks, part Roxy Music, part Nietzsche, part circus, part Beach Boys. . . Rarely has such songcraft sophistication (ex TenCC) been put to such bizarre use. I have no idea how this would’ve been classified at the time–prog, but it’s got a sense of humor; post-punk, except it was made by bearded oldsters. Most likely it just sat outside of anything cool, waiting for geeks like us to trickle in over the years. This one is a real epic of which Dominique Leone is almost surely a big fan, rarely resting in one musical place for longer than a minute or two; audio theatre. . . advocating the use of suicide for the entertainment of others. Or something. Like I said, a weird one–but grand. It’s available in a number of worthwhile two-fers, but you can try it out in full at Mutant Sounds.
With its James Brown-based beat and Tracey Thorn (Everything But the Girl and post-punk tweesters Marine Girls) vocals, though it’s dated slightly, this track is still a winner. For me, though, its impact is heightened greatly by this technically unbelievable single-shot, single-take Michel Gondry video, one of the first videos I ever remember finding simply enthralling. Typical of Gondry when given emotionally meaningful material, his faux-lo-tech wizardry transcends the technical fascination and comes to reflect its subject matter in a way more honest and accurate than any more straightforward presentation ever could. UPDATE: Argh, embedding disabled for whatever reason, so a link instead–worth your while.
Wire – “Our Swimmer” (1981)
Wire’s “final” single (until the late-80s reformation) carries on Colin Newman’s catchy qualities (think “Outdoor Miner”) but, if I’m not mistaken, taking on a little Factory/99 Records dance/funk influence. It grooves along with a one-note bassline, one chord (with that inimitable Wire guitar sound), double-tracked vocals, punchy drums, and bits of warm synth wash, slowly becoming more and more mutant-disco. There’s a weirdly zen-like quality to the whole thing, surprisingly. It would’ve been a proud way to move on, if they’d stuck with the break-up. [Wire is featured here in a mix of post-punk miniatures at Musicophilia]
Ut – “Safe Burning” (1989)
Despite getting started in New York in 1978, most of Ut’s recordings come from England and the mid- to late-1980s. That’s ok–the No Wave spirit stayed strong with Ut, so this recording from 1989 is still prime post-punk, for fans of Sonic Youth, Au Pairs, Glenn Branca, Y Pants, and the more ambitious sides of Riot Grrrl and revivalists like Erase Errata. Their last two albums, ‘In Gut’s House’ and ‘Griller’ (from which this track is taken) were reissued last year, and both are great. [Ut will be featured on an upcoming series of further ‘Post Post-Punk‘ mixes at Musicophilia.]