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Updated: 2018-03-06T02:07:11.459-08:00


If Then Else - warhead (1981)



If-Then-Else's Warhead stands as one of the lost monuments of the Post-Punk era.

It's intentions are made clear with opener "Hey Big Oil", that sounds like a locomotive whose steam-engine puffs menacingly, ready to demolish everything in it's path and bring forth devastation. The loose Minimalist cum Industrial cum Krautrock cum Progressive Electronic schematic "Sidewalker" isn't as menacing, but is an ample representation of the industrial wasteland they inhabit.

The repetitive stabbings of "The Wedge" are unambiguous in their appetite for destruction, while the more esoteric tension of "Warhead" hints towards mental disease. The machines run unchecked in "Crows Over A Parking Lot", marking a point in time where the promising era of technological advance has turned to an improvisational nightmare that's about to consume our lives.

Things have clearly gone out of control in the Acid Rock inferno "The Central Figure" and there is no turning back, as "Vesta" lugs you into a world of perpetual malaise and frenzy. The final destination of "Vernichtung" can only be schizophrenia, damaged circuitry, perennial ravage, and fried limbo
. Get it here (vinyl rip, includes pictures of the cover and vinyl).

Floor Kiss - goodnight moon (1985)



There is nothing particularly bad about this Pop Punk mini-album, which sounds like a rougher version of the Go-Go's; it's quite okay, but nothing more than that. To look for distinctions we have to look at the musicians' curriculum vitae, to find that drummer Dee Pop was a member of the Bush Tetras, bassist Kevin Fullen a member of Band Apart, and guitarist Michael Paumgardhen a member of 8 Eyed Spy, none of which shows in the music here. Perhaps more of note is that this was released on cult french label L'Invitation au Suicide.

Get it here (vinyl rip, includes pictures of the sleeve and vinyl).

Polysics - neu (2000)



The Polysics refined their derranged pinball-tilts of songs to a formidable degree in Neu (the name paying tribute to?..).

"Go Ahead Now" introduced their electro epileptic fits - fused with the energy of hardcore, and then taken to an even more extreme level with "MS-17", fueled with nuclear mini-progressive videogame deviations and a devastating beat. "S.V.O." takes Kraftwerk-like discordant electronics (circa Computer World) and builds an elaborate construction of amphetamine robotic frenzy, while "Each Life Each End" declares their ties with derranged ditties, Japanese pop and batty videogames, infused with turbine-like tempo changes and miniature-prog synthetic stylings (not dissimilar to the way later-era DNA stylized their whacky songs).

For example "Disorder" is built around a gargling beat and synthesizer lines, fractured-funk guitar phrases, semi-howling vocals, almost math-rock deviations and an anthemic chorus. The recipe is intensified even more with the frenetic jam "CY/CB". Then "X-Rays" is glam-disco electro with hard-rock guitars and industrial-drill intensity, while "What" goes into cryptic vocoder and new-wave disco-punk mode, and "I'm A Worker" into mental Supermario in fast-forward mode. Get it here.

Suburban Lawns - gidget goes to hell/ my boyfriend (1979)



The Suburban Lawns hadn't quite developed their spazz aesthetics in this debut single from 1979. Nevertheless, this remains a delightful slice of bouncy new-wave with heretic attitude. Get it here (vinyl rip, includes pics of the sleeve and vinyl).

Frightwig - faster, frightwig, kill! kill! (1986)



Frightwig sound more restrained in Faster, Frightwig, Kill! Kill!, as the opener "Beverly" shows. This is also confirmed by "Crazy World", a Punk Blues a la Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds with nutty overtones, but overall saddled with theatrical pretense. Where is the mania?

"Big Bang" threatens more, with a T.S.O.L.-like fatalist delivery and spook ambient effects, but still finds itself a long way from the violent car crash of the debut. The same applies for the sabbath "Punk Rock Jail Bait" (somewhere between The Vyllies and The Honeymoon Killers). Do Frightwig do Death Rock this time around?

"Manifest Destiny" finally picks enough traction to present an Acid-Punk meltdown, the kind we love Frightwig for. And we're on fire! The psychotic growl and shriek of "Booby Prize" would make other punk bands turn their heads in shame at their own irrelevance.

The syncopated punk ritual "American Express" is one step lower, albeit a very small step. However, the glacial cool of "I Don't Want To Be Alone" doesn't really suit them, no matter how classy they are (and they are classy). The anthemic Gospel-Rock "Freedom", which closes the album, is both a genuine surprise (elegant, with an emotional zenith in the coda) and a disappointment (out of place and tame for their standards).

Get it here.

Visage (1980)



Visage and Ultravox were the quintessential new-romantic bands. Ultravox turned the movement to an ideology, and Visage were their down-to-earth counterparts. Ultravox made for music for the heart, while Visage made music for the clubs. Coincidentally, Midge Ure and Billy Currie participate here, as do John McGeoch, Dave Formula and Barry Adamson from Magazine.

The tracks can be roughly divided into two categories. The elegant ones, with the symphonic synthesizers, the futurist attitude, the dandy poses, the romantic classicism ("Visage", "Fade To Grey", "Blocks On Blocks"), and the playful, glam influenced ones (the galloping "The Dancer", the wild beats of "Malpaso Man", the robotic "Tar", the metallic disco "Moon Over Moscow").

The album ends surprisingly with "Visa-age" (that nods to the spare minimal-wave of John Foxx), and the apocalyptic instrumental "The Steps". The combination of the cerebral wavers from Ultravox and Magazine, and Blitz-kids Steve Strange and Rusty Egan, has come up with the goods. Get it here.

Dance Disaster Movement - we are from nowhere (2003)



Their Dance-Punk is anguished and pounding, if not downright neurasthenic, but also clumsy, and derivative of the past (the usual suspects: Blurt, Crash Course In Science, The Contortions etc etc). Worthwhile listen though. Get it here (updated link).

Numbers - numbers life (2002)



Ιn their debut, the Numbers offer an update of late 70's no-wave (particularly James Chance & The Contortions) and synth-punk (particularly Crash Course In Science). However, the update is limited only to production values, and not to form. A touch of glam and power-riffing ("Driving Song", "I'm Shy") liven up the proceedings, while the factory-noise of "Prison Life" is probably the most significant track here. In the end, however groovy their spastic vignettes are, you can't help noticing how derivative the whole thing is. Get it here (updated link).

Echoboy - volume two (2000)



Echoboy's, Volume Two begins with "Turning On", an Electronic Kraut neurosis circling around your brain to the point of mental exhaustion. Then "Telstar Recovery" picks up the scraps and sets in a maniacal orbit in what can only be described as vital electronic Punk. Anybody who fell in love with Primal Scream's Xtrmntr is gonna love this.

The Dub Techno "Kelly's Truck", setting in motion an obsessive merry-go-round, explores this anguish from another perspective. In comparison, the atmospheric Lounge "Siobhan", despite offering a melancholic tone, is a disappointment. Ditto for the unassuming Electropop "Make The City The Sound".

The escalating theme "Schram And Sheddle 262" is much better, as if an uneasy mixture of Public Image Ltd. circa This Is What You Want.. and an Ennio Morricone spaghetti-western score. On the other hand, "Südwestfunk No. 5" sounds like a softcore version of Big Beat. This hot/ cold shower continues with "Circulation", a twisted Synth Pop with Reggae overtones that conjures images of This Heat produced by Black Uhuru. Not bad at all.

A record which warrants a listen. Get it here (updated link).

Calla - televise (2003)



Calla's unlikely mix of Slowcore and Garage Rock comes into it's own in the atmospheric peak of Televise, continuing a tradition that started in the 80's with The Dream Syndicate, and providing music for a new generation of punks, whose interest is not in destroying the establishment, but rather camouflage themselves and blend with the flickering environment around them. Get it here (updated link).

ABBC - tête à tête (2001)



One of the best kept secrets of Calexico's discography, this collaboration between them and the Amor Belhom Duo finds them at their most eerie, fatalist and mystical, with several short Ambient-Chamber tracks which give new guise to their cursed desert auras, and approach the abstract requiems of the Boxhead Ensemble ("La Valse Des 24 Heures", "En Route To The Blanchisserie", "Orange Trees In The Yard"). Funnily, the nadir is the pointless doodling of what one would expect to be the centerpiece (the 14-minute "The Wrestler's Masque"), while the zenith is the 11-minute pointillism of "Le Savon Se Dissout Dans La Rigole" (despite an awkward and irrelevant coda). Get it here (updated link).

A Certain Ratio - i'd like to see you again (1982)



Despite their evolution as performers, by this point A Certain Ratio had removed any sort of tension or angst in their music, and they were left with a generic Disco-Funk sound, which did them no favours. The vaguely more meaty "Hot Knights" and "I'd Like To See You Again" were the highlights. Get it here (vinyl rip, includes pictures of the sleeve, inner sleeve, and vinyl).

8 Eyed Spy (1981)



In this poorly produced collection of studio and live recordings, a gang of erstwhile No Wavers (basically this is Lydia Lunch's touring band) do Rhythm & Blues.

Alas, when it comes to primeval Punk Blues, The Gun Club did better, and when it comes to brainy post-modernism, The Raybeats did better (whose Pat Irwin is a member here coincidentally).

For fanatics only. Get it here (vinyl rip, includes pics of the sleeve, inner sleeve, and vinyl).

MX80 Sound - crowd control (1981)



Even though Out Of The Tunnel gets all the credit and recognition when it comes to the MX-80 Sound, actually Crowd Control is the better album.

The tormented riffs and tight rhythm of "Face Of The Earth" betray the influence of Television, but the fierce acid lead-guitar is all theirs. "Crowd Control" is a furious rockabilly instrumental, alternating between order and chaos. The zombie-esque monologue "Why Are We Here" is once again backed by some formidable post-acid grooves.

This early form of existential noise-rock, that straddles the line between structure and improvisation, predates Mission Of Burma, Sonic Youth, Fugazi et al.

The extraordinary "Obsessive Devotion" is underlined by a moody melody that is seconded by some amazing leads, chanting vocals and a discordant middle-section. Another masterpiece, "More Than Good" evokes the timeless spirit of garage-punk, and adds the usual post-acid leads, anthemic backing vox, and a large dose of alienation. The industrial heavy-rock, relentless riffing, wild solos, and inventive use of vocals in "Night Rider" create a suffocating atmosphere. Ditto for the bouncing "City Of Fools".

The elaborate, dramatic structure of the progressive "Theme From Sisters" is clearly an influence on Mission Of Burma's Vs.Continuing along this path, "Pharoah's Sneakers" is an engaging mixture of avant-garage, feral solos and saxophone, big-band swing simulations, and brittle tempo changes. Finally, the album ends with the frigid lounge "Promise of Love", which is soon countered by progressive deviations, and ceases with a delicate whisper of piano, bass and drums.

An album in desperate need of re-evaluation. Get it here (
vinyl rip, includes photographs of the sleeve, inner sleeve, and the vinyl).

Green On Red - gas food lodging (1985)


Green On Red offered another rough diamond of American Rock & Roll with Gas Food Lodging, starting with the Country Rock/ Psychedelic Folk Rock salute of "That's What Dreams Are For", followed by the country-rock/ Blues Rock defiance of "Black River". In the meantime, a touch of fiery hard-blues and a bit of southern accent in "Hair Of The Dog" further shakes things up, coming in stark contrast with the elegiac Dylan-like restless flow of "This I Know", and the passionate and vivid psychedelic country-rock "Easy Way Out", which feels as if Neil Young has joined the Paisley Underground generation. Further beauty is encountered in the dramatic flourish of the Garage-Country paeans "Sixteen Ways" and "The Drifter", while "Sea Of Cortez" offered another self-consuming fervid daze. Get it here.

Suburbs - credit in heaven (1981)


The Suburbs had already displayed a deep knowledge of the history of Rock & Roll, wild technical skills, as well as a desire to experiment in their debut In Combo. However in Credit In Heaven they broadened the palette further by incorporating these elements in a civic mural, thus moving from the snapshot of an era to a panorama of an expanded timeline.It starts with the restless Talking Heads-ian Dance-Punk "Tired Of My Plans" (albeit with more urban flavors) while "Faith" adds an evocative Rhythm & Blues tinge, and "Tape Your Wife To The Ceiling" a neurotic (but humorous) Boogie Rock quality. The same sound is simultaneously more epic and deranged in "Macho Drunk", while "Ghoul Of Goodwill" shows further refinements, whereas their nerdy robotic Funk is accentuated by an airy feel and a light Ska touch.Similarly, "Dish It Up" starts discordant and jerky, but ends emotional and breezy. "Mommy" is another oxymoron, robotic and calculated on one hand, feverish R&B on the other. The urban Lounge-Rock "Cigarette In Backwards" however painted a different picture, that of a tired metropolis. "Girl Ache" verified the new ambitious plot: by now the listener seemed to be getting past the hung-up dance, and instead was losing himself in a megalopolis vertigo."Drinking With An Angel" confirmed the impression with another expressionist post-modern dance, carefully constructed to imply a warm sense of nostalgia. The urban-rock waft of "Spring Came" also elapsed this passage from the ephemeral to the timeless, from the modern to the classic. It is a landscape into which the bittersweet piano ballad - with a masterful epic coda - "Girlfriend" fits perfectly, while brainy excursions into calculated and catchy funk like "Postcard" also traverse a route that reaches from the classic Folk Dance, to the Progressive Rock of the 70's, and the dispassionate Post-Punk, to form an existential future that's yet to come (the "mathematical" Post-Rock).It is the same for "Music For Boys", a superb framework which breezes through in a catchy way and remembers the past in a soulful manner. In the meantime, "Idiot Voodoo" returns to an R&B apotheosis, and "Pipsqueak Millionaire" presents another three dimensional postcard taken with extraordinary precision, another intellectual attack mixed with the colors of a dazzling theatrical show. However, "Credit In Heaven" ends the album with a feel of dislocation and ongoing sense of adventure rather than settling for repose.A wonderful record that is still being left undiscovered. Get it here. [...]

Piscine Et Charles - quart de tour, mon amour (1984)



Neat fusion of lounge-jazz and funk with cold-wave and electronics, predating acid-jazz by about five years, and occasionally managing quite impressive atmospheres ("Maison Neuve", "Existe En Rouge"). Get it here (vinyl rip, includes photographs of the sleeve and vinyl).

John Foxx - the garden (1981)



The Garden is a return to Systems of Romance's futuristic romantic pop, running the gamut of elegant atmospheres, from the epic flair of "Europe After The Rain" (modeled after The Names' Spectators Of Life), to Roxy Music-like post-modern glam ("Systems of Romance"), sci-fi suspense ("When I Was A Man", "Fusion-Fission"), Orwellian religious music ("Pater Noster", "The Garden"), bombastic symphonic synth-glam ("Night Suit", "You Were There") etc. The general impression is of a European aristocrat dandy transported to the future. Get it here.

BPeople (1981)



The Bpeople were one of these Post-Punk/ Art Punk bands that inherited the theatrical atmospheres of the Progressive Rock of the 70's (similar to Magazine and UK Decay) as depicted in the dense and frosty "Can Can't" and "I Am The Sky" (modeled after Magazine's "Definitive Gaze" from Real Life), the epic and grandiose "In The Mind" and "Time" (again modeled after Magazine's "Cut-Out Shapes" from Secondhand Daylight), but also the pretentious and boring "The Dark" and "Song Of The Children". The most impressive tracks were actually the brief gothic atmospheres of "Betrayal" and "Masquerade". Get it here.

Nekropolis - musik aus dem schattenreich (1981)



Peter Frohmader's Nekropolis pioneers a number of genres, and also creates a highly original stylistic fusion in Music Aus Dem Schattenreich.

"Holle Im Angesicht" and "Fegefeuer" predate slow-motion doom-metal (and also pair it with the hyper-psychedelic vortex of the keyboards), while "Krypta" predates the dark ambient of bands like Brighter Death Now. At the same time, "Unendliche Qual" uses a kraut groove (but the eerie keyboards submerge it in the realm of the dead) and "Ghul" oozes with disintegrating symphonics. The ever unpredictable Frohmader even uses proto electro beats in "Inquanok".

This is a different kind of horror to, say, Throbbing Gristle's. Whereas TB's is psychological, this is physical: a descendant of the Teutonic Gothic spirit, German expressionism, of kraut rock, HP Lovecraft, of the occult. The resulting atmosphere evokes images of endless time in some kind of netherworld, of a forbidden mass taking place in a cathedral there.

Get it here.

Vyllies - velvet tales (1985)



The Vyllies' synth-punk already reeked of catacomb atmospheres, but the inclusion of string arrangements in the Velvet Tales EP added a whole new dimension to their music.

The witches' incantation starts with the litany "Ahia". "Sky Is Full Of Stiches" introduces the black magic ceremony, that leads to a frenetic waltz accompanying a story of murder. Then the witches' voices introduce the intoxicating medieval atmosphere of "Agrainir", finally culminating to the metaphysical vortex of "Exquisite Carcass".

This majestic record feels more like a metaphysical thriller. Get it here
(vinyl rip, includes photographs of the sleeve and vinyl).

Eskimo (1985)



This forgotten EP by this forgotten French new-wave band starts with "Cannibal", which reveals a fascinating brew: cold-wave, manic funk, fragmented jazz rhythms, cosmic synthesizers. Using the same basic recipe, "King Kong Talk" plunges in a tense and paranoid atmosphere, while the performance hinges in a cubist deconstruction. "Tsi Zawa" is pure groove, a paralytic tribal dance, the epitome of cold-wave. "Ioti" features the most dense and climactic atmosphere yet: a robotic ceremony which slowly explodes and hangs by a thread. "Manana" retains the tension, but in a more mournful way. "Nageuse" is pure intrigue: thick layers of theatrical suspense and elegant tippy toes, until it expands in an ever denser threatening pantomime. Get it here (vinyl rip, includes photographs of the sleeve, inner sleeve, and the vinyl).

Dream Syndicate - the days of wine and roses (1982)


The Dream Syndicate were arguably the quintessential Paisley-Underground band. You could say that all they did was fuse acid-rock with the decadent rock of Lou Reed, but that wouldn't do them justice. The Days Of Wine And Roses contained at least 5 masterpieces and the common ground between them was how the guitars of Steve Wynn and Karl Precoda combined to present fatalist tones and fitful atmospheres."Tell Me When It's Over" is a timeless ballad of rare elegance, somewhere between acid-rock and dream-pop (clearly Mazzy Star have listened a lot to this). A truly poetical guitar-part exalts the raga-rock litany "Halloween". The interplay between the 2 guitars in "When You Smile" is once again chilling; one guitar indulging in a drugged dirge, while the other hisses in unsettling distortions. The anemic ballad "Too Little Too Late" (modelled after the Velvet Underground's "New Age") is, again, elevated by the acid guitars. The anthemic rocker "Days Of Wine And Roses" is infused with a monolithic jam that reminds of the Chocolate Watchband's supersonic boogie "Let's Talk About Girls".The rest of the album is not so good, but still exhibits a vast knowledge of the history of rock music. The problem is that it doesn't always transcends it's roots. Yet the punk blues "Definitely Clean" (somewhere between the Gun Club and Lou Reed), the 60's garage "That's What You Always Say" (nodding to the Blues Magoos) and the orgiastic blues-shuffle "Then She Remembers" (a la Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground) complement the album nicely.In general, the method is to take the fatalist tone of, say, Bob Dylan or Neil Young, the decadent spirit of Lou Reed, and infuse it with the frenetic rock'n'roll of 60's garage, acid-rock, the post-acid guitars of Television, and voila, you get a record that covers the transition from the hippy culture of the 60's, to the urban neurosis of the 70's, through the industrial angst of the 80's. Get it here. [...]

Tram - frequently asked questions (2000)



Tram's slowcore recalls the disquieting folk of Nick Drake, the more conventional moments of Low, and the more haunting moments of Ladybug Transistor. This form of chamber indie-pop, highlighted by classy jazzy playing and subtle string arrangements, has the quality of a bittersweet contemplation on one's life, as in the shimmering drama "Are You Satisfied", the haunting flare of "Yes But For How Long", the sparse reminiscence "This Sacred Day", the Tim Buckley cover "Once I Was", the fragile threshold of "Giving Up", the nocturnal anemia of "Underneath The Ceiling", and so on. Get it here.

Black Dice - creature comforts (2004)



This second Black Dice album initializes with the disconnected mass of "Cloud Pleaser", and already you know this is not gonna be a regular listening experience. The 6-minute mini-fantasia "Treetops" confirms this, displaying an evolving fabric of electronic gurgling, rambling rhythms, guitar strumming, random noises, and naive vocal ditties presented in an elliptical manner. The 9-minute "Creature" further raises the stakes, exhibiting an ectoplasmic avant-delirium made out of a vibrant hum, vocal outbursts, bleeps, random rhythms, whose harmonic and rhythmic density keeps being tweaked, keeps forming different configurations of the elements at bay, eventually resulting in a shrill Industrial rhythm.

The centerpiece is the 15-minute "Skeleton", the apotheosis of their biological music, a specter of ghostly noises, a fragmented living tissue that dissolves in other living tissues which in turn unite and form other living tissues, an algorithm that calculates three-dimensional synthetic possibilities. This mind-blowing track represents a peak, it's as simple as that. The 7-minute "Night Flight" is more two-dimensional, but still represents an orgy of chaotic sounds intent on disrupting the harmonic continuum. Get it here (includes pics of the CD).