James Knight Top Ten (Part 2)
You will be pleased to hear that this week it is the second instalment from James Knight!!! His last Top Ten went down a treat and I really loved reading this one too,. Especially the bit about The Lowest Form ! ;)
I’m back! Shout out to everyone and anyone who made it through my first beefy top ten and biggup the folks that got in touch to say they dug it – your chests! As promised I did try to keep this one shorter as befits the nature of the records being discussed but it’s still a bit of an eyeful I’m afraid so go get the coffee on! Here are ten of my favourite punk tunes (in no particular order) and a bit about why I like ‘em:
“Gimme Gimme Gimme” – Black Flag
Picking up Kerrang as early as my pre-teens Rollins was a fairly regular fixture and so many bands referenced Flag as an influence that it was inevitable I’d check them out sooner or later. The moment I knew I had to get hold of some of their music though was hearing Jordan Richter skate to “My War” in Video Days the epic Blind video. Skate videos were another massive influence on my listening looking back. Hearing The Misfits, D.R.I., Maiden and Jefferson Airplane in Welcome To Hell; hearing Cymande, Joe Bataan and Herbie Hancock in Mouse; hearing Sabbath, Slayer and more Flag in Misled Youth; hearing Fugazi, Miles Davis, Gil Scott Heron, Archers of Loaf and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth in Eastern Exposure? How could I not be vibing out to all that shit age 13!? Anyway back to Flag – what can you say? The blueprint for a sound, and, perhaps more importantly, an attitude and ethos towards touring and releasing records that still inspires many to this day. Rollins’ memoir Get In The Van that details life on the road with Flag in the early 80s is well worth a read to get an idea of the levels of commitment they had and how clearly inspirational this approach was to kids in every town they blasted through. Of the pre-Rollins vocalists I’m generally a Dez guy but I’ve always thought that Chavo nails it on this one which is probably my favourite of the early, short, fast, snotty, pissed off and nihilistic Flag which you can hear in one go on the Everything Went Black and First Four EPs comp’s. Damaged and My War are no doubt high points of the Rollins era but I also have a real soft spot for the late period instrumental Process Of Weeding Out LP. If you don’t know – get to know!
“Punk Is Dead” – Crass
Hearing the Sex Pistols and The Clash in the early 1990s it was difficult to imagine what people had found so shocking in 1976. When I finally got hold of a copy of the Christ The Album LP in the big black box it felt challenging, subversive, confrontational and unrelentingly principled in a way those Pistols and Clash records never had to me. The short sharp bursts of song with Steve Ignorant’s pissed off vocal setting the world to rights over the top, the typography, the logo, the reams of text that came in the inlay booklet as well as the amazing Gee Vaucher collage (that includes a squatting Margaret Thatcher shitting sausages and skulls!) made a hefty impact on my impressionable psyche. The ideals and aesthetics of Crass so completely inform the anarcho/crust offshoot of punk it’s hard to imagine how that branch of the tree would look and sound had they never existed. The only comparable example I can think of is trying to imagine D-Beat without Discharge but then we’re really straying into some ‘if a tree falls in the forest…’ territory. Aaaaaanyway, fair play to Penny for continuing to live and create according to his principles, you can still find him living and working (often in the nude) at Dial House, the anarcho-pacifist, communal, open house in Essex where he has lived and worked since the late 1960s. Here he is (with his clothes on) having a powwow with several other members of the band around the kitchen table at Dial House in 1984:
“Who Are You” – Void
Growing up in Kingston Upon Thames in the early 90s I was lucky enough to have access to three great record shops: Slammin’ Vinyl (RIP!!!) in the Apple Market had three floors of house, techno, jungle and D&B; Collectors Record Centre on London Road (still there to this day!) had a good selection of second hand rock and pop and there was also a branch of the Beggars Banquet shops on Eden Street that did a good bit of everything. When Beggars decided to get out of the bricks and mortar record shop game long time staff member Jon Tolley took up the reigns and the shop shifted to its current identity of Banquet Records. Shout out to Jon who has grafted hard and done things the right way and made Banquet an excellent local independent record shop that functions as a wicked community hub doing instores and organising gigs as well as staying well stocked with a diverse range of music. Long pre-amble but one thing that Jon has always ensured is that Banquet has been well stocked with key American Hardcore back catalogue releases. I was able to snap up CD copies of Minor Threat, Black Flag, Flipper etc no problem and Banquet always had a good chunk of the Dischord catalogue available on CD. The Faith/Void split remains the standout release of that period of my punk discovery, the Void side in particular. Heavy, aggressive, taught, pummelling, slightly deranged (check the guitar solo at 1 min!) and not shy to throw in a weighty breakdown Void still get me going! Here they are playing “Who Are You” live in DC in ’83:
S/T 7” – Koro
8 songs, six minutes, all killer, absolutely zero filler! Short, super fast, furious punk rock at its lithe and limber best. Koro’s only 7” was originally self-released in 1983 and the OG still goes for £££. You used to see bootlegs in various colours on eBay etc but Sorry State have done a proper re-issue of the 7” as well as putting out an unreleased LP (also originally recorded back in ’83) so anyone and everyone can get involved! Here’s “Feelin’ Pretty Minimal” from the LP which stretches out across a whole two minutes:
“Drop Dead” – Siege
Formed in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1981 Siege concocted their brutally distilled version of hardcore in isolation from the prevailing Boston scene. Don’t get me wrong, I love SSD, Jerry’s Kid etc but something about being outcast from a scene of outcasts really seems to have given the Siege recordings a totally nihilistic, disassociative vibe that you can still feel to this day. Fellow small town Massachusetts kids Deep Wound were probably the closest thing in terms of speed, brevity and rawness but they could never quite match the sheer brutality of Siege. As well as the short, fast and furious stuff done rawer, quicker and more brutally than, possibly, anyone before them the B side of their 1984 cassette demo (and subsequent 7” releases of the recordings) is an 8 minute schizoid dirge out with a squalling sax wailing all over it called “Grim Reaper”.
Aside from a few comp. appearances in the early/mid-80s (including on Pushead’s killer Cleanse The Bacteria comp.) Siege never put anything official out until Relapse re-issued their demo tape on CD in the mid-90s with a few extra tracks. This video of them playing in (I think) their school gym in 1984 is still one of the very best things I have ever seen on the internet and whenever I watch it I kind of feel like there’s no point bothering with anything else.
Albert Mudrian interviewed Siege drummer Robert Williams for his great book Choosing Death and Williams had the following to say about some issues he had with an aborted recording session they tried in the mid-90s with Anal C*nt front dude Seth Putnam who loved Siege so much he essentially resurrected the band so that he could sing with them! I think this quote sums up the spirit and attitude of the band well:
“We were recording and writing and I had written a bunch of revolutionary stuff, like violent lyrics, and the guitarist changed some of my lyrics with weak rhyme, making them pacifist rather than revolutionary, and really changing their context…I still have genocidal resentment about that. We never planned to compromise our extremity”
Genocidal Resentment would make a good band name, can’t believe no one has used that yet!
“Break The Chain” – Infest
Infest originally only existed for me as a mysterious band on patches that older dudes had on their jackets at punk shows I’d go to. It took me a while to find out anything about them online and finally I came across a guy in Germany on eBay who was selling a bootleg burned CDR copy of their discography. To say I was blown away by what I heard on that CDR would be an understatement. “Break The Chain” sums up Infest in 26 seconds. They took what Seige were doing and somehow distilled it still further. ‘Powerviolence’ is a kinda goofy term but you gotta hand it to Matt Domino (who coined the term and played guitar in Infest and Neanderthal) – it does a pretty perfect job of capturing the essence of the sound. Here’s another favourite, “Cold Inside”:
“Skull Crusher” – Man Is The Bastard
I discovered Man Is The Bastard via their split 8” on Vermiform with Born Against. Damn, Born Against should really be on this list. And Rorschach! At least by including MITB I am sort of covering Neanderthal and Crossed Out as there is significant member overlap between MITB and those groups, go check ‘em all out!! Back to MITB – there’s a lot to love! Much like Crass they went in for overtly anti corporate/anti-capitalist sloganeering and had a killer logo and aesthetic. As well as being brutally heavy thanks to Eric Wood’s pummelling bass, they also possessed a sonic trump card in Henry Barnes’ home spun electronics that gave the band a squalling, harsh, wall of noise that set them apart from their Powerviolence contemporaries and allowed them to frequently wander into straight up Power Electronics territory. Wood continues to preach the sermon of THE SKULL with the Bastard Noise, an extension of the Man Is The Bastard/Charred Remains project that occasionally includes Barnes and his machines amongst a rotating assembly of sympathetic contributors. A bit like a Powerviolence Mark E.Smith if it’s Wood and yer nan on bongos you can pretty much guarantee that there will be SKULL SONICS! Here’s an interview I did with Wood ten years ago (!):
And the pic up top is of me hanging out with Henry Barnes at an Amps For Christ show at The Montague (RIP) that Reckless top shotter and Static Shock bossman Ellis put on a couple of years back. Amps For Christ is Barnes’ solo project and again – I heartily recommend checking them out, wild and wonderful sounds & unimaginable instruments aplenty:
“Mother Made Me” – Lungfish
I’m not entirely sure that Lungfish belong on this list, or, for that matter, any list! While the music they make may not exactly be punk in sound though, it certainly is in spirit. I also discovered them in a punk context as they released their recordings on Ian MacKaye’s Dischord label. Lungfish music is totally singular – strange, mantra-like feral hymnals based on trance inducing repetition, intoned over by Daniel Higgs’ oblique-yet-enchanting vocals. If you are not familiar then I envy you! Go jump straight into any of their twelve LP’s and get lost. I am sincerely sad that I have never got to see Lungfish play live although I have seen Higgs several times over the years and it is always an utterly transcendental experience which comes highly recommended! Interviews are given rarely by the band but this short radio feature offers an interesting insight and includes Higgs in conversation:
“Serve & Protect” – Citizen’s Arrest
Damn, there’s so many New York bands I could have included that I love to bits for a variety of reasons – Antidote, Judge, Gorilla Biscuits, the freaking Cro-Mags! There is, however, something I find unquestionable about Citizen’s Arrest. Their first 7” is in a small box I have that never goes into storage. Straight up raging hardcore executed flawlessly. 27 years after its release the lyrics to this tune that kicks off that first 7” seem all kinds of prescient and relevant to today’s batshit crazy bowl of bullshit.
“Never Healed” – Heresy
While I’d happened across the crustier/grindier UK underground bands from the mid-80s like Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror etc via exploring metal it wasn’t actually until moving to Notts that I discovered Heresy and Ripcord who raged as hard and fast as just about anything. It was a total revelation at the time and I still love both of those bands to bits. With Heresy being from Notts and Kalv and Steve still playing every now and again in town as part of Geriatric Unit I felt a real affinity with Heresy and much later I got an opportunity to help make a documentary about that whole scene for Channel 4 that someone has handily whacked up on Vimeo.
It was also really cool meeting and spending time with Tom Withers aka Tommy Stupid, drummer in The Stupids who went on to become Klute as I was totally into both bits of his recording career. Here’s an absolute beast of an emotional d&b roller that no one does quite like Klute:
More rollers to come when I do my UK hardcore continuum top ten!
“Interplanetary Badboy” – The Lowest Form
Chris is always the last person to blow his own trumpet so I’m not sure he’ll even leave this cheeky eleventh pick in but I hope he does because as well as knowing more about records than ten normal record nerds put together he also sings in one of the best UK punk bands of the last decade. That might sound like hyperbole and it’s perhaps difficult for me to be objective as I know all of the members personally but it’s true. You can ignore me though and take the fact that their two LPs have come out on Iron Lung Records alongside bands like Diät, Cold Sweat and Una Bestia Incontrolable as a pretty solid vouchsafe. So biggup Chris, Michael (go check out his great label Night School – https://night-school.bandcamp.