post-punk gems, v. 75 — The GC5

Thanks for tuning in to Radio K-SAT after an unexpected break. I’m surfacing after wrapping up the first stage of another project (under wraps for now, but more info soon), and I’m delighted to be better acquainted now with the more recent history of punk in northeast Ohio (which is affectionately referred to as “NEO” ’round these parts. Although “neo-punk” is something else entirely.)

The GC5 (Grady Coffee 5), a Mansfield, OH quintet, got rolling in the mid-90s, released a couple LPs and an EP, and broke up circa 2003. Singer-guitarist Doug McKean is regarded by many as one of the best songwriters from the area of his generation. Their sound begins with the hard-and-fast Orange County aesthetic, but quickly takes on a bit more subtlety, especially around song structures and vocal phrasing. There’s a clear debt to Stink-era Replacements: they do an affectionate cover of “Bastards of Young” and offer a homage to Chris Mars by taking his debut album title for their 1st EP: Horseshoes and Handgrenades. Bob Stinson (RIP) would have been properly, and colorfully, impressed.

This past Saturday, GC5 alum appeared in their current form as The Boys from the County Hell (a Pogues song title) at Cleveland Calling, a fundraiser for the Joe Strummer Foundation at the Euclid Tavern. (Full disclosure: I was a late add to the bill, and read a few passages from *Stealing.*) With a line-up of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, fiddle, bass and drums, with intermittent use of a horn section, mandolin, and accordion, BCH offered a rousing, faithful homage to The Clash–and, in the case of “Rudie Can’t Fail” and “Wrong ‘Em Boyo”–offered the crowd a more faithful homage than The Clash ever did to the songs on vinyl. As far as I know, The Clash never made room onstage for a brass section.

Boys from County Hell, Euclid Tavern, July 18, 2015.
Boys from County Hell, Euclid Tavern, July 18, 2015. (Photo by Brian Asquith.)

BCH ply their wares seasonally as a Pogues tribute band. For you NEO residents: catch them while you can! And a big shout-out to All Dinosaurs for kicking off the event and riling up the crowd. Cheers!

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post-punk gems, v. 55 — The Weirdos

Happy Wednesday, folks! I’m quite enjoying We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk, which along with Please Kill Me and John Robb’s Punk Rock, comprise a solid trio of punk oral histories. The book’s title is lifted from a song by The Weirdos, who were at it in early ’77, and solidified their reputation at an Orpheum show in a matter of months as the premier LA punk band du jour.

I dig the traces of surf guitar bubbling up in the mix, and the drum style that heralds the use of Burundi drums by so many UK bands in the early 80s. Oddly enough, the aforementioned show coincided with The Damned’s first visit to LA for a string of shows at the Whiskey opening for Television. Now, of course, I have less than half the story, but apparently Tom Verlaine kicked them off the bill, and they were stranded in LA without funds. But yes: a name familiar to anyone living in LA in the 80s: Rodney Bingenheimer was there at the beginning.

Thanks for tuning in!

#Replacements on my mind // the once bashful Tommy Stinson

Happy Sunday, reading people. Twitter’s abuzz with the enthusiasm over last night’s show by The Replacements – their first in 23 years in their hometown of Minneapolis. (Check out this lovely review, by Andrea Swensson, and don’t miss the fabulous photos beneath by Nate Ryan/MPR– here’s a teaser.)

tommy

I picked up Tim based on a single review, and then converted dozens of friends to its virtues, with little proselytizing. In the summer of 1987, we drove through the valley heat into SF for their performance at Fillmore and, just before the end (spring 1990, I figure) at the campus gym at UC Santa Barbara. They were great, drunk, and ever-satisfying, and in the pic for Musician magazine, taken from the back of the stage, you can see my head just beyond Paul’s knee.

My favorite memory, though, of Mats live was at Slim’s in SF, when the Tommy-led Bash & Pop appeared in 1994 (or so). I figured the name “Bash & Pop” echoed the punk ethos of getting our noise on the radio. While their debut LP, Friday Night is Killing Me, was uneven, there were a handful of gems there, and how I wish I could find that damn CD. (Timmay, do you still have it?)

Upon taking the stage, though, I realized that echo was rather distant. Rather than the “I-don’t-give-a-toss” indifference Johnny Rotten perverted from Iggy Pop, T. Stinson entered the limelight as a frontman reluctantly: much more bashful than bashing, and we were old enough in mid-twenties to appreciate the desire for affection–“never disappointed by a show of hands,” in the words of Game Theory, and why should they be? “Never Aim to Please” was a song inspired by the past, but was fully reckoned with on stage. Fun times.

Holy cow, is that a non-punk fade-out at the cadence. Maturity, like death & taxes, is inevitable, to some degree.

I’m on the radio for the first time in six years Thursdays this fall, 1700-1800, EDT, @ http://www.wobc.org/, with my show, “The Spirit of ’77.” There’ll be some punk, and oodles of fun (and errors, I’m sure. Bear with me.) I’ll check @stealingclash this week if you have any requests. Have a fantastically rockin’ week!

post-punk gems, v. 39 — The Swell Maps — DIY indeed!

Thanks for tuning in today to what I expect will be my last post for awhile. It’s been a year since Stealing All Transmissions came out in paperback, and I had initially decided to give the blog at least a year of my thoughts, ideas, and odd connections. In the meantime, my publisher’s gone kaput, and I have a couple writing projects that need more time than I’ve found in recent weeks.

Many thanks to those of you who’ve tuned in either regularly or episodically, and to offer a special shout-out to those of you who’ve weighed in and, in turn, helped sharpen my own take on the virtues and continued vitality of the era we called punk. Seeing the number of readers on the dashboard spike here and there really gave me a good jolt of pleasure week in and week out. One last bit of self-promotion, for now: on Tuesday, 10/29, I’ll be giving a talk kitty-corner from the Empire State Building at 630pm on technology, music, and fandom. It should be a hootenany. (Tix are free, but a reservation is required.)

I love the we’re-all-in-it-together aesthetic of the vocals, the foot-tapping cadence, and buzzsaw guitars up until the point where the tune offers no other possible direction but chaotic climax, dissolve, and cut. So good!

Blogging is certainly in the DIY tradition, but it took much more back in the day to create your own label, record a few tracks, and then get the discs into the shops. The Swell Maps, out of Birmingham, had been kicking around since 1972 and, circa 1976, the punk movement helped sharpen their focus. On their own Rather Records, they got 2,000 copies of “Read About Seymour” into UK shops, and forged ahead from there. John Peel, of course, hosted a recording party for them, and they churned out a couple real classics on this bit, which resonated years later in the heads of esteemed noise purveyors such as Thurston Moore, Peter Buck, and Stephen Malkmus (with whom I share a hometown connection–Stockton, CA, in the house!).

Again: thanks for tuning into radio-KSAT. If you find anything you like among the previous posts and you (terry) chime in, I’ll be sure to reply, of course. For those of you in the blogosphere. Keep up the fine work! I look forward to reading what you’re up to in the coming months!

post-punk gems, v. 38 — The Saints: not beaten to the punch

On today’s dispatch from Radio K-SAT, I’m thinking about the 35th anniversary of Sid V.’s arrest for the murder of Nancy Spungen and, on a brighter note, “This Perfect Day,” the first charting single by The Saints, out of Brisbane, Australia. Their debut single, “I’m Stranded,” is recognized as the first punk single to be released outside of the US, beating The Clash and The Pistols vinyl debuts.

The original Saints’ line-up didn’t last long, however, with bassist Kym Bradshaw jumping ship for The Lurkers in fall 1978 and, in turn, worked through a couple variations of the pop-punk aesthetic, with horns and a starker R&B influence. The turn proved sustainable, and The Saints’ most recent release, *King of the Sun,* just came out this past spring on the continent. Here’s the LP’s title track, with Bailey’s trademark vocals.

I appreciate your checking in today, and hope to see you again on Sunday. Enjoy the week!

post-punk gems, v. 38 — The Replacements’ “Black Diamond”

Thanks for taking a moment on post-punk gem day to check out my latest musings. Since folks found my claims about punk covers intriguing (thank you!), I’ll stick with this theme today, and to the twin cities, home of two of the key (post-) punk bands in the US–Husker Du and The Replacements.

I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink on the ‘Mats before (see here, here, and here) and, in checking out their first few LPs, I thought I’d find a cover before “Black Diamond,” originally a Kiss tune, of course, on their 4th effort, *Let It Be.* But that’s not the case. These guys were dedicated to original compositions, even if their stage performance was anything but composed.

That gorgeous opening rhythm guitar, all echo-y and stark, then Paul’s vocals, and drummer Chris Mars sets the tempo and bam: that big guitar crunch from Bob Stinson. Oh, fun stuff, and it stands up well over time.

If The Replacements represented the shambly and shambolic side of DIY, Husker Du were the consummate professionals, with real aspirations to make good (and good money). Their cover of The Byrds’ classic “Eight Miles High” gets a good write-up in Michael Azerrad’s *This Band Could Be Your Life,* which is a key chronicle of the DIY punk spirit between American shores. If you haven’t had your coffee yet, you might want to wait to cue up this gorgeous bit of dissonance.

I’m really delighted that you stopped at my minor outpost here on the world wide web, and hope to see you again on Sunday. Enjoy the week!

post-punk gems, v. 37 — Dalek I Love You

Welcome back to Radio K-SAT, where on Wednesdays I track down lost gems from the punk and post-punk era. Many of these underheralded tunes come from bands whose members you know from their associations with other bands — you might recognize the lead singer of Graduate, who later formed a band called Tears for Fears, which you may be familiar with (smile).

Dalek, I Love You was the brainchild of young gents out of Thingwall, and included (eventually) Alan Gill (of Big in Japan & Teardrop Explodes fame) and Andy McCluskey (who’s still kicking around with a unit called Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark). The moniker represented an amalgam of Dalek, the Doctor Who cyborgs, and Darling, I Love You. It’s a unit that takes the notion of Bernard Sumner (of Joy Division and New Order fame), upon seeing the Sex Pistols for the first time, to its next extension: “I saw the Sex Pistols. They were terrible. I thought they were great. I wanted to get up and be terrible too.” It’s a raucous, synthetic aesthetic, and on “You Really Got Me” (a Kinks’ tune, yes), from May 1980, they drain it dry of the Van-Halen-infused virility from just a couple years before.

I would argue it even heralds the lounge-act qualities that David Lee Roth would embrace following his departure from Van Halen–which, as readers of *Stealing All Transmissions* know, was a key band in my youth, since they seemed to be the mirror image of The Clash, and represented all that was wrong with popular music. So, when Aztec Camera’s cover of “Jump” hit the radio in the US, it was the object of much DJ ridicule on the classic rock stations, but I savored every bar of it, even though Roddy Frame’s hair was only slightly less ridiculous than DL Roth’s mane at that point.

I dig the tuning of the lead guitar on this track, along with the sensitive piano comping during the chorus. Fun stuff!

I appreciate your checking in today, and hope to see you again on Sunday. Enjoy the week!