KROQ Devotees Album

devotees

Format: LP

Label: Rhino Records

Country: US

Year: 1979

Price paid: $12.99

Purchased at: The Sound Garden, Syracuse NY

 

The importance of KROQ-FM in the popularization of New Wave music cannot be understated. Books could be written about DJ Rodney Bingenheimer (Rodney on the ROQ!) himself. Suffice it to say that everyone from The Runaways to Courtney Love owe a debt to this seminal Los Angeles-based radio station.

There’s a convenient snippet on the back sleeve that concisely sums up the album’s concept: ‘This LP was compiled from tapes sent in by KROQ listeners during the summers of 1978 and 79. KROQ, Rhino Records and Devo would like to thank all the mutants who entered the Devotees contest.’

The fruits of this contest aren’t too surprising, with the entries ranging from ‘competent’ to ‘barely listenable.’ Entertaining in small doses, it’s best approached with the attitude that Devo were (to a large extent) a tongue-and-cheek band… and this is a tongue-and-cheek take on their material by less adept but enthusiastic performers.

All songs are covers from Devo’s “Are We Not Men…” album, the only available at the time. The scant bands (and I use the term ‘band’ loosely in some cases) that released material- other than appearing on this compilation- were The Bakersfield Boogie Boys and The View. The Boogie Boys came out with an EP on Rhino that is highly recommended for its kitsch value.

 

The album art preps you for the listening experience- light, fun, and cheesy. Typical Rhino Records fair of the period.

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Lene Lovich: Lucky Number / I Think We’re Alone Now

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Format: 7″
Label: Stiff
Country: France
Year: 1978
Price paid: $10

 

“I now detect an alien vibration here
There’s something in the air besides the atmosphere
The object of the action is becoming clear
An imminent attack upon my heart I fear”

‘Lucky Number’ was Lene’s highest-charting single, Reaching #3 in the UK.

This is the French version of the single which, as far as I can tell, never charted in that country. From an aesthetics point of view it is far inferior to the UK release… to me there’s just something jarringly cheap about combining a B&W image with bright pink.

 

Sex Pistols: No One is Innocent / My Way

sexpistols_nooneisinnocent12

Format: 12″

Label: Virgin

Country: UK

Year: 1978

Price paid: $15

Purchased at: The Record Archive, Rochester NY

 

“Ronnie Biggs was doing time until he done a bunk

Now he says he’s seen the light and he sold his soul to punk!”

Yesterday (December 19, 2013) Ronnie Biggs died at age 84.

Turn back the way-back machine to 1978…

In January Johnny Rotten leaves the Sex Pistols. Non-pulsed, manager Malcolm McLaren begins the search for a new lead singer to round out the remaining band (which now consists of Sid Vicious, Paul Jones, and Steve Cook.) Sid is unreliable, but McLaren’s grand opus, the movie- ‘The Great Rock and Roll Swindle’- is well under production and decisions have to be made. Edward Tudor-Pole (of Tenpole Tudor) is a front runner as Lydon’s replacement. So is Ronald Arthur “Ronnie” Biggs…

Ronnie Biggs was a common thief that had a two-bit part in ‘The Great Train Robbery.’ Upon escaping prison early on in his sentence, he fled to Australia and then to Brazil, where he lived in exile for 36 years. During that time he achieved minor cult status and was considered by some (McLaren being one) as somewhat of a Robin Hood-esque folk hero.

In a stroke of brilliance (and bad taste) McLaren decides to fly everyone to Brazil and film Biggs as the new lead singer for The Sex Pistols. They record several songs (including this single) and shoot some footage for the film.

McLaren had a knack for pushing buttons. He would use anything and anyone to promote whatever his attention was focused on at the moment. Enlisting Briggs was in no way out of character, as he had exploited images of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley (British serial killers) amongst others. The shock value of using high-profile criminals in a pop context is hard to conceive today; I would imagine it would be akin idolizing George Zimmerman or Edward Snowden as guiltless heroes and using them to sell products. But even more so.

‘No One is Innocent’ (aka ‘The Biggest Blow’ aka ‘A Punk Prayer’) is packed with Sex Pistols self references and in-jokes. By this time the band had become somewhat of a joke, portrayed in the movie (often literally) as cartoons, and the song is a self-aware nihilistic treaty in this regard. To his credit Ronnie can actually sing; he’s certainly no worse than Sid Vicious. The song reached an amazing #7 on the UK charts, and is The Sex Pistols’ fifth highest ranking single.

Vicious’ hilarious throttling of ‘My Way’ appears on this 12″ as well, relegated to the B-side.

The sleeve art consists of black and white stills from the film with Jamie Reid (or Jamie Reid inspired) cut-and-paste lettering. Not the most eye-catching design, the single was released in advance of the film so it can be interpreted stylistically as a promotional-style piece.

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Muffs: I’m a Dick / Pacer

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Format: 7″

Label: Sympathy for the Record Industry

Country: US

Year: 1996

Price paid: $2

Purchased at: Square Records, Akron OH

 

You lied to me,

now I can hear you say

You’re a dick,

you’re a dick

And I could care less

The Muffs at its heart is songer/songwriter Kim Shattuck, formerly of the 80s neo-pshychedelic garage band The Pandoras. Although they have a similar sassy/irreverent attitude and sound as many contemporary Indie acts of the Riot Grrrl movement there is no direct connection.

Kim’s voice is quite unique- all at once taunting, whiny, gravely, and sarcastic; words are spat from her mouth like moist caustic marbles.

‘I’m a Dick’ was released on the Sympathy label, although it would later appear on the LP ‘Happy Birthday to Me’ on Reprise Records. The song is simple and short (1:38!) but oh-so-sweet, typical Muffs fare that goes down like candy-coated bile.

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The sleeve art is unexceptional for the period. Bright and cheerful, the use of generic (and probably copyright-free) 50’s-60’s advertising images serves as a quick basic template ripe for infusion with irony through its juxtaposition with the rough/edgy music. The art could be switched out with a dozen different sleeves from as many Indie 90’s bands and it would make little difference, as it’s not uniquely expressive of the song nor group as such…

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Artist: Ramones: Subterranean Jungle

ramones_jungle

Format: LP
Label: Sire
Country: US
Year: 1983
Price paid: $15
Purchased at: The Vinyl Underground, Kent OH

 

“I am a teenage schizoid
The one your parents despise
Psycho Therapy
Now I got glowing eyes”

‘Subterranean Jungle’ was produced by Ritchie Cordell and Glen Kolotkin- who had previously worked with Joan Jett on 1981’s ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ LP- and it shows. They abandon much of what was ‘Ramones’ about the Ramones in favor of a more stereotypical rock sound, complete with rather intricate (and very un-punk) guitar work. The songs are still brief, most not clocking in over 2:30, but they just seem longer. I’m no Ramones historian, but even I can see a band struggling to come to terms with the 80s music scene.

Anachronisms or no, they’re still the Ramones! ‘Psycho Therapy’ is the standout on this album, or I should say it stays truest to the ‘Ramones’ template. The three covers ‘Time Has Come Today’, ‘Little Bit o’ Soul’, and ‘I Need Your Love’ are all excellent renditions.

‘Subterannean Jungle’ is the band’s seventh studio album. Marky Ramone was asked to leave the band during production. He didn’t return until 1987; he is the only surviving member of their longest-running lineup.

I’m rather fond of the album art. The composition does a fair job of evoking a riotous urban jungle, while the funky 80s palette fits with the band’s cartoony image. I especially like the flat, out-of-scale photo of poor Marky Ramone pasted-in as an afterthought on the far left.

‘Every Time I Eat Vegetable it Makes Me Think of You’ makes me giggle:

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Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: Spinster / Go Home / Hostility

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Format: 7″ blue vinyl

Label: Blackheart Records

Country: US

Year: 1994

Price paid: $5

Purchased at: The Vinyl Underground, Kent OH

 

“Maybe I don’t wanna maybe I don’t wanna wanna maybe I don’t wanna fuck you!”

Not to belittle Joan Jett or her band, but it seems like their greatest hits were covers. Not all, but many. She’s had much success mining Gary Glitter for, instance….

Anyway, this is not a cover, and has nothing to do with Gary Glitter as far as I can tell.

Although she’s been active as a solo act since 1979… and earlier with the Runaways… chart-wise she’s a child of the 80s. She had nine top 100 US hits in the 80s and one that just squeaked into the 90s at #36 (‘Dirty Deeds’, also a cover I might add, reviewed elsewhere), but since then notsomuch.

Anyway, this single failed to chart. It was the first single off of 1994’s ‘Pure and Simple’ LP. The album failed to break into any charts worldwide either.

The theme of the single is her tried-and-true formula: disgruntled, angst-ridden teenage youth yelling at the world. Joan was 36 years old when this was released. In the song she claims to be a ‘spinster’ because she doesn’t want to conform to society’s rules, get married, etc. I’m not saying she’s gay and neither is she, but if she were this would be a great coming-out song. Just sayin’.

As for the object itself- The blue vinyl is the draw here. I don’t think the single was even released in standard black. The sleeve art is attractive- big, bold, blocky, and B&W. Gets the job done.

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The Darling Buds: Crawdaddy

darlingbuds_crawdaddy

Format: LP

Label: Epic

Country: UK

Year: 1990

Price paid: $3

Purchased at: The Vinyl Underground, Kent OH

 

“Walk on by with your head in the sky, dream in candy coloured shadows”

 

Classify under: Post-C86 proto-Twee.

The Darling Buds were a UK (Welsh, more specifically) group that specialized in short jangly tunes with strong hooks and psychedelic arrangements. Along with their sister bands The Primitives and Transvision Vamp, they helped to define the feminine side of the great Britpop resurgence of the late 80s.

As an aside- This ‘Blondie Configuration’© (my term, patent pending), as illustrated here by The Darling Buds, was a common structure during this period. Consisting of a female vocalist (preferably blonde) with a male backup band (ideally three in number) it is generally considered the most efficient and aesthetically pleasing band alignment possible. But I digress…

‘Crawdaddy’ is their sophomore album and showed the band evolving into a tighter and sophisticated unit, far more nuanced then they were just a few years earlier with 1988’s ‘Pop Said…’ The lyrics are simple and disposable, the attraction of the album comes from the swooping dreamy wall of sound. Track names like ‘Honeysuckle’, ‘Crystal Clear’, and ‘Tiny Machine’ hint at the almost tactile nature of the music; songs hang like objects with wavering specific gravity in a sea of inky colours.

Here’s the video for ‘Tiny Machine’, the first single off the album:

The cover art is top notch, as was all of their product from this period. Rich, dreamy colors vacillating between the abstract and the representational. Warhol with the saturation turned to eleven. Note the ‘flower’ motifs used both here and in the video linked above, imagery enlisted by just about (or so it seemed) every UK band during this period. It was employed as shorthand to represent the 60’s culture that many drew their inspiration from, but with the Darling Buds I guess one could argue a more direct link, due to their name…

I’d been after this album on vinyl for YEARS. I could have bought one on eBay at any time I know, but I was holding out to find one ‘in the wild.’ It’s not an easy album to find, at least in the states anyway, as it never saw a US release on vinyl. Even harder still is to find one in excellent condition.