This month I decided to review some classic post-punk albums on vinyl from the early to mid 80’s which have had a big influence on me and still listen to now. There are so many classic albums to mention from this era, but here’s a few that stood the test of time and still sound fresh to this day.
THE CHAMELEONS – SCRIPT OF THE BRIDGE (Statik Records 1983)
Released in the autumn of 1983, this is one of my favourite records of all time and its status as a seminal post punk album has only grown over the years. The album starts with ‘Don’t Fall’ one of the all-time great opening tracks with a powerful, spiraling guitar riff with The Chameleons trademark delay guitar sound and impassioned, angry vocals with some memorable lines “Freak out! Nothing’s familiar and nothing seems to fit the scheme of things, seeing faces where there shouldn’t be faces, no-ones really certain what tomorrow brings, Don’t Fall”.. despite it’s bleak message the track is supremely uplifting and a good taster for the rest of the album. Track 2 ‘Here Today’ is equally great and packed with drama, written about the night John Lennon was murdered.
The insistent bass line of ‘Monkeyland’ is next with it’s slow build up and memorable chorus before ‘Second Skin’ starts up, one of the best Chameleons songs with a stunning otherworldy guitar riff and clever change of tempo halfway through and the repeated line “I realise a miracle is due, I dedicate this melody to you”. The excellent single single “Up The Down Escalator” follows and side one ends with the haunting ‘Less Than Human’.
Track 2 ‘Here Today’ is equally great and packed with drama, written about the night John Lennon was murdered.
Side Two kicks off with ‘Pleasure And Pain’ with another nagging and catchy guitar riff but the highlight is the wonderful ‘A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days’ an angry song railing against mindless thuggery and violence with a menacing guitar riff which eventually gives way to a slow, plaintive coda and repeated lyric “How can you laugh this one away”..
“Paper Tigers” is another stand-out track with a great riff and pounding rhythm about the need to face up to all our fears. There are no bad tracks on the album and it stands shoulder to shoulder with many other great post-punk classics of this era like Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and Echo& The Bunnymen’s ‘Crocodiles’.
For fans of : Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Comsat Angels, The Sound
THE CURE – SEVENTEEN SECONDS (Fiction Records 1980)
The Cure’s second album was released in April 1980 and was preceded by the single ‘A Forest’ a few weeks earlier. ‘A Forest’ was hugely influential with it’s dark, icy production, flanged guitar sound and slow phase effect with echoing vocals which became the trademark Cure sound on their first 4 albums and was much imitated. Simon Gallup’s elastic, melodic bass is also a key component of their sound. Robert Smith said at the time the lyrics were about a dream he had as a child where he was lost in the woods unable to escape but he later denied this and said…“it’s just about a forest”. In any case it’s a fantastic song.
The track ‘M’ has a very simple guitar line and is dark and uplifting at the same time with a nasally Robert Smith vocal and mysterious lyrics “the reasons are clear, the faces are drawn and ready for the next attack”. The second single ‘Play For Today’ enters with harmonic phased guitar and is slightly pop-ier in feel and ‘In Your House’ continues the dark, hypnotic feel of the album with washes of synth adding to the ethereal sound. My original copy of the vinyl was worn out as I played it so much so I got a new copy from Carnival Records on white vinyl which was released for Record Store Day which looks and sounds fantastic!
For fans of : Bauhaus, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Comsat Angels, The Cocteau Twins
SONIC YOUTH – SISTER (SST Records 1987)
Sonic Youth released ‘Sister’ in the summer of 1987, sandwiched in-between their other seminal albums ‘Evol’ a year earlier and ‘Daydream Nation’ in 1988. All 3 are brilliant art rock albums and classics of the post-punk / alternative genre. ‘Sister’ starts with the track ‘Schizophrenia’, with it’s melodic ringing chords, clattering drums and typically laconic vocals from Thurston Moore, “I went away to see an old friend of mine, his sister came over, she was out of her mind” before giving way to discordant guitar worming around Kim Gordon’s spoken words . (“I’ve Got A) Catholic Block slashes it’s way in with a repetitve guitar line and urgent vocals before similarly breaking down in a mess of guitars. ‘Stereo Sanctity’ is like an electric storm with wired guitar, fast tempo and anxiety-laden lyrics.
The album is strong throughout with a cover version of Crime’s punk anthem ‘Hot Wire My Heart’ and finishes with 2 more Sonic Youth classics in ‘Cotton Crown’ one of the catchiest Sonic Youth tracks with it’s simple strummed guitar refrain and repetitive vocal duet between Thurston and Kim and lyrical meditation “You’ve got a cotton crown, I’m gonna keep it underground, you’re gonna take control of the chemistry, and you’re gonna manifest the mystery, you’ve got a magic wheel in your memory”. Closing track ‘White Kross’ tears in like a runaway train with metallic chords and rasping vocals before ending with one crashing repeated chord.
The original sleeve ran into trouble over copyright with a Richard Avedon photo of a girl and a Disney image with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto removed from later pressings.
It’s a tough call as to whether this is the best Sonic Youth album but it captures a moment in time between their early art noise period and just before they started to enjoy real critical acclaim with Daydream Nation.
For fans of : Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Lydia Lunch
Vinyl Review written by John Rose, Front man for Pablo Alto, Photographer, Music Reviewer, Collage/Pop Artist, Manages Ledbury Poetry Festival Box Office.