Punk has failed.
The revolution was televised, though it came across as little more than adolescents giggling over obscenities (via Bill Grundy).
As Simon Reynolds so eloquently put it: rip it up and start again. (well worth a read!)
In the latter days of punk (think London Calling-era Clash) bands began to experiment with various genres, most notably reggae and funk. This experimentation was taken to new heights by bands such as ‘The Pop Group’ who rather than simply ‘bolting-on’ elements of other genres, incorporated them seamlessly within their music resulting in a highly original sound.
The Pop Group drew influence from the funk of James Brown and the free-jazz of Ornette Coleman, whilst maintaining the ferocity of punk, making for a much deeper, jarring listen.
‘We Are All Prostitutes’ illustrates this eclectic, yet coherent sound particularly well; under the dissonant guitar, howling vocals and ‘squeaky-bonk’ sax, the drums and bass provide a much more solid ‘funk’ rhythm giving the song an almost danceable feel. Sadly ‘The Pop Group’ have been largely neglected, though their influence lives on in the ‘Bristol Scene’ to which they are often accredited to have started and that later gave birth to Portishead, Tricky and Massive attack.
Young Marble Giants took the minimalism of punk to its logical conclusion with only sparse bass, guitar, vocals and proto-electric drums (which sounded more like a metronome more than anything else). Again, reggae influences are also present in the thunderous bass and off-beat guitar scratchy guitar.
Wire too experimented with minimalism, though sounded much angrier particularly in their earlier days being musically much closer to primal ‘ punk. However from the outset there is something conceptually different about Wire; their minimalism seems to be controlled and intentional, rather than a necessity of not being very technically adept.
This approach is evident from the band’s name (apparently chosen because they wanted something that meant nothing), through their artwork and of course into their music, with 21 songs in under 35 minutes on Pink Flag a highlight of which ‘Ex-Lion Tamer’ which sounds much more precise and constructed version of punk.
As they developed they became much more noticeably post-punk, becoming even more minimal and experimenting with structure much more obviously, even at times removing the chorus yet somehow maintaining a ‘pop’ feel.
Although not strictly post-punk, This Heat seem to embody the experimental spirit of post-punk but actually take influence from krautrock and Canterbury scene prog (drummer Charles Hayward has collaborated with Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt). The most astonishing thing about This Heat is how ahead of their time they sound;much of their music sounds astonishingly like 90s instrumental rock such as Don Caballero or OXES- music released 20 years later.
One track is particularly futuristic 24 track loop is exactly what it says on the tin, a track made up of 24 tape loops which in itself is not particularly revolutionary, Robert Fripp had been manipulating tape loops in the early 70’s- it is the way in which that it has been executed, if it were not for the rough production (youtube may be partly to blame for this) then it could easily be mistaken for fairly modern electronica such as Four Tet or Boards Of Canada; ambient sounds are time-stretched and warped (Manually i presume) and coupled with jazzy breakbeat style drumming. Essential listening, i cant believe i hadn’t discovered it sooner. Anyway, enough of the waffle, heres 24 track loop…
It seems to me as if the bands of the post-punk era were much more punk than their ancestors; their increased spirit of experimentation as opposed to conformity was much truer to the original punk ethos. unfortunately the recent post-punk revival has been much less fruitful , and largely derivative of the brilliant bands that predate them by two or three decades.
Misty’s Big Adventure sum this up far better than i ever could in their song ‘Fashion Parade’ (any song featuring a Noddy Holder monologue is worth listening to in my book…)
Catch you next week, same time same place.