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A Highly Selective Basic Library of Punk Rock
The United States: * RAMONES: Rocket to Russia (Sire SRK 6042). The Ramones pretty much define the mainstream of American punk -- loud, deliberately stupid, three-chord tunes made to order for lyrics about sniffing glue and beating on the brat. Clearly, to take this at all seriously is tricky business, but lots of folks I respect do. The Ramones are humorists, they insist, and beneath the racket is an old- style New York pop sensibility. That may be true, but if they're joking I don't think they're funny enough. In a year or two, when they've moved on to dispensing Sixties folk-rock covers (an unreleased studio version of the Searchers "Needles and Pins" already exists), it will prove only that they have good record collections. Relevant quote from Peppy Marchello of the Good Rats: "The Ramones respect us because we can tune our guitars." * MINK DeVILLE: Return to Magenta (Capitol SW-11780). Solid, occasionally incandescent, old-school Latin-tinged r-&-b. Before punk, we would have grouped them with the J. Geils Band. Reactionary stuff, granted, but honest, and they'll probably be around a while. * PATTI SMITH: Horses (Arista AL 4066). The most commercially successful American punk so far and one of the least typical. Pattie may or may not be turning into the egomaniacal monster some have predicted, but basically, as she goes so goes the movement. Recent hits notwithstanding, this remains her best album. * TELEVISION: Adventure (Elektra GE-133). * RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS: Blank Generation (Sire SRK 6037). Television, since Richard Hell's departure, has turned into a wonderfully imaginative studio band whose live shows are, to these ears, more uneven than the Grateful Dead's. Hell's incredibly pretentious street-poet act, on the other hand, will someday seem as hilarious as Jim Morrison's acid raps. * TUFF DARTS (Sire SRK 6048). * ROBERT GORDON: Fresh Fish Special (Private Stock PS 7008). Robert Gordon has yet to back himself out of the artistic corner of his Fifties fetish, but at least he's trying. His old band, Tuff Darts, is an obnoxious mainstream metal aggregate that peddles sexist lyrics and a stage act similar to what Sha Na Na now does on the tube. Avoid at all costs. * TALKING HEADS: More Songs About Buildings and Food (Sire SRK 6058). An eccentric mixture of Sixties funk and SoHo minimalism, admittedly for special tastes, but somehow it works. Plus Tina Waymouth, the cutest bass player in rock (sorry, guys, she's married). * BLONDIE: Plastic Letters (Chrysalis CHR 1166). Deborah Harry's sex-kitten routine strikes me as more cabaret than punk, and although the band plays an intriguing mishmash of Sixties pop styles with a certain verve, the end result hardly transcends the admittedly less-than-serious sources. Good mindless fun, though. * DEAD BOYS: Young, Loud and Snotty (Sire SRK 6038). Some say that this adequate bar band, which four years ago was probably doing Mott the Hoople covers, is the most exciting act to emerge from the whole scene. Not me.
England: * EDDIE AND THE HOTRODS: Life on the Line (Island 9509). An energetic, brash young blues-based band lurching toward pop to good effect. * ELVIS COSTELLO: This Year's Model (Columbia JC 35331). The most compelling rocker out of England since John Lennon, perhaps, or merely the most interesting singer/songwriter since Warren Zevon. Decide for yourself. * SEX PISTOLS: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (Warner Bros. K-3147). I never saw these guys, and you probably didn't either, so none of us is qualified to say whether or not session cats played all this stuff. Never mind. Their rise and fall is the most amazing story in rock history. For all that, however, they re probably more important as an influence than for their music. * THE JAM: This Is the Modern World (Polydor 6129). Because a couple of reasonable early Who imitations, these guys have conned a lot of people into taking them seriously as something more than a Sixties nostalgia band. Rubbish. Boring tunes, contrived social consciousness, and I pass. * THE STRANGLERS: No More Heroes (A & M 4659). Misogyny, watered-down Doors organ licks, and a big So What. They are nonetheless the hottest live act in England. To me, inexplicable on all levels. * SHAM 69: Tell Us The Truth (Sire SRK 6060). Okay, guys, I will: don't give up your day jobs. Punk already reduced to a formula. * NICK LOWE: Pure Pop for Now People (Columbia 35329). Somewhere between the National Lampoon and Paul McCartney, Lowe is proof positive that there is rock after Thirty. Brilliant. * GENERATION X (Chrysalis CHR 1169). Their hearts are in the right place, but that's about it. Punk pretty boys for hip prepubescents. * THE CLASH (CBS import). Most critics who've attended their live shows come away seeing God, but on record at least they veer most confusingly between the slightly ragged and he excitingly anarchic. You'd do well to wait for the American version, which will include some recent (and very fine) singles. - Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 10/78. ###

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