Poderimo Rock! Punk and New Wave in Yugoslavia, 1977-1984

Once upon a time, there was in southeastern Europe a federal socialist republic called Yugoslavia. It was led by Tito, a decorated WWII resistance leader, a bon viveur benevolent dictator, who, just 3 years after the end of the war, had the balls to tell Stalin to fuck off.  After all, Yugoslavia liberated itself from Nazis, without any substantial aid from the Red Army.

This resulted in Yugoslavia becoming a non-aligned socialist country: Free from Russian control, but also cut off the Russian financial aid – right in the middle of the post-war restoration effort. Facing the spectre of starvation, Tito & team did the sensible thing and opened up to the West, taking massive loans from western banks, encouraging consumerism and private property among the citizens, and -most importantly- opening the borders to the West, so that Yugoslavs could search for work abroad. Furthermore, in 1967, Yugoslavia became the only socialist country to permit entry without a visa to all foreign visitors.

Very soon and throughout the 70’s and 80’s, Belgrade, the capital, became an almost James Bond-esque place, frequented by spies from both sides of the Iron Curtain, and the Yugoslav passport became the most expensive one to buy on the black market, since it would guarantee easy access to most parts of the world – a perfect tool for any kind of spy or outlaw.

For most of the citizens, though, it most importantly meant that they were able to enjoy much higher living standards than the citizens of the nearby European socialist states, and that they were free to travel abroad as they wished. For older people, this meant that they could escape to Vienna for a romantic weekend cheating on their spouses, but for the young it was as if the pearly gates were opened: They could hop on a train, get around Europe and return home with the latest trends, clothes and – most importantly – records. A way of life that their peers in say, Poland or Romania wouldn’t even dream about.

This, in combination with mini economic boom, the encouraged consumerism, and the disposable income in the hands of teens and youths, led to a very lively music scene during the sixties and the early seventies. The path was the same as in the West, only with the characteristically lateness in grasping the new trends that all second-tier countries showed in the pre-internet era: Surf in 1967, and Beat in 1971.

At the same speed, one would have expected Progressive Rock to last into the early 80s, and Punk to start at around 1982 – at it did indeed happen in nearby countries: Greece, just south of the border, saw the first bands punk forming around 1983. In this pre-www world, the distance from the UK/US centers was proportional to the delay at which new trends in culture were being established.

Here though, is where the unique combination of negative outcomes, a lively, educated but rowdy Balkan youth, and the prior experience of that part of the Balkans in contributing a hell lot to the early-to-mid-century modernist movements, allowed the local Punk movement to develop in sync with the UK, US and other Western countries, and then to evolve into one of the pioneering scenes of new-, synth-, and cold wave, all the way into the Suicide/Screamers school of noise.

Yugoslavia in those years became the very zeitgeist of the Era: bleak, and no future – in a way that embodied it even better than the run-down tenements of UK cities. After all, ten years later the country would collapse under a civil war with many sides, and the repercussions are still being felt in all the ex-federal republics that now exist as independent states.

In the second half of the seventies things started going less-than-good. The economic depression of the seventies – a deciding factor in the genesis of punk in the Western world, hit Yugoslavia as well. The leadership decided to opt for more loans from Western banks, and subsequently the economy started tanking, salaries stagnated and ethnic tensions –forgotten on the surface- started appearing in the horizon.

In the level of popular culture, long-haired, progressive rock dominated the period of mid-Seventies. The aging musicians were all state approved, and a bit too adult for the kids. In the urban centers of the country, Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, youth was restless and the socialist state model of youth centers gave them space for experimentation.

Paraf, the first punk band in the country, formed in the lively Croatian port town of Rijeka – boasting just 100.000 inhabitants at the era.

Paraf appeared in 1977, followed right after by Problemi, Pankrti, Termiti, Pekinška Patka, Kuzle, Indust Bag and more, in various parts of the country – with the main hubs being the urban centers of Slovenia and Croatia, as the local culture and the close proximity to Western countries enabled the phenomenon.

In a surprising move, the state-owned record companies – and only record companies existing- acknowledged the phenomenon, and signed many of the most prominent bands. Of course, things in state-owned entities tend to move a bit slowly, so the releases weren’t that frequent.

In 1978, Pankrti (which by the way means “Bastards”), released the first Yugopunk single Lepi In Prazni / Lublana Je Bulana. It was a very good example of dirty, overcompressed 77 punk, of the kind that is closer to Cleveland than to London, and that would later make the backbone of compilations like Killed By Death and Bloodstains.

The next year – as said, things tend to move slow in state-owned companies, Paraf released their first single, too. They opted for a cover of The Heartbreakers’ Chinese Rocks with Croatian lyrics, planning to troll the locals, being sure no one would ever recognize it.  Of course, the music press busted them within a week of the release, but nevertheless, Chinese Rocks (retitled Rijeka) remains an entertaining slice of solid Punk-Rock.

The true gem was hiding on the flipside, though: Moj Zivot Je Novi Val, with its classic teenage frustration lyrics (“Every day at home fights / And shouting at me / My life is New Wave”), a killer bassline and a really solid beat, is probably the definitive Yugopunk track. The single came in a cover that – in a nod to The Clash – featured the bare-chested bass player, who was anyway the real hero of the single, because as already said, the bassline is killer.

The next release was by Novi Sad, Serbia’s Pekinska Patka, the massive Biti Ružan, Pametan I Mlad / Bela Šljiva on Jugoton. Both songs were solidly produced, high-energy, aggressive tracks, with great lyrics (“Be Rude, Smart & Young”), spastic rhythms, and a nervous, hiccupped vocal delivery that made them classics.

Soon, Pekinska Patka released their first LP, Plitka Poesija. This LP stands among the best products of the punk era. Full of witty lyrics, breakneck-speed pogo anthems, rebelliousness, restlessness, sharp guitars and solid, groovy basslines, it is an exhilarating listen, and it could be easily used in the place of Adderall when the conditions call for it.

It starts with a fittingly iconoclastic track, Poderimo Rock (Let’s tear Rock Apart):

I cannot listen to this rock anymore

The end is the time for a new sound

My head is full of various idiots

I just want a real fuss and punk.

Mom, Mom, Mom, it’s over

Mom, Mom, Mom, I’ll be a punk

Mom, Mom, Mom, just to wear

Short tie, jacket and badge.

From then on, it is party all over the place, with every way possible – including, with a cover of Addrisi Brothers’ Never My Love – and ending triumphantly, with a pseudo-Japanese Kung-Fu-riffed, instrumental, called For Yoko Ono.

The next one to follow was Paraf, releasing A Dan Je Tako Lijepo Počeo on the RTV Ljubljana label in 1980. The LP is ripe full of powerful tracks, with phenomenally catchy choruses, hooligan back vocals, sharp, downstroked guitars, and a collection of audacious for the ear, lyrics, talking sarcastically about the cops (somewhat unheard of in a socialist country), contraception, boredom, religion and war – the latter ih the memorable “Kabul – Everybody Must Get Stoned”. In some aspects, it could be the Yugo equivalent of the first Stiff Little Fingers LP, even if they push it further that the ex-Deep Purple cover Belfrast gang.

A Dan Je Tako Lijepo Počeo has a much darker sound than that of the other Yugopunk LPs of the era, the chord changes rarely lead to any kind of release, the atmosphere is dark, and the angst palpable – greatly aided by the generous use of cavernous reverb in the vocals and the “industrial”, bluny, in-your-face mix. Everything but the vocals sounds dry, hurried and pushed through, and it’s something that works excellently. This was the LP that with its atmosphere and soundscapes, predicted more than anything else the color of the years that were to come.

During the first three years, however, the climate seemed promising for the movement: There were lots of gigs –many of them in large, state venues, and the bands were even getting accepted to play in the state-sponsored festivals. This led to a couple of memorable concerts, like the famous Pekinska Patka Belgrade gig on a platform on the Sava river – something that, quite expectedly proved to be impractical – especially considering the fact that a hundred pogoing teens charging the platform simultaneously, would make it dangle dangerously, bringing the volts and the water in dangerously close contact.

Another memorable gig of the era, which, luckily is available to watch online, finds the same band playing behind the spit-filled glass panels of a mall retail store, something straight into Devo-like social commentary territory, definitely ahead of the curve for the time and place.

In this climate, Pankrti followed soon, delivered their first LP, called Boredom (Dolgcajt) in 1980. Sonically, it was a step ahead of their single. Or, better just say that it had a better production, which permitted the compositions to show their Clash-like structure and arrangements, while at the same time remaining dirty and compressed enough to shoot straight for the ‘77 punk pantheon. The lyrics were more confrontational than those of their peers, with songs like Totalnja Revolucija (Total Revolution), even if the most provocative one (Anarhist) was not included in the LP.

Censorship was not the case though: Yugoslavia may never had been a completely free democracy, and it had an one-party system with a president for life, as Tito was declared in 1973, but it was very far from the Eastern Block mentality and the police states being the Iron Curtain. In the excellent collection of essays “Remembering Utopia: The Culture of Everyday Life in Socialist Yugoslavia”, the Yugoslav approach is described as “repressive tolerance”, a term which fits perfectly.

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Remembering Utopia: The Culture Of Everyday Life In Socialist Yugoslavia

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The various ASY-Alliance of Socialist Youth, that is the Communist Party Youth- were in general very open towards punk. This was of course a calculated move, since inclusiveness and tolerance were two of the key philosophies that permitted this federation of 6 states, 3 religions and a dozen ethnicities, to exist in first place. Punk was accepted, and favorable reviews and articles, invitations to concerts and festivals, TV appearances and regular airplay, were the norm rather than exceptions.

The controls and censorship were so relaxed, that it went as far as picking Pankrti’s Anarhist to be the opening track of the seminal Novi Punk Val compilation, released on ZKP RTVL – another state-owned record company. Of course, the Anarchism that Pankrti were singing about was more about individualism and living for the moment than about Piotr Kropotkin, so it was understood as youth rebelliousness rather than being considered subversive: The ASY line was that the new values that the generation of punk was expressing, were OK as long as they were about more personal aspects (individualism, realism, creativity, boredom) and as long as they weren’t about subverting values and political systems. This wasn’t really enforced, since the lyrics of the era deal with the same “others” that the Western Punk bands denounced as well: The cops, the state, war, the Church.

In reality, ASY willingly turned a blind eye, as it expected the bands to be “politically incorrect in the prescribed manner”.

This worked wonders for everyone involved: The scene grew a lot without the Party’s tight control, and the cops let the kids have fun without harassing them. This was a shining antithesis to the small-minded repression that punk suffered in other southern European countries (I am looking at you Greece and Spain) and as a result, the bands and their releases were becoming more numerous.

In May 1980, Tito died. The country came to a stop as a planet’s worth of presidents, kings, and princes, went to Belgrade to each one plant a tree is Tito’s remembrance. This was indicative of his status in the world stage, and this in turn was indicative of the reason that, under his influence and weight, the Federation of Yugoslavia was indeed a federation, and not 6 separate states fighting each other to extinction. His presence and will was not an option anymore though, so the country went into a collective retreat, facing an uncertain future.

Suddenly, the “no future” motto of the UK punk started sounding painfully real. The economy was stalling. Inflation was rising, prices were rising, unemployment was rising. Nationalist voices resurfaced.

In this grey climate, in 1981, a tabloid-led moral panic combined with zealot, ambitious cops, fabricated a scandal that played an instrumental role in ending this first phase of punk in Yugoslavia: An alleged Nazi-Punk group in Ljubljana (who never played live or recorded, and might not have even existed), along with an alleged Nazi-Punk circle in Slovenia, blindly followed by people mistaking Dead Kennedys “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” t-shirts for nazi endorsements (never mind the crossed-out swastika) led to a bunch of kids being led to court, tons of tabloids being sold, and an easy scapegoat created, so that the usual loudmouths could lash at the kids for everything that was going wrong in society. All of a sudden, Punk bands found themselves isolated from the press, radios, and ASY, police cracked-down on graffiti, bands and kids with strange clothes, and the party came to an end.

1981 was the end of this first wave of punk. This of course is only a technical term, as in reality nothing ended: What happened was that Punk turned to New Wave due to necessity. Only the outer layers of the form and appearance changed, with the essence remaining the same. The big 3 (Paraf, Pekinska Patka and Pankrti) turned to New Wave, each one releasing an excellent second LP between 1981 and 1982. In the same period as the Slovenian Nazi-Punk affair, the legendary “Novi Punk Val ’78-’80” compilation was released as well. Among the more well-known bands, it also included Termiti, Buldogi, 92, and Berlinski Zid, in tracks recorded during the previous 2 years.

The latter two were probably the most important bands featured, since they captured the zeitgeist better than anybody, and predated future developments – even if Berlinski Zid had already disbanded by the time the compilation was released. Their jarred, noisy, anxious synth-punk, filled with psyched-out organ riffs, was the first specimen of synth-punk in the country, and was the first demonstration of the transition of Punk to Synth-Wave and its many forms.

92 – or Grupa 92 – had already released a single in 1980. A 2-sided monster, with Tujci on the flip side being a rhythmic mess of mid-60s fuzz guitars, 80’s synth leads and 2-tone organ that, once heard, is difficult to forget. It sounds like a dictionary definition of “post-modernism in music”, being a proposal that is more palatable and equally ground-breaking as the Screamers or the Suicide were.

92 disbanded in 1983. By then most bands were using a at least one synth or an organ, and sometimes the drummer was gone, too, replaced by push-button drum machines. A whole scene was created – with kids that were too young to experience the boredom of ’77 – in reality, not too young to experience it, but too young to qualify for rehearsal space in the ASY-owned spaces. The map of the scene started changing too – or better put, it started expanding: In a scene largely dominated by Slovenian and Croatian bands, Serbia had a secondary role, with the most notable exception being Novi Sad’s Pekinska Patka.

Belgrade – up until then almost completely absent from the map of punk – became the center of the Wave scene with bands like Električni Orgazam, Idoli, Profili Profili, Defektno Efektni, and Sarlo Akrobata. These groups shared a similar sound: Dark, and cold, but always smooth, and human. It was a soundscape translation of the city they lived in: A stunning, brutalist, sci-fi skyline, futuristic, concrete apartment block clusters, and open horizons – run-down, decaying, on the street level, and a dark future looming above.

Collectively, the Belgrade bands could be described as having an early-The Cure feeling, but with keyboards (synth and organ) dominating the mix, often psychedelic, always pop. As a total, it was more song-oriented than, for example, the Dutch or Italian Wave scenes of the era, and also easier to listen and to relate to, never mind the language barrier.

At the same time Novi Sad, the second largest city in the Serbian republic, had an equally active scene, where 2 bands stand out: Future indie stars Boye – offering back then a very suggestive mix of Synth Wave and Psychedelia, and Kontraritam, who released a 2-tone Ska masterpiece in 1982. Representing the exact antithesis to the grim climate or the era, this LP is of 2-Tone-quality, full of perfect pop hooks and solid basslines.

The whole Punk/Wave phenomenon was most prominent in the wealthier and more urbanized Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia, where even minor towns had to offer a local scene. It stayed largely outside the isolated Montenegro, the predominantly Muslim, agricultural Bosnia, and the mountainous, isolated Macedonia – even if the latter two produced a couple of gems that are well worth remembering.

From Bosnia came Grupa Sport, a duo who only released one single in 1981, Zeka b/w Problemi. An exquisitely sweet combination of synth-based power pop with punk ethos, girl vocals and a very cool bunny cover. Then, a couple of years later, there came another gem, this time from the grey, half-bleak hellhole, half-brutalist wonder, Skopje, the capital of Macedonia: Bastion’s self-titled LP – a perfect match of pop, Slavic female vocals with liquid consonants, cheesy drum machines and primordial production that washes everything in polysynth bliss. However, the lyrics are much darker than the Western equivalent of the era, moving it outside the realm of Soft Cell / Depeche Mode electropop and straight inside the bleakness and uncertainty of the post-Tito years in the eastern Balkans.

Barely a decade after Bastion’s only LP, the Yugoslav Punk/Wave scene was completely forgotten at home. The civil wars that lasted for a whole decade kept people too busy to care about anything else – let alone a common cultural heritage created by the same people that were now finding themselves fighting each other. But Yugopunk got rediscovered abroad: In the mid ’90s, the bootleg compilation Bloodstains Across Yugoslavia was released, and songs by Pankrti, Pekinska Patka, Paraf, and others, were included in the Killed By Death series.

The scene became well known and respected among the fans of the lesser known, Messthetics-like, non-mohawk Punk bands, and Pekinska Patka and company, were recognized next to bands as Belgium’s The Kids, and France’s Gasoline, as important exponents of the Punk movement in continental Europe.

During the 2000’s, as the countries that once made Yugoslavia started recovering from the hangover of the 90’s wars, the scene was rediscovered by home audiences, too, which led to a couple of documentaries and fiction films dealing with Yugopunk –partly influenced by the Yugonostalgia sentiment in the beginning of the ‘00s – as well as a sustained interest about it.

Interestingly, it was the last important expression of the Yugoslav culture, right before the country splintered and disaster ensued. As such, it remains a meaningful landmark in the cultures of the resulting states, and the devil-may-care, iconoclast, creative and energetic attitude it expressed, is still exerting a meaningful degree of influence in the scenes of Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana.

Stefano Nomakills Interview

Hey guys, Coconut here.  Today I had a chance to interview one of my guitar heroes of recent times, the genuinely talented one man thrash-a-thon, Stefano Nomakills, or N-O-M-A, who hails from Orléans, France.  He is most often seen rocking out in his room with hair flailing madly.

Nomakills, or N-O-M-A, has been posting videos on Youtube for over a decade now, and he’s someone that I came across randomly while journeying down the Youtube rabbit-hole watching guitar covers of different stuff.  Once I saw a few of his guitar covers, I was blown away.  Not only can he play, but he gets right into it.  It is something that I as a guitar player enjoy watching – authenticity.  To my knowledge, N-O-M-A is known by his fans of being kind of a no bullshit guitar rocking guy who can really tear through just about any guitar-based music he wants, from Nirvana, to Dream Theatre, to Periphery, to Meshuggah, and the list goes on and on.  

Here’s a sample of some of his playing, straight from the NOMAKILLS Youtube Channel.  This is a recent video he has posted covering Nomad by Sepultura.  Sick as usual.

Of course it is also worth noting that N-O-M-A is a musical group (with Cici Addams of Sassy) with 16 albums to its name by this point.  They are all available over on his NOMAKILLS Bandcamp page here.  Each album is fully conceived and self-produced, so that’s also something that I respect and find very inspiring.  He has appeared playing his band’s stuff on television, and for many live gigs.  I hear traces of stuff like KMFDM and Meat Beat Manifesto in his original music, but maybe that’s just my delusional mind.  Here’s a clip of his band N-O-M-A playing live in 2016.

So yeah, it is with great pleasure that I present you with my little interview with N-O-M-A.  I should mention that this interview is unedited and completely in it’s raw form.  No spelling or grammar fixes.  I just ask what I ask and he gives his answer.  Fuck editing! 🙂

Coconut:  You got a lot of albums. And the styles change sometimes, but there’s a consistency to them…the industrial edge, the electro elements, the fun nihilism.

N-O-M-A: Yes I love industrial/black and thrash things and the alternative grunge and punk things …. So depends on the mood of the day , every songs are a part of the mood I have the day I do it .

Coconut: Played any crazy live shows lately?

N-O-M-A: Sadly not , i hope to redo some gigs soon .

Coconut:  Do you have a lot of gear to get this sonic assault or is it more minimal for the making of these albums?  Like how do you go about making an album? Do you just grab a couple guitars and a few other things or do you whip out absolutely everything and use it all?

N-O-M-A: I use everything most of the time , I like changing guitars on each track , just for fun . I change my recording method in every record .

Coconut:  Where do you do your vocals? In a booth? At the edge of an active volcano with a really long extension cord?

N-O-M-A: No no , i’m my room , at home:)

Coconut:  Have your rig / recording gear changed a lot over the years? Has it grown, shrunk, been stolen, etc.? I see there’s quite a few guitars, which I can understand. Fate has chosen thee.

N-O-M-A: Yes I ve sell some guitars but still having a lot , a fender army , and some other brand these last years , story to change (musicman , ibanez, schecter, prs …) My favorite guitar are fenders

Coconut:  What was the age where you realized you must shred in the name of Jesus?

N-O-M-A: 12

Coconut:  You produce this crazy stuff yourself? Who’s your Mutt Lange (producer / hit maker)?

N-O-M-A: YES ! I do everything : audio , visual … I dont’ have a mentor concerning production , I do the best I can learning by myself

Coconut:  Do you have a favourite NOMA album?

N-O-M-A: I have hm … 16 records ? My favorite are probably the first one , as drunk as fuck, blank generation … I like my « punk » albums more than my metal ones . But in every records there are song I dig a lot . Every song is a small chapter of my life

Listen to this one on N-O-M-A’s Bandcamp

Coconut:  You’ve been on Youtube for a long time now (over 10 years). What’s new these days when it comes to Youtube? Got lots of haters?

N-O-M-A: People say nice things most of the time , I probably have 98% of nice message , no haters in general . Maybe cause I m not faking it .

Coconut:  I first discovered you through your many covers of stuff like Nirvana and Metallica. How long did it take you to learn Incesticide for instance?

N-O-M-A: Incesticide was part of the very first album I learn , all the nirvana and metallica was learned in the mid 90’s , so yes , i took many hours to learn them , dont know how many , but a lot .

Coconut:  Do you still like making Youtube videos or has the love died by this point?

N-O-M-A: I have less time for youtube , and yea … after 800 videos , quite everything is said , I want to focus more on my own music , I still do covers sometimes , but youtube becomes a too big dump

Coconut:  Are you aware of the Noma Super GT Snow Racer?

N-O-M-A: hahahaa

Coconut:  What kind of recording setup do you have for your Youtube vids? Ie. camera, mics, software,

N-O-M-A: I use a zoom Q3 HD cam (and it s dying ) , i begin with a phone that capture both image and audio , now I record the sound in the soundcard with my amp miced, or axe fx 2, in ableton live

Coconut:  You’ve got a new album, Silence. How’s that going?

N-O-M-A: Sadly , this record need more promotion I think , i have spend a lot of time doing it , but people dont really gives a fuck . With luck I do albums for myself , first .

Coconut:  What’s up with Sassy these days? (N-O-M-A’s other project with Cici Addams)

N-O-M-A: Sassy is composing a new album , i hope we will  record it soon .

Check out Sassy on Bandcamp

Coconut:  Nice logo. Who designed it?

N-O-M-A: I do the visuals

Coconut:  There is some enjoyable nihilism on your albums. Do you enjoy a good bout of nihilism?

N-O-M-A: You feel nihilism ? Maybe . I hate people since I’m born  globally , so maybe that’s it .

Coconut:  Anything else you’d like to add?

N-O-M-A: Thanks to all the people who enjoy noma and my youtube videos . And thanks to you for the « interview !

Here’s one more for the road, folks…

Best Punk Album Opening Tracks Of All Time

Hey guys, YC here.  I listen to a lot of punk rock music, and I was compelled to write a list of what I consider to be the best punk rock album openers of all time. 

Of course, this is all subjective to my tastes, so I guess I can expect some backlash, or shall we say, debate, if I know the internet! Whee!

Punk albums, in particular, have a distinction among other genres of launching into some of the most ferocious volleys of sound of any genre under the sun, doing so with a reckless abandon that is unmatched by most other genres. 

That’s what makes them perfect for the subject of this article, because punk albums usually tend to kick off with a bang, leaving the rest of the LP to keep up the pace with some of these blistering or simply outstanding opening tracks that grab you by the dick and pull you in, never EVER letting go.

To define punk, in my estimation, is to include any album that could qualify under that blanket term. 

This would include artists like Iggy and the Velvet Underground, as they are arguably two fo the first real “punks” to sneer their way onto the music scene with some of the most rebellious music of all time. 

Some of these 60’s guys just had a real rebellious nature, and basically were calling for society to crumble.  That’s fine.  The Velvet Underground is not known for playing super fast, but I still think of them as punks. 

Then you have bands that are almost too corporate these days to be considered punk – Blink 182, Green Day, that type of thing. 

Still, there was a time when these bands were as punk as any of the rest.  Anyway, I could go on and on with what punk rock represents, but let’s just dive in to this list and see what you think.

The Stooges – Search and Destroy

I’m a big fan of Iggy and the Stooges, and I happen to think that this is one of the great album opening songs of all time, but it’s also pretty punk rock, so there you go. 

A great opening track should certainly grab your attention, and this one does just that.  While it isn’t a super fast song, the attitude of the song is what makes it punk, and it leads you into an album that is one of the all time great rock / punk albums of all time – Raw Power. 

The production of this album is another reason that it’s punk, as Iggy mixed this album to be totally in the red when it comes to gain levels, so the instruments are on fire – hence effectively killing the album’s potential to be seen as commercial in any way. 

There have been attempts to tame the levels of this wild beast of an album, but fans always go back to the original because that’s how Iggy wanted it originally and so it must be.  Again, as an opening track, Search and Destroy is practically unbeatable.

Green Day – Burnout

I’ve always loved Dookie as an album, ever seen it took over my high school in 1994 and the band became one of the most popular punk bands ever all of the sudden. 

Actually, that’s not true.  I remember all of the popular kids at my school getting into this album, and feeling weird about liking it because I didn’t think it was directed at well-adjusted people like the kids on the student council. 

But as time went on, I couldn’t avoid the fact that Dookie is a front to back classic of an album.  Burnout was always one of my favourite tracks on the album, basically kicking off Dookie with a message from Green Day that there are here and ready to rock with the best, but with punk attitude and speed. 

Previously, Green Day were more of an obscure indie punk band with their first couple of releases, and their production wasn’t up to snuff.  You could say they were more punk back then. 

But Dookie basically showed off the fact of how tight the band could be, with everyone just firing on all cylinders like crazy.  Punks or sellouts, the band was ready to make a huge statement. 

Burnout is a perfect example of this.  The drumming in particular gets me every time, with Tre’s sick fills during the breakdown. 

This was at the time when bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and the Seattle bands were huge, and Green Day came along and was just like yeah whatever guys, blowing the average bands of the day right out of the water.

Operation Ivy – Knowledge

Speaking of Green Day, as great a band as they undoubtedly are, I don’t think they can ever touch Operation Ivy, their older and more pedigreed punk rock brothers from the Gilman Street days in Berkeley California. 

I’m not entirely sure how it all went down, but my understanding is that Green Day got their start at the same place that Operation Ivy had been playing for years, with Operation Ivy being one of the all time great punk ska hardcore bands, who I’m pretty sure Green Day looked up to.   

In any case, Knowledge could really be the ultimate intro song for a punk rock album.  Can anything top it?  This song is a phenomenal introduction to the band Operation Ivy, and it just kicks total ass with the opening riff that launches into one of the most fiery punk rock anthems ever written. 

Operation Ivy I think are such a unique band, with so much skill and energy and that is both righteous, angry, and yet super entertaining and fun all at once.  It’s hard to pick apart their sound and analyze their chemistry. 

All four members make the band what it is.  Knowledge is like a flying boot to your chest when you hit play on Energy, the album that the song kicks off. 

I can never get sick of it, and I’m always amazed how good these guys are as a band and as songwriters.  Great song, great band, great album, amazing opening track!

The Soft Boys – I Wanna Destroy You

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of The Soft Boys, a weird english punk band from the late ’70’s who crafted two of my favourite all time albums, A Can Of Bees, and Underwater Moonlight. 

This band is undoubtedly punk in many ways, but they can’t be pinned to one genre, due to their hugely creative members who bend the music in many different directions.  They also touch upon doo-wop, prog rock, and psychedelic music, among other things.

That said, Underwater Moonlight is probably their best known album among fans and it opens with the classic track, I Wanna Destroy You, which is a song that once again serves as a calling card for the band and establishes them as serious force to be reckoned with in the music world. 

The song comes crashing in with crunchy yet sparkly guitars and vocal harmonies that take the listener to another place.  The attitude of the band is pure punk, but the song is as much Johnny Rotten vocally as it is Roger McGuinn guitar-istically(?).

This band isn’t hugely mainstream, so if they’re new to you, I recommend throwing this album on and letting the band do the rest.

The Violent Femmes – Blister In The Sun

The Violent Femmes are… punks?  Well, listen to this album and tell me they’re not.  If you don’t know the Femmes, you’re missing out.  The band has been around since the early ’80’s, but to me, nothing beats their self-titled debut album. 

I’ve heard Blister In The Sun so many damn times, I feel like it’s been in so many shows and movies, I can’t appreciate it like I did the first time I heard it, but I must say, this song is an impressive opener for an album that, as it turns out, is a timeless classic of classics. 

It’s always interesting when a band jumps on to the scene with their own sound that no one has ever heard before.  The way the band plays, and their instrumentation is just really cool, because it’s punk without having to be like screeching guitars and super fast drums. 

They just are punks, because they’re real down to earth humans rocking out on some sick jams.  But it’s really Gordon’s voice that brings it back to the punk rock idiom. 

This guy just isn’t a pop singer, but he writes pop songs that are a little too out there for the mainstream, and yet they’re widely embraced by basically everyone who gets to hear them. 

They’re indie rock, but they’re also punk.  Blister In The Sun is one of the greatest opening tracks of all time, and, as mainstream as it’s become, I’d still consider it punk through and through.

The Meat Puppets – Split Myself In Two

Most people know the Meat Puppets from Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York album, which is, of course, a great album in it’s own rite. 

However, if you really look at the Puppets, and go back and listen to what they’ve done, they’re one of America’s greatest psychedelic punk rock bands that seem to represent something that few bands do – the untamed heart of the American spirit, showing how truly unique a homegrown band can be.  Who are these freaks, you may wonder?  It’s a fair question. 

II is the band’s most famous album because of Nirvana, and, as you may know, Kurt had great taste in music and promoted artists he liked, and he had good reason to like the Puppets, because they kick ass and have been doing so for decades. 

I suggest you look into them if you haven’t already.  Split Myself In Two is a great punk rock opener that rides the line between punk rock, desert rock, and psychedelic jam band rock. 

It’s just a raw track that lures you into the strange world of the Meat Puppets, and I would say it’s a fairly unassuming track (almost) while still being really impressive in a lot of ways.  In my case, this track was one of the ones that hooked me on the Puppets for good.  Great opener for sure.

The Flaming Lips – Shine On Sweet Jesus

Speaking of freaks and weirdos, ladies and gentlemen, the Flaminggggg Lipssss!  If you’re a regular person, you might know these guys from later in their career – The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi and the Pink Robots, or maybe you were around when She Don’t Use Jelly was on MTV. 

As much as I enjoy the Lips overall, I always, ALWAYS go back to In A Priest Driven Ambulance.  This album is back when the band where “punks that took acid”, as I think someone called them (or maybe they called themselves this). 

Definitely punks, definitely wild, and without boundaries.  This track I always thought was the best intro to a Lips album, and, come to think about it, one of my favourite album openers ever. 

And, since I consider the band punks (back then, not so much now), this song ends up here on the list. 

Bad Brains – Sailin’ On

If you love punk rock, you probably love you some Bad Brains, one of the most unique punk bands to ever arrive on the scene.  Hugely influential, the Bad Brains hit hard right out of the gate with their first album, first track – Sailin’ On. 

Known to flip between a few different styles, such as headbanging metal, and chilled out Jah-praising reggae, Bad Brains have written the book on punk rock, with fast, furious songs that have stood the test of time. 

Sailin’ On is just one of their great punk rock tracks, which they burn through both on albums and live.  This band is so far from being just another punk band, with incredibly skilled players who can play complicated jazz but love punk rock, and the inimitable vocals of HR. 

Perfect album starter.

The Minutemen – D.’s Car Jam / Anxious Mo-Fo

Holy hell I love Double Nickels On The Dime.  But it wouldn’t have hit me the same way if it didn’t start with D.’s Car Jam / Anxious Mo-Fo. 

I can honestly say when I first heard this song / album, I didn’t know what kind of music it was, and I wasn’t sure what to think about it.  I knew though that I loved it, but it was too funky to be punk, right? 

There has never really been a band like the Minutemen, and that just makes this album all the more impactful.  I love this song as an opener – I don’t know why.  It just gets you revved up, and it has some really cool bits in it. 

I don’t know how they came up with this stuff, but I’m glad they did.  This song definitely pulled me into the album, which is, as some of us know, a masterpiece of punk rock spirit. 

It’s not always you get a punk album that makes you think this much, but it’s not really about over thinking.  It just offers up ideas, and let’s them out of the bottle.  A life changing album, with a perfect opener.

Dinosaur Jr. – Forget The Swan

Depending on how you see punk rock, you may or may not agree with this one, but I personally feel that back in the early days, Dinosaur Jr. was certainly a punk band of sorts, with that same spirit that all great punk bands have which is to say that they’re impossible to imitate, and also very raw both in terms of the playing and emotionally. 

It’s just raw music, and early Dinosaur had that in spades, with two very introspective members in bassist Lou Barlow and guitarist J Mascis.  I’m not sure, but I think Murph was the normal one? 

Anyway, with Forget The Swan, you get a song that is definitely interesting, if not fully blown “punk” with power chords and speed. 

Here you get a different feel with actual minor chord changes and a slower pace, and some sadness, but I think this haunting track is still one of punk’s great opening tracks, introducing everyone for the first time to a band that would become legendary.

Pixies – Bone Machine

You might think I’m way off base with some of these songs, because when I think of punk rock, I don’t think of your typical three chord Ramones type bands (I do like the Ramones btw). 

I just think of bands that do their own thing, and bring a sound that is unique to the world of music, and also don’t really give a flying F what people think of them. 

Real punks don’t care about anything except what their musical message is, and it shows in their songs.  When the Pixies came along, I don’t think anyone knew what they were dealing with. 

This guy screaming like a lunatic, but with songs that defy all conventional logic. 

Bone Machine, if you haven’t heard the Pixies or know what’s going on, is going to sound really weird as it crashes into you backwards, with some weird off-kilter riff that introduces you to a band that seems to have no real predecessors in terms of style. 

It sounds like a bunch of crazy people who live in the deserts of New Mexico and decided to write and record stuff.  Surfer Rosa, their first album, kicks off with this song and it’s really a strange one, with abstract lyrics and just all sorts of odd stuff going on. 

I was personally hooked once I heard this song. It’s not my favourite song on the album, but it’s one of the best first songs I’ve heard, so that’s why it’s here. 

Conclusion

This list could go on for a while, so I’m cutting it “short” here.  If you’re into punk rock, you’re probably thinking I missed about a hundred tracks.  Yeah, well… It all depends on your favourite bands, really. 

I love these bands, and I think these are solid opening tracks.  I consider them all punk bands in some way, although many of them no longer are what I’d consider to be upholding the punk rock spirit anymore. 

That’s ok, we all change, don’t we?  Selling out.  It does happen.  Anyway, if you think I missed something (I know I did, but gimme a break), mention it below in the comments please, I’d love to hear from you!

No Wave Movement – Dead or Was It Ever Alive?

no wave performance

No Wave Music – What is it?

Vivienne Dick and Trixie at the Mudd Club

History of No Wave – Back to the Start

In 1978, a series of punk rock-influenced pop music performances took place in various New York art spaces, prompting Brian Eno to produce and publish a compilation entitled No New York.

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No New York

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This album, which brings together pieces from James Chance and the Contortions, DNA, Mars, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, marks the birth of the no wave as movement.

Here’s Teenage Jesus, playing a vague soundtrack to mental illness.

Coming To Grips

Many groups linked to the movement have sailed between funk, jazz, rock, punk rock, and avant-garde, under the general influence of minimalism.

No Wave Artists

While the movement was losing momentum and fading away in 1983, many artists in the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s mentioned no-wave in their direct or indirect sources of inspiration. These “children” of no wave involve and implicate Sonic Youth, Swans, The Birthday Party (with Nick Cave), God Is My Co-Pilot, Lucrate Milk, Dog faced Hermans or, more recently, Erase Errata, Helmet, Big Black, Live Skull, These Are Powers, Deerhoof, and Liars.

Despite a certain confidentiality, the movement attracts many followers in Europe, especially among some journalists and music critics, including those of the Melody Maker in London. In France, rock critic Yves Adrien praises the no wave bands and is one of the few to support them in his articles that appeared in Rock & Folk. The Franco-American label Celluloid Records also serves as a vector between the United States and Europe.

In 2008, three books dealing with the no wave were released:

New York Noise by Soul Jazz Records…

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New York Noise: Art And Music From The

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No Wave by Marc Masters…

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No Wave

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No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980 by Thurston Moore and Byron Coley.

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No Wave: Post-Punk Underground New York 1976-1980

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To send us off, here’s Lydia Lunch speaking more recently about the cultural significance of No Wave.

Who Remembers The Canadian Alt Rock Band hHead?

hhead thumbnail

hHead was a Canadian alternative rock band from Toronto that was formed by Noah Mintz and Brendan Canning in 1991.  Ever heard of ’em?

canadian-band-hhead-featuring-noah-mintz-and-brendan-canning

If not, it’s not too surprising as Canadian bands have always been somewhat insular from the rest of the world.  That said, hHead did get around.  Back in the day, they toured with such legendary acts as Stone Temple Pilots, My Bloody Valentine, and Dinosaur Jr., all of whom they share some commonalities with in the noise department.

When alt-rock and that thing called “grunge” got big in the early 90’s, Canada had their own stable of hard rockin’ bands that played with fuzzed out instruments and high energy, including hHead.

Here is a song of theirs called “Collide”, which is from their first full length release, called Fireman.

hhead-fireman-album

What seemed promising for smaller Canadian bands at this time was the amount of college and alt rock radio airplay they could get here in Canada.  At this time there was no Internet (that’s right, regular people didn’t have it until around 1995), and college radio was one big way to gain traction and promote shows.

There was a slew of great alt rock bands who would be regularly featured on college radio and even on MuchMusic (Canada’s answer to MTV) like the Doughboys, the Tea Party, Sloan, Our Lady Peace, the Killjoys, Gandharvas, I Mother Earth, and the list goes on and on…and on!  A few of these bands cracked the U.S. charts here and there, but not too many and it didn’t happen often.

That said, if alt-rock was your preferred type of music, you would have been in alt-rock heaven here in Canada in the mid-90’s because the clubs were packed with these kinds of bands!

hhead hmv 90s

The cool thing about bands from this time period was that many of them managed to carve out their own unique sound, and each had a dedicated fan following.

hHead was no different. Their following was small, but rabid.  From what I recall, they toured quite a bit, criss-crossing Canada the way bands used to back then.  In fact, I remember once a bunch of my friends and I went to see them at a converted theatre (called the Lyric, in Kitchener) during a total blizzard in about ’96 and they played to a relatively small crowd of maybe 30 people that I think still managed to crowd surf.  It was awesome that hHead still played even though most people couldn’t get out of their driveway due to 3 feet of snow blocking their way.

But why exactly did people show so much dedication to this band?  I remember that the word being that hHead really put on a great live show, and here’s some footage of the band playing at an HMV back in ’93 showing just that.  Great songs, great energy…just real people rockin’ out for fans that were totally into it…

noah mintz hhead live on rita and friends

It wasn’t just that hHead was a great live band.  They weren’t the most highly technical musicians around, but that wasn’t the point.  I remember my girlfriend and some of her friends were actually into this band at the time.  I thought it was weird that me and my girlfriend listened to the same relatively obscure indie bands, but one thing that came up a few times was some of Noah’s more unusual topics for songs, such as stillborn babies, premature ejaculation, and just generally some fucked up things, but it was done in such an empathetic and touching way that even some girls I knew really related to it.  Most male rock singers didn’t write songs about those kinds of things and still don’t, generally. They also dressed weird, with huge oversized droopy hats (Brendan) and Noah used to braid his hair.  Overall, hHead were just regular Canadian kids…which made them really relatable to fans.

102.1 The Edge Logo

hHead actually caught a big break in ’93 when they won the CFNY New Music search, which was actually a pretty big deal in the Toronto area at the time.  They contributed the song “Happy” to that compilation, which featured tracks by 19 Canadian acts.  Many people still remember this compilation, as this was also a time when compilations and mix tapes were more of a thing.  The bands from this compilation were all gunning for better exposure, but for the listener, this is just a great mix of early ’90’s Canadian alt rock!

From what I’ve read, hHead won the contest with their rockin’ yet thoroughly depressing track, and was given some cash to go record an album and also landed themselves a contact with a label called IRS.  The cash prize was apparently $100 000, which was a ton of money back then for an indie band to receive.  The album that resulted from those sessions, which the prize money paid for, was their second album, called Jerk.  I’m not sure if the band *had* to spend the money on the album, or if it was just strongly encouraged by CFNY and label people.

Regardless, based on how the album eventually turned out, the band put everything they had into this album, in order to show the world what they could do.  Noah’s songwriting is amazing, the arrangements for the songs are also great.  The whole band came into their own here, and you can tell a lot of effort and inspiration went into this album to get it done.  Take a listen…

hhead ozzy album cover

After the relative success of the album Jerk, hHead was due for a follow up, which became the album Ozzy, which they released in 1996 on their new label, Handsome Boy Records since their former label IRS had gone bankrupt that same year.

Ozzy, if you ask me, was less of a serious album than Jerk, with songs like Got, Bellybutton, and this track, Flipped, which had a fairly odd video to accompany it (see below).  The energy of was not so harrowing or dirge-like as Jerk had been, which almost seemed as if it was inspired by early albums by The Cure (yes, parts of it are *that* depressing).  It also seems somehow to be less “produced”…

noahs-arkweld-fun

After Ozzy came out and hHead toured, they just kind of disappeared.  A friend of mine had a copy of Noah’s first solo album, called Fun!, that was under the alias of Noah’s Arkweld and came out about a year later.  That album is low-fi and experimental, and you can tell Noah just wanted to chill out and play around a bit after touring so much and having the record industry and the “business” side of being in a band suck his soul dry.  Some parts of that album are kind of, well, fun!…while other tracks are full of melancholy.

So Whatever Happened To hHead?

noah mintz lacquer channel

After hHead packed it in, Noah Mintz later turned up as a mastering engineer at Toronto’s Lacquer Channel, which is one of the world’ foremost mastering studios, where he still works to this day (as of 2016) as senior mastering engineer.  There, he has worked with a lot of Canada’s most popular acts, and the walls are covered with gold records showing off the pedigree of bands that visit the Lacquer Channel.

brendan canning of hhead

Brendan Canning, the bass player for hHead, still works in the music industry, making records and playing with some very well-known Canadian bands like Broken Social Scene, By Divine Right, Cookie Duster, and many more.

Brendan is also a solo artist in his own right, and once you hear some of his musical output, it sheds a new light on the band hHead and his contributions to that band as a founding member.  He even released a solo album called Home Wrecking Years in 2016, so he has been very busy in the music world seemingly ever since the dissolution of hHead back in the ’90’s.

What About The Drummer?

In addition to Noah Mintz (guitars, lead vocals) and Brendan Canning (bass), hHead also had not one, not two, but three drummers over the years, including Roland Rainer (1991-92), Mark Bartkiw (1992-95), and Jason Ray (1996-97).  There was also another guitarist named Zak Hanna who added some guitar to their first album, Fireman.  The band was always a trio, except for when they started, when they were an acoustic duo of just Noah and Brendan.

If you really want to know why hHead called it a day, look no further than this video interview that Noah did at the Lacquer Channel back in 2009, where he talks about the rigours of touring, and how being a rock star isn’t exactly the life for him.

It is clear that hHead was not meant to last, and it speaks to just how hard it is to make it in the music industry.  Still, today, bands get enamoured with the trappings of rock star life – girls, money, fame, and adventure, only to realize at some point that being in a band is more like buying up a chain of restaurants.  There are those bands that stick it out, but, for most great bands, we’re lucky as fans to even get one or perhaps two good albums out of them before they go back to the real world.

So as not to go out on a downer, here’s Brendan Canning to play us out with one of his tunes, called “Never Go To The Races” on his front porch in Toronto…

If you remember hHead, let us know in the comments below!  Thanks for reading…

Oh, and we recently came across this…